Luta, Goddess of Lutherie

Luta, Goddess of Lutherie
Charles F Morrison

In the dawn of our history the world was over run with deities, sprites, spirits, nyads, dryads and other unknown beings that we as humans could only sense, and very seldom see, hear or feel. Humans were then, as they are now, simply reflectors of the actions and passions of these beings. It has been reported by many that if humans did not believe in these beings that they would cease to exist, as if they only existed in our minds, but the evidence is in the other direction. As much as we are disinclined to believe in them, we are still living lives influenced by the fact of their existence. Think long and hard about why you do the things you do and give me a better reason.

It is said that Apollo is the God of music, and that the muses inspire men and women to great creative acts, but there is an as yet unknown agent responsible for an important aspect of our lives. It all began too long ago to remember when humans were aware of Apollo’s daily race across the sky. The glory of his shining face inspired men and women to song and the trees to reach to the sky in hopes of touching his magnificence. And so it went for time unknown until, as the old gods are want to do, Apollo got restless. It was all well and good for humans to worship him with song and dance, but it never changed. Oh the melodies changed sometimes, but things got locked in tradition and the priests in his temples seldom allowed new songs to interfere with their ongoing quest for wealth, power and influence. So Apollo gathered the lesser gods and deities to Mount Olympus and charged them to go and find a way to increase human creativity so as to give him relief from boredom. The prize for this quest was to be the undying favor of Apollo himself. OK, it wasn’t that great a prize to our minds, but lets face it, the sun rising every morning was pretty heady stuff back then.

So the assembled host of minor deities spread around the earth seeking ways to gain Apollo’s favor. One fairly successful strategy was that employed by Dionysus, causing women to discover that spoiled fruit juice was still drinkable and that feeding it to men, who, lets face it will do anything for a woman, was a cause of great amusement. This synergistic approach relied on the new uninhibited state of man to allow the muses freer access to influence human creativity, albeit without a whole lot of sophistication. Apollo granted that this was mildly amusing, but less that completely satisfying. For a gallant effort however, he granted sunny skies over the Mediterranean shores for the growing of grapes that there would always be song, even in despair.

Still unsatisfied, Apollo charged the lesser deities to spread the word to the nyads and dryads and minor sprites in case someone in his realm might find a way to inspire great works of music in his honor. Humans around the world started doing odd and strange things, some even vaguely musical, as a result. Many of these things remain today as minor sprites are rather single minded. Every time a child learns to hold a blade of grass between their thumbs and blow a nasally honk to his/her own amazement another sprite smiles in smug satisfaction. Whistling, yodelling and the melodious passing of bodily gasses, while not equivalent skills, can also be attributed to this request.

But there was one dryad, a goddess of trees who was dreaming of great things and mourning their inevitability. Luta was one of the few dryads who roamed the forests and cared for all trees, not just oaks or ash. She roamed the sub arctic boreal forests of Europe and the Americas. She rode the breezes of the tropics and across the high mountains of every continent caring for all who rose leaf or needle to the sky. It was her roaming that kept her from hearing of Apollo’s challenge until eons later. Apollo was important to her charge, for without the sun the trees would suffer and die. All living things suffer and die anyway, but Luta’s care was such that she abhorred the early death of those in her care. Luta knew nothing of humans however, so how was she to compete for Apollo’s favor ? Against all instinct she decided she must pay attention to people, those ugly ant like beings who cut and burned her loved ones to keep warm. She watched all the peoples of the earth, for unlike other deities, she was not limited to one tree or location. For generations of men she watched patiently looking for something that might be unique until one day she was following a young woman who was wandering in an old forest avoiding her daily chores. She was sitting on a hollow fallen log and idly tapping a rather largish stick against the same log. The stick happened to hit a dry part of the log where the bark had been chewed away by some creature. A low “bonk” reverberated through the forest. The woman, stopped, startled that someone might discover her vagrancy, but Luta had noticed and a seed was planted in her that took root. The next human to stop by the stump felt an overwhelming desire to strike the log with a stick and did so. Others, hearing the noise came to see what it was and soon a dozen men were pounding on the log together. Being human, there is always someone who is out of time and the rhythmic echo of “bonks” was soon heard far and wide. Human’s fixated on the sounds and rhythms of the logs. Soon fallen logs the world over were being hollowed out and beaten on with wild abandon. But Apollo was not pleased for atonal percussion was not really what he’d had in mind.

Luta was furious. She had inspired humans, an intolerable form of life, into a frenzy beating on the bones of her children and Apollo was not pleased. Slowly a determination grew in her and became an obsession. She would beat Apollo and create music that would overwhelm him, dominate him and belittle him, and she would give her very life force to do it. She threw herself into studying the loathed humans with a vengeance, for such it was. Humans seemed an incorrigible race intent on doing things just to do them, regardless of consequence. It has been said that it is perilous to study something too closely for danger of becoming that thing. Luta studied very closely indeed.

Luta gave away the one thing that protected her charges in her quest to dominate her adversary. She gave the humans the idea that anything could be used to make music, including the trees, including the entrails of animals or even themselves. It took very little time for humans to take full advantage of this new inclination. Stings appeared and strings could be attached to anything that was hollow with amazing results. Humans studied the newly found ability to make music and created great works, far surpassing any the temples had allowed. New temples had to be created to hold it all and new, more worthy Gods had to displace Apollo. And so it passed that Apollo was displaced by a human carpenter and Luta was well pleased. The temples were now built around great musical instruments of pipes blasting louder and more complex music to the now empty sky where only a ball of hydrogen fire lit the day.

Music sprang from the very bones of the earth. But so did war. It didn’t take long for the newly created single string harp to evolve into a bow that hurled sharpened sticks at someone you despised. New innovations kept coming and more trees and rocks were sacrificed. The land was drenched in the blood of humans and the destruction of all was close at hand.

It is said that on the 7th day God looked at his work and saw that it was good. The reality is that at the end, Luta looked at what she had wrought and was crushed. Her tears had to find voice and her only expression now was in the hands of the men and women who made instruments from the wood of her beloved trees. A small plaintive sound appeared from a small box of spruce and maple. A bow made of the hair of war horses slid along the entrails of sheep, roughened by the sap of the tundra’s breeze. A shape appeared, like a human torso but cut at the waist with holes slashed in it’s belly. The sound grew more plaintive. More boxes appeared in sizes and shapes unknown and the music springs into being. Luta is dying and breaths her life into the soul of the earth. There will be trees again.

The souls of the dead moan, the oceans roar, the winds howl, and the audience weeps without knowing why.

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