When I was a little girl, my 80-year-old grandmother told me that life seems to stretch forever when you are young and the years pass lazily by, but as you become an adult, each year will pass faster until suddenly you are old and they have all sifted away as sand through an hour glass. In time I came to realize that she was right and it bothered me greatly, so I became determined to find out why. It seems that time passes slowly for children, because life is a wondrous magical place, and as children, we live in anticipation of special days and events that await us. As we become adults, society puts pressure on us not to make a big deal out of our special events, as to do so is childish. This robs us of our sense of magic and anticipation for the special milestones of living. I believe that to reclaim that sense of magic, we have to reclaim our right to feel that our special milestones are important and deserve recognition. from friends, family, community and ultimately ourselves. Remembering the sense of community and the importance of rituals from my childhood, when my great-grandmother was High Priestess in our coven, I have chosen to share this story from a special moment in both our lives. It is my hope that those who read this will take a moment to stop and evaluate the importance of their own milestones and begin to take back their right to give special significance to the events that mark their life.
by Donna of Elendari
On a late spring afternoon she rides quietly down the hard packed dirt path, the sun is warm on her back. Regal and beautiful as some ancient queen, she journeys through her lands and is pleased. A lazy breeze floats by from time to time, tickling her skin as it passes. The only sound she hears is the chirping of birds in the thickets and the clop of her horse's hooves as he ambles along.
The path gradually turns and winds away into the woods. As she passes beneath the trees, the shade feels cool and inviting. On and on she rides, watching the dappled sunlight filter in through the leaves, creating endless patterns upon her bare arms and legs. Small rabbits and quail scatter from beneath her horse's hooves, fearlessly stopping a few feet away to watch her pass.
Slowly the trees begin to thin and the path leads her out to the base of a high open hillside that drops away steeply, to the river a mile away. The hillside is green and gold with wild grasses. An abundance of wild flowers wave gently in the soft breeze, sending out a fragrant greeting to the frantic butterflies that flit madly by.
Down the hill a few hundred feet is a stream that tumbles loudly over the rocks, to fall with a mighty spray of mist, into a cool deep pool hidden among the boulders.
Dismounting, she carries her blanket and saddlebags to a spot beneath a large shady tree. Her horse wanders down to the stream to drink. She sits quietly listening to his splashing. After he has drunk his fill, he ambles back up the path to where she sits unpacking her gear. Patiently he stands in the sun, with his eyes closed, waiting to have his bridle removed so he can graze. With a long rope, a spike and hammer she stakes out her horse with plenty of room for him to eat his fill of sweet grasses.
Removing her clothes, she sighs with relief as the cool breeze takes the heat from her skin. Slowly she walks down the path to the pool. As she steps into the water, her body begins to tingle with the chill of the spring fed stream. Cleansing herself with a pad made of sweet grasses and herbs, she smiles and turns her eyes to the fleecy clouds as they tumble slowly across the bright blue sky. Gradually she finds herself lulled by a feeling of peace and contentment.
The quiet solitary beauty washes away the stress and anxiety of her day and fills her with tranquility and a dreaming sense of well being. Her mind drifts away into daydreams and fantasies as the afternoon wanders slowly past.
With the lengthening shadows she becomes aware that it is time to go. After stretching and dressing in her robes, she takes the long winding trail that leads to the sacred place at the top of the hill. As she climbs, she recites a chant of homecoming softly to herself, enjoying the ancient flavor of the words as they roll across her tongue.
Cresting the hill, she sees the stone circle and altar built by her mother's people, when they claimed this land. Her heart fills with joy at the sight of this much loved place. Remembering the first time she climbed this trail, holding fast to her mother's hand, awed by the magic and mystery that lay before her, her mind flashes back to that night. It was all so big, new and overpowering, she thought she'd never see anything so important again. Slowly the wheel turned and hundreds more journeys passed with the years. Like the first time, she is awed by the magic and the mystery, though the place has become dear and familiar. Quietly she stands on the hilltop, savoring the moment, as the last copper glaze fades from the sky and the velvet curtain of darkness swiftly descends. Time has moved on. It is her time to wear the mantle of wisdom. As the wheel has turned taking her from youth to maturity and the innocence of a novice to the wisdom and knowledge of a high priestess, she no longer waits with the others for the signal to climb to the summit, carrying her torch high in the darkness. She is High Priestess now, it is her right to preside at the altar, her place to light the first fire on the hilltop to signal the procession. It is her place to challenge and welcome each of her people as the long trail of torches wind around the hard onyx of night.
Though dignity shows in her face, her heart overflows with the beauty of a ritual as old as life. Slowly as her people circle the hilltop, the watch fires are lit and the stones and altar glow softly in the night. She casts her circle with confidence, greets, challenges and admits each person until all are within, then she closes the circle and turns and approaches the altar. Her novices light the candles at her nod. In turn the incense and brazier are lit by her priestesses. The hush within the group is like a held breath as she begins to speak. Her priestesses address the four directions invoking the benevolence of their guardians, at her signal elders invoke the elements of earth, wind, fire and sea to stand in attendance for the ritual. The incense is carried around the inside edge of the circle by one of the novices, cleansing all within. After the incense has been returned to the altar, she reaches into the sky and with the unfolding of her words and powers she calls down the goddess Isis to bless and witness the ceremony.
Before the presence of Isis, and in her name, the High Priestess calls forth all who have brought offerings. The offerings are accepted and placed upon the altar by the novices as the people file past. In soft reverent tones, she dedicates the offerings to the goddess as tribute from her followers.
Stepping into the center of the circle, she asks that all with new babes bring them forth one at a time to receive the first blessing of the goddess. They are anointed, then she lifts them each skyward in turn invoking the goddess to recognize, bless and protect them.
Still smiling, she asks if there are any small children who wish to give first tribute to the goddess. After much giggling and some prodding by their parents, two small girls walk forward, all shy and nervous, with their tribute of flowers clasped tightly in their hands. Taking the hand of each, she guides them gently to the altar and softly tells them how to place their gifts and what to say. After they have each climbed the stone blocks, and placed their flowers on the altar, the little girls turn, beaming with pride, and run back to their mothers. Proudly the High Priestess asks the goddess to accept this first offering from a new generation of followers. This is a sweet, special moment she will never forget! One of the little girls is her great-granddaughter and the third generation of her children to chose to walk the path of the goddess.
Stepping back to the altar, she turns full circle, surveying those in attendance. In a solemn voice she requests that any young people who have reached the time of passage, from childhood to adult, step forward. Two tall lads in the awkwardness of early teens, escort a slender maiden, blushing with the first bloom of womanhood. Nervously they all stop before her. She smiles reassuringly and turns to the altar, invoking the notice of the goddess to bless these young people who are here to set aside the trappings of childhood and take up the mantle of adulthood. The youngsters then step to the altar, placing the bright scarves decorated with the symbols of their childhood upon it, as they recite a prayer for guidance in their new role as adults. Placing a wreath of flowers upon each person's head she turns them full circle and introduces those present to the new members who have gained the status of young adults. Smiling quietly at the serious looks on their faces, she bids them to join the circle of their peers.
Next she calls for any who wish to be initiated into the service of the goddess, to step forward. With much joy she sees many maidens and a few older lads come forth and drop to one knee before her. The first ritual question is asked, all answer, and their month of initiation begins. Under the next full moon they will be formally accepted into the service of the goddess and she will have a new group of novices. She smiles, remembering the wonder and excitement of the learning that awaits them. At her word they arise and return to their place in the circle.
Finally the ceremony that the people have anticipated the most begins. She
steps before the altar and asks if there are any who wish the goddess to bless them in
handfasting or marriage. One young couple and one couple with gray in their hair
step out from the circle and with many shy glances to their partner, they join hands and
stop before her to receive the blessing of the goddess on their handfasting. The
ceremony is performed and soft chuckles are heard as both couples return to their places
in the circle with wide joyous smiles on their faces.
With reverence, she gives thanks to Isis, the guardians, and all the powers that be, for their attendance and bids them go in peace. With the passing of her sword across its barrier, the circle is ritually broken and the incense, brazier and candles are extinguished, the ceremony is ended. The group file quietly out of the space left between the open horns of the circle.
Beyond the stones, tables have been set up with food and drink and many pipes, lap harps and drums are brought out. The celebration has begun, she can relax and enjoy the satisfaction of having attained her life's dream. Quiet contemplation will come later, now it is time to celebrate with her friends and kin.
As she sits on a stool and breaks her long fast, the young and not so young are laughing and dancing around her. She smiles, looks around, and notices her great-granddaughter watching her with eyes filled with awe. Reaching out, she takes the child onto her lap. I was you only a short yesterday ago,' she whispers. Perhaps on some tomorrow, the goddess willing, you will be me! I hope that my love and teaching will help make your days of accomplishments as sweet as mine have been.' Snuggling close, the little girl smiles and hugs her great-gramma. The hours slip by and the little one falls asleep in her arms. Gradually the people begin to quietly slip away. Mothers and fathers carry sleeping children, young people slip away in pairs and small groups, until there are only a few hardy souls left. Her granddaughter comes for the sleeping child. It is time to leave. Her novices will clean up after the celebration. The new initiates will stay to watch over the fires, keeping them burning through the night, under the watchful eye of her newest priestess. She can go home now, to savor and dream of this night.
Slowly she walks down the hill, not quite ready to let it all end. In the meadow below, her horse whickers softly at her approach. Someone has been ahead of her and saddled him, so with a sigh of gratitude, she mounts and takes one last look around, she nods, acknowledging that she will return soon to fulfill her destiny. Turning her horse, she takes the path into the woods and home.
Last updated Friday, September 18, 1998 08:19 AM. Copyrighted Temple of The Triple Goddess, P.O. Box 38113, Phoenix, AZ 85069-8113. All rights reserved.