1883: The Armed Goddess

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THE ARMED GODDESS

I dreamed that I sat reading in my study, with books lying about all round me. Suddenly a voice, marvellously clear and silvery, called me by name. Starting up and turning, I saw behind me a long vista of white marble columns, Greek in architecture, flanking on either side a gallery of white marble. At the end of this gallery stood a shape of exceeding brilliancy, the shape of a woman above mortal height, clad from head to foot in shining mail armour. In her right hand was a spear, on her left arm a shield. Her brow was hidden by a helmet, and the aspect of her face was stern,—severe even, I thought. I approached her, and as I went, my body was lifted up from the earth, and I was aware of that strange sensation of floating above the surface of the ground, which is so common with me in sleep that at times I can scarce persuade myself after waking that it has not been a real experience. When I alighted at the end of the long gallery before the armed woman, she said to me :—

“Take off the night-dress thou wearest.”

I looked at my attire and was about to answer, “This is not a night-dress,” when she added, as though perceiving my thought :—

“The woman’s garb is a night-dress; it is a garment made to sleep in. The man’s garb is the dress for the day. Look eastward!”

I raised my eyes and, behind the mail-clad shape, I saw the dawn breaking, blood-red, and with great clouds like pillars of smoke rolling up on either side of the place where the sun was about to rise. But as yet the sun was not visible. And as I looked, she cried aloud, and her voice rang through the air like the clash of steel :—

“Listen!”

And she struck her spear on the marble pavement. At the same moment there came from afar off, a confused sound of battle. Cries, and human voices in conflict, and the stir as of a vast multitude, the distant clang of arms and a noise of the galloping of many horses rushing furiously over the ground. And then, sudden silence.

Again she smote the pavement, and again the sounds arose, nearer now, and more tumultuous. Once more they ceased, and a third time she struck the marble with her spear.

Then the noises arose all about and around the very spot where we stood, and the clang of the arms was so close that it shook and thrilled the very columns beside me. And the neighing and snorting of horses, and the thud of their ponderous hoofs flying over the earth made, as it were, a wind in my ears, so that it seemed as though a furious battle were raging all around us. But I could see nothing. Only the sounds increased, and became so violent that they awoke me, and even after waking I still seemed to catch the commotion of them in the air.

Paris, February 15, 1883.

—Anna Kingsford, Dreams and Dream Stories. Edward Maitland, Ed. Third Edition, Samuel Hopgood Hart, Ed. (1908)

A footnote to the above dream reads: “This dream was shortly followed by Mrs. Kingsford’s antivivisection expedition to Switzerland, the fierce conflict of which amply fulfilled any predictive significance it may have had.–E. M.”

Image: Annie Leibovitz: Debbie Harry (2014)

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