Monday, November 20, 2006

The Temple of Mithras

Having made a right exhibition of ourselves in front of loads of tourists at St Paul’s, it was the matter of half a thought to decide to wriggle under the barrier that separated the ruins of the Temple of Mithras from us. Excavated during rebuilding work in 1957, this formally, partly underground, small temple was moved from the original site on the Eastern bank of the Walbrook, to an elevated one just down the road. The temple, built in the early third Century was dedicated to Mithras and possibly other deities popular with Roman soldiers at the time.

Gingerly, we walked the exterior of the temple which is now only a rectangle of rough stones. Having made certain that we were not going to break our necks on crumbling rocks, we climbed inside and sat down by the semi circular flat alter, to attempt to cast a circle.

But the wind had another idea. It snatched at the match flames and extinguished the lighter. We decided to give up on candles and incense, figuring they might be considered too namby-pamby for such a butch god as Mithras as this and contented ourselves with laying out the rest of our tools. Resigning ourselves to being with the fierceness of the sharp November wind, we pulled our coats more closely about us.

It was dark and cool in the temple but the air was heavy with the sweet sour smell of blood. Laid out on the floor in front of me were the corpses of two brutally murdered people – a tall woman and a teenaged boy, presumably her son? Outside, I heard a shuffling and then on a breath, the beginning of a low moan. The sound of many feet tramped slowly and the moan rose higher and higher and became louder and louder until the very walls shook with the sound of it.

Crawling out of the dark temple, I blinked in the brightness of the daylight. The wailing was deafening and I felt my whole body shake with its impact.

The building was surrounded by two circles of people, the outer what I took to be very tall women in long dresses and the inner, what I initially took to be young boys in the shorter tunics of men. All linked hands and were moving slowly as they keened and wept. The circles moved counter to each other in a mesmerising constant flow.

As each moved past me, I saw their faces ravaged with grief. With a shock I realised that the young boys were in fact women, dressed in men's tunics and the tall women, crossed dressed men. As they passed, they pointed back to the temple I had emerged from, their sorrow breaking in anew upon them.

Then I knew. The slaughtered pair lying on the floor had died because they tried to live in the gender they had not been assigned at birth. I was there to watch them in their death. I climbed back down into the dark temple.

The wind tugged sharply at my coat, my ears stung and my nose felt icy. My eyes were moist. It was 4 o’clock on a November Sunday and judging by the falling temperature, it was getting dark.

As I shared with my companion my feeling of sadness, somberly we closed the circle and stiffly made our way out.

1 Comments:

Blogger The Low Priestess said...

wonderful terrible and moving Journey Blackbirdowl. x

4:13 AM  

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