“The Solstice will soon be here, but I cannot go to the Grove meeting. I shall be travelling home.”
John looked at her, smiling, “You need to do something.”
Laura sighed. “Perhaps. Maybe I can visit my plants and speak to them about the turn of the year, of the darkest time, of bringing back the light.”
“You should do something.” His voice was insistent. Strange for one who did not follow her path to be pointing her towards a rite - something important, something she needed to do.
Time passed. She fetched holly from the garden, weaving it through the three woods of her pentacle – hazel, willow and ash- to bring green and red to her altar. She threaded velvet ribbons, green and purple over the holly and seashells, over the elder necklace and around the antlers holding her maiden and mother ornaments, their soft folds draping down to the kestrel feathers, the swan feathers, the polished wood of the yew bowl.
She brought home mistletoe, placing it reverently into the horn cup; the white, translucent berries adding richness to other hues gathered there.
Laura was sad it would not be blessed over the Yule fire. There would be no gift for the Dark Goddess this year.
How mistaken she could be!
The postman left a parcel. Out of brown wrapping she drew a gift. John explained in his letter. “The painting was done a while back. It was never quite what I wanted it to be, but I supposed that comes with working in a medium like oil on a small canvas, with limited skill. I always wondered why his face was never clearer, but perhaps it was never meant to be seen clearly. I thought you might like to have it.”
She sat for a while, taking in the scene – the Horned God striding through his wildwood, his long knife in his hand, caught by surprise by the watcher, turning to look over his shoulder for the briefest instance before returning on his way. His long legs and flank were fur-coated. There were antlers clearly visible on his head, yet merging with the branches of trees around him; vegetation shielding him from prying eyes.
It was time. It was the shortest day. She would be given space to bring light into darkness, blessing both mistletoe and gift before the Old Ones.
She lit her candles – a circle of flame creating a place apart from her modern world. She did not need to contain the sacred space, no circle casting on this occasion; it was her intent which was paramount.
She lit a charcoal brick, placing it carefully in sand where a bowl sat in the centre of the light. Incense from far away dropped onto heat, wafting smoke and scents into the air.
She stood before the flames, adopting the stance of invocation which came so easily to her now.
“I ask for blessings upon this room, upon this house, upon those whom I love and who love them.
“I bring air to this place in the incense burning. Air, so essential to our life; for without breath we cannot live.
“I bring fire to this place in the candles burning, drawing light into the darkness as we move from the dark time of the year once more into the time of light, illuminating our path.
“I bring water into this place.” She stopped and dipped her hand into the bowl, scattering droplets around the circle. “Water which sustains us, from which we came; without which we cannot survive.
“I bring earth into this place. Earth, which is beneath our feet, which is in the wood of the instruments, the wood of the candleholders, the wood of the furniture which supports us. Earth, from which we came and to which we shall return when the life spark leaves us.”
She drew the mistletoe from its horn and brought it towards the smoke. “I ask blessings for this mistletoe. May it bring joy, health and happiness to this household for the coming year.” She passed it through the smoke, before returning it to its place.
She turned to the painting, now sitting in the centre of the bookcase. She carried it tenderly towards the smoke. “I ask for this picture to be blessed with love; which was born of love and sent with love to be used on Hu Garden’s altar, to bring down the God into this place beside the Goddess. This day, when she brings forth her son into the quiet of the darkness, so he may grow and take us into the light.”
She passed the picture three times widdershins around the smoke, then returned it to the plinth.
“Finally,” she said, “I dedicate myself anew to the Old Ways. I ask for patience and compassion towards all who approach me. I ask for clarity of speech so all may understand my ways and how they, too, may be helped.”
Her voice dropped and her eyes glittered with tears. “I am so blessed in all that has been given me and I offer thanks.”
“Is there not one more thing you wished to do?” a voice inside reminded her.
She went to the bookcase and withdrew her herbal tarot cards. Sitting in the centre of the room, she shuffled the pack, then drew the first three from the top, laying them face up in front of her.
The first card was the five of wands – Turmeric. Such a lush, green plant, speaking of abundance in her life. The stave were crossed, preventing her from moving back into the past, but the wood showed green shoots - new life!
The second card was the six of wands – hawthorn, the herb of the heart, of love, of nurturing. Six staves were stuck in the earth, still sprouting leaves, protecting the man in the centre - a time for rest amidst the bustle of life before continuing with the battle.
The third card was Judgement. A woman held a goldenseal plant in her hands – rich, fruitful, mature, she was the plant, offering herself to the opportunities in the sky – renewal, new beginnings.
It was enough.
She put the cards away, standing to thank those who had drawn near to assist with her rite. She bad them farewell, opening the door to allow them to leave and the outside world to enter once again.
She doused the lights, leaving a single votive candle to freshen the air with scents of oranges and cloves.
It was done. She felt the quiet of ritual fill her deep inside and she smiled.
“A Blessed Yule to you and all you love and cherish.”
Let it be so.