Ten minutes out of Phoenix, flying toward Albuquerque, Tara peered
out the tiny square window on her right and watched a huge rain cloud
hovering over the desert. From her seat on Southwest flight 617, the
cloud looked for all the world like a huge, mythological bird. She gazed
at it for as long as it stayed in sight, spellbound as the rain cascaded
from its wings, pouring heavy showers down over the arid landscape.
It was easy to understand how ancient peoples, unaware of the
illusions of nature, mistook images such as this for sacred deities and
made up myths about them. Skies like this could have birthed legends of
Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec's feathered serpent god. Tara remembered a line
from the Codex Vidobonensis, a rare pre-Columbian document that escaped
the fires of the Inquisition: "...his mask resplendent in precious
stones, on his back he carries a woman, just as a bridegroom would carry
a bride." Images like this inflamed the early missionaries, steeped
in their legends of virgin birth. And if Tara's own experiences were any
indication, they still outraged some people.
Tara smiled as she
remembered the first conversation she had with Viveka, when she tried to
describe the passion she felt for her own work at the university. Viveka
sat at the kitchen table staring over the breakfast dishes, a look of
quiet consternation on her face, not yet comfortable with the rhythms of
"And what do you hope to be learning from these
savages?" Viveka had asked.
Disarmed by her housekeeper's
naivete, Tara's answer had been wry. "Oh, nothing much. The secrets
of the universe."
Tara had watched Viveka's brow furrow, as
she asked, "Why would you trouble with all that sort of
"I don't know when it began," Tara had
said, deciding to take the question seriously. "But when I was a
very small child somebody told me about these special people, this
society of shamans. I don't even rememer who it was. Mother knew so many
famous people, who stayed at our house when they came to town. I learned
that on every continent there have been fortune-tellers, people like
priests, highly spiritual people, who saw into the future. They studied
the stars, the earth, the courses of history, and this was their purpose
in life. We don't know all the ways they came up with their knowledge.
But their advice was sought by every leader of every great civilization.
And whenever it was not followed that great civilization fell. The
oracles knew. They were infallible.
"What was the source of
their wisdom? How did they know so much? And why was there never such a
group found on this continent? You know what? I think that we've been
afraid to look! But we need to look. And the secret is going to be found
in our earliest cultures, in the societies that were here for thousands
of years before the Europeans came. They were our oracles. They knew.
And if I'm right, they left behind a record about the past but also
about the future. They will speak out of the past with a message for our
By the end of the speech, Tara was standing, pacing
the kitchen floor in a high state of excitement.
appeared stunned, and Tara had been afraid that maybe she'd scared her
"That's Black Magic," Viveka had said, fearfully.
Tara had felt the older woman drawing away from her.
"No," she had tried to assure her. "I'm certain this
society of shamans had absolutely the highest motives. They had access
to wisdom unparalleled in history, surpassing even the most famous seers
of all, the Oracle at Delphi, in ancient Greece.
know, Ms. Fairfield," Viveka had said. "I think you'd better
watch out for yourself."
Tara smiled as she remembered the
conversation. She wondered how far she'd get with that same topic if she
tried to present it to anyone on this plane.
across the sky, way too close for comfort, flashing through the interior
of the plane in a blinding glare, setting off a collective gasp that
rippled through the passengers' compartment. The gasp turned into
guarded laughter as people expressed their sense of relief, realizing
the danger had passed. For a brief moment the plane groaned, sent out a
metallic shudder of respite, and finally moved smoothly through the
(Continued on page 18 of the book)
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