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 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:
Ginger Krinkle Crisps
¾ cup shortening
1 ½ cup sugar
¼ cup light molasses
2 cups sifted flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoon ginger
3 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cloves (ground)
Cream shortening and 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy.
Blend in molasses.
Sift together flour, salt, soda & spices (1 tsp of cinnamon).
Add to creamed mixture and mix well.
Chill dough hour or longer.
Mix remaining ½ cup sugar and 2 tsp of cinnamon.
Form dough into balls and roll in the sugar mixture.
Place 3 inches apart on foiled cookie sheet, gently press cookie to flatten slightly.
Bake at 350 degrees 12-15 minutes or until top is cracked and slightly brown.
Makes 3 ½ – 4 dozen cookies . Maybe doubled without changes
Warning! I made these by myself as a kid. I forgot to split the cinnamon out for the rolling mixture and ended up having to triple the recipe. I had a whole lotta cookies to share which was good because I love them.