I knelt in my bedroom, in the small trailer that I now shared with my parents. The roommate thing blew up. So did the boyfriend thing. My instructors had told me during the introduction classes that when you find your path, your true path, then a bell goes off somewhere in the universe, and the ringing vibration does everything it can to throw you off. For me, that bell had manifested in my boyfriend and one of my roommates telling me that they were going to join the army. So our other roommates chose that as the perfect time to move into a one bedroom apartment, kicking me out in the process. Dicks. I also took that as the opportunity to break up with my boyfriend, whom I liked well enough, but I certainly didn’t love. He was my first boyfriend, and I hadn’t been able to figure out how to break things off, but when he said he was joining up, I said excellent, you’re off to see the world, and all the beautiful women it has to offer.
Incidentally, neither of them ever joined the military. Things with Andrew, the roommate who moved when I did, progressed to us going out a couple of times, talking about getting married, right up until he disappeared. But we’ll get to that in good time.
Today, I am kneeling in my room, white robe pooled around my knees, pouring forth all of the focus I can into the flickering green jar candle in front of me. The flame spikes, quivers, and as I carefully control my breathing it extends into a needle point of orange, reaching out several inches from the wick. Is it my imagination, or magic, that makes the candle flame bend to my will? Will I ever know, and does it really matter? Coincidence, or consequence? After awhile, when I’ve focused all I can on opening doors to fortune, I stand and stretch. Changing out of my robe and into my pajamas I settle into my bed and start studying again.
I don’t know how many more times I can read this information. I have practically the entire introduction chapter memorized, and unlike books in school I decided not to read ahead. So here I was, studying the first 15 pages or so of the book, for two solid weeks. The only thing I was still having issues with was the names and dates of the Sabbats. To be fair, I was in my late twenties before I really solidly knew the dates of the mundane holidays. Ariel and I had practiced our Witches Rune while walking the streets of Vegas. We discovered that if you didn’t want people to sit next to you on the bus, you just had to start chanting “Earth and water, air and fire, powers of the Witches blade, work ye unto our desire, come ye as the charm is made.” Yeah, that gets people to stand up and choose another seat right away quick.
The mundane aspects of my Wednesday came and went like the boring bits of your life always do. The day seemed interminable while it was going on, but looking back it was just another day. Apparently the second class is where it all really begins. When people have felt what it’s like to have studied, and failed, and have had a whole week to decide if this is what they really needed. For me, it absolutely was. I had never thrown myself into anything as wholeheartedly as I had cast myself into Wicca, and I wasn’t going to let one failure stop me. I had studied with Ariel. We, together, had studied with Silent Paws and Jet. Jet being one of the biggest academic challenges among our classmates. We were ready, I was sure of it.
Wednesday night came, and my mom dropped me off at the Temple. I would get a ride home, or stay the night with Ariel who lived in walking distance. The atmosphere in the rom was different this week. Those of us who returned, only 14 this time, were confident and prepared. We all mingled getting our sodas and arranging our cushions. The back door propped open for AspenSky, the warm Las Vegas night air creeping into the room and cooling us from the blazing hot day. At seven pm, Allistar rang two bells, and we all filed into the Temple room, and took our seats on the cushions, waiting in silence. Three bells rang, and Aries and Diana sat before us expectantly.
They called on Annaleise to invoke the Goddess, and Allistar censed the room. We would all need a little more practice with the hanging censer before we were adept enough to swing it around in such a crowded space. We filed past Lord Aries and Lady Diana, with curtsies and bows, and then to Annaleise who annointed our heads with the oil that we all had for class. I didn’t particularly care for the smell of the Neteru Oil that we used, but it was high quality and definitely eventually came to mean class time to me. But I much preferred the Urs oil, made by the same company who made the Neteru, it was an intoxicating blend of aromas that was supposed to give you energy. Oh that scent practically lived on my forehead, temples, and just under my nose for the next several years.
Class began. Aries thanked those of us who had attended the week’s fundraiser, and asked those who hadn’t come, why they hadn’t. And then the questions started again. We started from question one, just like we had the week before. No skipping to the place you failed, no way. I dutifully wrote down all of the questions and answers again, watching the candles on the altar in front of me in the moments that I was done writing, and they were still spelling out the answer for the slower writers in the class.
We got to the question we had failed on the week before, and miraculously answered that question. And the next, and the one after that, and then suddenly we were done with the chapter. Success! We had officially finished our first lesson, and it was gratifying in a way that studying for school tests had never been before. We received our next assignment, to study the chapter on Imbolg. Imbolg is the Sabbat which takes place on February second, and is the first Sabbat of the year on the modern calendar.
We had break and moments later we were all gathered on our cushions again. It was time to show them how much we had practiced on our Witches Rune. I had it memorized for the most part, as did Ariel, NightWing and Annaleise had obviously already known it. A few of the others had it almost all the way down but it was still rough.
After my go I took some time to look around. I was surrounded by a dozen odd men and women. We were as different as can be, but strangely similar too. We each wore a robe of white shimmering material dropping to the ground when we stood. A six foot white cord around our waists knotted every six inches after the first foot, with a small loop at the lead end which was handy for belting the cord. The purpose should have been obvious, but I smiled at the cleverness of it. My mind drifted back to our third introduction class when Tarrynce explained the knotting procedure, and the reasons behind it. “A witch practices inside of a magic circle. But it’s very hard to draw a circle on your own. All you have to do if you wantto draw a circle and your on your own, is to jam a stick into the ground and put the loop onto it. Poof, instant compass, and you can draw a circle anywhere from 2 feet to 12 feet wide.” Yes, clever indeed.
“Alyana. Are you paying attention?” They’d finished doing the Witches Rune with all of the students, and Aries was trying to get my attention.
“Yes My Lord, I’m sorry. What was the question?”
“You’ve been chosen to sprinkle the water at Midsummer.” He gave me a killer smile, crooked and bright with sparkling eyes. I saw Diana and she was smiling too, a sweet quiet smile that I would see many times more over the years. It was her “I’m proud of you” smile. It was almost the end of may and Midsummer was still about a month away, but that’s when we started getting our parts, so that people could practice. Not that I would need much practice to sprinkle water, but I didn’t have a speaking part.
Each Sabbat was performed by students. The Temple Elders would pick the High Priestess and High Priest for the ring, and then a short while later the rest of the parts would be filled, announced in classes. In addition to the Priestess and Priest, there was the ring Maiden and Summoner who were the right hands of the Priestess and Priest. Next were the Quarter Callers, one student for each Quarter who would invoke the watchtower guardians to watch over the ring. Then was the male who would cense the ring, and the female who would sprinkle the water. Then all of the students would sing the Witches Rune together. There were always several parts which were ritual specific.
We memorized our parts. Period. If you didn’t know your part, you didn’t participate. There was no such thing as standing reading a piece of ritual with a flashlight in the middle of the ceremony, no way. If you didn’t have it memorized, how could you possibly hope to throw any power into it. This is still a belief I hold firm to, and I’m adamant enough about it that I have a hard time going to rituals cast by less strict groups. Just seeing someone holding a flashlight in one hand, shining on the clipboard around their neck while trying to point their athame and cast energy with the other hand makes me want to slap someone. That is no way to focus, and that is no way to respect your religion. If you can’t take the time to remember your ritual what makes you think the Gods are going to take the time to visit it?
I suddenly felt like a witch. Even more, I suddenly felt all of the things I had hoped for in life before this, but had never gotten. The respect that comes with being a good student, the recognition of being new, but dedicated. By my second week official week of class I had gone to 4 Saturday night Fundraisers and was getting to know the regulars really well. When I walked into the building on a Saturday night, I was greeted warmly and enthusiastically, not as a potential member that needed to be coddled, but as a part of the family. I had the coffee routine down, and could stack and unstack chairs with the best of them. In short than a month and a half I had found what I had looked for, for 20 years before that. A group I fit in with, a religion I could believe in, and people who accepted me for who I was. I never thought it would end. I was wrong, but that’s a story for another day.