Three kings emerged from a swirling storm of sand into 2023. Sand transformed to rain and wind stilled. They parked their camels in front of a cottage to munch sweet grass.
When a woman opened the door, the smell of Gallete du Rois met them. “You came in costume.” It was like they were old friends.
They crossed the threshold and mingled. A babble of languages greeted them: a glass of wine, a piece of cake, a celebration of their gift to a child king, a toast to peace on earth. The magic of it was that all were welcome.
She met him in Classics 101. The Saturnalia party, his idea. The cake hers. Ginny dropped a Roman coin in the corner of the cake pan and marked the batter with food color. She would cut the cake herself and give Leo the piece that would name him Lord of Misrule. She hoped he would carry her away… wasn’t she already carried away with him?
That evening, a dozen classmates gathered in the dorm lounge before winter break for the potluck and gift exchange. Leo tasted like wine and spice when he kissed her. Thus are Saturn’s chaos seeds sown.
I’ve been goddessing since the Iron Age. Born in water, manifested on land as horse/seductress, I lured Roman soldiers to their deaths. There’s a coin to prove it.
But Rome won. They couldn’t bury me; too many loyal followers. A demotion to domestic goddess, that’s all they managed. A warrior at heart, I spent centuries in the kitchen baking and plotting, biding my time.
We struck. Me, Ceres, and Demeter took back fertility and reproduction. It’s what they fear about women. The secrets we know about life and death. The patriarchy can try, but they can’t take away our power.
The dates to celebrate spring are close this year, within a month, and yet some religions seem far apart. They fight each other. They fight among themselves. “They are young,” Eostre said, “or maybe a bit territorial, those men.”
This ancient goddess brought them all together: old and new religions, female and male deities. The witches stirred a brew of love, the opposite of hate. They loaded it into clouds that rained tears on the land that had dried to dust. Cracked seeds opened into bulbs that bloomed lilies, all kinds, fields full. The perfume of peace filled the air.
Líf and Lífþrasir lived in a tiny hovel on the side of a wild fjord north of the settled lands. Rippling through infinity, Thor came to them. He carried the couple to Hoddmimis holt. “From you, generations will spring.”
The gods went insane; a war of destruction, an ecological nightmare. Three winters arrived with no summers. Yggdirsil, the world tree, nurtured the couple. All the while, morning dew was their manna from heaven. Wandering, nestled in the warmth of moss, sheltered by the forest, emerging with the sun, nurtured by salt water, they rebuilt after the Ragnarök. They repopulated Earth.
Surf pulled at mother and daughter holding tight a last goodbye. “Take care of your brother. And your father.”
“Yes, mam. You’ll be back?”
“Your grandmam’s recipes, they’re yours.”
The girl held her mother’s hand. “Tell my ocean folk grandmam, ‘Happy Birthday.’ ”
Her mam nodded, winced as the tight skin she’d found in the attic fused land legs into a powerful swimming fin. “I will, love.”
“Your eyes are the same.” The girl touched the selkie’s soft fur. “You’ll be gone a day?”
The mother strained for breath. “Days linger undersea.” She wanted to stay. But she had to go.
Cupid and Psyche lay feeding each other chocolate hearts. “You haven’t changed.”
“Nor you,” Psyche said, nibbling his ear.
Cupid stroked Psyche’s bronzed thigh. “It wasn’t meant to be.”
“Your mother hated me.”
Cupid’s lips bowed into a smile. “You bested her by surviving all those quests.”
“She underestimated how much I cared for you. Sorting poppy seeds from lentils. Fearing dragons on the Styx. I had my helpers.” Psyche looked smug.
“But it was Zeus who gave us each other. He couldn’t resist my offer.”
“I can’t resist you. Though the spell wore off long ago, I simply adore you.”
“Welcome, friend.” The Kitchen God greeted the Tiger, a pussy cat beside his massive bulk. They ate nian gao and fresh cut fruits, presented on a red lacquered tray in the Kitchen God’s study.
They exchanged pleasantries, the Tiger looking for a way to say what was on his mind. He plucked up his courage. “So many have suffered through the years of Rat and Ox. They worked hard for change, barely rewarded for their labor. Prosperity gave way to isolation. Isolation gave way to steady resolve. What of my year?”
“Be strong, Tiger. Be strong,” said the Kitchen God.
“Diana,” Janus said, “So glad you could come.”
The goddess entered through the door of beginnings. She brought the moon’s fertility to Janus’s Table for All Times. She sipped his tea of memories past and future.
“Janus, dear,” she said, “I wish the night would never end.”
“But we must let the sun shine. Start over. Correct past mistakes.”
“Yes,” she said. ”We must think good thoughts- health, happiness, peace, prosperity, especially for the sick, the sad, the beleaguered, and the poor.”
Once again, they closed the endings door, watching the past recede and seeing the present open to change.
La Befana, the Christmas witch, and Old St. Nick sipped eggnog in front of an electric fire.
Befana said, “Here’s to generosity and goodwill.”
St. Nick said, “How long have you been giving gifts?”
“A lady never reveals her age, but I’m from that old time religion.”
Nick said, “Eons?”
“You’re right and also very wicked. I’d leave you coal in your boot, but it’s out of fashion.”
St. Nick said, “Don’t I wish. If they keep burning that stuff, the North Pole will melt away. Mermaids will replace elves in the workshop. For the sleigh, porpoises instead of reindeer.”