“Let the joyous festivities begin!”
Wild applause rang up and down the valley as the Observants unfurled their banners and told the Supplicants where they could dance and sing. The Cleaners were right in front of both groups to make sure no damage was done to the wide expanse of nature in front of them. And at least they had a beautiful day for it.
Carnelius spoke once more.
“Remember, flora and fauna: we commune with Nature because Nature is within us and without us. It sees us and we see it. Enjoy what you will.”
More applause rang out and the Celebrants joined in to welcome all the newest members of the tribe to the community.
It was certainly a glorious day.
Cirrus was very uncomfortable in the robe and laurel leaves. As a Celebrant, he was responsible for his own small group of dancers who were to compete with Supplicants. And it was a step up not to be a part of that group anymore, but still…the outfit… There was something very non-masculine to an outfit that flowed in pure white muslin and linen, even when the weather was warm and there were no tourists gaping at their rituals. He was lucky enough to be able to infiltrate other communities with outreach work, but he still had a fear in his heart over being observed this way.
Why was he burdened with this one? They say it takes a village to raise a child; no kind words on how much of that community is needed to raise an idiot.
“Is it not a fine day for such a celebration?”
“And an equinox that the kind Mother herself has provided us is full of sunshine and blue sky and little clouding.”
Was there a reason why he was here? Cirrus kept moving with his group.
“I shall see you at the Betrothal, Brother!”
Even in a community of strange movement and odd dancing, Shamrock moved like a complete lunatic. But he did serve one purpose: he reminded Cirrus of his least favourite part of the ceremony.
Where were these thoughts coming from? He was spending more time away from the community, having some success in enticing people from local cities to join them and pay their way to enlightenment. But something was nagging him.
That last community… He had spent time with people who would work the land – whatever that meant – collect their spoils of wheat, barley, corn and the like, and then head to the local bar and restaurant and eat and laugh and enjoy themselves far too much for people who had no real bond with Nature; her fine Nature.
And what was it that bothered him the most? Not the drinking, the dirty songs, the women who revealed all with no shame in them.
It was very simple.
They were happy.
And how could that be true?
His group passed their third round and he had to be careful that he did not forget the special steps on the fifth and final turn.
Everything Cirrus had been taught about that other world was a warning that no one could be happy without the close relationship to be found here with Mother.
Ah, Mother. His Mother and their Mother. She was the one he blamed the most for all of this. How could they possibly be happy with this kind of worship, this endless groveling and scraping on key days of the year when they felt that the Great She wanted them to dress like this and bow before her.
And then there was their work with other…communities.
Cirrus could say that he was grateful that he did not have to wear the costumes when he was off the land (their piece of Earthiness, it was called). At the last visit, they had misheard him and called him Cyrus. And he had not corrected them.
“So, where you from Cyrus?”
“Well, do you know…?”
And always the same questions about his relationship with the community; the same questions about rumours he knew to be true but had to say were false; the same stares and general discomfort around him. At least there they had not chased him away or threatened him with weapons. They seemed to busy on a Friday night to bother with one weird stranger trying to promote his cult.
His group was done their turn. He would have some time to rest before the Celebrants were due back and he really wanted to talk with Carnelius and Anansi.
If they really cared about the work he had done for them, they would listen.
“Ah, Brother Cirrus!”
“Brother Carnelius, Sister Anansi.”
They were both seated on the traditional matting, waiting for the other Celebrants to pass before the Supplicants made their vows. The Observants would not disturb him while he spoke to their leaders. At least, not today.
“You have good news from the last visitation?”
“Um, well…I have news.”
What was it about Anansi that always bothered him? Her wardrobe, absolutely no different from the robes and flowers of the other women, seemed to caress her form in ways that made it impossible for him to be polite with his eyes. He was always careful to look directly at her face, but still…the temptation…
“They did not seem at all interested in what I had to say. I left them some literature at one of their gathering places and observed how they celebrated their harvest.”
“A pathetic and feeble comparison with ours, I suspect.” Carnelius winked at him. Cirrus tried to ignore it.
“Yes, but there was something else that I noticed. There was something I wanted to note for future reference.”
“Indeed.” They both stared at him with smiles.
The smiles started to fall.
“Did you really find that surprising, Brother?”
“No, Sister. But for the first time, I wondered if we were perhaps wasting our time.”
Carnelius was a born leader. He knew that perception played a big role in how he led all the different groups. He understood that they needed him to be at his calmest and most buoyant, especially on the day of a Betrothal. That may have been the only reason why he did not strike Cirrus and summon key Observants to put him in the Mud Box.
He looked at Cirrus without the smile touching his eyes.
“Brother Cirrus, you have been a good and faithful member from your birth and outing. There is no reason to think that those others will listen to everything you have to say. But you must continue with your observances and try to get other devotees to the cause. Look at Shamrock, a perfect example of a wasted life in one of those…towns. He finally found his purpose here with us. And he is soon to become a Brother now…with all of the perks that provides.”
He now stood up, with Anansi leaning forward with her chest and eyes in Cirrus’ vision.
“You would not be so cruel as to ruin a Betrothal with this information, would you?”
The hand that Carnelius placed on his left shoulder was rougher and stronger than he imagined it could be.
No…Brother. And Sister.”
They both sat back on the matting, staring ahead at the crowds as they addressed him.
“Enjoy the celebrations, Brother Cirrus! At least you will not have to go through the trial today!”
A very comforting thought for Cirrus, indeed. His Betrothal was very painful, cold and ignoble (having his chosen moment in winter was a cruel choice, but he was respected for the lack of fear and anger in his response). And Shamrock would be fine.
Cirrus looked up at the clouds as he walked over to his group and prepared for another turn.
Mother Nature was with them all.