Ra-Hala And Er-Shentu

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The Tale of Ra-hala and Er-shentu by Andrew S. Plymale When Ra-hala began his weaving, the universe shook out into being.

When Ra-hala began his whispering, song came into the Void and filled all things.

Before this time, before Great Ra-hala spun all things into existence, there were only shadows. There were phantoms and tremors of motion and darkness. There was deep moaning and sighing.

Then, from outside of the nothingness, came Ra-hala the Great Black Spider, full of life and clothed in silence. Rahala moved quietly across the nothingness, taking in the vastness of it all. Then suddenly, from one end of the nothingness to the other end, Great Ra-hala shot forth a string from one of his massive eight arms, then another, and another, until so many strings had been formed that they overlapped and fell onto each other, tangling and forming a gigantic net that filled the expanse of Nothingness.

Ra-hala exhaled at his work, and called it 'web' (that is why today it is called a 'spider's web').

The shadows and phantoms had been hiding out in the corners of the nothingness away from Ra-hala. The winds also were nowhere to be seen. They did not see any escape from the trappings of the web, and began to despair.

Father Shadow said to Old Woman Phantom, "We have long been at odds in our silences in the nothingness. Now Ra-hala has come and filled the nothingness with this web. Let us work together and break free of Ra-hala's tyranny, perhaps by our combined strengths we might free ourselves from this prison." Old Woman Phantom floated in the corner, twirling and weeping as is the custom of phantoms. However, she looked up at him, agreeing with Father Shadow, and said, "Yes, there is no other way. Let us ask Brother Wind to help us and to carry us." So these three forces gathered together and formed a plan to share with their peoples - the shadows, the phantoms and the winds. They all gathered together - shadows, phantoms and winds - and this was their declaration: "Unmerciful Ra-hala has forever disturbed the calm of the nothingness with the web. All day long, he roams from one end of the nothingness to the other, firing string from his arms and destroying the vastness.

We, the shadows, the phantoms, and the winds, who, ancient from outside of time, have long passed over each other in our pride, now stand together to escape the tyrannies of Ra-hala. Curses upon him, long live our union - from now until eternity." And with that the three great forces rose up and united, they began spinning and spinning around, like a whirlwind, flying upward, merging into each other, lightning firing inside the belly of the whirlwind, waters springing into being, fires and lava, moist earth and rock all began to emerge as the whirlwind span on and on.

The whirlwind span and span until it became a giant sphere, full of all the energy and power summoned by the three forces. Then, when the appointed time had come, the whirlwind became a frenzy of fire and ice and earth and water and blue sky. The winds retreated for just a moment, the sphere suspended in the remnant of the nothingness, and then suddenly the winds gathered together all their strength into one breath and threw themselves at the sphere, hurling it forward. The sphere flew at the web like an attacking hunter, all of the forces hoping that they might tear a hole through the web and break free from it forever.

But Ra-hala had planned for this already. He had crafted the web so that only he and he alone might break the power of the string.

The sphere flew straight into the center of the web, capturing itself in the trapping strings. The winds, seeing the fate of the sphere ahead of them, scattered into a thousand pieces and have since that day been destined to fly about in the twisted hallways of Ra-hala's web.

Ra-hala was satisfied that he had trapped food into his web, his labors had made him very tired and hungry.

That is why it is sung: "When Ra-hala fooled the shadows, life and death came unto the Earth.

The winds are forever captives in the ether.

Feasting comes from the labors of trapping." Ra-hala looked over the sphere and saw it still alive inside. He began to spin his web around the sphere. It began to tremble and quake at Ra-hala's weaving. The sphere was then made into a coccoon of the web's strings. It shook and shook and almost broke itself free from the web's grasp.

Then Great Ra-hala fell upon the sphere with his fangs, piercing the skin of the sphere and poisoning the insides. The sphere cried out from the effort. Ra-hala sank deep into the contours of the sphere.

The sphere fell back as if dead from mighty Ra-hala.

That is why we sing: "Man and woman, like Great Spider and Sphere, will press against each other as in battle, And fall back, wounded and as if dead, Wounded and as if dead." Rahala began to pierce the body of the sphere with his terrible eight arms. Only, Ra-hala did not know the true strength of the phantoms and the shadows, and of how strong they had become while dwelling inside of the sphere. As each of Ra-hala's great arms broke the surface of the sphere, great floods of various kinds broke forth from the depths of the sphere. All manners of form burst out into the nothingness, bits of fires fell into the web and were later called 'stars'; waters flew upward, covering Ra-hala's countenance, waters began to drip from the web and were later called 'rain'. The trees, the mountains, the fish and the birds, large roaming creatures and the tiny insects, the leopard, the sheep, the crops - many other fragments of what we now call Earth began to clamor over the surface of the sphere.

Ra-hala retreated in surprise from the sphere.

He spoke: "You shall be called Er-shentu, because life came out even from your death." Ra-hala never again poisoned Er-shentu, but kept watch over Er-shentu's being always.

After much time, Ra-hala had counsel with Er-shentu and decided to create woman and man.

But after many tries, Ra-hala could not make anything to his liking.

So Great Ra-hala crumpled the attempts into one lump and began to weave his cocoon around the lump. He bit deep into it with a poison he called Desire, and screamed out into the vast structure of the web.

When he felt the stirrings of life in the cocoon, he grabbed it, broke it in half, and placed one half on one end of Er-shentu and the oher on the opposite end. These pieces came to life - one grew and became Woman, the other grew and became Man. Finding each other, they became one again.

Everyday almighty Ra-hala did this act, creating, destroying and biting until the Earth was filled with every man and every woman.

Woman and man began these acts - weaving, building, creating, biting, talking, climbing, battling - because Great Ra-hala first began them.

Many years of woman and man covered the Earth and many buildings were made. Ra-hala became content and retreated into a hiding place - although still today, in both day and night, his eyes ever watch over Er-shentu - one eye called Moon, and the other, called Sun.