We all are participants in the mythos, our lineage histories and sacred stories, what we carry in our blood and bones.
This story is the result of a Swan Blessing ceremony on the dark moon before the darkest day this year with Julia Inglis of Sacred Familiar. This work has been incredibly powerful for me, for my integration and healing of ancient wounds in my lineage, in understanding and claiming my initiation and power.
You can read her words about the medicine found in the story on her blog: Sacred Familiar.
This is a lineage story, a visioning, a fey tale, a hope.
'In the ancient time of swan and wind there lives an undine. She waits not, for in the portal of the waterfall pool she drifts up and holds my hand. Her crown sways, her eyes portals too, slits of pure gold and grace. The silver thread around my finger connects to her webbed hand, her skin ever changing aquamarine, deep blue, green. We fall into the pool and are in the creek of my childhood, the water warm, stones brown and copper bronze beneath us. On the floor of the creek there is a golden key. The undine has me take the key in my right hand and swims us deeper along a dark channel where there is a narrow passage with a round wooden door. Looking up I can see the blurred alders above and remember I can breathe underwater. I insert the key in the lock and turn and the water rushes out into a meadow.
In the meadow sits an old woman on a stone in a circle of stones. The circle is surrounded by oak savannah and rolling hills. She is crouched there wearing a red skirt and a green shawl, her hair long and silver grey, her face pained as she looks down the valley. Her heart hurts, there is a pain too deep to skillfully bear.
Down the valley in her line of sight, through the portals of time to a village. She is young there, wearing a skirt of red and a green embroidered vest with silver clasps, her hair in a long braid. On the town green there is a festival starting and she has the work of strewing the flowers and herbs, blessing the circle. The townspeople love her and honor her. She feels whole.
To the north of the square is her home, a round house with two levels, a fire or hearth in the center. On the fire is a cauldron, and in the cauldron is a medicine brewing thick with herbs, purple in color. She adds a handful of hawthorne berries and stirs the mixture. A spiral forms on the surface, doubled, moving in both directions. She sips from a heavy cup and it tastes of honey as the door opens. It is her work today.
She heals hearts with this medicine, scooping it cheerfully into cups, offering herself in story. Literal hearts, broken hearts. Her work is love and joy.
In the forest, but not far from the edge of town there lives her teacher. At six she was sent for initiation and study with the woman of the deer. The woman of the deer is sometimes many women, sometimes one. She has long white hair and wears white robes, and the deer around her round house are dappled white. Something shines in her hair, something like stars. The girl learns the ways of the deer, learns when to pour out and when to conserve. There is a sacred knife stuck into the table block and she watches it for many years, through growth and learning, until her moon blood comes. One night when the moon is just past full she is taken into a field and her left hand is cut by her teacher down the palm, her blood dripped into a cup in the stone. She makes a vow by her blood to serve always and without question, to preserve life and to listen to the deer. She is celebrated, she has her purpose and her path, and the women of the deer live on for another generation.
Sometime in her mid life a moment of choosing comes. An aching betrayal. The village suffers abuse and violence, destruction, a year without crops, another, the deer are dying from lack of fodder in the hills and the people are dying from the greed of men.
The greediest and cruelest of all lies before her now. A shadow. She carries a vial of poison. To end his life is forsaking her vows, but to not end his life is forsaking her community which she has committed to serve, the land which she is promised to, the deer to whom she owes her spirit heart. If he doesn’t die all of this will be gone. And if he dies at her hand she will save it, though she must die too—at least, appear to. She must disappear into the wood and not return. She will leave her cloak in the stream, smeared with blood. They will believe her victim of another’s crime.
This she knows and still tips the bottle to his blistered lips. Then she goes.
Run run run. Run with the deer. In exile, she can’t ever return. No one knows, it is a secret. She lives alone, serving only the deer, healing the deer.
She dies in the circle of stones, still bound by her oath and the complexity of the forsaken.
And her oath became mine. To serve without question. Her choice became mine, to lose and lose again home and root and family.
When we met she was all ages, ever changing. When we embraced she was so familiar. She smelled like me. The binding on me was wood and metal, like a barrel and staves with a lock. She drifted into wholeness, becoming our whitehaired teacher, woman of the deer.
And the water witch in the falls gave me a glowing wand which sliced through the past, the broken oath, the exile, like liquid and the bonds slipped away.
And I bathed in the pool by my grandmothers who dyed me with woad and garlanded me with bay laurel and rosemary and hawthorne berries and star bright flowers and sang to me and set me free to run with the deer beneath the sun, with the swan singing and my own voice singing and opening to the freedom that is our birthright, I return the song, I return to the women of the deer, I carry them with me. Their freedom, their healing, their community, their belonging, their land of oak and meadow, their scent of blood and bone, ash and stone. We are one.'