In 1316 SA, Yebael of Tolfane started work on
a tapestry which was to decorate the Laranian chapel at Menekod Castle.
The work, inspired by an account of a
vision she had read in her youth, was called the Passage of Souls, and showed the journey that souls had to make through Tirithor before coming to the seat of the
Goddess at Dolithor. The dream behind the work was given in the text of Valdamin's In Pursuit of Dreams, the particular manuscript being one held at Korri
Abbey, and read by the young Yebael in 1287.
In order to ensure the correctness of the details
for her tapestry, Yebael wrote to the Suloran of Korri Abbey in 1316, asking
for a copy of that particular passage.
To her surprise, she received word back that the manuscript she requested was not listed in any of the catalogues in the Abbey, and that no one knew of such a
work. Perplexed, Yebael wrote to her Aunt Brygyne at Harchesa Abbey, asking if she knew of another copy of the text. Brygyne replied that she knew only of the
copy formerly held at Korri Abbey, and sent instead a manuscript of Saint Peloran's Trials of Heaven, which she thought might have some similar information.
Working, then, from memory and using Saint Peloran's
work (plus the informative glosses of that particular manuscript), Yebael
embroided the Passage of Souls, a
task which took her well over a year to complete.
Valdamin most likely wrote In Pursuit of Dreams
at some point in the early twelfth century. It is a large work, though
much of it is quotations from or paraphrases of
the writings and sayings of others. It is, as the title suggests, about dreams, though the author includes waking visions also, without making any real distinction
between the two. Sleep, he writes, is simply another state of human life, marked by a greater than usual susceptability to the messages of the Divine which surround
us also in waking.
One of his many examples of such visions - and
used to substantiate his claim that dreams are divinely inspired or sent
- was a dream experience of the Pilgrim; it is
this dream that was the basis for the tapestry. Yebael, having no copy of the actual text, remembers this passage as follows:
I slept, and in my sleep
I saw visions. And though I saw them, at first I could not see, for all
was black. I stood still for a great while, afraid to move in
the darkness, not knowing where my feet might fall. Then I felt a wonderful warmth cover my hands, which I stretched out before me. The touch of this
silent heat lifted me up, and I began to walk forward, seeking the source. I had taken no more than a few steps when I became aware of light to my left.
Or so it seemed a light, though it illuminated nothing, and flickered constantly. I turned slightly, seeking a better view, and my right leg struck upon
something, causing me great pain. I reached down to remove the obstacle, but I could feel nothing before me. Uncertain, I took another step toward
the dim light, and now my left leg hit something hard and sharp, so that I cried out; and nowhere did I hear the echo of my voice.
In the silence I realised
I was now cold once more, and I desperately turned back to my original
path, seeking the warmth which had so sustained and
vitalised me. I floundered, and feared myself lost in the darkness forever; and everywhere the flickering light was before me, as many as the stars. I tried
to run, to seek escape in flight, but my legs would not hold me, and I fell. I lay upon the hard ground, with sharp rocks piercing my flesh, and I cried
out, again and again, admidst this desolation. At length my sobbing subsided, and my fear had left me with it. Sitting in silence, I turned my back on the
lights that still hung there, and let the darkness consume me.
For an age I sat like
this, seeing nothing, sensing nothing. But when the warmth came upon me
again, I felt no surprise, only a joy that I was once again
within its compass, and I resolved never again to leave it. Now I followed where it lead, and though the light returned to tempt me, I stuck firmly to the
pursuit of the great heat, which increased as ever I approached. And though at the last my body burned from the heat that now embraced me whole,
still I moved forward, for there was no pain in me, but only the ecstasy of Divine Power.
Though it was only an
instant later, I thought an age had passed, when I opened my eyes, still
dreaming. High above me the sun shone full on my face;
its heat was like an echo of that which had devoured me, and its light was pure and bright. It seemed to me then that the sun's face became that of a
beautiful woman, who approached me. I tried to rise to greet her, but could not. With a smile the lady drew very near, and kissed me, blowing her
breath softly between my lips. In that instant she was gone, and I was looking once more upon the burning sphere.
Gaining my feet, I set
off along a path that led over a low green hill. Topping the rise, I saw
below me a small building, an inn, where I resolved to rest
awhile. Inside many patrons sat around small tables, while a man with the head of a wolf served drinks at the bar. Though there were people here in
great numbers, they made no conversation; the only sound was that of drinking. The bartender too was silent, though working in furious commotion,
providing a never-ending series of drinks to the insatiable thirsts of the customers.
Though I felt barely
thirsty, I thought a drink would help invigorate me for the journey I was
to make along the road. At the bar, the wolf-head ignored
me, too busy pouring out drinks; finally I simply took one of the mugs he had filled, and drank. As I did so, a great thirst came over me, and I wolfed
down the rest. Before I had even time to think, I had picked up another full mug and quaffed its contents in a single gulp.
By the time I had downed
my third serving, my thirst was almost overwhelming, and it was made only
more so by the fourth. I realised then that my
journey along the road might never be finished - indeed, never resumed - if I did not depart, and soon. With a great effort of will, I moved away from
the bar. Immediately another patron took my place, eagerly picking up the very tankard I had been about to raise to my lips. Wanting all the time to
return and assuage my thirst, I left the inn, and returned to the path.
Very soon the way grew
steep again, crossing over a fair hill. Still feeling the thirst that had
so suddenly fallen upon me in the inn, I laboured up the
slope, and then down into the next valley. There I came upon another building, a dwelling made of logs. A beautiful woman stood outside it, holding in
her small hands an axe that she was using to chop up the large pieces of timber that lay about. When she saw me, she stopped her work and smiled,
showing her white teeth. She greeted me, and I responded in kind. I offered to help her with her chores, and she agreed willingly; soon I had cut the
logs into firewood, and was assisting her in drawing water from a small well behind the house.
It was getting dark when
I helped her carry the wood inside and lit a fire in the hearth. The blaze
quickly made the room snug, and I found it relaxing to
sit on one of the two cushioned chairs. She did not herself take a seat, but rather knelt before my knee. In sweet tones the woman proposed to me that
we should lie together that night.
... out into the darkness.
With only the light from
the fire I had helped to make to guide me, I found the path again and followed
it. Once more my tired feet were greeted with
rising ground, and with slow steps I pushed my body forward. Several times I stumbled, and almost fell; without light to see I could not avoid the many
rocks and holes that lay in my way. When I came to the summit, however, all was changed. Before me in the distance, behind the horizon of white
mountains, the golden disc of the sun rose in slow measure, casting her light over all the land.
Episode with friends and family.
From such a great height
above the world, the vista below me seemed as if rendered in miniature.
A long river, its waters more white than blue from the
reflections of the sun, cut across a broad plain. Fields rich in growth, or lying fallow, were clumped together; a forest, under whose eves many hamlets
lay, stretched its dark bulk where it would. Beyond the river the fairest citadel I had ever seen, could ever imagine, rested gently on a green hill; its tall
spires touched the sky, and a multitude of flags flew at every corner. Between the outer walls and the main keep, courtyards - some paved and others
of grass - gave a sense of space to the whole. Before the castle two lines of trees, magnificent in both size and colour, lined an avenue that stretched
straight and wide for many miles... then the narrow stone bridge, wrapped in ivy, along which the stream of animals went.
I crossed the bridge, joining the line of animals, which placidly allowed me to push my way amongst them.
He goes along the road and over a hill, and comes
into a valley where all his friends and family are. He talks with them,
and shares their delicious food (though that,
too, does not satisfy his growing hunger) but declines their offer for him to stay there - he must be on his journey.
Finally, very hungry now, he comes over the tallest
hill, and there before him is a great, fair castle. He approaches it, and
as he walks through the gates he notices a
long line of animals - pigs, cows, goats, and chickens - wandering into the keep beside him. Following the beasts in the lead, he enters a great hall, where a mighty
feast is underway. Many people sit around large tables and talk and laugh amongst themselves. The beautiful lady whom he saw in the sun presides over all the
tables. A massive fireplace, with an equally large fire in it, dominates one end of the hall - the fire is so large that no wall can be seen behind it. The animals all walk
towards the fire, and one by one they jump onto the spits that are within it. Once cooked, they are removed by servants and served to those feasting.
He takes his place at one of the tables, where
there is an empty seat, and is given a plate full of food, a pig - and
his hunger is abated in its eating. When he has
finished the meal, a servant collects the remains, carries them over to the fire, and tosses them into the flames. As the bones crack open from the heat, a pig leaps
whole and alive from the marrow, and trots out of the hall.
The above material is not in fact the entirety
of Yebael's recollection of the original. There was also considerable space
given to the time immediately before and after
the vision iteself; however, this was of no use to her.
Saint Peloran's Text
Saint Peloran is known for his rather harsh interpretations
of Divine Law, and this is reflected in his greatest work, the Trials of
Heaven. The picture that he provides
of life and afterlife for the true Laranian is uncompromising in its severity. The worth of an individual is not established once, and then assumed forever after, he says;
rather, the soul must be, and is, tested at every opportunity, even unto destruction. It is these self- and Goddess-imposed trials, their form and meaning, which is the
subject of this work.
While Saint Peloran's text gives some useful information
about trials which match those undertaken by the Pilgrim in his journey
through Tirithor, it is the anonymous
gloss to the Harchesa Abbey manuscript that provided Yebael with the most useful details to aid her in making the tapestry. In particular, from it she learned that:
The name of the inn is
The Golden Hart;
Possible names for the woman in the log building are Halea, Quesailuáu and Jaleîknargs (the latter two described as "disguised"), among others;
There was in the Pilgrim's vision a meeting with a farmer in a field; and
There was in the Pilgrim's vision an encounter with a bear sitting on a tree-stump.
Both of the latter two events mentioned were vaguely
familiar to Yebael from the Valdamin's text, but she could not remember
much detail about them, and the gloss
provided little but the briefest mention.
[There is further information on Saint
Unlike the other coverings for the standard chapel
windows that Yebael made, the Passage of Souls tapestry was somewhat larger,
being some five feet wide and
seven feet tall. This was a deliberate difference that she decided upon early in the design process, once she had determined what elements she would include. The six
she used were: the inn, the woman, the family, the castle, the face in the sun, and the bear and the woodsman. After some thought about how to arrange these
images, and how they would be "connected", she came up with the following plan:
[plan - inn tl, woman ml, w&b tr, family mr, castle b, hill above castle below face in sun]
In the explanations Yebael gave for the tapestry,
she made it clear that it was meant to represent the journey of all souls
who die in the service of the Goddess.
Author: Jamie Norrish