“Cease this at once! Stand down, and no harm will come to you. I will only strike you as you strike me.” The golden lion with something like a sun on his forehead spoke as clear as a man to me from his place on a heavenly cloud.
I attacked him anyway.
I did not even disturb a strand of fur in his mane with the fury of my assault. As I stumbled back from the recoil of the blow, I heard him say quietly, “Be still.” From the light on his brow, a shaft of golden light burst out and towards me.
It crushed the staff weapon in my hands and almost threw me off the shadowy platform I was supported by. I felt the integrity of my body reduced by a third.
“You are blinded by anger and pain.” The lion addressed me again with a voice that was the roaring of a thousand lions and the softness of a sleeping kitten. I heard him clearly but I could not process the meaning of what he said. The same anger and pain he spoke of was goading me into attacking him. In my madness, I thought him to represent all of the things and people that have hurt me in my life. If I could topple him, then the hurting would stop.
“In your state, you are being used as a tool by those who know better than to assault me directly. Good people can be used for evil means by those who hide the truth of things. I do not want to hurt you, but I can not allow you to succeed in this folly.”
“LIAR!” I finally found a word to throw. The light on his brow became brighter to refute me. Paradoxically, as it became brighter, I saw the symbol emanating it clearer. Not clear enough to identify it, but enough that the squiggles and marks started to distract me.
The golden lion looked down at me. “You are starting to see. Will you close your eyes to the image? I tell you, it was made to prevent those like you from being in the state that you are.”
I had gathered enough power for another assault but I was hesitant to throw it. I knew that symbol from somewhere. I knew it was of a certain kind. “A… apo…” I squinted to see through the glare of the light it was emanating. “Apotropaic.”
The golden lion laid prone on his cloud. He purred loudly in encouragement. I lowered my hands. He closed his eyes. I called the gathered power into a ball and hurled it at the symbol with all the might I could push behind it.
The counterstrike was so swift, I never saw him move. Something like fire struck me and next I knew, I was flat on my back. My everything hurt, and I knew if I was struck again one more time, I would be unmade. I looked up at the golden lion and the symbol on his brow that was the sun in this spiritual heaven.
While the details of the squiggles and marks continued to elude me, I remembered what it was and where I had seen it before. There was no way the golden lion could have that mark upon him unless…
I did not attempt to put out the fire that was still burning over my prone body. I allowed it to release me from whatever had blinded and fooled me before. I tried to recall how I got here, and what or who had sent me, but I could not remember anything prior to my first assault on the Golden Lion of Heaven.
Finally, I found my voice again. “Thanks, Vishnu.”
The golden lion transformed into a adorably young blue-skinned man with long locks of thick black hair and adorned with more gold than any mere man would be able to stand under. On his brow glowed softly the same apotropaic symbol as was on the lion. He laid on his stomach on the cloud, with one hand idly hanging off the cloud and the other hand propping up his face, looking over the edge of the cloud at me with a smile that both pitied and encouraged me.
“Anytime. Need help?”
“Nah. I’m just gonna lie here, be reminded of each and every bone, joint, and muscle in the human body and all the ways it can hurt, and try to remember where the hell I’ve seen that symbol before. Cuz it’s not part of your pantheon and it’s something I’ve seen very recently.”
Vishnu laughed like a young boy. The sound refreshed me and took away a third of my pain. “What you are seeing, is not, but what I am emanating, is. There are many generations between where I am and when you are.” He pointed to the stars over both our heads and told me a story. As he spoke, the stars moved in impossible constellations to illustrate his narrative. As his story approached the centuries preceding my personal era, I recognized the tale and understood what he meant.
“And so, I strongly suggest that you obtain this mark for yourself and soon. I understand you are going to begin work that may expose you to more than mere anger and pain. You can be exposed to the sun but for a moment, but its heat is felt long after. Do you understand?”
I did. I asked about different ways the basic shape of the image could be realized. He clapped with joy at my inquisitiveness and desire to learn. The percussion took away another third of my pain. He drew the outline of the shape in midair as bars of light and manipulated it into a three-dimensional object. I recognized it at once.
“Tomorrow there will be an eclipse. Even though you will not be in the path of totality, the timing is still important. Obtain [this apotropaic image] before then. Even if all you can do is lay ink on paper. The action of obtaining it is the strike of sunlight. [At the time of the eclipse, pray that the sun shines through the image.] After, the image will be active to you no matter what medium you create or obtain it in.”
“Okay, Lord Vishnu. I’ll do that. I’m… uh… sorry about acting the ass there. I don’t know what came over me. I really have no bloody idea at all.”
He smiled and in doing so, forgave me my transgression against him. The last of my pain was soothed and I was completely relaxed. He gestured and the shadow I was still lying on raised to be within arm’s reach of him. He pulled the glowing symbol off his forehead and dropped it in my open hand.
“Go in peace.” He blew a kiss at me which felt like a soft blanket settling over my head. I closed my eyes as indescribable bliss conquered me and moved me silently into deeper sleep.
When I woke up, I reflected on the dream and completely discounted it as too fantastical, even for me. A quick internet search engine check for “vishnu lion man” threw Narasimha at me:
Narasimha (Sanskrit: IAST: Narasiṃha, lit. man-lion), is one of many legendary avatars of the Hindu god Vishnu, one who incarnates in the form of part lion and part man to destroy an evil, end religious persecution and calamity on earth, thereby restoring Dharma.
Uh… Well, then.
And the symbol? I saw it last night when I was going through the Book of Oberon putting together a basic ritual for some other shenanigans. It is part of a set of apotropaic symbols powered by various planets. This particular one is solar in nature.
Why the focus on the eclipse?
Vishnu understands the demon’s power, then creatively adapts into a mixed avatar that is neither man nor animal and kills the demon at the junction of day and night, inside and outside.
I will be able to time things such that during the eclipse, I can be standing in a protected building threshold that is neither inside nor outside. While I can’t pull off Vishnu’s transformation into Narasimha, I can call on Weaver’s aspects to walk with me, one of which is feline. I don’t need an hour for the prayer. I just need five hot minutes.
I have paper. I have ink. I have homework.
I’ll be ready.