Find the well by the lake of memory. Guardians protect the cold water. Tell them…
I am standing in the centre of a great rectangular hall with my head held high and my long, bright hair wound into an elaborate arrangement that is held in place by a gleaming diadem. My white linen robe is bound with pure gold and I am still as a statue, with one eye fixed upon the future as the other observes what is past.
The air is cool beneath the temple roof. The only sounds that can be heard are an occasional bleating of goats and the distant murmuring of servants as they make ready for the Spring Council, which is to be held here in three and a half days. I have already swept clean the marble floor and it shines like the full moon of Amalios. Early-morning sunrays flood the hallowed space, infusing every atom. Narrow gaps between the thick, rounded pillars reveal sections of a motionless scene, silent as if time had ceased.
Happy are the men who enter this house and ask of me, “What do you see?” The wisest make the best of the answer they are given but others seek more, seldom to any avail, for there is a way that we do things at this place – here at the navel of the world – where the future is inscribed on lead.
I stand within the fourth Apollonian Temple to have been built here, which has undergone extensive repair works following the War that almost destroyed it.
The first Temple was much smaller than the present building and constructed from branches of Thessaly’s sacred laurel trees; the next was created by bees of wax and feathers, designed to bridge the gap between Earth and the underworld. Bees make the journey to and from Hades as a matter of course and the secrets they retrieve are for the golden ears of Apollo and his twin sister Artemis, keeper of the moon.
The third temple was a great bronze edifice which stood for many years before the heat of the Sun God melted it back into the Earth, and the fourth was built before I took up my office. The fifth shall not be put on its foundations before I have left for the Elysium Fields.
It is on the seventh day of each month that the future lives of men are unveiled and they come from all parts of the Earth to know what the fates have in store for them. This is except for during the winter months, when twice-born Dionysus returns and natural chaos reigns in place of Apollo’s measured reason.
When frost is on the ground and the sheaves of wheat have frozen back into the Earth – when the great white star of Maia appears on the horizon – then it is that nine wild maenads will herald the arrival of Dionysus. His body is buried close to where I am standing and during his season our dedications are made for the following year’s harvest, while we pray that the sun God will return, his golden youth resurrected anew.
When I am satisfied that the purification rituals have been performed correctly and the Temple is perfectly clean I walk towards the entrance of the great hall. It is elaborately decorated with all manner of votives – burnished golden shields, statues, cauldrons, tripods and bows – from all four corners of the Earth. Counted amongst them are the ensigns and symbols of every noble family that is known to this world.
I instinctively look up before leaving Apollo’s house, to above the entrance where a thousand garlands of laurel create fragrant canopies beneath the ceiling and pay host to the songbirds that sing his praises. The sweetest voice I ever heard belongs to the nightingale, who reveals to those with ears to hear the innermost longing of the psyche. A pure, shrill note breaks the silence and escapes into Echo’s lonely realm. When daybreak comes I shall return.
Ten minutes later the Master re-emerged, devoid of magazine and whiskey glass but clutching to heart an exceedingly large, old and important-looking volume.
The much-lamented loss of Pros Theon had abruptly ended a few short minutes after its owner entered the bathroom, where it was discovered at the bottom of a towering stack of bathroom-reading material and joyfully rescued by its ecstatic owner.
Tremendously relieved, twelve years of life added back on, the Master placed Pros Theon on the desk in the study with a great sense of ceremony, lit an ancient lamp and turned to the penultimate section:
Transformatio Dies (The Days of Transformation)
Translating and interpreting the elaborate text was a mission that took every effort of will and imagination; the fruits of this fabled tome being rare and exotic indeed.
After 23 meticulously strung-together minutes, the Master – who had a surprisingly short attention span for one inclined to meditation – looked up from the text and out of the window for inspiration, directly onto the swaying treetops. Perchance, there was sitting a bird of extraordinary magnitude and power and in that same instant a piercing set of eyes imparted the truth – a reminder – with almost unfathomable simplicity:
‘Forwards backwards; time is taking
Certain steps through every section.
Herein find the secret waiting:
Future from the past; reflection.
Soaring Eagle spread his massive wings and flew towards the window, sight locked like magnetic iron onto the fixated Master, who felt a heavenly upsurge of pure, unadulterated joy and ran in the eagle’s direction, having reverted back to childhood in a twinkling of the eye. In complete innocence the Master was able to grasp one of the bird’s great tail feathers and later attach it to the sun-tinted dream catcher. More memories of Halcyon Days would be captured by this than by all of the other feathers combined.
Twilight fell like whispers of an echo bade by Eros. Venus – like the bloom –transpired, with stars like smelted teardrops.
“Have a drink on me,” says Chiron
“Trouble not your self with worry.
Stand I guard; the heart of darkness
Sits behind me, far beyond thee.
“Child of Earth and Starry Heaven –
Lake of Memory; shun the cypress!”
From the stream that’s clear as crystal
Drinks Orion, knows he’s timeless.
‘“If I’m made to stand here waiting –
Forced by ties which bind, eternal -”
Hale Orion roars in fury,
“My revenge shall wax infernal!
‘”Long for I the Winter solstice,
When the Sea Goat meets the Sun King.
On that day the horn of plenty
Brims. How long will this event be?
‘“Might of oceans, old Poseidon,
Let the fishes swim beside me?
Lest you grant this one diversion,
I shall die of boredom, nightly.
“Tell me this, as well, oh wise one,
When does Hades mete out mercy,
When young Eros drinks the ocean,
Aphrodite reaches thirty?
‘”Hestia’s hearth is icy cold,
Or Hermes sighs and says, ‘I’m old;’
Hera gives her heart to Echo,
Atlas cries and lets the Earth go?”
It is on the seventh day of each month that the future lives of men are unveiled, when they come from all parts of the Earth to know what the fates have in store for them. This is except for during the winter months, when twice-born Dionysus returns and natural chaos reigns in place of Apollo’s measured reason.
When frost is on the ground and the sheaves of wheat have frozen back into the Earth – when the great, bright star of Maia appears on the horizon – then it is that the maenads of Dionysus herald the arrival of their lord.
The body of Dionysus is buried at this place and during his season they devote their dedications to the following year’s harvest, whilst praying that the sun God will return and the golden youth be resurrected.
She walks towards the entrance of the great hall.
It is elaborately decorated with all manner of votives – burnished shields, statues, cauldrons, tripods and bows – from all four corners of the Earth. Counted amongst them are the ensigns and symbols of every noble house that is known to this world.
A thousand garlands of laurel create fragrant canopies beneath the ceiling and pay host to the songbirds that sing Apollo’s praises. The sweetest voice that can be heard belongs to the nightingale, which reveals to those who listen the innermost longing of the psyche.
A pure, shrill note breaks the silence and escapes into Echo’s lonely realm as twilight descends.