The Legend of the Four Winds

In the days when winds subside and gentle breezes whisper around, the days of most beautiful sunsets, usually in midsummer, four old ladies at four different points of our islands silently abandon their chores and leave their homes. One can be seen sitting on a rocky coast; the other at the top of a hill; the third one at the edge of a cliff; and the fourth sits on a sandy beach. As the sun is setting, their silent sitting is cheerfully disrupted by children who rush to them and sit in a circle to listen to the legend of the winds. 

They silently watch the sun go down, and when the last breeze comes along grandma says,

“That was the last breath of the sun…”

and a child promptly asks her,

“Grandma – Why can’t we see the wind?

The old Lady replies:

“It is invisible, yet we feel it more closely than the closest of beings. 

It is tasteless and odourless, yet carries with it all tastes and odours of this world. 

When it is away, the world may as well be dead. Or fast asleep. 

Its presence is always an event. Awakening. Relief. Resolution. Drama. Tragedy. Turmoil. Comedy. New beginning. Execution. Epiphany.

Wind, the essence of presence. The carrier of change. The container of our tempers.  The shaper of landscapes. The spirit in motion. Our eternal companion, friend or foe…”

Grandma takes a long breath as if she were inhaling what is left of the gentle breeze. Gazing at the horizon of the vast sea, 

“Who created the wind? Is it God, or the Sun? And how come it still blows at night sometimes? And where does it blow from?” asks the child.

 She looks at the child and replies in her soft voice:

“Many legends were woven about the origin of wind; many tales were told, often contradicting one another, but they all agree on one: wind is the creation of gods. Yet voices from time immemorial become dissonant when shedding light upon the wind’s origin and identity. Clashes are prone to become so fierce that they produce a tempest on their own. Who was first, who stood at the gates through which the winds swept into our universe? 

Legends swirl and twirl around the Mediterranean, carried by the winds that tirelessly rush across the skies, sometimes caressing the land and kissing the sea, at other times grazing the stone and awakening the wildest of waves. Legends interweave and overlap, buzz and hum, and their murmur can be best heard in the heart of the Mediterranean, the meeting point of winds, the nest of the wind rose: our own island. 

This red sandy bay; the white flat rocky coast; the cave at the edge of a cliff; and the hill surrounded by valleys – four points on this island where dissonant murmurs subside, clearing the path for the ruling winds to tell their story, one of their genesis. Some tell it fiercely, in heavy gusts, spinning the chilling yarn of ancient feuds; some with dry, hot breath and sandstone whisper, scraping the landscape, the skin, the pupils, scuffing memory and leaving it with sharp edges; some tell it immersed in heavy dampness that paints everything thick grey, as if seducing the mind with the prospect of oblivion; some opt for the vibrant, sonorous voice and crystal-clear images burning with colours in their primal intensity. 

In the beginning, all was one and one was all. It was in the days of the Universe of Nature and its all-encompassing and all-embracing creator, the Earth Mother. She was one with nature and nature was one with her. And because all was one and one was all, it was all the same. No frictions, tensions, conflicts or clashes. Perfect peace and harmony. Forever. But forever is a long way to go and it is in the nature of any universe – be it a single cell or an entire galaxy – to change. Thus, on this way to forever, the tree of perfect peace and harmony began to grow the shady fruits of yearning. Earth Mother sensed it and knew it was time. She took the fruit and ate it and let its seeds travel towards her womb. One seed, and only one, found its way to the core of the womb, nested in it and out of it grew a new life, a child. A Son, who in the blink of an eye became Father. The fruit of her womb took on the divine shape of her male counterpart, and the future fruits of her womb were seeded by the Father. Many children were born out of this union, children that were gods, and then many more children of children that were deities, and then many more children of children of children that were heroes, and on and on: semi-deities to ordinary humans, each generation of children getting more remote from their divine ancestors with spiralling swiftness. 

The swiftness of procreation brought about the speeding of time, which in turn led to a passionate, overwhelming restlessness, first sensed by the Father and then spread like a tidal wave onto his male descendants. Nature was swarming with humans and human nature was swarming with restlessness. Procreation could not satiate it. Humans began to turn against each other. War was the youngest fruit that ripened on the tree of humankind. The iron smell of blood filled the nostrils of humans, leading them to discover the same smell in the metal that made their wars even bloodier. The soil was soaked with thick redness. And the Father found his peace in it, in the horror of the bloody soil. 

Earth Mother, unaware of the earthly hell and consumed by lovemaking passion, woke up only when the smell of spilled blood became so strong that it stung her nostrils, and the remote screams grew so loud that they deafened her. Only then did she realise the source of her lover’s power and the foundation on which lay their delight. Dumbfounded, she removed herself from Father and refused to come near him. Father’s restlessness, temporarily appeased by destructive earthly cycles, burst out in all its force. Deprived of his source of love, his fury was as powerful as the destruction beneath. The onslaught of unyielding rage erupted and hit the earth, cracking it down into pieces with a single blow. The Primary Ocean, until now serenely surrounding the big earth, ran amok and began flooding the shattered earthly pieces. Life was being swallowed by water. Humankind – or rather, what was left of it – was divided into smaller groups separated by the sea. 

Yet life’s force is greater than any imaginable or unimaginable disaster, so the cycle of destruction was replaced by the time of imagination, invention and hard labour. Still, one had now become many and eternity was divided into cycles of prosperity and cycles of destruction, be it natural disaster or war. Humans yearned for those who were on the other side of the horizon. 

Meanwhile, Earth Mother felt remorse for her struggling divine partner. Her heart melted and she embraced back her lover turning towards the struggling humankind. She awarded them with a divine gift that, amongst others, would enable them to bear the distance. 

That gift was the wind. 

The innovative genius in humans instantly thought of ways to exploit this miraculous occurrence. Thus came about sailboats for winning the seas; windmills for turning the wind energy into other forms of life; reed flutes for exploring the sounds of the divine presence and creating divine harmonies; kites for conquering the sky with sheer joy of playing. And thus came about the wind rose, the magic navigation tool for communicating with wind… 

Wind, the essence of presence. The carrier of change. The container of our tempers.  The shaper of landscapes. The spirit in motion. Our eternal companion, friend or foe. 

This is the legend told in different voices by the island’s winds: Grecale, also known as Bora, Euroclydon or Euraquilo, the harsh North-Easterner; Sirocco – Xaloc, Xlokk, Ghibli or Jugo – the mighty South-Easterner; Libeccio, Llebeig or Garbi, the violent South-Westerner; and Maestral, Mistral or Majjistral – the vigorous North-Westerner. 

Those winds tell many stories other than that of their Genesis, but that depends on the mood they bring with them. These stories are incessant, as they flow in constantly. We islanders, who understand the language of the winds, are the keepers of their stories and it is up to us to pass them on and remember the presence of these winds – the divine gift.”

The sun is already long gone, the blazing colours of the sky immersed in deep blue sprinkled with stars. Suspended in the middle of the night is the moon, together with Venus and Saturn hanging at its bottom, shedding its white light on the sea surface. A night breeze climbs up to the now-quiet old lady. So are the children. But their senses are wide open, still agitated with the echoes of the majestic and frightening story of gods and winds. They hear the murmur of the breeze very clearly, like never before. It seems to be carrying the story, on and on, for them to listen to and to tell…