The Eternal Song, Part Two: Rehearsal

As she had been taught, Wiilu took a deep breath and imagined strong magical energy flowing through her body before she began to sing. She was to be a vessel only, a conduit between earth and sky, a voice to enable human ears to hear the celestial harmonies of all creation. By performing the ritual with humility, never thinking of herself, a singer honored the Gods with the purity of her devotion.

That was, rather, how it was supposed to go. But as she reached the high notes that represented the loving Moon gazing down from the midsummer sky, Wiilu thought instead about how much better she sang this part than her rival Lilaya. Both girls would celebrate their coming-of-age on Midsummer Night, now less than a month away. They would not, however, both begin the many years of training that prepared a woman to sit on the ruling council of the Grandmothers. Only one young woman, every two years, was found worthy to be a future leader of the People.

Wiilu had the advantage because her mother, Awiyan, had been Chosen. Although the leaders of the People did not inherit their positions, more often than not they came from the same families. By tradition, a Chosen woman took her place as a Grandmother when her eldest daughter came of age.

After she finished the song and stood in silence for a moment with her hands clasped as the ritual demanded, Wiilu glanced over at her mother. Sitting beside their hut in a wicker chair, with strands of graying hair escaping from a slightly askew headband, Awiyan did not look up from the elaborate dress that she was decorating with beads and feathers for the ceremony.

“How did I do this time?”

Taking another careful stitch to secure a long white gull’s feather, Awiyan did not answer. The setting sun behind her chair framed a face that might almost have belonged to a bird, with her long beaked nose and sharp focused gaze.

Wiilu tried again. “Don’t you think I sing much better than Lilaya?”

The brightly embellished dress, which had been held up to the sunlight, now sank down into Awiyan’s lap. Raising her head to meet her daughter’s gaze, she blinked in what appeared to be momentary confusion.

“You weren’t even listening!” Wiilu accused.

Awiyan’s blue-green eyes finally met those of her daughter. “You sing passably.”

Just in time to stifle the exasperated sigh that would have been her response, Wiilu reminded herself that she would be judged in part on her demeanor. Choosing a future leader was not simply a matter of how well she could sing, read, or recite the ancient stories—as to all of which, Wiilu thought smugly, the screeching half-literate Lilaya didn’t stand a chance.

“One who wishes to be a leader must cultivate humility and respect, not only in her singing, but also in how she relates to those around her.” Awiyan did not raise her voice, but the rebuke was plain nonetheless. “You have done enough singing for today. Now, go and fetch some water for Eldest Grandmother.”

This usually was a task given to a younger girl, but Wiilu knew better than to complain about it. She consoled herself with the thought that she would be of age in less than a month, and Chosen. Then she wouldn’t have to fetch and carry for anyone.

Continue to Part Three

Part One: Beauty.

on 04/27/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 3 Comments | Read More

Comments (3)


  1. Stephanie says:

    So far, so good.

  2. Gwen McKay says:

    Thanks — I hope you’ll enjoy this week’s installment too.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I’m looking forward to it. I want to know where this is going!

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