In Heron’s blog he talks of Rigantona withdrawing from the world at this time. And Lee has written of the Place of the Dead. These things have been bubbling together in my mind with other things and this morning I woke with a story that wished to be told.
It’s taken me a while to get it written out and it may well need further tweaking but here it is.
Rigantona and the Realm of the Dead – a modern myth
Rigantona was born of the Land and the Land was fashioned by her. The Land was mother and daughter, father and son to her. All the dwelt upon the Land and all that grew from it were both her siblings and her children and great was her love for all. The cup of sovereignty was hers to give and the horn of plenty also.
It came to pass that a human woman sought out Rigantona. Long was her journey to find the beloved queen and when she came before Rigantona she fell to her knees. “Great is my pain, o queen” she said, “for my father, my husband and my brothers have all been torn from me and reside in the realm of the dead”. The woman went on to explain that there had been conflict between two tribes and her father, brothers and husband had been killed and their heads taken. They could not enter the halls of the dead for the price of entry to that place was a skull. The woman spoke of her grief and pain because her kin were forced to wander without the rest and peace found in the halls of Belatonos. The woman begged Rigantona to help her kin.
Rigantona told the woman that there would be a price for her aid and the woman said she would pay anything for her kin to be at peace. Rigantona told her that the first part of the price would be that each dawn and each dusk for the next six moons she must sing out her pain and grief and sing of her plea for aid. If she could not sing she must talk, if she could not talk she must croak, if she could not croak she must reach out with her soul. She must do this without fail. The woman agreed.
Now Rigantona knew not the Realm of the Dead or the way to it so first she watched the souls of the dead as they journeyed to the Lands behind the Land. She watched as they approached the black river with the bridge of bronze. She watched as they approached the bone gates to the realms of the dead and for the first time she gazed upon the face of Belatonos as he took his price and let the souls enter his halls. And she watched as those that could not pay the price were turned away to wander the lands beyond the realms of Belatonos and she was troubled.
Rigantona went to her mother and sister, the old one of the Land and gave to her the cup of sovereignty. “I must journey to the lands behind the lands and the cup may not come with me” she said. “I leave it in your care while I am gone.”
Then Rigantona walked into the depths of the earth, crawled through the darkness until she passed into the lands behind the land and came at last to the great black river.
She joined the line of souls as they crossed the great bronze bridge, watched as their names were etched into the metal as they crossed but her name the bridge could not write.
With the others she walked to the gates of bone and in time she came before Belatonos and he looked upon the face of Rigantona and knew love. “None may enter here who do not pay my price” he said, “and the horn of plenty you may not bring within.” Rigantona answered “And what of those who can not pay? Is there no way they may enter your halls?” From this Belatonos knew why she had come and he rejoiced in his heart for he could see a way to win her love. “Between a man and a woman, a god and a goddess a contract may be forged” he said. “Go now into the lands and gather the souls of those who would follow you and enter here. Each one must pay me a head and I will let them enter”.
Rigantona left the gates and walked the lands behind the land. Many came to her and followed where she led but there were those who had no love in their hearts and they could not see her. In time she returned to the gates of bone. To each soul she gave a head of corn from the horn of plenty and each in turn gave it to Belatonos as the price for their entry to his halls. And Belatonos spoke “The heads you have given will not last unless the horn of plenty also rests in my wall and if the corn fades then the souls must leave. Will you come within so that the corn may live in my walls?” And because he was fair of face, love moved Rigantona to enter the realm of the dead and the land above and beyond could feel her presence no more and began to mourn.
Rigantona was lost to the Land and the Land began to mourn. Plants withered and died, the sun’s light faded, darkness grew and cold winds began to blow. And the woman sang. The old one grieved for the loss of her sister and daughter, she shrieked her pain into the growing nights. And the woman sang. The old one’s tears turned white and began to cover the land. And still the woman sang, at dusk and at dawn she sang of her grief, her pain and of her plea to Rigantona for aid. And the land began to listen.
Tigernonos in the seas had noticed the growing dark and cold. Taranis in the skies had seen the white covering the land and heard the shrieks of the land crying out in loss. They sought their sister Rigantona and when they could not find her they sought for answers and they heard the songs of the woman. They realised that their sister must have entered the realms of the dead and they were troubled. They called out for her return. The children of the first animals heard and added their voices to the gods. The woman and her people heard and to her songs of grief and her plea for aid the woman added the call for Rigantona to return. In the greatest darkness the world called out for the return of Rigantona from the realms of the dead. Deep within the realm of the dead, in the arms of Belatonos, Rigantona heard their cries.
Rigantona listened and heard the voices of all who called her name. She turned to Belatonos, embraced him and said “I must return to the Land”. And Belatonos was filled with sorrow for he loved Rigantona. “If you leave those who entered with you must also depart.” And Rigantona said “Between a man and a woman, a god and a goddess a contract may be forged. Leave I must but if you agree I will return each year and those that I gather will enter with me for the time I am here”. And the bargain was made.
Rigantona left the halls of Belatonos and took up the horn of plenty. The heads of corn in the wall fell to dust. The souls who had paid with those heads of corn left the halls with Rigantona but they had hope as they knew they could return to feast with their kin again.
The land felt Rigantona once more and the cries of grief faded. The woman continued her song and Rigantona followed the power of her voice back across the bridge of bronze, back through the depth to the land beyond. And as her feet touched the land once more the first shoots of new growth came upon the land and all rejoiced.
As Rigantona walked the land it grew warm in her love and the light returned. In time Rigantona came to her mother and sister, the old one and took back from her the cup of sovereignty. She went to the woman and came upon her at dusk of the last day of the six moons of singing. And Rigantona spoke:
“Well have you sung and this shall be both your price and your reward. I have been to the realms of the dead and each year I shall return. When I do the land will grieve and it will be called winter but in that time those who cannot pay the price will be able to join me in the halls of Belatonos and feast with their kin there until I return to the land once more. And at the time of greatest darkness you and your children and grandchildren must call my name so that I know it is time for me to depart my lover and return.”
And so it came to pass that the land knew winter and spring and learnt that in the greatest darkness there burns the gentle flame of hope.