Eastern OrthodoxPoetry

The Water Magician

Avestan was tired of the desert. Not the most astrologically-minded of the magicians, Avestan had wandered far longer than he had intended—not that any intend to wander to begin with, but once one starts wandering, it is hard to stop. Avestan had begun wandering one day when he tired of looking up all the time, and decided the stars really had nothing to say to him. Everything he needed was on his camel, his back, and his mind. He had his quest: find the King and present to him his gift.

So by looking only at his companions, and not the star they were following, he was quickly lost. You see, everyone can get to the same place together when they all follow the same direction, but it is easy for them to become separated if they begin following one another instead.

By the time Avestan realized he could no longer see, there was no more light. The light had disappeared into the West, taking his companions, and his water, with it. Avestan knew the stars are always watching, even when they cannot be seen, so he prayed to the star, “Oh Gladsome Light, I have foolishly become blind. Bring me past the sunset to the rising of the sun, and bathe me in your light.” Then he lay down to sleep, expecting never to rise.

Avestan awoke when the morning sun pried open his eyes. He was surprised to see it. He was even more surprised to see a dove alight before him and drop a bunch of dates by his hand. “Thank you kind dove,” Avestan bowed. “Who has sent you to me?”

“I have come from the star’s end to bring you an offering for your journey,” replied the dove. “I will now lay down and die, and you will eat and drink me. My brother will come tomorrow with the morning offering.” And promptly the dove lay down, beak open and feet up, dead and warm.

Each night, Avestan would pray “Oh Gladsome Light…” Each morning, another dove would come with a bunch of dates and die. Each Aban (for Avestan was the eighth follower of the Magi), a second dove would come with a cactus bole for Avestan’s camel.

For thirty years, Avestan and his camel surfed the desert, over corduroys and capillaries and pipelines and pockets of sand. Although Avestan was no stranger to the desert, and had learned the stars in it’s bright darkness, he had never been so long in the desert without finding an oasis. For thirty years, Avestan was neither enlightened nor enlivened. But each night he prayed “Oh Gladsome Light”, and each morning there was an offering of flesh and blood.

One clear crisp day, Avestan heard a great sound, and prepared for a desert windstorm. He peered toward the West, and as he and his camel swam the desert sand, he saw what appeared to be a cloud on the horizon. The cloud soon began to separate into dark clumps of moving figures, a crowd of robes at the edge of the endless beach that was bordered by a river dirty enough it might have indeed been simply flowing desert sand.

Avestan approached his first water in thirty years, and suddenly realized he was thirsty, down to his skin and bones, down to his dusty soul. His desert surfing would end at the water’s edge, and he would sink beneath its waves. But look—there was already someone going down into the water here: a hairy man, and a man in white robes.

As Avestan looked at those who had entered before him, hand over his eyes to shield them from the sun, he saw something else he hadn’t seen for thirty years. Over the head of the white-robed man, Avestan could see a star, the daystar. This at long last was the king to whom Avestan owed his tribute!

Avestan removed an oilskin from his camel’s pack and went down into the water to the hairy man and the king. The hairy man bent and scooped up water, raising his hands to pour the sandy soup over the king’s head. “Stop! Oh please stop!” he called. The mud trickled from the hairy one’s hands as they waited for Avestan to draw near.

From inside the oilskin, Avestan drew a golden goblet. A cover was laced tight over the mouth, but in a moment it was removed, and Avestan offered the goblet to the hairy man, down on bended knee. “As a tribute to the king, I have brought a goblet of pure water from the garden from which the four rivers of life flow. I had thought to bless the king with this water, but now I see it is this water that must be blessed by the king, for it is from him and not from the headwaters where all life flows.”

The hairy man took the goblet from Avestan, and at a nod from the king, tipped the clear water over his head. A voice from Heaven was heard, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” Avestan’s dove descended on the king’s head. Avestan himself could not remain silent, but sang “Oh Gladsome Light, thou hast enlivened me and enlightened the whole world.”

And so by this gift of the Magi, all the waters were made lively by the source of life, and the goblet became the cup from which flowed the life-blood of all the world. And Avestan, the water magician, was never thirsty again.

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

Kenneth O'Shaughnessy

A Northerner by upbringing, Kenneth has lived in the South since his (first) college days. After returning to college, he began to do more than just dabble with writing, and has self-published a children's picture book, a middle-reader's book, and several collections of poetry. Baptized in the Roman Catholic church, raised in the fundamentalist Baptist church, and having spent time in the Reformed Baptist church, Kenneth settled down in the Eastern Orthodox church in 2006.

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