Originally posted to Raythoo LJ group, Jan. 2005.
This just finished – it was supposed to be a fictionalised magical journal based on my experiences with Kamagrian magic, but it went off on its own merry way…
Constructive criticism gratefully received, as well as gut reactions.
Salt and Sweet and Spice
I am Yaleena Gimrahn, a parage of the Kamagrian, but I began life as a human female.
When I was twelve years old, my mother died. My brother had given her a difficult labour; her womb ripped and not even Wraeththu magic could heal the wound or staunch the flow of blood. We were taken in by the nearest estemble, looked after well enough, but I knew from the moment my mother breathed her last that there was nothing for me in Gimrah. As soon as I was able, I joined a team of traders and travelled all over Jaddayoth, wherever hara who travelled with humans were welcome, selling horses, buying food, spices, wool, whatever Gimrah needed.
The year of my twenty-second birthday, we arrived here, in Shilalama, with its honey-coloured stone, its peaceful life. At the time, I did not know what made me stay, only that I was grateful for the rest. Now, I know it was the call of Tel-an-Kaa, of Opalexian; of Kamagrian. Tel-an-Kaa told me I must have the touch of Lilith on my soul to have heard that call, even in the most dim and unconscious way, while still human.
I write this here to remind myself: how I came here, that I did have a life before. It is important to remember, and easy to forget. And very tempting. But I did not stay here to forget, I stayed here to know.
I asked to study before my inception, and Tel-an-Kaa approved. “To know what you want, you must first know yourself. If inception succeeds, Yaleena, there is no turning back.” I think she meant it as a warning of sorts, but it made my spine tingle with excitement. My heart leapt with hope. No turning back.
My training began on the waning moon, with Tel-an-Kaa’s instruction to take salt baths, and spend time every morning writing down what I remembered of my dreams, and an hour every evening sitting up straight, just breathing. The hienama at the temple at home would do something similar before ceremonies. I always assumed there was more to it than just sitting and breathing.
The baths still seem an extravagance – all that water, and so hot! – but I must learn that things are different here than in Gimrah. I thought I’d enjoy them, and to start with I did, but after a while I found it disconcerting, lying in the bath in a room alone, with nothing but myself and my memories. More than once I ended up in tears, feeling lonely, remembering my mother, realising what I think of myself, what I’m afraid others think of me. At first I hadn’t understood the instruction I’d received about picturing everything draining away with the salt and the water at the end of the bath, but on those occasions, when I shook with sobs of grief and anger, I was oh, so grateful to see all that pain slipping effortlessly away.
I was living in a suburb of Shilalama. Tel-an-Kaa had arranged a room for me in a complex set aside for women whom Opalexian had agreed could try for inception. When the first sliver of the first new moon since my arrival could be seen at sunset in the peach and purple western sky beyond the hills, a Kamagrian named Ladiif came to my small room and sat with me. She was a tall and supple figure in gauzy robes of yellow and green, with fine, pale hair cut so that it radiated from her head like feathers, or thistledown.
She asked about my experiences with the sitting, the bathing, the dreams I’d recorded. She did not interrupt, or say anything, but she seemed satisfied. She sat in quiet, completely still except for the slightest rise and fall of her chest, looking at me. I could only hold her gaze, look into her pale green eyes, for a few seconds. At last she spoke. She posed two questions to me: “What does it mean to hold both ends of a spectrum, and every point in between, within oneself? What does it mean to have and be everything?”
I was relieved to have the silence broken, but when I opened my mouth to speak, she placed her finger on my lips and said, “The process of Kamagrian training is a progression of questions, the true consideration of and honest answers to which allow deeper and deeper access in.” I knew this small word had some great significance, by the way she said it. “Do not try to answer now. Do not even think about the questions. Be with them. Let them sink into you, into your skin, through your pores. Let them flow in your blood and sing in your mind. Let them walk through your dreams. I will ask them of you again, as the moon comes to full, and then I shall expect your answers.”
She quickly changed the subject to the energy of Kamagrian, Aimara, which is the all-pervading Source, the Goddess, female-but-ungendered. This was familiar ground to me – not Aimara, but the Goddess, the Life of the Universe. For the humans and hara of Gimrah, She is a mare – the Mare – proud and beautiful and fiercely protective. For Kamagrian She has no form and She is all forms. This seemed terribly metaphysical to me, and I was grateful when Ladiif took me through a breathing meditation, rather than trying to drum concepts into my head.
“Sit up straight, and close your eyes. Rest your hands in your lap, or on your knees – however is most comfortable for you. Now focus on your breathing. Breathe out as far as you can, then let breath fill your lungs. And again. And again. Now let your breathing be deep and relaxed. Breathe out, rest, breathe in.” She hummed on her out breath. “Hmmmm, that’s good.”
She intoned the name ‘Aimara’ – ‘Ai’ on the out breath, ‘ma’ on the rest and ‘ra’ on the in breath. I followed suit. I don’t know how long we sat there together, eyes closed, intoning the Source of the Universe. It could have been minutes, or hours, or days. Eventually, Ladiif instructed me to continue intoning, but to raise my hands, palms together, over my forehead, then to bring them lower and hold them over my heart, then lower still, so that they cradled one another in my lap, over my belly.
When I opened my eyes, it was dark outside, and I could see nothing of Ladiif but her shining eyes and pale hair, eery in the starlight. She lit the lamp which sat on my table. I started a little; the lamp was too far away for her to have reached it with her hand. Of course I was used to hara doing such things, using magic as they would any other tool – a knife, or a pen, or a match. But it was the first time I had seen a parage do so.
“You are to do this exercise every day, after you have recorded your dreams, exactly as I have just instructed you.” I nodded, feeling too still to speak. Ladiif’s voice was like a summer breeze on the steppe, or a calm sea, washing over shingle on the beach. She smiled, and her serene face became radiantly beautiful.
She pulled a piece of paper from her robe, on which was drawn a symbol, one which I recognised from the inceptions of young men I had witnessed in Gimrah. “Look at this every night, before you sleep.” She placed it on the floor in front of me. “Now I will leave you. We shall meet again at the full moon. I bow to Aimara within me, I open to Aimara above me, I honour Aimara beneath me, I embrace Aimara around me.” With this last phrase, she rose, enfolded me in her arms, then left without a backward glance. Her scent was citrus and leafmould and musk, and remained around me for a long time.
Between that new and full moon, I carried out all the exercises as Ladiif had instructed, and found my dreams strangely amusing, full of comic and obvious symbolism. The question of gender, the ‘ends of the spectrum’, was naturally one I had pondered many times, living as I had with women, boys and hara. I had always rejected the human notions I had come across in learning the history of my people, the rigid, restrictive ideas of what it was ‘right’ or possible for men or women to do or be. Yet I knew there was a power to ‘maleness’ and ‘femaleness’ that went beyond human concepts; why else did Wraeththu become soume and ouana, in social as well as sexual interactions? You could see it and hear it and feel it in their faces, their voices, their bodies, the way they moved, the quality of their presence.
But there was no answer in my ponderings, only more questions, so I focused instead on daily practice, and let the questions Ladiif had asked me slip down into the hidden parts of my mind, as she had suggested. In intoning Aimara, I found that the different hand positions felt masculine (by my head), neutral (over my heart) and feminine (over my belly). But I still had no greater idea of what masculine and feminine were.
The symbol she left me with I knew as Ara, the symbol of inception and the first level of Wraeththu caste progression. I was surprised to see it here, among the Kamagrian. I wondered how many other similarities there were between parazha and hara. In gazing at it, contemplating its curves and angles and straight lines, I found that to me it spoke of excitement, receiving, transmission, whip in the tail, sensuality, spirit and body, light and dark, coiled energy, vibration, signalling, ability to receive transmission. I began to understand something, but I wasn’t quite sure what. The presence of it taunted me from the edges of my awareness.
Between my morning and evening practice, I took to wandering around Shilalama, taking in impressions of the parazha, hara and humans who lived there. I felt uncomfortable, having no work to do (such a thing is unheard of in Gimrah!), so I let those I met know who I was, where I was living, and that I was available and eager for work. To eat and not to work seemed no issue for Roselane of any species, least of all for a woman who was among them to undergo inception. None of the other women seemed inclined to leave the compound where we lived – in fact I hardly saw anything of them even in the compound – but to me it felt wrong, immoral. Eventually, I was given work in a stables, work I was used to and knew how to do well. Having hard physical work to do helped me to contemplate the questions, in an unfocused, dreamy sort of a way. The companionship and camaraderie I found there was also very welcome.
Finally, the full moon came. I still had no answers to Ladiif’s questions. I was nervous and agitated. I went back to my room from the stables early, my mood was affecting the horses so much. I waited for Ladiif, sitting, eating dates, drinking copious amounts of water and trying to free my mind of its churning. When Ladiif appeared, I was asleep. It had been dark for hours, and I had given up waiting, thinking she had forgotten our meeting. Then there she was, in that same gown, the moonlight shining through her hair, turning it into a halo. An angel.
“Rise,” she said. She didn’t light my lamp, but beckoned me to her. I didn’t feel myself getting up, but found myself standing in front of her. Perhaps I was dreaming. She smiled at me, turned and led me out of my room, out of the building, out of the complex. We walked for what seemed like an age, not speaking, through the sleeping city and into the hills.
As we reached the top of a high hill, Ladiif stopped. The sky was clear and the moon was so bright it was like day, but a day tinged with blue and black and silver. “Behold the moon!” Ladiif’s voice was rich and resonant and commanding. “She is our lantern.” Ladiif seemed amused by the statement, but didn’t explain why. I gazed up as she did, taking in the moon in the dark sky, the contrast and the moon’s brightness almost too much for my eyes to bear. I looked down, on the plain, on the city. So beautiful, in any light.
Ladiif turned to me, her hands gentle on my shoulders, bringing me round to face her. “Tell me,” she said, softly now, “what does it mean to hold both ends of a spectrum, and every point in between, within you? What does it mean to have and be everything?”
I hesitated only long enough to draw breath before answering. “In physical form, in linear time, it means choice; it means power; it means no excuses. It means leaving instinct for choice, and yet instinct is then one of the powers available to choose. It means the constraint of freedom, rather than the freedom of constraint.” I was stunned. Did I just say all that?
And did I mean it?
Ladiif’s eyes shone and her smile looked as though she would like to laugh out loud. “Tel-an-Kaa was right about you. Come, lie down.” I lay down, up on top of that hill, and Ladiif drew symbols of power upon my body and drew the energy of Aimara into me as I gazed up at the brilliant moon and the faintly burning stars, and felt their light coursing through me and into the earth, and the fire of the earth pouring up through me into the night sky.
“Aimara, enter, heal, make whole!” A jolt of energy ran through me, and I felt pale lemon-green light enter me, fill me, from the heavens, from the earth, from Ladiif. It brimmed through my body and collected in my sex – every part of my sex, from uterus to ovaries to labia and all points in between. I felt the light, all the cells in my body, every part of my sex, glowing and pulsing. I looked up and found myself gazing into Ladiif’s eyes; they were sparkling with joy. She leaned down and kissed me: feet, sex, belly, hands, breasts, forehead and finally, mouth. A long, sweet, moist kiss on my mouth. Our eyes met for a second, for an aeon.
Suddenly she rose. Her robe had disappeared and she stood above me wearing nothing but a fine belt and a dagger, sheathed over her left hip. Her ouana-lim glowed with changing colour as she stood above me, wild and vibrant, like an animal; like a god. I rose too, so that I was kneeling before her. I was transfixed by the sight of her like this, so full of power. She fixed my eyes with hers, and spoke. “Is this what you want?” Her words sussurated around me, their myriad meanings beating at me like wings.
“Yes.” Yes, to all of it. It was only a whisper, but it was enough. Her gaze upon me intensified, her eyes become black. She unsheathed her dagger. Its blade shone dully in the moonlight as she drew it across her breasts, where four lines grew bright with blood. She spread her arms wide. “Then drink.”
In an instant I was beside her, my arms around her, licking her wet skin, biting and sucking to make more blood flow, its taste salt and sweet and spice on my tongue, her scent filling my head. A low purring vibrated through me from deep in her chest. Her small, round breasts which had looked so soft from a distance were solid muscle under my mouth. I tore off my clothes and pressed my body to hers, biting, licking, kissing, not just for her blood, poured out for me, but over her neck, her belly. Her ouana-lim shone before my hungry eyes. “Not now,” she said, “not yet,” and lifted me up to kiss her, urgent and deep.
A heat and a prickling began under my skin as we sank to the ground, still kissing. Ladiif pushed me back and bit a line of fire down my chest and belly. She said something I did not fully hear or understand, about worship and last prayers, then brought her mouth to my still-human sex. As I lay, flesh burning, perspective shifted around me – the moon was staring straight into my face, Ladiif so far away, her hair was an autumn thistle the other side of the stars. This is a fever, I thought, this is althaia.
The waves of orgasm rolled through me, pushing me out of my body. I watched from above as Ladiif closed my eyes and kissed their lids, put on her robe and lifted me into her arms, walked down the hills, across the plain, into the city and gently placed me in my bed. For a moment, I was back in my aching, sweating, burning body, then I sank into deep darkness.
No-one has ever told me how long my body shook and sweated through its change. I was unconscious throughout, for which I praise the Mare and bless the light of Aimara for their mercy. Or perhaps I should thank Ladiif.
When at last I woke, it was Tel-an-Kaa who was there to greet me, with a cup of pale tea and a plate of cold meats and cheeses and fruit. She smiled at me. “Welcome,” was all she said as she motioned for me to eat. It was mid-morning, the sun shone and a breeze blew through the open window, soft over my skin. It was like waking into a vision – I felt full of energy and yet entirely peaceful.
My stomach growled and Tel-an-Kaa again motioned for me to eat, and I did so, savouring every sensation, every taste and texture. When I had eaten and drunk all I wanted, I turned to Tel-an-Kaa who was still sitting, waiting in silence.
“You want to know what will happen now,” she said, with a smile. I nodded, smiling back. “Kamagrian don’t generally go in for much ceremony and ritual, but Ladiif wanted to welcome you in style, and Opalexian agreed that it’s about time we had a party. There will be a ceremony in three days. There are several other parazha to be welcomed, successful inceptions and trueborns who’ve found their way here, so don’t think this is all for you.”
I must have looked shocked, because she laughed aloud and leaned over to pat my knee. “You are a fine parage, and I’m glad to have you among us.” With that, she rose to leave. She was almost out of the door before I thought to ask where I might find Ladiif. “Oh, I should think she’ll be down at the market at this time of day.” Tel-an-Kaa left with a smile on her lips.
I went to the market, and Ladiif and I found each other at a fruit stall. Neither of us spoke; Ladiif simply raised one eyebrow, smiled, took me by the hand and led me through the winding streets. I did not notice the reactions of her companions, or the stall-trader. I did not notice the route we took. All my attention was on Ladiif – her hair, her neck, the feel of her hand.
We stopped at a dwelling, her home. She paused on the doorstep and looked deeply into my eyes. “Welcome.” Then we were inside the cool hallway, walking up the stair, entering a room, a room dressed as Ladiif had been when we first met, in pale lemons and greens, guazes at the windows and round the bed.
We kissed at last, the breeze blowing the gauzes round our heads. Or rather, we shared breath; it took my breath away. When our lips parted, I looked into Ladiif’s eyes. “Yes,” she said, “this is the difference, a part of the difference.”
“You taste,” I gasped for breath, “you taste…” Words failed me. Ladiif smiled, a bright, sharp, happy, lazy smile. “Then taste me again.” And I did. Her taste and her touch filled my awareness completely – there was nothing else. We moved onto the bed, clothes discarded, eyes and hands and mouths on each others bodies, minds and souls open.
I pulled away, taking a moment to gaze at her body. Then I kissed Ladiif again, her mouth, her neck. I kissed the scars on her chest, faded now almost to nothing (how quickly she had healed!), sucked on her nipples, licked down her belly, its strong muscles rippling, until I was facing her ouana-lim. This time, she did not stop me. This time, she stroked the back of my neck, raising all the hairs there, as I took her into my mouth, as I heard her gasp. I felt her energy pulsing through me then, answered by the echo of her blood (yes, her blood) in my veins, by the new energy of my remade body – my remade body which knew precisely what it needed.
I looked up at her, and slowly lay back on the bed. “You are ouana,” I said. “Will you worship at this soume temple?” She laughed then, but with reverence as well as mirth. She stalked up the bed on her hands and knees, leaned over me and looked into my eyes. I could taste her breath on my face. “You are soume,” she replied. “Will you allow this ouana to enter and worship?”
It was like nothing I had experienced before. Gimrah, whether hara or human, are not a prudish tribe. Humans in particular cannot afford to be timid about sex, when our survival depends on each male siring at least one child before his inception to Wraeththu; sexual play is seen as normal and natural and girls and boys are left to play with whom they will, in whatever way they will, so long a none is harmed, in body or soul. I had had many sexual encounters – with boys and with girls, young men and young women – from the frivolous to the intense. This was unlike any of those times.
As Ladiif entered me, my body responded in a way it never had as a human female. This, then, was soume. Like water, like smoke, receiving, surrounding, engulfing. No power struggle, no clash of inner steel, of wills rising to fight over who would have control, dominion.
This was complete surrender, but without submission – simply being; the passion of the fully passive. Waves crashing, parting, rising; Ladiif and I caught together in their swell, as she moved within me, body, mind and soul, the energy rising between us, the energy of aruna. We built it as one, gradually, slowly – as one we directed it and at last released it through our bodies and our voices, the intensity of our orgasm leaving us shaking and wordless.
I awoke some hours later, to find my arms and legs entangled with Ladiif’s. For a few moments I simply gazed at her face, her eyes closed and moving softly beneath the eyelids. I stroked her hair, gently, so gently. The feel of her against my body, of her hair under my fingers, the sight of her lying there, breathing softly – all of it aroused me. I had never felt desire like it, rushing into me, spinning in every cell, sparking in every nerve. I kissed her eyes and whispered her name, “Ladiif!” I kissed her neck, and as she awoke, as she opened her mouth to speak I covered it with my own. We shared breath and I felt new parts of my body coming to life. Ouana! I was ouana also.
Ladiif’s body knew it; where earlier it had been firm lines and muscle, now I could feel all become pliant and fluid, like a lazy cat. As our bodies rearranged themselves around each other, she looked into my eyes, and I could feel her soul become fluid also, rippling like silk in a sea breeze; surrendering. “Yaleena,” she gasped, “I am…” I cut off her words with my mouth, and finished her sentence, speaking only with my mind: You are soume; I am ouana. And her mind and soul and body responded, Yes!, as I entered her, as she engulfed me.
I thought for a moment I might drown, but before my mind could panic, my body took charge, finding in its rhythm, Ladiif’s rhythm, our rhythm, the way to ride the wave. Time stopped, stretched; we floated, still, at the centre of everything – then a rushing, a falling, and my body was animal only, fucking hard and fast, Ladiif wailing, screaming, mouth a feral grin. Three short panting breaths and she came, growling and moaning into my hair, and I followed, tears flowing as I poured myself into her, my endless offering swallowed up and gone in a moment.
We lay panting, bodies pressed together. I kissed Ladiif’s ear, and she sighed. “You,” she said. “You,” and stroked my hair. I raised myself up on my elbows, and we smiled at one another. I gasped as Ladiif clenched the muscle of her soume-lam and sent a final ripple of pleasure through me. She giggled and kissed my eyelids. “So much so soon.” She sounded almost wistful.
“But there is always more,” I replied. I felt a sudden anxiety. “Isn’t there?” Ladiif laughed aloud – it seemed to me there was relief in her voice. She smiled up at me, controlled once more. “Yes. For you, Yaleena, I will always have more,” and she took my mouth again with her own and began to show me how much.
Two days and two nights we spent in Ladiif’s home, both of us learning my new body, I also learning Ladiif’s. We would continue our love-making in the kitchen, or the bathroom, with a touch, a gaze as we ate, drank, bathed, serving all our bodies’ needs.
On the second morning I had woken in Ladiif’s bed to find she was not there. I sat up with a jolt, then sank back in relief to find her sitting at her mirror, brushing her hair, body draped in peach and lemon gauzes. But as I looked I saw that she seemed different, more as she had seemed to me when we had first met; distant and far beyond me, as if the last forty-eight hours of my life – no, the last weeks of my life – had never happened. Then she turned to me and smiled and I felt warmth run right through me. “Holiday is over,” she said. “I must return to work, and so must you.”
She read me instantly, and walked across to the bed. She sat down and took my hand as I raised myself up to sit cross-legged among the tangled sheets. “Don’t look so worried, we’ll see each other again. This can be your home, if you wish it.” I shouted aloud in joy and held her to me, squeezing her tightly. “Yes, I wish it!” She laughed at my enthusiasm. “Good,” was all her reply, but her eyes shone and twinkled and she leaned towards me to share breath.
“But now, they will be expecting you at the stables – and to hear about your inception.” We both smiled at that. “And then, this evening, the celebration.” I blushed. “Oh, I had forgotten!” Ladiif laughed again. “Well I had not! You are to go straight to the temple at sunset. I look forward to seeing you tonight. You are a worthy parage, Yaleena.” She leaned into me, nipping my ear as she purred, “a very worthy parage.”
That evening, I stood in the temple with the other parazha who had recently been incepted, or had found their way to Shilalama. We wore pale colours, colours of spring and sunrise. Rose buds and pine cones were woven into our hair and around our arms and jasmine flowers trailed everywhere, the mixture of perfumes heady and intoxicating.
Opalexian stood before us, magnificent and incredible and slight and welcoming, upon the dais of the temple, dressed in white, her appearance shockingly pale. Before her stood an altar, draped with rich cloth. Tel-an-Kaa stood to her side, next to the dais. Opalexian spoke, to us and to the throng of parazha and hara and humans gathered in the temple.
“Parazha, you have each in your own way walked a difficult path to be here among us in Shilalama, to be here among your sisters, your fellow Kamagrian. You are each the full expression of Aimara in conscious, fleshly form; the union of what in humans was so tragically divided. Now, you are the joining point of all opposites: you are erect and supple, you are strong and flexing, you are fluid and structure, you are force and yielding, you are whole, not half.”
Opalexian turned to the altar behind her, where three bowls stood, arranged around a candle flame. She picked up the bowl on the left of the altar, and handed it to Tel-an-Kaa. “Here is the salt of tears and sorrows; the salt of blood and sex; salt of sea; salt of earth. It is yours. Taste it.” Tel-an-Kaa came to each of us in turn. She stood completely still before me, eyes limpid, holding the bowl of salt out for me to take a pinch and place it on my tongue, as the others had done. The taste was sharp, pulling me to centre, to the present moment.
She returned to the altar, placing the bowl of salt back in its place. Opalexian gave her the bowl from the left of the altar. “Here is the burning of anger and fear; the burning of desire and will; burning of winds; burning of fire. It is yours. Taste it.” This time, Tel-an-Kaa held the bowl up to my lips, her eyes a challenge which mine could only briefly meet. She poured the tiniest sip into my mouth, and as every other parage beside me had done, I gasped, mouth on fire, nerves tingling yet numb from the strong, spiced alcohol.
Once again, Tel-an-Kaa returned the bowl to the altar, and Opalexian nodded as she handed down the final bowl. Her voice was rich and warm as she spoke. “Here is the nectar of love and compassion; the nectar of ecstasy and power; nectar of union; nectar of magic. Drink it, be filled with it, be it.” It was a command; my will felt it, and agreed. Tel-an-Kaa was smiling as she walked among us. She held the bowl in both hands, and as I took it from her, I drank in the new truth of who and what I now was, and always would be. Its scent was peaches and pomegranates, honey and the slightest hint of the perfume of putiri flowers. It was light and sweet and heady in my mouth, the taste of peace, the taste of joy.
When all of us before the altar had received the nectar, Tel-an-Kaa returned to the altar, but handed the bowl into Opalexian’s waiting hands. All attention was on Opalexian as she stood before us on the dais. She raised the bowl dramatically over her head and her voice rang out, filling the temple. “You are the meeting point of every diad, you are the axis of every triad, you are foundation, you are magic, you are balance, you are expansion, you are power, you are evolution, you are completion; you are Kamagrian!” And I joined with every other parazha at the altar, every parazha in the temple, in a great roar: “We are Kamagrian!”
The sound reverberated, continuing to shimmer in the air around us. The tastes of the three bowls rolled and mingled and chased one another around my mouth, and at last, in that eternal moment, I remembered, as if something within me had clicked into place, where I had tasted their combination before. This taste, this taste of Kamagrian, it was the taste of Ladiif’s breath, of her blood. It was the taste of our love: salt and sweet and spice.