I was born blind. My father never cared that I could not look out and see the world which was his domain, or anything beyond it. He always praised me, told me that I was his beautiful girl, and he taught me many things. He named me Loviatar and dressed me in the softest, sweetest-smelling materials. He taught me how to dance. He taught me many great sorceries. He placed new jewels upon me every festival and he always fed me the sweetest of fruits and the most tender of meats.
What? Does it surprise you that the great god Tuoni, ruler of Tuonela, might dote so upon a child? That he, ruler of the afterlife, might even produce a child? Ah, that he did, though it is true that he kept my sight. Was it intentional that he retained my sight? I do not know, and to be frank, I do not care. What does it matter to me, not having something that I never knew?
Perhaps I was made to be blind for a reason.
I brought into this world nine plagues.
In my youth I desired to see the world. I left my father’s home dressed in the many fine things he had given me and I walked across the earth, finding my way with my bare feet. I paid for my food and for a place to stay at night with the many jewels that my father had always dangled from my ears, wrists, neck, and ankles. I heard all that the people said about me: “How ugly she is,” I heard them whisper. “How tiny her mouth and how thin her hair, how large her nose and how wide-spaced her eyes! How bent her back and twisted her fingers! Turn away from her, my children, look not upon her!”
After a time, the words that filled my ears weighed so heavily on me that I retreated from the people of the world. It was here that the East Wind found me. He came to me and left me pregnant with the nine children that would become the plagues. And one girl.
Louhi helped me to bring these children into the world, taking my daughter as payment.
Is it not then a blessing that I was born blind? Never to set eyes upon the faces of these children who brought such suffering into the world, never to set eyes upon my daughter and fall in love with her before she was taken … a blessing, is it not?
My sons … they grew so fast. I did not know them well. Everything they touched became sickly. Everything they touched withered and died. But they strove to be kind. While they were with me, they would put small things in my hands — baubles, gems, feathers, flowers. I could not see these things, but feeling the little hands of my children as they put them into my palm made me feel as though I could. I would spend hours admiring these things with my fingers, memorizing the feel of them, their contours and textures. Every time my children brought something new to me, their hands had changed. Their fingers and their palms grew larger and harder, developing cracking calluses and gritty fingernails.
And there was my daughter … sometimes I forget that I ever had a daughter. I never knew how she felt, what her voice sounded like, what she smelled like. I never knew the velvet softness of her touch or the sweetness of her nursing at my breast. I never heard her little feet pattering towards me, her breath quickened from running to tell me about some great, exciting discovery she had made. These are things that Louhi has enjoyed, and perhaps this is for the best. After all, what might have become of her had she stayed with me, available to the hands of her brothers?
None of these children were ever truly mine. I loved my sons, and at the same time I hated them. When they left my womb they took with them any fertility I, a daughter of Tuoni, ever had. Never would I have a child to be mine, to suckle and to nurture. Perhaps I never would have had such a hope anyway. My father tells me that I am his beautiful girl, that I grew so nicely into a beautiful woman, but I heard what people said as I passed them. The East Wind took pity upon me. I might never have been so lucky again to have a lover, so perhaps I should not so scorn my sons.
How many years has it been now since I dared to walk through the world? How many years since my daughter was taken? How many years since my sons left?
My mother has passed. She has gone to live in Tuonela as one of its residents rather than as its queen, and I have become queen in her place. Father grows old, as even gods do. One day, he will join my mother, relinquishing his throne as Tuoni to a younger god. Perhaps by then I shall have already taken my place in Tuonela to sleep. Or perhaps I shall have ventured out again, to learn more of the world than I can know from the afterlife.
Perhaps some day I will visit my almost forgotten daughter, just once. Then I will return to Tuonela — not as its princess nor its queen, but as its resident, an old and sickly woman ready to put her head down at last, to stop thinking for once about the place her sons occupy in this young world. A woman who has met her daughter at long last.
[Tahni Nikitins has been a practicing pagan for seven years, though dedicated to no one pantheon or Deity, and has been writing since she could maneuver a writing utensil. She is currently attending a community college with a psychology major and a minor in comparative religions. She regularly volunteers at Sexual Assault Support Services. ]