She’s back–catch up with previous chapters, or plunge right into the thick of things…

Chapter 7: Dies Veneris (Venus/Frigg’s’ day; dydd Gwener): Transformation

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think energy, frequency, and vibration.” N. Tesla

‘Never be so focused on what you’re looking for you overlook the thing you actually find.’ Ann Patchett

“The pendulum of the mind alternates between sense & nonsense, not between right & wrong” Carl Jung

Day 7: Named for Nordic/Germanic goddess Frigg or Freyja, a primal matriarch of N Europe, and blood goddess of eros & hearth. She was a Vanir elder, ruling before Odin/Woden’s arrival & was Thors’ mother, Odin’s wife (she taught him magic). Friday’s unlucky for Christians because of its association with female divinity; they made it a day of fasting.Pparaskavedekatriaphobia means fear of Friday the 13th. In the form of Dies Veneris (Venus), she is linked to the moon, ships, the boar, cat, horse, dove, # 13, and the colors blue & green. Wearing Frigg’s feather cloak allows one to fly. Friday used to be the 7th day of the week.

 “Friday on my Mind” (song title by the Easybeats)

Murder is a peculiar word—one with cultural and contextual biases. Murder declares a crime was committed, a person(s) is/are dead. In the 21st century, we use the legal term homicide to connote the severity of a kill, premeditation, or specific methods used. In the Wizard of Oz, the munchkins pronounced the level of deathness when they said ‘she’s not merely dead; she’s really most sincerely dead.’ But was it murder, justifiable homicide, or a freakish accident of nature that killed the witches’ sister? More to the point, to what degree was I culpable regarding the deaths and disappearances that had occurred the last seven days?

A word often linked to murder in intention. Murder’s an act committed on purpose, with willful intent. It trumps homicide; careers are made or broken by solving a murder. So when, a day after my return to civilization, the police officer unceremoniously escorted me downtown, allegedly to take my formal statement, it seemed inevitable the real intent was to pin one or more murders on me.

Hovering inches from my face, the detectives conducting the interrogation asked if I murdered Vaughn, Rath, Jake, or others gone missing in the Smokies recently. It was difficult to be civil with these civil servants. They hadn’t known two escaped prisoners had been camping in these mountains. There were no ties between myself and 14 other missing persons (last seen alive in the Smokies), and there were no bodies. I had anticipated their need to place blame on the survivor, to interpret my freely admitted, justifiable bad dude homicide as a murder. So in crime lingo, I dummied up. I threw lots of ‘asked and answered’ back at them and tons of yes/no head nods while the camera rolled. They kept at it for hours. While they ranted, I lobbed questions they asked over the net of my mind.  Was I a homicidal manic, a serial killer, a deranged murderer? Did I hate men? Where were the bodies? Why had I done it?  

I wanted to ask these men why they were feigning indignation, outrage. Man’s a violent, greedy race of predators. You never have to look too far: Viet Nam’s killing fields, Pinochet’s disappeared people, Tien an Men Square, the Middle East, racist America, Rwandan genocide, Chechnya, the UK’s Irish problem, Russia’s ongoing war on Ukraine…The issue is more blatant in countries that claim to be the most liberal and advanced. America may be the worst, with women, gays, and people of color treated as second class citizens, as property. Abolitionists, unionists, suffragists, and equal right activists exposed the farce—the inequalities. New World Order my left butt cheek. It’s the same violent world today it was 1000 years ago.


Scientists can’t answer some of the most basic questions about how life evolved or what happens after cessation of life. Death is a concept that only applies to the physical plane. Astral, mental, and etheric planes are affected by metabolic changes that occur soon after the deanimative process. The spirit and consciousness of the being who has chosen to transit through the dimensional veil continues to exist and evolve, free of material restrictions. Druids and shamans knew energy never disappears—that it’s bound by alchemical relationships. I couldn’t prove any of those statements before I entered the Smokies, before I became an initiate of the great work.

There are more choices available regarding what we can do with our corporeal form—our energy made material—than most people ever realize. We can hold or breath, speed our heart rate, raise our temperature. Cremation allows the spirit/soul to detach from a physical form and realign its energies cosmically. It’s like taking a bullet train able to pierce the veil separating dimensions, rather than pump a hand car that takes forever.

When we understand ourselves the occult become visible, exalted states become normal. Time and space aren’t absolutes; there are more probabilities than certainties. However, our urbanized world depends on us accepting a recurring weekly cycle of events: pilates on Thursday, gas tank fill up every Monday, grocery shopping Saturday mornings…I had friends that thought they’d recaptured old freedoms via a 24/7 availability to resources: shopping online at 3am, breakfast at midnight in a diner, taping shows and watching movies or the news weeks later…They were wrong.

We must discard erroneous assumptions and comfort zones and return to the wilderness of intuition and imagination to discover how far we can go, what we may become. Question what you were taught at school and read in text books. Question our evolution, natural selection, mutation, and random chance theories. Nature makes giant bullfrog leaps; so can we. Make room for impossible possibilities.

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In the wilderness, practicing the rule of three can help you predict outcomes and survive real threats and hazards. You can only live for about 3 minutes without air (or bleed out in 3 minutes), go 3 days without water, or 3 weeks without food. Knowing those rubrics can be equally important in the civilized world. The detectives held me for five hours, interrogating me most of that time. The two male detectives seemed to enjoy screeching at me. Their white spittle moistened my face several times. They also paced, and inbetween attempts to intimidate, they played the bargain with the perp card. I could smell the leather and lime aftershave one of the men wore and the chemical scent of a dry cleaned shirt. I was making them sweat.

When the detectives left the room, a women in her early 40s, wearing a basic black polyester pants suit and collarless white top entered and sat opposite me. Her dark hair was parted down the middle and pulled back into a tight ponytail. Her nails were clean, square filed, and unpolished. She used a straight forward approach and asked similar questions to those posed by the other detectives. I detected a whiff of coffee breathe when her voice rose in exasperation. When the two men returned, one passed her a note. She slammed the door exiting—hard enough to rattle the drawn blinds. 

After enduring hours of a mostly bad cop routine, they offered me a bottled water and a cellophane package of peanut butter crackers, both of which I left untouched. Switching back to the we know how you must feel mode, they said it was understandable why I did what I did. I’d feel better after I confessed. They never read me my rights, or mentioned there was absolutely no evidence tying me to the crime of murder—no bodies, no witnesses. I thought about having some fun, doing a verbal two step with them. Five hours of near silence in the presence of a captive audience was a record for me. That is, it was a record for the Wilhelmina Rhyderth that entered the mountains last week.

By hour five, I was hungry and annoyed; I cleared my throat. Both men leaned forward. I told them to either charge me or release me. I told them one last time I had nothing to add to my original (mostly) truthful statement.  The dented, uncomfortable metal chair scrapped the floor as I stood. The larger guy pounded his fist on the table and spewed a few choice expletives. The younger guy calmed him down and said I was free to go but not to leave town…It was dark when the black and white pulled up in front of my house.

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How much to tell? What should be revealed; what must be to disguised is part of an ancient argument among learned philosophers and sacred shamans. A bit of learning is a dangerous thing—was my acquired knowledge enough? Should one commit to ink the truth, told with a slant (as poetic priestess Emily Dickinson intoned) and keep the most dangerous knowledge among a chosen few initiates? The first people that inhabited the Smoky Mountains spoke in a language honed to bare bones, yet were able to convey the majesty and the ghastliness of the cosmos.

There was an English coven that operated in the 50s-60s where very little reciting was done during rituals. The coven leader said it was better to visualize the words and intent of the ritual than to say something wrong or mispronounce a deity’s name. Had they ever charged for their services, they would have made a small fortune, they were that good at casting spells. Glances that pass between lovers speak volumes—surpass ordinary words. I used to watch a popular TV show about a group of psychologists able to tell if someone was lying by reading micro-expressions. More than once I successfully applied their techniques in my work evaluations.

Should I tell you the whole truth, or show, using words as a tongue fu tool, how a forest reveals our level of connectedness and dependence upon each other? Could you relate? Counterculture editor Stewart Brand of The Whole Earth Catalog insisted on putting one of the first photos of earth taken from outer space on the cover of his 1960’s catalog. Inside the coffee table sized book were techniques and gadgets to help folks live self-sufficiently. Margot Adler, granddaughter of Viennese psychotherapist Alfred Adler, and author of Drawing Down the Moon, echoed the importance of a bird’s eye view of our planet, reminding that until the late 60s ‘no one ever saw earth from afar.’ Seeing our world reflected back changed us for a brief moment.

As an extraordinary pearlescent moon faded into an approaching new day, I noticed a phenomenal number of deciduous trees had divested themselves of their festive leaves. I smiled, realizing I’d gone from being a tea leaf reader (taught by nainie) to a tree leaf reader (taught by nature). When we commit to spending time in nature, we must contend with whatever nature throws at us.  When we understand the deeper meaning of seasonal celebrations, beyond their lore or historic significance, and include it as part of our actual experience of an occasion, the wheel of the year unfolds for us. I realized Samhain was about to unfold.

I took a three minute break to slug down some water, cool off, and check on Rath; he still had a pulse. My muscles were trembling from the exertion of pulling the litter through uneven terrain. I asked the trees if I was half way there yet? I understood their scars, how the branch hierarchy of an oak differed from a hickory tree. Trees reveal a few of their symbiotic relationships with moss, mistletoe, and critters if you know where to look. Unfortunately, so much has been corrupted.

Additionally, groundbreaking early 21st century discoveries about the people that lived here 12,000 years ago are slow to change minds, or rewrite textbooks. I was beginning to understand what needed to be rewritten. How in the Smokies, after the ice age receded, deciduous trees, and a new assortment of useful plants replaced towering conifers. Food available via plants, acorns, chestnut and pine nuts, attracted both nomadic hunter gatherers and animals. It wasn’t always idyllic, still, humans and animals lived in harmony, and respected nature. Early explorers—Phoenicians, Vikings, Irish/Welsh, and Moors, the people of the Tartaria, appreciated this wild, wonderful continent.

That all changed in the mid 1500’s, when European explorers arrived. They brought weapons of destruction, spread diseases for which native people had no immunity, and coveted all they saw. The quality of life for its first people got worse in ensuing centuries. The horror seemed to culminate in the 1830s. Invaders hunted and slaughtered America’s indigenous people. Treaties were broken; the land was raped. The final indignity was the attempted removal of native tribes from areas where they’d lived for well over 10,000 years.

I recalled reading a story widely circulated that Tsali, a leader of a band of Cherokee, sacrificed his life so other Cherokee could remain in the Smokies. Tsali had followed Dragging Canoe, a Chickamauga Cherokee war chief who warned of the threat colonial people were to indigenous people. This was proven in 1819 when all land east of the Little Tennessee River was ceded to the US Government. Several groups broke away from the Cherokee Nation as a result. The peril worsened in 1831 after the Indian Removal Act was approved by Congress. Members of the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole nations refused to move.

Tsali also aligned with Shawnee Chief Tecumseh and disagreed with Major Ridge, a Cherokee leader who advocated for coexistence with colonialist usurpers. Ridge considered Tecumseh a threat to achieving stability. He forbid him from speaking at their National Council meeting. Rumors were spread Tecumseh asked Great Spirit to cause the 1812 New Madrid earthquake. The Cherokee don’t separate spiritual and physical realms; they regard them as one. Their spirituality is part of the fabric of their life. Their cosmology stories explain the world in three levels. They believe in coexistence, balance, and quality. They were one of the few indigenous tribes that didn’t talk about mother earth or father sky. Instead, they had a sort of androgynous creator great spirit called Unetlanvhi. Visions, dreams, and the interpretation of signs were gifts from great spirit.

Tsali’s words were ignored by the Major, and he lost face with the council. He implored the Cherokee to flee into the Smoky and Blue Ridge Mountains. Soldiers attacked his family farmstead. Tsali and his sons killed a few soldiers but were soon captured and badly mistreated. Tsali and his sons broke loose and attacked and killed other soldiers, then fled to higher mountain terrain. A US General told a man who’d been adopted by the Cherokee that if he’d turn in Tsali and his family (and 100s of followers) some Cherokee could remain in the Smokies. Tsali and his sons were betrayed. A firing squad composed of Cherokee prisoners killed them. His youngest son, Wasidana, was spared. About three hundred fugitive followers were allowed to remain in the mountains. Their descendants are among the 5000+ Cherokees living there today in the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. Tsali’s name became synonymous with sacrifice.

I feared Rath’s name might become likewise associated unless I could get him to the magical, healing stream in time. There’ve been more times I can count I’ve wanted to spit on the scientific attitude. It says for something to be real it must have a physical/material form and repeatable actions. With one toss of an arm, magic, myth, alchemy and anything that doesn’t fit or conform is sent crashing to the floor, swept out the door. What was that thing Wittgenstein said ‘we have to awaken to wonder—science is a way of sending us to sleep again.’ Was Tonkakota and his band of brothers descended from the 300 Cherokee allowed to stay? Was he a descendent of Waisdana, son of Tsali? There was an unspoken shorthand between them. Did their ancestral DNA have a higher degree of ESP than most? It seems to be a trait shared by hunters and loners, and the hunted and oppressed. “


Professor Beechum shook his head. That’s magical thinking Wilhelmina. The man’s dying; no amount of crystal clear mountain water is going to save him. Return to the cave and build a signal fire. You’re gambling with your life and his. Your anomie is what I’ve been fearing.

The professor stood and stretched. He needed more tea and something sweet. His weakness was ginger snaps, which he liked to dunk in his tea. He wondered if there was a mental condition based on a writing technique named after a 1950s Japanese movie Rashomon. If so, did Willy have it? He recalled seeing the movie in an arthouse theatre in CA decades ago. A Samurai warrior goes for a walk and is murdered. Four witnesses tell different versions of what they witnessed (or thought they witnessed). In reality, all the witnesses were liars, including the most interesting character, a dead Samurai speaking through a psychic.

What was his name, the writer of the story…Akusuke, no Akutagawa, considered the father of the modern Japanese short story. He had a sad, short life. He drew from 12-13th century Japanese tales, although his later writing was largely autobiographical, pulled from diaries. His mother went mad and at age 35, he committed suicide. His last notable story was about elves or similar nonsensical creatures, if I’m not mistaken. Aloud, Professor Beechum whispered, ‘Is that what you’ve done Wilhelmina, drawn from fanciful tales scribbled in your journal?’ The professor made a note to check with a colleague tomorrow and wondered if Detective Frankel had considered that very possibility.

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Tsali’s story wasn’t forgotten, though many of his other deeds weren’t recorded. I struggle to select which memories should be part of this manuscript. Should I mention that before they sent me to boarding school in England, my parents, dads specifically, enrolled me in a private, state side school for gifted children. It was nothing like Hogwarts or the Earthsea Wizard School. It was more of a CIA/FBI boot camp for kids. Not the genetically enhanced ones, they were at other schools. We were the precocious genius/nerds whose brains were ripe for picking, testing, studying under a microscope, or so they thought. The twins did well there, and later attended a military prep school.

Gone were summer days when my skinned-knees self could escape the world of adults and climb into a tree’s embrace. Gone for a time were nainie’s stories, her icy lemonade, and crisp cookies. Gone was the taste of sweet, stolen fruit, the sticky feel of watermelon dribbling down our chins while we spit out the black bullet seeds. In the school for gifted students, bullets of another sort were fired. With nainie’s help, I managed to get expelled after 2 years or nearly four semesters spent teetering at the edge of a man-made abyss. I was deemed ‘not suitable material,’ a disruption to their rigorous, devious program to produce malleable, controllable young adults.

My WASP mother was livid by the embarrassment I caused. Dads suspected nainie had something to do with my acting out. She wasn’t invited to spend the summer with us the year I turned 14. I was far more furious with dads than he was with nainie. I’d snuck into his office and read a few of the reports in his brief case. It wasn’t hard to pick the lock. My father was a spook, a Brit born, naturalized US government spy, a manipulator of data, and a funneler of slush funds. His reputable international consulting firm ZRtronics, which he’d inherited from Henry Templeton, was a front for government sanctioned clandestine activities. Years later, when the twins joined the firm, I assumed they too became spooks. Did dads ship me off to England because I was accused of stealing a horse and going for a 4 legged joy ride, or did he know I’d spied on him too?

Before resuming our trek, I checked on Rath. His eyes were fluttering and I dribbled a bit of water over his lips. I was glad he was awake. I needed him to keep an eye on the woods. I finished telling him about dads and ZRtronics being in the spy business and added I had the odd feeling again we were being spied on. I asked him if he could call out to Tonkakota, being careful not to say I really needed help pulling the litter. Rath said that wasn’t the way it worked. They would simply appear in certain places unannounced, and only when he was alone. That is, until the encounter at the stream.

To distract myself from a task becoming more grueling by the minute as I pull/dragged the litter up a steep incline, I recalled the day I was caught riding bareback on Mr. Pfeiffer’s big, black stallion. Trailing behind were the remaining horses from his paddock. I’d nearly made it to the county line, where a friend of nainie’s had arranged temporary sanctuary until I could get the proof I had of the mistreatment of these beautiful animals before a judge.

It was my duty to save them. Nainie’s retelling of the stories from the White Book of Rhydderch had a lasting impact on me. In Branwen uerch Llyr, King Llyr’s daughter is promised to Irish King Matholwch by her brother Bran. An awful man named Efnisien, her bastard brother, mutilates and maims Matholwch’s horses. He hadn’t been consulted regarding the union and alliance between Britain and Ireland. Branwen was devastated and did what she could to heal the less damaged horses. In compensation, the Irish king is given a cauldron with magical powers and returns to Ireland with his bride Branwen. They have a son but the Irish, rankled by the mistreatment of their horses, punishes Branwen, and relegates her to the kitchens.

Branwen gets a message to her brothers, who sail with their warriors to rescue her. Trickery and fighting ensues. The terrible Efnisien kills Branwen’s baby. Matholwch uses the cauldron to revive his dead warriors. Efnisien, furious, destroys the cauldron, but forfeits his life. King Bran, her brother, is also mortally wounded. He instructs the surviving warriors to cut off his head and bring it back to Britain. Branwen dies of a broken heart. After much wandering, Bran’s head is buried under the White Hill (Tower of London), where it’s rumored it rests to this day.

Such a tragic tale. It ended as sadly as my attempt to save the horses, who were swiftly returned to Mr. Pfeiffer. In the story, I’d always wondered why the maimed horses weren’t put in the cauldron and restored? Luck or nainie’s magic and an honest, former jockey and stallkeeper ratted on his boss and Pfeiffer was arrested and fined. The horses found new homes. I was shipped off to boarding school in England.


Rath’s breathing sounded labored, as if he’d just climbed the last hill, rather than being pulled up and over it. His arm was raised and quivering, as were my legs. I’d just maneuvered down the other side of the incline and was searching for a marker. Whether I went right or left, both ways involved climbing another incline and skirting around rocky outcrops and fallen tree trunks. Freya, goddess of lucky Friday’s, Tonkakota, anyone, I could use some help. A horse, a deer, even a trained pig would be lovely. “What’s wrong Rath? Are you trying to point me in the right direction? Do you know of a more down hill route?”

“Run,” he rasped, “run little sister.” I’d heard that before. I pivoted and glanced to my left, in the direction Rath was pointing. No, it couldn’t be. The can of cold beans I’d consumed had been bad or water I’d drank was making me hallucinate. About 10 feet up the left slope, there stood Vaughn, looking like the victim of a horrific car crash. Dried blood or mud had formed rivulets and stained either side of his face. One eye was puffy and discolored. The strip of cloth I’d torn from my shirt and used to mark the tree was wrapped round his head. One arm was in a makeshift sling. The upper part of a leg was wrapped with what was probably the belt from my Barbour jacket. In his other arm he held the arrow he’d wrested from me. Something shiny glittered from his belt.

“Goldifox,” he shouted. “Rath, my man. This ain’t the way off the mountain. Let me set you straight.”

P2 of Chapter 7 and the conclusion of Interpretation of Death drops in October. As always, your comments and suggestions are appreciated.