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The Two Sisters

The ancient Sumerians, had they thought it about before I did, would

have told a story about two sisters.

One sister, whose name was Nigmah, shone like the full moon in a

cloudless sky.  She displayed her beauty for all to behold, and all the

creatures beheld her beauty.  When she talked she talked so that all

the creatures could hear her talk. When she laughed, all the creatures

laughed too.

The other sister, whose name was Girin, only showed her smallest

self, like the crescent moon.  No creature knew of her beauty, because

she hid it in shadow.  When she talked - which was seldom - all the

creatures strained to catch her words. When she laughed...well, the creatures had never heard her laugh.

One day, Nigmah said to Girin, “I am the most loved by all the creatures. I show the creatures the way and make them laugh with my words.  When I am gone, all they do is sleep.  When you are with them, they are quiet and think only of their own small lives.”

Girin said, “Sister, I expect you are right”.

Nigmah said "Let us put it to the test.  We will ask the creatures who they love most and the winner will have the sky for ever."

So they asked the creatures.

Nigmah said to them, "It's clear that you love me most.  I shine in your lives, you have no need for sleep when I am with you, I keep you laughing and dancing and singing all night long".

Girin said, "All I can offer is my smallest self.  When I am with you, you are quiet, you reflect, you sleep."

And the creatures said, "Nigmah and Girin, you must realise that we love you both equally.  Of course, Nigmah, we love to laugh and dance and sing.  But if we did those things all the time, our deeper selves would be lost.  Indeed, those of us who do these things all the time become shallow, stay restless, may even go mad.  So to be true to our deeper selves, we need Girin to help us to be quiet, to reflect, to sleep.

So the sisters agreed to divide the sky into time, with Nigmah becoming Girin and Girin becoming Nigmah in an endless wave.  But Nigmah has never been happy with this arrangement, because she wanted the sky all to herself.  And this is why her face twists in a sour grimace, which we see in the full moon to this day.

Fraser Harper, August 2020

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