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.

>

“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: 7: The Wager

Salome: The Seventh Queen: 7: The Wager

by Aline deWinter

She-Who-Rode-The-Dragon seemed to be in conflict with herself. “We do not
like this Jokannaan. He has set armies against us unjustly. Not only human armies, but also of angels.
Why should I allow you to pass?”

>

“The Great Mother prepared me to dance before Our Lady Ishtar,
Queen of Heaven and Earth, so that the Prophet may be brought back to
life…for the sake of my soul who had him killed wrongly.”

<
“But you did well. Why should I help you to revive our enemy?”

<
“Is not Herodias, Queen of Judea, your enemy, who put him to death?” Salome said. At that moment
she knew in her heart that her mother had never turned away
from the Goddess’s shrine, had always harbored in her soul a
treacherous worship for the Lustful One. This put a wrinkle in her plans, and she wondered about the Demoness with the faces of her mother on the dragon.

<
She-Who-Rode-the-Dragon, scintillating with red and deep purple light,
rose up in anger, gazing all the while at Salome. “If I let you pass,
what shall you give us in return? You will bestow a gift worthy of the favor you seek — or you
shall not pass.”

<
The maids whispered to each other, fretting that they had not known of this, but Salome hushed them.

<
“I have scarlet roses nurtured in the gardens of Byzantium, their fragrance inspires months of amorous nights.  I give you crimson wine fermented from grapes grown in the slopes of Calabria. These I offer you, oh, Great Guardian of the Shrine of Ishtar, in hope that they will be pleasing. Will you accept these gifts?”

<
Salome snapped her fingers and her serving maids suddenly came to their
senses and brought forth a cluster of fifteen armfuls of roses and nine casks of
wine. They crossed a little bridge that suddenly appeared across the
stream. And on the other side, they spilled and scattered the roses
upon the ground and poured wine at the feet of the Demoness. She
towered above them, smiling, so that they would know, deep in their
bellies, that roses and wine were substitutes for human blood. The
maids scurried backwards, bowing, unable to take their eyes off of the
messenger of the Great Whore of Babylon. They resumed their places
behind their Princess who stood within a scintillating light, like a
star, overcome with a rush of strange, feverish excitement.

<
“Your serving girls know much, oh Princess of Judea. What will you give me in exchange for the Prophet’s life?”

<
Trembling, Salome’s mind was blank, for she had not thought that the Demoness would demand more than what she had already given.

<
“I bring the dance, oh, Queen-Whose-Mysteries-are-Great. Other than that and the
gifts of roses and red wine… I have only myself to give.” Salome said and
prostrated herself gracefully upon the ground.

<
The dragon reared up and the beautiful Demoness smiled, turning her
seven-headed mount around as smoothly as it if were a single-headed
beast. Her circuit complete, the dragon’s seven heads on their seven
long necks swung around all at once, and Salome screamed at the sudden
sight of fourteen eyes and seven leering jaws lunged over the stream
at her as if to gobble her up. Again, in a flash of dull white light, Salome beheld the face of Herodias.

<
“Go upon that hill,” the Demoness shouted, turning and pointing to the
hilltop that sloped up behind her. Some ruined towers stood at the top
behind an ancient gate that gleamed with the rays of the dying sun.
“That is the first gate. Enter therein. Find the way into the Garden of
Seven Terraces. You will know it by the fumes and the unearthly sounds
that issue from it. Sing praises to Our Lady of Eternal Life, and She
will open the way to you.”

<
Suddenly there was shimmer of blinding light and the sound as of many
doves singing and the sound as of many wings fluttering, and the music
of rushing waters. The earth trembled so that Salome, and her maids, and
musicians fell to their knees, and the head of the Prophet opened his
eyes and opened his mouth as if to cry out in protest against Salome’s wicked plan.

<
Salome placed the head of Jokannaan carefully back into the golden casquet and shut the lid as She-Who-Rode-the-Dragon vanished as if she had never been.


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Salome: The Seventh Queen: 3 :The Forbidden Temple

Salome: The Seventh Queen: 3 : The Forbidden Temple

by Aline deWinter





One moonless night, Salome left Herod’s castle by a low back gate.  A narrow stair led down to a hidden lane of white paving stones that led into the precincts of an ancient shrine, known throughout the land as The Forbidden Temple. The head of Jokanaann had been wrapped in the scented linen of the priests, placed in a golden sleeve, and then laid upon a silver charger.  This she carried high above her head, for his divinity was so great that even the Princess of Judea was beneath him.

>

As Salome walked, her veil kept slipping, exposing her her shining golden hair and singular beauty to the lamplight. So to avoid discovery, she kept to the shadows, walking with her head bowed down so that all she could see were her small, slippered feet as they moved over the cobblestones, appearing, disappearing, and then reappearing under the hem of her gown.


The gate of the Forbidden Temple was behind a hedge of dove boughed myrtle, bordered by pots of night blooming jasmine, guarded by winged lions, and magically charged by the morning and evening stars. The fragrance of incense told her that the priestesses prayed into the night. Only when she reached the gate did she lower the silver charger, and gaze proudly at the Gatekeeper, to command entry.

>

He looked away with a knowing smile, for he had seen Salome dancing on the rooftop, spinning with her flashing veils. The news had traveled quickly regarding the demand of Herodias for the Prophet’s head in exchange for her daughter’s bending to the lascivious will of Herod.

<

Salome did not smile back. Rather, she glared at the eunuch as she slipped inside the gate, daring him to disclose, even to himself, that he knew what she carried on the silver platter. The eunuch closed the gate with downcast eyes, and the silently  withdrew.

<

Salome rushed down the broad Processional Way and under the shadowed portico, guarded by  golden lions. At last she arrived at the High Priestess’s sandalwood door. She grasped the bell-pull and waited as the ringing echoed within chamber after chamber into silence.  A grille set in the door slightly above her head was pushed aside and two dark eyes shone out.

<

“What do you want?”

<

“I am Salome, daughter of Herod, Princess of Judea…I seek an audience with She- Who-Resides-Within.”

<

The Doorkeeper paused.

<

“And how shall I know you are the Daughter of Herod?”

<

“By this ring,” Salome said and raised her jeweled hand so that the eyes could see the signet ring: gold set with carnelian incised with the sigil of a horned crown.

<

The eyes looked down, the grille closed. Salome’s heart pounded as she waited for the door to open. When it did, she walked into a wide hall that seemed composed of nothing but firelight and shadows, The mingled scents of attar of roses, violets and myrrh filled her with a subtle awareness of the beauty of her body. The eunuch stood aside to let her pass, bowing, the colorful satins of his clothes glistening in the torchlight.

<

“Thank you,” she nodded at him. ‘Point me the way to the chambers of She-Who-Resides-Within.”

<

The eunuch smiled, his white teeth shining through ghosts of black smoke and torchlight. He pointed to the right, across the tiled floor where a small fountain of leaping, alabaster fish blew streams of water into the air. Beyond the fountain, the door to the private chamber of She-Who-Resides-Within was a dull red stain behind an ornately grilled portal guarded by sphinxes.

<

Salome hurried to the door with the head of the Prophet held up before her. The bell pull was a silver ribbon. A mysterious brown hand emerged from the smokey shadows,  grasped it, and a woeful chiming of bells echoed within. The door as if a taken by a  perfumed wind, and. Salome entered. Someone was chanting. The voice echoed faintly as if it came from the bottom of a cistern. Salome moved toward the voice, half circling a large pool set into the tiled floor, and shining like a mirror. Flames danced in the smooth silvered surface water, reflected from the several candle branches that stood around its rim.

<

“Come closer, Salome, daughter of Herodias. Do not be afraid.”

<

A dark, velvet voice came from behind a perforated screen through which pin pricks of light shone like stars. Salome moved closer. Running down the edge of the screen was a slash of brightness. A shadow wavered there, suggesting the presence of She-Who-Resides-Within.

<

“I am here, Great Mother,” Salome whispered, bending her knee and holding the charger with the precious head high above her own.

<

Older  than space, and time, She-Who-Resides-Within was most powerful and reverend — more so than Salome, Daughter of Judea, more so even than Herodias, Queen of all the land, more so, by far, than Herod who secretly thought himself the Messiah.

<

“Indeed,” the deep voice swelled as with a sound of many voices. “You have come to ask an audience with the Queen of Heaven have you not?”

<

“Yes,” Salome breathed, shaking with fright and the effort of holding the Prophet’s head above her own.

<

“What is your purpose?”

<

Suddenly overcome by  a torrent of emotion, Salome cried, “ I want the Prophet, Jokannaan, to be brought back to life!”

<

There was a silence so long that Salome thought surely her heart would stop. Was She-Who-Resides-Within laughing at her?

>

“And why would you want that?”

<

“I am so sorry. I didn’t mean for him to be killed. It was my mother’s doing. He was very beautiful, very wise, and, as you know, divine.”

<

There was a long considered silence before She-Who-Resides-Within spoke again. “ But what is his condition, being dead?”

<

“His head does not decay, Great Mother. His face is, in truth, more lovely to look upon than a flock of swans upon the lake at twilight, more pure than a thousand, thousand doves fluttering about the Goddess’s shoulders at dawn, more shining than the moon’s face reflected in the waters of the well. His skin is like ivory and his hair like a waterfall of black silk, his eyelids as green as the sea at twilight…his lips as red as a branch of coral…See for yourself, Great Mother.”

<

Salome handed the charger through the gap of the screen and the long, pale hands took it inside.

<

“I see,” the voice whispered and it sounded as if a wind came up and set all the bells of Paradise ringing.

“There is a Rite demanded of Our Lady of One-Thousand-Thousand Stars. Are you prepared to do Her honor to gain admittance to Her temple?”

<

“Only tell me what to do and I shall do it, Great Mother!”

<

“First, you must give yourself to the first man that asks you. Only then will you be prepared to descend to the Vale of Ishtar. The way to the Vale is steep and fiery and fraught with danger. You will descend seven terraces, and pass through seven gates.  At the very end,  She will be there, standing in a pillar of fire. Her beauty is impossible to look upon without losing your mind.  For your own protection, bring thou a silver hand mirror to see Her in, and speak to Her reflection. Never look at Her. Only Her image in the glass is safe for mortal eyes. Say only this: I wish to bring the Prophet, Jokannaan back to life. She will instruct you. Do not leave out a single thing She tells you to do. And you must grace Her with many gifts. Several for Her servants before you enter Her Holy Temple, and something many times more worthy, to lay at Her feet.”

<

Salome could not think, could not imagine what she had of such great worth. “Shall She want jewels, rolls of silk and purple satin, perfumes from Saardis, or gold encrusted veils and eye paint of crushed tourmaline from Tyre…”

<

“What is your greatest beauty, Princess Salome? Your most powerful gift?”

<

“Dancing,” Salome blurted out suddenly. “If it is worthy, I shall dance for Her.”

<

The shadow seemed to smile, the torch light flickered, as if excited by Salome’s words.

<

“Yes…you shall dance down the seven terraces for the Queen of The Morning Star and the Evening Star…and bring with you what remains of the Prophet.”

<

“Thank you…Thank you Great Mother,” Salome cried, standing up, suddenly anxious to get away from the heavy presence of She-Who-Resides-Within. “I will do everything you say.”

<

She ran out of the Temple into the blue night. The scent of jasmine was strong on the air.

The coin fell, ker-chink, on the paving stones. The eyes behind the warrior’s gilded mask, burned.

In shame, Salome tightened the red veil around her shoulders and followed the soldier with bowed head. She was shocked at how quickly a change of attire had disguised her, made her common, creating the impression that she was willing to suffer a stranger to deflower her. She was not truly wiling, for her love belonged to Jokannaan. Fearing her reluctance would mar the sacrifice, she’d drunk wine and inhaled the odorof poppies, making dreamlike her long, lascivious walk down the Alley of the Prostitutes. It seemed they smelled her virginity as they would a rare bloom for, when she passed, the Prostitutes smiled and stroked the cats they held tight in their arms, kissing the air behind her, and laughing.

<

He took her against the wall under an archway that led to the well house. He did not remove his mask, but tried to kiss her through the metal cheek guards, scraping her face. His tongue was hot, his body against hers had broken out in sweat, his member pierced her so her eyes rolled back in her head and she swooned. She fell upon his shoulder while he carried her on his thigh, braying like a jackass. Suddenly, driven mad with a frenzy of hot, melting pleasure, she cried out, screaming for him to stop, oh please, stop!  He freed her and she fell, sobbing, to the pavement. She had never felt so lonely in her life.

To be continued….

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