Story of the Great Bear/A modern fable about an Ancient Time

*Just a little something I wrote under inspiration a few weeks ago.

 
Long ago, at the beginning, when humankind was very young, and the days of their walking were a mere handful of twilights, the Great Bear roamed. She walked the Earth in great glory and strength and the People held her in reverence and awe.  She taught them how to hunt and forage for bountiful food that her Earth yielded in every kindness, how to see far beyond their own noses.  

To venture far into the unexplored forests, to tread over soil and stone, to see the bear as a noble beast of power, a comrade, or brother, one not so unlike themselves in all manner of things. For indeed, they were much alike, seeking warmth in the cave depths, searching for food among the roots and berries, and lusting for the sweet blood filled taste of meat.  And like their fearsome forest comrade, they too, protected and defended their own cubs.

The Great Bear minded them, kept a watchful eye and a keen ear on them under sun and stars. Soon, they sensed her watching.  They left her offerings of love and devotion. Small tokens of their appreciation.  They carved her likeness into wood, painted her image on stone.  Donned the skin of their forest comrade, so that maybe they would learn a bit of his ways.  

After a great time had passed, The Great Bear watched her children from the mountaintop, and far off in the distance, beyond the horizon another Great Bear walked on the Earth.  He was Mighty and Tall, Ferocious and Hungry, Father Bear, who came searching for the Great Bear.  He came from far and he had hunted long for her, smelling her Essence on the Four Winds.  He came from the North, the Relentless Winter Walker.  When she came into view he was awestruck at her visage, and she, delighted in his Arrival.  She had sensed his coming from the time he took his first step.  Jubilant, she turned and fled, for the chase made the catch more thrilling, and she had waited long for the sound of his pursuing roar.  He gave chase across the forest, breaking through the undergrowth, across streams, and mighty rivers, oceans of immensity, but neither of them tired of the pursuit.  She propelled herself into the clouds, and climbed and climbed until the moon came into view, alabaster and bold, and to the Stars she took him, and steady he pushed on.

Much time passed, and while the night sky is beautiful, it is quite cold and she began to wonder what sweet warmth Father Bear could offer.  So down out of the Darkness she came, leaving the cold behind. The Earth was wide awake.  Blossoming across the land.  She settled in a field of verdant green with tall swaying grass and endless wildflowers.  And Father Bear joined her.  Filled her with the Ecstasy of his being, as the two joined as One.  

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Artio

I’ve been constructing a sacred place on my property.  It’s not much and it’s outdoors, but it is an expression of the female divine.  Artio has come into my life like a slow moving summer storm, and I’ve no idea what this goddess desires from me.  Maybe it is merely the gift of awareness. I do not know.  

I do know that knowing Her is knowing life.  Feeling it in the very fiber of one’s being. Every heartbeat from the deer racing through the forest, to the worm crawling along the forest floor, with Her you can feel it when you experience her Divine presence.  It can make you weep.  So why not build a shrine/space for this goddess? The great bear goddess who guided our ancestors thousands of years ago across Europe, who led us to food and warmth inside her caves?  In fact, I think such devotion is long overdue. 

Bears

So something happened to me a long while back that I wish to share with the world. When I hedge ride/journey or whatever noun you want to use, I usually write down what I’ve seen or learned and that’s the end of it. It’s a very personal thing. I never feel the need to share my experiences with spirits or gods that I may encounter. I do not seek the validation of others, or wish to be hip into some kind of UPG sharing of every little thing that seems to be rampant on the interwebs.
As a general rule I honor the Norse/Germanic gods, Odin, Holle, Ullr, and Thor primarily, though if one would ask, I hail all of them. The most intense experience I’ve had with a representation of the divine however occurred with what would be considered a Celtic goddess. At the time I did not even know her name. This will be the first and last time I recount such an experience, if only to see if anyone out there has experienced this goddess in a similar manner. This happened in July of 2015, I lost my father in May of 2014 and my mother in February of 2015. At the time I thought I handled it all very well, though despite our troubles, I felt close to them both. I had long made peace with my father’s passing. Despite the physical miles between us, I knew the moment his spirit left his physical body. His illness was long and tortuous, and his death did not come as a surprise. I never felt like I had that kind of closure with my mother. She succumbed to sepsis, and my last conversation with her was long distance, as I screamed into the phone, trying to elicit a coherent response from her on the line. She was so far gone she could barely articulate words, I remember a feeble hello and then a series of unintelligible guttural sounds, while with my landline phone I called my sister frantic, imploring her to call 911. She was too far gone, she hung on a little under a week, and I was there for a bitter conversation with the doctor who informed us that even if she woke up she would never be the mother we knew before. I saw her one last time, my great mother, who had shaped the woman I would become in so many ways, a shriveled thing, not yet out of her sixties. I talked to her, but I could no longer feel her spirit. What made her an individual, my dear mother, had long left. Left without a goodbye, and what lie before me that day was a mere husk of what she had once been. I did not get to properly say goodbye.

So fast forward to July of 2015. I decide to ride the hedge. It was an urge that came upon me suddenly and unexplained.  So I laid down upon my bed with my staff and some chosen runes and I entered a world unfamiliar to me.  It was a place of mild summer warmth and starlight.  A great female bear approached and spoke to me. She took me to the edge of the hill looking down and as I did I saw many women. Ancient ancestors, engaging in village life.  She told me to go down and walk among them. I descended alone and as I mingled among the group they did not acknowledge me outright, but I felt a surge of recognition as I realized that I was the product of all these extraordinary women that came before me. Without them I would not exist. 
I walked past them, and came to a lake. I looked down and saw crabs rising out of the murky depths, and the spirits of the water briefly appeared to me below. Stepping stones emerged out of the water and compelled me to walk across until I came to a beautiful waterfall.  I paused and watched the water flow and suddenly I felt the presence of my father near me.  A butterfly flew past me, bright in the moonlight, and in it I felt my mother.  I wept.  Without any words conveyed I felt their love and guidance from beyond. I felt the assurance in the waterfall that life continues, in the butterfly that they had changed and moved on. I stayed there until their essence faded and made my way across the lake again. The women were gone and when I made my way back up the hill I found the bear again. I laid beside Her in the cool grass, wept a moment, then rested. I was spent. Then she told me that I should be free with my words. To live my life fully. 

After much thought and many signs, I came to the conclusion that the bear was Artio, a goddess I had never heard of before.  I do not know where she will take me, but I’ve felt her power and it is great. Awe-inspiring.