From the days of a remote past, memories – dim and veiled – emerge in my mind.
Pale, colourless images, pale bloodless figures move past my searching eyes.
My thoughts listen to the murmurs of memory.
Slowly, the concealing curtain rises.
Bright colourful, beautiful, radiant images shapes and figures appear from the bottomless depths of oblivion.
Suddenly, I see myself as I was in the days of a remote past.
I see myself, Atze, son of the god, high priest at the sacred temple of the Sun God, high king and ruler.
Listen, you who wish to learn about the sacred, mystic ways and customs of the past! Listen, and hear!
I, Atze, shall tell you what my eyes see, tell you what my thoughts behold from the murmurs of memory.
See! I shall speak to you about some of the customs, some of the sacred rituals performed in the days past to celebrate the marriage of the Sun God and the Earth, our High Mother.
Listen! And hear:
In the remote past, far away from the land, which has nurtured you, a mighty, fertile, mountainous island was lying awash in the waters of the wavy sea – my native island, my kingdom.
Great cities, bountiful fields, green meadows, lush gardens with colourful, fragrant blossoms and delicious fruit, big forests, tall, many-leaved plants, covered the ground covered some of the steep mountains.
The inhabitants of the island – men and women – were handsome, beautiful of face, graceful of figure; proud, strong, lithe, of dark complexion.
Wealth, beauty and happiness prevailed throughout the island; few were poor, many were slaves.
The principal royal city and the royal castle of the land, lay where the coast of the island – washed by the sea -reached out toward where the flaming wheel of the Sun God emerged at dawn from the golden Portal of the Sky.
Tall, massive walls with towers and four copper gates, richly adorned with gold, surrounded the royal city and the royal castle. A stone’s throw or so away from the city walls – on a green plateau in front of the steep mountains -stood the glorious, sacred temple of the Sun God, stood the many handsome abodes of the temple priests, temple priestesses, servants and handmaidens.
Mighty, heavy stone columns supported the terraced temple.
Mighty, heavy stone columns supported the uppermost, many-sided tower.
The temple and the abodes were surrounded by lush gardens, green meadows, and shady groves.
A clear, cool, cascading mountain stream was led through a stone archway in under the temple walls, in under the temple floor, to the outer, open columned hall. There, it streamed through a depression in the floor — a stone cistern — the height of a man, its sides clad with forged, golden plates.
From this deep depression, the stream led – through a downward sloping stone archway — in under the cliff, to the outermost brink of the cliff; there it cascaded into the sea.
In the smaller, columned rear hall of the temple stood a huge black stone-block — the altar of the Sun God.
A depression was hewn into the surface of the altar; in this depression stood a golden copper brazier with the eternally burning, low-flaming fire: symbol of the Sun God’s purity, symbol of the purifying, purging power of fire.
Listen! And hear:
On the uppermost steps of the temple stairway, in front of the entrance, stood a host of priests, draped in white, long-sleeved, foot-length, linen robes, hemmed by green-embroidered borders.
The robes were fastened at their shoulders with golden buckles, adorned with green, sparkling stones.
Silent, erect, calm, they looked toward the outermost point of the green cliff, looked toward the many abodes.
In front of the host of priests, stood Atze, son of the god, high king and high priest.
Like the priests, Atze was draped in a white linen robe, hemmed with broad, golden borders.
His robe was fastened at the shoulders with golden buckles, adorned with red, sparkling stones.
His white, wavy hair fell softly over his noble brow.
A golden band with red, sparkling stones wound about his white hair, wound across his high forehead.
Atze was aged, his figure was erect, proud; his stern face was beardless, furrowed, chiseled.
He leaned heavily on a staff, richly decorated with gold.
Silent, serene, he looked down at the city, looked down at the royal castle.
Suddenly, muted sounds were heard — a chorus of male voices, some deep, some high, chanted rhythmically,
Atze turned his face toward the nearest abode.
The broad gates of the doorway had slid open against the sides of the wall.
A host of temple servants strode out, clad in short-sleeved, long white robes, without embroidery, without ornamentation.
Two and two, chanting, they strode toward the many steps of the temple.
Louder, clearer, sounded the chorus.
Slowly, rhythmically, they proceeded along the slightly rising road.
Ahead of the servants, strode a youth, erect, radiantly handsome of face, handsome of figure.
Dark, wavy hair fell about his fair forehead, fell about his noble face.
A dark knee-length coat, without embroidery, without ornamentation, covered his erect figure.
His arms were bare, his legs were bare; wooden sandals were tied to his feet with soft, narrow straps.
Proud, calm, erect, he strode, ahead of the procession of servants.
His eyes looked upward at the temple, looked upward at the figure of Atze.
The tuneful, rhythmically swaying chant grew louder, stronger.
Slowly, the procession walked up the many steps of the temple. Then, the youth stood before Atze.
Slowly, he raised his gracefully formed hands and arms, crossed them over his chest, bowed deeply before Atze, the high priest of the Sun God.
Atze laid his hand on the bowed head of the youth.
Clearly, authoritatively, his resonant voice sounded over the host of priests, over the host of servants:
“Airun, all is prepared! Will you, for a brief time, allow the God of Fertility, the mighty Father of All Life, to dwell in your body?”
The handsome youth lifted his head, stood erect, looking firmly into Atze’s questioning eyes.
Loudly, clearly, he answered:
“I am prepared! For a brief time, I shall allow the Father of All Life, the High Lord of Heaven, to dwell in my body!”
Then Atze said: “Come, all is prepared!”
Atze took Airun’s outstretched hand, led him into the outer, open, columned hall, led him to the deep depression in the temple floor, to the golden cistern.
Slowly, all the priests, all the servants followed.
Again, Atze spoke:
“Here your body shall be purified, purged and rinsed of all sin, of all earthly desire. The eternally streaming waters will purify your body and render it worthy as an abode for the High Lord of Heaven!”
Two servants stepped forward to Airun, divested him of his dark coat, divested him of his linen undergarments, loincloth and wooden sandals.
Slowly, Airun descended the steps of the cistern.
A servant stretched out his hand to support him.
Slowly, Airun immersed himself under the clear, cool, eternally streaming waters.
Slowly, he again raised his head above the rim of the cistern.
Proud, erect, serene, he ascended the steps.
The servants, awaiting with linen cloth, dried his handsome body, dried his handsome face.
They anointed his body, anointed his dark, wavy hair with precious, aromatic oils.
They dressed him in a white loincloth, a white linen undergarment.
Then the servants draped Airun in a shimmering, golden, sleeveless robe, fastened at the shoulders with broad, golden buckles, adorned with yellow, sparkling stones.
Over his high forehead, over his dark, wavy hair, they pressed down a broad, golden band inlaid with yellow, sparkling stones.
About his lithe neck, about his slender arms, they hung golden chains, golden ornaments.
They tied soft skin-sandals to his feet with broad, soft straps, adorned with yellow, sparkling stones.
He was glorious to behold.
Airun’s handsome, proud figure was rendered into a worthy abode for the High Ruler of Heaven.
Atze took the youth’s hand, led him into the inner, columned hall, led him to the altar of the Sun God.
The muted chant of the chorus, the priests and the servants, followed Atze and Airun, proceeding together, two and two.
Airun knelt down on cushions placed on the floor before the altar, crossing his hands and arms over his chest.
Before him, stood a tripod, supporting a copper brazier; narcotic herbs burned in the brazier.
Airun bent deeply over the brazier, inhaling the stupefying fumes.
Two servants stood at his side.
Behind him, stood Atze.
The priests formed a semicircle round Atze and Airun, formed a semicircle round the Altar with the eternally burning, low-flaming fire.
Back of the semicircle of priests, stood the servants, forming an outer semicircle.
Atze stretched his hands toward the altar fire. Prayerfully, clearly, his voice sounded through the mighty hall:
“High Lord, God of Fertility, Father of All Life, behold! We have prepared for you an abode. Descend from your high Heaven! Bless our Earth! Bless our women! Bless our fields! Bless our animals! Bestow the power of your fertility on one and all, that all may be fruitful, may multiply!
High Lord, God of Fertility, Father of All Life, hear my plea, grant us our prayer! Descend to the Earth, descend from your high Heaven!”
Behold! Airun’s kneeling figure slumped; slowly, his body sank back on the soft cushions.
The two servants took the limp body, lifted it, and carried it out into the outer, airy hall.
The servants seated Airun’s body on the huge throne of the Sun God, seated Airun’s body on the soft, gold-embroidered cushions on the throne, fanned him gently with a soothing breeze.
The host of priests formed a semicircle round the steps of the throne.
Foremost — on the lowest step of the throne — stood Atze, leaning heavily on his staff,
Back of the priests, the host of servants formed an outer semicircle.
Again, the prayerful call of Atze sounded through the mighty hall:
“High Lord, God of fertility, Father of All Life, behold! Your abode is prepared. Hear our prayer, descend to our Earth, fructify all living things!”
Suddenly, a golden ray fell from the sun-eye in the western wall.
Golden, radiant, it shone over Airun’s pale forehead.
Airun’s body straightened up against the tall back of the throne.
Slowly, his heavy eyelids opened; dreamily, he gazed down at Atze — the high priest of the Sun God.
A servant stepped forward, held a cup with a stimulating drink of herbs against his lips. Airun emptied the cup to the bottom.
The servant took the cup, stepped back behind the tall back of the throne.
For a while, Airun sat still, gazing out into the mighty temple hall — dreamy, silent.
Then, he rose; proud, erect, serene.
At the same moment, all the priests, all the servants, fell to their knees, crossing their hands and arms over their chests, bowing deeply to the floor.
Atze, alone, remained standing.
Then, Atze laid down his staff on a step of the throne, crossed his hands and arms over his chest, bowed deeply before the radiant figure standing at the throne.
Tall, proud, glorious to behold, Airun slowly stepped forward to the uppermost step of the throne.
Slowly, he raised his hands, stretched them out over Atze’s bowed head.
Clearly, authoritatively, Airun’s voice sounded over the host of priests and servants:
“Behold! I have come, I, the Father of All Life, Mighty Lord of Heaven! I shall bless all living things! By the mighty power of my fertility, I shall multiply all living things!”
Atze straightened his bent figure.
Clearly, jubilantly, his voice sounded through the mighty hall:
“High Lord, Ruler of Heaven, Father of All Life, glorious Bridegroom of All the Earth! Hail! Be welcome!”
Erect, serene, Airun slowly descended the steps of the throne.
Atze took his golden staff, stretched his hand toward Airun, led him out of the temple, led him down the many steps of the temple, led him out onto the green meadow between the temple and the temple grove.
Two and two, to the muted, rhythmic chant of the chorus, the host of priests proceeded after the advancing figures — Airun and Atze.
The host of servants remained, standing on the uppermost steps of the temple.
Airun and Atze stopped in the middle of the meadow.
The chant ceased.
The host of priests formed a semicircle round Airun and Atze.
Suddenly, tuneful, jubilant singing could be heard.
All looked toward the handsome abode of the high priestess of the temple.
The broad gates of the doorway drew aside, the high priestess stepped forth, draped in a white, sleeveless robe.
A golden border hemmed the white robe.
A golden band wound across her forehead, wound about her silvery hair.
A row of priestesses followed her, proceeding by one; all the priestesses were draped in long, sleeveless, white robes, without embroidery, without ornamentation.
Behind them, seven beautiful young maidens proceeded —one by one —-attired in white, sleeveless, knee-length coats, flower-decked and with golden chains slung about their necks and arms.
Gold-embroidered sandals were tied to their bare feet, were tied to their bare legs with soft, narrow gold-embroidered straps.
Behind the seven beautiful maidens, another row of priestesses proceeded — one by one.
Loud, clear, sounded the jubilant song.
Slowly, in graceful rhythm, all the women proceeded across the green meadow.
Slowly, they formed a semicircle round Airun and Atze.
The Sun-wheel — the sacred symbol of the Sun God — was formed.
Then, the jubilant, tuneful song ceased.
Atze led Airun forward to the seven beautiful, flower-decked maidens.
Atze raised his hand; clearly, his resonant voice sounded over the gathering:
“High Lord, God of Fertility, Father of All Life, choose your bride!”
Erect, serene, Airun stepped forward to the row of maidens.
His eyes dwelt on the maidens — one by one.
Then, he stretched out his hand toward the youngest, toward the most beautiful of the seven.
The chosen bride stepped forward from the row of maidens.
Slowly, she raised her graceful hands and arms, crossed them over her chest, bowing deeply before Airun — Lord of Heaven, Father of All Life.
Soft, calm, sounded her voice:
“High Lord, Ruler of Heaven, I am ready!”
Airun took her outstretched hand.
The semicircle of women opened.
Hand in hand, the bridegroom and bride, followed by Atze, followed by the high priestess of the temple, proceeded into the dusk of the grove.
Slowly, they proceeded to the bridal chamber, to the consecrated, sacred dwelling.
Airun’s handsome, proud figure was rendered into a worthy abode for the High Ruler of Heaven.
Heavy stone columns supported the walls of the dwelling, supported the glorious, ornamented ceiling.
The broad shining gates of the entrance were opened against the sides of the wall.
Two servants stood before the entrance with flaming, aromatic torches.
Then, Atze and the priestess stepped forward before Airun, before the beautiful bride, bowing deeply to both.
Gently, clearly, sounded the words of Atze: “Here, in the sacred chamber, you shall rest until the first blush of dawn heralds the rising of the flaming Sun-wheel from the golden Portal of the Sky. The moment the first blush of dawn appears on the Vault of the Sky, you must part. At that moment, we shall lead you away from this chamber.
Abide in peace until the first blush of dawn!”
Hand in hand, Airun and his beautiful bride entered the glorious, ornamented chamber.
Golden, shimmering carpets covered the cold, bare walls, covered the cold stones of the floor.
Soft, gold-embroidered cushions lay spread over the wide, curved stone bench.
From the ceiling of the chamber, hung golden chains with handsomely shaped clay bowls decorated with gold.
The double wicks of the bowls shone with bright, luminous flames.
In the back of the chamber stood the linen-covered, flower-decked couch.
Once more, Atze and the priestess bowed to Airun, bowed to the beautiful bride, stepped back, and left them.
Behind them, the gates of the entrance slid silently against each other.
Slowly, followed by the two torchbearers, Atze and the priestess walked back to the sacred temple of the Sun God.
Atze stepped forward to the steps of the throne, turned to the assembled priests, priestesses, servants and handmaidens, and called out in a loud voice:
“The flaming wheel of the Sun God has swept across the Vault of the Sky, has descended to its nocturnal rest, Go to your abodes. The Sun Festival is over!”
When the first blush on the Vault of the Sky proclaimed the rising of the Sun-wheel from its nocturnal rest, Atze and the priestess walked through the grove to the bridal chamber.
The second-highest priest followed them, carrying a flaming, aromatic torch.
Atze stepped forward to the broad entrance, laid his hand on the golden symbol of the Sun God, turned it on its axis.
Silently, the gates of the entrance slid back against the sides of the wall.
Atze and the priestess stood before the heavy, golden curtain that covered the doorway to the bridal chamber.
Atze’s voice called, loudly, clearly:
“The time has come! The first blush of dawn heralds the rising of the Sun-wheel on the Vault of the Sky!”
Airun answered: “We are ready!”
A moment later, Atze´s voice called again, pleading, urging:
“The blush of dawn heralds the rising of the Sun-wheel from the golden Portal of the Sky!”
Airun answered: “We are coming!”
And behold! The heavy, golden curtain drew aside.
Awaiting what had to come, Airun and his bride stood hand in hand.
Atze and the priestess bowed to Airun, bowed to the beautiful young bride.
Silent, Atze stretched out his hand to Airun, leading him out of the chamber.
Silent, the priestess stretched out her hand to the young bride.
Silent, they strode through the dusky grove, followed by the second-highest temple priest carrying the brightly flaming, aromatic torch.
The moment they stepped out onto the meadow, the young bride flung herself at Airun’s feet, threw her graceful arms round his body, and cried: “Airun, High Lord, stay with me, do not leave me! Carry me off to your glorious Heaven!”
Airun bent over his kneeling bride, raised her up, clasped her close to his heart.
Lovingly, gently, he spoke:
“The time has come! My rest is at an end. Never forget our beautiful tryst; remember it happily. Do not grieve, do not lament; I shall be far away, yet, I shall be near you. When the time comes, bring my son to the holy fire of the altar, seat him on the golden cushions. My blessings follow you!”
Silent, gently, the priestess drew the young bride away from Airun, led her forth to the abode she was to inhabit until the time came when the son of the Sun God was to be brought to the holy altar-fire of the temple, when the son of the Sun God was to be seated on the golden cushions of the throne.
Silent, Airun, Atze and the second-highest temple priest ascended the many steps of the temple.
Silent, they entered the inner, columned hall.
The priest placed his torch in the broad copper ring on the stonewall at the side of the altar.
Airun knelt on the cushions, crossed his arms and hands over his chest, bent low over the brazier on the tripod, emitting stupefying fumes.
At his side, silent, calm, stood Atze and the priest,
Suddenly, a broad golden ray — from the sun-eye in the eastern wall — fell over the low-flaming altar-fire, over Airun’s bowed head.
The altar-fire flared brighter.
Airun’s figure slumped; slowly his body sank down on the cushions.
Silent, calm, stood Atze.
Silent, calm, stood the priest.
Then they hastily bent over the fallen body.
They lifted it, carried it hastily over to the wide, curved stone bench at the side of the altar.
Swiftly, they divested Airun’s body of the golden robe, the golden chains and ornaments, the golden band on his forehead with the sparkling stones, leaving only the undergarment and the loincloth.
They laced the lifeless body tightly with broad, soft straps, from shoulder to foot.
Silent, they hastily carried Airun’s body to the outer hall, to the golden cistern. At the rim of the cistern, they laid down their burden.
Quickly, the priest divested himself of his garment, stepped down into the cistern, stretching up his hands toward the lifeless body.
Silent, Atze shoved Airun’s body over the rim of the cistern.
The priest grasped it, guided its head into the broad stone archway which led the eternally flowing mountain stream out to the waters of the wavy sea.
Hastily, he thrust the body farther and farther into the opening.
Airun’s body slid out of sight through the stone archway.
Quickly, the priest stepped up out of the cistern, wiped his body dry.
Swiftly, he attired himself in the divested garment.
Silent, leaning heavily on his staff, Atze walked out of the hall, proceeded down the temple stairway and on to the outermost brink of the green cliff.
Leaning on his staff, he looked in the direction of the rising, flaming Sun-wheel.
Searchingly, he scanned the waters of the wavy sea.
Then, he beheld Airun’s lifeless body floating softly on the flowing waves of the sea.
Slowly, it drifted toward unknown shores.
Suddenly, it vanished under the dark surface of the sea,
Airun had departed forever.
Atze walked back to the inner hall of the temple, to the front of the eternal, low-flaming altar-fire.
The second-highest priest of the Sun God stepped forward to the uppermost step of the temple stairway.
High above his head, he held two golden, shimmering copper cymbals.
Slowly, rhythmically, he clanged them together; the sounds rang through the stillness of the balmy, early morning.
And behold! The broad gates of the many abodes slid back against the sides of the stonewalls.
The temple priests, temple priestesses, servants and handmaidens strode forth.
Two and two, they all proceeded up the many steps of the temple.
Two and two, they entered the inner hall of the temple, preceded on to the altar of the Sun God.
There, they formed many semicircles, one outside the other.
The women stood in the back rows.
Atze turned his face toward the gathering.
Softly, trembling, his voice sounded over the mighty gathering:
“Hear me all! Hear me, one and all! The moment the golden ray of the Sun-wheel fell upon the eternally flaming fire, fell upon Airun’s bowed head, the High Lord of the Sun departed from Airun’s body, and the Ruler of all the Earthly Kingdom returned to his high, glorious Heaven.
At that moment, Airun rose from the golden cushions on the temple floor.
Slowly, he walked out of the temple hall, slowly; he proceeded down the temple stairway, on to the outermost brink of the cliff.
There, he knelt down, stretching his hands and arms toward the glowing, flaming Sun-wheel.
Suddenly, a mighty hand reached down from the Vault of the Sky. The hand lifted Airun from the brink of the cliff, carried him over the waters of the wavy sea, carried him off toward the rising, shining Sun-wheel.
Then, I bowed my head deeply before this glorious sight. When I again raised my head, Airun had departed.
The body, which for a brief time had served as an abode for the radiant glory of the Sun God, had departed, had vanished.
The high Lord of Heaven carried it away from all impurity of the Earthly kingdom, away from all sin and desire of the Earthly kingdom.”
Atze fell silent.
Then, they all fell on their knees on the stone floor of the temple, crossed their hands and arms over their chests, bowed deeply toward the glowing, low-flaming altar-fire.
From all lips sounded the words:
“Mighty is the Lord of Heaven, mighty is the Lord of The Earth! We bow low in the dust, before your glory, we bow low in the dust, before your mightiness, before your wisdom…”
Slowly, the curtain falls.
Images, shapes and figures again fade; grow pale, colourless, and bloodless.
Images, shapes and figures again slide back, down into the bottomless depths of the past.
The murmurs of memory have ceased.
Atze has spoken.