An Excerpt from Snakesleeper:
When I was four years old, my father emasculated himself. He ran naked from the temple afterward, through the narrow streets of Aphek, with the ritual stone knife in one hand and his severed parts in the other. Blood flowed down his legs and dripped from his elbow. He threw his flesh into the open doorway of the wattle-and-daub hut of a local potter and then staggered back to the temple where he fell moaning and writhing with pain in the flagstones at my bare feet. That is my first memory of this world.The potter's family came and brought the clothes: a woman's robe, mantle, and veil, which my father would wear the rest of his days. And my mother came, tall and cool from the temple interior, stepping between the light and dark made by columns twenty cubits high with their mushroom-shaped capitals. She took me by the hand and led me away.
"So he will never be unfaithful to me or to Goddess,"Mother explained my father's actions to me at the time and afterward, whenever I woke crying and in a cold sweat from blood-drenched nightmares. "He has submitted to Her will in the deepest, most reverent way a man can. Goddess give us the strength as women to equal his strength as a man."
That very day we left Aphek--my mother never to return and began our descent from the heights of Geshur south to the hills of Judah, to the city of Hebron. The oracle had spoken,or my mother, who was her interpreter, thought she had. The sanctity of former ties was outweighed by the conceit of a destiny beyond that her mothers had known. The bride-price was paid, and my mother was to marry David the king. It was spring. I remember the date palms and the pomegranate orchards about the Sea of the Lyre in bloom. Over our heads the white sprays of date blossom (like showers of falling stars) filled the air with the sweetest scent on earth.
"You were named Tamar," my mother told me. "That means the Palm, and for this blooming beauty and promise of abundance we render annual praise to Goddess." Mother had the litter stopped so she could gather some of the lower pomegranate blossoms to put in her hair beneath her high-priestess's veil. Then we rode on, taking a curve so we could no longer see from whence we had come. A twinge of pain came over my mother's face. She caught me by the shoulders and pressed me to her so tightly it hurt, forcing tears from my eyes. I closed them, but I could not block out everything. To this day, I can close my eyes and smell, very clearly, the scent of bruised pomegranate blossoms finally purging the smell of blood from my nostrils.
I remember the excitement of fording the Jordan.
"Truly, aren't there easier fords than this?" my mother asked.
"You've no need to be afraid, Lady." This was how the interpreter translated what Joab, the commander, said. The commander himself spoke in a voice one uses to children, a voice that did not inspire confidence.
"I am no coward," Mother said.
The commander smiled, humoring her.
"My presence on this journey should be testimony to that. But look now, two of the first three pack animals have already lost their footing and their burdens," Mother said.
"We are rescuing your belongings," Joab said.
They were, bedraggled bits and pieces of them. It seemed a terrible waste.
"Why ford here, where the waters are so dark and swift and where the overgrowth hampers every maneuver on the banks? I myself could show you several more hospitable places nearer Aphek. They are well known and praised by all travelers. My officers are wont to collect duty at these places."
"If they are known to every traveler," the commander replied, "they are surely known to the Israelites as well, who will have their archers stationed at such places just looking for us."
"What? And must I, High Priestess of Geshur with the neutrality of religion worn about my person like my veil--must I, then, go creeping about Goddess's world like a smuggler? Or worse, like a fugitive with blood on his hands?"
Joab did not stop to consider that the sort of smirk with which he regarded my mother as the meaning of her words came to him could be transmitted without intermediary. Joab. The name means God, the Unnameable One, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Jealous One who allows no other, is my father.
Very little translation should have been necessary for my mother to make a character assessment of a man with a name like that. "Very well," she said to Joab, consenting to climb into the litter once more and to hand me over to the strongest swimmer leading the tallest donkey. "I see that your plan is best."
Joab smirked. Of course it was. God was his father, after all.