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Wolf Mothers
Episode 36th January 2021 • Saga Kraft • Betsy Bergstrom, Gabriela Sarna, Sea Gabriel: Saga Kraft
00:00:00 01:00:24

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Sea: Welcome to Saga craft. Myths, fairytales, legends. Stories comfort us, inspire us, and heal us. Please join us as we share stories both old and new. More than anything, we are open to the story and it's unfolding. At times it may be one story told by one person, at times it's the same story told through three different voices. In the end, we go where the story takes us, and we invite you to follow. 

I'm Sea, a writer, artist, and storyteller.

Betsy:  I'm Betsy, a medium and teacher of mystery traditions.

Gabriela:  I'm Gabriella, an artist and practitioner of folk magic.

Saga Kraft:  We are magical fairy godmothers in training.

Gabriela:  Tonight, we will be honoring the wolf mother, and mother wolf, and the liminal spaces that bring her into being, into our lives. We ask for her blessing, for connection to her, and we ask for the blessing of Saga as well. 

Betsy: Do you want me to go first? Okay. My story, Wolf Mother, takes place in what's now Britain, a long time ago.

 Struggling to keep her horse moving forward through the densely falling snow. Wenna tried to remember the story that her two days old husband had told her on their wedding day. She kept one arm wrapped around the limp figure of his sister, one ear cocked to the rising howl of the wind, listening for another sound. The light was fading and all landmarks were disappearing in the snow. She had a good sense of direction and kept her horse moving northward, as instructed. 

She thought back to their wedding day, with its haste, and the story that her husband Bran had shared with her in their nuptial privacy. He'd spent his precious few hours of leave from the battlefront impressing upon her the importance of his clan's story, and delaying the inevitable bedding ceremony. It was a time of war and her young husband a battle hardened commander. Marrying for convenience and the getting of an heir on a royal woman meant that meeting, contracting, and marrying all happened in one long confusing day. 

Listening intently to the story he was telling, while nervously anticipating the intimacy to follow, had caused Bran to clasp her forearm and say "Focus please, Wenna" to her, much as he would to a raw recruit. He continued telling her the story of the king wolf and the elder queen wolf, stressing that he and his sister Alene were children of the old queen.

 Clan stories were sacred, and while some parts of them were known by the general public, others were kept secret by the initiated descendants. She knew the horse stories inside and out, and the importance, so she had pushed her worries back and focused on the story and how it fit together. Bran's voice, low and steady, the calm look in his eyes as he shared the story, and the words themselves had soon woven their magic. The complex story of rival wolf clans, kept secret in this level of detail, revealed the deeper origins of the war that had been going on for a decade. 

Bran was asking her, as his wife and now clan partner, to keep his sister safe, for her importance to the clan of the wolf queen. 

"It's through her, that our clan will prosper and her child could be the next queen of the land."

Well, she could say the same thing. She was also a daughter from a royal lineage. Kings were not determined by the male line, but by the female line. The wolf king wanted to change all that by either taking Aline as his wife, or killing her. Bran wanted Wenna to protect Aline and herself at all costs.

When asked if she had any questions, she pondered for a moment, and then I asked evenly "Haven't you just endangered me now, as well as your sister, by linking us together? The wolf king could kill us both, or take us both and become that much closer to the Throne of Arn."

 Bran hesitated and said "There is a prophecy of the wolf and the horse uniting. It's ambiguous, and yet precise. Through marriage do the two queens of the land hold back the grip of the king wolf, and draw him into their snare to face his death. Under the wolf moon in the shoe of the great horse, the daughters stand for the land and wolves decide by the death right. I will provide the snare, and his death to follow." 

"And are we the bait? Are you so sure? And why me as a wife, because I'm a daughter of Epona the horse?"

"You and Aline both are the agents of the wolf king's demise. I'll help with that. You play a vital role in keeping the land secure from him and his ravages. And Wenna, I desired marriage with you because of your reputation for cleverness, competency, and courage, all in the guise of a quiet and thoughtful young woman. I saw at once that what is said of your character is true. You have strength and loyalty in every fiber of your being. And you're said to be skilled in arms. Remember, I'll help with this. The Wolf is three months away. Keep training, keep quiet because we do not know who spies may be, and keep close to Aline."

 "Does she know all of this?"

 Yes, she's ready for her part. I wish I could say that I'm sorry to draw you into this, but your fate was determined long before. What I can do is care for you as a wife, my wife, and lend you my strength. When I saw you I knew that my heart could be yours. Let me show you that, come, wife."

 He departed the next dawn and that was the last she had seen of him. Word came from time to time accompanied by small gifts, all of these gifts she had on her person, sewn into her clothing as talismans.

She heard the sound she'd been dreading. The long eerie howl, followed by yips and more howling. The wolves were on her trail, but were they the right wolves? She knew she had a difficult journey ahead in the snow before she reached the Horseshoe Canyon, where the horse clan rights were held. She breathed in deeply and called out to her horse grandmothers, seeing Epona in her mind and asking for strength for her and her horse Cloud, and Aline.

 Aline stirred in her arms and said "I've been dreaming, and now I see the mother is coming. She's great in her power under this moon. And she's coming."

 Wenna felt additional chills at these words." Is that a good thing or a bad thing, Aline?" 

"I don't know, just that she's coming and it will all unfold."

 "Is your brother there in the canyon, do you think? He will have had to be guided by my clan to get there."

"They guide him because of you." Aline said simply.

Wenna's horse moved steadily through the snow storm. She guided it by feel an inner knowledge of the canyon's presence drawing her. An increasing sense of disorientation was happening. She began to hear snatches of words and sentences, some threatening, some encouraging, and shrill laughter. She heard the wolves again, closer now, and pushed her horse forward.

She knew this trail by heart but was so confused by the shapes from the snow, by the disturbing voices and even more disturbing howls of the stalking wolves, that she found it impossible to gauge exactly where they were.Alene was effected in her own way. Seeing, rather than hearing ,the pursuers in her mind's eye, she kept a running commentary going that Wenna could barely hear, but did not find encouraging. She shivered continually. 

Wenna was looking from side to side as she brushed accumulated snow off of their cloaks and the shoulders and head of her horse. It's dapple gray markings caused it to disappear in the luminous half flight of the snowstorm, leaving the girls to look like apparitions floating through the snow. She shook off that thought and redoubled her attention.

"Focus." she could hear Bran saying

"Oh, please be there, Bran.." she prayed. 

She did not let her mind worry about whether this was the right thing, or even sane thing, to do. She was well past that, and there was nothing to do now except keep moving forward.

She was surprised when Aline clutched her arm and said "She's there. Ahead of us."

 Something with wide spaced blue eyes was on the path ahead. The figure, untouched by the snow, wavered between that of the tall white haired woman and enormous silver white wolf. 

Satisfied that it had the attention of both girls, in wolf form. It turned from the main trail and veered off, turning back once to look at them and then moving on. 

"We should follow her" said Aline 

"We could get very lost." said Wenna

"I think we've been found, and it's likely this isn't the horse canyon anymore."

"What do you mean?" Wenna said sharply poised at the wolf's trail.

" I think we're in the other world now. We must follow her. She leads us to where we need to be."

 Over the months they'd spent together, waiting for the wolf moon, Aline had proved to be resourceful, practical, and kind, with strong gifts of seeing which she tried to hide. Much of that seeing came in dreams, but sometimes in waking visions. She was surprisingly stubborn as well, for all her dreamy ways.

"Keep us moving, Wenna, we can't lose her now."

" Oh goddess Epona, oh, grandmother, show me, help me with what is right."

She turned the horse, picking her way among the snow shrouded vegetation. The wolf hadn't left footsteps, but there was a sort of shine that marked the passage of the wolf. If she didn't think about it much, she could see the path or a few meters ahead.

The howling came closer and the wind picked up the added intensity had them both hunched over Cloud. Her praying intensified, wordless now, just entreaty from her soul. Not for her own safety, but for success in bearing out what she had to do. 

A little further on, she heard the sound of horse's hooves flanking them on the right,and now the wolves sounded a little further away. A big mountain face loomed ahead. Wenna knew they must be in the other world because no such space existed in the terrain of the horse. She looked ahead and tried to see definition in the swirling snow and half light. It looked even more like an actual face with a mouth gaping open.

Aline, pointing to the mouth said "Head there. It's a cave."

 As they approached the mouth, Wenna saw that they would need to dismount to enter the cave. She glimpsed eerie white figures, indistinct but tall, around her. All of them bowed slightly to the snow covered trio. Despite the wind pulling and pushing simultaneously at them with it's skirling wail, Wenna felt that they were moving towards a place of calmness. Sliding off the horse and keeping a distance from the indistinct figures, Wenna and Aline entered the cave, leading cloud behind. It was quiet in here and large enough to allow the horse to shelter from the storm. Another opening was apparent at the back of this chamber. 

Taking moments of precious time, for the sense of moving towards her fate was growing stronger by the minute, Wenna hesitated to pull off Cloud's saddles, but contended herself in giving some oats to the horse from her pocket and rubbing the inch or two of snow from the bulk of the horse.

 "I'll be back." she wispered

"Ready?" said Aline

Together they entered the second cavern through the tall narrow passageway. This cave was dimly lit by glowing mushrooms scattered along the sidewalls. Ochre and black paintings were on the walls, depicting wolves, and partial wolf and humans, and humans.

 Aline clutched her again. "We're in the cave of the mother. I've dreamt this."

"What happens next?" 

"We meet her."

 They could smell wood smoke and something herbal in the air. It was a fresh, not stale, odor. They moved towards the second doorway, this one lower and wider. Stepping through required hunching over, but they emerged into a more or less circular room with a fire burning in the center. At the fire was the white haired woman, dressed in gray with necklaces of wool's teeth and amber, wrapped in fur, watching them with eerie blue eyes. Wenna noticed another smell, that of wet dogs. No, wet wolves. She could see two wolves flanking this woman, but laying on their sides near the fire. 

"Come closer." said the woman, her light eyes compelling them.

Alene moved forward and gracefully bowed a full courtly gesture. 

"Daughter," said the woman "sit here."

 She indicated a place by one of the wolves,who seemed to be dreaming. 

"Mother of my granddaughter." She said to Wenna

 Wenna put her hands to her womb in surprise, a gesture that revealed its truth. 

"Sit here." She pointed to the open place by the other wolf. "A battle happens now and we must guide it. Take off your wet cloaks and wrap these around you."

 She handed them huge furs, which surely must be those of the near mythical dire wolves.

"We'll be here for a long while. Drink this." She handed them earthen mugs of some herbal drink.

Wenna found herself drinking without comment. What they were doing seemed like the only thing that could be done. And in a dreamlike compliance, she wrapped the rug around herself, seeing that there was enough of it to cover the dreaming wolf as well.

" Close your eyes and link with us." said the woman

 She found herself in an eerie landscape. Alike, but different from the snowy place she and Alene had been traveling in. Here, the sound of the wind was gone. The snow continued to fall and four women stood waiting for her to get her bearings. One being Aline, and the other the wolf mother. They moved quickly through the landscape, followed by the ghostly figures of wolves, with all their many colors. Doomed.

They were back on the trail, moving fast, leading to the Horseshoe Canyon. They could see many footprints in the trampled snow, of horse, men and wolves. Next they saw blood on the snow, which glowed with shocking vibrancy in the dim landscape. 

"Call your people." the wolf mother commanded

 Wenna opened her arms to the sky and wind filled her lungs and she trumpeted like a mare in battle.

Behind her she could feel the pressure of the turn of the fast moving herd of spirit horses, changing directions and trumpeting back to her. The horses began to circle around. The dark wolves ringed around, and harrying, the men and women in those shield formation who had been backed up against the Horseshoe Canyon wall from deeper in the Canyon. The actual horses came, led by an old and feral mare with one remaining eye and a huge star blaze over her heart. 

"Mother!" cried Wenna

 The mare gave her a transmission of so much emotion and information that Wenna nearly fell under the weight of it, then as the power and strength of the transmission took hold, Wenna felt and saw what the mare did. That this battle, now raging between dark wolves and horse, white spirit wolves and foreign men, and foreign men and her people, was happening in more realms than merely mortal, and it would be a defining battle for the outcome of humans and the other world. She also saw two radiant spirit roads, white horse and white Wolf, converging into a node of power. 

She saw Bran at the center of the battle and focused all of her strength to him, for making its way to him was a figure that flashed from wolf to man and back, and who was huge in both aspects. Bran was well aware of him and also somehow of her, for his center, a shaft of love and steadiness that shone like a god ray and reached to her heart.

"I carry your wolf." she told him. 

This struck him like lightning, and he seemed to double in size. As he moved forwards to face the dark wolf, he moved fast, blades flashing, clearing a path to him, the wolf, and keeping him always in his line of view. He fought with two swords, which she prayed would be enough against the teeth and sword of the wolf shifter. He fought with a fury that she knew was exaltation and not battle haze.

Aline's power merged with hers, and they merged with the mare and with the white wolf mother. The spirit wolves were held by the two other wolf women who kept the dark pack at bay, not letting them join their master. 

That was the last clear image that went ahead before she found herself coming to a reluctant consciousness in the cave. The last impression that she had had was of a blood covered Bran slicing off the head of the shape-shifting wolf. The head itself was a Wolf when separating from the body, but landed as that of a man with a snarl still on his face. Her last memory was the stench of battle. 

She woke in the cave, smelling herbs, fur and smoke. Awakened by the inadvertent kick of the near wolf as it rolled to get up from under the dire wolf pelt. It nudged her with it's nose and whined. She got up muzzily and saw the fire needed tending. The wolf let her know through mind images that heating up a different tea would be restorative for them all.

When it was made she awakened the wolf mother, who first clasped her in her arms with a blessing, and then took the offered cup. Alene simply put out her arms for help into a sitting position and wept softly into her tea. The two wolves drank thirstily from a big earthen bowl .

Aline pointed to the wall behind Wenna. Gazing slowly around the cave, Wenna saw that the entire battle was freshly depicted on the walls. Wenna turned and saw the white one eyed mare inscribed on the wall behind her, with her heart blazing, fighting side by side with the Wolf mother. 

Gabriela: "Thank you, Betsy. That was incrediblly beautiful. 

Sea: Thank you. I just love your descriptors. I was so lost in the snow and in the beauty of the surrounding, and the warmth of the fire. It was very real for me and i'm very grateful. 

Betsy: Thank you.

Gabriela: And I felt like it wasn't only the descriptors. It was the, the layers that were being peeled to reveal the truth of the story as it's happening. Now, I really felt that even though it was a long, long time ago, that time is somehow irrelevant. By the bridging of the clans and the ancient beasts that roam the worlds of the living and the dead and beyond. Worlds, we may not even know, yet seems so familiar and so important. I feel like with each word and with each description, very much like that painting that was appearing on the cave, I was seeing it in full radius. It was amazing. Very powerful. Thank you. 

Sea: I was intrigued by the liminal crossovers too. I felt like we kept crossing and I kept trying to get my bearings, which is unusual. Usually I don't try to get my bearings. I just go with things, and so it was really interesting to me to know that I was wanting to locate myself in liminal space, if that's even a possible thing. I think what I was wanting to know is if we had left liminal space, that's what it was. Because I feel far more secure in the liminal space. Am I safe here? 

Betsy: I think the snow really supported those easy transitions too. As the story was coming through, for me, it felt as though the snow is so important, this couldn't have happened... so, the wolf month is in January in many calendars, and so it's the bitter winter in that climate. And so the snow is the ally also.

Gabriela: What was it like to bring the story through for you? It just seems like such a truth. 

Betsy:...

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