Witchy Kingdom – Snippet 21

“The Prophecy of the Law’s Rebirth has in fact already been fulfilled,” Tarami said. “Again in his final testament, Onandagos said: ‘In that day the serpent shall be reborn. My very words shall be eaten by the serpent and forgotten, and the children of my people shall fall into a deep sleep, in which sleep they shall dream great dreams of sin. They shall again scar their bodies as of old, and worship the serpent who seduced their father. But in the heart of the city whose foundations I have laid, the children of my people shall find again my words. My words shall restore them to the true way of God.'”

“You say this prophecy came true already.” Luman’s head was spinning. He had never cared much to learn about the cult practices and beliefs of the Firstborn, and now he was finding it considerably more complex that he could have imagined.

“For centuries, The Law of the Way was lost, and the children of the people of Onandagos languished in sin. The worship of the serpent returned.”

“They scarred their bodies?”

“Circumcision,” Tarami said. “A gleeful reminder of the days when the serpent-demon demanded that all men in Her service be castrated.”

“Jesus was circumcised,” Luman said.

“An old lie whispered by a djinn into Luke’s ear.” Tarami smiled ruefully. “Paul knew better. As did Onandagos.”

“And then, what did you say? In the heart of the city?”

“In the days of Sarah Elytharias’s grandfather,” Tarami said. “He ordered renovations in the Basilica. There was found a hollow space within the wall, a place into which sacred texts had been discarded, to avoid desecrating them by destruction after their pages had moldered and their ink faded. Most of these were texts we had long possessed, but we also found The Law of the Way.”

“How did people take it?”

“The king, for all his youth, grieved. He tore his hair to realized how sinful his people had become. He ordered the Temple of the Sun torn down, and the serpent’s priestesses slain.”

Luman raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Those things didn’t happen.”

Tarami shook his head sadly. “There was war in the streets. A great number of the people of Cahokia, and especially of the people of the land–peasants, farmers, slaves, ordinary people–refused to surrender their goddess. But in the compromise that the king forced on the serpent’s daughters, they agreed to tear down their veil and lay open their secrets. And even Kyres Elytharias, for all his wicked attempts to bring back the cult of so-called Wisdom, never re-veiled the serpent throne.”

Luman felt exhausted. “And your pilgrimage . . . you asked God to overthrow the serpent?”

Tarami turned a shocked face to him. “No! Understand me, I have prayed every day of my awakened life for the end of the serpent’s cult. I have done that since I first learned to pray, as a child rescued from the slavery of the goddess by the learned Metropolitan Father Ahijah, and of course on my pilgrimage I continued to remember the blight that scars my land.

“But I did not crawl the Onandagos Road to fight against the serpent. I begged God at every step to raise the Pacification of the Ohio. I undertook the pilgrimage to beg for peace with the Emperor Thomas Penn.” Tears trickled down the old man’s cheeks.

“Of course, forgive me. I was so caught up in your tale of apostasy and restoration, I simply forgot.” Luman hesitated. “I don’t wish to sound impertinent, but . . . did it ever occur to you that maybe Father Ahijah, or whoever was Metropolitan before him . . . ?”

“Yes?” Tarami asked.

Luman struggled to find a way to articulate his doubt without offending the priest. “No one had ever heard of The Law of the Way. No living person, I mean. And then, who should find it but priests, who use the book to push a platform of change.”

“Repentance and reform,” Tarami said. “What are you suggesting?”

“I’m asking . . . how can you be sure Onandagos wrote the book? How can you be sure it wasn’t someone like Father Ahijah, who wrote The Law of the Way to put forward his own ideas, but then claimed Onandagos had written it?”

“What, so people would pay attention?”

“It doesn’t sound insane to me.”

“He was the Metropolitan. People already heeded his word.”

“Not everyone,” Luman pointed out. “Even with Onandagos to back him up, not everyone agreed with him. And from what little I’ve heard, even just from what I’ve heard from you, it sounds like the . . .  serpent-worshippers, let’s call them, have different ideas about Onandagos than you do.”

The Law of the Way is completely consistent with everything we know about Onandagos.” Tarami’s voice was stiff.

Luman realized that his curiosity had led him away from his objectives. If he offended the Metropolitan, the odds the man would invite him into any esoteric tradition of which he was a member declined to zero. “I’m sure you’re right.”

Tarami continued. “Of course, the serpent-worshippers claim otherwise. They have written themselves an Onandagos in their own image, a worshipper of the serpent rather than its foe.”

“What about Moses?” Luman asked cautiously. “I only want to be instructed, Father Tarami. Didn’t Moses raise a brass serpent on a rod?”

“To show the serpent’s defeat!” Tarami snapped. “And with the defeat of the serpent, the children of Israel were healed!”

“I see.” Luman nodded, careful to avoid smiling. He was afraid any smile would look like a doubter’s smirk.

“I understand you did the Basilica a great service on the night of the beastkind’s assault,” Tarami said.

Luman shrugged. “I did what anyone would have done. I was lucky, and the beastkind thought I was more dangerous than I am. They fled before they could do any serious damage.”

“I have no secrets to offer you, Luman Walters,” the Metropolitan said. “I am no wizard, and Father Ahijah taught me no grips or pass-words. The only Onandagos Road is the one I have walked, and God’s commandments are all light and openness. But I am grateful for your defense of the house of God. And I am happy to satisfy any curiosity you have, about The Law of the Way or anything else. And you are welcome to sleep here, with me and the other refugees.”

Luman was hesitant to ask, but his curiosity got the better of him. “Might you tell me how you read the windows of the Basilica?” he asked. “I seem to see two different versions of the creation, and two versions of the story of Adam and Eve, spelled out in one church. And one version of the creation shows a goddess, exhaling angels.”

Tarami smiled patiently. “Ah, you touch on the deep things of Christian philosophy.”

Does he mean esoterica? “I’d be grateful for whatever you could tell me.”

“You know from the Bible that God created man in his image, male and female.”

Luman spoke carefully. “Wouldn’t some say that suggests there is a goddess?”

Tarami shook his head. “The Law of the Way is quite clear on this. ‘Woman is in the image of God, and so is man. God is neither man nor woman, but is life and spirit, and all flesh is in the image of God.'”

“The image of the creating woman is . . . an allegory?”

“A reminder that we should not think of God as an old man, looking down on us from the heavens. And the twin stories of Adam and Eve are there to remind us that we can tell that story with great sorrow and regret, but we can also tell it with joy and gratitude.”

“Nor is God an old woman,” Luman added.

“Nor a serpent.” Tarami smiled.