THE DINEDOR SERPENT

Four thousand years ago a priest had the most important dream of his life. Like all life-changing events it was unexpected. He was asleep in his hut on level ground above the great river. There was no festival due and the sky was quiet, so he had come away from the encampment to rest. He had gone to sleep without any of the necessary preparations for speaking to the Gods. But then he had the dream. He dreamt that all things were connected. We were not separated souls, nor even were we different from the animals or even the plants. Yes, even the Gods were part of us and we were part of the Gods. It was a comforting dream, warm, like being back in his mother’s arms. When he woke up in the cold hut he felt as if his heart had been ripped from his chest. For several days he thought about his dream and then went down to talk to the peace chief of his band. “Very interesting.” said the chief, “But what has that got to do with me?” “This is a gift that has been given us by the Gods. We must honour it.” And the priest explained what he intended. It would be expensive but the chief owed the priest a lot for, two winters before, the priest had travelled into the shadow lands to rescue the chief’s son, who had come down with a fever. “We will take stones.” said the priest. “We will make a pathway on the earth from the great river to the great hill.” “That’s all very well,” said the chief. “But you have forgotten something. You have involved the water, the earth and the air, but what of the fire. It will be angry if you ignore it.” The priest laughed. “That is how we get the stones.” Stones were fetched from the place where the priest had received his dream, large white stones that had given him the original idea. He ordered a great cauldron to be filled with river water and a fire set under it. When the water was boiling he dropped the stones into it. The stones cracked into small white pebbles. “There,” said the priest. “The fire has provided the building material for the path.” So the track way took shape, a sinuous path undulating along the contours of the land. When grandfather sun shone on the white pebbles it looked as though lady water was reaching up to her brother the sky or that the sky was sending rippling caresses along the body of his lover, the earth. At night time the moon and her sisters came down to the water to drink, laughing with the joy of creation. So any people coming along the great river would see this bright snake created out of fire, travelling through earth, to bring air and water together. As long as the chief held the peace and his priest advised him they provided people in the winter to clear the stones and add new ones, so that the sculpted snake continued to enact the unity of all things. But all that is created must pass and be created into new things. The chief and the priest once more became one with the earth and the fire that had created them. The grass grew over the stones and the ground became quiet. Men, at first intent on providing food for their bellies and then more interested in coins for their pockets, ripped into the earth but took no interest in the white stones their ploughs pulled up. About the time that it was realised that we were all star dust, the ribbon of white stones was brought out of the earth and into the air again. But the men who had ordered the holes to be gouged through the land were not happy. Their hearts did not sing at the discovery. All they were intent on was that a road must be built that would enable lorries to travel two minutes quicker to their destinations. They ordered that the serpent they had woken should be buried quickly under the road and all memory of it forgotten. In his dream the priest, who now knew that all things were connected, smiled. “I curse you. I curse you, I curse you.” was whispered on the wind and it was certain that nothing those men did would ever prosper.

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