Aisling sat in front of the stone frustrated. Her assignment was to copy the spirals on the stone onto her new staff. She had finally earned it and it would be presented to the village by the Chief Druid at the Solstice gathering tonight but she had to finish it first.
She was supposed to carve the spirals onto the staff and be able to recite as many Threes as she could. All the threes the spirals represented to the Gathering to show she was ready to move to the next step of her training. Every time she tried to carve it she ended up sanding it out. If this kept up she’d be giving the Chief Druid a toothpick instead of a staff.
Her eyes hurt from staring at the stone. She’d been at it since early morning and it was her last test. She wanted it to be perfect even if she wasn’t . The staff was now almost pure white from sanding. She’d picked it out in a walk in the forest. It had seemed to beckon to her as it lay between two ash trees. It was a long stick of rowan and how it got between to ash trees was a mystery to her. She wondered if it was a gift from the Green Man because it caught her eye with such determination. If a stick could say “Look at me!” this stick had been doing it.
She rubbed her hand over the wood she had smoothed so carefully. It was soft like the softest wool they spun from the first shearing. She had carved oak leaves up one side and ash leaves down another and hawthorn leaves and berries down the third side but she needed to finish the flattened top. It had to be special and different from all the other apprentices.
Her hands stung from small nicks and cuts and she stared. It just wasn’t working! She growled to herself. It was getting late and her hands were feeling clumsy and stupid. She HAD to finish this! She was not going to stay back with the babies and she wanted her teacher and the Chief Druid to be proud of her. She was trying so hard she was almost in tears.
She felt someone sit down beside her. She carefully looked sideways. Strange people sometimes showed up to help her. It was a woman in a lovely green dress. Aisling sighed. Brighid, the maker and forger, Brighid the Goddess of poetry and smithcraft. The last time she had seen her was in the sheep meadows.
“Blessings, Aisling, what seems to be the problem?” Brighid asked quietly.
“I need this staff to be perfect and I’ve been trying to carve the spirals from the temple stones all day. It’s not working. I have to keep sanding it off. I don’t want to be held back with the babies!” Aisling ended up with a sob and put her head on her knees.
“Enough of that, you’re just tired and you’ve been sitting staring at a stone that has done nothing but stare back at you.” Brighid laughed and stroked Aisling’s red braids which were quickly approaching looking like her raven’s nest. “Stand up and tell me three things you see that are one.”
Aisling looked at Brighid and decided nothing else had worked so why not? She stood up and looked around. “I see a lamb and it’s mother , I see a ram over there and they are all sheep so they are all one animal.”
“Very good! Now sit back down and tell me another set of threes.” Brighid said quietly and pointed at the stone. “What does this stone mean to us?”
Aisling marveled at the fact that Brighid had used the word ‘us’ and it distracted her for a moment. “It means so many things that they keep swirling around my head in trying to remember them. My head hurts from it.”
“Take a hold of your staff and say the first three you can think of.” Brighid raised an eyebrow questioningly at Aisling.
“Hmmm, Twilight, Night time and Day time.” Aisling said thinking carefully. “The mortal world we live in, the celestial world of the sun and moon and the Otherworld of spirits and ancestors. Oh! And sun, moon and stars.”
“All right, do some more.” Brighid coaxed her and noted that Aisling’s knife had started to move carefully over the wood now that she wasn’t thinking about it.
“The mind, body and spirit, the past, present and future.” Aisling’s hands were carefully carving as she thought. “The elements in threes like for women, we are Earth, Water and Air.” One leg of the spiral had taken shape and she was halfway through the second. “Being awake, dreaming and sleep. Knowledge, belief and learning. Creation, preservation and destruction. Birth, life and death. Thought, intent and release, the parts of any spell or prayer.” She was almost talking to herself now as she finished the third leg of the spiral and started to smooth it. She looked up at Brighid, “Idea, execution and result!” She held up her staff into the sunset. She’d finished! And it was perfect just like the original carvers had carved on the stone.
Brighid touched her shoulder. “See, you can do anything you want to do if you…” Aisling joined her “Dream it, believe it and do it!”
Aisling was filled with joy. She’d finished it! And it was beautiful and she could recite as many threes as she needed tonight. She looked up to thank Brighid but Brighid was gone.
Time to get ready for the gathering. Aisling proudly carried her staff back to the cottage to get ready. She felt ready now.