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Ophiuchus

In darkness, in blackness it is never cold – there is always warmth underground.

Sometimes he could half stand and take bent over strides, feeling the roughly hewn floor solid under his feet. But here the roof was low and crawling on hands and knees meant slow progress. The hollowed tunnel curved and turned. An image arose in his mind. He was travelling through the gut of a live being. Like Jonah in the whale. But his host was not a whale, not water born, but a snake, earth born. He bid the snake a greeting and his voice echoed through the space.

Something brushed his cheek. Automatically his hand flew to his face. A thin wire was dangling near his head. The root of a tree he assumed. He was nearer the surface than he’d thought. He stopped. He rested. He took four deep breaths.

The air was sweet and flowed into his body, renewing the strength in muscle and bone. His hands reached out to the tunnel walls and he scratched the surface. It gave way and stuck to his fingertips and clogged under his nails. It was soil – no longer hard rock. His stressed breathing eased, his heart no longer pounding with the effort of crawling, and the sloshing sound of his own blood feeding his brain faded away.

Being still he heard a new noise. The splash of water. Surely he couldn’t be hearing the river, it must be half a mile from here. In the darkness, in the warmth he listened. It was rain. A few feet above his head, above the surface of the ground, big droplets would be falling off the leaves of the tree and splattering onto the earth.

He smiled – not far now. He closed his eyes and restarted the journey, carefully reaching out with each hand to feel the safeness of firm floor before moving forward.

The easy ascent through the tunnel had become familiar to him, but the scent of earth now filled the air, his hands grew colder and then he felt the tickle. Something slithered down his hair and tickled his neck. Warily, he opened his eyes.

The fading light of a misty evening filled his vision, softening the open framework of bare woodland limbs. Rain splattered through the tracery of trunks, branches and twigs. Above him hung the rock cleft opening of the tunnel, raindrops gathering along the edge, forming rivulets in the stone fissures and then falling as miniature balloons.

He laughed, opened his mouth and caught one, then another, grateful for the refreshing drink. It tasted of nectar. He rose, headed towards home, the smoke of a welcoming fire wafting through the fast approaching night. An owl called across the land. Through the night an answer echoed back. The owl called again, but this time no answer. There was no need of a reply. So two owls and he were awake, communicating in the dark. At his doorway he turned and gave thanks.

‘Great Mystery, help us to understand that when we are in a dark place that we are never alone. There is always someone, one of All Our Relations, listening, supporting and aware of our existence.

We may not always hear a reply when we call out in the darkness but we know that at least one of All Our Relations will hear us and witness our call.’

Page last updated: 13th Jan 2011