VISION of the WHITE GODDESS
' "The Golden Ass
About the first watch of the night when as I had slept my first sleep, I awakened with a sudden fear and saw the moon shining bright as when She is at the full and seeming as though She leaped out of the sea. Then I thought with myself that this was the most secret time, when that Goddess had most puissance and force, considering that all human things be governed by Her providence; and that not only all beasts private and tame, wild and savage, be made strong by the governance of Her light and Godhead, but also things inanimate and without life; and so I considered that all the bodies in the heavens, the earth, and the seas be by Her increasing motions increased, and by Her diminishing motions diminished: then as weary of all my cruel fortune and calamity, I found good hope and
soveriegn remedy, though it were very late, to be delivered from my misery, by invocation and prayer to the excellent beauty of this powerful Goddess. Wherefore, shaking off my drowsy sleep I arose with a joyful face, and moved by a great affection to purify myself, I plunged my head seven times into the water of the sea; which number seven is convenable and agreeable to holy and divine things, as the worthy and sage philosopher Pythagoras hath declared. Then very lively and joyfully, though with a weeping countenance, I made this oration to the puissant Goddess.
"O blessed Queen of Heaven, whether Thou be the Dame Ceres which art the original and motherly source of all fruitful things on the earth, who after finding of thy
daughter Proserpine, through the great joy which Thou didst presently conceive, didst utterly take away and abolish the food of them of old time, the acorn, and madest the barren and unfruitful ground of Eleusis to be ploughed and sown, and now givest men a more better and milder food; or whether Thou be the celestial Venus, who, at the
beginning of the world, didst couple together male and female with an engendered love, and didst so make an eternal propagation of human kind, being now worshipped within the temples of the Isle Paphos; or whether Thou be the sister of the God Phoebus, who hast saved so many people by lightening and lessining with Thy medicines the pangs of travail and art now adored at the sacred places of Ephesus; or whether Thou be called terrible Proserpine by reason of the deadly howlings which Thou yieldest, that hast power with triple face to stop and put away the invasions of hags and ghosts which appear unto men, and to keep them down in the closures of the earth, which dost wander in sundry groves and are worshipped divers manners; Thou, which nourishest all the seed of the world by Thy damp heat, giving Thy changing light according to the wanderings, near or far, of the sun: by whatsoever name or fashion or shape it is lawful to call upon Thee, I pray Thee to end my great travail and misery and raise up my fallen hopes, and deliver me from the wretched fortune which so long time have pursued me. Grant peace and rest, if it please Thee, to my adversities, for I have endured enough labour and peril..."
When I had ended this oration, discovering my plaints to the Goddess, I fortuned to fall again asleep upon that same bed; and by and by (for mine eyes were but newly closed)
appeared to me from the midst of the sea a divine and venerable face, worshipped even of the Gods themselves. Then, little by little, I seemed to see the whole figure of Her body, bright and mounting out of the sea and standing before me: wherefore I purpose to describe Her divine semblance, if the poverty of my human speech will suffer me, or the divine power give me a power of eloquence rich enough to express it. First, She had a great abundance of hair, flowing and curling, dispersed and scattered about Her divine neck; on the crown of Her head she bare many garlands interlaced with flowers, and in the middle of Her forehead was a plain circlet in the fashion of a mirror, or rather resembling the moon by the light it gave forth; and this was borne up on either side by serpents that seemed to rise from the furrows of the earth, and above it were blades of corn set out. Her vestment was of finest linen yielding diverse colours, somewhere white and shining,
somewhere yellow like the crocus flower, somewhere rosy red, somewhere flaming; and (which troubled my sight and spirit sore) Her cloak was utterly dark and obscure covered
with shining black, and being wrapped round Her from under Her left arm to Her right shoulder in manner of a shield, part of it fell down, pleated in most subtle fashion, to the
skirts of Her garment so that the welts appeared comely. Here and there upon the edge thereof and throughout its surface the stars glimpsed, and in the middle of them was
placed the moon in midmonth, which shone like a flame of fire; and round about the whole length of the border of that goodly robe was a crown or garland wreating unbroken, made with all flowers and all fruits. Things quite diverse did She bear: for Her right hand She had a sistrum of brass, a flat piece of metal carved in manner of a girdle, wherein passed not many rods through the periphery of it; and when with Her arm She moved these triple chords, they gave forth a shrill and clear sound. In Her left hand She bare a cup of gold, upon the handle whereof, in the upper part which is best seen, as asp lifted up his head
with a wide-swelling throat. Her odoriferous feet were covered with shoes interlaced and wrought with victorious palm. Thus the divine shape, breathing out the pleasant spice of fertile Arabia, disdained not with Her holy voice to utter these words to me:
"Behold, Lucius, I am come; thy weeping and prayer hath moved Me to succour thee. I am She that is the natural Mother of All Things, mistress and governess of all the
elements, the initial progeny of worlds, chief of the powers divine, queen of all that are in Hades, the principal of them that dwell in the Heavens, manifested alone and under one form of all the Gods and Goddesses. At My will the planets of the sky, the wholesome winds of the seas, and the lamentable silences of Hades be disposed; My name, My divinity is adored throughout the world, in divers manners, in variable customs, and by many names. For the Phrygians that are the first of all men call me The Mother of the Gods at Pessinus; the Athenians, which are spring from their own soil, Cecropian Minerva; the Cyprians, which are girt about by the sea, Paphian Venus; the Cretans which bear arrows, Dictynnian Diana; the Sicilians, which speak three tongues, Infernal Proserpine; the Eleusinians, their ancient Goddess Ceres; some Juno, others Bellona, others Hecate, others Rhamnusia, and principally both sort of the Ethiopians which dwell in
the Orient and are enlightened by the morning rays of the sun, and the Egyptians, which are excellent in all kind of ancient doctrine and by their proper ceremonies accustom to
worship Me, do call Me by My true name, Queen Isis. Behold, I am come to take pity of thy fortune and turbulation; behold I am present to favour and aid thee; leave off thy weeping and lamentation, put away all thy sorrow, for behold the healthful day which is
ordained by My providence."
Translated by William Adlington