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Authors: Cate Tiernan

Book of Shadows (9 page)

BOOK: Book of Shadows
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“Thanks,” we both said a bit awkwardly as we climbed the dark, wooden staircase. Beneath our feet a thick flowered carpet cushioned our steps.
“She doesn’t think it’s weird to let a bunch of girls into her teenage son’s bedroom?” I whispered, thinking about how my mom kicks boys out of Mary K.’s room at home.
Bree smiled at me, her eyes shining with excitement. “I guess she’s cool,” she whispered back. “Besides, there’s a bunch of us.”
Cal’s room turned out to be the entire attic of the house. It went from front to back, side to side, and there were small windows everywhere: some square, some round, some clear, some made of stained glass. The roof itself was pitched steeply and rose to about nine feet in the center, only about three feet at the sides.The floor was dark, unpolished wood, the walls unpainted clapboards. In one small gable was an antique desk with school textbooks on it.
We dropped our jackets on a long wooden bench, and I kicked off my clogs, following Bree’s example.
A small working fireplace was set into one wall. Its plain mantel was covered with cream-colored candles of various sizes, maybe thirty of them. Pillars of candles stood around the huge room, some on black wrought-iron stands, some on the floor, some atop glass blocks or even set on top of stacks of ancient-looking books. The room was lit only by candlelight, and the wavering shadows thrown on every wall were hypnotic and beautiful.
My eyes were caught by Cal’s bed, standing off in a larger alcove. I couldn’t help staring at it, feeling frozen to the spot. It was a wide, low bed of dark wood, mahogany or even ebony, with four short bedposts. The mattress was a futon. The bedclothes were of plain, cream-colored linen, and the bed was unmade. As if he had just gotten out of it. Lit candles burned brightly on low tables at either side.
In the far alcove against the back wall of the house, bathed in shadows, the rest of the group was gathered. When Cal saw us, he came over.
“Morgan. Thanks for coming,” he said in his confident, intimate way. “Bree, nice to have you back.”
So Bree had been in his bedroom.
“Thanks for inviting me,” I said stiffly, pulling my flannel shirt closer around me. Cal smiled and took both of our hands, leading us to the others. Robbie waved when he saw us. He was drinking dark grape juice from a wine goblet. Beth Nielson stood next to him, her hair newly bleached pale blond. She had medium brown skin, green eyes, and a short-cropped Afro that changed colors with her mood. Sometimes I thought of her looking like a lioness, while Raven looked like a panther. They made an interesting pair if they stood next to each other.
“Happy esbat,” Robbie said, raising his glass.
“Happy esbat,” Bree said. I knew from my reading that
esbat
was just another word for a gathering where magick was done.
Matt was sitting on a low velvet settee, with Jenna curled on his lap. They were talking to Sharon Goodfine, who was sitting stiffly on the floor, her arms around her knees. Was she here just for Cal, or had Wicca spoken to her somehow? I had always thought of her as having it easy, with her orthodontist father smoothing her path through life. She was full figured and pretty and looked older than she was.
“Here.” Cal handed Bree and me wineglasses of grape juice. I took a sip.
A patchouli-scented breeze washed into the room, and Raven arrived, followed by Ethan. Tonight Raven looked like a hooker who specialized in S and M. A black leather dog collar circled her neck. It was connected by leather straps to a black leather corset. Her pants looked like someone had dipped her in a vat of shiny black spandex, and this was the dried result. She wouldn’t have stood out in New York City, but here in Widow’s Vale, I would have given money to see her walk into the grocery store. Did Cal find this attractive?
Ethan looked like he always did: scruffy, with long, curly hair, and stoned. It hadn’t seemed odd to me that people would have stayed the first time we did a circle—lots of kids will try anything once. But it was interesting that everyone except Todd, Alessandra, and Suzanne had come back, and it made me look at them more closely, as if I were seeing all of them for the first time.
This group had hung out a few times at school in a new, multiclique assemblage, but here we separated into our old patterns: Robbie and I together; Jenna, Matt, and Sharon together, with Bree going between me and them; Beth, Raven, and Ethan together by the drinks.
“Good, I think everyone’s here,” Cal said. “Last week we celebrated Mabon and did a banishing circle. This week I thought we’d just have an informal circle and get to know each other better. So, let’s begin.”
Cal picked up a piece of white chalk and drew a large circle that almost filled this end of the attic. Jenna and Matt got up and pushed the sofa out of the way.
“This circle can be made out of anything,” Cal said conversationally as he drew. On the floor were the smudged and faded outlines of other circles. I noticed that although he was drawing freehand, the end result was almost perfectly round and symmetrical, as it had been in the woods when he had drawn a circle in the dirt with a stick. “It can be a piece of rope, a circle of objects, like shells or tarot cards, even flowers. It represents the boundary of our magick energy.”
We all stepped inside the chalk circle. Cal drew the circle closed, as he had done last week. What would happen if one of us stepped outside it?
Cal picked up a small brass bowl filled with something white. For a worried moment I thought it was cocaine or something, but he picked some up in his fingers and sprinkled it all around the circle.
“With this salt, I purify our circle,” he said. I remembered he had sprinkled salt last time. Cal placed the bowl on the circle’s line. “Placing this bowl here, in the north position, signifies one of the four elements: earth. Earth is feminine and nourishing.”
In the last several days I had gone online and done some research. I had found out that there were lots of different sects of Wicca, as there are different sects of almost every religion. I had focused on the one that Cal had said he was a part of and had found more than a thousand Web sites.
Next Cal put an identical small brass bowl, filled with sand and a burning stick of incense, at the east side of the circle.
“This incense symbolizes air, another of the four elements,” Cal said, focused but utterly relaxed. “Air is for the mind, the intellect. Communication.”
In the south he stood a cream-colored pillar candle about eighteen inches high. “This candle represents fire, the third element,” Cal explained, looking at me. “Fire is for transformation, success, and passion. It’s a very strong element.”
I felt uncomfortable under his gaze and looked down at the candle instead. Firelight, my soul is bright, I thought.
Finally, at the western side, Cal put a brass bowl filled with water. “Water is the last of the four elements,” he said. “Water is for emotions. For love, beauty, and healing. Each of the four elements corresponds to astrological signs,” Cal explained. “Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius are the air signs. The water signs are Cancer, Scorpio, and Pisces. Earth signs are Taurus, Virgo, and Capricorn. Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are fire signs.” Cal looked at me again.
Could he tell I was a fire sign—a Sagittarius?
“Now, let’s join hands,” he said.
I was closest to Robbie and Matt, so I took their hands. Robbie’s hand was warm and comforting. It felt strange to be holding Matt’s hand, smooth and cool. I remembered how Cal’s had felt and wished I was standing next to him again. Instead he was sandwiched between Bree and Raven. I sighed.
“Let’s close our eyes and focus our thoughts,” said Cal, bowing his head. “Breathe in and out slowly, to the count of four. Let every thought still, every worry fade. There is no past, no future, only the here and now and we ten standing together.” His voice was even and calm. I bowed my head and closed my eyes. I breathed in and out, thinking about candlelight and incense. It was very relaxing. Part of me was aware of everyone else in the room, their quiet breathing and the occasional shifting of their feet, and part of me felt very pure and removed, as if I were floating over this circle, watching it from above.
“Tonight we’re going to do a purifying and focusing ritual,” Cal explained. “Samhain, our new year, is coming up, and most witches do a lot of spiritual work to get ready.”
Once again we moved in a circle together, holding hands, but this time we moved slowly in a clockwise direction—deasil, Cal called it, as opposed to widdershins, which is counterclockwise.
For a moment I felt nervous about the end of the ritual. The last time I had done this, I had felt like someone had buried an ax in my chest, then felt like crap for two days afterward. Would that happen again? I decided it didn’t matter, that I wanted to try this.Then Cal began the chant.
“Water, cleanse us,
Air, purify us.
Fire, make us whole and pure.
Earth, center us.”
We began to repeat his words. For several minutes or maybe longer we moved in a circle, chanting. Glancing around the circle, I saw people starting to relax, as if they felt lighthearted and happy. Even Ethan and Raven seemed lighter, younger, and less dark. Bree was watching Cal. Robbie had his eyes closed.
We began moving faster and chanting louder. It was right after this that I became aware of palpable energy building up around me, within the circle. I looked around quickly, startled. Cal, across the circle, met my eyes and smiled. Raven’s eyes were closed now as she chanted and moved unerringly in our line.The others looked intense but not alarmed.
I felt pressed in upon somehow. As if a big, soft bubble were pressing in on me, all around me. My hair felt alive and crackling with energy, and when I next looked up at Cal, I gasped because I could see Cal’s aura, glowing faintly around his head.
I was awestruck. A fuzzy band of pale red light was glowing around him, shimmering in the candlelight. When I glanced around the circle, I saw that everyone had one. Jenna’s was silver. Matt’s was green. Raven’s was orange, and Robbie was surrounded by white. Bree had a pale orange light, Beth had a black one, Ethan’s was brown, and Sharon’s was pink, like her flushed cheeks. Did I have an aura? What color was it? What did this mean? I stared, marveling, feeling joyful and amazed.
As before, at some unseen signal the circle stopped abruptly and we all threw our hands into the air, our arms outstretched. My heart throbbed, and so did my head, but I didn’t stumble or lose my balance. I just pulled in a fast breath and grimaced, rubbing my temples and hoping that no one noticed.
“Send the cleansing energy into yourselves!” Cal said firmly, making a fist and thumping it against his chest. Everyone did the same, and when I did, I felt a great warmth rush in and settle in my abdomen. I felt calm, peaceful, and alert. Immediately after that I became nauseated and sick. Oh, help, I thought.
Cal instantly crossed the circle and came over to me. I was swallowing hard, my eyes big, hoping I wouldn’t be sick right there. I just wanted to cry.
“Sit down,” Cal said softly, pushing on my shoulders. “Sit down right now.”
I sat on the wooden floor, feeling motion sick and awful.
“What is it
this
time?” Raven said, and no one answered.
“Lean over,” Cal said. I was sitting cross-legged, and he gently pushed on the back of my neck. “Touch your forehead to the floor,” he instructed, and I did, rounding my back and flattening my hands, palms down. Instantly I felt better. As soon as my forehead touched the cool wood, with my hands braced on both sides of me, the waves of sickness passed, and I quit gasping.
“Are you okay?” Bree knelt next to me, rubbing my back. I felt Cal brush her hand away.
“Wait,” he said. “Wait until she’s grounded.”
“What’s wrong?” Jenna asked, concerned.
“She channeled too much energy,” Cal said, keeping his hand on the base of my neck. “Like at Mabon. She’s very, very sensitive; a real energy conduit.”
After a minute or so he asked, “Better now?”
“Uh-huh,” I said, slowly raising my head. I looked around, feeling embarrassed and vulnerable. But physically I was fine, no longer queasy or disoriented.
“Do you want to tell us what happened?” Cal asked gently. “What you saw?”
The idea of describing everyone’s auras seemed intimidating—too personal. Besides, hadn’t they seen them, too? I wasn’t sure. “No,” I said.
“Okay,” he said, standing up. He smiled. “That was amazing, you-all.Thanks. Now, let’s go swimming.”
11
Water
> < “Nights of a full moon or the new moon are especially powerful for working magick.”
—PRACTICAL LUNAR RITUALS, Marek Hawksight, 1978 > <
 
“Oh, yeah,” Bree said enthusiastically. “Swimming!”
“There’s a pool out back,” Cal said, crossing the room. He opened a wooden door set back into an alcove. Brisk night air swirled into the room, making some flames go out and others dance.
“Okay,” Jenna said. “That sounds great.”
Ethan looked hot, his forehead damp beneath the tightly curled ringlets on his head. He wiped his face on the sleeve of his army-surplus shirt. “Swimming would be cool.”
Raven and Beth smiled at each other like the Siamese cats in
Lady and the Tramp,
then headed to the door. Robbie nodded at me and followed them. Bree was already through the door.
“Um, is this an outdoor pool?” I asked.
Cal smiled at me. “The water’s heated. It’ll be okay.”
Of course, the huge thing going through my mind was that I hadn’t brought a bathing suit, but somehow I felt if I mentioned this, everyone would laugh at me. I went through the door after Sharon, followed by Cal. Outside was a spiral staircase, and its steps led all the way down to the first floor, to the patio. I gripped the banister tightly and went down, hoping not to lose my balance.
BOOK: Book of Shadows
10.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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