The spirit of the mountain has always been and always will be. Through the passage of time, she has existed in many forms. First, there was only the wind. Soon enough though, that wind began to carry whispers from another plane – whispers which called me by truest name.
I’m an old man now, near to dying. But in my youth, wandering from moonlit sky to moonlit sky, those whispers were more than I could resist, and I found myself ever in search of something I couldn’t yet define. There was a darkness to it. It was a seductive wind that at once beckoned me and warned me to stay away. I ran toward her as if summoned by forbidden magic, which I now know to have been the case. Even still, given the choice to change my decision, I never would. I would run toward her through fire and ash; neither plague, nor pestilence, nor death itself could keep me from my mother’s embrace.
It took me years to find her. By the time I did, she was no longer the wind or the whispers it carried, but a single mountain flower – Trillium Catesbaei. I listened to music radiating from within her – an instrument that I longed to play. A lover I longed to embrace. Her voice was a great comfort to me, and calmed my youthful ambitions. As the seasons passed, her petals turned pink with age, withered, and fell to the ground below. Eventually, she was no more. I wept myself into slumber.
A familiar sound roused me some years later, but I found upon my waking that I could not draw breath. When I tried, a thick iron liquid filled my lungs. I tried to escape from it, but my movement was slowed by submersion – I swam in one direction, hoping it would lead to the surface. It did, and I emerged from a pool of blood which seemed never to coagulate. It was pure and unmolested, kept warm by the energy of all things, and during my slumber within the pool my lifespan increased a thousand-fold. When I looked upon its surface, it transformed into the purest silver, and I saw for the first time the form which I would wear for my remaining years. My hair had gone grey, as had my eyes, and my long beard was matted with blood from the fountain of youth. My skin had wrinkled, and I looked fully the part of an old man, despite my near immortality.
The sound that had roused me from my sleep was a magical tune reminiscent of the whispers that initially beckoned me. Weary now, I didn’t run toward my mother’s voice. I wanted to refuse her call entirely for fear of losing her once again, but fate is not so easy a thing to resist. Thus, I stumbled along half-drunken with apathy, and time passed as it tends to do.
When I saw her again, Catesbaei was a majestic cedar – her music carried over an incredible distance and, as I approached, I noticed the most beautiful instrument hanging from her branches. Dulcimer. I’m not sure where the word came from, but I immediately knew it to be the correct title. I plucked the dulcimer from above – a sweet fruit which would set all things into motion. To my surprise, I found myself immediately able to play the most serene songs. All was right in the world, and as I found my rhythm, my mother’s voice radiated from the cedar I was resting beneath.
Soft hands embraced me, and when I turned to investigate, my tree was no longer a tree. Rather, it was the lover I had so long desired. Her skin was pale, and her hair dark, with the grey streak of one touched by magic. Her arms were covered with five-pointed stars, and when she touched the dulcimer I was playing, she burned into it a resemblance of that sweet mountain flower which had preceded the birth of her current form. All things were connected – the wind’s whisper became the flower; the flower became the tree of life. From it, I plucked a forbidden fruit, and offered it to the personification of my desires. With the softest kiss and a breath shared between us, Catesbaei connected to me, and thus closed the circle. She led me beside the still waters, and my cup overflowed.
Our unification complete, I played her songs from my soul. Time was nothing. I was nothing. There was only music. Periodically, I would raise my eyes to glance upon her form. Beauty was not defined by any human measure – with seed thus planted within, she grew into a great forest, and began to rise in elevation. I rose with her, and still I played my songs. The mountain’s spirit, thus serenaded, was transforming into her truest self. She became animals of every kind, and flowers both beautiful and medicinal. Every creek, cave, valley, and snowcapped peak smelled of Catesbaei’s trillium. I did not mourn the loss of my lover – for she would become all things, and in all things I would find her embrace.
Connectedness: it’s the first lesson to be learned in the mountains. Harmony is achieved not by competing against the forces of nature, but by understanding our role as a part of her. A mountain bows to no one. That spirit which exists within us all…she bows to no one.
For my personal comfort, Catesbaei left me the witches of Appalachia. Periodically, a woman wearing nothing but Catesby’s self-same stars would emerge from the silver fountain to seek me out. The witches had a special connection to my mountain, and to me. Born in darkness, I chose to forsake the comfort of ignorance and press myself into the search for truth. I found it – and it stretched my consciousness to its limit – but the witches helped to keep me grounded. With their intellect, their energy, and indeed their physical forms, they kept me warm and comforted in a world otherwise filled with questions and doubts. They moved through the mountain with grace and poise, collecting herbs and roots which could both cure ailments and cause them. They valued nature in all its forms, and we lived a magical and harmonious life of pleasure and contentment.
Until the men came.
Hunting, killing, harvesting, chopping, burning, breaking, taking, raping, slaying, lying – the men came. War and famine had driven them from their homes, and both refugee and pursuer now sought to devour my own in their collective greed.
I retreated to higher elevations. Some of the witches came with me, others remained. Our sacred knowledge was tortured from them and tainted. Rumors developed among men of witches with dark magic, and of a mountain sage – a hermit who had lived for one thousand lifetimes. They developed false religions and mythologies which made them hate themselves, and take it out on us. From their fabricated perspective, humanity was born into sin and required divine intervention to save them from divine retribution. Only the mercy of God could deliver them from the wrath of the same.
So, burn the witches. Avoid the hermit. Hate what you don’t understand. Chop down the forests, slay the animals, build structures and institutions and cultures which mean nothing, but ultimately constrict your freedom – your very life – into nothing.
Next, they learned to abuse the spirit of the goddess – of my Catesbaie. Harvesting her essence from plants, they learned to distill her into liquid form. They began to forsake the basic respect for life owed to nature, and greedily ingested her for a temporary high. Corrupt men made it impossible for the few worthy ones to find harmony. Always there is a remnant of those who seek the truth, but the lies thrown upon them from the time of their birth make truth nearly impossible to find. They are taught to think, and not to feel. They accept false science – that they have only five senses and can only thus perceive the world. They neglect energy, authenticity, and connectedness in favor of pseudo-success and societal acceptance.
Like a young love sprouted into a beautiful marriage and then broken by one-sided effort, the Spirit of the Mountain watched her creation fall into falsity. Like a protective parent with a child ripped from their arms by circumstances outside their own control, Catesbaei wept.
My lover would not forsake me, though, even when all hope seemed lost. I sit now, writing this final truth, praying that it finds its way into worthy hands. Three nights past Catesbaei came to me, and bade me prepare to die a peaceful death. To lay down my current life by drinking hemlock from the witches’ cauldron, and to be born anew – reincarnated under the protection of Catesbaei herself, in a new form all her own. Thus, I pause to drink, and with shaking hands, write this final line:
To Catesbaei: Love me…desire me…own me, forever. I give you my body, and pray you take with it my soul.
Her spirit responds to me: Never again will you feel unloved.
My eyes open, and close again. At first, I recall nothing. I’m an adult – laying flat on my back. No clothes restrict my natural form; I wear no jewels to contain my dark memories, or to represent my commitment to suppressive social constructs. The woman looking down at me with forget-me-not blue eyes exists in the same state. Nothing separates her from me. Five-pointed stars cover her arms, and I’m surprised to find them on my own as well. She kisses me. Catesbaei. Yi Maanda. The mountain isn’t what it used to be – my life isn’t what it used to be. But this friend of my soul – this mother, lover, and kindred spirit – she’s found me. I smile, sad but content.
The mountain, seeming to represent all human life, was meant to be a thing of freedom…but the fact that humanity chose to give up their freedom doesn’t mean that I have to give up my own.
The spirit of the mountain has always been and always will be. Through the passage of time, she has existed in many forms. Catesbaei – the Goddess – has claimed me for her own. She called my spirit forth from the darkness. She baptized me in the virgin’s blood. She gave me the gift of music, and allowed me to assist her into truest form. Catesby claimed my heart from the first moment…in teaching me the lost arts, she earned the right to my intellect. I surrendered my soul to her with hemlock on my final breath – the death of a false sense of self. Now, I must retire to offer her the pleasures of my new body – for she calls me still by my truest name.