In a desert oasis, three robed figures are seated on a blanket under tall palm trees. Trays of olives, dates, bread and cheese are spread before them. A spring bubbles nearby.
“I'm so pleased we're meeting for this festive occasion,” one figure says. “We three have something very important in common.” She giggles mischievously and bites a date. She appears to be a human female, barefooted, in a flowing green gown. Her dark hair is scattered with red flowers and a raven perches on her shoulder. It's impossible to guess her age; with every shadow she shifts from young girl to mature woman to crone and back again.
The other two raise questioning eyebrows. The men are similar—olive-skinned, bearded, muscular, with dark eyes and intense expressions, though one is wiry-thin and the other stockier. He has the look of an honest, trustworthy merchant.
“And what is this trait we share?” the merchant asks. He checks the camels on the far side of the spring to be sure they're hobbled and secure, scarcely knowing he's done it, the move is so ingrained. Reassured, he leans against the trunk of a palm and waits. He can't imagine what he has in common with this mysterious female, but she conveys such an impression of power and energy he is eager to hear what she has to say.
She smiles, and the air sparkles. She continues blithely on. “A celebration! Why? Because, my friends, after centuries, Earth time, of being suppressed and despised, I am moving into human consciousness. It's a ripple about to become a tidal wave, and your followers—enough of them—are opening their hearts to your true messages. And mine.”
The thin, ascetic one says, “My true message? It's so simple.” He sighs. “But hard to obey.”
“I could say the same,” the merchant adds. “And I begin to see what this little party is about.”
Her laugh is a breeze undulating across the dunes. “I welcome you, Jesus the divine one and Mohammed the prophet. Peace be upon you both. I am the Great Mother Goddess, worshiped for eons in my many forms and manifestations.”
Her lovely face darkens. “I was worshiped as the creative force; and then came conquering warriors and the written word that turned stories told around campfires into black marks on parchment. The male principle ruled, I was cast aside.” The wrinkles on her face are like ancient canyons. Angered by memories of disrespect, she is a fearsome sight.
Jesus speaks quietly. “There is one Father God, and all others are idols. He is the one to be worshiped.” It takes courage to speak so frankly before such a being, but this man has never lacked courage.
“Allah is the one unchanging, everlasting God,” Mohammed says. He too is willing to state his beliefs without fear.
Goddess takes a deep breath and the ground trembles until her glower melts and she smiles, a dazzling rainbow. She stands, sways, and begins to dance, her robe floating, flowers scattering. “I'm not one to sit for long,” she sings. She gestures toward the picnic. “Do help yourselves. There's lemonade in the pitcher.” Her voice is smooth as honey.
The men eye her warily. Jesus takes an olive and Mohammed pours lemonade into cups.
Goddess says, “My dears, in the larger scheme of things, we have no disagreement. You are merely speaking from the context of your historical times. Perfectly understandable, and also true, if you look at God as all-pervading energy, the ultimate essence. But that's getting beyond the scope of our party, our celebration of a new era.” She drops gracefully to the blanket. The raven returns to her shoulder and nibbles a crumb from her fingers. She strokes his shiny black wing.
The men look confused.
“Allow me to explain. You preached simple messages, you say.”
Jesus nods. “Love God and love your neighbor. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Surrender to the will of Allah,” Mohammed says. “And do unto all men as you would wish done to you. Whoever is not kind has no faith.”
“Wise words indeed. . . and seldom followed. Here we have two religions with similar beliefs, yet often in conflict, and each has caused enough bloodshed to fill a multitude of seas. Hardly an expression of forgiveness and mercy, is it?”
“They know not what they do,” Jesus says sadly. “I must forgive them and ask them to mend their ways.”
Mohammed adds, “ Mostly the battles are about politics and greed, not true faith. It is distressing. Allah says to overcome evil with good.”
“You speak truly. And you brought change. Jesus, in your earthly days, women's freedoms were tightly restricted. They had no authority and few rights, and they were considered inferior to men.” The frown gathers again, a storm on the horizon.
Jesus hastily intervenes. “I didn't think that was right.”
“Exactly. You truly were—are—remarkable. A radical, a revolutionary. You welcomed people of all classes, preached kindness. Equality under your God.” She warms to her topic, waving her arms. The raven eyes them, looking for another snack. “You rescued a woman from being stoned to death, showed compassion for prostitutes.”
“We are all God's loved children. No exceptions.” Jesus lifts both hands. His face glows in the afternoon sun. . . or possibly a light from within.
“No wonder they flocked to you. You were more than a healer and miracle worker, you were a promise, and women knew it. Who was at the foot of the cross, who showed up at your tomb? Many of your closest followers were women.”
Mohammed has been listening avidly, sometimes nodding and smiling. He and Jesus have been friends for a long time.
“As for you, great Prophet, you were immersed in a culture that subjugated women. In times of scarcity, it wasn't uncommon for baby girls to be killed. Trust me, I was there, hidden behind a veil, and I mourned every one of them.” Her dark eyes fill with tears. “Sons were preferred over daughters and women forced to obey men.”
“I was only a camel herder, but I thought that was unjust. It was Allah's words that told me my path.”
“You, or Allah through you, said a woman could own property, have a profession, manage her income, get a divorce, be equal under the law. That slaves should be treated well.” Goddess raises a hand. “Not that I'm advocating slavery, Goddess forbid, but it was a major improvement. I'm not crazy about the battles or all those wives, either, but you faced tough problems. Allah said to reach out to those against you with words of peace, you were the chosen messenger, and you tried. Politics got in the way. After all, nothing is perfect, except me.”
She stands and takes a turn around the palm tree. Green fronds rattle approvingly.
Her smile is beneficent as she settles back.
Mohammed checks the camels again and sips his lemonade. “There is no God but Allah,” he says firmly. “Why are we talking about this?”
“Now, my friends, we get to the heart of the matter. You asked what we have in common. My beautiful glaciers are melting, my polar bears are losing their homes. My forests are falling, my oceans are filling with plastic that kills my wondrous fish. My people are suffering.” In the blink of an eye she's a tree, a bear, a salmon, and back to human again with tears in her eyes. She jumps up, spins around the oasis, and looms large before them. “But as more people find my beauty, as your followers grasp your true teachings, change happens. You my beloved friends, are feminists. That is something we share.”
The men glance at each other and decide not to ask what a feminist is. They stand for a few yoga stretches, then sit again, slightly perplexed by this unusual conversation.
“Your excellent attempts to improve the status of women were missing one thing. Because of the cultures around you in your Earthly lives, and for various reasons I won't go into now...” She seems exasperated, flicking date pits into the sand. “Really, humanity can be annoying, especially the male variety, and I'd give up on them if they weren't so lovable and didn't need me so much . . . Oh, yes, the missing factor: What has been lacking, gentlemen, is the feminine face of God. Me. The sacred female, the yin with the yang, the right brain with left. Balance, you see.”
Mohammed coughs, a polite interruption. “We're celebrating this?”
Goddess laughs and Earth quivers on her axis, a rose bursts into bloom, and in a far-off ocean a humpback whale leaps from the waves while tourists gasp in delight. “Yes!
Because the good news is, people are beginning to realize they don't have to give up their treasured beliefs, they can simply see them in a new light. Isn't that marvelous?”
Mohammed shakes his head. “Believers have put their faith in something better than suffering on this planet. They hope for Paradise in the afterlife.”
Jesus says, “My followers want to be with Me and their Heavenly Father.”
“Hmm, I won't argue the point. I'll just say, things are changing for a reason. Muslim women are getting into politics, they're religious leaders and scholars. Women are making headway, because they're imbued with my sacred energy.”
She turns to Jesus. “Christian women are preachers and teachers, leaders working for justice. They too feel my power. Perhaps not consciously, but the strength deep within is mine. While extremists may cling to hate and fear, panting for war, people of all faiths are coming together, meeting, sharing stories and, my personal favorite, cooking for each other. They sing of peace and love and harmony, and they honor male and female alike.”
“This is a tough one for my more literal-minded disciples,” Jesus says. A small gecko with a broken leg crawls to him, and he touches and heals it instantly. “Health and peace, little brother,” he murmurs.
“They'll see the light. Many are already there. Why do you think they pray to Mother Mary? She's a dear friend of mine, by the way; we're having tea this evening. The church claims she's not divine, but the people know better. She's simply another face of Me. God is greater than anyone can imagine.”
“It doesn't seem possible,” Mohammed says, hope and doubt in his eyes.
“Don't worry, the faithful will keep their personal beliefs, sensing the divine as it speaks to them. There's room for all under this umbrella of love.”
The men smile. They're not familiar with umbrellas, but love they know well.
“Humanity, you see, despite its sometimes dreadful behavior, is learning that we are all in this together, and we can rejoice as brothers and sisters. As beloved companions on a magnificent Earth and in the rich world of the spirit.”
A distant harp begins to play, sweet notes on the desert air, and She stirs, ready to move and swirl. She reaches her hands toward Jesus and Mohammed and pulls them to their feet. “Come, let us dance and feast. We are pure love, and we make this spinning blue ball, sailing through an infinite universe, a place of joy. The feminine sacred is returning to her rightful place.”
All three sway and spin, faster and faster, until they're a blur of color, and then a mist that disappears. The oasis is empty except for the splashing water and palm trees; even the camels are gone. A raven flies in and stops at the edge of the spring for a drink. As she wings away, flower petals fall from her feathers.
© Marilyn McFarlane, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited.
Marilyn McFarlane, a travel writer based in Portland, Oregon, for more than thirty years, is the author of numerous guidebooks and articles in print and online. She has also written on many other topics, including a cookbook for seniors. Her most recent book, Sacred Stories: Wisdom From World Religions (Simon & Schuster/Beyond Words), is a collection of five simply-told stories from each of seven faiths or spiritual paths. The book has brief introductions to the different religions, and a teacher's guide is available as a free download. Marilyn is delighted to be a contributor to this anthology and emphasizes that the playful tone in her writing intends no disrespect toward anyone's beliefs. Rather, it is a reminder that God/Goddess has a great sense of humor. Her website is www.marilynmcfarlane.com.