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Excerpt from Stories They Told Me

book cover art -- a shape-shifting woman with wings on a rocky beach
cover art by Suzanne deVeuve.
All rights reserved.


Stories They Told Me by Theresa C. Dintino is a novel of shamanism and Goddess Spirituality set in the Bronze Age world of Minoan Crete. It is a threefold tale exploring violence against women from the perspectives of characters who live in a world where such violence is unknown. Early in the novel Aureillia and Danelle travel to Malta. There, in an underground temple, they witness a shared vision of Danelle murdering Aureillia in a future life. This knowing sends them onto individual journeys of discovery. Danelle, artist and oracle, flees to Libya where he meets the local Shaman Rodin. Together they examine the heart breaking questions of his soul. Aureillia, Priestess of the Bird, returns to Crete where a prophecy she told long ago resonates in ways unexpected. Throughout the book there is a third voice telling stories, all different stories with different narrators. It is unclear to the reader until the end who is speaking, but Danelle and Aureillia's daughter Lilith is listening, being filled up by story.
 

The following excerpt is from the point of view of Danelle during his time in Libya. As well as the local Shaman Rodin, he has also befriended a group of fishermen from the nearby village. The character of Jeftu is one of the leaders of this group.

The wind was high and the waves were stronger than usual. It seemed there would be a storm. It was not a good day for fishing. Jeftu and I paddled around nevertheless. He guided me to places I had not before seen -- places to fish when it was not a good fishing day -- still, protected pools where fish would hide from the strong currents that storms create.

When it was time to pull up the basket, I turned myself around upon the small seat within the boat to sit facing Jeftu and we lifted it together. We loaded the small catch of fish into the basket within our boat and lowered again the basket into the water.

"If you eat her, you must be willing to kill her," Jeftu said.

I said nothing, only sat observing the difference in the size of our feet that faced each other at the bottom of the boat. My knees bumped against his. I was entirely too large for this boat.

"It seems," he continued, though I had not responded, "that you have forgotten when it is proper to take. This is very serious. We must take when Mother Sea offers. We must remain open to receive. Taking when she is not giving, taking when it is not proper, it is this that is wrong. It is this that is dangerous."

He kicked his foot against mine. I glanced up at him. "I do not know the reasons that brought you to this state of forgetting, but I do know that you must get it back," he said. "It is this that weakens you, that sucks the blood down through your feet and into the ground, leaving you pale and empty, without the life force. What is it that could shatter a man such as you?" he questioned. "A man the Goddess has so clearly blessed?"

I moved to speak.

"Don't tell me," he said, extending his arm toward me to stop the flow of words. "I do not wish to know. I am a happy man," he said. "Do you see? I wish to keep it that way."

He took his paddle into his hand. It was time to move on. I turned myself around, trying not to create too much movement. I lifted my paddle and inserted it into the rough water.

"No," Jeftu's voice came from behind me, "I am sure those stories are much better suited to Rodin."

* * *

In my dreams of Minoa, together with my daughter, I swim with the dolphins. She who can speak to them, understand them. She and her gifted mother, understanding a language I cannot. The dolphins are not always kind and gentle, but they are always fair.

In my dreams of Minoa, there is sand and the blue green sea and succulent fresh fruit, which I bite into, filling my mouth with sweetness. In my dreams of Minoa there is Aureillia and the sharing of beings in touch. There is skin against skin, the feel of her weight upon me. There is the memory of being consumed by her as I enter into her depths.

* * *

"Yes, my friend," Rodin said when I told him I thought I had seen Aureillia in my journey. "It is true. You are not imagining it. You are indeed seeing her."

"How has she managed it?" I asked. We were still in the hills, at the end of a trek. It was morning of the day we would return. We sat eating our morning meal together.

"She has a very good teacher," he said.

"Who? Who is it that teaches her?"

"Someone I know to be very skilled in these matters."

"How do you know this?"

"I have seen her in the presence of this woman."

"Where have you seen her? Why did you not tell me?"

"It seemed you were not ready for such information. You, yourself, saw her in your earliest journeys yet, rather than acknowledge it, you returned to ordinary consciousness."

"I did?"

"It is a natural occurrence. She surprised you. She surprised me."

I sat thinking about what he had told me and as I did, a large smile filled my being. I began to shake my head and laugh to myself.

"What is it?" Rodin asked, smiling a wide smile back at me.

"She has done it again," I said. "Aureillia has outdone me once again. I am learning to journey but she, she is learning how to journey into my journey."

"Yes," Rodin said, shaking his head, "This is most difficult indeed."

I did not understand his meaning. I looked at him to try to determine in what manner he had said it. "What is most difficult?" I asked.

"For a woman to outdo a man. This is a most difficult thing."

"What nonsense," I said. "Why should that be?"

"It weakens a man," he said, in a low voice, "when a woman is stronger than he. I have seen this woman. I know her to be very strong."

"See here," I said, sitting myself up higher, "my strength is my strength. It has nothing at all to do with the strength of Aureillia."

"I believe you are mistaken," Rodin said.

"I know that I am not," I said.

"Perhaps it is better to not speak of this," Rodin said.

"Yes," I said, "you are right." For I had noticed how the anger had arisen fiercely within me as it had with Promo, and that concerned me. I relaxed back into a cross-legged position and opened a fig. I bit into its juicy red center full of seeds. The flesh was sweet and wet. "The thing I cannot make sense of," I said to Rodin, "is that it appears I am becoming like those people; those other men that I see. It seems to be affecting who I am now. How can that be, if these things are happening in the future?"

"As there are different levels of existence," Rodin said, "so you too exist on different levels. You, Danelle, are alive and well in many different places. Most certainly your actions in one time and place affect your actions in another. What you perceive of as past and future are actually happening right now."

"Right now?" I said. "Are you telling me that right now I am the man in the tunnel, the man in the circular court, that horrible man that murders Aureillia?"

"Don't forget Danelle," he said. "Danelle the conscious one."

"Danelle the conscious one?"

"Yes, Danelle. The one who is becoming aware of all the others. This is very good because only in this way may we consciously effect a change."

I shook my head. I could not understand what it was he was trying to tell me. I was utterly confused.

"This is a very difficult teaching, Danelle. I know," he said, sensing my confusion. "I tell you only because it is this the spirits wish you to learn. It is this very teaching they require me to give you. Traveling around in the spirit world seemed to me a good way to introduce you to the idea of layered existence."

"Layered?"

"Yes, layers. Try to stop thinking of past and future. Instead, think of layers. As the layers of an onion, if you cut it at one end, all the layers will feel it, only in a different place and in a different way."

"Rodin, this teaching does not make me feel better. It makes me feel ever so much worse. To think that right now I am that horrible man."

"What is so horrible?"

"I murder her, Rodin."

"You kill. People are capable of such acts. Yes, Danelle, even you are capable of such an act. The question is why? What led you to choose to act in such a way? Tell me," he said, eyeing me from the side in that strange way he had, "Is it possible that you detest Aureillia on some level and you are afraid to admit it?"

"What a wicked thing to say."

"Danelle, you must tell the truth. Telling the truth means asking difficult questions."

The fig had stained my hands red and I struggled with a wet cloth to clean it. Rodin stilled my hands and cleaned them for me. Then he held my hands within his and said, "Allow me to ask you again only in a different way. Could it be possible that within you there is some anger toward Aureillia of which you are unaware?"

He let go of my hands and sat in front of me. I nodded my head. I said, "I will tell you that her prophecies instilled in me a fear I had not been familiar with previously."

"A fear of her?"

"No," I said. I felt my cheeks redden. "A fear of myself. A fear of my own male being." I lifted my face to look at him, brushing the hair from my eyes, "I shudder to speak the words, Rodin, for I only now realize that it is true, but Aureillia's prophecies instilled in me a fear of myself."

As I said this, my being was flooded with a memory that filled the moment with clarity. It was a memory from my time spent with Aureillia in Malta.

We had wandered the island together, exploring temple after temple, those meticulous etchings, those colossal sculptures, those large looming slabs that were what was left of most of the temples. On Malta there had been a feeling of safety, a period of forgetting until that day we discovered the temple beneath a temple. We had explored the larger temples above, then followed the grassy path down to the secluded cove below. We were surprised to find another temple there on the shore. It appeared to have once been a natural cave that had been reconstructed into a larger one.

Aureillia entered it immediately. "Danelle, you must come," she called from within, her voice echoing upon the walls of the chamber. "You must see this."

She was far inside. I could not see her. The light from outside was so bright I was, upon entering, momentarily blinded. I stood inside the entry waiting for my sight to return. That is when I saw them. I was only a small distance within, but there they stood, in front of me. Large stones carved in the image of the male sacred limb. This was a temple dedicated to male being. I lost my air. I wished to flee.

"Danelle, come," Aureillia called again.

"I wish not to," I managed. "I am going out now. I am waiting for you outside." I left the cave and sat on the beach allowing the air to enter again my lungs. Looking at the water, I saw it as I had never before seen it; dark and dangerous -- engulfing.

I looked back at Rodin and became aware of the sun, which was becoming hot upon us. "Would that she had never seen those cursed visions," I said.

"Yes, it must feel that way to you," Rodin responded.

"Feel that way? It is that way. Nothing has been the same since."

"Nothing ever stays the same, Danelle. Though we wish to clutch that which we cherish tight within our hands, it is not possible. Everything is always changing, transforming, evolving. Now, you too must change. You must learn the lessons and move on."

"I wish to have it back the way it was, Rodin. Before. I want it to be once again the way it was before."

"It can never be the way it was."

I was shaking my head. I did not want to believe it. I had somehow always imagined myself returning one day to things the way they had once been.

"You must strive for something new, Danelle. Something new but equally as good."

From Stories They Told Me © 2003 by Theresa C. Dintino. Submitted by the author for publication in MatriFocus. All rights reserved.

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