‘The Zar Tales’, Chapter Three…..

"The Zar Tales", just published.....will be on Lulu.com very soon.

-“The Zar Tales”,  published….. on Lulu.com.

 

CHAPTER III.

 

Shakira looked around at the women on the floor. Some were smoking, most talking and the sound of clinking bottles were heard though the women tried to muffle it with their robes.

“Aliya, don’t be so stingy with that bottle. Pass it over here, woman.”

“You will guzzle it, and we will have to clean up the mess.” Laugher sounded throughout the room. Some of the women sipped from the hidden and forbidden bottles of their husbands. They were not the young ones.

Give them time, thought Shakira, the wine will flow as easy as their tongues and their laughter.

It was not often they could gather, and each yearned for a time where inhibitions would lessen and gossip, the welcome companion of women, was allowed.

“Jassa”, called Shakira, “come spread the cloth on the altar. We must do this properly if

we are to catch a Zar tonight.”

“Perhaps cousin we catch two Zars tonight. My Farah has been complaining of stomach troubles and maybe a Zar has gripped her middle.”

Shakira shook her head and laughed. “Farah eats too many dates and she is fat as a ewe. No Zar would have room to lodge in her stomach. Too much food in there. 

Dried fruit, stuffed dates, nuts and sweet breads were passed around on large trays. A large brass one was placed on the altar, made of a high stool in the middle of the room. This was for the spirits who happened to come wandering in during the drumming. No mortal would dare touch that offering.

A number of women had dumbeks, brought to the house smuggled under their voluminous robes. The tamboura , an ancient lyre-like instrument, was already in the hands of Leila, and she busy tuning it to suit the mood of the evening. Leila usually started with sad songs, and as the wine made the rounds, the tempo of the tamboura , followed by the dumbeks, would increase and the women would make little effort to confine their happiness.

Ah! Life could be good! It was just a matter of side- stepping the men. 

Tonight Shakira had an idea, something she had dreamed of for a while. The festival of the Goddess Nut was approaching, and though no longer celebrated openly Nut was the Goddess closest to the heart of women. Protector of the dead, Nut was also beloved by the living, for she spread her body over the Universe and fed and comforted them from her teats. There was always enough milk from generous Nut and she was beloved by mothers, and most of the women in the village were mothers.

So many babies now in the arms of Nut, resting like stars in her bosom! She had lost her only babe, along with her husband many years ago. So Ali was both to her and tonight she would dance in celebration. Allah was the men’s god, but Nut had the heart and devotion of women.

Leila started to play her tamboura, and slow, sad chords and plaints tumbled from her fingers. Women around the room hushed, listened with their ears and hearts, heads nodding. This was the music reaching up to their wombs and lifting the sorrows off their bosoms. Shakira could imagine the ghosts of children and husbands long gone floating like wisps of smoke in the center of the room. Perhaps they would eat from the sacred tray of sweets. Tonight they would join together, still part of the village though no longer in corporal form. The magic of Leila’s fingers drew forth tears along, perhaps, invisible spirits.

Her playing changed after these sad songs. Gone was the mourning of the women, to be replaced by joyful tunes. Voices were lifted in song and chant, shoulders swayed and hands clapped out a counter rhythm to the drums.

Shakira felt the trance take over her body, slip up her loins and envelop her mind. 

Ahhhh!

It was a warm embrace, and it wasn’t Ali! Warm enough to make her move with an internal rhythm apart from any conscious intentions.

She was possessed by the Zar trance. 

Shakira rose to her feet and discarded her outer garment. She shook out her arms and rolled her head around.   Her white cotton undergown was loose over her swelling breasts and haunches. She kicked off her sandals and her long black hair streamed down her back, unplaited, flowing like dark waves. She paced around the circle, her body picking up the rhythm of the drums and tamboura, her hips defining a pattern of movement, her arms held out from her body. She was dancing the age-old dance of women, for women, to greet the cares and concerns of their tribe. For, men aside, women were the heart beat of the village, they were the blood coursing through the alleys and up to the well. They were the waters of Life .

Shakira stalked the room, now a tigress, the drums following her, she commanding the rhythm. Shaking, bowing, swaying, each movement mirrored in the watching eyes of the women. She danced alone, but the movements were blood, flesh and muscle of every woman who sat before her. Heads nodded in time with the drums, hands clapped, some women pounded the floor in counter rhythms, swayed with their own bodies in imitation of Shakira’s dancing.   She moved around the room, hips shaking, belly rolling, shoulders thrown back and forth, hair cascading outward like the whirling skirts of the Dervishes of Turkey as she turned in circles, feet pivoting beneath her body, those feet beating out an tattoo that went straight into the earth. 

“Ayaaa!”

“Sheikha Shakira dances in the river of life! The Sheikha captures our hearts and lifts them to the Goddesses’ lips!”

“Ayaaa! We dance with you, Shakira!”

Voices were raised in chants, joined together in different harmonies, rising up to the ceiling, taking wing in the nighttime air. Shakira’s feet pounded out rhythms deep, deep into the soil of the floor. Her hands and flinging arms commanded the winds, and the women’s chants rose to the ears of heaven.

Ayaaa! 

Sweat dripped on the face of Leila as she played the tamboura, her fingers flashing on the lyre-like instrument and the drums beat different cadences, creating multi-layered sounds. This drone of music underlay the vocals of the women singing in now- strange harmonies. Pagan magic filled the room and Shakira’s body radiated the energies of an older culture. Gone were the cities, the stuff of modern life, the mullahs, the chadors and berka that veiled the beauties of women and in their place was the teats of nourishing Goddess Nut, spreading her body over the universe, the stars coursing through her body, the planets, the moons, the comets, too. The sun crept up her holy woman’s place at night, to be born out of her mouth at dawn. The moon too, came forth from her body, and the passage of the hours were marked by her Houri, the original women of the night, dancing with lessening veils till they lay under her belly at daybreak, sleeping. 

Praise Nut! Goddess of women. Goddess of our own, time before time, Goddess before any God!

 –

 Jane Kohut-Bartels

Copyrighted 2010-2014, The Zar Tales published by Lulu.com, 2010

 

 

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