Suddenly, the Religious Instruction classes I had at school seem terribly dull. Good old RI class, 2nd period Thursday mornings with Mr Ormsworth, possibly the dullest teacher to have ever walked this earth. Even at that age, I shared my mother’s sceptical views on religion, yet, at the same time, I was very interested in comparative religion. Not that the RI classes really covered that much. And now, last night, I learned yet more comparative religion – from a unicorn.
I didn’t know unicorns, or horses, had religion. But apparently they do, indeed, they have a quite fascinating, and in its way, beautiful theology. Who would have thought it?
Mitternacht came into the tavern shortly after I started my shift. In the course of the usual greetings and enquiries after each other’s health, she mentioned she had lost her hymnal. I sympathised and spoke of my mother’s hymnal, which I still have in my possession, and how she treasured it even if she mostly regarded church as a social obligation.
We were briefly interrupted by some child throwing snowballs and yelling “Mommy’s boy” at me. I have no idea who he was, but threatened to set Aoibheann on him. Anyway, after the interruption was over, Mitternacht asked what a church was, and when I told her, she asked it that was like the Celestial Dias, where her kind sing to She Who Carries the Sun and the Moon, or the Artisan’s Shrine, where they leave offerings to the Artisan. Aoibheann joined us at this stage, and seemed interested to hear what Mitternacht had to say. From the questions she asked, I get the impression she had already learned something of Mitternacht’s culture. I asked her to explain more.
It was a most interesting tale. It started with the Artisan, who made the world, and made the first unicorns. Then it, for the Artisan is both male and female, made more beings, but lacking material to make the horns, made instead, winged horses, as in Pegasus. Later, it made more beings, but lacking the materials to make more Pegasi, fashioned from the earth, the regular horses and ponies – their earth-like colours being due to the lack of bright pigments with which to paint them.
The Artisan also made the Celestial Clock, which governed the night and day, but over the years, the clock slowly drifted out of synchronisation. The Artisan asked of all the equine beings that they give gifts of materials – clay, feathers, gems etc – so that it could make two new beings, whose job it was to carry the sun and the moon on their courses. So far, so good, but then it got interesting. Supposedly, the one in charge of the moon got jealous because all the people were awake during the day, when her sister was in charge. They had some sort of fight, with the moon sister preventing the sun from coming up. The sun sister defeated her and imprisoned her for a while, but then she broke out and there was another big fight. Eventually, the Artisan got fed up, brought them back to the workshop and merged the two sisters into one being, so there would be no more fighting. It also commanded the equine people to sing praises at morning and evening, to She Who Carries the Sun and the Moon, so that they, or possibly she, will no longer be sad. Hence, I suppose, the hymnal.
I was quite affected by the tale, and was very interested how, even across a totally different culture; there were common elements to other creation mythologies. I thanked Mitternacht for sharing the story and would have asked some more, but time was pressing on me and I had to leave. There is something very appealing about the idea of an artisan or craftsman creator. It is an idea I would like to explore further at some point.
I returned to the flat, there to continue my struggle with the next chapter of Edmund’s adventures, which somehow seem rather mundane after stories of the creation of unicorns. Looking around, I realise I have not seen Lalla in days. I do hope she is safe and well, wherever she is.