Jacques is telling it…
The days shorten and darken. But the voices of the dead grow clearer, ringing in the furrows as the plough turns sod and bone. I lie with Margot in the still of night, watching her hairy lips moan of gold. She keeps her horde secret. How I long to touch the primrose metal! She has great plans for me. I hear them every day: of Paris and its spires; of its noble river and lofty walls; of vaulted churches, and houses great as palaces. But I have plans of my own. I pray for Lucifer to guard the milkmaid’s bed. Her slender works support my world; the thin stream of milk from teat to pail; the silken thread across her breast; her long fingers around the pullet’s eggs; her lithesome legs when she squats upon the stool. The wind ferries me to her arms and I tumble with falling leaves. But then a grisly corpse crawls from its muddy grave and hammers on the door:
‘God damn you!’
I awake with a start to find Margot gone. The full moon rains through the shutters, bathing my flesh in soothing beams. A strange smell wafts from the hearth. So I climb out of bed to see what’s cooking. Red-cap mushrooms churn in the cauldron, bobbing in a muddy potion. What filthy spell is this? A curse, compounded from black powders, made from the inward parts of crows, with loathsome worms and bitter herbs; and toenails of babes torn from the womb, boiled with the skull of a murdered priest; and of fine wax candles, stolen from a vestry chest, stirred with evil incantations, for the incitement of hatred, and the death of all Christian bodies…
The midnight owl is calling. I take a cup. The brew is sweet and salty, like pigs’ blood. Shall I change into a bat? A frog or a cat? No.
I am overcome with a cold tingling that rises from foot to crown. Everything goes hazy. My knees buckle and I fall limp on the hearth. Swiftly, silently, I slip out the crown of my head: ’tis like taking off a glove.
I must be dead…
Floating to the rafters, I peer down at my body. How bizarre is looks – like a monstrous jester with huge hands and feet. I behold its deformity with all the dispassionate interest of a physician. The shoulders are wider than I thought, and the torso more developed. But I’m free of that flesh. I exist without it. How good my state. I have no more to die…
A light twinkles through the wattle. I drift out the door and skirt over the pond. The water has a golden glow and glints with silver fish. I can hear the grass growing: a chorus of celestial chimes. A coven of toadstools sing praises to a stump; the holly whispers to the studded grail of night; the meadows exude a ghostly radiance and the woods pulse with coruscating light. I feel drawn to an irresistible living force; it shimmers in the aconites and tops the chestnuts with holy flame. Every leaf and branch, every stem and flower, flickers with faerie-fire.
The rosehips glow with blue coronas. I reach to touch and incandescent streamers burst forth from my fingertips. The life force tingles up my arm and across my chest. For I am made of the same living fire. I see through and around everything. Instantly I perceive the bottom of the mountain lakes; yet even the worm within the sod and the eagle on the wing. The potion is my entrance into the whole reality. I comprehend it all: the teleology of God; the living Word that sustains Creation. I have crossed a chasm no wider than a hair. What fool was I. In hearing I did hear, but could not understand; in seeing I did see, but could not perceive.(i)
I become aware of a profound presence – something more substantial and powerful than any creature of flesh. ’Tis a spirit older than the hills, and I am filled with a sense of ineffable good…
But what vile monster now stands before me! A Cyclops with a mighty shining eye! His voice is like tinkling glass:
‘Be not afraid.’
‘Am I dead?’
‘You are betwixt the living and the dead.’
‘Who are you demon?’
‘You are inwardly possessed with me, and with your soul I am most familiar. I was bound with you in the womb. And when your term was full, I came with you into the world. My name is Krew.’
I remembered: Krew had appeared once before – in the chestnut tree. No sooner had I thought this, than he spoke:
‘Yes. Three years past, I made rose windows to shield you from the solar blaze; and wrought the heavens in panes of ruby glass…’
‘I have done bad things.’
‘You killed the priest and stole the chalice.’
‘Will I go to hell?’
‘Impossible to say. The future is not yet fixed. But I come as a guide from God, so you may fulfil your destiny. Heed what I say: go back inside.’
‘But I want to stay here. What is the name of this shining realm? ’Tis divine and holy.’
‘Divine things are not named by your intellect as they really are in themselves, for in that way you know them not; but they are named in a way that is borrowed from created things.(ii) This is the Garden of Earthly Delights.’
‘Henceforth I shall live here.’
‘Alas, you cannot. ’Tis not your time. You must return to your body.’
‘But I hate it there.’
‘The lord has given you spare bread and short water for a reason…’(iii)
‘As punishment for my father’s sin…’
‘No. You are bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, but your spirit is girdled with heavenly power.’
‘I am lowly and wretched.’
‘You have received a portion of the Light, breathed into your soul by the great invisibles, the rulers and Archons. And this power dwells within you, as a great mystery of God. You have come to heal.’
I stand entranced by the mighty eye that gleams like a crystal ball, encompassing the stars and flickering trees. The whole world is aglow with faerie-fire: ’tis all too beautiful and the thought of returning to my flesh fills me with grief. Krew reads me like a book:
‘You wish to stay in Eden’s calm retreat. I understand your desire, wonder and curiosity. But be patient. Veil after veil will lift; and you shall behold sacred realms beyond the mortal mind… But now you must return to your body.’
‘I swear, ’tis not my body.’
‘’Tis your appointed vessel.’
‘That body is a curse.’
‘Go back to it.’
‘No. I don’t want to get in it. ’Tis too small; too dark; too cold. How shall I dwell in that? ’Tis the wrong body altogether. You might as well lock me in a coffin.’
‘All the same, ’tis what the Lord has given thee. Get in it.’
‘I can’t do it.’
‘’Tis simple – like diving into water. Just do it.’
‘No. That’s not the real me. This is the part that counts…’
‘Return. You are in great danger. You have drunk from the cauldron unwisely. The potent brew has brought you to the brink of death.’
‘I’m not afraid to die. I’m done with Flesh.’
‘You are not ready for Spirit. The soul is like a delicate wax tablet; but the potion scores deep impressions and may cause irreparable harm.’
‘Did Margot drink it?’
‘Then where has she gone?’
‘She is with the accursed, seeking salvation at the sabbat…’
‘Take me there.’
‘’Tis not for your eyes.’
‘But I want to see it.’
‘The Devil makes everything appear upside down. His ways will seem impossible to you.’
‘Show me Krew.’
‘You command it?’
‘I command it.’
‘Amen. I will conceal nothing from you this hour. I will turn your dim experience of God into vivid reality. You shall be changed without your knowing, by virtue of the Light. And you shall fly to the gates of the firmament, and behold mysteries beyond the corporeal veil – the force whereby all things exist, through involution and evolution, and the emanation of the Word. And so you shall transcend the little minds of men; and glean the correspondence between the human soul and its supernatural environment. You shall learn of that mysterious surge of life which lies beyond and yet within yourself: the soul’s response to the incarnations of Eternity. For I will reveal future states and future worlds, the majesty of Heaven and the terrors of Hell…’
Copyright © Nicholas Shea 2006.
i. Matthew 13:14.
ii. Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, Pars. I, Q. 13. I.
iii. Isaiah 30:20.
Image Credit: Plan of The Constitution of Man according to Fabre d’Olivet.
Image credit: Kirlian Photograph of a leaf. Wikimedia Commons.