Sunday, October 30, 2011

SAECULUM (A Novel:Part 6) – VESPER II.

SOL OCCAXUS (Sunset) Monday, 19 September, 2011

CREPUSCULUM (Evening Twilight)
I. Friday, 23 September, 2011
II. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
III. Thursday, 29 September, 2011
IV. Sunday, 16 October, 2011

VESPER (Evening Dusk)
I. Sunday, 23 October, 2011
II. Sunday, 30 October, 2011
CONCUBIUM (First Sleep – Coitus – Rest)
MATUTINUM (Dawn Goddess)
DILUCULUM (Dawn Twilight)

SOLI ORTUS (Sunrise)




The two men walked slowly, in the late evening shade of Wellington’s elms below the Alhambra’s walls. The air was warm and with most tourists gone for the day the predominant sounds were those of running water and the far-off chimes of the cathedral bells. Alonzo Aldahrze was dressed in a baggy, linen safari-suit and walked with the aid of his carved ivory-topped cane-stick. Alonzo was beginning to hobble. Finding an empty park bench he brushed away some fallen leaves, sat down and tapping his stick against the bench motioned for his younger companion to take a seat beside him. “Michael, I must rest for a bit. My leg is complaining loudly.”
Michael Mara looked concerned. “What happened to your leg Alonzo? Were you injured?”
“No. My doctor says it is part and parcel of my age. I disagree of course,” Alonzo smiled. “Distraction arthritis, I call it. In my imagination it is the consequence of chasing the beautiful women of my youth and turning too abruptly when yet another heavenly body passed by in the opposite direction. In truth it is an old skiing injury.”
“Would you not consider a knee replacement?”
“The pain is tolerable. It is my fate. If I ever become truly incapacitated I will consider it.” Alonzo paused for a moment he asked, “Do you believe in fate, Michael?”
“Yes and no,” Michael replied.
“Explain yourself my young friend,” Alonzo persisted.
Michael looked up at the trees and at the upper branches, which rustled briskly in the evening breeze and appeared to swipe away the returning rooks. He then looked back at Alonzo. “In my work, I sometimes feel so empowered by the clarity of the best of my ideas that I have no doubt about their successful proof. The intensity of those moments is so palpable, so intoxicating that I’m addicted. Some might call that fate.” Michael paused, as if exhausted by the uncertainty. “It’s not something I can explain to people easily. Unfortunately, the same clarity doesn’t often extend to other areas of my life so I’m beginning to question what fate has in store for me. I’m a little confused as to what direction I want to go in.” He looked at the older man. “I’m probably not making sense.”
Alonzo did not answer immediately but began drawing interconnecting circles on the ground with the tip of his cane. Eventually he spoke, “On the contrary, Michael, it makes perfect sense. Fate is just a meeting point where, at different moments in time, all the forces that play out their tunes on the strings of our lives condense in a single note of harmonious illumination. Perhaps what you are really saying is that your life lacks that harmony?”
Michael stared down at the circles. “Yes . . . yes, perhaps I am. Somebody else recently questioned me along the same lines but I drew back from an explanation. I’m . . . I’m afraid of the consequences of analysing it too much.”
“What about God, Michael. Do you believe in God?”
“Yes, but distant. Uninvolved. Disinterest in the human condition on both our parts.”
“That was Saint Augustine’s fault.” Alonzo rested his cane in the centre of one of the circles and rolled it between his palms as if trying to start a fire.
“I don’t understand,” Michael said honestly.
Alonzo smiled. “The early Christian church had difficulty in resolving the obvious and prevalent presence of evil in the world and in order to remove the heretic notion of God being somehow responsible distanced Him from it, and subsequently from the faithful, by making mankind fully responsible for that evil.”
“I do not have too much of a problem with that concept. Evil, as far as I am concerned, is a human failing. The difficulty of a hidden God, unapproachable as it were, is the fear of having to confront that evil, on your own.”
“Do not be afraid, Michael. Evil is of this world and, dare I say it, necessary. Knowledge will help you overcome your fear of it.”
Alonzo turned his head slightly to look at Michael before he leant his hands on the carved handle of his stick and rested his chin on these. It was a few moments before he replied. “Michael, I have greatly enjoyed your company and I truly believe that fate has brought us together at this time. The work that you are engaged in sounds fascinating but it strikes me, that you are being isolated by its physical and intellectual demands. You are too reliant on your own capabilities, and the perceived value of your work. You have a great need to be understood as a person but you also need to understand the onus that this places on other people. It appears to me that this balance is absent in your life.”
Michael lit a cigarette and watched as the older man straightened his arthritic knee. He felt suddenly vulnerable and spoke quietly, “I do not follow, Alonzo.”
“I think you do Michael, but it does not matter. I sense that you are ready to try and find that complete harmony but you lack the knowledge of the path you must take in order to achieve it. All of us need guidance and fate has determined that I should be your guide. That is my responsibility.”
Michael brusquely stood up and shook his head, as if suddenly threatened by the older man whom he had only known for such a brief time. He paced along the path for a few minutes before returning to face Alonzo. He began rubbing out the circles on the ground with his shoe. “This is all very strange, Alonzo. Do not get me wrong. I do not want to appear impolite or ungrateful, but I hardly know you. Even if I am searching in some way for the harmony that you describe, why would you, a complete stranger, be offering to be my guide? What responsibility do you owe me? What right have you to assume that responsibility?”
“Do I seem like a stranger, Michael?” Alonzo lifted his chin off its resting place and looked up at the younger man. His gaze was unwavering, almost accusatory.
Michael bristled but then just as suddenly sat down again. “No,” he replied.
“Good. I understand your reservation, Michael. Believe me when I say that this situation is also difficult for me. I have known for a long time that I had one more unfinished task to complete, before my own destiny was fulfilled and its terminus reached. My offer of guidance is freely given and does not demand either reliance or dependence. Each of us has to find our own way to the elusive harmony that we all seek. My responsibility is to show you the doors, you must cross their thresholds.”
“What unfinished task, Alonzo?”
“Michael, may I tell you a story?”
“Of course, Alonzo. What is it about?”
“Leadership, destiny… many things. It might take some time. Do you need to be somewhere else?”
“No.” Michael’s answer was emphatic.
“Good. This story has its beginnings about six or seven thousand years ago in the small valley of Diwanah Baba, which is nestled high in the Hindu Kush mountains of the Nuristan region of modern-day north-eastern Afghanistan. It is the time of the vernal or spring equinox and the morning air, at that altitude, still feels bitterly cold. Half way up the side of a high, southwest-facing valley wall there is a small level area of ground hidden within a grove of sturdy holly oak and pink-flowered deodar. Surrounding the grove is a cordon of imperious cedar and junipers, which shut out the morning sun as it rises over the mountain ridge behind. On the flattened piece of ground there is a carpet of yellow asphodels…” Alonzo paused. “As an aside. What do you know of asphodels Michael,” he asked.
“The Greek flower of death and the underworld.” Michael answered with a schoolboy’s smile of satisfaction.
“Yes. You are right. A credit to your education.” Alonzo touched Michael lightly on the arm before continuing. “At that elevation, there is still deep snow on the ground and the footprints of ibex and snow leopard can be seen on the tongues of white snow that probe the spaces between the mighty cedar trunks. The thin air is scented with pine, wild rose, tamarisk and . . .” For a moment Alonzo appeared to lose his own thoughts as he involuntarily flared his nostrils and sniffed the air around them. “Imagine that stillness disturbed by the sounds of a small party of people edging themselves carefully around a large rock outcrop on the narrow track that leads from the valley below. They are pulling a reluctant, small, stocky horse behind them, that, despite being unladen, is having difficulty with its footing on the brittle surface of thawing shale. On reaching the level ground of the holly-oak grove one of the group leads the horse to the far end of the grove where there is a circle of upright stones about the height of a small child. Its handler, a beardless youth, remains close to the stone circle where he begins to gather kindling and fallen pine cones to lay down a fire. The remainder of the party, which consists of six men and one woman, move to the centre of the grove and position themselves to sit cross-legged on the ground, facing each other in a rough circle. Because of the bitter cold they all keep on their coarsely tailored sheepskin coats.
One of group is sitting with his back to the valley and looking up at the sky. He is stroking a large, bushy beard with one hand when his attention is suddenly diverted to an adult lammergeyer gliding on the updrafts of the valley walls. See there, the old man said as he pointed upwards to the large bird of prey. The bearded messenger-bird of the Sky God awaits his reward. One of the others said that this was a good omen and the older man nodded before turning his attention back to the group.”

Michael smiled as he listened to Alonzo as he began to voice the characters. The performance was achieved with the just the slightest change of accent and flicker of the mouth and eyes. It was as effortless as it was appropriate and was the magical art of a natural storyteller.

Once again we have made,” Alonzo continued. “The difficult journey to the sacred grove to celebrate the festival of Hekamaad and give thanks to the gods for bringing a new season of rebirth for the People. It is good that the omens are with us as you and I my friends, the seven ka-anuman, the Guides, the guardians of all our people’s wisdom have much to talk about. In the thousand winters we have lived in these valleys we, and those of the ka-anuman who have gone before us, have been the judges of disputes, interpreters of dreams, pathfinders of destinies and tellers of the story of the People. Each of you, your own destiny determined by being the first of twins of the same soul, was chosen at birth by the great Sky God to inherit the Guide’s birch-pole of the ka-anuman. The navel cord of your brother or sister soul is wrapped around that pole and binds you to their home amongst the stars. Today is the day that I have brought my inheritor Nadaksin to the mountain. He is not yet one of the seven but I have had a vision which I must share with you and him.

The old man paused. The only woman in the group spoke first. Ebabu, this is not possible. You have many seasons left. What visions do you speak of? You must be eating too much of the fruit of the mushroom tree.

The older man smiled before he answered: You know much of what I will recount but it is important to remind ourselves of our origins and our destinies. There was a murmur of approval from the whole group. In the time before the thousand winters, before we came to these mountains; the People lived in the land between the sea of the one thousand islands and the sea where they hunted the long-nosed fish of many eggs. In the beginning, there was Manuru, the Sky God, the god of the light, the father of all the gods. One day he saw his reflection in the warm waters of his daughter, the goddess of the waters Eana and desiring that men be created in his image planned to sow his seed. The coiled serpent God of Darkness heard of this and during the time of the first day-night, caused by the Moon God copulating with the Sun God, the serpent used the great shadow on the land to sow his seed in the waters of the Goddess Eana. Thus were created men. The Goddess Eana, seeing that the God of Darkness had deceived her, decided to create, from pure water uncontaminated by the serpent’s seed, the first seven ka-anuman, so that they could guide all the other children of the serpent. It was she who told the first seven to lead the people away from their land and to follow the white path of the great Sky God, Manuru. At one time, all the people spoke with the same tongue and had a common memory of our gods and there was no conflict between the peoples. That has all changed and now there are many tongues and differing memories. Each year brings new oxcarts and conflicts from the plains to the high valleys. I have been shown in a vision by our mother Goddess Eana, that it is time for the ka-anuman to depart this land, that it is time to lift our birch-poles and like the winter geese follow the sky-path down from the mountains. We, the ka-anuman are to take our knowledge and wisdom to guide the nations of the plains and the high plateaux…

Are you following me Michael,” Alonzo suddenly asked.
“Yes…yes. Please continue Alonzo,” Michael said sincerely. The evening breeze had settled somewhat to allow the rooks to settle.

The group were somewhat puzzled by the revelation and looked at each other with questions in their hearts. Ebabu, our father, one of them asked. What if we forget or are lost on the journey? The old man continued, I will tell more of my vision. I have seen the Goddess Eana asking her father, the great Sky God Manuru, how is it in the lands of different tongues that the People’s story and the story of the gods be told. The great Sky God tells the Goddess Eana that the ka-anuman already know the houses of his children, the stars, in their learning. He asks that we look at the houses and by carving marks on clay and stone, as we do with mountains and rivers on our water pots, then the houses will never be destroyed. Each house will have a name and will announce a story of our people. Each house will have a sound and will remember the tongue of our people. Each house will have a door to announce the wisdom of our people. When the ka-anuman were created the Gods rested from our affairs. They trusted us to do what was right. Do not forget that we are not the Kings who rule in the name of the gods, nor are we the Priests who interpret the will of the gods; we are the Guides who know the path between what is good and what is evil for the People. Now it is time for us to instruct the peoples in other lands what we know.
But there are only seven of us! The youngest member of the group protested.
Each house, the old man explained. Will remind us of more than just one memory. In my vision the great Sky God Manuru tells his daughter, the mother Goddess Eana, that our people the Weiminstan, are the people of the star path. We have to show other people the way of our gods by means of these marks. Then if our voices be silenced our marks will remain on the earth of the God Enanll. Our People will travel for another thousand winters through the lands of Indadra to reach Daraum the island of the blessed and the land of Enlladam. In my vision it is in the land of Weshukanni where we will stop wandering.

Ebabu, the old man, at that point reached into the shoulder bag he had carried with him and took out seven gemstones. These had been roughly cut into the shape of short, flat cylinders the size of which would just fit in the palm of a closed hand. He placed them, one at a time, in front of each member of the group with the exception of his own, which he held up in front of him. As the sunlight caught the stone it appeared to radiate an intense blue colour with occasional glints of gold. Each of the stones had a small raised central knob through which a fine hole had been bored and which allowed the passing of a chord that it could then be tied around the neck. Each of the group lifted their respective gem and examined it carefully. Into each cylinder surface a figure of a seated man holding a river in one hand and a snake in the other had been precisely carved. Above the figures are the sign of the Sun God and the upturned crescent of the Moon God. Surrounding the figures are a number of carved symbols and on each stone these were different.
Each of you must wear the stone around your neck and learn the marks of the others. Press these into the potter’s clay and the story will be told. The stones will be the tongues of our people; tell the people of our great Sky God Manuru and of his children the Sun and Moon who move from one hand to another; tell the peoples of our womb-mother of the waters, the Goddess Eanu, who gave us life and of her deceiving consort, the serpent God of Darkness, with whom she created our People and who waits to bring them to their final home; tell the peoples of the great Sky God Manuru and his struggles in keeping the twin strands of our destiny apart. We must explain to the distant peoples the reasons for the twin judgments that determine their paths. We must show that wisdom and folly, knowledge and ignorance, life and death, peace and conflict, beauty and ugliness, food and famine, good and evil is always necessary and will be with us always. That is the inheritance of the ka-anuman, that is the story of our People.

Ebabu, most pure elder, how is it we will know when we have reached the new home of our people, this Weishukanni? The only woman member of the group asked. Ebabu, the old man once more reached into his bag but this time withdrew a ball of soft potters clay. He placed it on the ground and flattened it into a disc. Leaning forward he took back each of the gemstones from the others and began pressing them at intervals into the clay. When he finally had placed his own he spoke quietly. This is the final secret. There are seven of us and we are also the children of the messenger of the sky, Araum, the God of the Time that governs us all. In his house the first seven ka-anuman of our people found their immortal home. It is from his crotch that we are reborn. In the night he is always carrying on his shoulders the twin Sky Gods, as you must in your judgments. I have placed the seven stones to show his house at the middle time of the longest night. Remember the house and when we see it again in the same position at the same time then our people’s travels are over. That is my vision. There was a pause as the group contemplated their future. Ebabu comforted them, Come my friends. The day has nearly passed and the Sun God is restless for sleep. We will talk of this again. It is time to take the mead and then offer the sacrifice of the horse to the gods.

Alonzo stopped abruptly. He leant back in the chair and took a long draught of water from the bottle they had bought at the kiosk earlier.
“A good story, Alonzo and well told,” Michael said with genuine warmth. “Where does it come from and what by the way is the Hekamaad?”
Alonzo watched Michael carefully for a while, tracing and erasing another geometric design on the ground with his cane. “The story is as it is Michael. It has has been transmitted as an oral tradition in a secret language from one generation to the next. The language is very precise and thus does not allow much in the way of change. The difficulty is translating it into English.”
“What’s the secret language?” Michael asked.
Alonzo ignored the question to answer Michael’s earlier query. “You asked me about the Hekamaad. This word literally means ‘horse-drunk’. There is increasing archaeological and linguistic evidence to suggest that most of the Neolithic ancestors of the Indo-European races, the so-called Proto-Indo-Europeans, were to be found in a five-hundred-kilometre-wide band that linked the Black and Azov seas in the west to the Caspian and Aral Seas in the east. From there they spread out in all directions bringing their proto-language and traditions to dominate the original inhabitants. To these people the horse was their most valuable possession and sacrifice. The word for horse in most European, Indian and Iranian languages has the proto-Indo-European ekwos as their root; the word meydho for mead is more obvious. The ritual of Hekamaad or ekwo-meydho is a spring festival involving both the horse and drunkenness. In Vedic it is known as the Asvamedha. The people of the secret language have a tradition that stretches back eight thousand years and which implies that their ancestors first migrated from near the Aral to the valleys of the Hindu Kush. About six thousand years ago, because of pressure from the Aryans, they then moved down to the Indus Valley. From here they migrated by coast and sea to Elam and finally as a People established the Mitanni empire. Along the way they were the first to develop the rudiments of writing and astronomy and that was their power. They were the original Magi of history and brought that wisdom to the early Sumerians and Egyptians. Their language was of the group we call Indo-Elamo-Dravidian, the first language of north-west India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.”
Michael cursed silently, annoyed at his ignorance of the origins of language, and tried a different tack. “It’s a fascinating story. I would like to understand it more. What of the blue stones? It sounds like they are still a significant legacy for the people you talk of.”
Immediately Alonzo’s face lit up. “That is it. I knew you would realize the most important thing. I told them so.”
“Told who?” Michael asked with a puzzled expression.
Alonzo hesitated. “The blue stone is lapis lazuli which in its purest form is only mined in one valley on the Daryz-ye Konkce River in north-eastern Afghanistan. For thousands of years, before even Alexander or Christ, it had been traded from there to Sumer, Harappa and Egypt. Its azure hue, the original ultramarine, decorated the idols and effigies of all the greatest civilizations. Its relative softness allowed easy carving and it was used to make seals of identification. They–”
Michael smiled as he interrupted the older man:

“Every discolouration of the stone,
Every accidental crack or dent,
Seems a watercourse or an avalanche,
Or lofty slope where it still snows”

Alonzo looked puzzled. “What is that poem and why the mirth?”
“I’m sorry, Alonzo,” Michael apologised. “They are from a poem called Lapis Lazuli by Yeats, the Irish poet. Your fable of the stone seals from the mountains and valleys of Nuristan reminded me of the lines. Somebody teased me earlier this afternoon about my ignorance of Yeats,” Michael hesitated, as if he were about to expand but then deciding against it. “Forgive my rudeness, Alonzo. Please go on with your story. What of the people, the Weiminstan, I think you called them?”
“Well remembered, Michael! The people of the secret language have always controlled the trade of lapis lazuli and their most sacred totems were the seven seals carved of that stone and given to the ka-unuman that spring equinox long ago in the sacred grove.”
“Do they still exist?” Michael asked incredulously.
“What? The People or the seals?” Alonzo queried.
“Is it not obvious?” The older man sounded disappointed. He leant his chin on the knob of the cane-stick, the inlaid eyes of the carved-ivory dragon-head held Michael in their fixed stare. It was a few minutes before Alonzo spoke again. “I am of the People Michael. Despite the efforts in the past of the Aryans, Persians and Greeks, and in more recent centuries those of the British and Russians; the People have survived. Even the so-called Taliban patriots of the Darul Uloom Haqqania madrash have failed to eradicate the true inheritance.”
“And the secret language that you spoke of?”
“Although Brahui is the remnant Dravidian language of Afghanistan, the secret language of our tradition is called in Kabul, Zargari, the language of the Afghan goldsmiths and traders in precious stones. It has been considered, by the few linguists who have been allowed to study the language, to be closest to the peculiar dialect of ancient Persian, known as Gurani. Deep in the past the people must have adopted the language of their commerce in lapis and spinel balases.”
“What about the seals?” Michael persisted.
Alonso smiled. “I would like to tell you the full story of the seals, Michael, but, in doing so, it means that you too become part of the story. It also means that you willingly accept my offer of guidance. Given your reservations earlier . . . are you prepared for that?” Alonso studied Michael’s reactions with an intensity that undermined any attempt at levity.
“Yes . . . I suppose so. Yes. Definitely! It feels right somehow,” Michael blurted out with false bravado.

No comments: