Discarded Daughter of the 20th Century

This is one of the many currents that flow through Ancestral Airs and it is the foundation of one of its main characters: Gobetween. It is virtually impossible to separate the exploitation and oppression of women from the reprobation of the church, explored previously in “The Death Rattle of the Oppressor”. I didn’t overtly criminalize the church in Ancestral Airs with regard to women but the distinction is certainly drawn:

“Repatriation required that I abandon all that had trapped me in world which would have preferred to relinquish me like an irreparably broken thing. Before I could appreciate Moondog’s need to embrace me I had to cut the bonds that prevented me from reaching back to him. Once severed, my plunge was cataclysmic, unstoppable and accelerated until I exploded into antiquity.

He stripped me of everything from the pain of my childhood and the trivialization of my gender to absurd oxymoron deviant sex. Moondog showed me the essence of divinity that lights each of our paths beyond the reach of disenchantment and unforgivable sin. In his sphere there was no judgment and therefore no need for approval. Every individual was valued beyond measure; the mere fact that one existed was purpose enough to fill a lifetime.”

The theme is revisited later on spoken by Moondog:

“A veil of brume kept us hidden. Everything I saw had a terrifying violence about it. The air stunk and I could feel the onset of convulsive gagging as I breathed it in. Darkling Light guided my attention to a woman my age. She was sitting alone, elbow on table and her head resting on her hand. Her eyes were brimming with tears. She was a dreaming twin, staring into the spiral, spirit split to the ether. In her mind I could see how the consequences of her life were combining on her just as mine had on me. We were six thousand winters into the world of the Unborn. The tenure of her life had not been good to her nor to anyone she had ever known; they ascending from infinite numbers whose spirits had been repeatedly broken. The brutality born out of relentless conflict had spread from open vehemence to secret horrors shrouded in sleeping chambers. Women and children had become the targets of unimaginable aberrance as men acted out the violence unleashed from their blood. Executed or exiled to servitude, Clan Female clandestinely polished its stamina. Gobetween’s middle age was commencing at the end of a distant century, her generation poised for the promised change.

She stood alone on the rim of an abyss toward which she had been walking her entire life. She had tried to take the roundabout way, assuming she would die long before the edge was ever reached. She rationalized that the pain could be outrun or hidden just as her predecessors had done and the dreamtime would keep her safe from the cruelty. Her spirit, camouflaged by the Infinite Present, could never be touched. But she exploded into the midst of her life. The blood of the oppressed was seeping into reality, first a trickle here and there, then bleeding profusely, unstoppably from countless wounds. It was hemorrhage of a thousand women who had come before her and waited in silence. Dreams of the bloody birth oozed into her everyday life with terrifying finality, a predacity against which she had no defense. I knew the futility of trying to exist in a world that didn’t embrace me. I had taken a desperate stand to remain a rogue, resisting my Death Clan blood until the struggle had nearly destroyed me.

Gobetween’s arm bore the evidence of offered flesh given in silent despair. She knew the ancient hunger. Voracious for the old way lost in the vapor of antiquity, she, exhausted, abandoned the search for that which would satisfy the famine climaxing in her. Peaked to the slaughter she trembled, resigned to fall prey to the Ancient Ones, easy quarry for Clan Greihound. I licked my lips, swallowing the saliva that flowed in excess, anticipating the kill that would answer my longing.”

I simply can’t imagine how many women have felt this way about themselves and the courses that their lives were forced to take. In my rational mind I had always been acutely conscious of the miserable treatment women and children endured. But that awareness did not protect me from the gross mistreatment I still had to endure myself. And it took a terrible toll. Everyday it continues to color my judgment and impact horrifically on the most basic self-confidence needed to survive an ordinary life. I believe too that we carry the memories of our oppressed ancestors that in my estimation expand the damage exponentially. I can say now that having spent many decades studying Mesolithic people I began to heal and I trace this evolution throughout Ancestral Airs with Gobetween’s thoughts and words:

“Nine holy men stand before me dressed in fancy clothes as though posing for a portrait. I peer into a rainbow of predacious eyes that stare back at me opening the windows to the soul of my clan. They are incredibly beautiful garnished in skins, leaves, bones, feathers, and shells. Their finery is exquisite in its frugality, embellishing the spirits of men who take sparingly from the Earth Mother.

They are poised at the apex of our cycle having stepped out of the ice thousands of years before their own lives. It would never be the same again. And I thousands of years later at the end of the era am tired, homesick and anxious for rebirth into the old way.

Whisked away as though my spirit were nothing more than cottonwood fluff I am eagerly taken from everything I know to the only world I’ve ever understood. I had searched among the red- and ebony-fleshed whose wisdom should have been in my blood but sadly wasn’t, their essence too contemporary, too accidental to touch my phyletic memory. Fetal from hunger that hurts, the living myth of antiquity hands me the old way as though he is honored that I would accept it. Starving, I consume it in one gluttonous swallow.”

Later on in the story:

“I continue without him, enticed and mystified by an eroticism that is not sexual. The overflowing perspiration and the intoxicating odor of oiled skin and perfumed hair ejects me into the dreamtime. I feel its rhythm and learn to manage its intensity until it is sustainable for days. I dream in the smoke and the effervescence of the Little Twin with Darkling Light until the ether comes and goes at will.

I grow to understand the extraordinary scope and inexplicable beauty that defines Greihound, their capacity for ecstasy equaling the savagery that drives them to the brink. Power so explosive, they can rupture the membrane between worlds; so fearless, they guard the passage of the fallen with ease. How many of us are vanquished by the hunger of the old wisdom that flumes the blood into sacred purpose?

The Ancient Ones were right. Without the antidote of insular tradition the animal clans were poisoned by the wars of the oppressors who, after recruiting them to serve their purposes, butchered and burned them as heretics for refusing to betray the ancestral dust out of which they were born. I am filled with dark despair knowing that my brothers will be spared for awhile longer only to be reborn later to meet violent ends with wave after wave of conquerors.”

As Gobetween travels her improbably journey she meets a phantom and before the apparition speaks Moondog shares a thought:

“The four winds of my life had whirled out of the darkness into the Infinite Present; the mothers of grandmothers, the Life Givers, the mitigators of the savage. The Crone spoke to Gobetween.”

“You were flung from my arms into the Unborn, your flesh burned in a hundred pyres, your body split in two from the rage no longer soothed by the Life Givers. And yet you come again and again standing your ground for the ancient clan, bloody but never broken, asking only for the dreamtime and your twin. And he, more fallen to dust than I, guards the precious myth of your existence like the Flesh Eater that he is. He will rip you to shreds, devouring every morsel until you drive the blood that flows in his veins. Your ashes were scattered across the Earth, Darkling Light and I searched for centuries collecting your dust, unwilling to live with his grief any longer.”

Old Dog Dreaming Woman returned to Gobetween’s side muttering and shaking her head, “Both of you are savage; it’s always been a good match.”

Gobetween is eventually initiated into Clan Greihound and speaks:

“Of its secret I can only say that the puritans in my blood sigh with relief, convincing themselves it is only a dream, invoked by the devil, beyond my control. I look deeply into their eyes and shrug my shoulders, bidding them farewell forever, knowing that the ether is pure and incorruptible.”

I believe that many older women can trace similar evolutions with their own unique lives and the stories that make their lives those of Immortals. I have to admit that in many ways and countless moments Ancestral Airs is shamelessly autobiographical.

The line that ties the institution of the church to the oppression of women is a simple one:

“I, having committed unforgivable sin, shed their condemnation like a skin I have out-grown, back to the dust from which it rose. They will never burn me again.”

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