by Tala Bar
Table of Contents|
Chapter 4 appeared
in issue 147.
Tamar, Water Maiden of the village of the Three Faces of the Moon, is next in line to become the Lady Mother and leader of the Golden People. When a tribe of gazelle hunters comes from the desert and settles near the Village, Tamar is fascinated by a tall, dark-eyed man among the new people.
The desert folk are very strange: they cover their bodies, and their women remain hidden and mute. The sacred verses of Tamar's people enjoin friendship with all tribes; however, the nomad queen Atir devines a prophecy from the dread omen of the serpent, a vision that she and Tamar both share unbeknownst to one another.
Chapter 5: Climax
part 1 of 2
The nomads folded their tents and returned to the desert. Eitan came to live in the Village of the Three Faces of the Moon. Rains started falling again, interchanging for a couple of weeks with heavily moist, cloudy weather; among the rocks and boulders, the first winter flowers blossomed, the days grew shorter and the shadows of the trees in the Village’s center lengthened, until they reached a certain marked spot. That was the time appointed for Eitan to be born into the Village, which would be his new Mother.
Old Ya’el had been designated Birthing Woman. For the great event, her face and naked body were painted white in honor of the Moon Goddess; stripes of red ochre were drawn on her belly from the navel toward her genitals, where the new baby was to come from. To the sound of muffled drums, the healer crouched over a long, shallow ditch dug for the purpose, the Village women crowding around her.
The men brought Eitan, stripped naked for the first time since his first birth; the hair was shaven from his body, which was splashed with blood-red paint. The men pushed him down on his hands and knees behind the crouching woman, and he crawled under her in the ditch, wriggling and coming up her front, to the shouts and cries of joy of the villagers; as his head appeared between Ya’el’s thighs, a group of young girls burst in a wild dance to honor his birth.
Tamar, Lady Mother of the Village, who was waiting squatting in front of Ya’el, pulled Eitan out of the ditch, took him into her arms and cleaned his body with fresh leaves; Shoshana, the Water Maiden, sprinkled him with the clear, fresh water from the sacred spring, murmuring the blessing of the Goddess. Then Ya’el came and sat by the newly born, giving him her shrivelled breast to suckle once or twice. The villagers cried out again in honor of their new member.
After that, the Village women took turns in taking care of the new baby, who grew up in amazing speed. In a few weeks he passed through babyhood and childhood, treated by Tamar as one of the Village’s children. In due time he grew up to be a boy turned over to the men to be taught the customs of the Village. Having reached his official puberty and gone through the ceremony that would make him an adult, Eitan spent all his time with the men, going hunting on the hills or in the river thicket, sleeping out of doors wrapped like them in skins of furs. He sat around in their company, making tools of flint and bone, weaving leaves or feathers to make baskets and all sorts of decorations; with them he listened to the weaving of stories and legends which had made up the Village’s lore.
The rains stopped for a while, the sky cleared and the sun shone, the weather turning dry and cold; the green hills covered with carpets of colorful blossoms. All that time Tamar seemed to him more remote than ever, as she managed the Village’s business; Eitan, restless and full of yearnings, spent a great deal of his time roaming outside the Village, for the first time in his life getting to know the land of rich soil with plenty of greenery and blossoms. so different from the desert.
Then the weather turned changeable again, short spurts of rain alternating with bright days, and various shapes of clouds driven through the sky by capricious winds. The corn standing tall in its patch, a mark of a good year, began to yellow when the villagers knew the time for the Lady’s annual coronation was near.
One day the hunters came back carrying the carcass of a huge mountain goat. Its curved, moon-shaped horns were the largest that had ever been seen by anyone in the Village, except, maybe, by such old people as Ya’el and Asaf; the animal’s genitals were so large, that the women crowded around their carrier to touch them and admire. As the hunters approached the Village, Tamar rose from her seat in front of the Lady’s house to sit on the stone seat under the large terebinth.
“Tomorrow,” she said, her high, ringing voice, which was no less commanding than Devora’s deep one used to be, “when the first rays of the sun touch the entrance to the sacred cave, we shall celebrate the sacred marriage!”
During the day the men worked on the goat, skinning it, cleaning its carcass and putting it on the spit to roast; all through the night they sat around it, singing their monotonous ritual songs, while the women were busy preparing the rest of the meal. At dawn, everything ready, the villagers prepared themselves for the festival, cleaning and decorating their bodies with the gayest, luckiest colors and shapes.
When the first rays of the sun shone through the mists over the mauve-colored hills of Mo’av, Tamar took her place on the stone seat, which was covered with the skin of a mountain goat. She was wrapped in the white skin of the desert oryx, and a crown of fresh flowers was put on her bright, golden hair. Her face was painted yellow as the young sun, her eyes and mouth encircled red, her breasts covered with yellow ochre under heavy chains of red-dyed seeds hanging from her neck. By her side, a stone seat covered with a rare lion skin had been erected for Eitan. His bare, dark, hairy chest was painted white with red stripes, a leopard skin encircled his waist. On his head he carried the prime symbol of the Lady Mother’s mate: the great moon-horns of the mountain goat.
Since before dawn the drums had been beaten to mark the holiness of the day. As the sun rose over the eastern mountains, the horns started blowing to signify the beginning of festivities. Food was spread in plenty, but the main attraction was the sweet, intoxicating date mead, drunk by every villager, old or young. Dancers, women and men, painted red and yellow from head to toe and decked with a motley of flowers and feathers, showed their dancing skill in expressing the joy of spring and the fruitfulness to come. Young children imitated the adults, while mothers carrying babies stood around, chanting and swaying in rhythm. Old people who were too crippled to dance sat around, clapping their hands to enhance the noise and gaiety.
When the sun stood high in the zenith and the dancers were getting tired from merriment and drink, Tamar stood down from her seat and invited Eitan to dance with her. The others cleared the space for the royal couple.
There was something peculiar about their dance, and the villagers watched it, entranced: Tamar’s limbs, long and smooth, moved in a serpentine fashion, long, swaying movements, her body losing all sense of weight and gravity; it moved in amazing directions, centering around Eitan. His own movements were different; his dance was composed of staccato thrusts, quick skips and jumps, sometimes toward his mate then away from her, alternately. In spite of the difference in the nature of their motions, their rhythm was one, conducted by some inner harmony between the two.
The royal dance began slowly. The dancers took their time, performing the initial approach: she beckoning, he hesitating; he charging, she raising her hand to slow him down. Very gradually the dance quickened, becoming more and more ardent as the sun inclined westward, as the breeze blew swifter. Swifter, hotter, livelier the dance became, the watchers swayed to its rhythm in their places. Then the dance assumed a direction, Tamar turned and led it outside the Village area, toward the fields of corn and lentils; Eitan and the musicians, then the rest of the villagers, followed her.
When they reached the field, the fair woman and the dark man resumed their dance, round and round each other in a play of black and gold; they drew closer to each other, legs twisting, arms twining, heads touching-not-touching, until they clasped each other and fell to the ground in the embrace of love. At last, he was able to caress her smooth skin with his hand, to put his lips to the hardening nipple on the golden breast, to feel the moisture between her long thighs; at last, she could play with the hair on his chest, to feel the soft-hard touch of his lips, to have his hardened penis drawn into her hungry body. The music, reaching a climax of noise, suddenly stopped. For one more minute the villagers stood around, holding their breaths, watching the couple oblivious for that moment to the sacred goal of their coupling; then they fell in pairs to the ground to imitate the action of their leaders.
* * *
Their love blossomed during the days, penetrated deep through the nights; it united the bright girl who was open in her body and thoughts, whose every word was known and accepted, with the dark stranger whose thoughts had been imprisoned in his heart as in a grave. But when she had opened her body to him, when there was not one atom in it, which he had not felt he knew, he also opened his soul before her, revealing his heart to her alone. Then he told her about his mother.
Atir had been a hard, bitter woman. Strong-willed, dark and impressively handsome, she was destined to curb her wishes before the man to whom she must belong. It was impressed on her from childhood that men were the masters of her world; as a mere woman, the only place she could rule was her household. Her only chance to rule outside it, after her forced marriage to the man who would be chief, was through a son.
But she had had no sons, only daughters, the use of whom was only in doing chores and having children for their tribe — as soon and as many as possible. Atir’s first child had been a boy, but it died, and since then she was considered — even by herself — barren. Only after many years and useless daughters did Eitan come. It seemed a miracle, and although after him she had given birth to two more sons, he had always remained special. He was a fine, healthy boy, for whose sake she had thrown aside her latest baby girl to suckle him herself. He made her proud, feeding lustily, holding fast to her breasts with his strong hands, and kicking hard with his sturdy legs.
Copyright © 2005 by Tala Bar