Dance Upon the Back of Atmah
The Dance Upon the Back of Atmah tells of a time after the first Regent of Wu-Yu, the world-encircling serpent Atmah, sank into the ocean to contemplate eternity. Without a regent, the world was left in chaos. Death appeared for the first time. At that time there lived an Elf woman whose name is now forbidden to speak, but whom we call Bharata, “she who devours.” This Bharata traveled the world learning the dances of all the living species, but there was one she did not learn: the dance of life itself. With all creatures dying about her, she gave up in despair and resolved to paddle her canoe out into the ocean to die. After three days, she ran aground on a mysterious archipelago of ten thousand islands. There she danced the nine-thousand nine-hundred ninety-nine dances of life, one on each island. But in the middle of the last dance, a sea otter rose from beneath the waves and startled her. She forgot the dance. Then there was a rumbling and the archipelago began to rise. Atmah himself, with each island being in truth one of the spikes along his spine, rose from the sea. He said he was pleased by her dances. She received the great serpent’s blessing and became the new Regent of Wu-Yu. Bharata then returned to her people and taught them the nine-thousand nine-hundred ninety-nine dances, and creatures lived long. But because the dances were not completed, Atmah did not teach her the final dance, that of life itself, and that is why death awaits all creatures today.