“It’s time.” Carla whispered to Alice, waking her from a sound sleep.
Alice’s eyes popped open. She looked around the large room lit by the light of the full moon coming in through the skylights and many windows. Everyone was stirring as word was spread. She smiled as she looked into Carla’s sparkling brown eyes. “Thank you, sweetie.” Her hand darted to the back of Carla’s neck and pulled her close. Smiling at the shock on her friends face, she angled her kiss at the last moment and pressed her lips to Carla’s cheek. She loved teasing her apprentice. “Time to get our dancing shoes on,” she sang to the room.
Sitting up from their sleeping firs, several women tilted their heads to the ceiling and let loose high pitched, wavering ululations. Joy spread through the room when Janice called out. “The earth spins, the first sunrise of the new year is but an hour away.” She patted the computer monitor that connected this original outpost to the rest of the world.
“A new year, a new chance to bring peace to the world.” Alice said, her heart full of hope.
Floor length fur capes were clasp about bare shoulders, soft knee high moccasins were laced up. Silver bracelets jingled as they were put on wrists. Tiny silver bells on leather bands were wrapped below knees.
“Fires are being built up,” Charlene called from the window. “Year end is near, days will lengthen, frozen ground will thaw.”
“Gather round wild women.” Penny held a bag made of soft rabbit skin, her copper hair catching the candle light like electric fire. Each woman dropped a silver coin that had been collected on their travels. Travels that gave them a year to circle the globe, learning as they went. When all had placed a coin, Penny shook it thrice. Smiling, she spun in a slow circle meeting the eyes of this year’s candidates. The youngest was twenty-five, the oldest, fifty-two. All were mothers, a few grandmothers. All knew the price paid for freedom, for peace.
She upended the bag, coins spilled out onto the floor where three concentric circles were drawn on the wooden planks. She stepped back so the moonlight illuminated the inner most. She clapped her hands. “We have nine! Nine to invite the sun back into our lives.”
As the dancers collected their coins, the nine chosen formed a line and bowed their heads for the silver bands they would wear. Silver bells hung from their ears.
“The heart of the earth beats,” Nickie whispered in the silence.
A soft, barely heard throb began, coming from Janice standing before the door. She would lead the dancers to the fire that drew the sun back to warm the world. Her Borodin sounded again and was answered from the deeper darkness outside. A deep thunder rolled through the night and called the dancers to bring the sun back. Even the earth was tired of the cold and dark. The doors opened and winter’s cold rushed in. Slow steps matched the beat that led them out into the frosty moonlight. The cabin of waiting stood deep in the old pine forest, used only at the changing of the seasons. They moved in step with the earth’s heartbeat toward the firelight that shown through the trees. Pine needles covered in hoarfrost sparkled in the moonlight.
The coins that chose the dancers were hung on the ancient pine trees as they passed. Moonlight caught and sparkled on coins placed by many generations of wild women dancers. Tiny sparks of moonlight caught on the ancient coins atop the hundred foot trees, reminding all of the many generations that had passed bringing peace and freedom to the world.
The deep pulse of a far off horn droned, calling the darkness to remain, seeking to drown the soft ting of the silver bells worn by the dancers.
The nine dancers spread out around the fire. The rest of the wild women remained in the shadows and brought silver pipes from their robes. A single high pitched note rose above the crackling of the flames, clear in the cold darkness, calling to the sun. The sweetness of the note promised warmth, the return of light and hope to a world weary of darkness.
The heavy drone of the old year sounded from the night surrounding them and sought to cover the note.
A second pipe sounded from the far side of the circle. It was joined by a third to the left, a fourth came from the right, boxing the directions; east, west, north, south.
The lone voice of one of last year’s dancers sang, calling to the sun. Her voice rang out, singing sweetly to the sun, asking for a return of light and warmth. A fifth and sixth pipe sounded. Two more voices joined the first, appealing to the sun to return. Nine pipes sounded their single notes. Four more voices matched them, echoing in the cold, dark forest. Then nine voices sang against the darkness, against the cold.
The drone from the horn wavered in the darkness, weakening as the year drew to an end.
A log bearing a single branch with frost covered pine needles was thrown into the center of the fire. This was the last wood added to the old year’s fire. Sparks flared and climbed upward in a wide swath, swirling as they ascended the heated air. Nine voices called. The bodhrán thumped, a second drum picked up the slow beat. Nine pipes called their single note.
It was time.
Fur robes were loosened and fell to the snow covered ground as the nine stepped into the dancing circle surrounding the fire. The nine voices of this year’s dancers called, silencing the drone from the dark. The thump of a lone bodhrán began, moccasin clad feet stomped. Two bodhráns thumped, answered by a second stomp. Voices called, pipes answered, dancers stomped the snow as heat from the fire spread outward. The frozen ground began to warm.
A single ululation called from the darkness surrounding the fire, a grandmother who’s voice held the same clarity as when she was a maid. The nine dancers faced east, arms raised as the edge of the sky lightened. A few stars disappeared. The beat of the bodhrán quickened. Pipes joined from the edge of the dancer’s circle, the changing notes flowing around the dancers. Turning toward the flames, the dancers stomped once, moved to the left, stomped again. Arms were raised, hands grasped an invisible rope and pulled the light toward the fire, toward the promise of warmth.
The promise of rebirth.
Facing the east once again, nine voices called. Their arms raised and pulled again toward the fire. The throb deepened. The dancers stomped and faced the flames. A second log was thrown on, the first of the new year. As the sparks rushed upwards the beat increased.
They stomped toward the left then back toward the flames. The first thin slice of the sun’s disk appeared. Their arms raised, they sang to the first sunlight that bathed their upraised hands. The beat increased, they stomped to the left, to the flames, then back to the east. They stomped, the circle moved, always to the left, pulling the sun above the horizon.
Half the new year’s sun cleared the far hills and bathed their bodies as the beat of the bodhráns matched the beat of the dancer’s hearts. Their voices rang with joy as they welcomed the sun.
When the sun cleared the horizon, the dance changed. First one, then another dancer leapt the dwindling fire. They spun and laughed as they moved, always to the left. Soon, all the wild women spun, leapt and sang with joy around the circle. Some moved slower with the stiffness of age but the memory of youth, some were slowed by the child that grew within their bodies. A full five hundred wild women from all over the world were here. Five, one each from the battle torn territories had flown their fastest jets and would return before the sun set.
All sang for the passing of the year, for the memory of those no longer among them. They danced for the beginning, for life. For the chance of peace in the new year.
For freedom. For freedom won by generations of wild women. Wild women who welcomed the coming year. Wild women who raged against the darkness that sought to take freedom from all. Freedom won by words, by blood, by light brought into dark places.
Freedom brought to all corners of the world, one step at a time. By wild women.
© Text copyright Randy Brown December 20, 2017