When you are seven, skipping in the rain is as luscious as rolling in the grass on a sunshiny day. When you are seven, chores are small, and duties trivial. When you are seven, play and reckless abandon are birthrights. Unless, you are me. My seven was weighted by an invisible crown and a mantle of responsibility, which culminated the day I stepped toward high table in the cave-sacristy. I wore a sunshine-yellow pallium woven from the silk of thousands of golden orb weaver spiders. My people fanned out behind me, watching the graceful flowing of my robe as I lifted my arms.
“Hohm. Hohm. Hohm.” Their droning strummed through every cell in my body, pushing outward. I reached into the oblong well which ran the length of the altar and sifted sand through my fingers, extracting pebbles and impurities, and setting them aside.
“Ahllhi. Ahllhi. Ahllhi,” the people chanted with escalating pitch and volume. I had to command air to flow in and out of my lungs, as I selected tawny nuggets of amber from a glazed bowl and carefully arranged them in spirals on three narrow, charcoal boards which served as foundation and fuel for the sacred fire. I had practiced twenty times, but the cave’s darkness and the sound bouncing from its walls befuddled me.
“Uugalaghi! Uugalaghi! Uugalaghi!” the words billowed around me, faster and louder. Guided by training, following the urgings of my soul, I placed more amber slivers on the planks to complete the patterns. The crowd’s excitement threatened to squish and smother me.
Tears gathered in my eyes when I placed the final stone. My distinction within the tribe announced itself as a torrid wave in my bowels, but I continued without pause. Bringing my palms together in front of my thudding heart, I bowed, and withdrew from the altar. Three steps back, and two steps left, brought me to the waiting spot. One breath in, two, on my third breath, Tomas stepped forward. He extended his arms fully. The small torch in his hand cast a pool of pale light on the ceiling. He dropped to his knees, bringing torch and forehead to the chapel floor. He waited sixty heartbeats, then rose, touching the flame to the charcoal, and coaxing it to kindle.
As grey smoke curled up, the first drummer struck his instrument. A deep tone reverberated through the space, then more rhythm-makers thumped and rattled their instruments. My body tingled and sang, expanding beyond the confines of skin, weaving and dancing with the congregation.
Mara, resplendent in her shimmering gown, raised a fist-sized chunk of amber over her head. Inside, a dragonfly was preserved, mid-wing-stretch. The percussion ceased abruptly.
“The Essence of Life,” Mara intoned.
“The Essence of Life,” the people replied.
Lowering her arms to stretch straight out from her body, Mara continued, “The Mystery of Life.”
“The Mystery of Life.”
“Transformation. Transmutation. Release.” Mara turned and lowered her hands into the through. She opened her palms, and let the resin-encrusted dragonfly drop onto the glowing boards. She kept her hands domed over the creature, contained for millennia in hardened sap, until the honey-colored lump warmed, smoldered, and turned to ash, releasing a gentle scent of pine. Mara maintained her position without flinching or swaying. The pregnant silence was shattered by the crackling and hissing of hot-burning wood.
I had mentally recited the names of the stars and constellations, weaving a path from east to west, and was halfway through naming every color frequency I knew, when the heat reached the dragonfly. The insect flared in the fastest, most intense sequence of changes I had ever seen: fire orange, a yellow burst that went bright green, and a flash of violet-white.
“Transformation! Transmutation! Release!” the people shouted, then clapped and stomped the meter of the words: clap-clap-clap-clap, clap-clap-clap-clap, clap-clap.
Mara faced the gathered, and raised her arms. Peace streamed from her palms, restoring calm. Some people panted, others sighed. All focused on Mara and the tendrils of smoke that curled behind her. I gazed, mesmerized, at the clear crystal pendant swinging from the long chain around Mara’s slim, bronze neck. Back and forth it moved, hypnotizing those receptive to being swayed. In this group, every person was willing, and soon we breathed in easy synchronicity. Mara pointed skyward and traced a circle in the air with her forefinger. A ring of stars materialized, twinkled for an instant, then began spinning.
“We come from the Sun and the channel of connection is forever available,” said Mara. A column of iridescent light poured from the halo. Several young children reached for it. Their parents permitted them to pull their fingers through the shiningness, but held the younglings firmly at their sides. “You chose to come,” one mother whispered, restraining her toddler from lunging into the light. “Stay a while longer. You are too young in the Earth body to choose to return. Feel the Earth.”
“Accede your communion with the Light of Heaven,” Mara commanded. The Sun Tribe swung their hands skyward and down three times, then each reached into the tube of brightness, pulling a filament of light into his or her heart. Each left hand was pressed into the center of the chest, each right laid over the left, shimmering tendrils stretching between people and light column. All eyes remained fixed on the fading light. A few of the oldest Sun Tribe dropped their hands and opened their palms, releasing the sparkles, preparing for The Return.
When darkness and tranquility settled in the room, Mara chanted, “Hohm. Ahllhi. Uugalaghi.” The group echoed the sounds, then dropped their hands. The ceremony was over.