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The Sacred Within Chapter 1: Wandering Goddess
Author: Amaranta Fiore
"Goddammit," she shouted as she stalked away from the ring of tents.
"Why did I bother coming here, when all he cares about is digging in the
ground?" she thought, as she struggled to hold back tears.
Gwenyth Frasier had followed her heart. It had led her back to her
husband, Dr. Michael Wilson, authority on Neolithic Minoan culture. She
had followed him out to his latest dig at Ideon Andron because she wanted
so much for their relationship to work. They had been separated off and on
for the last eight years as he worked here in Crete and she on her medical
degree back in the States. He had asked her to come with him, and, for the
first time in her life, her career wasn't an excuse, so she had come to
Crete. She was acting as physician to the archeological dig staff, but so
far in the month she had been here, all she had done was treat a few cases
of heat exhaustion and one snake bite, and the snake wasn't even poisonous.
She was wasting away her talents, or so her colleagues had told her.
"You are one of the finest surgeons I've ever had the pleasure to work
with," Dr. Nordelstein, her idol, had complimented her. Of course, at the
time, he had also had his hand on her knee and a bit too much gin on his
breath. Dr. Nordelstein was also desperate to convince her to stay in the
U.S., because he wanted her to work on trials of a radically new procedure.
Gwen wasn't sure whether his interest was more professionally or physically
motivated. He liked to hit on her, and she had brushed him off so many
times now that it was almost a "normal" interaction between them.
This whole fight had started because Michael had had the audacity to ask
her if she had actually been faithful during their times apart. "Of course
I have," she said. Michael said that he just wanted the truth, but the
fact that he had even asked made Gwen peevish.
Steve Waters was Gwen's best friend through medical school. They had
studied together because they were outcasts, he the only and she
the only woman in their class. They had naturally gravitated to one
another since they didn't fit in with their other classmates, but they had
never been more to one another than friends. God, she had wanted a so
badly sometimes and Steve was single, but she had never broken her wedding
Michael had virtually ignored her for two weeks and now had asked her
this. The question of her fidelity had come up because he wanted to make
sure she was ready to start a family. She had told him she wasn't ready
yet, that she wanted more time to establish her career and work in the
hospital. As it turned out, Michael had been offered a position teaching
at a small that was willing to fund his yearly trips to Crete to
research, and he had accepted. He just assumed that Gwen would be willing
to have a nice practice in the small town and have a baby. She had
thought he might apply to the large university, and she could continue to
work as a surgeon. "I guess you want to go on with whatever you have with
him, don't you?" Michael blurted out. "This is a fictional relationship
you have invented! Steve and I have never been more than good friends, I
can't believe you are doing this," she had sobbed and run out of the tent.
Now here she was on Mount Psiloritis, isolated, twenty kilometers from
the closest village, stumbling along a dirt path at dusk. She could barely
see where she was going, she was so filled with anger, tears clouding her
vision. She stopped for a moment and tried to collect herself. Drying her
eyes with the corner of her camp shirt, she tried to calm her breathing.
She sat down on a rock by a small rivulet to think.
Calmer now, she knelt by the water's edge and scooped some to her face
in her cupped hands. The cool water helped to clear her head a little.
"Why am I so easily upset by Michael's accusations?" she pondered. She
felt unimportant here as a part of the excavation team. She had come to
spend time with Michael and he didn't really have time to give her. He was
so busy lately. "I guess when he questioned the sincerity of my commitment
to him along with all of the bottled up feelings of neglect, I guess I
snapped", she thought. "Maybe it's because I wanted to take back my
promise that his questions cut to the quick."
She began to look around and realized that she wasn't quite sure where
she was, and it was nearly dark. She had better head back or she might not
find her way. Gwen started to walk in the direction she thought was the
way to camp. She was going up the mountain, so that seemed right, but she
wasn't sure which way she had left camp, since she had been so upset. She
continued for a while, and it was getting darker, as there was no moon
tonight. She could see a little cave up ahead in the darkness; maybe she
should sit there for a while, she thought. She felt her way just into the
entrance to the cave and sat on a rock to think about what to do.
Michael and the other archeologists had been excavating inside a sacred
cave called Ideon this summer. Ideon was supposed to be the cave where,
according to mythology, Rhea hid the baby Zeus from the murderous Saturn.
Over the past few years, Michael and his staff had found some cult objects,
along with statues and bronze shields, all of which were now on display in
the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. Gwen knew from her time with the
archeologists that Crete was riddled with caves, many of them used during
the Neolithic period as sacred places of worship. Some of the caves are
used today by those who still attempt to practice the ancient religious
rituals. It seemed strange to Gwen that the Cretan people worship God at
the local Catholic Church and also worship the Earth as mother-goddess in
Gwen's wanderings in the dark must have tired her more than she knew,
because she soon found herself sitting on the ground with her back against
the rock. The next thing Gwen was aware of was a noise. It was a sweet,
whistling sound, almost melodic. She sat up, straining to hear it. Her
back was very stiff, and she figured she must have drifted off. She
listened very closely. The sound seemed to be coming from deeper into the
cave. Gwen was hesitant to proceed farther into the cave for fear of
getting lost inside, or worse, falling into a pool and being unable to get
out. But the sound was intoxicating, fueling her curiosity.
Gwen slowly crept into the cave, feeling her way along the wall. She
stumbled a few times over small rocks on the cave floor. The sound was
definitely getting louder. She continued to follow the sound until it was
quite loud indeed. From the ringing feel of the acoustics, Gwen perceived
that she was in a much large space now. Maybe the narrow cave shaft had
opened into a large room, or were her ears playing tricks on her? No, she
was in a larger space, because she could no longer feel across to the other
cave wall. Afraid to walk freely into the space since it was so very dark,
Gwen clung to the wall, inching her way along. The cave shaft she had
followed into this room had been cool and a bit dry, but here, strangely,
the larger space was damp and much warmer.
The sound was growing still louder. It began to ease into a sort of
rhythmic cadence. Thrumm, thrumm, thrumm, it droned. It reminded Gwen of
the lowest tones of a pipe organ, combined with the drone sound of a
bagpipe and the hum of a digirado. The power of the vibrations resonated
such that Gwen could feel it in her chest.
She stopped her progress along the wall, trying to locate the source of
the sound. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a faint glow. She didn't
think it had been there before. She started forward again. Elements of
the sound started to sound like chanting, and the glow was becoming
brighter and more focused as Gwen made her way around what seemed to be a
small, low opening. Gwen could barely discern the opening in the dim
light. It was only about four feet high, and it appeared to go back toward
the source of the sound and light for fifteen to twenty yards. She
couldn't see the light source, but the glow was more intense at the end of
Gwen hesitated, unsure of whether to proceed. But she had to know what
that sound was and who might be in this cave. She squatted down, inching
her way forward. Slowly creeping toward the light, she came to a slight
bend in the tunnel. Around the curve, she could see movement through a
definite end in the tunnel, only ten feet away. Several people were moving
about what looked to be another large cave room. The sound, which Gwen
could now hear clearly as chanting accompanied by primitive instruments,
was swelling to a crescendo. As she thought it could get no louder, she
suddenly felt a pair of arms grab her. She started to scream, but the wind
was knocked out of her as she landed hard on the floor of the tunnel.
In a blur, she was pulled along toward the lighted cave room by the
strength of what felt like a bull. The arms of her captor were locked
around her. She didn't even have the presence of mind to struggle much
till she was hauled into the open room. The chanting stopped, but the
instrumentalists continued as Gwen was thrust into the midst of the
gathering. There were a dozen or more women in the chamber, all dressed in
red long draped type tunics with gathered bodices. Gwen stared at the
assembly as a woman stepped forward from the group. She was not dressed
like the others. She was wearing a long skirt of a deep blood-red color,
made from long strings. The strings swayed as she walked, revealing that
she wore nothing underneath. The woman, who appeared to be the leader of
this group, also wore nothing from the waist up.
She had a commanding presence that was emphasized by the full curves of
her Junoesque figure. She glided commandingly toward Gwen and spoke. Gwen
looked at the woman, too stunned to answer as she realized that the
beautiful verdi gris bracelet wound around the woman's right forearm was
actually a live snake.
The woman was obviously asking her what she was doing here. However,
Gwen did not understand. The priestess continued, though her speech was
still incomprehensible to Gwen. The priestess asked if she had come at the
call of the mother.
Gwen hoped someone here spoke English, so she told the woman that she
had lost her way in the dark and that she was from the archeological camp.
No one seemed to understand her, so she knelt down and tried to mime the
motions of the archeologist's digging in the earth. After a few moment of
repeating her and miming the action, she heard a low gasp from one of
the women. The woman rushed forward to the priestess's side, explaining in
rapid Greek. The woman's explanation causes the priestess and the group of
women to grumble in response. Clearly, the group seemed to dislike the
archeologists intruding. The leader queried very angrily, as to whether
she was one of the professors or just a student on them. Gwen
didn't understand. She shook her head, questioningly.
Gwen struggled and slowly spoke, "To honoma moo Gwen."
"Gwen" the priestess repeated. The priestess pointed to Gwen and then
to the ground by her feet. Gwen was puzzled, what did the woman mean to
say. Then is came to Gwen that the priestess wanted to know if Gwen was
and archeologist too. She shook her head, "No. Ochi. Doctor.
Didaktora." Gwen explained that she was the camp's physician and not an
archeologist. The woman smiled and she seemed to believe Gwen. The
priestess took Gwen's hand and helped her up from the floor of the cave
where she had been kneeling. With a flick of her wrist, the leader waved
away the large who had forced Gwen into the chamber.
The woman tried to explain that the assembly was gathered to pay homage
to the of all life, the Goddess who has blessed her children on
Crete for countless generations. Gwen frowned, not understanding. The
priestess continued, she told Gwen that these women would help her return
to camp. pantomiming toward the entrance of the cave. Gwen smiled and
started to move to the tunnel, but the priestess grabbed her arm and
indicated that Gwen must promised to not reveal this sanctuary to her
colleagues. Or so Gwen seemed to think that the priestess's action of
indicating the group and then placing her finger to her lips with a hushing
noise, probably meant that she must remain quiet about what she had seen.
Gwen agreed by nodding her head.
The women pressed in, making a tight circle around the priestess and
Gwen. The priestess continued to talk, telling Gwen that it is traditional
to sacrifice to the Goddess on this auspicious night. Gwen nodded, trying
to indicate she whould keep quiet, but the priestess firmly took her hand
again and led her to a large stone platform with an even larger stone
sculpture behind it.
The sculpture was a figure of a woman very late in pregnancy, her body
plump and boundless with life. The bottom part of the statue resembled
several Gwen had seen on Crete, with the legs and hips of the woman plump
and rounded. Emphasizing the hips of the figure were skirt-like drapings
with long parallel lines. Gwen remembered that many of the archeologists
had puzzled at why the clothing on the partial statues they had found at
sites had such strange parallel lines that seemed to indicate a skirt, and
yet the curves of the body could be so prominent. Gwen had discovered the
secret to the apparel. The statue obviously had on the same type of
clothing that the priestess wore.
This statue, however, was different from the ones Gwen had seen around
Crete because it was complete-- the whole body plump, round, and curvy. It
reminded her of that little statue called the Venus of Willendorf, but this
was much grander, as the figure here was about ten feet tall. The statue
had no face, but the head was adorned with finely carved ringlets of hair
that were formed into concentric horizontal bands. Gwen looked from the
Goddess statue to the priestess and back. The priestess was physically so
similar to the statue that she seemed the very embodiment of it. Laughter
danced in the priestess' eyes as she observed Gwen's realization and smiled
as if to say "I am She."
The priestess then spoke again, telling Gwen she must give a sacrifice
to the Goddess for disrupting the ceremony. One of the women came forward
with a small bowl of olives and placed it at the foot of the statue. Gwen
looked at the priestess, who seemed to be indicating that Gwen should place
something there too. Gwen was concerned, as she had left the camp in such
a fury that she had brought nothing with her that she could give. She
looked to the priestess and the others and raised her hands, palms upward,
hoping they would understand. She tried to ask if she could bring
something in the morning to make amends, but before she could utter a word,
the priestess grabbed her hands and laughed. She explained that this was
the Goddess' place and a woman gave of herself and not of things. Gwen
didn't understand, but the priestess beckoned to the others and the strange
music began again.
The priestess still had Gwen's hand clasped in her own, and Gwen
flinched as she felt the small bracelet-serpent's tongue tickle the fold of
skin between one of her fingers. The priestess looked down at the snake.
She made a clucking sound with her tongue, and the serpent retreated back
to coil about her forearm. The priestess brought her other hand up to cup
the curve of Gwen's cheek, and Gwen shivered as the light reflecting in the
priestess' eyes made her seem possessed. Maybe she was, Gwen thought with
a start. She was afraid now, yet the woman was very gentle. Something
told Gwen she would not be hurt, but she still wasn't sure of what was
going on around her.
Two of the other women came forward and each took one of Gwen's elbows
and guided her toward the center of the chamber where the others were
swaying to the music and chanting. The who had forced Gwen from her
hiding place passed them on his way to the statue. He glanced at Gwen and
smiled, but did not stop. Gwen turned to look back and saw the was now
kneeling where she had been standing. Gwen wasn't sure if he was a
supplicant to the statue or the woman or both.
The women released their guiding hold on Gwen, and she stood where they
left her in the center of a loose circle. Gwen listened and watched as
those around her slowly danced and sang. The women had at first danced
individually; now they began to slowly move together in groups of two or
three. They moved so gracefully that Gwen was mesmerized by them. After a
few moments, one of the women broke out of the group and came toward Gwen
with her hand outstretched. Gwen accepted her hand and the woman led her
toward the dancing circle. Gwen tried to imitate the movements of the
graceful woman. She struggled at first, but was soon feeling more
comfortable. The dancing women moved around, swinging the movement of the
whole in a counterclockwise direction. As Gwen came around to the part of
the circle that was closest to the statue and priestess, she looked up to
The priestess was sitting on a small wooden chair, with her knees pulled
up over the arms of the chair. The large was kneeling at her feet,
with his face buried between her legs. Gwen gasped, but the small noise
she made was buried under the sounds of the music, the singing women, and
the moaning of the priestess. Gwen was stunned at what she was seeing, and
she stopped dancing to watch. The woman who had led her into the dance
stopped as well. Gwen turned to her and saw that she was swaying to the
music as she watched. The woman slid her hand into her gown and fondled
her own breast. Gwen felt warm as she watched, wishing she could be so
free with herself as the woman next to her was. Feeling so very warm, she
shut her eyes for a moment, slowly opening them when she felt a hand moving
around her waist and a pair of pressed against her back. Several
of the women moved around Gwen. The woman who had led her into the dance
was now standing in front of her, slowly unbuttoning her blouse. The woman
looked into Gwen's eyes and seemed to be asking for approval. Gwen's eyes
widened, and this seemed to be approval enough, for the woman behind Gwen
slid her hand over the waistband of Gwen's shorts, tugging at the snaps.
The women gently undressed Gwen, fondling her and rubbing her back.
When she stood completely naked, the women stepped back.
The priestess now stood in front of Gwen. The regal woman stepped
forward and placed a hand to cup Gwen's breast. The priestess placed her
other hand on Gwen's small rounded belly. The priestess smiled and slid
her hand slowly, almost teasingly, lower until she delved into the folds of
Gwen's vulva. Gwen moaned as the woman found warmth and wetness. The
priestess moved her finger in a slow circle and withdrew her hand. "Come,"
she said, "you may repay your debt to the Lady."
The priestess turned and moved toward the dais. Gwen followed, feeling
as if outside her body. As she moved closer to the dais, she again heard
the strange "thrumm" vibrations that had led her to this place. She shook
her head to try and unmuddle her senses, but to no avail. She wanted to
sit in that chair so terribly that she felt compelled to approach in spite
of her fear.
With a burst of determination, Gwen glided up the three steps to the
platform of the dais. The priestess turned around and took Gwen's hand and
led her away from the chair to the statue. The Goddess statue seemed to be
emanating that sound, "thrumm, thrumm." Gwen tried to pull back, but the
priestess pressed her hand to the stone, against the foot of the figure.
The noise exploded in Gwen's head, becoming a scream in her brain. She
could hardly breathe, and she felt her heart would burst. Just as she was
about to succumb to the void, the priestess pulled her from the stone.
Gwen fell back, suddenly very cold in her nakedness, and closed her eyes to
the darkness. The last thing she heard was the priestess' voice saying,
"She is of the Lady."