If Snorri Sturlusen had not turned his court poet ear to the old stories among his people, which the Church urged them to forget in favour of just one book, then the stories of Freya and Odin, Loki and Yggdrasill would have disappeared from the world.
Yet these stories survived. Their conquerors were followers of the book, and learned enough to know retelling a story is not a declamation of faith in its magic. They did not burn or bury the stories, but gave them new life in Christian robes.
Other stories fall into ruins, and from ruins into illegible dust. Some lonely wandering stories never know life even as a ruin, but disappear from the world like a suicide slipping silently into an icy river.
We mourn the disappearance of languages from the world, and bemoan the destruction of the artefacts of Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan. Yet, everyday, quietly without a word, stories as beautiful as Freya’s Brisingamen slip from our modern grasp. The unifying stories of culture have shattered, like a new Babel’s tower, and from the looted altar a thousand confused robbers run alone into the desert, where they will die alone, unheard, unbidden by the ones who know.
So, the leopards become part of the rite.