Friday, May 26, 2006

From the Minor Annals

That year was my father's turn to pasture the black bullock for the village until the autumn rites.

That year of my ninth summer was almost my last.

I wonder as I write here in the Grotto if that year marked them all as it marked me.

I bear on the slope of my left breast the goddess mark.

I will wear that silver crescent until I die.

One glad green morning of that year - while my father and my brother were busy at forge and byre and my mother about the household - I crossed the meadow on my way to the barrens beyond.

Perhaps to gather berries, perhaps to search for flowers as an offering.
I don't remember now.

Our cattle were all violet-eyed and content and I ignored the young bull among them for he had been as docile as the others.

I suppose I screamed when he gored and trampled me.

I was fortunate they had blunted his horns, else I would have been pierced through.

I remember the hot breath, the heavy feet, my small dog valiantly trying to drive him off, and my father's roars as he ran.

I remember my brother clearing the high fence like a lion.

He kicked the black bull on the nose as if he were a common beast and no avatar of the god, and carried me over the bars of the gate to safety.

That year my father let the fields go fallow after harvest and became a bridge builder for the Imperium.

That year my mother went daily to the scholar's compound and took me with her to be schooled in the mysteries.

That year my brother chose the soldier's god and joined the legions as our grandfather had before him. He served in the Limes Germanicus before they were ordered home.

That year, they say, I was chosen.


Ric said...

The repeated phrases make this so powerful.

Nicely done, my lady.

Muse said...

A powerful and compelling piece.

Bernita said...

Thank you, my Dears.

As you can see, I'm trying to develop my medieval mind-set and construct the mythical within the mundane.

Sela Carsen said...

Admirably done, Bernita! I think you captured the balance beautifully. Is there more or was this an exercise?

kmfrontain said...

It's a beautiful beginning.

Flood said...

It really is good, Bernita, thank you for sharing it.

jason evans said...

The imagery and potency of the memories were exceptional. I especially liked the mention of the dog.

On a technical note, the first two sentences were a bit packed for me. I didn't truly understand them until I read the whole piece and went back.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Sela.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this - if anywhere.
Earlier I posted another piece from the Minor Annals from a different period.

Kind of you, Flood and KM.

Thank you, Jason.I appreciate the feed-back. I'll take another look at them. Was dithering around over the best opener.
That little dog, yipping and nipping caused the bull to turn round and round and face it - more trampling.

Carla said...

I like the wording and the rhythm. Saga style. I don't quite get the connection between the mark of the goddess and the trampling by the black bull. Is it enigmatic or have I missed something?

Am I right in thinking that the soldiers' god is Mithras, that the bull 'the avatar of the god' is going to be the Mithras sacrifice that year, and that the setting is approximately Late Roman?

Dennie McDonald said...


Bernita said...

Thank you, Dennie.

Yes, Carla, I had Mithras and late Roman period in my mind.

Not sure. Perhaps I was obtuse.
To be trampled one is usually head butted and knocked down. His horns, though blunted, slashed her.

Carla said...

Ah, I see. I interpreted the blunted horns as meaning that they couldn't have caused the scar.

I should add that I had no problem with the first two sentences, if you're collecting votes.

S. W. Vaughn said...


This gave me shudders. Beautiful writing, Bernita. I think you're capturing the medieval mindset quite well!

Bernita said...

I assure you they can. However I think it should be amended in indicate that.
Thank you, SW.
Perhaps it is misleading to call it a "medieval' mind-set.
It's just that is the period I'm presently concerned with, irrespective of the Roman allusions in this piece. I'm thinking mainly of the multifold reality of the apparently mundane.
G.G Kay has, for example and in my interpretation, a medieval mind.

Bhaswati said...

Beautifully written, Bernita. The images flashed before me right through the piece, compelling and vivid, all of them. Thanks for sharing.

Bernita said...

Thank you,Bhaswati.Very kind.

James Goodman said...

Wow, great work, Bernita. Very moving...

Bernita said...

Carla, to correct a wrong impression.
The rites involving the bull I didn't see as Mithratic, rather something more related to Picummus, Pilumnus and taurobolism and sacrifice - the usual rural mis-mash involving perhaps the Great Mother, Attis, Celebe, Buphonia and a great number of others.

Bernita said...

Thank you, James.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That was very cool! Now I know why I don't read period writing...that was very calming, the way the prose is put together.

I like to be running around like a day must be rubbing off!

Until I read all the comments, I was thinking like Carla...about the scar. I thought it might be the mark of the chosen, especially since it was silver.

How did the scar get to be silver?

Carla said...

I'd guess it might be a poetic description of the whiteness of scar tissue. A scar of a certain depth and/or size gets repaired with the biological equivalent of duct tape, rather than having the skin tissue rebuilt properly, so although it holds together it doesn't have the stretch or colour of normal skin. Bernita, correct me if I'm wrong?

Mithras is often referred to as 'the soldiers' god', altars to him turn up at Roman military sites (i.e. associated with 'the legions'), and the Mithraic rites involved a bull, hence I wondered about the connection with the bull in the field.

Bernita said...

Scars can appear to be silver rather than just white, Bonnie.

Yes, indeed, Carla, that's why I chose that reference. The fluidity of religious myth ( and it's pragmatism too!)
I had the vague idea the Mithras cult demanded a white bull and so I designated this one black to make a slight differentiation. The goddess and the god.(I did say he was black, didn't I? Or did I leave that out?)

Daisy Dexter Dobbs said...

Bernita, this was lovely. Truly beautiful. It made me want to read more.

Carla said...

No, you did say the bull was black. Did Mithraism insist on a white bull? The white bull was certainly associated with the gods - seem to remember Zeus turned into a white bull in one of the legends, and Roman sacrifices sometimes demanded a white bull. I'm not aware of Mithraism being fussy about the colour, though I don't claim to be an expert. Is there a text in support?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Daisy. Another kind soul.

Think I will change it to "gored."
Carla's right, Bonnie. Whether it's poetic licence or factual description or merely a priestess' vanity.
If I were to make this an introduction to a longer piece the difference between rural rites and Mithrasism would be important, but in this piece I don't think it matters.I'm happy Carla made the connection.

Bernita said...

There's a fresco in a Mythraic temple in Marino, Italy, 2nd century, where the bull is white.

Gabriele C. said...

Too bad those dang Romans used reliefs for their mithreae where you can't see the bull's colour. At least not today, some of the reliefs may have been painted. ;)

I got somehing like a Mithras meets Avalon-impression from your beautiful little scene.

Robyn said...

You are so cool.

I want to know the "mysteries" in which she's schooled.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Gabriele.
I'm going by David Ulansey's "The Origin of the Mithraic Mysteries" (Oxford University Press)
Photo of another in the Capua Mithraeum.

I am so not, Robyn, but thank you.
Delphian mysteries I believe.

Martyn said...

I really enjoyed that. The movement between the rootedness of the everday descriptions, (particularly with reference to the 'black bullock', the most rooted animal) onto the mythical, cosmic material works really well. I think it reflects the seamless nature of pre-christian belief, no seperation between the spiritual and the mundane. It's tricky for a contemporary western mind to get to grips with that but I think you have here :-)

For The Trees said...

"the day I was chosen."

You were chosen a long time before that, Bernita. Writing like this is a real gift, bull horns or not.


Bernita said...

I'm glad, Martyn, thank you. I've been working on that perspective and the auguries of ordinary things.

Ah, thank you, Forrest, you have a real gift for the nicely turned compliment, as well as flowing prose.

Ballpoint Wren said...

Wow! It has a A Mists of Avalon feel to it.

Bernita said...

You think so, Bonnie? Never read any of Bradley.
Perhaps I should.

MissWrite said...

Hi Bernita. I haven't posted much lately, but dropped by today. I just loved this piece. Until I read the comments here, I wasn't totally sure whether you'd written this, or had simply posted a piece of a classic. That's how very good I thought it was. Fantastic.

Bernita said...

Oh, Miss Write, we miss you.
Thank you so much, Tami. Am glad you enjoyed it.

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spyscribbler said...

I just love, love, love these. I'm sorry to repeat myself, LOL, but thank you for posting these!

This one pulls you right in; I want to explore this village!