Three Times Three

In a boat on the foggy ocean. Looking ahead. No oars, no motor, but moving forward. Ocean still. White-grey, white-blue. Rocks beneath surface, some rising out. An island. The shore hard, pebbles. Hovering lights: green, yellow, blue, white. Faeries? Following lights. Grassy hill rising up. Fog clearing. Tall trees-Rowan. One tree, larger-Ash. Two crows in the branches. They say, “we’ve been waiting.” I turn to run. Two hags in my way. “Stop!” They hold up hands. Triangles carved into flesh of palms. “No!”

#

I woke up sweating, heart pounding. My books were spread out over the bed. The lights were still on. When I started work on my thesis project I had been falling asleep, and I always woke up from a nightmare.

My housemates said it was because I read creepy stuff and ate candy. They said it was the bad food that brought on the nightmares. (Speaking of which, my research led me to the origin of the word nightmare. Mara was a Crone-Goddess, bringer of death. She was found among many religions from Europe to India. The Slavs said she drank blood at night and called her Nightmare.) At the time I thought that was probably why I dreamed of hags that night, Crones-Nightmares.

My thesis project was on female figures of the divine in Pre-Christian Europe. I was focusing my study on Norse, Druidic, and Celtic religions. I have to admit I was having fun with it. The only thing I did not like was the Nightmares.

I thought a great deal about what I was going to do with this project. I wondered what to do with a degree in religion. My advisor was an active feminist and she had been encouraging me to use this thesis to start a WomanChurch, as she called it. She said the world was ready for a feminist church. And that was how it all started, with the Nightmares and the WomanChurch.

#

My two housemates at the time were Marianne and Angela. They were both Women’s Studies majors too. Marianne was a lesbian, and really liked the idea of starting a WomanChurch. Angela thought it sounded like fun, but was not sure about making it a Church.

“I dunno. I never liked church. My parents forced me. Ya know,” Angela said.

“Yeah, me too. But don’t you think women need a spirituality? Something not based on all that patriarchal crap of Christianity?” Marianne asked.

“I’d like to do away with spirits altogether!” Angela blurted.

“That’s not what it’s about. We need to create our own symbolisms and myths. We need to try to stop the domination, and spirituality has to be part of it….”

“Yeah!” Marianne interrupted me. “The world needs a female religion just like it needs a female politic and a female literature.”

“We need a religion that lets everybody know everything is connected, that lets everyone see how things on earth are one, but separate, like dominoes, one falls down and it starts the chain rolling.”

Marianne and I were on a roll and eventually Angela gave in and decided to help us with the first Santa Cruz WomanChurch. After two weeks we had reserved an evening at the Cardiff House and put up posters all over campus. We bought books on women and spirituality and wrote a religious sermon for the occasion.

#

The first session of the WomanChurch went fairly well. About 20 people showed up, only two men.

Marianne read the sermon and I read a passage from the Bible: Proverbs 8:1-36. The sermon fit in well with this reading. Marianne spoke about wisdom and the knowledge that all things are connected. It was not much like a Church service. At least it was not like any one I had been to. People applauded at the end of the sermon. We had a discussion period afterward about the future of the WomanChurch and what should happen at the next meeting.

“I don’t think you should use the Bible,” said one woman.

“Yeah! No more Bible!” someone else yelled out.

“Why not? Don’t you think it worked in the context we put it in?”

“Yes,” replied the first woman, “but I don’t think its appropriate to use it if you really want to create your own mythology. It isn’t unique. It’s the same crap you’d hear in a Christian Church. You shouldn’t use it.”

“What do you think we should use instead?”

“Dig something out of the history of witchcraft, the Wiccans I mean. Wouldn’t that be useful.”

“Sure—we could do that. Would you like to help? Would anybody like to help with next week’s service?”

I collected six names and scheduled a meeting at the house for Wednesday. The three of us were pleased with ourselves. We created the WomanChurch and found some people to help.

#

On that Wednesday the nine of us met at the house. We talked about whether or not to use traditional scriptures and decided instead to rely heavily on the things I was reading for my thesis project. In a sense we decided to reinvent

Druid and Celtic religions for twentieth century feminism.

“Let’s rename this the Church of Danu,” I said.

“What? Who’s Danu?”

“Danu was the great mother goddess of Celtic religion. All the other gods and goddesses were her children, and so was the earth. She created everything. Some of the Irish called themselves the Tuatha De Danaan. It means people of Danu.” I had been researching Danu for my thesis.

“I think we should rename it the Church of Sophia,” one of the new members said.

“Don’t you think she fits into the Christian framework too much?” asked Marianne. “I mean, we decided not to use the Bible, and Sophia is in the Bible.”

“Well, let’s try Danu then, and see what kind of response we get,” someone else said.

“Okay. Is that all right with everyone?” I asked. Everyone nodded or said yes. “Some people at the last service suggested we create some tapestries and stuff like that. What do you think?”

“I suggested that,” said Jenny, one of the new members. “I think we should make up some tapestries with women’s symbols on them-pentacles and circles and the earth-stuff like that.”

“That sounds like a good idea,” said Marianne. Could you make them on your own?”

“Sure. What should I make?”

“Just a sec.” I went and found my copy of the Women’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects. “Look up some good symbols in here. Try to use things of Druidic or Celtic origin.” I handed it to her.

“Thanks.”

“Marianne, Angela and I will take care of the sermon and the reading. Is there anything else we want to do?”

“I’d like to sing a song or do some music for the service,” said one of the new members.

“Do you have something in mind?”

“I know an earth chant that was sung by Navajo women.”

“Sounds good to me. Anything else?” Nobody spoke. “Then could I have you sign this paper and list your phone numbers so we can call you about future meetings.” I passed a sheet of paper and a pen around the room.

The whole group consisted of: Jennifer Ames, Cassie Anderson, Ruth Carver, Dianne Gregory, Ashley Jacobs, and Margret Miller. And of course there were the three of us: Marianne Dore, Angela Martin, and myself, Ellen Goldberg. Nine of us. The nine women who founded the Church of Danu.

#

The three of us arrived early that Sunday. I was impressed with the tapestries Jenny had made. There was a pentacle flower inside a circle. On the other wall was a large Sri Yantra. Draped over a podium was a small cloth with a Celtic circle/cross on it. The cross had roots which penetrated the soil and sank into a pool of blue water. It was the most beautiful of the tapestries.

When I asked her, Jenny said she had made that one over a year ago, and the others were not hard to do. She tie dyed things all the time and had a full set of paints at home.

The ceremonies went well, and were well received again. A few people came who had not been the week before, and only four of the people from the week before showed up again. Over all we had eighteen people. No men showed up. We had a discussion period and decided to worship outside in the quarry the next time.

#

I’m in my room when I awake. It is dark. Moon shining through window. A soft whispering: Ellen… Elaine. Suddenly in the hall. Walking toward family room. A strange not-moon light. A triangular moonshade on the floor. A leaf. I pick it up. Whisper voice: Elaine.

#

I woke up sweating. I drew a picture of the leaf in my journal. When I identified it later I was not surprised: Yew. Strange dreams, but predictable. They are drawing directly on the things I am learning while writing my thesis. I just wish they were not so damned real, so damned frightening. I hate the Nightmares.

It is like a small beast was standing on my chest while I sleep. My breath was stifled. I sweated and woke up wet. The darkness was so small, so enclosed, it felt tight around my throat. My heart pounded and heaved until I thought it would burst.

#

In the month that followed those first two Nightmares, the first two meetings of the WomanChurch, or Church of Danu, had been a success. Our Church was taking off. After six meetings we had our routine down.

We worshipped outdoors whenever possible. We began the ceremony by cutting a small branch of a nearby tree or bush. One of us would take the branch and make a large circle on the ground. Inside the circle a small pentacle would be made. At each of the four directions a small interlaced cross was drawn on the ground, facing outward. The congregation would sit just inside the circle. The reader or speaker stood or sat at the center inside the pentacle.

We often had guitar or drum music and would sing songs in rounds. People came and went, but in general we were attracting about twenty or twenty five people a week. My thesis advisor told me to include the Church of Danu as part of the project. I rented a video camera and taped one ceremony. I spent extra time writing fifteen pages about my experience with the Church and how I came to create it with my friends.

#

By the end of the winter quarter we had given eight ceremonies, each with a sermon and a reading. Marianne, Angela and I were becoming restless. We wanted to do something more. Jennifer suggested we find a special time and do an initiation ritual for the nine core members of the Church.

I told them I could create a perfect ritual easily. Our group was ideal. We had nine women, three of us leading the group. “It will be perfect for a ritual and initiation,” I said.

“Why is the number of people so important?”

“It isn’t really, but we have the perfect number, nine.”

“But why nine?”

I wrote out the multiplication table on a sheet in my notebook:

1 x 9 = 9
2 x 9 = 18 and 1 + 8 = 9
3 x 9 = 27 and 2 + 7 = 9
4 x 9 = 36 and 3 + 6 = 9
5 x 9 = 45 and 4 + 5 = 9
6 x 9 = 54 and 5 + 4 = 9
7 x 9 = 63 and 6 + 3 = 9
8 x 9 = 72 and 7 + 2 = 9
9 x 9 = 81 and 8 + 1 = 9
9 x 10 = 90 and 9 + 0 = 9
9 x 11 = 99 and 9 + 9 = 18 and 1 + 8 = 9
also
18 x 8 = 144 and 1 + 4 + 4 = 9
27 x 8 = 216 and 2 + 1 + 6 = 9
36 x 8 = 288 and 2 + 8 + 8 = 18 and 1 + 8 = 9

“Interesting, but what does that mean?” asked Dianne.

“Nine is a magical number. Its root is always nine, no matter what it’s multiplied by. It is divisible only by one and it’s square root, three. Three is a prime number, and the main female number of power. Goddesses often group in threes and it takes three witches to make a coven. Three is one of the best magical numbers for women.”

“I always thought three represented the holy Trinity of Christianity. What about that?”

“Yes, but they stole the idea from ‘heathen’ people who worshipped a triple goddess. Christianity has stolen all sorts of things like that. The cross, for example. The Bible says more than once that Christ was crucified on a tree. The cross was a symbol in many ‘pagan’ religions. The Christians didn’t start using it until the seventh century.”

#

During the spring break, and into the spring quarter, I created a ritual for the nine of us to perform. We waited until a full moon, and performed the ritual at the beach. Marianne decided to lead the ritual. I used The Satanic Rituals as a model for the ritual. I changed the “Ceremony of the Nine Angles” to suit our purposes.

I had one of the women in the group, Margret, make a robe for each of us. Each was a long pull-on robe with a hood at the top. They had long oversized sleeves and each was tailored to hang down to the ankles of the wearer.

Upon arriving at the beach, the first thing we did was to dig an almond shaped hole in the sand. We had collected stones earlier which we placed around the rim of the pit. Around the pit we drew a large nine pointed star in the sand. It was not three triangles, but rather a single, unbroken line. It is made by marking nine points on the ground and connecting lines always to the fourth next point.

We built a fire in the hole and waited for midnight to perform the ritual. We all sat and talked around the fire, going over the ritual again. As the moon rose and midnight drew near I grew nervous. I am sure everyone else did too.

About an hour before midnight we began the ritual. Marianne was the Celebrant, and the rest of us participants. This is how it happened:

Celebrant:

We are people of the goddess Danu!

Participants:

We are people of the goddess Danu!

(Celebrant holds the robes high above the fire in the pit.)

Celebrant:

Danu bless these cloths that you may look upon us!

Participants:

Danu bless us!

Celebrant:

Praise Danu!

Participants:

Praise Danu!

Celebrant:

Wear the cloth of Danu with honor!

(Here each woman stripped naked and Marianne pulled the appropriate robe over her head. When only Marianne remained the Participants shouted Praise Danu! and stripped Marianne, all helping remove her clothes and pull on the robe.)

(Holding the bag containing our clothes above the fire.)

Celebrant:

Prepare the way for Danu!

Participants:

Prepare the way for Danu!

(Celebrant throws clothes and bag into the fire. She makes the yoni with her hands.)

Celebrant:

Let us do honor to Danu, without whose laughter the world should not be.

(Participants answer the gesture.)

Participants:

Honor to Danu, without whose laughter the world should not be.

Celebrant:

Danu, great mother of the Universe, whisper unto us, that we might be comforted in the darkness. We rejoice in thy love. Thy love overpowers all.

Participants:

Honor to Danu.

(Celebrant holds up a clay pot filled with mashed holly berries.)

Celebrant:

Danu, take these berries and drink that they become thy life-blood. Give us thy life blood that we may bear children.

Participants:

Praise Danu.

Celebrant:

I call the first three forward.

(Participants Ellen Ruth Margret step forward)

Celebrant:

Place thy right hand in the blood of Danu and make the mark on thy sisters.

Three Participants:

Praise Danu.

(Three Participants place hands in the “blood of Danu” with other hand each raises her own robe and smears the right hand on the stomach of the woman to her right.)

Three Participants:

Blood of Danu.

Celebrant:

Take the name of Ana which Danu gave unto you before you bore children.

Three Participants:

We are Ana.

Celebrant:

Praise Ana.

Other six Participants:

Praise Ana.

Celebrant:

I call the second three forward.

(Participants Angela Ashley Cassie step forward.)

Celebrant:

Place thy right hand in the blood of Danu and make the mark on thy sisters.

Three Participants:

Praise Danu.

(Three Participants place hands in the “blood of Danu” with other hand each raises her own robe and smears the right hand on the stomach of the woman to her right.)

Three Participants:

Blood of Danu.

Celebrant:

Take the name of Babd which Danu gave unto you when you bore children.

Three Participants:

We are Babd.

Celebrant:

Praise Babd.

Other six Participants:

Praise Babd.

Celebrant:

I call the second three forward.

(Participants Jennifer and Dianne step forward.)

Celebrant:

Place thy right hand in the blood of Danu and make the mark on thy sisters.

Two Participants and Celebrant:

Praise Danu.

(Two Participants and Celebrant place hands in the “blood of Danu” with other hand each raises her own robe and smears the right hand on the stomach of the woman to her right.)

Three Participants:

Blood of Danu.

Celebrant:

We take the name of Macha which Danu gave unto us when we were near death.

Three Participants and Celebrant:

We are Macha.

Other six Participants:

Praise Macha.

(Participants and Celebrant go to the points of the star. Each stands on one point, and alternating so that the points are Ana – Babd – Macha – Ana – Babd – Macha – Ana – Babd – Macha. Each makes the yoni.)

All:

We were the Morrigan of the past. We are the Morrigan now. We shall be the Morrigan again.

Celebrant:

Time is a circle.

Participants:

Time is a circle.

Celebrant:

The first children born to Danu were Ana. The triplets Ana made the Earth grow with Life, and planted the Tree of Life.

Participants:

Hail Ana!

Celebrant:

The second children born to Danu were Babd. The triplets Babd made children who were called Man and Woman.

Participants:

Hail Babd!

Celebrant:

The third children born to Danu were Macha. The triplets Macha harvested the crops of Ana and struck down the children of Babd.

Participants:

Hail Macha!

Celebrant:

We are all Danu!

All:

We are all Danu!

Celebrant:

I call the nine worlds to us. We open the gate.

(Celebrant points toward the fire.)

Celebrant:

The Gate to Muspellheim layeth open. Those who are called enter through Muspellheim.

All:

Enter through Muspellheim.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Muspellheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Asaheim come to the Gate.

 

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Ljosalfaheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Vanaheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Manaheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Jotunheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Svartalfaheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Helheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Those who dwell in Niflheim come to the Gate.

Participants:

Come to the Gate.

Celebrant:

Raise up the cups of fire.

(Celebrant and Participants raise up small clay cups which are filled with ground flint and flash powder.)

 

Celebrant:

We feed the fire and ask Danu to lead those called through the Gate.

All:

Danu. Lead them.

(All throw the flash powder into the fire. A large orange flame rises up. Sparks fly in all directions, but not far.)

All:(chanting)

Danu Danu Danu….

Celebrant:

Danu, come through the Gate and enter us.

(Celebrant removes robe. Participants follow.)

All:(chanting)

Danu Danu Danu….

What happened next was so shocking I did not believe it for some time to come. The flame began to die as the flint was consumed. First it dwindled and became yellow. We were all chanting while watching the flame die. It dwindled further and became green. A rushing sound like that of a jet engine, though not as loud, was starting in the fire pit. The roaring grew louder and the flames suddenly arose to an amazing height. The fire was higher than it had been so far.

Just as suddenly the flame went out. It seemed something sucked it down into the earth. The fire was out and then it happened. I remember thinking it must have been almost exactly midnight. A strange blue light was coming from the “Gate.” Slowly a blue light flooded out onto the sand. The clear night became dark and cold. Fog surrounded the beach, rolling in off the ocean. All I could see was the blue glow from the “Gate” and the white glow of the moon.

Something really strange was happening. I felt naked and trapped and cold. I thought to scream, and heard someone else scream. I fainted. Or at least I think I fainted.

#

The mists envelop us. I cannot see anything but the blue light. The white light. The ocean crashes on the shore, louder than I have ever heard.

I see my grandmother. But she is dead, has been dead for eight years. My best friend who died in a ski accident. The dead are all around me, all the dead I knew. Grandparents, friends who committed suicide, my cat, my hamster. I try to scream, to run, I cannot move. The dead leave me. They walk toward the blue light.

The sand feels strange. I look down. Hands are coming through the soil, caressing my feet. I try to scream. The hands sink into the sand.

The mist is cold on naked flesh. I look up and see a giant face blocking out the moon. It smiles at me and steps into the blue light. It disappears.

A short person takes my left hand. He (or she) is white, bleach-white. Another short person takes my right hand. He (or she) is black, slate-black. “Dance!” they say and we dance. We dance around the blue flames. Suddenly they leap into the flame.

I leap in too. I don’t know why. The blue flames are all around me. I see the faces of the other nine when I close my eyes.

I look at my naked body. The red-stained flesh feels hot. It looks hot. I touch it and it burns. I try to scream. A whisper: “Ana, be not afraid.”

“Who is that?”

Whisper: “Danu.”

The blue flames engulf me and I feel myself burning. The flames leap out from my painted stomach. The heat is not painful, but cool. Soothing. Sleepy.

#

I woke up in the morning next to Marianne who was shaking me from sleep. “Ellen, wake up damnit.”

“I’m awake.”

“What happened? Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I think so. I had a weird dream.”

“It was weird all right, but it wasn’t a dream.”

“What are you talking about?”

“I was there too. I heard you scream and then everything got strange and dreamy. I saw dead people and dwarfs and all kinds of things.”

“You too, huh?”

“What was it?”

“I don’t know.” I wanted to say it was the spirits of the nine worlds and that Danu had initiated us. I still think it happened. It seemed real. It must have been real.

After we woke everybody up we compared notes. Everybody had a similar experience. It must have been real. But how did we get back into our sleeping bags without remembering it? And there were other unanswerable questions. Our robes were gone. Where did they go? The clothes we burned were lying next to us. Where did they come from? Had it happened as we remembered it, or was it some kind of collective hallucination, or a dream?

#

In the next week the list of questions grew longer. The stain on each of our stomachs would not wash off. It took six months for mine to go away. I still have a small triangle on my stomach today, almost ten years later. Why did it refuse to wash off? Each of us woke up with cramps and discovered we had our period later in the day. How did that happen?

We all stay in touch with each other, and get together once a year. Our menstrual cycles are still the same, even to this day. How?

The biggest questions I have are: Who am I? Who are we? Should I believe we are the Morrigan?

I still dream of it. In the dreams we are the Morrigan and we control the fate of the world. The dream spells end wars and cure epidemics.

In the real world we cast a spell or make a ritual now and then. Usually they work. Jennifer asked us to cast a spell on a guy she worked with, and now she is married to him. Was it the spell? What or who am I? The Morrigan is real, or is it? Is it only real because I believe it?

Before the initiation the world seemed clear. Each sentence ended in a period, an exclamation mark. Now all I see is question marks. Why?

If you enjoy, please share:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • LinkedIn
  • Orkut
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

One Response to “Three Times Three”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Mavis Takemoto says:

    Simply wanna input on few general things, The website style and design is perfect, the subject material is really excellent. 😀

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leave A Comment...

*