Salome: The Seventh Queen:15:The Green Angel

Salome: The Seventh Queen:15:The Green Angel

by Aline deWinter


The song of the ney, high and wild, floated above the whispers of many serpents deep as the stones below the earth. The Princess was a lighted torch, a flame undulating  to sounds voluptuous, and strange. The music grew louder and faster. She fluttered in the wind, flew and spun about, insensible to the thorns that cut her bare feet. In the desolate garden she was a blood red moon.  Salome fell to the ground and writhed over the broken soil like a snake, rolling over and over, crying out for the living flesh of Jokannaan.

>

“Ahhh, Jokanaan! I am amorous of thy body, Jokanaan! Thy body was white, like the lilies of a field that the mower hath never mowed. Thy body was as white as the snows that lie on the mountains of Judæa, and come down into the valleys. Ah Jokanaan, I must possess thy body.”

>

“Mistress! Mistress!” Etana’s voice cut through the heavy water of the music. “The Sixth Gate is nigh.”

>

Salome rose up on one elbow. “Soon we shall cross the forbidden garden of the Great Goddess —She who shall bring my beloved back to life.”

>

The Sixth Gate was covered with dust and the desert winds blew against it. Salome stood before the high pillars crowned with sphinxes and challenged them to riddle her. The sphinxes only stared, though their eyes glittered.

>

“It is almost time. Are you not rapturous, Jokannaan? The Queen of Heaven shall restore your body and you shall let me touch you, for there is nothing in the world that will deny she who wakes the dead.” Salome’s voice soared over the top of the gate. It was so tall, and so worn with time, her voice merely fell like dust.

>

“Is this the Sixth Gate, oh, Princess?” Alliyah asked breathlessly.

>

“Yes,” Salome said. “Now we enter the Sixth Garden and approach the final Gate to the Kingdom of Ishtar, She Who Rules Over Life and Death.”

>

The whistling desert wind carried the smell of amber and fire as if all the cedars of Lebanon were burning.

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“Open the gate!” shouted Salome.

>

The sphinxes looked at the sky where the nightjar whirled and lights fluttered in the trees like moths.

>

“Why does the gate not open?” Salome shouted.

>

“ Perhaps it will never open. Oh lets us return home, mistress Salome,” Aaliyah said.

>

“Be quiet. I will have what was promised me.”

>

“Why does the Gate not open? I command this Gate to open. Open, I say. I Salome, Princess of Judea command that you open this Gate!”

>
At that moment a gust of dry wind blew the last of Salome’s veils away and floated them into the air like streaks of fire. Her cloak swirled around her as a chorus of muffled voices vibrated the Gate.

<
“Gatekeeper!” Salome cried. “Open the gate! Open the gate so that I may enter!”

>

Still, the Gate did not open, for it was sealed shut by time and stone and desert winds so that it was no more than an indentation in the rock. Then before her eyes, the wall grew transparent, and the austere figure of an Angel robed in emerald green shone through. The angel looked at Salome without speaking or any sign of greeting.

>

The Princess flew into a rage that even she did not understand.  She shouted at the Angel. “If you do not open the gate, I will smash the door!”

>

“Do not be so violent, Princess,” said Etana.

>

“Yes, Princess, be not angry and disordered in your mind,” Aaliyah said.

>

Salome drew herself up and raised her fist high. “Open this Gate. I will go in. Allow me to enter or I will smash the gate and topple the pillars.”

>

The door continued to dissolve. The Angel gazed at her through a serene golden light around his face. When he spoke, his voice was  deep with the sound of many voices.

>

“There is no need. I have come to announce your arrival to the Most High Queen. Behold, beyond that stretch of sand, on that high hill, is the Gatehouse to the Rose Palace of Queen Ishtar. You will know by the many votaries set afire along the way to the threshold.”

>

“At last,” said Salome. “Lead me to Her.”

>

“First, you must surrender that that girdle of birthstones from your hips, for all women are subject to the Great Goddess, Mistress of Life, Opener of the Womb.”

>

“My birthstones are my life. I give to you my life so that the dead might live again.”

>

Salome removed her girdle of birthstones and gave it to the Angel. And now naked but for her scarlet cloak, she went through the Sixth Gate.

>

The Angel led them forth across the wind swept sands that rose and fell like the waves of the sea. There was a star sitting on the horizon shedding its rays between pale earth and indigo sky, bright as a cluster of diamonds. The Angel kept turning to gaze at the casque that held the prophet’s head, and Salome shuddered with the sudden apprehension of how alike the Angel was to Jokannaan. The casque blazed forth so brightly that Aaliyah complained her hands were burning.

>

“Surely an Angel of God can come back to life,” Salome said softly. “One such Angel, as Jokannaan is, must be immortal after all.”

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Salome: The Seventh Queen: 13: Slither

Salome raced back to her serving maids.
>

The hyenas shrieked and the wheat began to ruffle as the invisible pack of wild dogs came after her. Aaliyah and Etana turned around frantically calling Salome’s name in all directions, their voices drowned out by the music and the cries and the barking of the hyenas.

>

Something cracked like the sound  of bones snapping. Salome was buffeted by gusts of strong wind that blew her cloak up over her face.

>

An eerie voice floated on the wind, a woman’s voice, calling.

>

“ Life, life, life, life…”

>

The hyenas laughed and the wind carried the sounds like a whirlwind around the Princess and her maids. Salome pulled her cloak out of her eyes and watched as the woman in the field turned and walked to the left, stopped, smiled at Salome and walked on again. She was followed by an inky black shadow that slithered over the wheat sheaves like a snake.

>

“ We must follow her,” said Salome. “Come! We are guided out of this place.”

>

“Mistress! I can’t touch the casque,“ cried Aaliyah. “It burns me and oh! He cries so!”

>

Salome went to where the casque was laid upon the ground, glowing golden as if the sun had fallen into the field of aurum. There were lilies too, Salome swore that there were lilies white as death standing among the wheat shafts, around the Prophet’s little house. Loud dark sobs echoed  mournfully inside of it. When Salome opened the lid the eyes of Prophet looked up at her, blazing with holy fire.

>

“Back! Daughter of Babylon! Come not near the chosen of the Lord. Thy mother hath filled the earth with the wine of her iniquities, and the cry of her sinning hath come up even to the ears of God.”

Salome froze. Had her prayer been fulfilled? The sight of the Prophet speaking through the gates of death was as if a very Angel had descended, a  Seraph from behind the very throne of God. Her eyes swimming with tears, Salome reached for her beloved Prophet’s head. “Oh how I love you, Jokanaan. For me you have come back to life! Oh, how powerful is love that it may conquer death! I know you have come for me, Jokanaan. I am very grateful you have come to me.”

>

“Back, daughter of Sodom! Touch me not. Profane not the temple of the Lord God. Ah! The wanton one! The harlot! Ah! the daughter of Babylon with her golden eyes and her gilded eyelids! Thus saith the Lord God, Let there come up against her a multitude of men. Let the people take stones and stone her . . . ”

>

“Singing! They are singing!” Aaliyah cried looking up from her cowering. “It is Chorus of the Angels of the Lord. The Prophet summons the powers of God most high. Can you hear the music of God, Princess Salome?”

>

“Mistress! The guide is gone far before us. If we do not follow we shall surely be lost,” Etana shouted pointing into the distance.

>

“Give me the casquet, Aaliyah. I will carry the head of Jokanaan,“ Salome said moving the trembling Aaliyah aside. “Now I have you my beloved Jonakanaan. You are with me now. Now. Oh how your eyes do shine—-they shine like pattens of bright silver fallen from the hand of the Queen of Syria into the well of the Holy Sanctuary. Thine eyes burn like torches in a tapestry of Tyre. They shine like the breath of dragons in the black caverns of Egypt. Speak to me again.”

>

“Mistress, we must not stay,” cried Etana. “Surely if we stay we shall be lost.”

>

“Yes, Princess Salome. Listen to Etana. It is unwise to stay. The path to the Fifth Gate is being shown and will not be shown much longer.”

>

Salome leaned in to kiss the lips of Jokanaan. He spat at her! She recoiled like a cat.

>

“Back! daughter of Babylon! By woman came evil into the world. Speak not to me. I will not listen to thee. I listen but to the voice of the Lord God.”

>

The golden casquet did burn Salome’s flesh as she closed the the Prophet’s rage inside, but she didn’t care. Rather she reveled in this small discomfort for the sake of her love. Even though she could not bear his cries, that screamed and pounded the sides of the casque so that she could hardly hold it, she embraced it as she would her lover, and endured.

>

“You shall come back to life” she murmured to herself. “You shall come back to life for me, Jokanaan, for I desire nothing on the earth more than you. There is nothing in the world more beautiful than you.”

>

The  woman moving through the field had left a ribbon of dark slime along the ground. Salome followed it, all the while in a light trance, dreaming of her beloved’s ivory brow. Suddenly a vision of the woman’s face appeared to Salome’s mind’s eye: skin pale and waxy as a calla lily, hair like a cloud of purple dye, and a mouth so red, it seemed to drip with blood.

>

The music died down to a thin wail as the woman, now slim as a snake, slithered through the Fifth Gate.
>

“Princess, who was that?” Etana asked. “She had something about her like Herod’s Queen.”

>

Salome turned to her Maidservant and raise an eyebrow. “It is not possible.”

>

Aaliyah sighed a low, echoing sigh. “I do not think we should follow any more. Perhaps it is a trap.”

>

“Again!” Salome said impatiently. “Always!” she gave Aaliyah a hard look. “Go back then, if you must.”

>

Aaliyah gazed at her feet and blushed for shame.

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Salome: The Seventh Queen: 12 : The Hyenas

Salome: The Seventh Queen: 12  : The Hyenas

by Aline deWinter

The wheat field glowed and bent in a slight breeze. They walked on for a while longer. Nothing changed.
>

“How long have we been here?” Aaliyah sighed falling to the ground in exhaustion.
>

“Give me the head of Jokannaan,” Salome whispered sharply to Aaliyah. “Give him to me now.”
>

“The head, indeed. A mere fraction of a man, Mistress. How can he be brought back to life?” Aaliyah fretted, pushing the casque over the ground toward Salome.
>

“What you do not see, what I do see, is Jokanaan’s  immortal soul.” said Salome holding the Prophet’s head in the golden field that spread around around him like a nimbus of golden light. “He comes to me in the night like a moonbeam walking over a field of lilies, like a shaft of silver; his flesh is cold, cold as ivory.  His body is like the lilies of the field after the mower hath mowed. The roses in the garden of the Queen of Arabia are not so white as his body when he comes thus unto me. His hair is as black as the long black nights when the moon hides her face, when the stars are afraid. The silence of the forest is not so black. His mouth is like a band of scarlet on a tower of ivory. It is like a pomegranate cut in twain with a knife of ivory. The pomegranate flowers that blossom in the gardens of Tyre, and are redder than roses are not so red. the beauty of his flesh shall be made more glorious by the terrible command of Ishtar, Queen of Heaven and Mother of All of Life.”
>

As she spoke, Salome looked at her maids, from one to the other, searching for some semblance of a soul in their frightened faces. She looked around at the endless wheat field, down at her scarlet cloak flowing over the stalks like a wake of blood, at her jeweled feet sparkling on the golden ground, and smiled.
>

Etana met her eyes. “I too love a man. In Judea. A soldier. And now I shall never see him again. My spirit goes to him in the night. I wonder if he senses me…”
>

“You? Love?” said Salome astonished. “But you are a slave, Etana. Surely you cannot compare the  profane lust of a slave to the divine passion of a Princess before whom the King of Kings has scattered jewels, to whom whole legions must bow? Your love can only as that of the ass to the mule, the ewe to the filthy goat with its keyhole eyes. What can you know of love, Etana?”
>

Etana closed her eyes and seemed to drift away.
>

Salome knelt down and caressed the casquet.
>

“Oh, Jokannaan.  Again you shall stand like a tower of ivory, shining white like the snows that lie on the mountains of Judea.  Your eyes gleam like dark emeralds, and your hair hang like clusters of black grapes. like the cluster of black grapes that hang from the vine trees of Edom in the land of he Edomites. Your lips shall be like redder than than the feet of him who cometh from the forest where he hath slain a lion , and seen gilded tigers. Its is like the bow of the King of the Persians that is painted with vermillion…There is nothing in the world so red as thy mouth…Suffer me to kiss they mouth.”
>

“You’re mad,” Aaliyah whispered so softly she thought the Princess did not hear her.
>

“What is that?”
>

The cry of a hyena echoed across the field.
“Oh,” Aaliyah whispered rising to her feet. “Now we are pursued by wild animals.”
>

The cry again. A chorus of cries  broke forth, as of a pack of hyenas hidden in the wheat. Wild, shrieking music, as of bagpipes and drums began to play, and human cries rang out as of a soul in torment.
>

“Are my music makers with us after all?” Salome cried glancing around, looking for her players in the field. “I knew they would not desert me!”
>

The serving maids glanced around as well. Aaliyah covered her ears with her hands.
“Oh, what is happening?” she cried.
>

“This is not ordinary music!” cried Etana. “It is the singing of some sorceress over her vessel of abominations.”
>
The music was all around them. Salome sensed that the tormented cries were very close to her, rising out of the earth. She scanned the monotonous golden horizon like a lioness looking for prey. Where are they? She strode forwards, in the direction of the sound, attentive, her eyes dazzled by the brightness of the land against the sky.
>

High pitched laughter riffled through the wheat. Hyenas! Salome screamed. Surely her fate was not to be dragged down and torn by powerful jaws.
>
Suddenly the waves of wheat undulated with the tide of trotting, scrawny, humped, hackle-raised backs;  the  still air reverberated with wild screams as the Dogs of Chaos raced  in for the kill.  Salome spun around  fixed on the sight of  a tall woman standing in the field gazing at her from over the top of the sheaves!


>
Salome fell back with a groan. The woman’s face was stiff as a mask, her head was large and her face round, on her head was a serpentine crown of wheat withys. When she smiled, and then her tongue hung out and her large eyes blinked at Salome as if she knew her.  The woman suddenly rose higher to reveal large, copious breasts and a full round belly.

<

She began walking in Salome’s direction.

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Salome: the Seventh Queen: 10: The Mysterious Lake

Salome: the Seventh Queen: 10: The Mysterious Lake

by Aline deWinter

>

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“Oh, gatekeeper, open the gate! Open the gate so I may enter!” Salome cried.
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“Oh, no, Mistress!” cried Aaliyah. “Let us go back!”
<?

The Third gate opened, and the Gatekeeper, clad in robes of copper flame, reached forth and pulled off the Princess’s sparkling necklace.
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Salome cried out, for the necklace was fine and precious to her.
<?

“Oh Gatekeeper, why do you take my necklace?”
>?

“ Thus are the rules of the Mistress of the Abyss. Now you may enter.”
<?

Salome reeled. All the garden spun around her as she heard the voice of Aaliyah whisper, “…where they see no light…residing only in darkness…is it so?”
<?

“Shhh! Aaliyha! You tempt fate,” Etana whispered sharply.

>
Darkness reached out and pulled them through the gate like a hand, bringing them onto a thread of white road. It wound through deep twilight over a low hill and then down to an oasis with a lake that opened up like a dull, watching eye. And on that lake, black swans floated, their sooty reflections like shadows cast upon the smooth surface of the water.
<

The trees took notice of Salome and shivered, releasing flocks of black birds. Excited by the sight of so much water, for her desert home held nothing like this — not even the great gardens of the Herodium with all its wealth could supply such a wonder, Salome knelt down to plunge her hands into the lake.  It was as if she touched glass! The surface was solid, yet it was not ice, but rather a clear, hard, glass-like surface beneath which she saw large shapes moving slowly through the gloom.
<?

Salome turned to her serving maids who stood limp and apprehensive on the slope of the hill. The musicians watched her expectantly, waiting for her to direct them, as if they had lost all delight in playing on their own.
>?

“I shall dance upon this lake,” said the Princess, extending her delicate foot out to touch the water. “Yes, it will support me. I shall dance upon this lake,” she sighed.
>?

“Oh, no, Princess!” cried Aaliyah in alarm. “Surly you do not want to risk that! This is but an illusion. Surly you shall drown. No one can walk upon water, Princess, though she be the greatest dancer in the world.”
>?

“Yes, you must stop, Mistress Salome!  Perhaps we should turn back. Your wits are becoming confused,” cried Etana, “Stop!”
>?

“Do you doubt me?” said Salome. “I shall dance upon this lake. See how it bears me up so that I may walk over to those swans and dance among them. Music please! This will be a dance to defy the Gods of Death. Give me the head of Jokannaan. I want him to see how I dance upon the lake.”
>?

The music shrieked and wailed as if the whole of the world cried out in anguish while Salome took the glistening head from Aaliyah and turned with it toward the lake. She stepped upon it and it bore her up while , spinning, she gazed into the eyes of her beloved.
>?

“Dance with me Jokannaan. Dance with me on this lake of glass. See how our twin selves move below us; our reflected selves, our doubles are below us dancing in the mirror world of death, Jokannaan.  When the dance is over, you shall soon come back to life, and so shall I who have been as dead these many days.”
<?

Salome moved further onto the lake, sliding as she would across a shining floor. It was so smooth, her steps flew as if her heels bore wings. She watched her reflected shadow below, saw the vision of her self holding the severed head close to her heart, and in her delirium did not shrink away. Rather she grew ferocious in her dance so that the black swans scattered and dove at her before falling into a wide circle around her as if to hem her in.
>?

Slowly, as she danced, lost in the mirror world of her dark passion, Salome heard soft and distant voices rise up from under the lake, chanting in a slanting minor key.
>?

“Oh, they will drag me under; those voices overwhelm me like the sea, Jokannaan. Perhaps we shall fall into this mirror world forever, to dance with our feet upon the sky and our heads below the water….like these reflections here….unless I tear myself away and end this frenzy of love that holds me to you, for the blood that fell from you has entered into my heart, making us one, of one blood, cloven together like the sides of a healing wound. The sky grows deep and purple, Jokannaan, like the bruise that spread over my soul when I murdered you!”
>?

As if overcome by the song that grew louder and deeper with each passing moment, the musicians dropped their instruments and stood as stones on the silent hill. Aaliyah and Etana fell helpless on the ground. Soon, the only sound accompanying the Princess in her dancing was a terrible, echoing cry.

<?

To be continued…
photo: Mysterious Lake by Sara.K

Painting: Salome by Bussiere

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Salome: the Seventh Queen: 6: She-Who-Rides-the-Dragon

Salome: the Seventh Queen: 6: She-Who-Rides-the-Dragon

by Aline deWinter

<

Just then there was a loud hissing sound followed by howling as of a hundred
jackals chasing a herd of antelope across the desert.

<
“What is that?” Salome cried as her serving girls clung to her.

<
“Who dares to enter the Sacred Garden of the Most High Goddess?”

<
A flock of dark birds flew up, blasted by the woman’s voice as on a
wave of volatile wind. An early moon suddenly rose above the rocks.
Nothing else moved, even the patch of scrub grass that Salome saw from
the window of her carriage was as still as the surrounding rocks.

<
Salome stood up and shouted,”It is I, Salome, Princess of Judea, daughter of Herod!”

<
“Come, Salome, Princess of Judea! Leave your shoes behind, and enter,” the voice commanded.

<
“Oh, Princess, must we go?” Aaliyah cried.

<
“Surly, if we enter there, we shall never come out again,” said Etana.

<

“Yes, we will,” said Salome, swallowing hard. “I was promised a boon.
Etana, take the mirror and pick up the torch. Have the driver light it,
for it will grow suddenly dark.  And, Aaliyah, carry the head of Jokannaan.”

<

Drawing the scarlet hood down from her head to reveal her radiant
crown, Salome stepped out of the carriage, followed by her maids. They
slipped off their delicate sandals, wincing at the heat and roughness
of the ground beneath their feet. The driver held the horses, looking
to the Princess for direction, as did the three musicians whose
instruments hung stiffly in their hands.

<
“Come, Salome, Princess of Judea. You are expected.”

<
The voice was like liquid amber, pouring through the gate and casting a red-gold light over the stones.

<
“Come Salome, Princess of Judea, and bring to me the head of Jokannaan.”

<
The voice was like silver with scales, and the light that washed over
the rock was deep violet as the old command of Herodias, and then of
Salome, echoed through the gate.

<
“Give me the head of Jokanaann,” she said to Aaliyah. “I must carry it in myself.”

<
“Yes, Princess,” said Aaliyah, looking treacherously relieved as she handed the casket to Salome.

<
Salome raised her eyebrow at Aaliyah as she took the beloved head. She opened the casket and set
the Prophet’s head so it was visible from above. Then the Princess of
Judea carried it high before her and walked between the two chimera,
entering the Gate of No Return. Her maids came behind, carrying the
mirror and the torch, and several sheaves of roses and caskets of wine
pulled in a little cart behind them. The musicians followed, playing a
strange, snaking melody of Protection From Enchantment. The duty of the
driver was to stay behind and guard the jittery horses.

<
Salome slowly swayed down a narrow cleft in the warm, pale rock that
curved like a snake for several yards before letting her out into a
clearing surrounded by the high, crumbling walls of the garden.

<
“So, you have come.”

<

Birds flew up. The voice was high above, in the
rustling treetops, in the air, no — behind her — no, no — in the
wash of moonlight through the leaves, on a hill opposite a sparkling
stream. So startled that she almost dropped the Prophet’s head in a
faint, Salome was suddenly transfixed by the sight of the Speaker. Her
maidservants were bowed to the ground in terror at the sight, and the
music abruptly stopped as the musicians froze like the Obelisks before
the Temple of Isis.

<
Naked but for a mass of streaming, flame colored hair, her neck,
wrists, and ankles adorned with heavy gold and pearls and precious gems
as bright as fire, she rode on the back of a dragon whose seven,
horned, heads hissed and wove, and whose scales were purple, red and
golden. She smiled at Salome, then laughed, her eyes like green
quicksilver.  Then she raised her golden cup in salutation — the cup
that was said to be brimming with abominations. As if to show off, the
Demoness rode the dragon to and fro, made it rear up and hover above
the ground. Its many tails swished and lashed out across the stream,
towards Salome. All the seven heads, with their fourteen dangerous
eyes, gazed at the Princess as if they could read her very soul. For a brief instant,

Salome thought the dragon’s seven heads wore pale oval of face of dark browed Herodias.

<
“So you dare to bring the head of the Prophet, Jokannaan, into the Holy
precincts of the Great Goddess?’ the liquid voice said, spilling honey
into the air.

<
Salome stepped forward, holding the casket high. “Yes!” she shouted.

<
Lightning flashed from the eyes of the Demoness. “How do you dare?”
she demanded.

<
“My heart is made bold by the fire of love,” cried Salome. Tears started in her eyes for
memory of the Prophet’s poignant beauty, and for mercy of the terrible
Presence before her.

To be continued…

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