Friday, June 9, 2017

My Take on Diana's Birth—Love and Wisdom


After a few millennia of guiding her people’s spiritual as well as societal growth in their new home, the idyllic paradise island of Themyscira, the queen made it a point to take time for her own needs: walking through the royal gardens, the forest of Dryope, or the Groves of Artemis, places sacred to her heart and spirit. This private communing helped unburden her, giving her well-needed time to replenish herself. During these times, she would lie beneath the verdant canopy and allow herself the luxury of restful slumber. With a retinue of guards always nearby in the palace, she never truly slept soundly. Even though no harm had ever befallen their home, Hippolyte had always remained vigilant, never knowing when darkness might find its way through the protective clouds that surrounded them, a feeling encouraged by the occasional portentous dream of being discovered by the world of Man.

​When she would give herself over to the sleep of the forest or the meadow, she would dream about other things, things less harbingers of doom and more signs of imminent beauty. After such experiences, she would seek out the one Amazon who guided their people in the ways of spirit, the oracle Menalippe. This particular sister had never lifted a sword in battle or had shed a drop of blood, as she had sworn an oath to the Titans Phoebe and Themis, guardians of the prophetic arts, to attend to her sisters’ otherworldly needs, and sometimes that included discussion of dreams. On one particular morning, Hippolyte had summoned Menalippe to the royal gardens.

​“Your Majesty, how may I serve you?” The oracle genuflected as she spoke.

​The queen walked the garden path, sniffing roses and jasmine, and Menalippe followed.

​“Sister, I have had a dream. One that I cannot reconcile.” She pulled a branch laden with lilac closer to her nose.

“Normally, I understand these gifts of Morpheos. But, this one… left me curious. I dreamt I was in a garden, much like this one, although unwalled, and I was seated on the ground, poking my finger into the earth, and depositing a seed into the hole. Then, I gently swept earth to fill it and patted it down. A line of sisters followed behind me, each adding a drop of water to the earth-ensconced seed. I continued this a few times, and when I looked back where I had just planted the seeds, the flowers had already grown to maturity and bloomed.”

Menalippe’s innocent face, illuminated by the gods’ gifts of vision, smiled. “Dearest Hippolyte, it is a dream of growth. You will bring something of beauty into the world, and our people will help nurture it. I sense its true purpose lies deep within you, but I will ponder this further. For now, dwell on the images you were shown.”

The queen raised an eyebrow. “That is all? In my heart, I can tell something else is there, but I have no words to describe it.”

“Ever since our arrival here,” Menalippe flourished her arms to show the expanse of the island, “we have pushed ourselves further to grow, adapt, and accept our path as the guardians of Doom’s Doorway. You have been unwavering in your leadership, and it seems the gods tell you of your next great venture, one of a different type of creation. Patience, Hippolyte. The meaning will come.”

In the weeks that followed, the queen spent more time outside the palace and in Gaea’s grace. She felt drawn there, as if by instinct, and her dreams altered slightly. Her next meeting with Menalippe was at the river’s edge, by a quiet grotto sacred to Artemis. Seated on the grass, the queen watched a duck and her brood waddle out of the water and to a shaded spot beneath a willow. The mother accounted for each of her ducklings, and when she was satisfied, she sat by them to keep watch. The oracle knelt on a blanket by her sovereign.

“My queen, this place is… breathtaking. How have I never seen it before?”

Hippolyte held up her hand as a butterfly fluttered past, letting it alight on her finger.

“This island is filled with mystery. I found this spot by accident while hunting once. I kept it to myself as a place of meditation.” She gently flicked her finger, releasing the butterfly, and turned toward her oracle. “It happened again, Menalippe.”

She spoke of another dream, one she’d had by the river a few days earlier, in which she sat on a stone, using a bristle-brush to paint on a piece of parchment.

“I held the paper in my hand while I dipped the brush into colors made of crushed stone and shells.”

“What did you paint?”

At first, the queen didn’t reply, as if she was trying to recall, but when Menalippe prompted her, she spoke with certainty.

“At the top, I painted with blue, of a rich, morning sky. Beneath that, I swirled pale yellows and richer gold. Under that, my hand moved back and forth, filling the bottom with crimson and carmine, penetrating colors reminiscent of blood. It reminded me of a sunrise.”

The oracle pondered the image for a few moments. “Was there anything else?”

Hippolyte nodded, her thoughts still on the dream. “Yes. I passed the painting to a sister, who passed it to another, and that continued until I woke up.”

“Another dream of creation. This one focusing more on one object rather than a succession, like the flowers. How did you feel when you awoke?”

“Enervated, as if I had given all of my energy into that one painting.”

“Did you feel this way after planting the flowers?”

“A little. This dream was stronger. But, not in a sinister way.”

The oracle took the queen’s hands. “You will soon find out why you dream in such a way. I sense whatever this will be will forever change you, our sisters, and this island.”

“Could it be a plot of Ares, though, somehow trying to take me off guard? He is a god of deception.”

Menalippe put her lips to the queen’s forehead and closed her eyes.

“No. I sense no malice. Strength and intention, but nothing bad.”

The Festival of Rhea would be upon them in a few months, and that meant preparations for one of the largest celebrations of the Amazon people. Rhea was the Titan queen and mother of the six Olympians, and while the Amazons recognized and respected Hades, Poseidon, and, of course, Zeus, their highest reverence went toward the three daughters of Rhea: Hestia, Hera, and Demeter. This festival would last an entire week, culminating with prayer, song, and each Amazon creating something to honor her sisters. Every woman had a role to play, and her contributions included rehearsing never-before-seen dances, composing new music, creating pottery, among other offerings. Hippolyte used this opportunity to distract herself from her recent reverie and aid her sisters in whatever way possible. It worked, too, for a week or so, and she hadn’t once dreamt of anything like her prior visions.

One morning, a month before the festival, Hippolyte, tears streaming, took her mare to one of the highest spots on the island where she stood at the edge of a high cliff overlooking the sea. She wrapped her own arms around herself tightly, staring out at the horizon. A short time passed, and Menalippe rode up to her.

“My queen! I saw you leave the palace in haste. What has happened?” She cupped Hippolyte’s cheek.

“It happened again!” The queen shook as she cried. “Menalippe, this time…”

“What, Hippolyte? What is it?”

The oracle led her sovereign to a marble bench beneath an old oak tree. She clasped her hands around the queen’s hands.

“I thought the dreams had stopped.” Hippolyte took a deep breath. “I was actually in my quarters, asleep…” She squeezed her eyes shut. “I can remember it all so clearly. In the dream, I was in Athena’s temple, tending the fire. I—I felt this desire, no… a powerful yearning to reach into the fire. Part of me knew this could burn me, but my hand moved of its own. I pulled forth one single flame and cupped it in my hands. It didn’t burn me. I closed my hands over it, feeling Athena’s presence with me, and when I opened my hands, I held an egg.” She took another deep breath. “I brought it closer to me, and I felt something within the egg moving. Then, the tiniest beak poked through the shell, and again, until the hatchling had its head out. Using my thumbs, I carefully pulled the shell away, and the bird… a dove chick… spread its tiny wings, looked at me, and cooed. My hands opened even more, and the delicate creature flew away, into the sky just as the sun rose.”

Menalippe embraced her queen, tears also streaming down her cheeks.

“I—I felt such release, like nothing I had ever felt,” Hippolyte continued. “And… and, when the bird flew away, my heart knew I was losing something precious to me. At the same time, I also knew that wherever that dove would go, it would bring peace and love.”

The two women cried together for a little while.

“Hippolyte, my dearest, I now know why you’re having these dreams. You know that all of us once walked upon Gaea prior to this life. We women were taken from this world before we could make a difference in it, and our souls were kept within Gaea. When the Great Sisterhood released our souls into that Grecian lake, we knew life once more. You, my queen, the eldest among us, were the only one who was with child when you were struck down by your mate.”

Hippolyte blanched. “Great Hera…”

“When the time is right, you will know what to do.”

The week-long Festival of Rhea arrived, bringing a fervor of love and spirituality to the Amazon nation. Each woman contributed something of her own creativity to the legacy of her sisters: they danced and sang, watched plays, performed ritual hunts and great contests of physical endurance, and read the proclamation of their independence to the entire sisterhood. It was the one time of year when they put aside the day-to-day routines and rejoiced in the power of birth. Rites of renewal celebrating Artemis, Athena, Hera, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hestia began the week, followed by those for Rhea midweek, and concluding the festival with one for Gaea herself, the Mother of All.

On the final night, Hippolyte had chosen to walk the beach on the far side of the island, the strand beneath the cliff where she and Menalippe had spoken of her last dream. Staring at the full moon, gravid with purpose and power, she kept the dream of the night prior in her mind. It was the most powerful of them all, and it was one she needed no oracle to help decipher.

She knelt on the sand, her lavender shift undulating in the ocean breeze, and she gathered the clay of paradise to her. There would be a precise moment for what she would do, and despite her percussive heartbeat, she would be patient. Hippolyte placed her palms on the mound of clay and looked into the night sky. She closed her eyes. Soon, she felt the touch of other hands resting on hers, and a presence kneeling behind her.

“Daughter, know that I am with you,” a voice whispered. “Move your hands across the clay, and I will lend you my skill.”

Hippolyte smiled, her eyes still shut. “I know you are here, Athena. Guide my hands.”

With each finger that pressed into the malleable earth, each pinch and twist, the queen channeled the image in her mind’s eye through her heart and her hands. She smoothed and etched with the fluidity of the sea.

“What you create, comes from you alone, daughter. I simply steady your hands and give your vision direction.”

As the waves slipped from the sea and glided up the beach, they stopped just before that which Hippolyte’s love had given shape. The crest of the sun peeked above the horizon, beams of light stretching their golden hue across the boundary between sea and sky. The queen continued orchestral movements over the clay, and then she sensed Athena remove her hands. Now the sun was halfway risen, and sea took on a reddish tint, something between crimson and carmine. Another spiritual presence joined Hippolyte.

“Daughter, place your hands beneath that which you have formed.”

“Aphrodite, you are with me...” The queen smiled, opening her eyes and following the instructions.

“Of course. Be aware of the sun and the clay. When the golden wheel of Apollo’s chariot becomes free of the horizon, lift your creation from the earth.”

“But…”

“Have faith, Hippolyte. Be ready.”

As soon as the last sliver of the sun slipped free, the queen lifted her hands, taking care not move too swiftly.

“Bring her to the sea.”

The queen had seen this in her dream and knew what to do. With slow steps, she found the surf, never taking her eyes off the sculpted child. Once the waters were at her hips, she saw someone standing in front of her, arms outstretched. Aphrodite kissed the forehead of the small creation just as Hippolyte lowered it beneath the surface. A small light moved toward them, touching the child and disappearing. Lifting out the clay, she watched as pieces of it dropped away, showing new, pink skin. Clay covering the child’s face and head fell into the sea, revealing a tuft of black hair.

“Guided by Wisdom and Love, I bestow upon you the spirit of your unborn child. Washed in Thalassa’s waters, Hippolyte, I give you your daughter.” Aphrodite vanished into the morning light.

The child opened her eyes. Her tiny hand clasped Hippolyte’s finger, and then she let out her first cry.

“You, little one, are a child of wonder,” the queen uttered. “I name you Diana, after one of our most blessed guardians.”

And, so it was that Hippolyte, like her sisters, created something new for the end of the Festival of Rhea, and this child would forever change the Amazon nation by bringing hope, compassion, love, and wisdom to the world.
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