On this crisp and quiet night, it is my turn to guard Hestia’s Flame. I am given every instruction to sit awake all night and make sure the wind does not snuff it out or to protect it from anyone disturbing it. I am given copper spiral arm bracelets as my mark and rank this night. The spirals are made of snakes with little gems for their eyes. I shiver, as they are slide up my arms. I am given strong tea and a wooden seat.
The temple sits on a little hill so the flame can be seen from a distance. I look into the flame and sip my tea, waiting for the morning to come. I listen to the night and wonder about the lady Hestia and turn to light some incense. As the long stick begins to catch and burn I hear a subtle pulse, something like a heartbeat or a drum. I turn to look at the flame and it tips to and fro to the beat of a distant drum.
I pull my seat closer to the little flame to observe this curious dance. It twirls and dips, bends and shimmies. I think it looks like a dancer and suddenly the flame appears to be a women dancing to a quicker beat turning and twirling around. She holds out her hand to me, and I take it!
She is the teacher. I am the student. She dances and I follow. The music flows from somewhere. She dips, I dip. She shimmies, I shimmy. From a signal and a look I follow move, for move until we are dancing in unison. We dip and shimmy, spin and bend. Turning and turning, I am in perfect union with the music, the dance and the lovely dancer. There is only the pulse of the music and the movement of the dance. I feel as if I could dance forever without stopping.
The dancer embraces me. Our arms intertwined, our hearts beat to the same rhythm turning and turning until her clothes, are my clothes. Her bracelets are my bracelets. Her steps, are my steps. We are the dancer. I am the focus of the dance. I am the leader, no longer the follower. I step out and the music follows my lead. I weave and shimmy. I twirl and spin feeling the dancer and music within me. I feel their smiling faces in my smiling face.
I am flushed with a creative fire. My skin glows like hot coals. I realize I am the flame, the dancer inside the flame! I dip and shimmy, spin and bend. The music is going at top speed, but gently begins to pull away. The music sounds distant, the dance slows and my steps become unsure. The warmth has faded from my skin.
Suddenly I am on my feet in the cooling air of the temple. I stare at the flame uncomprehendingly as its slow sputter fights the night breeze. I realize its about to go out and I look for a shield. A paper frame leans nearby. I grab for it and huddle around the flame willing it to gain its strength. It weakly flickers and slowly regains it’s steady glow.
I finally take a deep breath and settle back into my chair. I look deeply into the flame. It does not look like it’s dancing now. Nor does it look like a dancing woman. The air smells like sweet jasmine. The breeze calms me and leaves we wondering what kind of dancing spirit has visited me. I look down at my arms the copper bracelets are gone. A pattern of a woven design trail down my arms. Looking closer, they are interwoven snakes twirling in a dance.