A Cow of Sin
In the royal stables of Minos, Queen Pasiphaë screamed in her travail. Her husband had set aside two stalls, one with a birthing stool large enough to contain her massive frame, and opposite from it, the hollow mockery of a snow-white cow which had accomplished Pasiphaë’s seduction. She stared in sweaty awe at the craft of Daedalus, the hanging udders and leather canal which mocked her own milk-laden teats and dilation.
In time her screams were answered by a pair of midwives, daughters of Anu, handmaids of gods from the ends of empire to the East, who came bearing water and oil, who did not flinch at the impression of hoof and hand on that monumental belly. They gave her bitter herbs to chew, and walked her round as the pains came to here, yet always their circumambulation returned to the great birthing school, to stare once more at her folly.
“Minos is cruel. He knows the fault, but he can get no revenge on Aphrodite, so the king takes his vengeance upon me.” Pasiphaë said to her silent handmaidens.
“I were Minos had sacrificed the bull sent to him, ever I had set eye upon it. I were that woman were never born to mother Daedalus, who did not flinch at my request, and made his quiet inquiries among whoremongers and stablehands, to view the crude tables of those who took their pleasure from ass and horse, and so to fashion so perfect his machine.” She gasped once again as a contraction took her.
“I were this were the end of my labors, yet if I survive this I know Minos will want another son or daughter from me.” Pasiphaë wept, then grimaced. “Though that coward trembles in fear at what I may yet birth.”
Then the handmaidens mopped her frame with water and oil, and motioned her to harken. In an ancient cadence and with trained voice one of the women told a story in song.
“There was a cow of Sîn, Geme-Sîn by name. Sîn the moon-god found her tempting of shape, he saw her and fell in love with her. The brilliance of Sîn was laid upon Geme-Sîn. She was placed at the head of the herd, the herdsman followed her. She grazed on the lushest grasses and watered first at the wells. Hidden from the herdsman, Sîn the moon god came down, and Geme-Sîn beheld him as a wild bull, and he lifted her tail. When her days and months were at an end, the herdsman trembled at the sight of Geme-Sîn great with calf, and as the child-pangs came, she screamed in her labor, and he trembled.
“The cries of Geme-Sîn were heard by Sîn in heaven, and he sent two lamassu to ease her through the birth. One took oil from a jar, and laid it upon Geme-Sîn’s forehead; the other took water of labor, and sprinkled it upon her whole body. Three times the lamassu did this, and on the third time the calf fell down on the ground.” Here the handmaiden placed her hand on the dome of the belly. “May this woman give birth as easily as Geme-Sîn.”
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