Could the Circle sisters end the drought with magick?
Jaguar Priestess ran up the steps leading to the front door of TigerLily’s house on Englewood Street. As she reached the front porch she could see TigerLily through the screen door.
“Ostara greetings, Witch sis!” TigerLily, said, holding the door open. Today her long, wheat-colored hair was pulled back into a ponytail, emphasizing her gray eyes and high cheekbones. She kissed Jaguar’s cheek, and waved her inside. “Oh, look who’s coming up the walk!” She waved to Gladwyn, Arielle, and Rhiannon, now approaching the front steps.
“Your house looks like spring,” Gladwyn said as she stepped onto the porch. “Isn’t this a wonderful old Victorian house, sisters?”
Arielle, looking with pleasure at the pale yellow clapboards of the old house with its wraparound porch, nodded. “Oh, you have a glider! What fun it must be to swing in it on summer nights.”
“And TigerLily has bravely put out her hanging baskets already,” Rhiannon said, looking at the potted spider plants hanging from the porch ceiling.
“Only in the daytime,” TigerLily said with a laugh. “Come in, Circle sisters, everyone’s here except Coventina and our visitor.”
“Who’s the visitor?” Rhiannon asked as she followed TigerLily into the living room.
“Someone she met in her drumming class,” TigerLily said. “Not sure of the name. Anyway, do sit down, and while we’re waiting for Coventina, let’s tell each other what’s happened since Imbolc. Who’d like to begin?”
“I will,” Ceres Vegetina said. Turning to Green Dragon, she said, “When you asked at Imbolc if there was a ‘buried self’ somewhere in us, a self that wanted to find expression, I thought of what I wanted to do. For years I’ve done nothing but tend my own little patch, as it were, but now—“ she looked around at the others—“now, I’ve joined a guerrilla gardening gang! We get up in the wee hours of the morning, put on dark clothes, and go out to plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables on waste ground throughout the city. Periodically we’ll come back to tend the gardens so they’ll flourish.”
“Wow,” Jaguar Priestess said. “That’s impressive! Good for you, Ceres!”
“What about you, Jaguar?” TigerLily asked. “You said you were going to Sydney in February. How was it?”
“Fantastic!” Jaguar said. “Australia is a country like no other! The scenery is unbelievable and so are the people—friendliest I’ve ever met. Windsong took me to the Blue Mountains and to every single beach in Sydney, I think. I loved my time there and now that I’m back I’m painting watercolors of the scenes I remember.”
“What about your old flame Windsong?” Arielle asked.
“Not so old,” Jaguar said with a wink. “When her research project is finished at the end of the year, she’ll be coming back to this area to live. Until then, we’ll be Skyping every week. We’re, uh, an item again. Well, as much as the distance will allow.”
“That’s great, Jag,” the others murmured.
“Has anyone heard from Rowan?”
“I have,” Gladwyn said. “Would you like me to read her last e-mail? It’s addressed to all of us—it’s not private at all.”
“Oh, yes, we’d love to hear it!”
“Please proceed, Gladwyn,” TigerLily said with a wink.
Gladwyn opened the printout and read the e-mail aloud.
“Dear Circle sisters,” Rowan had written. “As you know, I’m staying with Gladwyn’s cousin Star Crone and she has been so kind! You should see her house—inside it’s all rich colors and tapestries, incense perfuming the air, and Witchy music playing. Her front garden is full of exotic bushes as well as the everyday herbs we have at home. When you walk through the jungly back garden past the fire pit there’s a wonderful temple that her husband built, just big enough for two, with an altar inside. We’ve done several rituals there already. Last weekend Star Crone and her Three of Cups coven organized a Witches’ spiritual retreat at a resort in the Otways, a place not too far from here.
“The theme was the pentagram, and there was a course for each point of the pentagram. Friday night was Spirit, Saturday morning was Water—with a trip to the beach—Saturday afternoon was Air, Saturday night Fire, and Sunday morning was Earth. We danced around an open fire pit on Saturday night.
“The resort was beautiful, full of kangaroos, koalas, and gaily colored parrots. At one of the night events a possum slipped in, got up on the altar, and ate the sacred food!
“I miss you all, Circle sisters, although I’m deliriously happy being here. Down Under we’ll be celebrating Mabon when you’re celebrating Ostara. Please know that I carry you all in my heart. Blessed be, Rowan.”
“That’s wonderful,” TigerLily said, and the others nodded.
“Rhiannon and I have heard from Rowan as well,” Jaguar Priestess said. “She told us she’s on her way to Sydney to stay with Windsong.”
“What about you, Green Dragon?” TigerLily asked. “Has a ‘hidden self’ in you come to light since our last ritual?”
“Well, I’m an accountant, as you know. I sit at a desk all day and I’m tired of it,” Green Dragon said. “So now I’ve decided to look upward: I bought a telescope and on clear nights I’ve been outside looking at stars and planets.”
“Excellent,” TigerLily said. “What about you, Passionata?”
Passionata’s green eyes sparkled. “I took up dancing. With all the, ah, free time I have since I’m abstaining from my favorite activity, I signed up for a belly dancing class. Look!” She got up from her chair and demonstrated left and right hip lifts and the basic shimmy.
Everyone laughed and applauded. When the applause died away, TigerLily turned to Gladwyn. “What about you, Gladwyn?”
“Well,” Gladwyn said, “you all know I was an editor before I retired and I still spend a lot of time reading and writing. I’ve always lived in my head, so when Green Dragon mentioned finding my hidden self I decided to do something physical. I want to grow herbs and study their properties. In fact, I’m even looking for a house in the country, where I can have a much bigger herb garden than I’m able to have now.”
“That’s great, Gladywn! Arielle?”
“Rhiannon and I decided, since we’re getting on in years, that we’d join a program to brighten the lives of nursing home residents. So that’s what we’re doing. We bring in puppies or kittens so the residents can play with them; we have little celebrations with music—a children’s choir sang last week—and things like that.”
“Good,” TigerLily said. “Rhiannon?”
“What Arielle said. Another thing we do is to bring bunches of fresh flowers in from time to time, and we bake cakes and cookies to serve in the afternoons with tea.”
“And as for me,” TigerLily said, “I’m a computer jock. I sit in front of a screen all day. So I’ve signed up for an interpretive dancing class once a week. And in between I’m trying to move as much as I can.”
“Excellent, Tiger,” Gladwyn said. “Is that everyone? Everyone except Coventina, that is.”
“What’s that? Is someone taking my name in vain?” Coventina peered round the corner of the doorway into the room and smiled. “Sorry we’re late, Circle sisters, but you wouldn’t believe the traffic! I’ve brought a visiting Witch to our circle tonight.”
As she entered the room the visitor paused in the doorway, smiling uncertainly at the women sitting in the circle. She was the most beautiful woman they had ever seen. Taller even than the absent Rowan, she had smooth, glowing skin the color of molasses. Tight black ringlets framed a face with eyes as soft as black velvet and full red lips, and as she came into the room, they saw she moved with the grace of a ballet dancer.
“This is Brianna Hestia,” Coventina said. “We met at the drumming class at the UU church in our neighborhood.”
“How do you do, Brianna?” TigerLily extended her hand. “Welcome to our circle. Why don’t you sit down here next to Coventina, and then perhaps you could tell us a little about yourself.”
“Certainly,” Brianna Hestia said obligingly as she sat down. “When I was born my parents gave me the name of Brian,” she began, looking around the circle, “but when I completed my transition last year I changed it to Brianna Hestia. I chose Hestia because I enjoy all the domestic arts—cooking, sewing, gardening, and decorating. I love to entertain my friends in my home.”
“Maybe I’ll marry you,” Arielle said, “because I’m hopeless at the domestic arts! Welcome to our ritual, Brianna Hestia.”
“Welcome, Brianna Hestia!” the others echoed. “Glad you could join us.”
“Speaking of rituals, let’s talk about our ritual tonight,” TigerLily said. “This evening we’ll invoke Ostara, the Goddess of spring. This season is one of my favorite turns of the Wheel of the Year. The weeping willows at the corner are lime green now—did anyone notice them as you drove up?”
“I did,” Gladwyn said. “I like the look of the woods at this time of year—that sort of misty green, so faint you hardly realize it’s there unless you look really hard.”
“And the flamboyant yellow forsythia—”
“Daffodils all over the place—”
“Before long we’ll be seeing pale pink cherry blossoms!”
“But usually, by Ostara,” Green Dragon said, frowning, “the grass is starting to turn green and unfortunately, it’s more brown than green at the moment.”
Rhiannon sighed. “We need rain. Lots of it.”
“Our guerrilla gardens aren’t going to flourish in this drought,” Ceres Vegetina said.
“We’re two inches under for the year already in the three-state area,” Jaguar Priestess said.
“We’re going to take care of that,” TigerLily said. “After the circle is cast and we’ve invoked Ostara and the quarters, we’re going to do a rain spell.”
“Good!” Gladwyn said.
After Arielle and Coventina moved the round table, covered with a green cloth, to the middle of the room, they stood back to admire it. The vase of daffodils represented Earth, the jasmine incense in the incense holder Air, the yellow Goddess candle Fire, and the pretty stemmed yellow goblet held Water. In addition there were a basket of colored eggs, a small potted plant, and a packet of seeds.
“This evening we’re going to cast the circle by doing a water blessing,” TigerLily said. She picked up the goblet of water from the altar. “This contains melted snow from our Imbolc ritual. Please watch what I do and then do the same until the goblet comes back to me.”
Everyone stood up. TigerLily turned to Brianna Hestia, standing at her left, dipped her finger in the water, and used her moistened finger to trace a pentagram on Brianna’s forehead. “I, TigerLily, bless you, Brianna Hestia. You are Goddess.”
Brianna Hestia smiled as she took the goblet. She turned to Coventina on her left, and performed the blessing ritual. “I, Brianna Hestia, bless you, Coventina. You are Goddess.”
After the goblet returned to TigerLily, Jaguar Priestess, Ceres Vegetina, Gladwyn, and Green Dragon called East, South, West, and North to the circle.
“And now to invoke Ostara, Goddess of Spring,” TigerLily said. “There are other Goddesses associated with spring, of course—Flora, Persephone, and Eostre—but Ostara called to me this time.”
She tilted her head back and held her arms out at the sides.
“Hail Ostara, Goddess of Spring! Help us to awaken the magical energies of the Earth, bless us with your presence here tonight. Infuse us with the energy to summon rain. You, Goddess, who symbolize fertility, endow us with magick here tonight.”
“Hail Ostara,” the Circle sisters responded.
“And now,” TigerLily said, turning to reach behind her, “for the magickal tools! This is my daughter’s interactive map of the United States.” She held up a plastic device, about the size of a computer screen, which displayed the fifty states in various pastel colors. “And this, as you see, is a bowl of rice. We’re going to put a grain of rice on each state that needs rain.”
“California, my birthplace!” Ceres Vegetina said eagerly.
“What about Texas?” Gladwyn asked. “My daughter lives in Austin, and she e-mailed this afternoon that they haven’t had any rain for almost four weeks.”
“Georgia,” Arielle said.
“North Carolina,” Rhiannon said.
“What about Maryland and DC?” Brianna Hestia asked.
“All of those,” TigerLily said. “Okay, those who are comfortable sitting on the floor, please do that. First we’ll do the spell, then we’ll chant ‘The Earth, the Air, the Fire, the Water Return.’”
The younger Circle sisters arranged themselves on the floor, but Gladwyn, Arielle, Rhiannon, and Ceres Vegetina stayed in their chairs. Coventina, Brianna, Passionata, Green Dragon and Jaguar Priestess carefully placed a grain of rice on each of the nine states whose names they’d called out on the map.
“Close your eyes, Circle sisters, and listen to me,” TigerLily said quietly. “Imagine the rain falling all around you. Listen as the wind dashes the rain against the window panes, feel the raindrops sliding down your face if you’re outside. Bring all your concentration to bear and feel that the atmosphere outside is becoming more turbulent. Feel it, breathe it, think it, believe it.”
She stood up, picked up her athame and held the point upwards. “Open your eyes now. Feel all your energies flowing out in every direction, transferring to where the four winds blow. By the will of the Goddess, the wisdom of the ancients, and the power of Ostara, let the skies darken and the water fall so that the earth will come to life.”
TigerLily began to sing and the other Witches sang along with her:
The earth, the air, the fire, the water, return, return, return, return. The earth, the air, the fire, the water, return, return, return, return . Aye ay, aye ay, aye ay, aye ay, aye oh, aye oh, aye oh, aye oh. Aye ay, aye ay, aye ay, aye ay , aye oh, aye oh, aye oh, aye oh.
They sang three rounds of the chant, making sure to sing each round more loudly than the one before.,
“I love that song,” Arielle said. “It always makes me feel emotional.”
“Me too,” Rhiannon said. “In fact, I—”
Whatever she had intended to say was lost in an enormous peal of thunder. Startled, they turned their heads to look at the windows.
“Come on!” Coventina jumped up and ran to the door. “It’s raining!”
“Thank Goddess,” Ceres Vegetina said reverently.
All the Witches surged out the front door and stood on the wraparound porch, watching as the skies continued to darken and rain pelted down. TigerLily held up her arms, palms facing outward, in the attitude of thankfulness, and the others followed suit.
“She changes everything She touches,” TigerLily chanted.
“And everything She touches changes!” sang the other Witches.
For five minutes they sang the Kore chant as the pelting rain gradually faded to a steady downpour and, with the delightful sound of rain pinging against the roof in their ears, filed back into the house.
“Thank you, Goddess!” TigerLily said, grinning at the others.
“I’m hungry,” Coventina announced. “What’s for dinner?”
“Moroccan Chickpea Stew,” Passionata said. “I’m in a Middle Eastern mood after all those belly dancing lessons.”
“Whole-wheat pita bread and hummus,” Arielle added.
“Moroccan mint tea,” said Jaguar Priestess.
“Followed by lemon pudding,” Rhiannon said, “and the vegan gingerbread that Ceres made.”
“It’s delicious, if I do say so myself,” Ceres said. “My friend Linda gave me the recipe for Happy World Gingerbread.”
Gladwyn pulled her iPhone out of her pocket. “I’m getting an incoming text.” She slid her finger to the iPhone’s “on” position, read the message and gave a shout. “My daughter says it’s raining in Austin! Hurray!”
“It worked!” The Circle sisters looked at each other in delight.
“Well, of course it did,” Rhiannon said. “What did you expect?”
The buzz of conversation subsided somewhat as the Witches did full justice to their meal. Afterwards, Arielle said, “Brianna, forgive me if this is too personal a question, but—”
Brianna looked at her encouragingly. “Yes? Ask away. You’ve made me feel so welcome, I don’t mind if you ask a question.”
“Well,” Arielle said slowly, “After you completed your transition, what happened at your job? Did you get any negative vibes?”
“No, not really—or at least, not overt vibes,” Brianna said. “As it happens, I’m a software engineer at the company my brother started five years ago. We’re a pretty small outfit but we’re growing, and our product is doing well.”
“That’s good,” Jaguar Priestess said. “But what if the company does so well it gets bought out by a bigger company?”
Brianna drained the last of her mint tea from her mug and said, “Believe me, I’ve thought of that and I’m saving hard.”
“Just think, Witch sisters,” Green Dragon said. “With Brianna Hestia, we’re ten tonight and when Rowan returns, there’ll be eleven of us in the circle.”
“Two more and we’ll be a coven!” Ceres Vegetina said.
“Speaking of covens, does anyone know where the big Beltane ritual is going to be this year?” Gladwyn asked. “It would be nice to see our friends in the DC and Maryland Pagan communities again.”
“It’s going to be in a park,” Passionata said. “The little town of Briarcliff has agreed to rent its park to the Pagan Foundation that night. Cajun Papa is going to do the food and we’ll be allowed to have a balefire.”
“You can belly dance around the balefire, Pash,” Jaguar Priestess said with a grin.
Passionata looked round at her Circle sisters and winked. “I’m going to end my self-imposed celibacy at Beltane, I promise you.”
Green Dragon laughed. “Farewell, Lady Ostara, hail Lord Belenos—it’s going to be a merry meeting at Beltane!”