Arise My Tribe
Upon my arrival, he studied me – my chestnut hair tangled, my face painted blue with warrior’s woad and berry stains on my chin and dress. From his expression, I couldn’t tell if he was angry or curious, so I did as I normally have and knelt before him at the hearth as if nothing in the day was abnormal.
“Some days you are a woman and others a child,” he finally said.
“But I am always me,” I replied smartly.
He attempted to hide the grin under his beard, but I saw it clearly. “Cynbel excites you.”
“Just curious to his ways as a warrior.” He definitely excited me in ways I could never admit to the old man.
“Yes, there is not much that separates the warrior from the healer,” I said trying the same line on Ninian as I did with Cynbel. I looked up to see if it went over with him. It didn’t.
“Who are you at war with?” he asked of my face paint.
I shrugged, hanging my chin low.
“With yourself,” he stated.
“Why would I be at war with myself? Why not others, you, my parents, Arianrhod? This path I am forced to follow.”
“You are at war with your chosen path?”
“I didn’t choose this path. It was chosen for me. I have no free will.”
“How do you know?”
“I know what I want,” I stated firmly.
“Do you now? Cynbel excites you. You want him?”
“Maybe. I don’t know.”
“See, you don’t know what you want. You can’t even claim with authority you want Cynbel.” He dipped a ceramic cup into a bowl of hot water, dropping in a few dried lavender and sage leaves before handing it to me. “You are a student of Arianrhod, Goddess of time and space. What knowledge do you have now of time and space?”
I took the cup into the palm of my hands, watching the dried leaves float, assessing my fate by their formation. No identifiable shape appeared and it depicted my present condition. I knew very little of what I couldn’t hold in my hand. “Why must you make me a fool?”
“Because you’re kneeling sheepishly before me with war paint on your face and berry droppings on your chin.” He smiled kindly. “A true warrior knows their path and knows their enemy. You, my dear, know no enemy and even if you did, you’d make them friend. That is not the heart of a warrior, but that of a healer. Why do you think a warrior’s path and a healer’s are similar?”
I sat forward on my knees to gaze at the small flicking flame, just a brief movement to give myself time. As the light of the fire flashed before my eyes, so did the answer in my mind. “Oneness.” I looked up at Ninian. “As a soldier is one with his sword, a healer is at one with the earth, just as a farmer is with his flock.” At that point, I dared to ask the question. “Am I to be married?”
His gaze fluttered over me thoughtfully. “Do you want to be?”
“Why of course! Why wouldn’t I?”
“Girl, I have witnessed your birth. I have seen you run over the hills and swim in the spring naked with your twin. Your hair and dress are as wild as the fiercest warrior and the power from your heart rivals the goddesses. Would you be happy as a maid to a man and mother of children? And don’t deny it because I’d heard from your parents, you spend hours playing with potions. The question is, do you want to be tamed?”
I wrapped my arms around my body and glanced away. “I’m afraid.”
“As well you should be,” he responded.
My eyes widened, mouth gaping open, “But why?”
“Because you have the sight, but not of the eyes,” he said and pointing to his chest, “but of the heart. This is why you were chosen.”
“I thought it was because I pushed myself out before my brother,” I replied with a laugh.
“No. You saw light. You felt the presence of the village. Your ferocity is power. It is to be loved and to be feared, thus you fear. You love and fear because that is exactly what you are.”
I rolled back onto my wrists, leaning back I looked at the wood spires holding up Ninian’s abode. His home had a damp, mustiness I had come to love. It gave me comfort as if still in the womb, my father’s womb if there was such a silly thing. I could cry just then, far too much for a young woman’s mind to contemplate.
“What if I don’t want this?”
“It is Arianrhod’s choosing. Do you want to disappoint her and all your ancestors?”
Trapped to this fate, I slumped forward.
“Annwn, go home to your family. Love them. Arianrhod’s gift to you is not to haunt you, but to empower you. Trust me. Trust the Gods. You are strong enough for this fate.”
I stood, feeling the cold caked mud underneath my bare feet. Leaving Ninian’s dark, roundhouse, I entered back into the light of day. Like my goddess mentor, Arianrhod, she has taught me the ways of reincarnation. I was reborn again and again and as a child since exiting the womb.
In my tribal war paint, I let out a scream so loud I awoke the attention of all my village nearby – Brion the ironsmith smelting tin in a pottery furnace, Clodagh, a long grey-haired woman weaving her tapestry with her daughters spinning and hanging freshly dyed yarn of matter root. I screamed again as if struck by the cosmos. There were a group of boys of my age who lingered together and laughed. The tallest of the group, slender and long-limbed gave me an easy smile. For a girl who apparently had the gift of sight, I couldn’t see the future before me.
Yes, already I have cemented my reputation as the crazy girl who studies with Ninian and at the moment, I was fearless.