Written by Hermione Cameron
Illustrated by Emma Barducci
Your feet beat against the jagged ground. People scatter as you run past them, a mother seizes her children by the hand, darts away, hissing ‘cursed’ and ‘devil woman’.
By now you are accustomed to people’s hatred. You hear them talking about you on the streets, at the markets, the tavern talk - the mutterings, the pointing and whispering.
‘I hear she is a whore, who lies with Beelzebub himself.’
‘She is a witch, who prays to demons. They say her blood is filled with the devil’s magic.’
Blood seeps between your legs, thick and glutinous, leaving dark stains on your robes. It has been twelve years now, and still the bleeding does not stop.
If you can just touch his robes...
You keep running, down the rocky yellow hillside until you reach the town at the bottom, and the entrance to the temple. The sun is white hot, the air thick and suffocating, like a too-tight hug. Your limbs feel heavy, your breath sharp in your chest.
Crowds of people swarm the narrow street, jostling, chattering. You can smell their body odour, feel their hot breath, the scratch of their robes against yours. For a blissful moment you almost forget who you are, lose yourself in anonymity...
You squint your eyes, stand up on tiptoes to see above the crowd. It is now so busy that no one seems to notice the stains on your robes. In the distance, you can just about make out a young man, dressed in dusty robes, a group of people gathered around him.
You attempt to make your way through the mass of people, squeezing between the spaces, awkwardly tripping over limbs, clambering up the rough stone steps. The entrance to the temple is so crowded, that – for the first time in 12 years – nobody tries to stop you going in.
If you can just touch his robes...
The figure of the young man becomes gradually clearer and clearer. Eventually, you are right behind him, close enough to touch. You reach out a trembling hand...
‘Who touched me?’
He turns around. He is not like how you expected, not how they described him. He is somewhat scrawny, with wiry hair, a crooked nose, his face lined and weather beaten. When his eyes meet yours, they are kind.
They are eyes that really see you, really understand.
You have heard tales of this person - who he is, and who he says he is. Some say he is a mad man. Some say he is of the devil. Some say is he is a wise man, a healer. Some say he is much, much more than that. You have always had a curious mind, and you had to see for yourself.
Trembling, you feel yourself kneel before him and raise a tentative voice: ‘I have been bleeding for twelve years, and I do not know how to stop it. I knew if I could just touch your robe, I would be healed.’
And the man turns to you, looks upon you with those eyes that really see you. He says…’Your faith has made you well.’
2021 years later
At the bottom of a ragged rock face, at the mouth of a cave in modern-day Israel, the very same temple still stands – its tiny stubs of walls defiant against the passing of time. Excavators have walked its crumbling ruins, scraping back thousands of years of dust and dirt and grime. On the faded tiled floor, you can just about make out the faint outline of a cross.
We still do not know much about this woman in our tale, why she was bleeding, or who she really was. The story ends where she is healed. After all, Jesus is the main character…
Still, I like to imagine her running along the top of the ragged rock face to greet her mysterious healer. I like to imagine that, after the miracle took place, she was able to return to the temple, build a new and better life for herself, but who knows...
If the Bible was written today, I’m sure it would receive mixed reviews. The Sunday End Times Reads may call it ‘preachy,’ adding that: ‘The authors are trying too hard to force an agenda on their readers.’ Guardian Angel Reads may describe the Bible as ‘confusing, male gaze-y, with too many conflicting narratives.’
2021 years later…and some still believe that this healer was who he said he was. So, how do we begin to understand a culture so far away from us - in time, in place, in custom, in language, so lost in translation along the way.
How do we begin to place ourselves within the pages of these books? Should we even try? Do we treat these pages like a paper temple, curl up inside them each night like the prophet, Anna…?
Maybe someday we will complete the excavation - scrape away thousands of years of dirt, and dust, mistranslation, misinterpretation…and reveal the true meaning underneath…?