Leader : Morrigan
Date : 31 January 1999
The evening sun shone weakly through a gray bank of storm clouds that threatened the western sky. The weather guessers had warned of snow around midnight, so Morrigan had planned accordingly, and with the help of her husband Mike, loaded up the back of the truck with all the supplies they'd need. Mike had never attended one of her "do's" (as he put it), but with the snow on the ground and the fires and food and the weather; Morrigan had asked him for his help. When he seemed a little doubtful, she winked mischievously and told him to think of it like camping. That seemed to sweeten the idea for him and he agreed with a mischievous grin of his own. Now they drove the truck down the little dirt road that wound it's way through the thick woods spreading out from the banks of the Raccoon River. A little further ahead the road forked and Morrigan turned onto the bike trail access, a road less traveled this time of year. During late spring, through summer and fall this place would be filled with bikers and hikers eagerly taking advantage of the trails that snaked throughout these woods. But with the bitter cold (though today it was up to a toasty 35 degrees), and the snow and ice of winter, these people preferred to stay warm in their houses, occupying themselves with other activities. And that was fine by Morrigan because just off the road was a lovely little glade that opened up on the foundation of an old house, long since gone. The only things remaining to mark it's existence was the cobbled flooring and a huge river rock fireplace set at the southern edge. It was perfect for a winter circle.
Morrigan had found this place during the summer and been charmed by it's energy and potential for gatherings. The cobbles formed a square platform large enough to keep the average group from getting their feet wet.
The tires crunched against the snow as Morrigan navigated the truck over to the side of the road and switched off the engine. They got out and began hauling stuff over to the site. There was at least a foot of snow on the ground so Mike put the shovel to work on the cobblestones while Morrigan cleaned the old accumulation of ashes and debris from the five foot hearth of the fireplace. The structure was incredible. If she stooped over a bit, she could actually stand inside of it and peer up the flu. It would be perfect for roasting a pig, the old fashioned way , on a spit with the flames licking at the flesh. However, pig was not on the menu tonight, a huge kettle of rich venison stew was, and Morrigan pulled out the iron poles and stand she would need to hold it over the flames, as well as the pot for the mulled wine. That combined with fresh baked bread would serve to warm everyone's bones quite nicely . With that accomplished she turned to survey her husbands progress shoveling snow. He had managed to clear the whole foundation and, as per her instructions, molded the snow in a low circle around the platform, easy to step over, but definitely designating sacred space. From the pile of gear Morrigan took four large flat stones and placed them on the cobbles at each of the quarter points. Onto these she mounted small white tapers. For the ritual fire they carried a large metal washtub lined with sand from the truck into the center of the circle. And as Mike began to haul wood from the truck, Morrigan set up a low wooden altar to the north of the (would be) fire. When she had finished, she lent Mike a hand building the fires and then set up the food.
With the setting of the sun came a cold damp chill. Standing away from the circle to survey the results of the work, Morrigan felt the thick mantel of silence that always blankets a winter forest. Not a creature stirring, no rustling of leaf or twig, just a heavy quiet, broken only by the crackling of the fires. The tree line edged the deepening gray sky like ancient dark lace, frayed and torn. Somewhere at the tip of that line was the Moon, invisible through the clouds. The Blue Moon, the moon of goals. Morrigan envisioned it's glow full and round; heavy with potential. The little hairs on the back of her neck began to prickle and her skin flushed out in gooseflesh. Her energy was strong tonight. Even through the clouds, it could be felt.
The sharp sound of tires against packed snow cracked the silence as the first trickle of people began to arrive.
Morrigan stands at the altar. Around her all have gathered. People from different paths, some similar, others very different, standing side by side bound together by their honor for the Lady and Her Consort and the endless turning of the wheel. She lights the candles, then the incense. When the sweet aroma of frankincense fills the air she moves around the circle, greeting each in perfect love and trust; marking their foreheads with the oil from her flask. She steps back to the altar, and in a strong clear voice announces:
"This circle is about to be cast. All stand freely within to greet the Lady and Lord. Only love is welcome here." She takes the white pillar from its place on the altar and walks to the North quarter. Facing North, she lights the smaller candle there and calls out:
"Spirits of the North, of earth and stability, Keepers of this sacred space, I call upon you. Join us in our circle this night, lend your strength to our work."
And then, moving to the eastern quarter she lights the candle there also and says:
"To the East I call, to the Spirits of Air, Keepers of whim and fancy, of dreams and knowledge. Join us in our circle this night, lend your inspiration to our work."
Morrigan returns the white pillar to it's place on the altar and then takes her place within the circle to await Manannan...
...The great canopy of the snow-dusted oak trees had prevented Manannan from seeing the grey stone archway at the entrance of the woods. He thought only of quenching his thirst and refilling his water skins and hurrying along his way when he spotted a little lake nestled in the cleavage of the twin peaks that must be near his journeys end. Winters frozen tears rained steadily from the giant oaks onto the ragged white carpet. It sounded like the dawn of springs' first rainfall echoing musically within the forest. It would be so easy to rest and sleep along the shore with the sound of natures awakening... a song of joys to come to soothe his battle weary spirit.
The water tasted pure and icy, seemingly untouched by human filth. As he relaxed after a long days journey, he was startled by the strings of laughter coming from a small child as she ran to the lip of the lake. Her clothes were tattered and torn. Her long red hair, shining with the sheen of a full moon, covered more of her body than her garment. Her companions, a red squirrel and two salamanders, had stopped to stare in his direction, frozen in their tracks, unsure whether to go on or to return to the safety of the woods. The girl knelt by the water and submerged her face under the surface of the cold waters just to get a drink. When she became aware of her statued companions, she stood and looked at him. Such pure and beautiful innocence he had thought never to see again after his blood filled days of battle. How can a young man leave his wife and children and follow death to distant lands just for the sake of those who would purchase glory with his blood? Or purchase honor with the tears from Brigit's grieving mother? Her jade eyes looked at his sword as if in answer to his thoughts, but the radiant sunshine of her smile washed away his dark thoughts.
A chill puckered nipple winked at him from between the torn fabric of her tattered clothing, reminding him of the adolescent form of the young maiden. "You travel far from your home lands, Celtic warrior, yet in all your worldliness, knowledge still eludes you. Men will never understand the beauty in a woman's heart as long as they look at her through the veil of lust, seeing only the shape of the body, not looking deep enough to see the inner light." She inhaled deeply, putting an exclamation point to her statement with her swelling breasts.
"But a fool I am not," he said "for the wisdom of your words betray a knowledge far beyond the youth before me. Does not knowledge teach me to rise above my human weaknesses and return to my fellow coveners to lead them along the proper path in life? To value peace, one must know the horrors of war. To teach happiness, one must know sorrow. Wisdom is not the words shaped by the mouth of the body but the meaning within as revealed by an inner light."
He removed the last apple from his sack and offered it to her. She smiled and said, "So, in other words, Eve wasn't tempted by the fruit but by the vessel of knowledge it contained? Why would you share your last fruit with me, warrior? Do you think my value in my virginity is less than the gnawing hunger in my belly?" Frowning he said "No. It is to trade for your knowledge of that stone archway and what lies in the woods beyond. I am drawn to the north, following a vision of blue light, a circle I saw in my dreams that beckons me. And as a price, a payment for your companionship, I will provide you with food and the warmth of my cloak... But there is an answer to a question I seek that I think you can answer." She took the apple from him. "What is your question?" He grinned and said, "What is the going price of a witches virginity anyway?" She smiled, took a bite from the apple and then she cut it in half with a small white handled knife. Tossing half to her companions, she gazed at the five pointed star within the apples core. "You left the battlefield on Yule and now it is Imbolc. Find the answer to your dream and your riddle through that archway. For riddles are hidden truth. And truth is like the stars. You cannot see them in the daylight. They are revealed when you conquer your dark thoughts. Look..."
He saw a blue mist on the other side of the arch. Forgetting her, he walked through the arch and looked at the almost solid blue wall before him. It curved away on both sides of him and as he looked at it, he saw movement within. A door was opening in the mist and he faced a witch beckoning him in. As he stepped through, he noticed how strangely others in the circle were dressed. "Welcome Manannan Mac Lir, we have been waiting for you for some time now." Her language was different but he understood the words. A woman to his right extended her hand to him and crossing his arms to receive her touch with his left, he extended his right to the woman on his left. Immediately energy began to course through his body. He centered and grounded himself and suddenly he knew why he had entered from the south. He removed his small blade he had named Little Fury. Turning to face the south, he inscribed a pentagram into the air and said "I, Manannan, son of the sea god Lir, protector of the Isle of Man, invoke the fiery watchtower of the south" and as he spoke, red smoke can out of his mouth spiraling into a shape familiar to him. It was the maiden he had thought he had left behind. "I come from deep within you, I am with you always. My molten blood still burns for all to see in the south sea islands. For I am the goddess Pele, spirit of fire and the noonday sun. I inflame your passion of justice, ignite your will and purify your intent. I come to join your circle of magic, love and peace. I bring with me the fiery energy of the sun and the stars. I rekindle your inner drive, your affirmations of courage and your enthusiastic dance to the joys of life. I bring my magic shield of protection so that your work this night will be for the good of all. Blessed be!!!" She kissed Manannan and he turned back to join the circle and smiled at Morrigan...
...As WalksAlone rises and makes ready for the day he realizes that he is due to visit the ritual today. He looks about for R.T. and realizes she is hunting her breakfast. He makes a quick pot of coffee and gathers up bedroll and packs it on to the Mule Ruby and saddles Cash getting ready to ride the day. WalksAlone swings aboard Cash and R.T. comes into camp ready to go. Knowing she has hunted and is ready to go starts out. As the ride progresses R.T. ranges out looking for what the countryside holds and the day slowly slips by, cold clear air is so nice and WalksAlone knows that soon he will be seeing a fire signaling that the circle is close. Soon he begins to smell the stew and RT is running back to let man and animals know we are there. As WalksAlone rides up and dismounts he sees all his friends gathered around the circle. Tending to the animals WalksAlone slowly enters the ritual knowing this is going to be a climax to a wonderful day. He walks to the spot where the west is to be and faces all his friends with arms out and a small smile on his face. WalksAlone faces the west and asks the Great Spirit of his people: "Oh GrandMother: I come to ask this of you. I offer you pure water that is clean, I offer you a heart that is full of love for you and all people, I ask that you bless all present with your great and kind wisdom, to go from here and find happiness. I ask only for myself that you bless me with tolerance for my fellow humans and that you bring back the goodness and graciousness of our Mother. Bring courage and wisdom to our works and if it is your will be with us tonight." Turning to each WalksAlone offers a cup of pure water to drink. WalksAlone places an acorn and small stone on the altar and returns to his position...
...As WalksAlone steps back within the circle, Morrigan steps forward to the North and begins to walk with measured steps around its' edge. From deep within her the tones of a chant form, take shape in her mouth and flow slowly from her lips in a haunting melody. As she rounds the circle the second time others have joined in the chant, their voices blending, and harmonizing the simple vowel sounds. The music swells from within to without until the very air around them vibrates as a living body of sound. As Morrigan rounds the circle for the final time the cadence grows faster and faster; and stops as her feet touch North again.
The silence grows but a moment before Morrigan's voice rings out:
"In this place that is not a place
In this time that is not a time
By my will I create
The 'Is To Be'
This circle contains the power raised herein
Until I release it
So mote it be!"
Morrigan returns to her place within the circle to wait for...
...Nymue' is entranced by this peaceful place. Her sister Morri always finds the most magickal of spots. There was something special here, she wasn't altogether sure what... Then she knew! As the night mist swirled, the shadows of walls that had once been took shape. What was now a forgotten ruin had once been a loving home.
As Nymue' watched she could see and feel the memories of ages past. The whisper of children's laughter danced on the air. Garlands hung on the now abandoned fireplace. A home had once stood here, sharing and respecting the spirits of nature that still stirred. Where once a home had sheltered a loving family, this night, on this spot, another family of sorts has gathered here in love and trust. They too feel the spirits of the ancients, the gentle sprites and airy sylphs of these woods, unseen, would gather with them on this night of the Cold Moon.
Nymue' approaches the altar. Lighting a tall white taper and placing it on the altar she speaks:
"By the flame that burns brightly, O Horned One!
We call Thy name into the night. Ancient One!
By the standing stone and the twisted tree.
By the nameless shore, forgotten and lone
By moonlit meadow, on dusky hill
When the haunted wood is hushed and still,
Come to the charm of the chanted prayer,
As the moon bewitches the midnight air
Evoke Thy powers that potent bide,
In shining stream and the sacred tide
In fiery flame by starlight pale,
In shadowy host that rides the gale.
And by the ferndrakes fairy haunted
Of forests wild and woods enchanted
We bid you come!v To the heart-beat's drum!v Come to us who gather below."
Nymue' bows her head and returns to her place to wait...
...Annie had come out of the woods only for a brief time and only to be a part of this moment with Morrigan and friends old and new. It was difficult to be with others right now, so she sat in the shadows as each arrived, smiling privately at the exchange of friendship and tales of adventure each shared about their journey to circle - what had someone said?... colder than a well digger's, uh what was that last part?...yep, winter was still a reckoning force.
Though the Beur herself was now haggard from the season's call, she would fulfill the round and bring it round again. Annie remembered writing similar thoughts to her friend RD last year...
"...even as she of the fair palms touches the water to remove the sting of winter, it is the reflection of the Caillech disturbed by her action... "for Bride still wears her other face..." and as winter still holds its grip on the land...it is in the pool of the Beur's deep eye...that we see the promise of spring."
Herself a bit unsightly as winter's edge carved another passage on her face, Annie stepped to the center of the circle as her time came. The weather had dressed Annie for this Circle... layers of clothing to guard against chill, ending in a simple black sweater and slacks and charcoal gloves that looked as if she dashed her hands into the cinders before returning to the world ; for a last bit of protection, she had hastily grabbed the quilt that had lain across her grandmother at her passing...simple blocks of color that marked the seasons of Annie's childhood. Here the green and red paisley of Jr. High, a blue and bluer flannel from an over-shirt when she was small, and seafoam polyesters and red checkered cottons her Grandmother had worn all bound in the rich tones of earth; these hieroglyphs that storied nearly two decades of a family's history lay across Annie's shoulders like a seasonal mantle revealing in continuum the single moments and the whole. Coming from the wilderness dressed as such she chuckled a moment considering,
"The noble queen shall come from the knoll, I will not smite the noble queen, nor will the noble queen smite me."
Annie placed on the altar the treasured molt of a serpent, finding humor again in her choice of words... so much more dramatic than "snake".
Annie asked that each reach place their right hand on their own heart... and then place their left hand on the heart of the person to their left, by weaving their arm through the loop created by each touching his own heart...this created the effect of a running stitch, in essence sewing the fabric of this sacred space with their adjoining touch in a circle with no beginning and no end.
Annie took her staff of Ash hung with the charms of the Ocean, and struck the ground before her three times. She believed she spoke but was not aware that sound passed her lips...Dear Lady, who as you phase teach us the way of our own seasons, who in your fullness reminds that we are obligated to live in wholeness, who in your dark teaches the perfection of change... be with us in peace and protection.
The Moonlight seemed to pass over Annie and then out in concentric circles...then meeting the feet of each one gathered... the light rose in that one and with each wave of light rose higher... until each gathered seemed to glow with the living light of the Moon...hand in hand they stood claimed by the Mother...and from the place where Annie had placed her staff a streak of electric blue escaped Winter's frozen protection as a soft rumble moved under them - the first stirrings of Spring.
Annie returned to the circle to wait for...
...This is the first circle and the Rite of Dedication for Eddie as his journey has just begun. He is amazed at how all of the things leading up through this moment have been falling into place so effortlessly. Guided by an unseen hand of the Lady shining down with the depth of love he had always knew existed but never found until now. Moving from his place in the circle he reaches into his pocket and brings out the white sage bundles and tosses them into the fire, the smoke rises in a slow circle spiraling out of the fire then the moment he speaks the passage of dedication the smoke rises strait up into the heavens:
O Mother Goddess,
O Father God,
In this place of power I open myself
to your essence,
Make me one with your essence
Make me one with your essence
Make me one with your essence
Now Eddie takes from his pocket the silver pentacle hanging from a gold chain and as he hangs it from his neck he is now and forever more united with the Lady and Lord and he knows that he will always be in their light and they will walk in the same path. He turns to take his place in the circle...
...Nymue' steps forward once more.
Approaching the alter she reveals from beneath a robe of midnight, four perfect lustrous pearls, gifts of the Ladies sea. "Bright and Blessed Lady, you have brought me such joy and peace, Please accept the return of these treasures with love and respect. I come to you this night as voice of the children of your earth. As you watch over them with attentive eyes, I ask for them - Hope... for those who have lost it , Peace... for their future, Joy...for those not knowing it, and Love...to all who seek it. Through these gifts they will know you.
Nymue' returns to her place in the circle, pausing to look with loving eyes at all surrounding her...
...Moonshadow waits patiently to enter the circle, and when it is her time, she does so with a warm and great full heart. So many things to be thankful for, so many gifts the Goddess has bestowed. The December month was a chaotic mix of great cheer and great sorrow. The January month has brought peace and above all a stabilizing of emotions. Moonshadow shivers a moment, even under the heavy, worn cloak that belonged to her Grandmother, and then puts the cold away from her body, clearing her mind of all but her adoration and appreciation for knowing her Goddess. Moonshadow brings a gift of four white tulips that she has painstaking grown in her small greenhouse and places them on the alter. White as the Mother Herself. She outstretches her arms toward the sky and begins to quietly sing. "Great Goddess, You bring me love to share, Great Goddess, you show me how much You care. The wind is calm, the night is still, and gazing at You, I live for your will. Thank you for all you have done for me, and may Grandmother, Charlotte and Donnie be there with Thee." Moonshadow turns to quietly, and sits down as the others make room for her. And with everyone else, waits for...
...Midori doubts to leave her place, she surely is not the same person that she was yesterday but she leaves and looks at the fire, while the two aspects of her personality decide who will go first. Midori the witch speaks first, she is insecure, but her words took confidence:
"Tu que mueves las mareas, los mares, la sangre...
todos los arroyos de la vida fluyente.
madre de la mision y el nacimiento
a traves de ti, en ti, en esta noche bajamos
hacia nosotros tu luz y tu poder "
("You, the one that moves the tides, the seas, the blood...
all the rivers of the flowing life.
mother of the vision and the birth
through you, in you, this night we take
unto us, your light and power " )
when she finishes, she breaths deeply and whispers:
"oh mother, no words can say how grateful I am, because I have found love, thanks to you, under your guidance, please bless our love with your beautiful light."
she takes her silver ring and throws it to the fire, she knows very well that she is leaving past sorrows behind Midori the witch makes a reverence and then Midori the warrior takes the control, she looks at the fire and says: " I as the warrior recognize that there is love and I accept it willingly.
And I accept the fire as the element that I must have as my fighting technique: Watakushi no hi desu kara hi no watakushi desu (I am the fire as the fire is me), I offer the stick I used for training (she throws to the fire a battered stick) as a symbol of the pain and the dedication I use for learning, from now on I'll use a new one, one that was the branch of a tree, for the battles to come " and Midori the warrior makes the salutation, put her hands together and bows, and then makes the symbol of Zen, bowing again. and both the witch and the warrior say: " we are one, and both, finally we have accepted each other " and Midori gets back to her place in the circle, ready to face whatever the future holds for her...
...Seeing the time passing that she might stay amongst those of the circle, Annie stepped forward to share these words. Although it had been a "Blue Moon" they had shared Imbolc within this circle as well... and this piece from Caitlin Matthews had become a traditional inclusion for Annie.
Brighid of the Mantle, encompass us,
Lady of the Lambs, protect us,
Keeper of the Hearth, kindle us,
Beneath your mantle gather us,
And restore us to memory.
Mothers of our mother,
Guide our hands in yours,
Remind us how
To kindle the hearth,
To keep it bright,
To preserve the flame,
Your hands upon ours,
Our hands within yours,
To kindle the light
Both day and night.
The Mantle of Brighid about us,
The memory of Brighid within us,
The protection of Brighid keeping us
From harm, from ignorance, from heartlessness,
This day and night
From dawn till dark
From dark till dawn.
Annie shared and returned to her place in the circle...
...As silence fills the wake of River's voice, Morrigan returns to the altar and gazes around at those who have gathered here with her this moon. The air is heavy with their hopes, dreams and desires. Morrigan's eyes fall to the silver candle on the altar and, in a quiet voice, she adds her own petition to theirs. She whispers words of a house that exists somewhere for her family, the perfect house, with room for growth and gardens, a huge kitchen to create in, and a real hearth to warm her soul during the cold winter months. From the pocket of her coat she produces a miniature house made of sticks and paper. She places this on the altar and remains quiet for a few moments, then steps back a bit and speaks to all in a strong clear voice:
"Lady of the Earth,
Lord of the Hunt,
We are grateful for your presence here
and thank you for the blessings
You leave with us this night."
Turning to the North she says,
"Spirits of Earth,
Keepers of this sacred space
I thank you for your strength.
Go in peace from this circle.
To the West,
"Spirits of Water!
Keepers of love and friendship,
I thank you for your healing.
Go in peace from this circle.
To the South,
"Spirits of Fire!
Keepers of passion and creativity,
I thank you for your protection.
Go in peace from this circle.
To the East,
"Spirits of Air!
Keepers of knowledge and of dreams,
I thank you for your inspiration.
Go in peace from this circle."
Morrigan leaves the altar and walks widdershins around the circle saying:
"The web of life is an endless circle,
never to die, only to change form.
What was begun is now finished.
Welcome home, these energies borne.
The circle is open, never broken.
It is so."
Posting Date: 04 January 2002
Last modified: 04
©2002 Red Deer@pagani