My mind flashed back to the present. Soba was ready to go home; she was wagging her tail and waiting patiently for me to realize we had stopped. I realized my legs were aching and I was ready to head home too. We had walked in a large circle, and only had about a mile back to the house. I sat down with Soba on the wet ground to relax a little bit longer in this cool morning before returning home. As I stretched out my legs, Soba licked my face, wanting attention. After rubbing her ears for a bit, I got up and we started home. We wandered through the near by park, enjoying the wet grass, the budding trees, and the freshness of everything just washed in the new rain. The rhythm of the walk, the smells and the cool air transported my mind right back to that night.
I was a bit nervous, but I felt like I shouldn’t show it. After all, I trusted these people, and they didn’t seem nervous at all. Every time I looked at one of them I could feel their happiness coming through their smiles. Selene and Karyn went over to the pile of backpacks again, and came towards me carrying a bundle of dark cloth. As Selene handed me the bundle, she explained that this was for me, it was a robe. I was a bit puzzled, and I guess it showed. Karyn jumped in with explanations as she hugged me. The five of them had made the robe over the last year, I was impressed. I hadn’t even known I would be practicing with them back then.
“It is for you to wear when you are with us, on ……. special nights.” She seemed to stumble over the word special. Selene suppressed a smile at this, and I thought it odd. But I was quickly ushered away to the other side of the oak tree to change. At first I was afraid someone would see me. But after I looked around a moment, I quickly realized we were all alone out here. Selene had said to take my time, and linger a bit. Karyn said to look at the moon. So I stripped off my clothes, and slipped the robe over my head. I could smell the incense still heavy on the fabric. I could feel the soft cotton against my skin. Just that small act, that feeling, those smells, they did so much to my mind. They made me feel alive and present in the moment, and at the same time I suddenly felt huge, and spread out over time like a great ribbon. I looked up at the moon. After a moment’s thought, I took off my boots and wet socks too.
The moon was very bright; it looked bigger than it was in the sky. I could see plenty of stars out too. ‘The sky is so big out here’ I thought to myself. As I looked up at the moon, I almost felt like it was looking back at me. I remembered sitting around the fire with my friends a summer or two ago as Darius talked about the moon as the connection point through history. Every human on earth has gazed at that same full moon. Each priestess has lifted her arms in praise to that moon over the course of our history. All witches have looked at that moon in many times and places. And the moon is a mirror for the light of the sun, but also a mirror for each of us as we gaze upon it and bridge space and time to connect with our ancestors. I felt the weight of such a great thought crash into my chest as I stumbled slightly and fell against the tree. I shook my head to clear away the thought and started back around the tree towards the group.
Everyone had donned similar robes, and they had pulled up their hoods, so I couldn’t see their faces. Brian was standing at the little doorway we had left in our trench looking at me. It was easy to pick him out, being the rather large man that he was. I felt comforted that it was him standing at the edge. As I went to join the group around the fire, he held a hand up to my chest and stopped me. A bit forcefully I thought. Darius was down on the ground lighting the bundle of tinder. And the others were gathered around him, holding out their arms so their robes would block the wind. Just as they began chanting together, the wind changed directions, and I couldn’t make out the words. But soon there was a blaze of light from inside the little circle of robes, and they stepped back as the fire caught.
They all came to join Brian and I, and Darius and Selene began to ask me many questions. I found the answers coming easily, even though I had never heard the questions before. They were odd riddles, but I puzzled them out quickly, thinking back to the many stories my friends had told me over the time we had been together. I felt nervous each time they asked, thinking I had no idea what it could be. And then, there flowing out of my own lips as if rehearsed were answers that brought smiles to my friends faces. The riddles had all been answered, Selene nodded and stepped back slightly. Brian stepped forward and pushed back his hood. He placed his hands on my shoulders. He was very solemn and very serious. Not a look I was used to seeing on my friend’s face.
“In order to join us as a sister, you must take the same oath as we have. You must take this oath of your own accord, understanding it fully. If you wish to take this oath, we will call forth the witnesses.”
I responded that I was ready, because at that moment, there was no doubt in my heart, that this is where I needed to be, and these were the people I needed to be here with. He hugged me tight, in his big bear hug. I hugged him back, and all was joy. Then secrets passed between us, passwords and codes for entrance into this liminal space of the compass.
“Only a few more.….”
I snapped back to the present, as I realized we had just walked past the house. Soba was pulling the leash back the other way. Feeling a bit sheepish for spacing off, I turned with her and went back to the house. The evening still hung on my mind as I put the leash away and fixed Soba’s breakfast. I fixed a glass of ice water and sat down on the couch to continue my musings.
As I began to think through the rest of the amazing evening, I unconsciously recited the words of my oath out loud to the room. And like a thunder clap, there it was, as plain as day! The thing I was searching for, that empty spot that had been heavy on my heart for the last season. It had been several years since I had to part ways with my group of friends and I missed them terribly. Selene had passed away only a year ago, and the thoughts of her funeral tempered the joy of my discovery with bitter sweet reality.
I knew what I had to do. It was so plain now, just like all of those riddles that night. I went back into the bedroom, and took the lantern off of my bedside table, given to me by Karyn to light my way. She had said, when the time was right, I would know how to use it. This lantern would serve well as a beacon to anyone who needed to find me. I opened the little drawer in my desk in the living room, and pulled out the little tinder box with the flints that Darius had given me. ‘Sometimes we need warmth, and sometimes we need a signal fire’ he had said.
As I worked carefully over the small bundle of tinder with the flint, saying the proper words, Soba came to sit and watch me. The tinder took a spark and I cradled it and nursed it to a flame. I touched the flame to the wick in the lantern and turned it down so that the flame was bright yet controlled. As I walked the lantern out to the hook in the back yard, I spoke to the little delicate flame inside.
“The old magic needs to live here again. It is time for the fire to spread, and for me to pass on what I was taught. Light the way for me to find the next in our line. Be a beacon to them that they may find me on their walks. Let those who are called awaken to the knowledge that a warm hearth fire has been lit for them, and that the door is open for them to come home now.”
With that, I went back inside, and gathered up my jacket, purse and keys. I had a feeling that I just might bump into someone interesting at the local coffee shop today.