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The Littlest Druid gets ready for Am-Foghar

Aisling sat on the stone step outside the healer’s cottage. It was late in the afternoon and for once no one was in any of the healer’s cottages. The cottage next door where they kept the herbs and the medicines was still. The Herbalist was out on the moors collecting plants and everything that could be cleaned or mixed was done at the moment. The last grain harvest would start in a few days when the moon was full.

Aisling had nothing she was supposed to be doing. Lessons would start again after the harvest and the village was quiet, something that didn’t happen very often. Aisling was thinking about harvests and the different kinds of harvests. The year would be ending soon and food being gathered for the winter. The weavers were busy weaving and knitting warm woolen and linen cloth to be made into winter clothes and spinning and dying yarns of different weights and colours to be used for knitting by the fire when the snows came. They had just finished dying the wools. Aisling had enjoyed creating the dyes with the herbalist. She thought it was rather magical when something that was green like yarrow could create a yellow dye or how some crushed bugs could make a rich red. She had learned a lot in this year. She had been there when babies were born and when the new lambs entered the world. She was there when her friend, the priestess had gone into the West. She learned about healing herbs and how to make teas and medicines. She learned some new divination techniques with the Ogham sticks. She’d learned to interpret the flights of birds and the patterns of clouds. She’d learned poem after poem and lots of new songs. Her friend the Raven had taught her so much about birds and things like how to go quietly and how to laugh at herself.

The harvest would start on the day of equal day and equal night that also happened to be the full moon this year so they could have the feast that followed the first day of harvest when the sun set and the moon rose.

Aisling was missing the priestess who had gone to the West. Aisling thought she had learned more from her than when she was supposed to be in class or with her mentors. She missed their cream teas. The priestess always managed to charm Cook into a plate of s’gons and some cream or freshly churned butter. The Priestess had become a favourite with everyone in the Druid village even the Chief Druid spent long hours comparing notes about their villages and how they did things. She had been a truly wise woman and when she passed over the water the last time the whole village had sung her home. The priestess had left almost as big a hole as her Anam Cara had when she had left. She knew Anann, the bean sidhe had said they were both fine and that death was a part of life but it didn’t make the harvest of loss any easier when you wanted to share a secret or what you had learned during the day. It didn’t make thinking you saw them in the distance and realizing it was someone else, any easier when you knew it wasn’t them and that you’re heart had fooled you again. She did wonder when she smelled the scent of lavender when there was no lavender anywhere nearby if someone was visiting so she had started saying hello and chatting when there was no one around to hear the conversation.

The cottage faced west and the sun was starting to set. Aisling closed her eyes and let the last warm rays of the sun bathe her in the warmth when someone sat down beside her. Aisling was almost afraid to open her eyes because so many big and strange people had sat down beside her to talk. Who was it this time? She sniffed the air and knew who it was and laughed.

“Why are you laughing, Aisling.” The Chief Druid chuckled softly because he knew why, he just had to ask.

“You know,” Aisling said, “I’ve had some pretty interesting people sit by me when I least expect it.”

The Chief Druid laughed, “So what were you thinking about so solemnly?”

“Everything I’ve learned this year. It’s almost Samhain and we’ll start over again before winter. I’ve learned so much but I’ve also lost things I didn’t expect to lose.”

“Like your Anam Cara and your friend, the priestess? You know, Latharn, thought you were something very special.”

“She did?” asked Aisling.

“She did, and I miss her too.” Said the Chief Druid. “She taught me a lot too.”

Aisling looked at the Chief Druid in astonishment. “She did. She taught me to face death with a full heart. She taught me to say when people mean something to them. She taught me to count my blessings.”

“I thought you knew all those things” Aisling looked at the Chief Druid with big eyes.

“I knew them but I didn’t KNOW them. Does that make sense?” Aisling thought about it and nodded her head.

“I think so.” Aisling said slowly.

“Latharn thought that someday you will be a great druid because you have an open heart and an open mind and because you love so completely.”

Aisling sat in stunned silence. Latharn had really thought that about her!

“She thought I should start teaching you some things that the others in your class aren’t ready for yet.”

Aisling was looking at the Chief Druid like an owlet that had been woken up suddenly. “Wwwhhyyy? did she want you to do that?”

“Well, no one else your age or even among the other druids have had conversations with Brighid or Lugh or the Green Man or any of the others that have befriended you since you’ve been here.” Aisling was just staring.

“Think that would be a good thing to start after Samhain” asked the Druid in a teasing voice.

“Really? You want to teach just me? No one else?”

“Just you and maybe some of your friends will help sometimes.” He smiled to himself. This was going to be an interesting winter.

“I’ll let you digest that for awhile. I’ll see you at ritual. Would you recite a poem at ritual about what you are thankful for this year?”

Aisling nodded. She didn’t feel able to speak yet. She looked to the West just as the sun was setting over the far hills. She felt like someone far away had just smiled at her and maybe they had.

New Story – The Littlest Druid needed some Yuletide cheer

The Littlest Druid pushed through the snowy afternoon. She needed to be at the next small village to sing at their Solstice celebration and she was afraid she wouldn’t make it. It didn’t snow often here but when it did it could quickly get very deep. She was cold and she was wet and she smelled like a wet sheep.

Her raven had flown ahead a long time ago and she was feeling very alone. She wished she was warm and safe in her village waiting for the Solstice in the barrow (Brú na Bhoinne) waiting for the Sun to return. Being a Bard was way harder than she thought. She had mediated a village disagreement that was just plain silly at her last village. She had sung every song at about the Fae at another one, they hadn’t wanted to hear anything else.

The Sun had disappeared a few hours ago and she was now following the stars to the next village. She was homesick and she was tired of the dark and she was missing Beith and the Head Druid who was so kind to her and she was feeling very alone in the dark with just her pack and her staff and musical instruments for company.

All the sheep and cows had been gathered into the crofts and the only animals she had seen were a few deer. There was no one to talk to out here.

She started to hum a rather sad tune that had begun haunting her several hours ago.  It was started to cloud over and she was afraid it would begin to snow again, she gave a huge sigh.

“Oh, Aisling, that was a particularly big one,” a soft voice said behind her.

Aisling almost levitated out of her boots. She turned and saw a familiar green mantle. “Brighid!” she shrieked. She had a very strong impulse to hug her favourite goddess. She stopped. One does not hug goddesses particularly when one is wet and cold and stinking of sheep.

Brighid grabbed her around the shoulders and gave her the hug she’d wanted to give her. Suddenly she was warm and dry and a lot more comfortable. Her raven came flying back and landed on Brighid’s other shoulder.

“I love that you are here out in the middle of all this snow and I thank you for the warmth but why are you way out here?” Aisling asked bravely.

“You” said Brighid. “Bards should bring hope and cheer at Solstice to welcome the flame and the birth of the Sun. You are getting close to the village and they want you to celebrate with them. You are a light for their Solstice.”

“I don’t feel like a light right at the moment, at all.” She said rather emphatically.

“I know, Aisling, I know. That’s why I’m here. You can see the village lights shining across the snow? This village really needs you to be their light in the dark. There were a lot of deaths near Samhain and they have been very sad and in a dark, dark place. No Bard or Druid has been here for many months. You will be the first in a long time.”

“How can I be a light when all I want to do go home and be with my people? Until you came I was cold and miserable and very stinky”

“Aisling, look around you and what do you see?” As they had been walking the sky had cleared and stars shown.

“I see the stars, oh so many bright stars. I see tall trees and oh! There are some rabbits under the trees. And a deer and there’s an owl in that tree ahead.”

“Were you alone?” asked Brighid raising an eyebrow.

“Nooo,” replied Aisling.”I was a little blindered, wasn’t I?”

“We all get that way sometimes.” Brighid said thoughtfully.

“Even you?” Aisling asked

“Even me.” nodded Brighid.

“It’s hard to look for the good in the world. It’s hard to look for beauty and for the love in the world when all looks dark.” said Brighid.

“Your job, though, is to remind people there is good in the world even at the darkest of times and hours. The Sun always returns at the darkest hour and so does hope. There is always life in death and light in dark and a spark of hope if you know where to look. You just have to remember to look.” Brighid pointed to a woodpecker with his bright red head diving onto a tree branch. A full moon had risen as they were walking and it was very, very still.

Beautiful lights gleamed across the snow in welcome. Aisling felt calm and ready to face this sad village. She strode forward and Brighid faded away.

She was ready to be the light.

 

 

 

 

 

The Littlest Druid learns about Samhain

Aisling sat at the edge of the turnip field, a pile of perfect turnips piled beside her. She only needed one more. Her teacher had sent her out here to select the nine turnips that would be carved into lanterns to represent the skulls of the people who had died in the village for the procession on Samhain.

Her teacher had told her that they used to use the skulls of people who had died. She was glad they had switched to turnips. She knew death was a part of life but she didn’t want to see the skull of her friend Beith that had died this year. She missed her so much. It still hurt to lose her.

It was an honor to be picked for this job. She had to find the biggest and most perfect turnips for the lanterns. This wasn’t easy because turnips grow underground and she had to choose hers before they started harvesting the field. She was supposed to pull the turnips that called out to her and those would be the right ones and she had one left to go. She wanted the absolute most perfect one for Beith.

She closed her eyes and reached her hands out trying to feel which one in the field was calling her. She felt a tug from the left and started to walk that in that direction. She kept her hand out and cautiously walked across the field. She closed her eyes and stood still and put her hands out again. It was close by, she could tell and someone put a turnip in her hand.

Aisling’s eyes flew up and a woman smiled at her.

“I think this is the one you need for Beith.” The woman said as she handed Aisling the turnip. It was a lovely one. Beautiful clear white and just an edging of purple around the top and it was clean with no soil clinging to it.

Aisling knew she had been alone in the field but it was the gloaming time and she was well aware anything could happen in the between times and for her it usually did.

Aisling studied the woman and was trying to figure out who she was when the woman said to her, “I’m Anann. I’m the one who came for Beith. She wanted you to know she is doing well but she still loves and misses you.”

Aisling felt a lump in her throat. She swallowed trying to keep it down. She didn’t want to cry in front of the goddess. Anann reached her hand out and smoothed Aisling’s hair which really didn’t help at all.

“She’s happy and safe and not in pain anymore?” Aisling finally got out.

“She is happy and safe and not in pain anymore. She and the priestess you helped have a message for you.”

“They do?” Ailsing wasn’t sure how that worked.

“They want you to know they are always around if you need them and that someday they will be back.” Anann told her.

“I so want to carry Beith’s lantern in the procession. Do you think that they will let me?” Aisling asked beginning to relax.

I don’t think the Chief Druid would have it any other way but you know you will be the youngest in the procession?”

Aisling nodded. She really wanted to honour her friend and not do anything wrong. Samhain was too important a time and she wanted Beith to be proud of her and know she still loved her.

Anann spoke and it was if she had heard Aisling’s thoughts. “She is proud of you all the time because you don’t give up and you’re always learning. Do you know what my job is?” asked the goddess.

Aisling thought and remembered, “To comfort the dying, and to make the fields fertile and to protect the cattle.”

Anann laughed, “Good! That’s some of it. I also teach the dying about their existence after they die and help them get ready to return. You know how your teacher told you that you are supposed to rejoice when people die because they are being born into the Otherworld?”

Aisling nodded again. She still didn’t feel like rejoicing that her best friend in the whole world was gone and it made her choke up again and start being angry. How was that something to rejoice about?

Anann looked at her. “The rejoicing part is the hardest, isn’t it? You still want and miss your friend. She still wants and misses you too but part of life is learning to let go and rejoicing when someone dies hurts. There is no way out of that but you need to know that that is you hurting and she doesn’t hurt any longer. No pain and no strife, she is at peace.”

Aisling was beginning to see the pain was about her. “Am I being selfish when I miss her so much?”

“No, you’re being human and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’d worry about you a lot if you didn’t.”

“You would?”

“Aisling, you are going to be a very good druid, maybe even a great druid and the best druids have felt all emotions and know that other people feel them too. They learn that everything isn’t about them. It’s about the all, everything and everyone that exists.”

Aisling was quiet for a bit. “Is it okay if I still miss her a lot?”

“Always, it will just hurt less and you will start to have more happy memories than sad ones.”

“Really?” Ailsing asked.

“Really, and it’s even all right if you cry during the procession and the ceremony. It shows you loved someone.”

Anann hugged Aisling, “Don’t you need to take these and go help carve them into lanterns?”

Aisling grabbed her sack and started stuffing the turnips into the bag she’d brought.

“Not so fast, you don’t want to bruise them.” laughed Anann and she helped Aisling put the turnips in more carefully.

“I’ll be watching tomorrow night with the rest of your dead. Be well, Aisling, you will be fine,” and Anann walked to the end of the field and was gone.

******

The next night Aisling lined up with the others. She was last in line with her lantern. She was very proud of the carving she had done. She thought she had captured Beith’s smile just right. They started the procession and Aisling started to weep. She missed her friend but it was going to be all right. She thought she got a glimpse of Anann, Beith, and the Priestess in the crowd but it was hard to see by the light of the turnip lanterns and she couldn’t be sure. When she got to the hall where they were going to have a feast and celebrate the lives of their dead, the Chief Druid caught her eye and winked.

“What was that about?”

This post references the events in this story:http://thelittlestdruid.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/the-littlest-druid-learns-about-loss/

and this one: http://thelittlestdruid.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/the-littlest-druid-learns-about-healing/

The Littlest Druid gets ready for Am-Foghar (Autumn)

Aisling sat on the stone step outside the healer’s cottage. It was late in the afternoon and for once no one was in any of the healer’s cottages. The cottage next door where they kept the herbs and the medicines was still. The Herbalist was out on the moors collecting plants and everything that could be cleaned or mixed was done at the moment. The last grain harvest would start in a few days when the moon was full.

Aisling had nothing she was supposed to be doing. Lessons would start again after the harvest and the village was quiet, something that didn’t happen very often. Aisling was thinking about harvests and the different kinds of harvests. The year would be ending soon and food being gathered for the winter. The weavers were busy weaving and knitting warm woolen and linen cloth to be made into winter clothes and yarns of different weights and colours to be used for knitting by the fire when the snows came. They had just finished dying the wools. Aisling had enjoyed creating the dyes with the herbalist. She thought it was rather magical when something that was green like yarrow could create a yellow dye or how some crushed bugs could make a rich red. She had learned a lot in this year. She had been there when babies were born and when the new lambs entered the world. She was there when her friend, the priestess had gone into the West. She learned about healing herbs and how to make teas and medicines. She learned some new divination techniques with the Ogham sticks. She’d learned to interpret the flights of birds and the patterns of clouds. She’d learned poem after poem and lots of new songs. Her friend the Raven had taught her so much about birds and things like how to go quietly and how to laugh at herself.

The harvest would start on the day of equal day and equal night that also happened to be the full moon this year so they could have the feast that followed the first day of harvest when the sun set and the moon rose.

Aisling was missing the priestess who had gone to the West. Aisling thought she had learned more from her than when she was supposed to be in class or with her mentors. She missed their cream teas. The priestess always managed to charm Cook into a plate of s’gons and some cream or freshly churned butter. The Priestess had become a favourite with everyone in the Druid village even the Chief Druid spent long hours comparing notes about their villages and how they did things. She had been a truly wise woman and when she passed over the water the last time the whole village had sung her home. The priestess had left almost as big a hole as her Anam Cara had when she had left. She knew Anann, the bean sidhe had said they were both fine and that death was a part of life but it didn’t make the harvest of loss any easier when you wanted to share a secret or what you had learned during the day. It didn’t make thinking you saw them in the distance and realizing it was someone else, any easier when you knew it wasn’t them and that you’re heart had fooled you again. She did wonder when she smelled the scent of lavender when there was no lavender anywhere nearby if someone was visiting so she had started saying hello and chatting when there was no one around to hear the conversation.

The cottage faced west and the sun was starting to set. Aisling closed her eyes and let the last warm rays of the sun bathe her in the warmth when someone sat down beside her. Aisling was almost afraid to open her eyes because so many big and strange people had sat down beside her to talk. Who was it this time? She sniffed the air and knew who it was and laughed.

“Why are you laughing, Aisling.” The Chief Druid chuckled softly because he knew why, he just had to ask.

“You know,” Aisling said, “I’ve had some pretty interesting people sit by me when I least expect it.”

The Chief Druid laughed, “So what were you thinking about so solemnly?”

“Everything I’ve learned this year. It’s almost Samhain and we’ll start over again before winter. I’ve learned so much but I’ve also lost things I didn’t expect to lose.”

“Like your Anam Cara and your friend, the priestess? You know, Latharn, thought you were something very special.”

“She did?” asked Aisling.

“She did, and I miss her too.” Said the Chief Druid. “She taught me a lot too.”

Aisling looked at the Chief Druid in astonishment. “She did. She taught me to face death with a full heart. She taught me to say when people mean something to them. She taught me to count my blessings.”

“I thought you knew all those things” Aisling looked at the Chief Druid with big eyes.

“I knew them but I didn’t KNOW them. Does that make sense?” Aisling thought about it and nodded her head.

“I think so.” Aisling said slowly.

“Latharn thought that someday you will be a great druid because you have an open heart and an open mind and because you love so completely.”

Aisling sat in stunned silence. Latharn had really thought that about her!

“She thought I should start teaching you some things that the others in your class aren’t ready for yet.”

Aisling was looking at the Chief Druid like an owlet that had been woken up suddenly. “Wwwhhyyy? Did she want you to do that?”

“Well, no one else your age or even among the other druids have had conversations with Brighid or Lugh or the Green Man or any of the others that have befriended you since you’ve been here.” Aisling was just staring.

“Think that would be a good thing to start after Samhain” asked the Druid in a teasing voice.

“Really? You want to teach just me? No one else?”

“Just you and maybe some of your friends will help sometimes.” He smiled to himself. This was going to be an interesting winter.

“I’ll let you digest that for awhile. I’ll see you at ritual. Would you recite a poem at ritual about what you are thankful for this year?”

Aisling nodded. She didn’t feel able to speak yet. She looked to the West just as the sun was setting over the far hills. She felt like someone far away had just smiled at her and maybe they had.

Saturday’s Faire was magical

Saturday at the Faire was wonderful. At our winter Faire I was sick and I was living with a diagnosis of advance ovarian cancer, supposedly Stage 3 or 4 and I hadn’t told anyone that it was that bad. I went through Faire wondering if it was my last time at Faire. I didn’t take as many pictures then as I usually do. I just wasn’t fully present and I was being pulled away.

Saturday was joyous. I have never been hugged and kissed by so many people. I’m firmly convinced these people saved my life by their loving wonderful energy. I% of the tumours like mine are advanced ovarian cancer but the doctors were wrong and I will take the 1% I was given with love gladly.

I took pictures which I will post some of soon. I even had my traditional photo battle with my friend Tony. We both do a lot of pagan events so we are always getting each other on film , He says I’m sneaky. I like to take candids and he likes to pose people. So we have a bit of fun, I smiled, I even danced a tiny bit. I hugged my friend, Ruth Barrett and was hugged and thanked in return for her support. I’ve known Ruth for 30 years. I started in the Dianic community and I will always have at least one foot there. What the pagan community is doing to her is wrong. And the majority should not rule in their bigotry to women who worship the Goddess and love other women.

For once I was not horribly nervous when I was reading. I did it from my new Kindle which was not cooperating about which stories it allowed me to access. I think the faeries had control. They kept bringing up the Littlest Druid story I posted yesterday. I just couldn’t read that. I was already in tears from thanking everyone for their energy so I could be well.

Faire is always between the worlds but Saturday it felt so obvious that it was a rare safe space to be pagan in public. Womenspirit Faire was magical.

Tale told at Yule – The Littlest Druid celebrates Winter Solstice

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.

Tales told at Yule – The Littlest Druid and the Reindeer

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 one 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.

Kat Robb
2014

The Littlest Druid finds a good in the bad

Aisling looked around at what was left of the tiny village, everywhere around her the building’s roofs smoked. Household goods were strewn over the landscape. People lay where they had been slain. The marks of the weapons clear to be seen. There was nothing here for a healer to do.

She looked at the other druids around her. Some were in tears, some were in shock, some were angry. Aisling wasn’t sure how she felt, numb?

In the middle of the night a young boy had come yelling into the Druid village about the sea raiders that had come to his village up the coast to the north. The Chief Druid had quickly roused all the people old enough to help and they had come as fast as their ponies would go but it wasn’t in time. It looked like the boy was the last one left from his village.

Aisling looked at a loom in pieces on the ground and the half finished wool blanket in slashed hunks around it. She could see it would have been beautiful when it was finished with all the colours of sea and sky in brilliant hues. It made her sad. What made people think that they could come and harm a small village? Aisling’s heart hurt.

She could see an abandoned butter churn milk and butter left to curdle on its own. Ravens and crows gathered in the trees above some of the cottages as if waiting for a meal and she was glad her Raven was back home and not here. She couldn’t stand the thought of her being part of this.

The blacksmith must have run to his forge and laid about with his big hammer but it had done no good but she could see he had taken some of the raiders with him to the Summerland.

The older men went to build a pyre to burn the dead. The ravens and crows would get no meal here today. She wondered if the raiders had taken anything of value or if the reason the devastation was so bad was because the village was so poor. It made no sense at all to her and the tears ran down her face.

What made some people do this? No one in this village had done any harm. They had lived quiet lives. They sometimes sold their extra crops to the Druid village. The Chief Druid put his arm around Aisling and gave her a hug.

“Why? Why do people do this?” she asked him. The Chief Druid looked around and shook his head.

“I don’t understand it myself.” He said. “But it makes me cling to the good I can see. Some people want what others have. Some people think they have the only way. Some people just enjoy doing evil.”

“But what’s the good in this?” Aisling asked. She couldn’t see anything good at all.

“Hamish is alive, he’ll have a broken heart but he is alive. People came to help even though there was nothing they could do about the raiders. People will rebuild this village together and new people will help Hamish rebuild the village and his life. This village will be able to show its best hospitality again as is our way.”

People were now starting the clean up around them. Stacking timbers, collecting the things that were spread around the village. Someone was herding the sheep that had been on the hill above the village. One of the women was getting ready to milk the village’s last living cow. The cow was not happy, She should have been milked hours ago. The cow had blood on her horns and none of it was hers. The cow had obviously fought in the battle. Aisling wondered if it was one of Brighid’s cows since it was red and white.

Aisling went to start help collecting the goods left around the village. Maybe they could collect enough to put one household back together for Hamish. Someone had said his grandparents and an aunt and uncle had been sent a messenger. Would they want to settle here?

She looked towards the fields that appeared to be untouched. The oats were just starting to grown and the fields were aglow with the green of new growth. Would Hamish’s family tend them? It was strange to see such a strong symbol of life when she knew if she turned around she would see the blacks and grays of destruction.

Aisling collected a set of wooden bowls, some linens from where they had been dumped. She found someone’s prized bronze pin of a wild boar. It had a broken clasp but she thought it could be mended again and worn with pride. As the day went on the village started to look more like it would have life again.

Men were up on the thatched roofs pulling down the old straw and the burnt parts so they could be re-thatched. They had found the village thatcher’s store of straw and reed in an outside shed.

Some women from the next village were washing out the cottages and mixing white wash. Soon the cottages wouldn’t show any burn marks.

Aisling was near the back of one of the cottages when she heard a soft cry. She looked around to see where the noise was coming from. There was a pile of old abandoned clothes she guessed wasn’t good enough to steal and gently went over to sort through when she heard it again. This time she could hear that it was a mew. And she dug through the pile. Nestled under someone’s old tunic was a tiny black kitten. Its eyes were barely open. Aisling looked around quickly to see if there were any more but this one was alone.

Aisling cradled the kitten to her chest, it crawled up to her shoulder and nestled into one of her long red braids. So there was still life in the village, she thought. The kitten purred into her ear as she gently stroked its back and she wondered how long it had been since it ate. She headed over to where the woman was taking care of the cow, she had tied it to the outside of the pig sty.

Aisling had grabbed a napkin and fashioned into the shape of a nipple. Maire took one look at the kitten and grabbed the napkin. “I see someone needs to be fed here at least,” and dipped the napkin in the bucket of milk and handed it back to Aisling. “Are you ready to be a mathair?”

Aisling nodded and looked at the kitten as it greedily sucked on the napkin, at least one good thing had happened this day. She looked at the kitten. The Chief Druid was right, it had felt good to help even when she wished it hadn’t been necessary, but there is always some good with the horrid. It just can be hard to find.

“I’m naming ‘Nuadh Bheath’. ‘New life’ seems a good name, Beo for short? Do you like that?” Aisling looked down at the purring sleepy kitten and smiled for the first time that day.

The Littlest Druid learns about loss

Dedicated to Beth Van Dyke and Cameron Robb  and now Mary – journey well

Once upon a time the littlest Druid was sitting by the stream outside the village. It was the only place she could go where the water would drown out the sound of her sobbing.

She wanted to be brave and she wanted to look forward but at the moment her heart was broken. Her best friend was gone and she didn’t understand why it had to happen. She felt even more alone than she normally did.

When she had arrived at the Druid school two sun rotations before she had arrived at the same time as another student, Beith was the same age as Aisling but as different as night was from day. Where Aisling was red haired and freckled and with a fiery temperament to match Beith was cool and calm like the tree she was named for Birch. She was fair with dark hair and dark eyes but they might as well have been sisters. In fact, when they were allowed to pick a soul friend their first year, their anam cara. They had chosen each other. They were supposed to pick some one older who could advise them but they had chosen each other and their teacher and the Chief Druid had agreed to it.

No two spirits could have been closer. The two were together whenever their chores and studies had permitted and maybe if they had been allowed to do their assignments together Aisling wouldn’t have been so creative in the trouble she got into but that is for another time.

The spring before when Aisling and Beith were running together on the moors chasing the sheep, Beith had fallen suddenly and had had trouble getting up again. Aisling had to find the shepherds to carry Beith back to the village. Beith would never run with Aisling over the moors again.

For some awful reason she wouldn’t heal and there was nothing the Druid healers could do for her. They tried every herb they knew. They tried to sweat it out. They tried all the special rituals they knew but Beith got weaker and weaker and began to have trouble breathing.

They let Aisling visit all the time and never kept her out and they allowed her to be part of the rituals so she knew what was happening to the sister of her soul but nothing had worked. They finally sent a message to Beith’s parents to come and say goodbye. That was rather unusual because once someone joined the Druids, the Druids were their family but Aisling thought they had done it because Beith wasn’t a full Druid yet or they could have just been being kind but they had arrived a few nights ago.

Aisling was sitting alone with Beith when she opened her eyes the last time and smiled. “Don’t cry, I’ll be back,” she said and slipped away. Aisling had called for the healers but there was nothing they could do. Beith was off on her voyage to the Summerland and Aisling had lost the sister she had found.

So Aisling was sitting on the banks of the burn mixing her salty tears with the cold clear water when someone came and sat by her on the bank.

“Why are you crying?” said a soft voice.

“My friend is gone and I miss her.” Sobbed Aisling.

“Ah, the wee one who left for the Summerlands this morning,” The voice said.

Aisling looked up startled and saw a beautiful older woman with hair that looked soft like owl feathers sitting by her. She was dressed all in green and wasn’t much taller than Aisling was.

“How did you know?” asked Aisling.

“It’s my job to ken when souls need to leave on their journey. I saw you there. What did she tell you?” asked the woman.

“She said she’d be back and not to cry.” answered Aisling.

“And so you’re crying out where no one can see you or help you.”

“How would it help to be where people would pity me? We’re supposed to be happy when people die. They say they are happy now and not in pain. They tell us that they have been reborn in the Summerland and that they will come back soon. They would just tell me to be strong and happy.”

The woman sat for a moment and said. “I’m sure some would understand the hurt of losing your friend and anam cara. They’ve lost people too and loss hurts no matter how we tell ourselves it shouldn’t. Someday the pain stops and you just remember the love. Then it’s easier to be happy.”

Aisling looked up at the woman. “Do you think I should go back now?”

“I think maybe you should go hug Beith’s parents. They know she is on her journey now but it will still hurt them for her to be gone. They did name her for the first tree or beginning of the journey, you know. They will understand.”

“I guess,” Aisling whispered. She really didn’t want to go back.

“And when you’re parents named you, Aisling for dreams and visions, they knew what they were doing too. Be patient, wee one.”

The woman started to slip away and began to change into an old woman and disappear. Aisling heard the soft call of an owl in the twilight of the deep forest and it dawned on her that she had just had a chat with the ban sidhe and gave a shiver. Aisling got up and headed back to the village.