Dressed as a Goddess

Author: Sandra Bunting

The director of the city's new museum gets more excitement than he had planned as two different women have an influence on what the museum is like.

The grant application for an assistant looked good. If all went well, he could have another person working with him before Easter. However, for the moment, it looked like he would have to lock up the place as usual for a month and leave it to Mrs. O’Hehir to look after. A month off to do research was part of the agreement when he took up the job. January was a quiet month. It was good to get away from the endless rain and fierce winds of the west of Ireland. Every time he came back, his friends would rhyme off a litany of illnesses they had suffered and overcome.

Home. Home for Dr. Geoffry Mulvihill was his place of work. The purpose-built, modern building in the centre of town came with the job. He remembered his footsteps sounding through the empty rooms as he walked through the new museum for the first time. There were only two instructions: fill it and look after it.

He had lived up to his part of the bargain. All his creativity, contacts and powers of persuasion had been used in fundraising. There was not one grant application that passed by that he did not look at and try to find out how it could relate to the museum.

Filling the building was not a problem. There was a hodgepodge of items left over from the old museum. People had been generous about donating what they thought was important to their heritage. Whatever opinion he had on these items, he respected the wishes of the residents and devoted a room in their honour. Added in were artefacts sent down from Dublin and items put aside by the local council after a decree from Europe to conserve all important artefacts and monuments. Other rooms were stocked with purchases made when there was money available.

His one indulgence � going back to his days as a lecturer in Egyptology- was a small room, a cubicle really, where he displayed a few statues of Egyptian Goddesses: Nut, Blast, Isis. Although more aesthetic than valuable, they were not without worth. Contacts made during his research month had paid off and allowed him to purchase minor treasures on the museum’s delicate budget.

The room had proved popular but not in the way the museum curator could have imagined. He printed up a leaflet with details on each of the statues together with some general information. Not long afterwards, women started coming to visit the “goddess room” to meditate. Dr. Mulvihill found out that a local woman had started a “goddess workshop”. Her brochure stated “Find the Goddess Within. Ten Week course on how to improve your life by finding the power”.

Geoffry tried to counter the so-called nonsense by writing scholarly articles, which he printed and distributed. He also gave interviews to the press. These measures, however, did not deter what he called the “goddess group” from their enthusiasm over his special room.

The board was pleased with his progress on fund-raising and acquisitions. Looking after them, however, was another matter. Each item had to be categorised, valued, restored (if applicable) and displayed. A fortune was spent on a security system and insurance premiums went up with each new purchase. The building and the items needed regular cleaning, something he had overlooked when he told the board he could handle everything himself. He just let the dust pile until he reraalised he was entitled to hire someone to clean.

Mrs. O’Hehir kept the museum spotless ever since. An older lady, she knew how to dust without breaking and how to keep out of Dr. Mulvihill’s hair while he was working. It was almost as much a home to her as it was to the curator. She would often be seen scrubbing floors late into the night, no question of overtime pay. She would go about her work with pride and a sense of responsibility. There was one room, however, she would not go into.

“Those hussys!” she said. “Just a bunch of naked women dancing about!” To his amusement, Dr. Mulvihill discovered she was talking about the Egyptian statues. So he took care of the little goddesses himself.

Passing one day thinking about the ending of his paper. he thought he’d better pop in and give it a quick clean. In front of the statue of Nut a woman with long caramel coloured hair stretched her arms above her head. She was completely naked.

“Where are your clothes?” asked Dr. Mulvihill, trying to look down at the floor but not succeeding.

The woman ignored him.

“Listen,” said Dr. Mulvihill. “This kind of thing is just not acceptable. I suppose that crazy woman told you to look for the goddess within. Well, you won’t find anything here. You have to go.”

The woman lowered her arms gently, sighed and looked at the curator.

“I am the one who tells women to look for the goddess within”. She put out her hand for Geoffry to shake. “June Constance”.

He shook her hand, averting his eyes from her white shapely body.

“I’ll be in my office” was all that he could manage.

Later June, now clothed, sat down in the chair opposite his desk as he told her the significance of each goddess statue. He was surprised at how much she knew. After she explained what she was trying to do, he still felt it was a load of nonsense. However, he had a new respect for her.

He left the next day for Egypt. There was mention of a goddess on a newly found tablet and it could form the basis of a new paper. Perhaps he’d bring back a stature or some other item of antiquity. Leaving everything in the capable hands of Mrs. O’Hehir, he packed his laptop. There was no need for clothes. Some of his clothes were stored in Cairo with his guide, Hassan Katar. Anything else he could buy. Things were cheap in Egypt.

At the airport in Dublin, a call came from the Council telling him that the funds had been approved to hire a new assistant. There was a catch though. To receive final approval they needed to supply the name of the likely candidate. As. Dr. Mulvihill didn’t want to put off his trip, he left it up to the Council to hold interviews and hire someone, outlining the kind of person he was looking for and what he needed him or her to do.


The trip to Egypt was fruitful. Not only did Dr. Mulvihill get enough research material for another paper, but he was bringing back a tablet engraved with the picture of an Egyptian goddess he had yet to identify, covered with ancient hieroglyphics. Besides that, he got warmth in his bones, colour in his face and felt relaxed and refreshed. He was ready to start back at the museum.

He arrived back on February 1st, the beginning of spring in Ireland. The daffodils would soon be coming up even though the weather wasn’t noticeably milder. It was the Feile Br�d, the feast of Bridget, herself a goddess, patron of poets. Mrs. O’Hehir had things opened up in the museum once more. The heat was on, everything was clean and coffee was made.

“Welcome home,” she said. Then corrected herself, “I mean, welcome back.”

“Glad to be back,” he looked at her tenderly, “�and home.”

She smiled.

Dr. Mulvihill took a parcel wrapped in newsprint out of his briefcase and gave it to the woman.

“Oh, Doctor. You shouldn’t have.”

Peeling off the newsprint revealed a silver teapot very much like an Aladdin’s lamp. Unconsciously, she rubbed the side. No genie.

“It’s for mint tea.”

“Thank you so much. And I’m sure it will do nicely for normal tea.”

Formalities over, Dr. Mulvihill was anxious to get on with his work. He opened his laptop on his desk and transferred files to his desk computer. A pile of correspondence in his in-box begged for attention. Then he unzipped a pocket of his laptop bag and took out another newspaper-wrapped package. He pulled out a tablet, brushed his hand across it and became lost in its mysteries.

The tablet would need a special stand and perhaps a glass enclosure to protect it against deterioration. That was something to organise right away.

Dr. Mulvihill walked towards the goddess cubicle. The fact was that he had missed the statues: the mystery of Nut, the playfulness of Blast, the beauty of Isis. However entering the room, he almost dropped the new stone tablet. Instead of the sleek forms he expected to see, each of the statues was dressed in its own knitted costume: booties, dresses, matching hats. Isis even had a miniature handbag.
“Mrs. O’Hehir!” he called. But she didn’t answer. Perhaps she didn’t hear him. It was a big place. She could be anywhere.

Dr. Mulvihill left the statues as they were for the moment. He put the tablet on the floor while he took measurements for a glass case in the room. Perhaps all the statues should be under glass.

A knock came on his office door when he returned.

“Ah Mrs. O’Hehir, do come in.”

The door opened.

“You!” he said.

A hand went out to him.

“June Constance, your new assistant.”

Dr. Mulvihill couldn’t speak.

“I’ll ring the Council,” he managed after a while. “There must be some mistake. I left instructions on what I wanted.”

“Exactly. Major in Archaeology. Postgraduate in Heritage Studies.”


“They thought I’d complement you. I know more about the Celtic stuff.” She smiled. “I know a little about your area too. Egyptology is fascinating.”

“And all that nonsense about “the goddess within’?”

“That too! Part of me.”

Taking his glasses off to rub his eyes, Dr, Mulvihill sighed.

“Do you think you could at least keep your clothes on?”

The woman laughed.

“I hope I will still be able to visit the “goddess room’,” she said.

The curator burst into gales of laughter.

“What’s so funny? Can I go in there or not?”

“Only when clothed,” said Dr. Mulvihill, picturing the statues and their knitted outfits and then imagining his new assistant in similar attire.

To her puzzled look, he started laughing again. “Mrs. O’Hehir will sort you out,” he said.