Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Visit to the Great Owl

At the jetty, I see a large boat, that looks for all the world like a dried milkweed pod. I know it is waiting for me. In it are four women, tall and sturdily built, wearing robes of white. The beckon me aboard and show me to a seat in the bow. I watch their strong arms as they row us through the choppy water. They are muscular, synchronized, and silent. We move swiftly through the water for a bit and then suddenly, one of the women begins to sing. The others take up her song, in turn, and sing in a round.

All that holds us, rise!
All that rocks us, rise!
All that hides the world beneath,
Rise, rise, rise!

Greet your daughters, Mother
Fold us in your wings
Let us see the truth beyond
Mother, hear us sing!

All that holds us, rise!
All that rocks us, rise!
All that hides the world beneath,
Rise, rise, rise!

Welcome now a stranger
Coming to your shores
She who travels inward
Seeking other doors.

All that holds us, rise!
All that rocks us, rise!
All that hides the world beneath,
Rise, rise, rise!

As this song travels across the water, an island begins to form before my eyes. Is it merely coming out of the mist, or are these women singing it into existence? I cannot know, but we are drawn inexorably toward it, even though the ferry women have laid down their oars.

We are drawn in to a protected cove, and out boat gently grounds itself on the shore. The women, now humming softly, jump lightly from the boat and form a line. I join them and follow them through some trees at the edge of the rocky beach. In the clearing I see a large old house, with fabulous turrets at each corner. There are fairy lights twined about the porch and the sign hanging next to the door says “Owl Island Inn: Est. Before the Earth Was Born.” This made me pause, but before long, I was lagging behind, so I ran to catch up with the women. I huffed and puffed my way up the hill, occasionally sighting people and strange creatures in the woods and along the roadside, who would wave or stare at me. In a meadow that skirted the shore, waves gently lapping at its edge, I saw a small house with a red tile roof, and beyond it, a lovely lighthouse, made in the old style, a round stone structure that supported a small, square open sided room at the top, from whence the light would shine. I wished to stop and climb the lighthouse, but still we pressed on. Deep into the woods we went, until we reached a large stone, part of a bluff or cliff of sorts, that had been inscribed and painted with all sorts of magical symbols. One symbol that kept repeating over and over was that of a great owl, drawn in ways both primitive and representative.
The women stopped and slipped out of their cloaks to reveal gorgeous shimmering gowns of white with jeweled belts bearing the image of the Owl. Each of them wore a shimmering circlet upon her head, and jeweled cuffs on her upper arms. I realized with humility that these were the priestesses of the Great Owl that I had read about. I bowed my head.

One of the priestesses, the eldest, walked to the right of the stone, and I saw a small spring which fed a lake lying beyond the stone bluff. From her gown, she drew a small crystal amphora and filled it. She returned and poured it over the stone, saying: “I cover thee with the veil of An. Thou art anointed with my vow to thee. Henceforth shall I keep my way in thy Light, for I am that which you are, the Way of Creation through the labyrinth of Ptah.”
The other priestesse had made ready, as well. One held a golden bowl of honey, and the eldest priestess washed her hands in the bowl.
“Oh, sacred elixir, queen of sweetness, comfort me.” She rubbed the stone with honey, saying: “I return to the hive of my fortune. To the guardian of the sweetness of the wisdom of Past, Present and Future.”
The youngest priestess took my hand and then presssed a blue star sapphire to my forehead. She said, “Behold, she who guards the labyrinth of Ashara, she comes in the night, she sleeps in the day. She holds the star before her, she gives birth to the sun.”

Suddenly, the rocks began to move, sliding aside to reveal a path.
“Enter the labyrinth, Sister, and take this to guide you.” She hands me a white feather.
The rock slides closed behind me, but I find I have light, shining from the feather, and I begin my journey to the White Owl. I have questions, so many questions, but as I follow that path of the labyrinth, they begin to burn away in my mind, each one burning to ashes, a clean, white burning, until there is only one question left in my mind. I hold this question with all of my being as I walk the labyrinth.
In time, minutes or eons, I enter a cavern at the center of the labyrinth. I see a massive white owl, perched upon the branch of a large dead tree. She turns her head and looks at me sharply, eyes luminous and enormous. She snaps her beak at me.

“Hello, Mother. I was brought here to you…for wisdom. Thank you for receiving me today.”

“You were not brought,” she says, in a low, thrumming voice. “You came.”

“Yes, I did.”

“You seek?”

“yes, Mother.”
"I am a mirror to those who come through the winding way. I vow to be the sealer as well as the revealer. What is your question?”

I ask her what is in my heart.

She speaks: In each life, daughter, the paths are many, and they intersect on many planes. At each signpost, one must make a choice. However, one must know the language of the signposts to choose correctly.”

“The language?”

“Yes, daughter. The world has one language, the brain another, the heart yet another. Humans are taught one, at best, two of these languages. Just as most cannot decipher my language, often they cannot decipher their heart’s language, and set off on the wrong path.”

“Can one go back and find the way?”

“No, daughter.” At this I wept, bitterly. She flew from her post and landed before me, her eyes impossibly bright.

“You cannot go back—but the paths are many, the intersections on many planes—who is to say? Ahead may lie your greatest choice, and you are on the path to knowing the language of the heart. If you were not, you would not be here, with me. Nature, love, solitude, wonder—these are all words you know, but now you feel them, feel them as they cut deep into your heart. You are learning.” She brushed my forehead with her great wing as she flew back to her perch.

My face was damp with tears. I reached into my pocket and pulled out a bead I had made. It was carved of bone, something I found in the forest. On it I had inscribed spirals, feeling the intuitiven rightness of it as I had done it, yet not knowing why. It was a perfect offering for the Great Owl. “Thank you,” I whispered as I lay it in a hollow of the tree.

I wandered back through the labyrinth, becoming calmer and surer with each step. When I exited, the priestesses formed a line and walked back toward the boat. Silently, I followed, and rode deep in thought as we approached Duwamish. The sun crested the horizon as we touched ground. I slipped my hand into my pocket, and felt the white feather, slightly warm and faintly pulsing.


At 2:44 AM, Blogger Traveller said...

perhaps we wouldn't get lost so often if we could but read the signs. What a wonderful story and a great lesson

At 4:05 AM, Blogger Imogen Crest said...

Love the feather.

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Heather Blakey said...

Dear Karen
This is just magnificent. Indeed it is so rich with images that I am going to draw a couple of things to go with it here on Owl Island.


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