Sun Quest - Part 2

by Ruwen Rouhs

Chapter 11

The bed of the stream became broader and the current more and more sluggish while the Bredd-ström wound its way in a north-easterly direction across a steppe-like plain. One afternoon the landscape changed suddenly from a grassy plain studded with small groups of trees into a swampy floodplain with numerous lakes and ponds connected by streamlets and channels. The land was covered with large groves of willow trees shading sandy banks along the river overgrown by shrubs and vines. The Bredd-ström split in two branches. One arm turned to the north, the other, bigger one, meandering to the south-east. Buri and Aegir decided to go down the latter. The banks were covered by reeds, sedges and rushes. Ducks, geese and herons took refuge in the reed belts, cormorants sitting on trees were watching out for fish, while wild boars, rose up and wild dogs took off when the dugout passed by. The water was alive with all kind of fish, with carp and pike, perch and sturgeons. Islands of floating reeds and reed beds restricted the water-course.

They passed a few fishing villages each with no more than half a dozen houses. Small children were playing on the beaches, while old people and pregnant women guarded the stilt houses. Men seemed to be absent. Further down along the river they met the men. For the summer-season they were living in huts on floating rafts of cattails, bulrush, sedge and reeds, attending their business as fishermen away from home. Passing a pretty big one they were waved nearer by the friendly men. The travellers engaged the curiosity of the fishermen, not only because of Buri's dark skin, but also because of the different colour of their hairs. Who ever had met four youngsters with such differing hair colours black, auburn foxy-red and light blond? They were immediately befriended by fishermen who invited the four to spend the night on the floating home.

The invitation was accepted willingly because all four wanted to know what it would be like to live and sleep in such a home. The first night on the raft was a weird experience for Buri, Tsemo and Laong, who were afraid the raft would break apart. Aegir however immediately loved it there, because as a boy he had spent many nights sleeping aboard his father's long boat during the hunting and fishing seasons.

Sitting around the dying fire after a fabulous evening meal the fishermen began to ask questions about their homeland, their families and last about their destination. Then the spokesman of the group, who had a white-beard and a potbelly, began to tell stories of his journeys. "Only one more day from here," he began, "you'll come to the city of Agysst on the border of Black Sea. It's dangerous to cross this open water! It's so wide you can't see the other side from the coast, not even from the top of the highest mountain. Its water is salty and deep. In the wintertime the roaring storms from the east make the Black Sea unnavigable. Even in summer you have to stay close to the coast in case of stormy weather. Beware of the folks living on the other coasts. They are inhospitable and dangerous. You should not trust the tribes living in the North, the Laz, the Ubykh and the Scyts. They like to capture voyagers and enslave them. These brutal people even undertake raids to catch girls and boys and young women to sell them into slavery. The folks on the southern shores, the Abkhaz, the Adyghe are more hospitable. But don't trust them completely either and be on guard." Eyeing first Aegir then Buri from head to toe, he repeated, "Be on guard strangers! Tomorrow evening you will arrive in Agysst, the sacred city. It's a place with an ancient sanctuary in a sacred precinct, the Temple Town. The Great Mother is visiting this place once a year to claim an offering. This offering is to be a young man in his prime, like you." giving Buri and Aegir a warning glance. "The week-long festivities in honour of the Great Mother will begin the day after tomorrow. The citizens and the people of all the villages and settlements around will celebrate the annual return of the Great Mother! It's a time for dancing, for singing, for rejuvenation and for the merging of virgin and young man!"

As neither Aegir nor Buri seem to sense the meaning of the words, one of the younger fishermen began to explain, "Have you never heard of the Great Mother? She is also called Agdistis, but she is known by many other names too, Cybebe, Daucia, Enthea, Maja, Kubaba and Turrita. She has lived for ever since she is immortal. Once a year she rides her boat across the Black Sea to Agysst. She leaves her home high up on a mountain in the south-east in the morning at sunrise, crosses the sea with the sun and in the late evening she arrives in Agysst. Only her true servants, the priests called Galli, know when she arrives. Only they are allowed to be present at her arrival. On this evening the whole beach is off limits to the citizens. If somebody is caught spying, he is killed on the spot. However the whole city knows about her arrival. As soon the Agdistis touches ground, the night reverberates from the sound of flutes, timpani and cymbals. Then eight Galli carry her on a sedan chair to the temple on the highest hill of Agysst.

The Great Mother is veiled from head to toe in white linen woven in a country far away! Nobody is allowed to see her beaming face, or to see her blossoming bosom, or to see her slender arms, never, or to see her soft feet. Everyone who has stolen a single glance at the perfect body of Agdistis is dammed to die!" The young man sighted yearningly, "There is one exception only!"

The white-beard took up the tale, "Be on guard strangers! Be on guard when you arrive in Agysst on the day the Great Mother arrives! She is beautiful beyond all measure but she is insatiable too! When noon comes the Great Mother is carried on the sedan chair through the streets of the city. The Galli play flutes, timpani and cymbals again and virgins clad in white dance before and behind the sedan chair. Their task is to decoy all the young unmarried men from near and far! They all come in hope of spending the nights of the celebration with the Great Mother and so become immortal."

Now the young man took up the story-line again. He did this with the eagerness of an infatuated young man! "Yes! The young man Agdistis chooses will be immortal and live with her on the high mountain wrapped in white clouds." he sighed deeply, "I want to be the chosen one!"

"You stupid youngster, you fool!" the white-beard scolded, "Don't you remember that the body of the chosen one is found on the beach after the celebrations are over? Don´t you remember that his member is cut off! Don't you remember that his blood is drained out of his body? Don't you remember that only the shell of his body is left?" Imploring the man turned to Aegir and Buri, "Be on guard Red-hair! Be on guard Curly-hair! The cold eyes of the Great Mother may catch sight of you and then Woe betide you! "

When Aegir and Buri were about to fall asleep, the young man sneaked into their sleeping-place, "My uncle is a Scaredy cat. To morrow I am coming with you! I want to be the chosen one. I want to become immortal! I may lose my body, my blood, my member, but my mind will travel with the Great Mother to the fountain of life and live for ever!" then he added, "In any case I am coming with you! I must! If the Great Mother doesn't choose me one of the virgin dancers may! This will be the chance of my life!!"

Early next morning the travellers left the floating house generously endowed with food from the fishermen. Looking around for the eager youngster, they couldn't spot him. While they embarked the White-beard told them, "AtthYs is away with the others. His uncles and he are checking the fish nets in a branch of the river. I had to send AtthYs away with them to keep him from getting into mischief!"

AtthYs however defeated his uncle's plan. Further down the river he lay in wait for the sun seekers. He had made himself a small float of old bulrushes and ambushed them behind a bend. "Take me with you! I thwarted my uncle's plan!" he shouted happily to the dugout. As they tried to pass by without stopping AtthYs begged, "Please take me with you! I have to grab the chance to meet the Great Mother! Its my last chance , next year I will be too old!"

In the boat he continued the account of the evening before. "My name is AtthYs; it's the name of Agdistis´ son and the name of the young man who fell in love with the Great Mother, who was his own mother, so we are told! What a great event, an event out of this world!" When Tsemo gave him a highly sceptical look the young fisherman continued. "Don´t you know the myth? Shall I tell it to you?" and he did without waiting for permission.

"Agdistis' father was the great king Meon and her mother was Dindyma, a beautiful woman. When Agdistis was born and her father saw the baby the first time he missed something. He had expected to father a son, but now? The baby's pecker was as small as a raisin. He didn't have beanbag, not even a small one! Instead the baby had a small slit were boys have a beanbag! Meon got upset! That's no boy, that's no girl, that's a freak! King Meon roared like a lion! "Wife what did you do! Midwife!" Meon called, "Take the freak and throw him to the dogs!" But the midwife took the sweet smiling baby and carried it up a high mountain and put it down in midst of the spring flowers at the holy fountain. The wild animals visiting the fountain fell in love with baby and from then on the goats and sheep, the wolves and bears nursed it. Agdistis grew up to become a beautiful being. But when the beautiful creature entered puberty it realized that it was neither a woman nor a man! From that moment on Agdistis began to feel unhappy. Agdistis was deeply grieved and cried and cried till the deities living on top of the mountain became aware of the misery of the beautiful creature. Lakchos, one of the gods, had a soft heart. He went down and cast a spell on the fountain and its water turned into wine. The first time Agdistis tasted the wine she felt happier than ever before. The second time her heart seemed to fly up to heaven. But the third time the world started to rotate around her head. Agdistis went crazy and cut off her manhood and threw it into the fountain. When Agdistis came to her senses again, the water of the fountain was water again and Agdistis had turned into a beautiful woman, a woman that never aged."

Tsemo was surprised. He had listened to many tales but this one was new to him. It was also new to his companion, to Laong, to Buri, and Aegir. They all listened agog and nearly ran the dugout against an old tree drifting along.

"But the myth goes on." AtthYs smiled, "When Agdistis threw the manhood into the fountain, a nymph guarding the spring caught it and planted it in her lap. There it grew and grew and nine months later she gave birth to a beautiful baby. The baby however wasn't an elf but a boy. He grew up to become the handsomest young man on earth. Attis was his name, and he descended from the mountain and came to the royal court of Gordios There he fell in love with the king's daughter and they married.

Agdistis, having heard about Attis' beauty, searched the whole world for him. She caught sight of him for the first time at his wedding. She was broken-hearted and furious at the same time and put an awful spell on him! He went crazy and Attis unmanned himself, ran away and was never seen again. Since that time the Great Mother Agdistis visits Agysst every year in search of Attis, her beloved Attis. When she finally succeeds she will take him to the fountain up on the high mountain and never return to Agysst again."

AtthYs was exhausted by the narration. He closed his eyes and became frightened when Tsemo asked, "Why do you want to meet the Great Mother? Are you sure you are the reincarnation of Attis?"

"I don´t know anything about a matter called reincarnation, but I have to try! It's my duty to deliver Agdistis from her pain!"

Spontaneously the four sun seekers decided to become AtthYs guardians and Aegir told him, "We four will guard you! Tsemo the shaman, Laong his novice, Buri the reincarnation of Geb and I, Aegir, the man from the northern rim of the world! We owe it to your uncle, your parents, and your clan."

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