I wrote recently about the importance of new stories. Here I’m including an example of one that I use.
I honor the Matronae among other important powers. One of the difficulties with this is that there is no lore for them; we have no stories other than what the numerous artifacts that they left behind have said. What stories do they tell? Mostly stories of prayers offered to a collective of Goddesses (or one of a collective) that were answered.
There are stories suggested by the imagery that accompanies them. As part of my devotional and spiritual practice I’ve been exploring the various symbols and beings that surround them in their iconography. As my practice develops and I speak to other people who honor them, a cosmology has developed. That cosmology has informed and shaped my practice.
The following story isn’t lore; as I said, we have no surviving stories of them. It’s as real as any myth in that it serves as an observation of these Powers and how the storyteller has seen them interact with each other and the world. It’s as important as the symbols recorded in it and the meaning that you find in them is.
With that disclaimer, I will tell you the story that I’ve seen in visions and dreams about the Matronae and the serpent.
The Sisters and the Serpent
The beginning was not the First Thing. It’s just the first thing that matters in this story.
In the beginning all was together. All touched. All connected. All was a jewel, perfect and near endless in facets. There was distinction without separation, equality without sameness, self without ego, death without loss. The Sisters sang and the tunes of their songs held all together, all touching.
The only thing that was not beholden to the song was the serpent. The serpent saw the jewel that was and its spine twitched. It saw the harmony and saw and saw rigidity. In that rigidity it saw the potential for great evil; entropy, the worst evil, that which would mean not just an end to life but an end to death.
The serpent saw how easily evil could befall this jewel that all things were part of. It raised its head and brought its horns down on the jewel, shattering it.
It swam through the wreckage and the panicked songs of the Sisters as they called to one another. As it moved through the dust of the jewel the serpent’s nose separated it into light and water. The light rose above it as it nudged it upwards and the water dripped from its body as it passed. As it flicked its tail the light scattered so much that it became dim, diffuse illumination, and the waters scattered so that each droplet was tiny and far from the others. Satisfied that it had ended the threat, the serpent swam in the yawning gap between, curling on itself and watching and guarding the boundary it had created.
(Courtesy of Pixabay)
As the light and the waters slowed from their calamitous birth, the Sisters watched the horned serpent. The Sisters of the Stars looked down and saw nothing but emptiness with a winding ribbon of reflected light. The Sisters of the Waters looked up and saw nothing but the shadow of the serpent’s underbelly where it blocked the diffuse light.
The Sisters watched the serpent writhe and spin. They watched as it span itself thick and thin, as it tangled its body into clever knots. Watching the serpent, the Sisters learned. They learned spinning from its spinning, they learned weaving from its weaving. And slowly they began to use it.
The Sisters of the Waters spun their spindles and drew the many droplets together, forming seas.
The Sisters of the Light spun their spindles and drew the diffuse light together, making stars and sun.
(Image courtesy of Pixabay)
The Sisters spun these things together, and looking around, satisfied that their strength and elements were drawn together, they found firmament on which to stand and began reach out to one another that they might be reuinted. They could not reach each other. The gap was too great, and the serpent swam in it.
So the Sisters of the Waters spun their waters anew and formed ice. They wove their ice threads together to build a base to climb as they reached to their Sisters above.
And the Sisters of the Stars spun their light anew and made beams of light and columns of flame that they wove downwards so that they might climb down and find their Sisters below.
The horned serpent watched in the gap. It watched as the ice and water rose and the flames and light descended. It saw a reflection of itself in it and it wanted to engage it and began to draw close.
We know what happens when water and fire touch? As the water rose from below and the light descended, they finally met, the Sisters at the end of the threads joined hands once more, and the world hissed, and the serpent hissed with it. The serpent wrapped itself in great loops around the weaving to preserve and guide it, from the waters to the stars.
The threads of light and water grew together and became something new. They became Life. The thick web of Life resolved itself into a tree, and the serpent remains wrapped around it, tail in the waters and head in the stars. All that lives, all that we know, is made of that meeting of light and water, where those webs interweave and become one Great Web. As it was in the beginning all things were connected.
Above, the Web of Light that holds up the heavens.
Below, the Web of Waters that support the worlds.
Between, the Web of Life, the Tree, that connects the heavens and the waters and forms life and what we know.
(Image courtesy of Pixabay)
The Sisters, reunited, sat at the base of the tree together. A Sister of the Waters, a Sister of the Stars, and a Sister of Life together. So many are the Sisters that they trade places often and take turns sitting beneath the tree and it may never be the same three twice.
The serpent coils still about the tree, its horns ever raised against evil, against that which would make things not be. It guards the the fruit of life that hangs from the tree, and honors the Sisters who learned from it to create a balance that could be sustained.
(For those who are interested, here are a couple of good articles of what we do know about the Matronae for sure: Interpretatio Romana and Matronae Iconography and The Matronae and Matres: Breathing New Life Into an Old Religion)