Gather ‘round, children, gather ‘round, and I shall tell you the way of the world and how it came to be.
Once there was only the sea. There was no sky, no land, no day, no night. There was only the vast ocean, without end. And within this sea-that-was-all lived the Horned Serpent. As ageless as the sea, the Serpent knew no beginning; it had always been, just as the ocean had always been.
For untold eons, the Horned Serpent was alone, and it was content in its aloneness.
But then a thought entered the Serpent’s mind, and, once that thought took hold, the Serpent could not forget it.
What if I were not alone? What if there was another?
For untold eons more, the Horned Serpent continued to roam the sea-that-was-all, but it was no longer content. Loneliness closed around its heart, making the Serpent ache. As the pain worsened, the Serpent began to twist and writhe, churning the waters of the sea. The ocean frothed and foamed, foamed and frothed, and as it did, the waters began to condense.
The Horned Serpent saw this and it continued to twist and writhe. Round and round it swam, circling and circling until it could very nearly bite its own tail. And the waters of the sea-that-was-all hardened and became heavy, heavier still, and heavier still, until the heart of the infinite ocean was a solid sphere, a gleaming, shimmering pearl.
The Serpent, tired, curled around the pearl and slept.
Untold eons passed.
When the Horned Serpent awoke, it looked upon the sphere and was content.
But only for a time.
Eventually, loneliness once again closed around the Serpent’s heart, making it ache. The pain grew and grew. The Horned Serpent writhed and twisted, moaning and weeping in its agony. And with a flick of its tail and a crack of its head, it split the gleaming, shimmering pearl in half.
From the pearl came forth all of the animals. All the birds and the fishes, the four-legged mammals and the two-legged mammals, the reptiles and the bees, the bats and the beetles. All of the trees, too, with wide leaves and spiny needles, and all of the flowers and the herbs, both sweet and bitter.
And when the Horned Serpent saw these wonders, the ache of loneliness disappeared from its heart, and it knew joy for the first time.
But the sea-that-was-all could not be home to birds and fishes, four-legged mammals and two-legged mammals, reptiles and bees, bats and beetles, trees and flowers and herbs as it was home to the Horned Serpent.
And when the Horned Serpent saw this, it twisted and writhed, gathering up the broken fragments of the shimmering pearl. With its horns, it scraped at its skin, tearing at the scales until it bled. Once again, the waters of the ocean hardened and became heavy, heavier still, and heavier still, mixing with the skin and the blood of the Serpent, until the heart of the infinite ocean was a solid sphere, rich black and brown and blue. And upon this world all of the animals and all of the trees and all of the flowers and herbs came to rest.
The Serpent, tired, curled around the world, holding back the sea-that-was-all, and slept.
Untold eons passed.
When the Horned Serpent awoke, it looked upon the world and was content.
But the animals and the trees and the flowers and the herbs were not. They called out to the Serpent, “We are not as you. We are not eternal, unborn and unending. We need the rest of sleep, and a counting of the time until we rest, and then awaken again.”
The Horned Serpent heard the wisdom in their words. With a flick of its tail, it broke off one of its horns. With a snap of its jaw, it cleaved the piece in half. It rolled one piece through the waters of the sea-that-was-all, smoothing and polishing the horn until it glowed like fire. And this the Serpent set spinning high above the world. The remaining piece of horn, curved and bright, it set to spinning on the opposite side of the world.
And so day and night came to be, that the animals and the trees and the flowers and the herbs might count the passage of time until they rested, and then awakened again.
And the Serpent, its single horn gleaming, curled around the world, holding back the sea-that-was-all. And the Serpent was content.
And now you know the way of the world, children, and how it came to be.
[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]