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  1. #61
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    Legend of Phoenix

    The bird proudly willing to burn,
    So that he may live again,
    Chooses the flames of fires
    That burn the aged Phoenix
    The nature stands still
    Till a new young bird starts again,
    and begins the legend of the Phoenix.

    - Claudian (Roman author)
    One day in the ancient times, the sun looked down and saw a large bird with bright red and dazzling gold feathers. The sun god blessed him, "Glorious Phoenix, you shall be my bird and live forever!"
    The Phoenix was overjoyed to hear these words and sang, “I shall sing my songs for you alone!" But living forever didn’t make him happy for long. Men, women, and children were always chasing him, wanting some of those beautiful, shiny feathers for themselves.
    Tired, the phoenix flew off toward the east, where the sun rises in the morning.
    The Phoenix flew for a long time, and then came to a far away, hidden desert where no humans lived. Here, flying freely he would sing the songs of praise to the sun alone.
    Five centuries passed. The Phoenix was still alive, but it had grown old. It couldn't soar so high in the sky, nor fly as fast or as far as it was young. It wasn’t as strong.
    The Phoenix sang, "Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!"
    The sun didn't answer. When the sun still didn't answer, the Phoenix decided to return to the place of its origin.
    The journey was long, and because the Phoenix was old and weak, it had to rest along the way. Each time it landed, it collected pieces of cinnamon bark and all kinds of fragrant leaves.
    Phoenix on the top of the tree

    When at last the bird returned to its home, it landed on a tall palm tree. Right at the top of the tree, the Phoenix built a nest with the cinnamon bark and lined it with the fragrant leaves. Then the Phoenix collected myrrh, a sharp-scented gum and made an egg from it. It carried the egg back to the nest.
    The Phoenix sat down in its nest, and once again, sang, "Sun, glorious sun, make me young and strong again!"
    This time the sun heard the song. It shone down on the mountainside with all its strength. Everyone, every animal, reptile, bird hid from the sun's fierce rays -- in caves and holes, under shady rocks and trees.
    Only the Phoenix sat upon its nest at the top of the tallest palm tree on the highest mountain and let the suns rays beat down upon it beautiful, shiny feathers. Suddenly there was a flash of light, flames leaped out of the nest, and the Phoenix became a big round ball of fire.
    After a while the flames died down. Strangely, the nest and the tree remained unaffected by the fire! But the Phoenix disappeared. Only a heap of silvery-gray ash remained in the nest. Suddenly, the ash began to tremble and slowly heaved itself upward. Rose a young Phoenix. It was small and, like new born, looked sort of crumpled. But stretching its neck it lifted and flapped its wings. Moment by moment it grew, until it was the same size as the old Phoenix. It looked around, and hollowed the egg made of myrrh. Placing the ashes inside it finally closed the egg. He resumes his Sun song.
    As the song ended the climate changed. The clouds emerged, wind began to blow and all the living creatures emerged out of their hiding places.
    The Phoenix, with the egg in its claws, flew up and away. At the same time, birds of all shapes and sizes rose up from the earth and flew behind the Phoenix. They sang, "You are the greatest of birds! You are our king!"
    The birds flew with the Phoenix to the temple of the sun at Heliopolis. The Phoenix placed the egg with the ashes inside on the sun's altar.
    Every 500 years...

    And while the other birds watched, it flew off toward the faraway desert. The legend is that the even today the Phoenix lives there. Every five hundred years, when it begins to feel weak and old, it flies west to the same mountain. It again builds a nest atop the palm tree and the sun again burns it to ashes…
    And from these ashes rises another Phoenix.
    This legend has been around for centuries with some variations.
    Te basic theme is that Phoenix is a supernatural creature. As it dies, it is reborn anew, and rises from the ashes to live again.
    Other legends say that it lays a huge egg in the burning coals of the fire which hatches into a new Phoenix to resume the life cycle. Greek and Roman myths consider the Phoenix a symbol of immortality and resurrection, associated with the Sun god Phoebus (Apollo). Phoenix is the Greek word for "red", which links this magical bird to fire and the sun. It is said to resemble an eagle or a peacock.
    Greek Legend
    The Greek legend is that the Phoenix lived in Arabia, in a cool well. At dawn, each morning, it sang a beautiful song, so beautiful that Phoebus (Sun God) would stop his chariot to listen. The Phoenix is a unique bird, there may only exist one at a time, which makes it a solitary bird.
    It does not reproduce, which adds to its loneliness, as only its death will bring on another of its race. When it feels its end approaching (between 500 and 1461 years, depending on the legend), it builds a nest with the finest aromatic woods, sets it on fire, and is consumed by his own flames. From the pile of ashes, a new Phoenix arises, young and powerful. It then embalms the ashes of its predecessor in an egg of myrrh, and flies to the city of the Sun, Heliopolis, where he deposits the egg on the altar of the Sun god.
    Phoenix has always been considered the symbol for resurrection, of rising again, of rising from the ashes…
    Among the Egyptians, Phoenix is known as the Benu. The Benu bird was an imaginary bird resembling a heron. It had a two long feathers on the crest of it's head and was often crowned with the Atef crown of Osiris (the White Crown with two ostrich plumes on either side) or with the disk of the sun.
    This name apparently was being associated during the earlier periods of Egyptian history with various birds: the crane, the heron, the stork or the flamingo. Later it was more clearly identified with the heron.
    She was a kind of primordial god, which built its nest on the willow which is on the top of the primordial hill.
    Hindu legend of Phoenix
    This same bird was called Vena in the Rig Veda. The legend is originally believed to be Vedic. India and to be exact, Indonesia, is considered the true land of the Phoenix by a school of thought. The Greek and the Roman myths were believed to have been copied from the Egypt which had picked up from India!
    Jewish have a different legend. The is Milcham for the Jews. The tradition is that after Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden fruit and ate it herself – losing immortality and chastity - she became jealous of the immortality and purity of the others in the garden. She persuaded every animal, every bird to eat the forbidden apple. Everyone fell. The only bird that refused to yield to the temptation, the wiles of the eve was the phoenix.
    God rewarded the phoenix by setting him up in a walled city where he could live in great peace for 1000 years. At the end of every 1000-year period, the bird is consumed by fire and reborn from an egg found in its ashes.
    This mystic bird was called Vena in the Rig Veda. The legend is originally believed to be Vedic. India and to be exact, Indonesia, is considered the true land of the Phoenix by a school of thought. The Greek and the Roman myths were believed to have been copied from the Egypt which had picked up from India!

    Feng Shui belief

    Feng Shui belief is that placing Phoenix – always red (symbolic of fire) – in the Fame & Recognition sector enhances it further bringing glory to people. We have several instances of film stars and politicians benefiting by keeping Phoenix in the Fame corner.
    I have a different, very unusual version of the Phoenix.
    This is the first Phoenix painted on the first generation silk and was discovered from a tomb near Changsha and the archeological studies trace it to be over 2500 years old. The head belongs to golden pheasant (a long tailed game bird from Greece), the beak of the parrot, the body of the mandarin duck, wings of the gigantic bird of east called roc, the feathers of the peacock and the legs of the crane.
    Exclusive to the King, this Phoenix was considered a sacred and mysterious symbol that always led the emperor to victory. The common Chinese was strictly prohibited from using this pattern and especially on a yellow robe. Yellow, on any fabric, was reserved only for the royals.
    There is a story about Indian Emperor Asoka, the Great asking for the powerful, mysterious and sacred Phoenix from a contemporary Chinese King before embarking on Kalinga war (265 BC or 263 BC). The Chinese (Jin Dynasty) obliged with a replica of Phoenix and the Indian King went on to win the war.
    It is ironic that, this same King, because of remorse over the killings of thousands of people, embraced Buddhism and later propagated it in his empire.




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    The Firebird

    Tsarevich Ivan pursues the brilliant Firebird through faraway lands. The magical Firebird presents herself on an apple tree to Ivan. He seizes her tail, but is unable to catch her. In the struggle, Ivan keeps a single feather.



    Once upon a time a very long time ago there was an orphan girl named Maryushka. She was a quiet, modest, and gentle maiden. None could embroider as beautifully as she. She worked with colored silks and glass beads, making for one, a shirt, for another, a towel, or a pretty sash. And she was always content with the money she received, however small.


    The fame of her skill reached the ears of merchants beyond the seas. From near and far they came to see her marvelous work. They gazed and were amazed, for they never thought to find anything so beautiful. One after another, they tried to persuade Maryushka to come away with them, promising her riches and glory. But she would only lower her eyes and reply modestly: "Riches I do not need and I shall never leave the village where I was born. but of course I will sell my work to all who find it beautiful." And with that, although they were disappointed, the merchants had to be content. They left, spreading the story of her skill to the ends of the earth, until one day it reached the ear of the evil sorcerer Kaschei the Immortal, who raged to learn that there was such beauty in the world which he had never seen.

    So he took the form of a handsome youth and flew over the deep oceans, the tall mountains and the impassable forests until he came to Maryushka's cottage.

    He knocked at the door and bowed low to her, as was the custom. Then he asked to see the needlework she had completed. Maryushka set out shirts, towels, handkerchiefs and veils, each more beautiful than the other. "Kind sir," said she, "whatever pleases you, you may take. If you have no money with you, you may pay me later, when you have money to spare. And if my work should not find favor in your eyes, please counsel me and tell me what to do, and I shall try my best."

    Her kind words and the sight of all that beauty made Kaschei even angrier. How could it be that a simple country girl could fashion finer things than he, the great Kaschei the Immortal, himself possessed. And he took his most cunning tones and he said:

    Come with me, Maryushka, and I will make you Queen. You will live in a palace built of precious jewels. You will eat off gold and sleep on eiderdown. You will walk in an orchard where birds of paradise sing sweet songs, and golden apples grow.

    "Do not speak so," answered Maryushka. "I need neither your riches or your strange marvels. There is nothing sweeter than the fields and woods where one was born. Never shall I leave this village where my parents lie buried and where live those to whom my needlework brings joy. I shall never embroider for you alone."

    Kaschei was furious at this answer. His face grew dark and he cried, "Because you are so loath to leave your kindred, a bird you shall be, and no more a maiden fair."

    And in an instant a Firebird flapped its wings where Maryushka had stood. Kaschei became a great black Falcon and soared the skies to swoop down on the Firebird. Grasping her tight in his cruel talons, he carried her high above the clouds.

    As soon as Maryushka felt the power in those steel claws and realized she was being taken away, she resolved to leave one last memory of herself.

    She shed her brilliant plumage and feather after feather floated down on meadow and forest. The mischievous wind covered the feathers with grass and leaves, but nothing could rob them of their brilliant, glowing rainbow colors.

    As the feathers fell, Maryushka's strength ebbed. And although the Firebird died in the black Falcon's talons, her feathers continued to live, down on the ground. They were not ordinary feathers, but magic ones that only those who loved beauty and who sought to make beauty for others could see and admire.


    http://www.firebirdborzoi.com/firebird
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  4. #63
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    Mongolian legends

    The Foolish Wolf
    or how a black pudding, a mare and a calf trick a wolf

    Once upon a time a wolf went along a way when he saw a black pudding lying right in the middle of it. The wolf wanted to eat it at once but the black pudding cried: "Mister Wolf, do not eat me! A little way further a three year old mare is stuck in the mud. Why don't you go there and eat her instead?"

    The wolf followed the black pudding's advice and there really was a mare stuck in the mud. When the wolf saw her, he wanted to eat her but the mare said: "Mister Wolf, if you want to eat me, you'd better pull me out off the mud first." So that was what the wolf did.

    He pulled the mare from the mud and was just about to eat her, when the mare said: "Oh, but I am covered in mud. You should lick me clean first before you eat me." Once again the wolf did as the mare told him and licked her clean.

    But when he wanted to eat her, she told him: "There is something written on the hoof of my hind leg. Wouldn't you like to read it before you eat me?" When the wolf went to her hind legs to read what was written there, the mare kicked out. She hit his neck and ran away while the wolf lost consciousness and fell to the ground.

    When he came to again and looked around, the mare was already far away. So he got to his feet and with his nose sniffing at the ground he ran to and fro between the bushes and the hills. He was lucky and found a one year old calf on one of the hills. The wolf went to the calf wanting to eat it but the calf said: "If you eat me up here on the hill, humans will see you. It would be better if you'd bring me to a small gorge and eat me there!" And so the wolf brought the calf down from the hill.

    "Mister Wolf, you seem to be tired and exhausted. Sit on me and I will carry you!" the calf told him. The wolf did as the calf told him. "When we climb down into the gorge, you'd better close your eyes so you won't get dizzy," the calf suggested. And so the wolf closed his eyes. The calf, though, carried the wolf right in front of the ail 2 of a familiy of Mongolian nomads. As soon as the people saw the wolf, they started hollering and beating him and then chased him away.

    The wolf fled and thought to himself:

    "What am I doing in the distant mountains?
    What am I doing near the humans?
    I was a fool going along this way.
    I was a block head to be tricked by a black pudding.
    Am I the owner that I pulled the horse from the mud?
    Am I the mother to lick the mare clean?
    When did I ever learn to read and write?
    And do I not have legs of my own to walk with?
    I am dumb and now I am dying..."

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    A TORTOISE, lazily basking in the sun, complained to the sea-birds of her hard fate, that no one would teach her to fly. An Eagle, hovering near, heard her lamentation and demanded what reward she would give him if he would take her aloft and float her in the air. "I will give you," she said, "all the riches of the Red Sea." "I will teach you to fly then," said the Eagle; and taking her up in his talons he carried her almost to the clouds suddenly he let her go, and she fell on a lofty mountain, dashing her shell to pieces. The Tortoise exclaimed in the moment of death: "I have deserved my present fate; for what had I to do with wings and clouds, who can with difficulty move about on the earth?' If men had all they wished, they would be often ruined.
    "No work without an aggressive character can become a masterpiece."

    -Marinetti

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    The Legend of the Five Suns
    by Alan J. Seeger

    They say the sun that exists today was born in 13 Reed [751], and it was then that light came, and it dawned. Movement Sun, which exists today, has the day sign 4 Movement, and this sun is the fifth sun that there is. In its time there will be earthquakes, famine.(1)


    This vision of doom belongs to the Aztec legend of the Five Suns. In the Aztec tradition, the universe was not permanent or everlasting. Like all living things it would someday have to come to an end. But the Aztec cosmos doesn't have a single destruction. They pictured time as a cycle of births, destruction, and rebirths. But this cycle couldn't continue for ever; there would only be five ages or "Suns." Each of these ages had its own name, sign, and ruling divinity. Much of the mythology and ritual revolving around this legend took root in Aztec society and thought.

    The Legend of the Five Suns

    The Aztec Legend of the Five Suns survives in pictographs carved and painted on stone, scattered oral traditions kept by the distant descendants of the Aztecs, and texts of ancient Mexico. The author of the literary versions of the story may have even relied on the stone inscriptions to inscribe the myth. The primary source for Aztec mythology is the Codex Chimalpopoca. John Bierhorst, one of the text's translators, notes "the reliance on pictures is ... obvious. Here the author speaks to us as though we were looking over his shoulder, while he points to the painted figures."(2)

    Accounts of the Five Suns vary slightly, but the cycle is always the same. The cosmos goes through a series of deaths and rebirths. There are different variations of the creation myth, the importance of which will be discussed later. In each age the world is destroyed through a different agent. Life cannot be renewed until a new god or goddess sacrifices him or herself to become the new sun and light for the world.

    The first sun was known as Four Water. In this age, the gods created humans from ashes and gave them acorns for food. This age was ruled by Chalchiuhtlicue, the water goddess and came to an end when the world was engulfed by floods. Some people where saved by being transformed into fish. The second sun was known as Four Jaguar. The people of this age were said to be monstrous:

    And giants were alive in the time of this one, and the old people say their greeting was "Don't fall!" because whoever fell would fall for good.(3)


    It was ruled by Tezcatlipoca and came to an end when the sun fell from the sky and set the world ablaze. With no light, the remaining people were eaten by jaguars. The third age was known as Four Rain and was ruled by Tlaloc. This age came to an end when fire and gravel rained down from the sky and set the land ablaze. Some people were saved by being changed into birds. The forth sun was known as Four Wind and was ruled by Quetzalcoatl. This age came to an end when a great hurricane raged across the land and blew the people off the face of the world. Some people survived by being changed into monkeys and scattering themselves in the forests and mountains.

    The fifth and final sun is known as Four Movement and is ruled by Nanahuatzin. This era came into being when the god of the age threw himself into a fire to become the sun. However "at first he was motionless, and so the other gods sacrificed their blood to provide him with the energy for his celestial movement."(4) People were created when Quetzalcoatl journeyed to the underworld to recover the remains of humans from the previous suns. On his way back, he was forced into a battle with the Death Lord, and the bones broke. Upon returning the realm of gods, he had the earth goddess Cihuacoatl grind the bones into meal. Finally, he sprinkled the remains with blood from his penis to create a new race of humans. The fifth sun will come to an end when the sun no longer receives enough blood to continue his course, and the world will be destroyed by earthquakes.

    However, there are some problems concerning the Five Suns. First, there seems to be no promise of renewal or hope of restoration in the Aztec's eschatology. Also, not all sources agree on which sun came first. Occasional variations pop up here and there. The previously given order is from the Codex Chimalpopoca, and seems to have been the commonly accepted order.

    Mythic Interpretation

    The Five Suns and its implications were so deeply ingrained in Aztec society and ritual it is difficult to separate them. To understand the Five Suns, one must understand several aspects of Aztec society, including views of time, space, war, rulership, and even recreation.

    Some people may wonder why the Aztecs chose to limit the cosmos to five eras. Quite simply, five was a sacred number based on the five directions. These directions were the four cardinal points plus the center. The center was understood to be the star cluster known as the Pleiades. Like many ancient cultures, the Aztecs were sky watchers and developed a calendar based on the observations they made. The world survived in fifty- two year cycles, and the "world was known to be safe from destruction at any point within the calendar round; it was only at the expiration on one set, before the succeeding one began, that the world was vulnerable."(5)

    So at the end of this fifty two year period, the Aztecs performed a sacred ceremony. This ritual involved watching the movement of the stars until midnight. At this time, if the Pleiades had reached the zenith, or highest point in the sky, the world was safe and would continue for another fifty two years. Otherwise, demons would come down from the heavens and devour the people.

    When the Pleiades crossed the meridian and the life of the world was secure, the priests would perform a human sacrifice. Preferably, the victim would need to be a captured general or other important prisoner of war. The victim had his chest cut open and heart removed. The organ was then burned and a new fire was kindled in the chest cavity. Swift runners would then light torches from this fire and take the new fire across the land, using it to start fires for the people of the community. The body of the victim would be burned along with a bundle of fifty-two sticks.

    A great deal of Aztec mythology revolves around the role and worship of the sun. Such worship is not surprising given the climate the Aztecs lived in. To an extent, all ancient cultures had some reverence towards the sun, especially in colder climates where the sun's life giving powers could be in short supply for months at a time. These cultures tended to view the sun more mercifully. However, in warmer climates the sun took on a different role. These areas rarely experienced a lack of the sun's heat, but rather an abundance of it. Life became more dangerous during the warmest parts of the year, and precautions would need to be taken in order to avoid more mundane dangers like heat exhaustion and stroke. But humans were not the only life forms to suffer during period of intense heat. There was also damage done to vegetation. A dry season could spell disaster for a community if the sun became too angry and refused to let the life giving rains fall to earth. A particularly long and hard summer may have been viewed as divine retribution for human sin. For this reason, it was important for the Aztecs to keep the sun satisfied, or else he might bring on the final judgment. The best way to satisfy this fickle deity was with the most precious substance in the universe: human blood.

    Sacrifice was an important theme in the Aztec's mythology; it was something humans should do to mirror the divine. Humanity would need to give back to the gods because "the gods freely accepted death, sacrificing themselves so that

    http://www.spiritpathways.com/5suns.html

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    The Ancient One

    by Bearwalker
    Ancient One sat in the shade of his tree in front of his cave. Red People came to him and he said to Red People, "Tell me your vision."

    And Red People answered, "The elders have told us to pray in this manner, and that manner, and it is important that only we pray as we have been taught for this has been handed down to us by the elders."

    "Hmmmm," said the Ancient One.

    Then Black People came to him and he said to Black People, "Tell me your vision."

    And Black People answered, "Our mothers have said to go to this building and that building and pray in this manner and that manner. And our fathers have said to bow in this manner and that manner when we pray. And it is important that we do only this when we pray."

    "Hmmmm," said the Ancient One.

    Then Yellow People came to him and he said to Yellow People, "Tell me your vision."

    And Yellow People answered, "Our teachers have told us to sit in this manner and that manner and to say this thing and that thing when we pray. And it is important that we do only this when we pray."

    "Hmmmm," said the Ancient One.

    Then White People came to him and he said to White People, "Tell me your vision."

    And White People answered, "Our Book has told us to pray in this way and that way and to do this thing and that thing, and it is very important that we do this when we pray."

    "Hmmmm," said the Ancient One.

    Then Ancient One spoke to the Earth and said, "Have you given the people a vision?" And the Earth said, "Yes, a special gift for each one, but the people were so busy speaking and arguing about which way is right they could not see the gift I gave each one of them." And the Ancient One asked same question of Water and Fire and Air and got the same answer. Then Ancient One asked Animal, and Bird, and Insect, and Tree, and Flower, and Sky, and Moon, and , and Sky, and Moon, and Sun, and Stars, and all of the other Spirits and each told him the same.

    Ancient One thought this was very sad. He called Red People, Black People, Yellow People, and White People to him and said to them. "The ways taught to you by your Elders, and your Mothers and Fathers, and Teachers, and Books are sacred. It is good that you respect those ways, for they are the ways of your ancestors. But the ancestors no longer walk on the Face of the Earth Mother. You have forgotten your own Vision. Your Vision is right for you but no one else. Now each of you must pray for your own Visions, and be still enough to see them, so you can follow the way of the heart. It is a hard way. It is a good way.
    xxoo

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    SAINT URSULA

    Once upon a time in the land of Brittany there lived a good king, whose name was Theonotus. He had married a princess who was as good as she was beautiful, and they had one little daughter, whom they called Ursula.

    It was a very happy and prosperous country over which Theonotus ruled, for he was a Christian, and governed both wisely and well, and nowhere was happiness more certain to be found than in the royal palace where the king and queen and little Princess Ursula lived.

    All went merrily until Ursula was fifteen years old, and then a great trouble came, for the queen, her mother, died. The poor king was heart-broken, and for a long time even Ursula could not comfort him. But with patient tenderness she tried to do for him all that her mother had done, and gradually he began to feel that he still had something to live for.

    Her mother had taught Ursula with great care, and the little maid had loved her lessons, and so it came to pass that there was now no princess in all the world so learned as the Princess Ursula. It is said that she knew all that had happened since the beginning of the world, all about the stars and the [2] winds, all the poetry that had ever been written, and every science that learned men had ever known.

    But what was far better than all this learning was that the princess was humble and good. She never thought herself wiser than other people, and her chief pleasure was in doing kind things and helping others. Her father called her the light of his eyes, and his one fear was that she would some day marry and leave him alone.

    And true it was that many princes wished to marry Ursula, for the fame of her beauty and of her learning had spread to far distant lands.

    Now on the other side of the sea, not very far from Brittany, there was a great country called England. The people there were strong and powerful, but they had not yet learned to be Christians. The king of that land had an only son called Conon, who was as handsome as he was brave. And when his father heard of the fame of the Princess Ursula he made up his mind that she should be his son's wife. So he sent a great company of nobles and ambassadors to the court of Brittany to ask King Theonotus for the hand of the Princess Ursula.

    That king received the messengers most courteously, but he was very much troubled and perplexed at the request. He did not want to part with Ursula, and he knew she did not wish to marry and leave him. And yet he scarcely dared offend the powerful King of England, who might be such a dangerous enemy.

    So to gain time he told the messengers he would [3] give them their answer next day, and then he shut himself up in his room and sorrowfully leaned his head upon his hand as he tried to think what was best to be done. But as he sat there thinking the do or opened and Ursula came in.

    'Why art thou so sad, my father?' she asked, 'and what is it that troubleth thee so greatly?'

    'I have this day received an offer for thy hand,' answered her father sadly, 'and the messengers are even now here, and because they come from the King of England I dare not refuse their request, and yet I know not what answer to give them when they return in the morning.'

    'If that is all, do not trouble thyself, dear father,' answered Ursula; 'I myself will answer the messengers and all will be well.'

    Then the princess left her father and went to her own room that she might consider what answer might be wisest to send. But the more she thought the more troubled she became, until at last she grew so weary that she took off her crown and placed it as usual at the foot of her bed and prepared to go to rest. Her little dog lay guarding her, and she slept calmly and peacefully until she dreamed a dream which seemed almost like a vision. For she thought she saw a bright light shining through the door and through the light an angel coming towards her, who spoke to her and said:—

    'Trouble not thyself, Ursula, for to-morrow thou shalt know what answer thou shalt give. God has need of thee to save many souls, and though this prince doth offer thee an earthly crown, [4] God has an unfading crown of heavenly beauty laid up for thee, which thou shalt win through much suffering.'

    So next morning when the messengers came into the great hall to receive their answer, they saw the Princess Ursula herself sitting on the throne next to her father. She was so beautiful, and greeted them so graciously that they longed more than ever that their prince might win her for his bride.

    And as they listened for the king to speak, it was Ursula's voice that fell on their ears. She began by sending her greeting to the King of England and to Prince Conon, his son, and bade the messengers say that the honour offered her was more than she deserved, but since their choice had fallen upon her, she on her side was ready to accept the prince as her promised husband, if he would agree to three conditions. 'And first,' went on Ursula, leaning forward and speaking very clearly and slowly, so that the foreign ambassadors might understand every word, 'I would have the prince, your master, send to me ten of the noblest ladies of your land to be my companions and friends, and for each of these ladies and for myself a thousand maidens to wait upon us. Secondly, he must give me three years before the date of my marriage so that I and these noble ladies may have time to serve God by visiting the shrines of the saints in distant lands. And thirdly, I ask that the prince and all his court shall accept the true faith and be baptized Christians. For I cannot wed even so great and perfect a prince, if he be not as perfect a Christian.'

    [5]

    Then Ursula stopped speaking, and the ambassadors bowed low before her beauty and wisdom and went to take her answer to their king.

    Now Ursula did not make these conditions without a purpose, for in her heart she thought that surely the prince would not agree to such demands, and she would still be free. But even if he did all that she had asked, it would surely fulfil the purpose of her dream, and she would save these eleven thousand maidens and teach them to serve and honour God.

    Ere long the ambassadors arrived safely in England, and went to report their mission to the king. They could not say enough about the perfections of this wonderful princess of Brittany. She was as fair and straight as a lily, her rippling hair was golden as the sunshine, and her eyes like shining stars. The pearls that decked her bodice were not as fair as the whiteness of her throat, and her walk and every gesture was so full of grace that it clearly showed she was born to be a queen. And if the outside was so fair, words failed them when they would describe her wisdom and learning, her good deeds and kind actions.

    The king, as he listened to his nobles, felt that no conditions could be too hard that would secure such a princess for his son, and as for the prince himself his only desire was to have her wishes fulfilled as quickly as possible, so that he might set sail for Brittany and see with his own eyes this beautiful princess who had promised to be his bride.

    [6]

    So letters were sent north, south, east, and west, to France and Scotland and Cornwall, wherever there were vassals of England to be found, bidding all knights and nobles to send their daughters to court with their attendant maidens, the fairest and noblest of the land. All were to be arrayed in the finest and costliest raiment and most precious jewels, so that they might be deemed fit companions for the Princess Ursula, who was to wed Prince Conon, their liege lord.

    Then the knights and nobles sent all their fairest maidens, and so eager were they to do as the king desired, that very soon ten of the noblest maidens, each with a thousand attendants, and another thousand for the Princess Ursula, were ready to start for the court of Brittany.

    Never before was seen such a fair sight as when all these maidens went out to meet the Princess Ursula. But fairest of all was the princess herself as she stood to receive her guests. For the light of love shone in her eyes, and to each she gave a welcome as tender as if they had all been her own sisters. It seemed a glorious thing to think they were all to serve God together, and no longer to live the life of mere pleasure and vanity.

    As may well be believed the fame of these fair maidens spread far and near, and all the nobles and barons crowded to the court to see the sight that all the world talked about. But Ursula and her maidens paid no heed to the gay courtiers, having other matters to think upon.

    For when the soft spring weather was come, [7] Ursula gathered all her companions together and led them to a green meadow outside the city, through which a clear stream flowed. The grass was starred with daisies and buttercups, and the sweet scent of the lime blossoms hung in the air, a fitting bower for those living flowers that gathered there that day.

    In the midst of the meadow there was a throne, and there the princess sat, and with words of wonderful power she told her companions the story of God's love and of the coming of our Blessed Lord, and showed them what the beauty of a life lived for Him might be.

    And the faces of the listening maidens shone with a glory that was more than earthly, as they with one accord promised to follow the Princess Ursula wherever she might lead, if only she would help them to live the blessed life so that they too might win the heavenly crown.

    Then Ursula descended from her throne and talked with each of the maidens, and those who had not yet been baptized she led through the flowery meadow to the banks of the stream, and there a priest baptized them while the birds joined in the hymn of praise sung by the whole company.

    But all this while the Prince Conon waited with no little impatience for news of Ursula. He had been baptized and joined the Christian faith, he had sent the companions she desired, and now he waited for her to fulfil her promise.

    And ere long a letter reached him, written round and fair in the princess's own handwriting, telling [8] him that as he had so well fulfilled her conditions, and was now her own true knight, she gave him permission to come to her father's court, that they might meet and learn to know each other.

    It was but little time that Prince Conon lost before he set sail for Brittany. The great warships made a prosperous voyage over the sea that parted the two countries, and came sailing majestically into the harbour of Brittany, where the people had gathered in crowds to see the young prince who had come to woo their fair princess.

    From every window gay carpets were hung, and the town was all in holiday, as Ursula stood on the landing-place, the first to greet the prince as he stepped ashore, and all that Conon had heard of her seemed as nothing compared to the reality, as she stood before him in her great beauty and welcomed him with gentle courtesy. And he grew to love her so truly that he was willing to do in all things as she wished, though he longed for the three years to be over that he might carry her off to England and make her his queen.

    But Ursula told the prince of the vision that had come to her in her dream, when the angel had said she must first go through much suffering, and visit the shrines of saints in distant lands. And she told him she could not be happy unless he granted her these three years in which to serve God, and begged him meanwhile to stay with her father and comfort him while she was gone.


    URSULA STOOD ON THE LANDING PLACE, THE FIRST TO GREET THE PRINCE.
    So Ursula set out with her eleven thousand maidens, and the city was left very desolate and [9] forlorn. But the pilgrims were happy as they sailed away over the sea, for they were doing the angel's bidding, and they feared nothing, for they trusted that God would protect and help them.

    At first the winds were contrary and they were driven far out of their course, so that instead of arriving at Rome, which was the place they had meant to go to, they were obliged to land at a city called Cologne, where the barbarous Germans lived. Here, while they were resting for a little, another dream was sent to Ursula, and the angel told her that in this very place, on their return, she and all her maidens would suffer death and win their heavenly crowns. This did not affright the princess and her companions, but rather made them rejoice that they should be found worthy to die for their faith.

    So they sailed on up the River Rhine till they could go no further, and they landed at the town of Basle, determined to do the rest of their pilgrimage on foot.

    It was a long and tedious journey over the mountains to Italy, and the tender feet of these pilgrims might have found it impossible to climb the rough road had not God sent six angels to help them on their way, to smooth over the rough places, and to help them in all dangers so that no harm could befall them.

    First they journeyed past the great lakes where the snow-capped mountains towered in their white glory, then up the mountain-road, ever higher and higher, where the glaciers threatened to sweep down [10] upon them, and the path was crossed by fierce mountain-torrents. But before long they began to descend the further side; and the snow melted in patches and the green grass appeared. Then followed stretches of flowery meadow-land, where the soft southern air whispered to them of the land of sunshine, fruit, and flowers.

    Lower down came the little sun-baked Italian villages, and the simple, kindly people who were eager to help the company of maidens in every way, and gazed upon them with reverence when they knew they were on a pilgrimage to Rome.

    Thus the pilgrims went onward until at length they came to the River Tiber and entered the city of Rome, where were the shrines of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

    Now the Bishop of Rome, whom men call the Pope, was much troubled when it was told him that a company of eleven thousand fair women had entered his city. He could not understand what it might mean, and was inclined to fear it might be a temptation of the evil one. So he went out to meet them, taking with him all his clergy in a great procession, chanting their hymns as they went.

    And soon the two processions met, and what was the amazement and joy of the Pope when a beautiful maiden came and knelt before him and asked for his blessing, telling him why she and her companions had come to Rome.

    'Most willingly do I give thee my blessing,' answered the old man, 'and bid thee and thy companions welcome to my city. My servants shall put [11] up tents for you all in some quiet spot, and ye shall have the best that Rome can afford.'

    So the maidens rested there in quiet happiness, thankful to have come to the end of their pilgrimage and to have reached the shrines of God's great saints. But to Ursula an added joy was sent which made her happiness complete.

    For the prince, whom she had left behind, grew impatient of her long absence, and the longing for his princess grew so strong he felt that he could not stay quietly at home not knowing where she was nor what had befallen her. So he had set out, and, journeying by a different route, had arrived in Rome the same day as Ursula and her maidens were received by the good bishop.

    It is easy to picture the delight of Conon and Ursula when they met together again, and knelt land in hand to receive the Pope's blessing. And when Ursula told him all that had happened and of the angels whom God had sent to guide and protect them, the only desire the prince had was to share her pilgrimage and be near her when danger threatened. And his purpose only became stronger when she told him of the vision she had had in the city of Cologne.

    'How can I leave thee, my princess,' he asked, 'when I have but now found thee? Life holds no pleasure when thou art absent. The days are grey and sunless without the sunshine of thy presence. Bid me come with thee and share thy dangers, and if it be, as thou sayest, that it is God's will that thou and all these maidens shall pass through [12] suffering and death for His sake, then let me too win the heavenly crown that we may praise God together in that country where sorrow and separation can touch us no more.'

    And Ursula was glad to think that, through love of her, the prince should be led to love God, and so granted his request and bade her companions prepare to set out once more.

    The Pope would fain have persuaded them to stop longer in Rome, but Ursula told him of her vision, and how it was time to return as the dream had warned her. Then the Pope and his clergy made up their minds to join the pilgrimage also, that they too might honour God by a martyr's death.

    Now there were in Rome at that time two great Roman captains who were cruel heathens, and who looked upon this pilgrimage with alarm and anger. They commanded all the imperial troops in the northern country of Germany; and when they heard that Ursula and her maidens were bound for Cologne they were filled with dismay and wrath. For they said to each other:

    'If so many good and beautiful women should reach that heathen land the men there will be captivated by their beauty and wish to marry them. Then, of course, they will all become Christians, and the whole nation will be won over to this new religion.'

    'We cannot suffer this,' was the answer. 'Come, let us think of some way to prevent so great a misfortune that would destroy all our power in Germany.'

    [13]

    So these two wicked heathen captains agreed to send a letter to the king of the Huns, a fierce savage, who was just then besieging Cologne. In it they told him that thousands of fair women in a great company were on their way to help the city, and if they were allowed to enter all chances of victory for his army would vanish. There was but one thing to be done and that was to kill the entire band of maidens the moment they arrived.

    Meanwhile Ursula and her companions had set sail for Cologne, and with them were now Prince Conon and his knights and the Pope with many bishops and cardinals. And after many days of danger and adventure the pilgrims arrived at the city of Cologne.

    The army of barbarians who were encamped before the city was amazed to see such a strange company landing from the ships. For first there came the eleven thousand maidens, then a company of young unarmed knights, then a procession of old men richly robed and bearing no weapons of any kind.

    For a moment the savage soldiers stood still in amazement, but then, remembering the orders they had received in the letter from the Roman captains, they rushed upon the defenceless strangers and began to slay them without mercy. Prince Conon was the first to fall, pierced by an arrow, at the feet of his princess. Then the knights were slain and the Pope with all his clergy.

    Again the savage soldiers paused, and then like a pack of wolves they fell upon the gentle maidens, [14] and these spotless white lambs were slain by thousands.

    And in their midst, brave and fearless, was the Princess Ursula, speaking cheerful words of comfort to the dying and bidding one and all rejoice and look forward to the happy meeting in the heavenly country. So great was her beauty and courage that even those wicked soldiers dared not touch her, and at last, when their savage work was done, they took her before their prince that he might decide her fate.

    Never before had Ursula's beauty shone forth more wonderfully than it did that day when she stood among these savage men and gazed with steadfast eyes upon the prince, as one might look upon a wild beast.

    The prince was amazed and enchanted, for he had never seen so lovely a maid in his life before, and he motioned to the soldiers to bring Ursula nearer to him.

    'Do not weep, fair maiden,' he said, trying to speak in his gentlest voice, 'for though you have lost all your companions you will not be alone. I will be your husband, and you shall be the greatest queen in Germany.'

    Then most proudly did Ursula draw herself up, and her clear eyes shone with scorn as she answered:

    'Does it indeed seem to thee as though I wept? And canst thou believe that I would live when all my dear ones have been slain by thee, thou cruel coward, slayer of defenceless women and unarmed men?'

    And when the proud prince heard these scornful [15] words he fell into a furious rage, and, bending the bow that was in his hand, he shot three arrows through the heart of Princess Ursula and killed her instantly.

    So the pure soul went to join the companions of her pilgrimage and to receive the crown of life which the angel of her dream had promised her, and for which she had laid down her earthly crown as gladly as when in her peaceful home she laid it aside before she went to rest.

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