Over the Hedge
The road gradually changed, and after maybe a half hour of walking it had become a dirt path at the base of a cliff overlooking a dark and motionless sea. The path tilted up, and soon we were climbing back and forth along outcroppings of the cliff until we came to a dark cave far above the water. I looked up, but was unable to see anywhere the cliff ended. Hecate later told me this was the base of Mount Olympus itself, and there was no path that high available to mortals.
The cave was long and winding, digging deep into the mountain. There was a fork in the road, one path leading deeper down and the other curving back up. We took the latter, and finally emerged into a chamber bustling with activity. Three women worked quickly here; one spinning thread, another measuring out its length, and a third cutting it. The Fates, the Greek pseudodeities who were believed by their culture to determine the destiny and duration of every life, glanced up and smiled as if expecting me. And, of course, I suppose they were. It didn’t seem to much matter whether or not I held to the religion of the ancient Greeks. The Fates exist, whether as a distinct set of people or as but one manifestation of a deeper concept, and by existing they must have at least some insight into the destinies of individuals.
It made me wonder, as I revisited the topic later, about the nature of Hecate herself. She is Hecate, and she is also the Mistress of Magic, and the Queen of the Crossroads, and the Goddess of Liminal Spaces. But are those titles for a single being called Hecate, or is Hecate a title for a single being who is fundamentally the Goddess of Liminal Spaces? The name is easier to work with, and a recognizable form, but that doesn’t mean that is her true identity. I may have to revisit Sergei’s ideas about the many faces of Hecate through the ages. This idea was bolstered later by the Fates themselves, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
I was brought before the Fates, and Hecate informed them that I was interested in learning the secrets of time. Clotho, the first woman, explained that theirs was not the whole of time, but the allotment of an individual’s portion of time. Atropos, the third, pointed out that this gave them insight into the past and future, and therefore could teach me to use that insight, but it would only be part of the whole if I wished to truly master the flow of time itself. I explained that it was my desire to understand, and therefore insight seems the most natural place for me to begin.
“She will see how it all began,” answered Lachesis, the woman measuring the thread. “Her destiny includes sight of the past and future, and witnessing the rise and fall of the eternal.” Hecate rested her hand on my shoulder, and when I turned back to look, she was smiling.
“Very well,” she said to the three, “I leave her in your hands. The Hound will wait outside and see her home when you are done with her.” With that, she left, and the Hound made its way outside the cave.
“Thought she’d never leave,” Clotho grumbled.
“No you didn’t,” Atropos said, and they all laughed.
“Come come, sit down,” Lachesis said, waving a hand to me without turning her focus away from the thread. “There is much work to be done.”
“What did you mean, that I would see how it all began?” I asked, moving forward and sitting on a large, smooth rock. “Am I really going to see that far back?”
“Back?!” Clotho shouted with a laugh. I must have shown my confusion, because Atropos gave me a comforting smile.
“The beginning has not happened yet, dear,” she said, calmly. “You will find time to be more complicated than you realize.”
1 August 2006
It had been a long day, and I was ready to crash for the night. I got up to my bedroom a little after 11, and as soon as I closed the door I saw the Hound sitting next to my bed.
“Don’t you usually wait til I’m asleep?” I asked. It cocked its head, then stood and turned around. The wall behind my bed folded out into a forest path overlooking the sea, and the Hound began walking. I yawned, stretched, and followed.
I wasn’t sure whether it was simply because I was going to the Crossroads physically for the first time, or if I had really changed so much that my experience of the Crossroads had to be completely redesigned, but the path seemed much more real than it ever had before. It was partly the senses; the smell of Central American flowers and ocean air, the feel of the ground under my feet, the sound of birds lilting through the trees. But there was something else, something that felt much more surprising: the path no longer looked magical. Before, it had always had an air of mystery to it, a sense that it couldn’t possibly exist in the real world, and of course it couldn’t, not with the ocean hovering overhead and the path forming and disappearing in response to my steps. But this, this felt like home, a home of which I only had very sparse, fleeting memories, from so many years ago.
What was Hecate playing at?
She didn’t behave as if she noticed the difference in the realm when we reached her, and she certainly didn’t present herself any differently in reaction to context. It was strange, looking upon a Greek goddess standing tall in a wilderness half a world away from the mountain her kind called home, carrying herself as if this was her own personal temple. And, well, it was. Whatever the Crossroads looked like to me, it remained the Crossroads, and that made it hers. But the effect was jarring, and my new doubts about her intentions after negotiating with my life prevented me from simply dismissing that incongruity.
“Jacqueline,” she said, her voice dripping with honey. I bowed.
“I’ve been thinking about you, you know.” She sat on her throne, which hadn’t existed before and looked like black marble carved by Aegean sculptors. I stood upright. “About your skill for magic and desire for knowledge. You, my dear, did not stop developing and studying when I stopped calling on you.”
“I don’t see why I would have.”
“You’d be surprised, child. Everyone has their own goals, and those whose goals truly center on me lose their way quickly when I give them space. But others, they truly believe in something. They truly desire something, something I am happy to give in exchange for their service. I think it only right to offer you new knowledge, in honor of your development so far and as a sign of good faith as we continue.” The Hound was sitting by her side by now, and she gracefully slipped her hand down to scratch at the back of its neck. I stood silent for a moment, processing.
“What new knowledge did you have in mind?” She smiled broadly then, baring teeth that seemed to be just a bit more sharp than I remembered.
“What would you like, dear?” My breath caught for a second. I could choose? Would she accept anything I chose? I briefly considered my options, before a common trait of all of them came to mind. I straightened my posture and met her gaze.
“I want knowledge of time magic,” I said, firmly. “I want to know how to see the past and future, and ultimately, how to travel between them.” She chuckled and leaned back into her seat.
“Are you sure? Time is a complicated thing.”
“I’m sure.” She considered me for a moment, then clapped her hands together and stood.
“Very well! Come, come, let me show you the way.” She turned toward one of the other roads leading away from the Crossroads, and it suddenly seemed like there were hundreds of them. As she walked, the Hound rose to join her, and I began to follow.
The blog of Jackie Veracruz.