Purslane – A Magical Story
Many years ago in a land far from this, a proud people roamed a land of plenty.
For as long as they had lived, the Mother of the Earth had nourished them. Wherever they set up camp, fresh water sprang from the ground. When they hunted, beasts fell before them and offered themselves to their blades. Succulent herbs sprang from the steps of their little children, and juicy fruits fell into their open arms from sighing trees.
They lived as favoured children and, as is the way of such things, over time they became quarrelsome and spoiled and fell to taunting the peoples of other tribes.
The Mother of the Moon, who is the sister of the Mother of the Earth, called to her one day as she rested in her garden: “Sister,” she said, “your people have become destructive.”
“How so?” asked the Mother of the Earth.
“Come and see,” called her sister and, reaching down, offered her hand.
When the Mother of the Earth alighted on the Moon and looked down, she was horrified.
“I thought you knew,” her sister said.
Earth Mother shook her head. Now, from this high place, she saw her spoiled children destroying forests, hurtling waste into the helpless oceans, killing the many and beautiful creatures and leaving their bodies to rot. She saw them enslaving the other tribes and turning the Earth into a waste land.
In a rage she kindled a great fire in the palms of her hands and blew it upon the Earth, so that an inferno caught and raged upon the land.
“That was a bit harsh,” said her sister, the Mother of the Moon, shaking her silver head.
“Why do you say that?”
The Mother of the Moon rolled her eyes. “ Beloved,” she said gently, “you never do things by half, do you? You created a world that has everything but simplicity. You indulge your children with every bauble they desire and then you leave them alone. Had you considered what happens when children are so indulged and then abandoned?”
The Mother of the Earth broke in: “I did not abandon them. I was only in my garden resting.”
Her sister laughed. “For all of their privileges, your children are mortal. They come and go like the seasons. You have rested for a thousand lifetimes while they have been unsupervised.”
Earth Mother looked down and saw how her latest indulgence was destroying all that she had created and she was embarrassed. She let fall a mighty rain to quell the flames and she went home, and thought about what to do next.
“My sister is right,” she thought, for she respected her sister. “A good mother does not allow her children everything they desire. I will withdraw the privileges I have given them and see if standing upon their own two feet will temper them.”
And so it was.
Time passed and the Mother of the Earth tended her garden and rested until one day, her brother, the Father of the Stars, came to see her.
“Your domain is a bit of a mess, sister,” he said, his dark body shimmering in the sunlight so that he seemed like a shadow shot through with tiny lights. She assured him over tea that she had taken steps to control her unruly children.
“I have been resting after my visit to our sister,” she said languidly.
He shook his head. “Three generations have come into being and faded into dust while you have been resting, sister. I think you will be surprised.”
The next day, she disguised herself as an old beggar woman and went out to explore her world. As she was leaving her garden, she noticed a small weed on the pathway by her gate. It was nothing more than Purslane, and she absent-mindedly picked it and dropped it into her pocket.
The world that she stepped out upon was scarred and polluted, and the children who moved across its surface, trailing their misery, were hungry and vicious. Three times she called upon them pretending a need for shelter and food, and three times she was turned away, once with stick, once with stones and once with fire.
As she turned for home, determined now to leave her children entirely without help, a small child came after her with wide eyes and outstretched hand. In that hand was a crust of dry bread. Though she could see that the child was hungry, she, at least seemed not to have forgotten the Mother of the Earth.
The Mother threw off her cloak and revealed herself to the child, telling her: “This day you have saved the children of the world.”
But the Mother had not forgotten how her indulgence had caused the ingratitude of the children and made them greedy and destructive. While she thought about what to give as a simple gift, her hand alighted upon the weed in her pocket. Taking it out she looked at its smooth, reddish stem and the cheerful yellow flower, and she remembered that, though it was a simple weed, every part of it was edible; and for those who knew about such things, small though it was, it had the power to ward off evil.
The Mother of the Earth gave the Purslane into the child’s keeping and with a heavy heart went back to her garden for a rest.
The child nurtured the plant and taught her own children how to tend it and in time it travelled in the pockets of travellers to every corner of the world, nourishing and healing wherever it took root.
For many, Purslane is still a weed, but to the honoured daughters of the Mother of the Earth it is a gift from the Mother in all of its parts.