Be spellbound! Grab a hot brew, light a candle & read by the glow!
Avril’s attention was brought toward the direction of the door upon hearing giggles and chatter. Hailey, Cortney, Shanna, Hanna and Corena emerged. They appeared to be in awe at the sight of the large Scotch pine Yule tree. The girls quickly hung their winter capes on the coatrack, removed their out-door boots, and then rushed to the tree.
“What’s going on here?” Shanna asked with a grin.
Hailey lit up. “It’s spectacular!”
Hanna pointed to the pine-cones. “Look at the small cones still on the gnarly branches,” she gushed.
Avril shifted uncomfortably sitting on the windowsill as Lilith and Marley, slowly followed. Lilith shrugged, walking pass the large tree to stand by the fire burning bright in the fireplace for warmth.
The Priestess Angelica stepped forward dressed in a baby-blue floor-length dress and pentacle. “The men and boys of Merlin’s studies, in the freezing weather with toboggans and their hay wagons went and cut down our Yule trees,” she said, as she stepped into the room. “They took their time to pick out the perfect trees for they know we have a fondness for the natural. They brought them to the mansion and erected the trees for our enjoyment.” She walked to the altar, and then lit the altar candles, and the bayberry incense.
“I thought chopping trees down was wrong,” Lilith said in a condescending tone.
The Priestess looked at Lilith. “It was not incorrect to cut our trees down,” she reassured her. “The trees in the mansion are from a tree farm and are considered a crop; renewed each year, contributing to the environmental wellness for a full ten years before they’re harvested and replaced with seedlings to begin the cycle again.”
Lilith turned back to face the flames in the fireplace. “Seriously, who cares,” she murmured to Marley.
Marley twirled her long brown hair around her finger as she let her comment slip by in silence.
“Stupid witch,” Cortney whispered to Corena, and she nodded agreement back at her.
Avril, shaking her head, a bit ashamed of their ignorance thought, Forgive them for they know not what they do. She did understand.
“Was a fresh cut made at the base of the stump…a half inch to open the pores so the tree could drink?” Hailey asked the Priestess, looking concerned.
“Yes, yes,” the Priestess answered. “To hold the tree trunk up, the tree had been put in a pail surrounded by bricks, then water was added. The water level needs to be checked daily and kept topped up. Watering is everyone’s responsibility. It will keep the tree alive in its unnatural conditions.”
Hailey brushed her hand across the green needles. “I’m grateful for such luxurious gift,” she said, smiling. “The tree will keep our spirits bright.”
Hanna and Shanna giggled quietly.
Priestess Angelica smiled at her. “Kissing under mistletoe is strictly Anglo Saxon,” she explained. “The practice began around the middle of the eighteenth century. The green, leafy and white-berried plant grows on, and is collected from, the sacred oak tree. The mistletoe is a parasitic plant because it draws material from the host tree and saves the energy. For mistletoe to survive it must receive its nutrients from the tree.”
Avril turned and saw on the craft table there were large wooden bowls filled with popcorn, cranberries, wintergreen and holly berries in each. Evergreen boughs, pine-cones, packages of sewing needles and colored thread and glitter were supplied, as well as winter solstice, ornaments to celebrate the season of light and magic. She could hardly wait to decorate the tree.
The Priestess glanced over at Avril. “There will be plenty of time to create all sorts of seasonal products to decorate the tree for the holiday season,” she informed her. “Now, it is time to get down to work. Please, sit down. Shanna would you pass out the grimoires?
“Yes of course,” she said.
Avril stood up. She left her glass of wassail on the windowsill, walked to Hailey, Cortney, Hanna and Corena, and then sat on the wood floor. When Shanna returned, she carried their magic books. She gave Avril her grimoire. Avril held the unblemished book in her hand. She skimmed her fingers over the black leather cover. The upright gold pentacle embedded dazzled.
“I want winter to be already over with,” Lilith said bluntly to Marley, when she sat down. Marley moved up to her side.
The Priestess pulled a stool closer to the fireplace and sat. She turned her head to look at Lilith. Lilith averted her eyes.
“The four seasons proceed without error,” the Priestess advised. “Fertility increases during summer, the four month stretch of constant sun. Autumn, when the light decreases, sets the stage for transition. Now is time to reflect on the past seasons. Winter is the season to reflect, relax and replenish. The repetitive events occur in nature as well as ourselves. Just like the planet needs time to rest and regroup, so does the human mind and body.”
“Our lessons are rooted in the natural wisdom of the planet and of the universe,” Priestess Angelica reminded the maidens. “The oneness can’t be denied. We are created from the natural elements, and follow nature’s law, a partnership of give and take, and the negative always has a positive attraction.”
“One should never despise a natural phenomenon. Every action of the seasons has a purpose. There is a relationship between how one feels and the season. Moods dip like the temperature in winter because life can be affected by the amount of light. The cold, dark days can bring on the winter blahs. A feeling of depression. The disorder is believed to be caused by a biochemical imbalance in the brain caused by the shortening of days and lack of sunlight.” The Priestess turned back to face Lilith. “To beat the blues I suggest you try to think of winter as being beautiful gift from Mother Nature and commit to sit in the sunlight for at least an hour. This might help stimulate you.”
Lilith opened and closed her mouth, knowing silence would serve her best.
The Priestess cleared her throat and said, “Our journey through the past year incorporated water, fire, air and earth. The path of elements explored was:
EARTH - material, solid energy
AIR - thoughts - gaseous energy
FIRE - personal power - electric energy
WATER - emotions - liquid energy
“At the beginning of the year each of you were open, with a desire for new experiences. Just like at zero in the Major Arcana of the Tarot cards, the Fool stood and looked out into the distance filled with questions, wonder and excitement.”
“The Fool is the start of personal growth, the Wheel of Fortune is the midway point, and the commitment cycle. The World, the completion of the cycle and the start of a fresh chapter in one’s growth.” Angelica lowered the cards, and then placed them back into the deck and continued, “The Tarot cards give an understanding of the past, sort through emotional and mental confusion in the present as well as provide hope for the future. The Tarot can make one think of their own actions and motives in any given situation. It is a tool for inner guidance.”
“The Fool passes through experiences of the twenty-one Major Arcana cards to understand Divine Wisdom. And this year you did the same thing as the Fool. You each tried to cultivate positive emotions, person will, thoughts and structure which added a new dimension to your personality and character. You learned that the forces of nature work for you, not against, and should now have faith and trust between self, humanity and the Divine Powers.”
Priestess Angelica looked at the maidens and said, “Please open your grimoire to December 24 to January 20, the month of the Birch tree.”
Following the Priestess gaze to the Tarot card, Hanna answered. “When the Star card appears in a reading it signifies peace, rest and tranquility within self because you understand life is full of unexpected blessings. You have healed self.”
“Good.” The Priestess looked from Hanna to Shanna. “Shanna, what does the Star Tarot card symbolize?”
Shanna stared down at her notes and answered, “The Star symbolizes the energy which contains divine knowledge, which one must decide how to apply in everyday life. It signifies that one has learned how to live a peaceful existence by experiencing difficulties and working through them with a compassionate heart and open mind to balance the extremes in thoughts and activities. One thinks and acts with compassion. By being stimulated to a higher level one acts positive instead of negative. One has embraced their beauty and uniqueness by realizing their inner strength.” Then Shanna raised her head.
The Priestess nodded her approval. “The symbols on the tarot cards represent the joys and sorrow, hopes and despair in life and hidden in the collective unconscious. The symbols stimulate the imagination.” She pointed to the naked woman, who knelt, on the tarot card. “On the Star Tarot card, the stars above make their way through heaven accompanying a nude body. The nude female is a symbol for freedom from the materialistic world. She is free from excess,” she said.
Priestess Angelica cast a glance toward the maidens. “The key words of the Star are discovery and ambition,” she added. “The Zodiac sign is Gemini, element is air, the sign for freedom, and ruled by Aquarius. There is a lot of activity that takes place on the Star Tarot card to allow one to know that the past self, the defense mechanisms, have transformed by acceptance and moderation, to a divine expression. As the Star, one can distinguish reality from illusion, the positive energy from the negative. Heart and mind have blended.”
Angelica pointed to the large eight-pointed yellow star in the center and asked, “Corena, what would you say the center yellow star represent?”
Corena stared at the tarot card. “The eight points represent cosmic order and radiant cosmic energy,” she answered. The Star, Spirit, guiding light and truth. Yellow symbolizes intellect and knowledge. The blue background, intuition, peace, life and intuitive understanding and attainment.”
The Priestess turn toward Cortney and asked “Would you give the meaning of the bird and tree?”
Cortney’s focused on the tarot card. “The bird,” she said, “is known as the Ibis bird that represents immortal life and vigilance. Birds themselves symbolize freedom and messengers. The tree, regeneration, shelter, nourishing the nerves and spine. The tree is an olive tree, a symbol for peace and passion.”
“Lilith, what is your assessment of the nude female actions?”
Lilith sprawled on the wood floor with her head propped on her hand, her straight black hair framed her face, looked at the Tarot card. “The left hand is negative,” she said starting to speak, then looked down at her notes. “…feminine and receptive. The jug of water that pours out onto the land represents the unconscious matter to consciousness. Awareness is expanded. The land is substance in the material world. Green, the desire to heal and grow. The red flowers in full bloom, full growth, passion, desire and vitality.”
“Correct. Marley, what does the pool of water represent to you?”
“Um…um,” Marley said as she maneuvered her grimoire closer to her. “The pool is a feminine symbol. It indicates the subconscious mind and the universe. The ripples, designed as circles, signifies cosmic force or cosmic mind. It is a beginning without end. It is a spiritual symbol of the realization of perfection and the blending of the negative.”
The Priestess nodded and glanced at Cortney. “And the symbolism for the right hand of the nude female?”
Following the Priestess gaze to the Tarot card, Cortney answered, “The right hand represents positive and masculine energy. The human body is our temple or Kingdom of God and the Goddess. The mountains in the background are the heights of abstract thought and an obstacle far off in the distance, to be dealt with.”
“Avril, would you give a definition for the seven white stars at the top of the card.”
Avril raised her eyes from her grimoire and answered, “The color white symbolizes truth, purity and perfection. The seven stars are lesser aspects of humans, the eighth one incorporates all in unity.”
Angelica tossed a log on the fire in the huge fireplace. She looked from one maiden to the other and continued. “The Star, is the happiest of the Tarot cards. It is a symbol of hope. We cannot separate love from hope, the virtue that delivers us from the negative, oppression and injustice. The Star stands for harmony, the end of an ordeal, a happy fate. Over the past year the new situation and enterprise of study and creative pursuits have gone well. You all have worked hard to uphold love, honor and peace, despite the demands. The past year gave the opportunity to overcome problems and dilemmas and strengthen character. Information channeled from Divine Powers guided growth in love and a sense of security can now be sensed. Faith in yourself and the future is restored.” She then placed the Star Tarot card back in the deck.
Priestess Angelica looked at the maidens. “At the beginning of the year each of you made a conscious decision to commit time and effort toward developing a connection with the trees of the Celtic calendar and the Cad Gaddeu, the Battle of the Trees. Trees are the very core of our philosophy. They are the symbol of our own nature. The branches are our arms that reach out to the influences which surround. The trunk is our body, our strength, attitude and personality. The roots are our beliefs, foundations and deep seated personal interactions. The roots support the trunk; the branches reach out and affect all. The energies of the planet rushes into the limbs, down the trunk to the roots and creates a solid structure.
“Trees of all types are sacred. Each has definition and possesses its own personality and life force. Trees are living, developing aspect of the Green World. So, too, is the magic associated with them. Every power and Spirit of magic is in the trees.
THE BIRCH, THOUGH VERY NOBLE,
ARMED HIMSELF BUT LATE;
A SIGN NOT OF COWARDICE
BUT OF HIS HIGH ESTATE.
“The Birch is a deciduous tree or shrub and widely found in the Northern Hemisphere,” the Priestess explained, casting glances toward the maidens. “Paper or canoe birch and gray birch are native American trees with white bark. The tree has slim branches and silvery bark scales.
“The Birch tree is in line with Mother Goddess and the moon. Sacred to the Goddess or the female principle, the Birch has always been respected for its protective powers. The boughs are placed over doorways to prevent evil or negative influences from entering. A person who walks beneath a birch tree should cross their fingers to bring luck. It can be used in ceremonies to beat the bounds when marking out land barriers. A broom made of birch has the power to expel negative influences from the heart, soul, mind and body to find the courage to move forward and begin afresh. I suggest that between December 24 to January 20th, find a birch tree to produce a positive effect. Create a meditation, ritual or spell to embrace beauty, uniqueness and inner strengths.”
Lilith let out a long, heavy breath and stretched. She had an odd smug smirk on her face, as if she had a secret. Suddenly she asked almost sinister, “How can there be peace in a world consumed with competition?”
Lilith’s question caught everyone off guard. The maidens looked at her.
“Peace isn’t realistic,” Marley added. “Competition and rivalry…divide and rule. Everyone seems to be at war with each other.”
Hanna rolled her eyes. “For better or worse Marley has Lilith’s back,” she whispered for Shanna ears alone, and she nodded agreement back at her.
“Some people prefer to be sneaky than negotiate,” Hailey said on impulse.
“Ya,” Corena scoffed. “Some people have goals and will try to reach them by any means.”
“Whatever, we are born to compete against one another,” Lilith persisted, looking at Priestess Angelica. “Don’t you agree?”
The Priestess rose gracefully, walked a few steps and stopped. She was quiet for so long, at first Avril thought she wouldn’t answer.
Finally, to break the silence she said, “Yes, peace can be very difficult. Competition between, within and among a contest or rivalry between two or more people for territory, a niche for resources, goods, mates, for prestige, recognition, award, social status, leadership or profit, can cause havoc among people. But it is possible to have peaceful settlements of our disputes. To keep the peace there needs to a sense of freedom - to be who you are, equality between genders and justice for all. Doing the right thing. Unto your opponent, do no harm. Unto your enemy, let justice be done. Let not your heart and mind become that which you dislike. Be hopeful; do good.”
“What you think and what is reality are far different,” Lilith challenged her. “Most people are out for themselves.”
Angelica looked from one maiden to the other and continued. “There is no one way to accomplish peace. Peace is a choice to promote the welfare of the people. It is up to everyone to give peace a chance. At times, one might need to agree to disagree. And then there are moments to reach an agreement or understanding with someone or resolve a dispute or stop fighting, all involved must pursue unity, acceptance, and contentment. There needs to be some-sort of compromise. The Rede expresses a philosophy that appeals to the hearts of witches, and has become the core of our spirituality. A moral inclination of witches is do what you like so long as you harm no one, or Love, and do what you will or play nice, don’t hurt others.”
“Absolutely,” Cortney said. “We must follow the Rede if we want to come together.”
The Priestess glanced over at the craft table. “All right,” she said politely. “Time to create some holiday cheer!”
Scissors, craft glue, rulers, crayons, colored pencils and paint, as well as quality card stock, was supplied. The maidens sat next to each for a long time without speaking. In a warm and comfortable silence, spiritually inspired images translated onto paper as they design the Yule greeting cards. Avril ‘s heart and mind were full of all the joy and magic of the festive season.
Jump For Joy!
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