Saturday, February 14, 2009

Aphrodite's Day & Fish in the Sea

I agree with Beth that today should be celebrated as Aphrodite's Day. (Speaking of Old Mermaids.) I've always thought of St. Valentine's Day as one of those made-up Hallmark Card kind of days. I don't think I've celebrated it since I was 16 years old.

In Patricia Telesco's 365 Goddess, she reminds us that Lupercalia preceded St. Valentine's Day. (Most modern "holidays" have their roots in earlier pagan celebrations.) The regenerative Roman goddess Venus can be celebrated today. According to Roman tradition, Telesco writes, if there's a large stone next to a tall tree, Venus is there. So today would be a good time to go out and find yourself a tall tree and see what Venus is up to.

Patricia Monaghan quotes a Homeric hymn to Aphrodite in her The Goddess Companion. Here's the last few lines:

"How our darling loves to laugh! And now
look! She is leaving her temple again, coming
back to bring us more joyous trouble, laughing
and laughing, cutting a path right through the stars."

In Church of the Old Mermaids, Sissy Maggie Mermaid is most like Aphrodite in her lusty aspect. Myla talks about her one day at the Church of the Old Mermaids when someone asks her about a broken tile on her table:

“This is a very special tile,” Myla said. “It comes directly from the kitchen of the house in the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. You’ve heard me talk about this kitchen. It was a very special place. This is where they did all their cooking, of course, and oh could the Old Mermaids cook. The kitchen was open to the outside, at least during the day time, so they could walk straight out to the garden, which was enclosed, of course. They were Old Mermaids and they knew it was in their best interest to live with the wildlife but maybe not in the same room. You know what I mean.

“Anyway, when they were building the house, they wanted tile in their kitchen,” Myla said, “that goes without saying. The Old Mermaids were very creative, but none of them knew how to make tile. That’s a very solid, earthy art, and the Old Mermaids were still a bit watery then, so they hired a young man from town to come out to the sanctuary. Sister Magdelene Mermaid—they called her Sissy Maggie Mermaid—volunteered to work with the man once he got to the house. She thought artistic men were quite attractive, you see. Sissy Maggie Mermaid and the young man, Carlos, worked together for many days. Soon they were painting the tiles to go around the kitchen. They painted seashells and saguaros. Even a couple of mermaids. Carlos liked to paint birds. He told Sissy Maggie Mermaid that he liked painting birds because he felt like he was flying when he painted. When he worked with the earth to actually create the tiles, he felt like a lizard. Lazy and warm and comfortable. It was a nice feeling. But when he painted, he flew! And he loved that feeling. So he painted birds.

“Sissy Maggie Mermaid loved to listen to Carlos talk. And to be truthful, he worked without his shirt a great deal of the time, and he was a young man, and he was nice to look at. Brown, sweaty. You know. Sissy Maggie Mermaid began painting peaches on the tiles. No other fruit. Just peaches. The sweaty man said, ‘You must really like peaches.’ ‘Indeed I do,’ she said. She had not known about peaches until the Old Sea dried up. One day someone brought a basket of peaches to the Old Mermaid Sanctuary. At first, Sissy Maggie Mermaid did not like the fuzz. She was supposed to eat this? They didn’t have fuzz in the sea. But then she put the peach up to her face and rubbed it across her skin. ‘Oh my,’ she whispered that first time. As she ran the peach along her cheek and over her mouth, she couldn’t resist taking a bite. All the other Old Mermaids did the same. They gasped as the juice went down their chins. And they laughed. It was the finest fruit they ever had. Since then they hardly ever ate any other fruit. If it was out of season, they waited. Old Mermaids are very patient, even when they are impatient. Sissy Maggie Mermaid explained all this to Carlos. As she talked she noticed he had a little peach fuzz on his cheeks. She wanted to rub her cheek against his, but she felt a bit awkward. After all, she was an Old Mermaid and he was a young tile maker. She wasn’t quite certain how that would work.

“On Carlos’s last day, Sissy Maggie Mermaid decided to let him know how she felt. Well, Sissy Maggie Mermaid was artistic, as you know, but she was not always good at expressing herself verbally. She made a peach tile—this peach tile—and then she tried to break it in two so that she could give Carlos one half and she’d keep the other.”

“Like two halves of a single heart,” Trevor said.

“Exactly,” Myla said. “As you can see, it didn’t quite break in two. When Carlos was leaving, Sissy Maggie Mermaid ran out to give him the broken tile. She kept the little piece for herself. She held it out to him, and said, ‘This is how I feel about you.’

“As you may have guessed, Carlos was an artisan. To him, a broken tile was a broken tile. It was shoddy work. He held up the tile and said, ‘This is how you feel about my work?’ ‘No, no, not about your work.’ Carlos dropped the tile into the wash and walked away. Sissy Maggie Mermaid was stunned and a bit peeved. She pulled the smaller piece of tile out of her pocket and threw it into the wash. And that’s where I found it, right where Carlos had dropped it.” Myla shrugged. “The bottom of a wash is like the bottom of the sea. Things shift. A legend grew up around this broken tile, however. Can you imagine what they believed would happen if someone could find both pieces?”

Trevor said, “That they’d find true love?”

“Okay, that’s good, but no, the legend was that if someone found both pieces a good tile maker was in their future.”

“What about Sister Maggie Mermaid?” Trevor asked. “Was she brokenhearted for long?”

“Oh no,” Myla said. “You know what Old Mermaids say about love, don’t you?”

She paused. Trevor shook his head.

“There are always more fish in the sea,” she said.

1 comment:

kerrdelune said...

I loved this Sister Kim! Perhaps February 14th can be Mermaid Day from now on in - that makes lovely perfect oceanic sense to me.

All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.