Aisling sat staring out into the sheep pasture. She’d volunteered to stay behind while almost everyone went over to Si an Bhru’ (Newgrange) to watch the Sun return. She knew that the sun would return after her night with the Chief Druid. Her teacher was due to give birth soon and she was in no condition to walk to the barrow so a few healers and Aisling had volunteered to stay behind and have their own quiet Solstice celebration.
Aisling looked up at the stars. The night was dark and calm. The stars twinkled over head like a million tiny gems and thought of the watch taking place not so very far away. She was going to keep watch this night for all that were left here in the village.
She could hear the soft breathing of her teacher as she slept inside. She could see the candles in the windows of the healer’s cottage down the path. She knew it was very late because all was so still. The sheep were bedded down near their fold. The cattle were in their barn drowsing and it felt like she was the last person left in the world. And so she was the only who kept watch.
She vowed she would not fall asleep like last year. She was a year older now and not the baby who was always in trouble. She thought of all the interesting things that had happened this year. She put her head on her knees and wrapped the sheepskin tighter around her. It was getting cold and she wondered how much colder it was going to get before morning and whether it was time for a warm drink.
She looked in the direction of the barrow and it seemed like the there was a light coming over the ground from that direction. It lit the way as if someone had drawn a path in light. She had never seen that before and she wondered what or who was causing the lighted path. She wished she could follow the path but her duty was here tonight watching to see is the baby would come.
As she was watching the lighted path deer started to appear and walk confidently down the path and through the village. Aisling watched in awe. She had never seen so many reindeer and never in the village and she wondered where they had come from and where they were going. Following the reindeer was a woman in a dress made of the reindeer’s hides and she wore a cowl with horns from the reindeer. The woman left the herd and walked over to Aisling.
“Blessings to you this Solstice night.” The woman said to Aisling. “Come with me, Aisling.”
“Blessed Solstice to you as well.” replied Aisling, a little startled that the woman had even seen her sitting here in the dark. “Where have you journeyed from and would you like something hot to eat or drink?” Aisling offered.
“I wouldn’t mind a cup of warm cider that is on the hearth.” The woman said.
AIsling suddenly knew that this was not an ordinary meeting if the woman knew what was inside and shivered a little as she got up to get a cup for the woman. She hurried back out and handed the cup to the woman.
“I have come from far and I have farther still to go tonight but thank you for the warmth of the drink.” The woman said and drank slowly from her cup. Aisling watched her shyly and wondered if she could ask what she was doing when the woman spoke.
The woman smiled as she said. “I’m Elen of the Ways and tonight I walk the leys and you need to come with me tonight.”
“The Leys?” asked AIsling.
“Yes,” replied Elen. “The paths on which energy travels easiest on the earth. I walk to connect them so you can use them in your workings.”
Aisling thought a bit. She knew her teachers had said it was easier in some places than others to work magic or create poetry. And she knew that the village had been sited along one of those paths as was the barrow where everyone else in the village was keeping watch.
“Did you just come from the barrows?” Asked Aisling.
“Yes, and the Chief Druid said you could come with me tonight. Now please, grab a cloak and come. Nothing will happen while we are gone.”
“You’re sure?” Aisling said anxiously.
“I’m sure.” Elen said emphatically and helped Aisling get astride the reindeer that was patiently standing.
The woman started walking directly east and she walked faster that any normal human being could.
Aisling asked Elen where they were going. “Your Chief Druid thought you might like to help me open the way for the sun’s return in the east.”
“We’re opening a way for the sun?” Aisling was trying to understand but she couldn’t quite get there.
“Yes, I open the ways and that includes the paths of the sun energies to flow.”
They rode and walked until they reached the edge of the sea. It was just before dawn and the light was starting to turn a bit greenish in front of them. Elen stood with her staff on the edge of the cliff and motioned for Aisling to join her. The reindeer gathered round them keeping them warm in the chilly night.
“Stand here next to me, Aisling.” Aisling moved to stand next to Elen.
“What do we do?” Asked Aisling a little worried. Could she really have stopped the sun last year? Was the Chief Druid wrong? Aisling was getting even more worried. What happened if she did this wrong? Would the sun not return?
Elen looked at Aisling. “Don’t worry. The sun will always come back. We just open the way for the energy to flow across the land. It’s like opening a damn so the energy will flow. It slows down in the dark times and now will speed up again and you want it to bring health to the land.”
Aisling thought and then nodded, that made sense. “So what do we do?”
“We stand right here where the sun will hit our land first and then we open our hearts to the new sun reborn. Can you do that?”
Aisling thought she could do that but wasn’t sure exactly how because the sun appeared as a tiny light in the east and Elen flung out her arms and Aisling did the same facing the sun as it peeped over the edge and started to rise. Aisling needn’t have worried. The sight of the sun filled her with joy. She felt full to bursting with love and happiness and Elen gave a loud laugh and cry and Aisling felt the energy rush away.
The sun rose and Elen turned to Aisling. “Time to go until next year”, and she touched Aisling with her staff. Aisling shook her head. She looked around and she was back on the doorway of the cottage. She looked to the East and the newborn sun was rising above the meadows. She looked to the west and saw a herd of deer and a small figure wave and she was gone.
Just then behind her, she heard her teacher give a gasp. “Aisling, go get the healers.”
Aisling ran across the way. Time for a new son or daughter to be born here. Aisling smiled. This was a good day.
Once upon a time in a place that is now called Ireland and a place we call Newgrange there was a very small Druid, well, she wasn’t a Druid yet but all the adults seemed to think one day she would be one. She wasn’t so sure. She didn’t seem to be good at anything. All she really seemed to be good at right at that moment was getting in trouble. So she sat on the bench outside the Chief Druid’s house and waited to hear how much trouble she was in. She sat kicking her heels on the stones that surrounded the hut. She gave an enormous sigh.
The Chief Druid was sitting inside with one of the littlest Druid’s teachers and they were both shaking their heads and smiling.
. “How much trouble is she in this time?” he asked. “Quite a bit,” replied her teacher.
“She’s managed to make herself unwelcome just about everywhere. She was supposed to be helping in the kitchen and she decided to stick her fingers in all the honeycakes that the cook was making for the feast. The cook sent her to help one of the healers and she somehow managed to break several jars of cough medicine the healer had just brewed. The healer sent her over to the Master Brewer and she decided to assist him with the mead for tomorrow and he ended up having to start all over again since she decided if a little mint was good, a lot was better.”
By now the Chief Druid was desperately trying not to laugh too loud and looked about to burst from holding it in.
“Anything else?” he asked, with the little Druid around he was always afraid there was more.
“Let’s see, she was helping the blacksmith with his bellows and blew ashes all over and he got a cinder in his eye and the blacksmith sat down on a hot nail he had just made. He sent her over to Chief Shepherd and she let the sheep out on the grounds in front of the Temple so she’s been picking up the stuff they left behind.”
The teacher was eyeing the Chief Druid who was now bright red and crying.
“What are we going to do with her? She doesn’t try to make trouble, most of the time she thinks she’s helping. But her help is not the kind of thing most people need especially when everyone is going to be up all night waiting for the Sun’s return. And it isn’t helped by the older students scaring her by telling her it will be her fault if the Sun doesn’t return this year. One of them told her if you make too many mistakes the Sun will get mad and not come back and would bring darkness forever more. That made her try to help even more and it’s just gotten worse and worse and I don’t think the poor thing has slept all through the night in a week.”
“I think it must be my turn then,” the Chief Druid said. “I think I’ll keep her with me tonight in the mound. I think she can’t do much harm there. You might as well call her in”
The Chief Druid motioned at the door and the teacher got up and went to get the littlest Druid. The littlest Druid walked in hanging her head and scuffing her feet on the stone floor. Now she was going to get it. It was all going to be her fault if the Sun didn’t come back. They were going to do something awful to her. They might even send her home and she really didn’t want that. She liked it here. Most of the time the teachers were kind and she loved all the animals and she liked learning the uses of the plants and what the meanings of the stars were but she knew if she stopped the Sun nothing would ever go right again and she was really afraid of what they might do to her.
The Chief Druid looked down at the littlest Druid. She was rather bedraggled looking. She had a smudge across her nose and her tunic and pants were filthy with stains and there were several rips and tears and somehow she had managed to get straw in her hair. She looked so sad. The Chief Druid was trying hard not to smile. He had a soft spot for the littlest ones. They always seemed to grow up to be the kindest of the druids.
“What am I going to do with you, Aisling?”
The Chief Druid asked kindly. The littlest Druid just kept looking at her feet. They seemed to be very interesting to her. It was almost worse that he was being nice to her. She kind of wished he would just yell and get it over with.
“I guess it’s my turn to deal with you.” The Chief Druid said. “So tonight, you are going with me behind the spiraled stone and we will wait for the Sun’s return. I think if you stay with me until sunrise we can make sure the Sun does return, no matter what you’ve done.”
The Chief Druid looked down at Aisling very seriously. “You need to go get cleaned up and meet me at the stone in a candlemark. Do you think you can do that?”
Aisling looked terrified but nodded and ran out the door. She was going to sit with the Chief Druid! If the Sun didn’t come back in the morning every one would know it was her fault and the Chief Druid would know first of all!
She was so scared but she didn’t see anyway to get out of her predicament so she got all cleaned up and went to meet her doom at the Temple of the Spirals.
The Chief Druid was standing with his staff waiting for her. “Now we go inside and wait.”
Someone had lit a small lantern and put a couple of sheep skins down inside the room behind the spiral stone.
“We need to get cozy. We are going to be here quite awhile. Do you think you can stay awake to sunrise? We need to catch sight of the sun’s first rays.”
The littlest Druid was terrified. She knew the Sun would never return. The older boys had said so and they were always right and here she was trapped with the Chief Druid. She was shivering with fear.
“Here, sit down by me and we’ll wait. Wrap up in the sheep skin and I’ll tell you about Elen and the reindeer. Your teacher may drop by in a bit with some tea and you can tell her the story later.”
He wrapped the littlest Druid up in her sheepskin and started to tell her all about Elen of the Ways and how she followed the reindeer. About halfway through his story the teacher came in and joined them in their vigil. She’d brought some chamomile tea and they all sat and sipped slowly and they listened to the Chief Druid’s tale of another Winter Solstice night long, long ago.
The littlest Druid’s eyes kept closing and she’d shake herself awake. She had to see the Sun return, she had to, it was important! But she fell asleep anyway and the Chief Druid and her teacher smiled. The teacher reached over and smoothed the littlest Druid’s hair.
“When she’s like this you’d never know she caused any trouble at all.”
And the two of them laughed quietly and kept the vigil as they did every year. The night passed as the longest of nights eventually does and it was almost time for the first light to enter the stone room.
The Chief Druid gently shook Aisling’s shoulder. “Wake up or you’ll miss it.” He whispered.
The littlest Druid started awake. Oh no! She’d fallen asleep! Now the Sun would never return. It was her final failing. She couldn’t meet the Chief Druid’s eyes as he blew the lantern out.
“Oh! Don’t do that! We’re going to need it. The Sun won’t ever return now. I fell asleep and I promised I wouldn’t.”
The littlest Druid started to sob.
“Hey there, none of that. Why don’t we see if the Sun rises before we start our crying. If it doesn’t rise I promise I’ll cry with you.”
Aisling was so confused. This crazy grownup must not have heard everything that had happened or he wouldn’t have said that.
“Come here with us.”
The Chief Druid commanded as he stood up and waited. And something wonderful began to happen. It was just a spark at first and then a small line and then suddenly the room was full of beautiful orange light. The room positively glowed and then it started to fade away and it was gone for another year.
She’d been wrong. The light had returned even though she had done bad things. It had come anyway. She felt like she could breathe again.
The Chief Druid and her teacher took her hands and led her from the small room. Everyone outside was cheering and hugging each other and blessing each other saying. “Blessings of the Sun’s return!”
Someone handed her a small cup of mead and she looked up at the Chief Druid.
“It came back. The Sun came back even though I did bad things?”
The Chief Druid looked at her. “Why do you think that was?”
The littlest Druid thought a bit. “Because I had nothing to do with it? That the Sun was always going to return anyway and I shouldn’t believe everything I hear.” She said uncertainly.
“All anyone can ever do is try their best and just because you make mistakes the world isn’t going to stop turning and the Sun and the Moon will always stay on their courses. Now I think it’s time for a feast! Who’s hungry?”
And the three of them moved off towards the tables that were full of all kinds of good things to eat and stood watching the new born winter sun shine down on all their friends.
Once upon time there was a small bear named Bjorn. Bjorn was born in a far northern forest up where it was very, very cold in winter. Bjorn had been born in the dead of winter with his brother and sister, Berta and Esben. They spent that first winter cuddled close to their mama and as they got older she started to tell them stories about the outside world.
Deep in their den she told them about tall trees they would see and deep, cold lakes and about the high mountains around the place they lived. He heard about the salmon that swam in the rivers in spring and about the rabbits and squirrels that lived near the den. His mom told them where they could find a honey tree and where the best back scratching trees were.
When spring came there were no more stories, Mama led them out into a world of wonder. To the bears eyes the world was born anew just for them. The snow was gone and the water ran clear. Mama taught them to hunt and to fish. She taught them how to hide in plain sight as they grew. She taught them to stay away from people. People had guns and guns hurt bears.
They grew quickly ambling along in the forest and the summer passed in beautiful days of deep burning blue skies and sunlit days in their northern forest. As the days got shorter Mama showed them where the best blackberry bushes were and the cubs stuffed themselves fat. They got so sticky Mama had to dunk them all in the spring and in late fall they went back to their den to sleep. This year, when they woke up in their long sleep Mama would tell them about a tree that she had seen one winter not far from their lair. She had woken in up on Solstice night and had felt the need to walk in the quiet of the forest. It had been silent except for the owls and she had seen a bright light.
Mama bear followed the light across the forest and watched it land in a little pine trees branches. The tree had stood there bearing the star in its branches and had lit up their forest. It was so beautiful. The bear had gone back to her den to sleep after the lovely sight and had never managed to wake up again on Solstice Night. The cubs bothered her the rest of winter for that story. It became their favourite winter story and Bjorn began to have a dream. He wanted to stay awake and see the tree and the star but that winter was deep and cold and the bears slept most of the winter and didn’t come out until the next spring.
The bear cubs were bigger that year and Mama spent most of the summer teaching them how to be on their own. That fall they would have to make their own dens for the first time. She taught them how much they needed to eat to store enough fat to make it through the winter. She taught them how to make it cozy and she taught them how to stay away from other bigger bears. Soon it came to be fall and the cubs split up for the first and last time. Each of them choosing a different direction to go and seek a place to make their own and all the time he was choosing and making his own den, Bjorn day dreamed. He was going to find some way to wake up and see the tree and star.
He kept trying to figure out a way to wake himself up. His mother had told him that just wasn’t possible, that if he was meant to see it he would wake up in exactly the right time to see it, otherwise it just wasn’t meant to be. She had supposed that it was something most bears would ever see once in a life time and then only if they were very, very lucky. She didn’t even know if it happened every year or if it had happened only once. She had never heard anybody else in the forest ever talk about it.
Bjorn swore he would be that lucky bear! He would wake up on Winter Solstice and he would see that star and his friend, the tree. He wanted to know what that special night was like. He wanted it with all his heart and he kept whispering to himself as he lay down for his winter nap to “Remember to wake up! Remember to wake up!”
He extremely disappointed to wake up and it was almost spring. It was different in a den by yourself with no brother and sister and no mama to tell you tales. He had slept the winter away and missed it. He was horribly disappointed and fell back asleep until spring had truly arrived.
This went on for several years and Bjorn had decided it just was a dream his mom had dreamed and maybe he should just give it up. Bears belonged in dens in the winter sleeping not roaming around in the cold and dark forest.
Bjorn was making his den again one fall and he remembered the story but just shook his great black head. No point in wishing, he would just sleep anyway and tucked himself into his lair but this year was different.
One cold, cold clear night Bjorn woke up. At first he was disoriented. What had woken him up? And then he heard it. He could hear a faint chiming and see a bit of light filtering in the entrance to his den. “Could it be? Could it really truly be?”
Bjorn shot out of his den and pushed the heavy snow way from his den and stood up. The light was coming from the north but not very far away at all! He started to move quickly through the snow. He saw other animals around him, a small herd of elk. Snow hares that should have been asleep were lolloping through the snow. White owls that flew silently over head hooting softly. “Come, come celebrate with usssss”
And they came. They came to a tree that was standing all alone in a field of deep snow. In the tree’s branches a star hung nestled at the top and shedding star dust all around. The snow sparkled and shone all around. The animals crept closer and closer and soon it seemed every kind of animal was there and on this night it felt like they were all friends. A deep peace hung over the forest and the only thing that could be heard was a soft chiming from the star.
Bjorn had never felt this way before. No hunger, no need to hunt, just a need to be with other creatures and to maybe, just maybe have friends and be at peace. He looked at the other animals. They seemed to be feeling the same thing as they sat in large circles around that tree absorbing the blessing of the tree and the star and Bjorn thought to himself, “Sometimes having a dream come true is better than any dream.”
He sat in the snow and a small hare snuggled up to him and then a squirrel. A great deer lay down near by and an owl sat in the rack of his antlers. For this night there was peace in the forest and the blessing of a star from far away and a lonely little tree that was his friend.
***This follows yesterday’s “Lonely Little Star” and is available here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/146621239X/ref=mp_s_a_1?qid=1354728417&sr=8-1&pi=SL75
Once upon a time in the dark of a mid-winter night a star fell to earth. BunniHoTep heard a loud thump and rushed out of her cozy nest. She really hated to leave it. It was nice and snug and soft and a chilly mid-winter night all together a lovely place to sleep.
But she knew a noise that loud probably wasn’t a good thing and she was the Finder of Lost Objects so she had better go.
She got to the steps of her Temple and a bright light met her eyes. She threw a paw in front of her eyes and drew her soft shawl closer around her and hurried towards the light.
The light was quite a distance away from the street of Temples out in the desert. And as she got nearer she could hear it making strange noises like laughing. So she hurried across the sand as well as she could. She didn’t know where the other gods and goddesses were. It had been quite a loud noise but she seemed to be the only one who had wakened.
As she got nearer she noticed the light was human shaped but also was very like the Sun. The shape kept changing colour. First it looked like an Egyptian, then it looked like the pale men that came from the North in ships, then it was dark as beautiful polished ebony like her friend Yemaya. Next it was golden as cream and very small. Then it was a reddish bronze. BunniHoTep was very curious and as she got close to it for it was changing from boy to girl with each change colour she stopped and asked, “Who are you? Do you need help?”
A laugh rang out that sounded like the sweetest of the Temple bells. “Oh, no, I’m fine. I lost my bearings for a while. I’m Love and I’m here because you called me.”
BunniHoTep sat down with a thump. “I called You? How on earth did I do that?”
“Remember when you wished on a star awhile ago for people to get a long and be nicer? We, the stars heard you. So we decided I’d come for a while to see if just for a while, all the people would be kinder to each other. I can only come for a small time. You see all the people all over the world will see me born this night in their likeness. Some people will call me Saturn, some will call me Mithras, some will call me Jesus, to others I will just be the light of Love, but all will see me as their symbol of Love and as the Sun who is born in mid-winter. And maybe for a while the world will be a magickal place of kindness and peace.”
BunniHoTep was quiet for a bit thinking. “You aren’t a god?”
“Oh no!” the Child of Light laughed again. “I’m much bigger and smaller than a god or goddess. Love has all kinds of shapes. I’m just here to remind the people and you of that.”
“Every year I will come again at this time and maybe sometime in the future all people will be kind and loving to each other and I won’t need to come, and if they don’t remember you will have to help me.”
“How do I do that?” BunniHoTep asked.
“By being yourself, BunniHoTep and as a symbol and to guide me here will you do something for me?” Love asked. “Would you light candles and lanterns in the trees around your Temple?”
“Oh yes,” BunniHotep agreed.
And that is why people all over the world are reminded to be kind and loving at mid–winter. And why people light the way for Love to return all over the world. So when you light the tree you brought inside remember to guide Love back to your heart.
Once upon a time there was a lonely little star. She shone up in the sky every night but she shone all alone. There were no other stars for millions of miles. For millions of years she went round and around another star called Polaris because that was what all stars did near her and she got fainter and fainter.
One day the Star Goddess couldn’t stand it any more. All the other stars she shepherded were fine for stars are like sheep and have to be shepherded very carefully. They shone brightly each night and lit the night just like they were supposed to do but this little star was different. She wasn’t part of a constellation and she was way, way at the tip of her nebula so the Star Goddess could see how she could be lonely so she went to visit the lonely little star.
“Astra.” For that was the lonely little star’s name. “What can I do to help you shine bright like all my other stars?”
The lonely little star twinkled at the Star Goddess. “Keep me company?” Astra asked shyly.
“No, you know better than that. I have an immense flock of stars to keep watch on. There are millions and millions of you and you all keep moving all the time. I know time moves very slowly for you out here and not even a comet has come to visit you in a long time so I have a suggestion. See that tiny planet down there?” She pointed to a blue and green marble way down below.
The star twinkled faintly at her. “Yes. Why?”
“I want you to watch that planet for a year and see if there is anything you can do to help someone down there on it and if you do I’ll have a surprise for you.”
So the lonely little star started her vigil watching Earth for a year. She saw ships that sailed on the sea but no one seemed to need the kind of help she could give.
She watched the people who lived in the desert but no one seemed to need her there either.
She watched jungles in the Amazon but life seemed to be very busy in that jungle although she could see things like the cutting and burning of lots of trees.
She didn’t like seeing trees hurt but how could she stop the hurt? She became very interested in trees as she roamed over the world at night she looked at all the different kinds of trees. There were tall ones and skinny, funny looking ones with poufs at the top. There were tiny squat ones on the edge of cliffs or in deserts. There were trees that were constantly blown by the wind and trees that always had their feet in the water.
She crossed over the poles and one night while the Aurora was playing below her she saw him, a tree all alone. He was a sturdy little tree. She saw that he was a beautiful deep green. He was very far north on the blue and green marble.
She watched him every night as she passed over the Pole. Sometimes he was covered in white stuff. Some times he wasn’t but he looked cold standing there all alone. She wondered how he got there since there were no other trees near him.
One time she did see some large animals with big antlers pass by him. It reminded her of how the stars move through the sky.
One day when the planet was tilting toward the star that was their Sun the Star Goddess came back.
“Is my year up already?” Astra asked.
The Star Goddess smiled at the little star. The little star didn’t know that ever since the star had found the little tree she had been growing brighter and brighter every night. She now shown so brightly that she could be seen on that little blue and green ball.
She also didn’t know that the Star Goddess had had a conversation with Gaia, the Earth Goddess. For the Earth Goddess was having a problem with a certain lonely little tree who was very, very lonely, so lonely that not even squirrels and birds visited him and they had a plan, “Little Star? What do you want your wish to be?” the Star Goddess asked.
“There is a tree that stands all alone in the snow. It looks so lonely. Do you think I could meet him?”
The star looked up at the Goddess with hope in her eyes.
“Do you mean the one that’s way up on top of the ball where it’s almost always white?”
“Yes!’ The star twinkled at her. “No one ever visits him except big herds of some beast and they only run by him. They don’t seem to stay and chat.”
“You mean the reindeer?” The Goddess asked.
“Reindeer? So that’s what they are. I wondered.”
“I have a job for you and I think you are going to like it. You might even make it your wish when you hear it.”
“What!” The star was bopping all over in excitement and getting brighter and brighter and somewhere down on Earth there were three very confused astronomers watching and wondering.
“Well, I talked to Gaia about you and she says she wants you to meet that very tree you have been watching. He has been drooping and she is very worried about him because trees live a long, long time. Not quite as long as stars but a long time down on Earth but he isn’t going to live very long if he doesn’t cheer up. Now, here is what I want you to do.”
And she whispered in the star’s ear.
“Just for tonight?”
“Just for tonight and if all goes well next year too and the year after that.”
“Ooooooh! Goody!” squealed the little star.
And the star began to compress herself into a very, very, very tiny ball of very bright light.
The star whizzed down to Earth heading for that small tree way up on top of the world. She slid down the Northern Lights and bounced across the stone and snow until she came to the tree she had been watching.
People everywhere that Solstice Night, for it was Winter Solstice saw a bright light move across the sky to the north and called out to each other about it but the star didn’t know anything about that.
“Hi! Tree!” twinkled the star at the lonely tree. “I’m here to visit you!”
The tree looked up at the little star.
“Why do you want to do that? No one ever visits me but reindeer passing by. I haven’t seen any body else since a big black bird dropped me here when I was just a cone.”
“I’ve been watching you from way up in the sky and the Star Goddess said I could visit any one I liked on Earth and I picked you!”
The tree was quite astonished. Someone had noticed him! He didn’t think anybody but the reindeer, that big black bird and maybe Gaia knew he was here. He stood up a little straighter. He could have a friend after all.
“Would you like to rest in my branches?” asked the tree. “You must have come a very long way.”
“Oh, that would be nice.”
And the star settled down on top of the trees very top. As she settled in star dust fell off her and made the tree glow with hundreds of little lights. The Star Goddess had been careful to make sure that when the star visited she wouldn’t burn anything. The star and the tree started to get to know each other and as they started chatting something strange began to happen.
Some birds noticed the beautiful shining little tree and they came to visit. Then the reindeer came around to chat with both of them and drink in the beautiful sight of the star and tree shining on this longest night. Squirrels and badgers and bears woke up from their winter’s nap just to go see the beautiful sight knowing they would have to go to sleep again soon.
Owls and other night birds came to see. Pretty soon the little lonely tree and the little lonely star were surrounded by a party of animals and never noticed that they weren’t lonely anymore.
The night sped through all too swiftly and soon the sky began to get pink and yellow and the star knew she had to go back up into the heavens.
“I have to go now.” The star told the tree. “But the Star Goddess says I can come again next year. You only have to wait a little while and I’ll come again, I promise!”
The tree nodded but not too sadly. Now that all the birds and animals knew he was there they promised him they would visit too.
“I’ll see you next year!”
The tree cried. And the star flew back up into the sky of dawn light. She twinkled at Venus as she whizzed by. She had a friend now.
She settled back into her cold bit of space and watched over the little tree. The next Winter Solstice would come again soon enough and she wanted to shine bright enough that her new friends would be able to see her every night.
And so the little star and the little tree weren’t lonely any longer and the Star Goddess and Gaia saw this and knew this was a good thing.
And one year on their nightly visit a lone woodsman was out and saw them in their beauty and splendour and it made him feel very good and the next year he decorated a tree in front of his cabin just like he had seen the little tree shining.
And now little trees shine at Winter Solstice all over the world with stars on top and deep in the northern part of the world under the Aurora Borealis every Winter Solstice a very, very, very tall tree still lights the northern snow on the longest of winter nights with his friend the little star.
This story and others available here:
Dedicated To Lady Olivia Robertson, Laura Janesdaughter, Linda Illes and deTraci Regula
Aisling looked around the stone cottage. She had to be packed up and ready to be moved to a new one by the time noon came. The morning sun came in through the leather coverings of the door and the windows. The sun was still low in the sky and wouldn’t be much higher in the hour or so before noon. Aisling really missed the sun at this time of the year.
Samhain was a few sennights past and the Chief Druid had told then that in the new year she was ready for her next step as a student. She looked around again. Had she forgotten anything? She was scared and more than a bit excited. She had finished the first three sun returns of her studies. She had studied the beginnings of every craft and lore the Druids practiced. She had studied herbs and healing, poetry and storytelling, history and the lineages of her people. She’d learn the beginnings of brewing and animal lore, she’d learned about the stars and their stories and the paths they traveled in the heavens. She’d learned the beginnings of how bodies worked and the things people and animals need to be healthy. She’d spent time learning how and what the Druids knew about how the worlds worked but now it was time to move to the next step. She had come here when she was just past 6 summers and now she was just past 9 summers and so much had happened. She had met the Fae and she had met some of the deities her stories had told her about.
She looked down at her freshly whitened tunic and new trews. She’d helped spin the wool for them and watched it being woven. She’d collected the dye plants that had coloured the wool. She loved the stripes of blues and greens with the browns. They made her feel proud that her hands had learned to do these things.
She was done packing and she grabbed the staff she had made. She wanted to go sit for awhile before the ceremony. She walked out of the cottage for the last time and up the hill. Someone would move her things later in the day.
At the top of the hill she sat down and looked over the valley. The lambs that had been new this spring were almost grown and ranged around her stolidly eating and ignoring her. The sky was the piercing blue it becomes it late fall when the sun is low. There were light clouds starting to stream by in the west. Rain would come tomorrow. The grass around her was browning this late in the year before the winter rains would set in.
Tomorrow would start her first year with the Bards. Then she would have to decide if that was what she would keep studying. She was glad that the winter would be spent with the storytellers. She knew she would be learning how to tell the tales as well as many stories. Stories that taught their beliefs, stories that taught history, stories that could make people cry or scare them on a cold winter night when some of the dark Fae might be around and you only felt safe when you had a cup of hot cider and a friend sitting near the fire.
She knew she would have to study with the Chief Bard at some point and she wasn’t looking forward to it. She thought he still was mad at the Raven. Raven couldn’t help being attracted to his pretty, shiny white hair but she didn’t think the Chief Bard cared that Raven couldn’t help liking it. Raven was circling over head in the clear sky. She would soon have to come in for the winter and be inside and Raven hadn’t liked that much last year but Raven wasn’t interested in going where other ravens went it seemed. Aisling closed her eyes to the sun and rested.
Raven landed on her shoulder with a thump and Aisling her a hoarse voice say, “GO!”. She’d fallen asleep and was going to be late if she didn’t hurry. Aisling ran down the hill and through the village, her braids flying behind her and holding her staff high so she wouldn’t fall over it.
She made it to the stone circle just as the lines were forming. Her teacher had been looking for her and grabbed her. “No, you need to go in on the other side this time.” And she pulled her around to the other side of the circle. The side the celebrants used to enter. She was coming in from the East for the first time. She joined the 5 others who would be moving on with her. She was last in line and smallest as usual. She straightened her tunic and smashed down her bangs which like to curl and stand up. She sighed to herself, almost late again.
The boy in front started to walk into the circle and the rest followed. They walked three times around in front of the rest of the village. The Chief Druid and Chief Bard were standing by the altar set up in the center of the ring. The Chief Bard looked very dour. Did he know she’d almost been late? She saw Raven land on a stone in front of where they had stopped.
The Chief Druid stepped forward. “We are gathered here to witness and bless these children and to lead them into the next step on their paths.” He turned to the gathering. “Do you so witness this and agree they are ready?”
Aisling shivered, she just new someone would say she wasn’t ready but all she heard was cheering and she relaxed just a little.
The Chief Druid turned to the six of them standing there before him. “Are you ready for to take that step on your journey?”
Aisling answered “Aye!” with the rest of them.
The Chief Bard stepped forward. “Do you swear to do your best to learn the lore of our people? To keep it safe and dear until it comes time for you to pass it on?
Aisling answered, “Aye” and hoped she would be able to do it.
The Chief Druid took a cup from the altar. “This water is a symbol of the blood that moves through all of us. It is a symbol of the water that runs though and over the land as its blood. It is a symbol of what relates us to the land and every being that lives on it.
The Chief Druid marked each of their hearts and foreheads. He smiled at Aisling and winked just a tiny bit and he turned and nodded to the Chief Bard.
Chief Bard took the small bowl of salt and raised it. “This salt also ruins through our veins and the veins of all living beings. Too much can kill as well as not having enough. It can burn in a wound or season our food. May you always know when and how to use it.” He motioned for them to stick out their tongues as he dropped a few grains on them.
The Chief Druid moved forward again with a small bottle. “This oil is scented with the herbs and gifts of our goddesses and gods and is a symbol of their caring for us. May this oil bless your hearts, minds and tongues. May it bless your feet as you walk upon the Earth. May it give you strength when you need it. May it give comfort when you are filled with fear or grief. May it give you wisdom and the sight to see your path. May it bless you all of your days.”
“What gifts do you bring you goddesses and gods?” Time he turned to Aisling’s end of the line for the answer.
Aisling was terrified for a minute and thoughtfully answered, “My heart.” The Chief Druid smiled at her and once again she was relieved. She’d given the right answer. It was all she really had after all.
The Chief Druid went down the line asking each the question. And Ailsing looked at the rest of the village gathered around them. Aislng thought that there were a few extra people in the back but she couldn’t be sure as she turned her attention back to the Chief Druid and Bard.
The Chief Bard took a wreath from the pile on the table. It was made of fir, pine, holly and sage. He placed it on Angus’ head and held his hand on the crown of Angus’s head without saying anything. He moved to Catriona and did the same. Aisling wondered what was happening but knew she’d find out soon. The Chief Bard moved down the line until she came to her. She was almost afraid to look at him closely. He’d never been particularly nice to her but he smiled and placed the wreath on the brow and his hand on her head. She felt warmth spread over her and she smiled. That wasn’t so bad.
The Chief Druid held his staff in front of him. “This staff is a symbol of finding your way. It will keep you on solid ground, it will protect you from harm, it can be a guide to inspiration as you walk. May it be a comfort when you are alone and a symbol of your learning that you are not alone.”
The Chief Bard took something from the table and moved to Angus as he dropped the talisman around his neck. These are a symbol of your path. They are all different as our paths are all different. The Chief Druid and your teacher selected the symbols. Do not look at them until we are done.
It took all Aisling’s might not to look at the talisman. She wanted to know so bad what it was but they were trusting her to be grown up enough not to look.
Aisling was getting tired of standing there in front of everyone. She knew she was supposed to be reverent and absorbed in the ceremony but now she just wanted it over so she could think about it all. She looked up and the Chief Druid winked at her. Did he know how she felt? Did he ever feel the same way?
The Chief Druid and the Chief Bard turned to the village. “Behold see your new Bards, listen to their stories, hear their songs and welcome them to your hearts!” The village cheered and started to move towards them. Time for hugs and time for the feast and she hadn’t done anything to disgrace herself for once. Aisling was just starting to enjoy it when the Raven swooped down and grabbed her wreath from her head and flew off.
“Hey! Come back here you thief!” She cried and started to run when she felt her shoulder grabbed.
“Stay! She’ll return it if it’s meant to be returned.” Aisling turned around and her eyes widened. She’d been right about the extra people. Brighid, Lugh and the Green Man stood before the initiates.
“We’ve come to bless these children on their path. These are the blessed ones, whether they believe it or not.” Brighid smiled down at Aisling. “Go forth in sunshine and in shadow, in twilight and moonlight, by hearthfire and bonfire!’
The goddess and gods stepped back in the crowd and were gone. The village stood around in silence. That had never happened before. Even the Chief Druid looked a bit bemused.
“Aisling, I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it again. You have the most interesting friends.” He turned and picked up his staff and led them out of the stone circle.
Aisling hugged the moment to herself. She was a Bard.