PYTHIA THE PYTHONESS
Those eyes - how familiar they seem
She gave - her very first kiss to you
That was Laura - but she's only a dream
Three weeks after the dream, Laura walked in my door. She was dressed in black - black leather mini-skirt, black silk blouse, black boots with pointed toes, black fishnet stockings, but blond hair, cut free and shoulder-length. She wore a necklace of crystal fragments with a quartzite crystal set in silver, and about her left wrist a silver bracelet. I froze when I saw her, which she seemed to enjoy.
Don't you even intend to ask me what I want? Laura had been cryptic on the phone, making the appointment, avoiding any comment. Now the formal phrasing of her speech struck me somewhat oddly. I simply nodded.
I want you to tell me who I am. That would be enough for today' - Implying that, eventually, she wanted something more.
I shrugged: 'You're Laura - a woman dressed in black. Cryptic. Mysterious. Erotic. Isn't that enough?'
'I'm glad you don't miss the obvious. The very deep must have a surface. What I want you to tell me is, how did I get here? Where have I come from? How many of me are there?'
'How many of me are there?' struck me as an unusual question. I felt I was being tested. Perhaps invited. But also somehow warned.
'You can say whatever you like,' Laura continued. 'Whatever occurs to you. My guides said I would learn by coming here. You can start anywhere. Even with Fallen Angels. I'm going to stop talking.
I decided against falling angels: 'Okay, you're Cleopatra. Nefertiti. Joan of Arc. The Delphic Oracle. The Witch of Agnesi. Mary Magdalene. Dido of Carthage. Hypatia, Jezebel, and Anastasia Romanov.
'Oooh! All the biggies! How complimentary!'
Actually, Hypatia and the Witch of Agnesi were a little off the beaten path. I'd thrown them in to see if Laurie would react. She hadn't blinked.
'I think Jezebel got a bad press,' she continued. 'She was a Pagan, wasn't she? Pagans were going out of style. It was her Goddess against his God; the males were winning everywhere. Not really fair, but the world is like that' - She paused. I waited. -'As far as Hypnosia and the Witch of Agonies - I don' quite remember. Except they might have been scholarly or something, and got killed for thinking. I do get killed a lot, as I recall.'
Who was this person?
Laura wasn't done: 'The problem is, why would I want to be so many obvious people? You'd think after awhile I'd learn to lay low. But not being anyone important has its frustrations too. Like having a mother who doesn\'d5t know who you are, doesn\'d5t love you, and doesn\'d5t have to bow to you either. That alone makes Cleopatra tempting. But - how do I keep track of it all?'
I decided to ad lib: 'All the big souls consider a lot of possibilities. They're always thinking 'I should have done such-and-such, I could have married so-and-so, I could have conquered this, I might have invented that.\'d5 So in their next life they splinter into a bunch of smaller souls, and go off in every direction they can think of. Then, maybe a few lives later, they recollect for another big one.'
Laura tilted her head. Although I had intended my comments to be humorous, she appeared to take them seriously: 'That's quite helpful. That's an interesting way to look at things. I could fight religious wars with myself, be the winner and the loser. Which I always am. Still - ', she turned and looked at me, I'd want something more. More than clever. I want focus. Clarity. Be precise. Do what you do.'
I wondered what it was she thought I did. Actually, in the present context, I had no idea at all. Well, I was going to have to find out: 'Any particular direction?' I asked, fishing for clues.
'Do the Oracle. I want to know about the Oracle.'
The Oracle. I nodded. Why not: 'Okay - let's do the Oracle.'
I leaned back, closed my eyes, took a couple of breaths. Thought about the Oracle. Actually, I had very little idea of who, or what, the Oracle was. Just that it was, well, Oracular. It answered questions. And this was a question, wasn't it? To learn about the Oracle, all we had to do was - ask the Oracle. That sounded like a \'d4Soul Circle\'d5 to me. It certainly sounded like a circle.
I decided to ask the Lynx to ask the Oracle.
In the past few weeks I began to notice that when I reentered the Lynx dream, the air grew thicker, more textural, even had a distinct taste to it, slightly sweet, slightly acidic. If I watched the air around me, I saw waves, currents, eddies; these congealed into patterns and images. As I began to slip in this time, I could sense, then feel, then even see the patterns about Laurie too. I felt the presence of the Lynx between us, collecting, concentrating Laura's aura, stringing lines of energy into a grid or field, as if the fish-net stockings had spread themselves about her, and were seining shapes and feelings from the air. I told her what I was seeing, asked if she would like to join in, breathe with me. Then realized she was already doing so. The room began to draw together, and distort. Shapes were moving in a mist. I spoke to Lynx. I asked to see the Oracle.
We are in a cave. The air is thick with smoke and steam, but the sweet scent has disappeared. Instead there is a stench of sulfurous gasses, mixed with decaying flesh, cut slightly by smoking herbs and brush, musk, something else I cannot place. A few figures move about through the haze, cowled, draped in white cottons, clearly female in their motions. They move slowly, languidly, a formless dance. As they circle, shift, some chew on bark or leaves; perhaps a kind of narcotic. Their writhing dance, though serpentine and graceful, also appears disjointed, with sudden, unexpected motions. Moaning sounds escape them, and they seem unaware of juice or spittle from their chewing.
At the entrance to the cave, two more figures appear, one of them another of the keening women. She leads a man, also hooded, apprehensive, who holds a piece of cloth to his face, a shield from the smoke. The women begin to whirl and spin; small shrieks punctuate the moaning. Two of them slip between the man and the entrance to the cave. He is led further forward, now clearly terrified. The woman with him pulls hard at his sleeve; when he resists, she kicks him in the side of the leg. He drops to his knees. From the group of whirling, writhing figures one steps forward. The others lean toward him in turn, speaking in whispers, hisses: 'She asks if the gift you promise has been paid.' The man nods vigorously; the other women sway and shriek. From the Priestess another short, sharp burst of sound.
'She says to ask your question of the Gods,' the chorus prompts. The man hesitates, tries to speak. Before he can fairly get it out, the High Priestess howls, whirls, pulls off her hood; her hair is waxed in snaking ringlets, she tears open the top of her cape, her breasts are painted blue and black, silver spirals snaking to her nipples. She falls to the floor of the cave, twists, writhes, howls. The others do the same.
Abruptly she stops, they all do, there is silence. The Priestess slithers slowly across the floor of the cave, begins to sway and rise before the shaking supplicant. She opens her mouth, spits a mouthful of grass and bark and leaf into the man\'d5s face. He crouches, frozen. One of the women tugs at his tunic:'Do you have your answer ?' she asks, rather gently now.
He seems unaware of her. She pulls more insistently, asks more loudly," Do you have your answer? ' He shivers, tries to respond: 'I don't - - ,' he stammers. The High Priestess rears back, poised as if to strike. A deeper tremor passes through the man. The other woman hisses in his ear: 'Do you understand? The Oracle has spoken! Do you know what you must do?'
He bends to earth. Even terror has been driven from him: 'I give thanks to
the Goddess - .' He shudders, gathers himself. 'I know what I must do - .'
I emerged from my trance. Laura sat quietly, regarding me: 'So - what is it he must do?'
I shrugged. I had no idea.
Laura leaned back, reflecting: 'That was an interesting performance. But is it me or you?'
I didn't know that either. Wasn't fully back. I was no longer sitting in a chair. I had no idea whether I only spoke, or had acted out the story. It didn't seem to matter. The images came from somewhere. From the Lynx, from Laura, from myself. I wasn't sure I knew the difference.
I made my way back. Laurie seemed reflective, pondering something: 'Did you hear my name?'
'Pythia,' I told her.
'Pythia the Pythoness. Yes, I think that might have been my title. And you saw me. Undressed me even, so to speak. A little early for that. But still, it's sweet. I'm touched. You must like me.'
I still had nothing to say.
'Is there something else. Any small points you care to tell me ?'
I realized there were: 'There were three of you. At least. Maybe four. The answer to your question. There are three of you. The others were just the chorus line.'
'I think we took turns. Being Pythia. The Weird Sisters. We must have gotten pretty high on all that stuff we chewed. It was laurel leaf, by the way. My friend Laurel told me. Quite narcotic. Afterward, it took a long time to sleep it off. And then get the paint off and the tar out of your hair. But what's a girl to do? You\ve got to make a living, don't you? Poor man. We scared him badly, didn't we. All that spitting and hissing. We could have poison on our finger nails. Or make him think we'd rip his throat right at the - now how can I put this decorously? - at the critical moment. Of course they have to think they\'d5re going to die. After that, your problems don't look so big. Do what you want. You've got the blessing of the Oracle.' Laurie paused, continued: charged a pretty hefty fee, I think. Though we did some freebies too. But we always gave good advice. We always told them, 'Do the Right Thing.'
I was startled. A moment ago Laurie had asked if the images were really about her, or were my own. A reasonable question. But now she not only seemed to accept them, but expand the story, as if she'd known it all along.
'Did you get what you wanted?' I asked her.
'Well, we got stoned. We got paid. We had some pretty good laughs. Sometimes we even got, well, you know - . And I guess it was a pretty prestigious position, for the times. Though of course you couldn't really go out in public.'
I realized Laura had taken my question to refer to the priestess lifetime. I told her I meant the present one - whether she had received what she came in for.
'Oh, yes, you were very good. There was me, and there were three of me, and there were more of me. It's all very clear. Do you want to meet the others?'
'The others?' I asked. Not quite certain if the question should have been, 'The Others?'
'Yes, the other two. Or three, if Wanda comes. The Weird Sisters. I'm sure they'd all want readings too. And when do the Soul Circles start?'
'You don' think we just had one?'
'Oh, of course. But they'd be even stronger when we're all here in the physical. The others will be coming, I'm sure of it. They'd all be very excited. That you saw the Oracle, and the Laurel leaf. The Laura leaf. You just have to tell us when to come. Unless I have to tell you.'
'That's what life is, 'Laura said. 'The dream we're all dreaming.'