…in which this comic caper concludes.
Part V: You Take the High Road, I’ll Take Cerrie with the Fringe on Top
I wish I was, figuratively, a titan taller, and Persephone would come when I call her. Be that as it may, Zeus and Hades will rue this day—I’m tall enough—taking the low road—having my way.
Dear Splendid Scallywags and Reprobates:
“Let it go,” he said. “Take the high road.” Why didn’t Prome just say f#@% it; take a hike, a long walk off a short pier? Dang blast it, we’re all having a four letter word year. I tell myself being bombarded is no big deal. We’re constantly being dinged by nuclear particles, waves, space rays—and don’t even notice. We’re pulled by gravity and unstable solar activity, as well as electro and magnetic (EM) fields. Few realize our planet spins less in September than it does in March, or that it wobbles more than it spins. You scallywags learned how to avoid or evade EM waves by building Faraday cages. You glory in stories about wily ancients escaping EM waves—royals that wore metal crowns, magicians and witches with pointed hats wired with copper, those that hung horseshoes above doors…
Some of your 2020 journeys have been curtailed or derailed, though planets in this solar system are unaffected. Mercury still circles the sun in 87.97 days as does Neptune in 164.78 years. Venus still rotates in a direction opposite to other planets. Gravitation remains confident that any two bodies it encounters are positively attracted to it. Enough; order must be restored. In typical little red hen fashion, I’d have to do it myself.
I know what you’re thinking—here’s another fine myth I’ve gotten myself into…right in the middle of this Pan Damn ick, smack dab in the midst of equinox and great rites, held since times immortal (immoral?) during the riotous golden season of ripe readiness. Yeah, it’s up to yours truly to equalize the scales; Prome declined, and Dionysus, to the gods born, too much loved wine and John Barley Corn. Zeus was full of excuses; I couldn’t even rouse the Muses. I must restore balance, for too many of you behave as children still, or have forgotten how to share, care for each other, look the other way. That Frenchie Sartre was onto something when he said ‘one is never cured of oneself; the traits of the child remain in the 50 year old—mai no?
I’d never held the rites in the Scottish Highlands, and was humbled by the reception I received after I landed on my tuchas besides the cairns of Kilmartin Glen, not far from where the first Scottish king was crowned. Danu, the resident Cailleach, and the Dagda met me and took me on a jolly jaunt to bonnie banks and craggy cliffs. During a banquet held in my honor we ironed out details regarding the great rite. Concern was voiced over the highlands becoming another squalid, hallucinogenic extravaganza like Woodstock.
I explained there was an upside to mangy mortals becoming mellowly mad, massaged by mood enhancers and melodious music. I emphasized how remarkable it was for 3-400,00 people to come together without mud wrestling, rioting, or murdering each other. Back in 1969, humans were at their best under what many would consider the worst conditions. They passed the bong and everyone got along—until that mangy Manson man pied pipered a few too many of you.
I reminded my illustrious hosts this venue would be much smaller, barely 1000 carefully selected mortals and perhaps 300 or so immortals and other worldlings. I promised to teleport in the temple, tents, and trappings, and clean up the mess sure to follow the festivities. They were agreeable to the terms. We cemented our deal with a bladder of poteen.
But despite the flowing mead, ambrosia, lavender shortbread, and delightful, nasal twang of bagpipes, I was glad when the negotiations ended and decidedly disappointed one of the great Cailleach’s hadn’t made an appearance. It was her help I needed to save my daughter and earth, while punishing Hades and Zeus. Fortuna took pity on me and sent Scathach of Skye, Scotland’s greatest immortal warrior queen to help me find the missing Cailleach. It was kismet—Scathach was also gifted with second sight; she’d already received an aethergram alerting her to my problem. She’d also tangled with Hades and my daughter previously in her role as psychopomp—conveyer of the dead to the enigmatic elsewhere.
First, I had to be outfitted in an appropriate breacan (tartan) for our journey to Alba’s tip top. I was ceremoniously adopted into a Pict Clan. Their tartan stripes are arranged in ‘setts’ and intersect to form distinctive check patterns. My tartan sported a mad plaid of green, which I was told denoted hunting, as well as deep purple and a blinding blue woad. Scathach and I would be hunting the most elusive Cailleach, fair/foul Cerridwen herself, keeper of the cauldron of knowledge. She was mother to two immortals, Morfran and Creirwy. After an initial rough patch (1000 years give or take), she’d transformed her brood into model citizens.
I gave Scathach the short version of my current conundrum, focusing on how Persephone’s cozy hell hole, I feared, had gone mainstream. Scathach wasn’t so sure my daughter was at fault. She knew Cerridwen hadn’t been seen at her home in Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) for some time. The Cailleach had recently returned from America and had been sighted around secluded Smoo Cave, east of Durness. It boasted a jolly indoor waterfall that mingled sea and fresh water with tears of the gods. It was a place of mourning and healing.
That’s where we found the shapeshifter supreme. Salty steam and shadows swirled round her, then parted. Our eyes met and we acknowledged each other’s pain. I said “hail Cerridwen, mighty Cailleach of the crescent & murky moon, great goddess of the cauldron of knowledge.” We did the goddess version of an air kiss and hip bump. Within minutes, the cave was filled with fragrant flowers, ferns, green moss, and fingery botanical finery. A sliver of moon from a crack in the crags illuminated her face, pale and drawn, etched with feathery furrows. Her hair was long and wild, silvery white. Most telling, she was flickering like a neon sign sending a distress signal.
She said we should call her Cerrie and cut to the chase. She knew why we’d come. She couldn’t help. She explained that after a most inauspicious tangle with a wily Arizona sheriff named Peter Dan, (Chapter 1 of Grave Goddess, see blog), she’d been short circuiting. Her voltage was low. It had happened before but not in this millennium. As a final insult, she brought up the past and Prome, insisting she had nothing to do with what Zeus did to him way back when. Then rather abruptly, she bid us to take our leave.
Well I wasn’t having it. All I needed from Cerrie was a bit of spell knowledge. How much of a brain drain could that be? I morphed into a cross between a harpy, a pterdactyl, and big bird, and cawed and spit in her direction.
“Trim your talons Tethys,” she hissed back, shapeshifting into something half scaly sea serpent, half Loch Nessyish.
Scathach jumped between us with saber drawn. “Be nice, mother natures.” She knelt before Cerrie and added, “hear her plea Great Cailleach.”
In humility and solidarity, I extended my arm. My hand grasped her shoulder and the flickering stopped.
“Do that again,” she commanded.
I told her I would. I’d even donate a few pints of primordial ooze blood, but I was fresh out of man parts. That’s why she went to Arizona, but that’s another story for another time. I said I would help her as soon as she agreed to help me. I pulled out a flask filled with kykeon, a minty mushroomy muddle of hallucinogens, and we sealed the deal. Holy, shitake, that brew was potent!
Scathach abstained and volunteered to set the trap to lure my preoccupied, precocious daughter Persephone to the Great Rites. Color was returning to Cerrie’s face and I offered to smooth her tangled tresses. With my scythe, I cut out the worst knots and restyled her do, adding a fringe of bangs and a mess of beach curls. In turn, she revealed a dozen dozy spells and supplied me with all the ingredients I would need.
Earlier I’d contacted Morpheus, son of Hypnos, and traded in a favor for a powerful sleeping potion. Though a bit lightheaded from my blood and essence donations, I waved goodbye to Cerrie and ported back to Kilmartin Glen. To recharge, I striped down to my earthday suit and lay prone for several hours. I arose refreshed and teleported the temple and 100s of choice clientele to the highlands.
Pan arrived early; he’d brought his usual entourage. They all were high as one of Daedeleus’ winged kites. He was full of himself, and eager to spill his seed. “Gracious greetings Diameter, goddess of crop circles and spacious places.”
“Right back at you, Pan-demonic. How’s it hanging?” We didn’t air kiss; I did, however, manage to peel the bandy legged bugger off me finally and direct him to the refreshment tent. I was nervously rubbing my hands together and absently pruning a tree in the grove when Hekate found me. I brought her up to date and she mentioned I might want to put on some clothes. She tried to lighten my mood by reminding me attitude makes all the difference between something being an ordeal or an adventure.
Then I spotted Scathach and my darling daughter, my female Peter Pan. They were standing directly beneath the band stand. I’d called in a few more favors to entice my daughter’s two favorite bands to the Great Rites for what I told them was a private concert. Hekate and I stood behind Persephone, watching her sway and mouth the words of the seductive song being piped her way. My bestie Hermes had lent me his wand, which I transformed into a lasso whose bond was unbreakable. I slipped it over my daughter’s head.
“Long time, no see Persephone. I’m delighted you made it to this year’s Great Rites. You’re sorely needed to heal earth’s ailing Inhabitants.”
“Mudda, I should have known you were behind this.”
“No I’m behind you and in front of this virus plaguing our mangy mortals. Why did you do it—spread pestilence and panic?”
“You’re wrong,” she replied, futilely trying to wriggle loose of the lasso. “I’m not responsible for the Pan Damn Ick any more than you were responsible for two millenniums of crop failures, droughts, and famines in this world. In fact, MOTHER, Hades is having a conniption fit. There are gazillions of dead folks lined up along the banks of the River Styx, thinking they’re at some new Disney attraction.”
For several silent seconds, I was stunned. My daughter continued. “This eugenics perpetuating, gene edited, divide and conquer virus I call The Plandemic or the Bio-Psy-Op Apocalypse synthetic virus that’s ravaging already addled psyches, was developed by and spread by your precious humans, by those that want to depopulate earth and send them to my awesome absolute elsewhere. Let me go, mudda. The world will continue to spin. Helios instructed the sun to shine, and Selene trained the moon to manage tides whether you hold an Eleusinian rite or not. Go live, laugh, lust and let me do the same. Holy Hades, how much longer must I bear the burden of your unlived life? ”
I shook my head. “There’s nothing holy about Hades. I was just telling your Auntie Hekate that raising a daughter is a walk in the park, Jurassic Park. So you’re innocent—again. It’s a shame you never had a sibling to blame. I suppose you didn’t…” My voice faded away; I wondered if she could be telling the truth. I’d have to look into her assertion. But right now, I needed to give my daughter another chance to live a full life, free to come and go as she pleased—once she was fully grown.
“They read the last page of the grimoires, they peered up the chimney and guessed the fat man wasn’t real, so to speak. They know our secrets mumsy. Gods are nothing more to them now than static cultural patterns, celebrities of myth, comic characters. So what are you gonna do—punish me for pandering, refuse to underground me? Hades and Zeus will send you to a corn field on Mars.”
“But few have been initiated,” I replied louder than intended. “Hades and Zeus have lost.” Holding the lasso tight with my right hand, I used my left hand to pull the sleeping draught from my sporran, a purse that makes up for not having a pocket on a kilt. I blew on the powder and Persephone sank to the ground, KO’ed, Morpheus assured me, for at least an hour. That would give me just enough time to perform the spell Cerrie had given me and effect an escape. I’m can’t reveal the details, so I’ll just say it worked. I turned my daughter into a teeny tiny egg.
You’d be wrong if you thought I swallowed the egg. I didn’t. Neither did Cerridwen in the old yarn about her hiring a lad named Gwion to stir her cauldron daily for a year so she could bestow poetic wisdom on her son Morfran. Three drops of the liquid leaped from the cauldron onto Gwion’s thumb, which he sucked. Immediately, he acquired all-encompassing wisdom, which he needed because Cerrie was furious. She shapeshifted and chased him. He did the same and eluded her until he turned into a single piece of grain. She captured the grain and incanted to prevent it from morphing again, then tossed it. That night, while she slept, the enchanted grain embedded itself in her uterus. Nine months later, she gave birth to a beautiful baby, which she couldn’t kill or keep.
Cerrie bundled the baby into a basket and sent it down river. The baby was found and raised in a royal household and became the legendary Tailiesin, bard, magician, and prophesier. Interestingly, he predicted the first recorded pandemic 2000 years ago, the Yellow Plague, and to those who would listen, its cure. Use your imagination regarding what I did with the egg. Then I held the rites, re-teleported the temple and enormous energy generated, and returned the highlands to its original pristine condition.
I needed to summon all the patience I possessed. After all, the day you plant a seed isn’t the day you harvest the fruit. I would need to find a safe haven, one neither Zeus nor Hades could invade when Persephone didn’t return at Samhain. A secret smile formed as I recalled that one of my many titles is Kalligeneia (goddess of the beautiful birth). Prome said our daughter was welcome to visit Tir Na Nog anytime. That sounded like an invitation to me. In my belly, Persephone was morphing from egg into immortal infant. Already I’m craving pomegranate seeds and giving myself pep talks. Birth’s the easy part. The hard part is parenting—there’s no epidural for raising a daughter.
I had deep thoughts to process during the coming months. I would have to make peace with the Erinny sisters and a few fae folks I’d offended. I quit my job at The Maddening Moon and entertained the thought of starting a new column: Demeter’s Tweeters, but decided to stick to gardening and re-cultivating my relationship with Prometheus. Besides, tweeting sounds like what a wren says to a robin. It’s for the birds.
This time I would prepare my daughter for everything the world might have in store. Before you’re born, I whispered to my womb, all your chakras will be twirling and lit. No lullabies or platitudes. Your first taste won’t be mother’s milk; it will be three drops from Cerrie’s cauldron. And I vow to listen more.
You may be right my gallant girl. Humans have proven themselves able to adapt. Those that don’t die. If only they relied on nature more, they could solve the cosmic puzzle that links them. Still, their technology is at odds with their instincts, the only apparatus that can sense the wisdom in knowledge and the knowledge embedded in data, and see its interrelated fitting togetherness. Wheat from chaff hallowed heathenites, wheat from chaff. Will thoughts of a better world become lost in a cacophony of technical noise and human manipulation, a false timelessness thanks to electricity, TV, 24 hour ATMs, and red eye flights across earth?
At the tertiary threshold of Tir Na Nog, Manny hailed me as Magna Mater and bid me welcome. He added I’d made a grand choice, however, my power was limited here, except where it concerned bohemian beauty, gracious growing, and languid labors of love. There was nothing greater, he said. But he didn’t get out in the world much. Was love of power greater? That was certainly true among the gods.
In the real world, gods were killing each other at alarming rates, or turning to ash. I acknowledged that some scallywags and reprobates had been spreading rumors again, saying gods weren’t creators; they were just engineers, bad ones at that. It was sad. They were in pain, the growing pains of a new age. As a steward of earth, I understand that when a flower doesn’t bloom, I need to adjust the soil or the weather, rather than pluck the flower. Did they understand?
Prome appeared at the crossroads of Turn Back Cul de Sac and Right This Way. He waved like a flag of truce, peace, and reconciliation might. OK, encouraging sign. I could only hope he’d take my news with an equally affirmative wave or nod. What should I say? Perhaps roses are red, violets are blue, without any sperm, we got a redo? Or, guess what, it’s a girl; here we go again, try not to hurl? I began walking towards him, extending both arms this time. ###
Coming back for a more careful look, but Kilmartin Glen is not far from where I am, and Tir Na Nog is a familiar term around these parts. This reads great, but I’ll set this aside for a more detailed analysis over the weekend! Always great to read your work, such an original style, and jam-packed with ideas that keep the old brain ticking over! Congrats!
Thanks so much, I had fun with this tongue in cheekish series! I visited Kilmartin Glen 15 or 17 years ago and it left an impression, as did so many parts of Scotland and its people. My ancestors lived in Barrhead for two gens before journeying to the US.
So many great lines in this; ‘a walk in the park. Jurassic Park,’ ‘another fine myth’ ‘tweeting is what the robin sounds like to the wren’; totally enjoyable read as always, and love the alkusions to Sartre, 1969 and the Pan Damn Ick; love a bit of Joycean wordplay! Great to see Scotland as a character in this story as well, a perfect backdrop to this narrative; will be using the phrase ‘man parts’ as well!