Once upon a time during a full moon BunniHoTep decided she was going to spend a nice quietevening down at her lotus pool. So she gathered a blanket and bid her priestesses good night and went to have a nice evening. As she got around the corner of the temple she heard noises in the direction of the pool. Who was spoiling her nice quiet evening?
She hopped hurriedly to her pool andfound Heqet, the frog goddess, Ammit and one of her smaller priestesses lying on their backshaving an argument. BunniHoTep was quite surprised about the whole thing. She knew Hequet almost never had a free full moon night. She was the goddess of childbirth and babies liked to arrive on full moons and what had lured Ammit out of her den on a full moon night? Ammit didn’t like being in seen in bright light normally and even more than that what was her priestess doing out of bed? The moon was high in the sky and she should have been in bed long ago.
BunniHoTep laughed to herself as she listened to them argue. They were arguing about who was seen on the moon’s face. Hequet saw herself in the moon and Ammit saw a beautiful lady in the moon and BunniHoTep’s priestess saw her goddess in the moon because she knew Isis had placed BunniHoTep’s likeness in the moon. Everyone knew that!
BunniHoTep couldn’t stand it any longer and burst out laughing. The three sat up and looked at her. The Priestess lay back down in a hurry. She knew she shouldn’t be out of bed but it had been such a beautiful night and she liked Ammit so she had snuck out to enjoy the evening.
BunniHoTep looked at her priestess. “What are you doing out of bed?” and tried to look sternly at her priestess. Stern looks sit oddly on a happy rabbit’s face.“It was such a nice night and Ammit was here so I thought I’d enjoy the moon?” The priestess said trying to look innocent.
"All right, you can stay for a while longer as long as you are bright eyed and bushy tailed in the morning.”
The priestess lay back down with a smile.
“But what was all this arguing about who was in the moon?” asked BunniHoTep.Ammit and Heqet looked at each other.
The frog headed goddess croaked out. “We were just having a nice discussion about who was painted on the moon.
”BunniHoTep laughed, “It wasn’t sounding all that friendly when I heard it and why do you have to have one painting on the moon’s face?”
Ammit spoke up, “How can there be more than one thing on the moon?” Ammit squinted up at the bright disc.
”“What if you’re all right?” said BunniHoTep.
“How can we all be right?” asked her priestess.
“Well,” said BunniHoTep, “What if you see what you need to see at the moment you are looking at the moon? People of allshapes and sizes see all kinds of things in the moon. Horus sees his right eye in the moon. Isisput me up there for some to see. Some people see Heqet on the moon and some people even see a crab in the moon and lots and lots of people see a man or woman in the moon. They all have stories and they are all right.”
“How can they all be right!” croaked Heqet. She was a little annoyed she might not be painted on the moon.
“The moon belongs to everyone. It guides people and I don’t think she cares what she looks like to anyone and people like to tell stories. I think she can be whatever she needs to be. A guide to a woman in labour. A comfort to a lonely person here on earth. The moon lets us know we aren’t alone and that everyone anywhere can enjoy her and tell stories. She shines on all of us alike.”
“Oh,” the three said, “That makes sense.”The three settled back down and BunniHoTep joined them around the pool. The four friends chatted and pointed out their favourite constellations and stories about the moon and the stars until they were all yawning and trudged off to bed.
Once upon a time BunniHoTep was laying out on the grass with the other priestesses. It was a beautiful spring day. They could hear singing from the fields as the farmers and their families did their spring planting. They could hear traffic up and down the Nile and it was nice just to lie there peacefully.
Then they heard a thump. BunniHoTep sat up. She heard another thump and somebody mumbling under their breath so she decided to see what was going on. She didn’t hear anything so she waited. She had a feeling the noise was going to come again. About fifteen minutes later it came again. It was coming from the direction of the Nile.
Silence fell again. Another fifteen went by slowly and another thump. BunniHoTep came around a stand of papyrus and found a Grey Heron shaking his big head and getting up slowly.
“What is wrong?” asked BunniHoTep.
“You know how we herons sleep standing up a lot of the time?” asked the heron.
“Well, I’ve been having trouble sleeping. There is just so much noise around here. They’ve been working on construction on Ra’s new temple at all hours and when they aren’t banging their tools around the priests have been conducting all the rituals they have been missing during the construction time. My nest is too close and my wife won’t move because she just laid the eggs. I’ve been falling asleep while fishing and then I’m so tired I just fall over. One of these times I’m going to land right in the Nile. I just want a good night’s sleep.”
“Hmmm, It seems Ra should owe you a favour.” Said BunniHoTep thoughtfully. “I bet we can solve this. Wait here.”
BunniHoTep hopped down to Ra’s Temple and asked the priest standing outside. “Have you seen Bennu?”
The priest shook his head and pointed at the construction going on. “He was over on the Nile but we can’t find him anywhere. Ra is getting upset. He is supposed to be on the BenBen stone and he’s gone.”
“I can see how Ra might be upset not to know where his heart is. So why doesn’t he keep better track of Bennu?”
“Ra is better with his head than his heart.” Laughed the priest.
BunniHoTep hopped off back to the Temple and found the Grey Heron. “Bennu, why didn’t you ask Ra for help? You’re his heart!”
“He is making a shrine for that darn benben stone. All I want is some sleep. Those priests are the noisy ones banging sistrums all night long just so they can say they made Ra come back! Fools! Ra has to come back because I’m here.”
BunniHoTep hopped back to the Temple and straight down to Ra’s night cave. She had borrowed a sistrum from a priest who was resting and she started to shake it loudly at Ra’s door. Nothing happened so she shook it louder and louder.
“ALL RIGHT!” yelled Ra, “I’m coming!” Ra came out and looked up and down the hall.
“Down here, silly.” BunniHoTep said quietly. “Did you know Bennu was missing?” she asked.
This alarmed Ra mightily, he knew Bennu was missing but no one else was supposed to know it. He couldn’t go on his day journey without knowing where is heart was.
“He’s missing! How long? Has anyone seen where he went?” Ra was pacing around his night cave.
“Relax, your priests have been keeping him awake and he needs to sleep. He almost fell in the Nile awhile ago.”
“That’s not right. Night is for sleeping and he has a family coming soon.”
“Well, you better tell your priests that or let him come and sleep down here with you.”
“Not that, he snores.” Ra said. “I have an idea.”
So BunniHoTep and Ra went down and found the Bennu bird leaning against the wall of BunniHoTep’s Temple. He seemed to finally have fallen asleep. He was snoring with his beak wide open and he was starting to drool. He looked really funny because the feathers in his crown were waving up and down and it was all they could do not to laugh.
Ra picked him up carefully and carried him to his boat on the Nile and the two of them rowed out to an island that never flooded during inundation and Ra and BunniHoTep constructed a nest for the tired bird and laid him in it. They quietly crept away secure in the knowledge that the Bennu bird was finally getting some sleep.
The next morning the Bennu bird came to thank BunniHoTep for the first good night’s sleep he had had in weeks. Ra felt so sorry he made him the symbol of the rising and setting sun and now we say “rise and shine” because a poor bird finally got some sleep. And that island is still sacred to the Bennu bird.
Once upon a time BunniHoTep was in her garden studying the backs of her eyelids when she heard someone yelling.
It was time to rehearse the sun scarab’s twice yearly temple duty and he couldn’t be found. So a rather dim priest had been sent running to BunniHoTep’s Temple down the way.
The silly thing was crying and hysterical and she had no patience with that. One of her priestesses grabbed him as he was running around waving his hands in the air and wailing, “You have to find him, please, you have to find him!” and then bursting into tears. BunniHoTep put her palm to her head, this one was going to give her a headache for sure.
“Stop! Just Stop! Who do I have to find” she asked.
The priest stopped and looked at her bewildered. “You don’t know?”
“I’m the finder of lost objects not all seeing and all knowing, for that you need that god up north in the desert. Who is missing?”
“The sca.. sca.. sca..Raaab...” and he let out a horrible wail.
“Okay, where was he last seen?” Trying to remain calm and stopping the urge to grab the man by his hair and shake him.
The man stopped, “I don’t know. We only see him twice a year, the rest we don’t even bother with and just assume he does whatever it is he does.” The man looked at her as if he had been confused by the question.
“So the scarab is very important to you only when you want to use him for something?"
She looked at the priest with a stern look.
“Oh, yeah, well, I guess.” The priest was looking at his feet rather guiltily.
For she knew the priest thought if the scarab couldn't be found there would be no solstice for the scarab was charged with rolling the earth around the sun and changing the seasons and it was solstice eve.
The priest said he had looked in all the usual places, His spot down by the river, a sunny place he liked in front of Ra’s Temple on Temple Row and he was getting tired.
“And now you have decided you just HAVE to find him?
“And you couldn’t have bothered to ask him nicely a few days ago if he was ready?
“Uhhh, I guess.”
“Well, you are in luck because I happen to know where he is.”
“You do? And you couldn’t just tell me?”
“No, I could’t. You only act like he’s important twice a year and the rest of the time he works hard for you to turn the world around and he’s tired and he wants you to appreciate him. Just because he's rolling around a big ball of poop and doesn't smell so hot doesn't mean he doesn't need love. Do you think the priests could be his friend all year round because I’m not telling you where he is if you aren’t going to be nicer to him.”
BunniHoTeo knew exactly where the scarab was and had no intention of telling this fool where he was until he said yes because the scarab wasn’t lost at all. He was having tea like he did every afternoon with Ammit and they should have known it. Ammit appreciated people who were a bit different after all she was a bit different.
The priest looked properly chastened. It really hadn't occurred to him that the scarab might be tired or lonely. And he liked the scarab so he knew it should have occured to him.
"What do I need to do?" The priest asked because he really was a nice fellow if a bit self centered.
"The scarab is having tea with Ammit and I think you should go down there and ask nicely if you can join them AND if they let you, have tea and get to know both of them. Then and only then may you ask him to help the sun return at solstice."
The priest looked uncertain, "uh, okay... Do you think it will work?"
"One can only try and do you really want to risk Ra being mad because the Sun didn't return?"
"No," he yelled over his shoulder as he took off running toward Ammit's house by the Nile.
BunniHotep nodded and returned to the garden to study the insides of her eyelids again. All was well and it was almost time to go light the Solstice welcome candles.
Once upon a time a ship made its way into the harbor at the top of the Nile. It was visiting this harbor for a second time. The first time was after a mighty storm had brought them but this time they weren’t going to make it all the way home for their holiday and decided to visit BunniHoTep and spend it with her.
The ship nosed itself into the dock and a red haired little girl leapt off the dock and went streaking for a small temple at the end of Temple Row. Sesi flew like an arrow launched from one of her father’s bows along the avenue. She ran into the Temple looking around her for her friend. Where was she?
BunniHoTep was in her garden because here in the south they were still growing things in the garden. Her lovely pink lotuses towered over her by the edge of the pond and the papyruses nodded their heads in the slight breeze that was passing through. A late bunch of carrots were showing their shoulders in the garden patch as well as a nice crop of beets and cabbage and some leafy lettuce was starting up in the far bed. All in all it was a lovely big cornucopia of food and she was proud of it. Into this pond of calm came whirlwind Sesi who scooped the tiny goddess up and whirled her around making BunniHoTep quiet dizzy. One does not normally take physical liberties with a goddess even a small rabbit goddess so I guess it can be forgiven that BunniHoTep was confused for a moment.
“Sesi! Put me down.” BunniHoTep yelled.
Sesi dropped the goddess gently by the lotus pool.
“What are you doing here? You’re a long way from your island home, aren’t you?”
Sesi giggled. “Yes, but we couldn’t get back home before our holiday so I asked Mathair and Athair if we could spend it with you! We’ll head home right after!” Sesi was dancing up and down with excitement. She knew BunniHoTep would love it.
BunniHoTep was looking at her quite confused. “What holiday? We don’t have a holiday today”
“No but we do and it’s our New Year and you should spend it with good friends and people you love and you saved me and I missed you so we are here to spend it with you.” Sesi smiled at BunniHoTep but BunniHoTep still didn’t understand.
“We have a festival for Bast tomorrow and I usually watch her latest batch of kittens so she can party with Sekmet but it isn’t New Year’s for us.” BunniHoTep said.
“No, we have a feast for our dead on the days that are halfway between the equinox and winter solstice. It’s called Samhain.” BunniHoTep frowned at the strange word but didn’t interrupt. “That’s our new year and it’s when the dead come visit and we set the table for them and the faeries come and we bring in the last harvest and we eat and tell stories for 3 whole days and, and, and.” The words, as usual were flooding out of Sesi.
“Stop! What’s this about your dead coming to visit? The dead don’t visit us here on the Nile, we like our dead to stay dead in their tombs where we put them so they can prepare for their re-birth.” BunniHoTep looked at the little girl a bit apprehensively by now Sesi’s mother and father and siblings had caught up with the little girl. Sesi’s father picked her up and said. “Maybe we had better explain our holiday to BunniHoTep? She might not like all our customs.” He said raising an eyebrow at his daughter. “Maybe we can talk a bit before we ask her to join us?” and he lead the way over to the bench.
“We don’t treat our dead the way you do here.” He started stopped looking at BunniHoTep for a sign he should continue. BunniHoTep motioned for him to go on. So he did.
“Our dead stay with us and advise us after they are dead. We don’t mummify our dead we cremate them and keep their heads.” BunniHoTep looked a bit upset at this so he hurried on.
“Don’t worry they are at home where they belong in their niches.” He explained. “We’ll do something different this year, normally we invite them to our feast and we tell stories and treat them as if they were still here and let them know that they are still loved and remembered.”
BunniHoTep nodded. “I can understand that. When someone dies you miss them terribly it must be comforting.” And she motioned him to continue.
“We sometimes take them around to places they remember and also to scare any of the Fair Folk away that might have bad intentions.”
“Fair Folk?” BunniHoTep inquired.
“Beings that live in our country who can be mischievous and not always have our best interests at heart and at this time of year can lead them away and the people may never be seen again. They can drag you to live under our hills. They like creative humans and it’s best to keep away from them. They don’t always understand the love of families for each other.”
“All right, I’d love to celebrate your holiday with you but no heads traveling around here without their bodies, in fact no spirits at all. Can you honour them without that? I don’t want to be explaining to Ma’at why there are spirits around she hasn’t judged and it would confuse Ammit terribly and I don’t even want to know what Anubis would say.” BunniHoTep shuddered. She thought explaining to Isis would be bad enough but she thought Nepthys would understand.
“So what do we need to do?” BunniHoTep asked. “Get ready for a feast and a night of story telling?”
“Exactly.” Said Sesi’s dad and they went into the Temple. BunniHoTep calling for her priestesses and sending the running to harvest the vegetables and start one of their lovely soups for dinner. Other priestesses were sent to set tables in the big temple chamber. They were airing the linens and beating the carpets that all would sit on. The Temple became beehive of activity. The smells of honeycakes and rich, warm cooking smells were found throughout the Temple and BunniHoTep couldn’t take it anymore so she took them for a tour of Temple Row and to see the eternal flame they had taught her about last time that resided in Isis’ Temple.
She was also trying to think of a way for them to honour their dead with out those nasty skulls. The very thought made BunniHoTep tremble but she was starting to have an idea that might work. Sesi’s family had contributed some vegetables to the feast from the place they came from and she has seen something that gave her an idea.
They walked around a long time and BunniHoTep suggested they all take a nap before dinner in the cool chambers of the Temple. They just weren’t used to the heat of an Egyptian day.
So while her guests were napping BunniHoTep went to work. She selected what she needed from what they had brought and took it to her workroom and set about it. She tried several different ways until she found one she liked and she was very pleased with it. She just hoped they would like it too.
Soon it was nightfall and time for the feast. After the gods and goddesses had been thanked for their presence and they had given prayers of thanks for the food, BunniHoTep brought out her creation from under the low table and placed it carefully at a place setting she had made. “I know you don’t have your family here to have a meal with us but I was hoping this might do.” She unveiled her creation. The family stared and then started to cheer and laugh and BunniHoTep relaxed. This was going to work after all.
BunniHoTep had taken a vegetable they called a turnip and had hollowed it out and carefully carved a face in it that looked a lot like Sesi’s father. She had carefully placed a tiny candle and put the top back on. It sat at its place glowing with a pleasant smile like it was bestowing a blessing on all that were at the feast.
Sesi’s family thought this was an admirable solution to what had seemed a big problem. The feast went on and when the celebration was over they family headed back to their ship in the harbor. Sesi clutching the turnip carefully so that it shown their way home.
Sesi’s parents thanked BunniHoTep immensely. It was a kind gesture to a family missing their loved ones and quite frankly, a lot cheerier than having Uncle Hamish at the table.
And so the Jack O’ Lantern was born in a land far away. Bet you didn’t know it came from a bunny.
It was Aisling’s moon with the healers. The students in the village alternated though all the disciplines every month when they were first beginning, to see where they fit in the best and to see what they might like to do. Some of the teachers were glad that months were short when Aisling turn came. She didn’t mean to mess things up sometimes things just happened. And because she had a good heart and always kept trying to do well they didn’t really mind that much.
Aisling didn’t really enjoy when her month with the time with the healers came. They didn’t let her near anyone who was really sick except to take the nasty things away to latrines or the things like bandages to be burned. She got to have all the bad smells but not to help anyone get well.
She knew that when she was older and stronger that would change but now she spent the month running around with things that smelled really bad and looked really nasty. Yuck!
She wished she could be like the Chief Healer. The Chief Healer always seemed calm. She glided into a room and people who had been upset just calmed right down. You always felt better when she touched you. Aisling had no idea how she did that just that she did. She was always peaceful which Aisling supposed was useful when other people were running around yelling when someone was hurt. Ailsing knew she didn’t have that quality. She had just the opposite. Aisling walked into a room and some people got upset.
The Chief Bard was still giving her the evil eye after the Raven incident and that wasn’t even her fault! It didn’t help that the Raven had taken to following her around some days. Aisling also knew that the Raven knew that Aisling had nothing shiny enough to bother with but the Chief Bard did. He walked around glittering in gold sometimes and it was all she could do to convince Raven to leave the Bard alone. It was really hard when he walked around in ceremony shaking the silver bough with those shiny tinkling bells. And it also didn’t help that he had really pretty white hair. She knew that sometimes it was almost irresistible to the Raven when she was looking for nesting material. When he had just washed it, it floated in the air like dandelion fluff. She could see the Raven eyeing it with speculation.
Today, as usual she was running around with smelly things. First to the fire where they incinerated the bandages and dirty cloths, gross! And then to the latrines to dump basins, more gross! And now she was stirring something that the Herbalist had made for someone and it smelled really, really bad, really really gross! She just knew the smell was going to stick to her and make her hair stink and she’d have to go dunk herself in the stream or be dragged to the bath house when everyone else was done. Cold water! Brrr!
An older woman had been brought to the Healers from a nearby village and was very ill. Aisling worried about her. She had a very kind face and she got a lot of visitors during the day but at night she sat propped up and looking like she wanted to be doing something, anything. It was late afternoon now and all her visitors had gone home awhile ago. She was her village’s Druid and if she was anything like the Chief Druid the inactivity was driving her nuts.
The Healers area was divided up in several small cottages and one big long one. Special guests and those that had to be kept separate got the small cottages and the sick Druidess was alone in one of the cottages just big enough for one. Aisling could see the Raven sitting over the door and she hoped it wasn’t about to do something naughty.
The Raven hopped closer to the door and twisted to see if Aisling was watching and scooted through the door and grabbed what she had been eyeing from the table by the bed and flew straight at the door.
“NOOOOOOOOOO!” Aisling shouted and dove for the bird to block Raven’s way. Aisling grabbed the silver circlet from the bird. “No! You can’t do that to guests.”
The Druidess in the bed was shaking with laughter. “That’s the best thing I’ve seen all day!” She was laughing so hard she was crying. This really alarmed Aisling. Darn bird! She was in trouble now!
The Druidess motioned for Aisling to sit by her bed. “So are you the one they say is always in trouble?” the Druidess asked.
“Yes, but I don’t mean to be. I like helping but today it was that bird who was bad!” Aisling gave the Raven a hard look. The Raven just cocked its head and stared at the circlet that was again on the table next to the Druidess.
Ailsing turned to the bird, “Don’t even think about it!” she scolded. “You get me in enough trouble.”
“Well, that is the best laugh I’ve had since I’ve been here so I thank you Mistress Raven and you too, Aisling!”
“You know my name?”
“It’s kind of hard to miss it the way they’ve been ordering you around today.” The Druidess smiled at Aisling. She had red hair that was faded but very silky looking. Aisling wondered if her hair would look like that someday.
The Druidess pulled out a hazelnut chip biscuit and offered it to the Raven. The Raven grabbed it and flew into the corner and turned her back. She wasn’t going to share it with any one if she could help it. This made both Aisling and the Druidess laugh.
“This is the first time all day I’ve felt like I was getting well, you’re could be a good healer someday, Aisling.”
“I could???” Aisling goggled at her.
“You could.” The Druidess said firmly. “Healing isn’t just smelly potions and bandages and bedpans. Healing is in the heart and you have a good one.” The Druidess pointed firmly at Aisling’s chest. “Don’t let anyone tell you any different. There is more healing in a good laugh with a friend then in the Chief Healer’s whole stock of herbs.”
“You really think so?”
“I do and if you want to be a healer, you will be a good one but wait awhile and find out everything you are good at before you decide. There’s time.”
“Oh..” Aisling said thoughtfully, trying to see herself as the Chief Healer.
“Now, help me to the window. I want to see the sunset and the moon rise.”
Aisling helped the Druidess to the window and they sat comfortably enjoying the colours change.
Once upon a time, things were disappearing all over the village. Aisling was horribly worried that she was going to be blamed but she knew she wasn’t doing it but who was?
First the Chief Druid’s beautiful golden torc had disappeared. Then the Silver branch the bards had on their altar was gone and the Chief Bard was really mad. All that was left was one silver bell. Aisling could hear his booming voice all over the village as he raged. The head Healer was missing her favourite shiny cloak pin that was shaped like a mistletoe leaves and berries.
These were all very special items and some of them were very magical so for them to disappear was a big problem. There had been councils all day and they Chief Bard was threatening to go through everyone’s personal chests! That just wasn’t done! The village depended on trusting everyone there and things were getting bad.
The Teacher had gathered her students and gone into the forest the next morning to have a lesson on sacred woods and their characteristics in wand lore and divination and Aisling already was getting a bit bored on this fine spring morning.
She had been watching a deer and her fawn walk quietly past the group and when they left, she watched the hares that were frolicking in a clearing behind them. It was then she looked up and saw the raven looking at her.
Why was a raven looking at her? She hoped she wasn’t going to have another encounter with another one of the Tuatha De Dannaan that was getting a bit scary. Lugh, Brighid and Airmid were all right but she didn’t think meeting the Morrigan was what she wanted to meet right now. She only saw one raven so maybe that was okay.
The raven stared down at her and was looking her right in the eye with a cocked head. The teacher was talking about the properties of yew versus elder woods and since they both smelled good to her and it was warm in the sun of the clearing Aisling didn’t really care. She was just glad no one was yelling and she wanted to know what that raven was up to.
The raven hopped down the branch still looking at Aisling. Aisling got the distinct feeling that she was supposed to follow the silly bird. The bird flew to the next tree and sat waiting looking at Aisling. Aisling crept away and looked up the tree. The raven flew to the next tree and AIsling followed. This went on until Aisling and the Raven were quite deep in the forest. Aisling was wondering how long this was going to go on when the Raven stopped by her enormous nest. It wasn’t far off the ground and Ailing stood on tiptoe and looked in.
Aisling’s eyes opened wide, there were all the beautiful things that were missing and a lot more, sparkly shells from the beach, shiny agates from the streams, bits of bright cloth that had been stolen from clootie collection tree by a well. The nest was stuffed to the top with things that were precious to someone and she supposed precious to the raven. The raven worriedly hopped down to Aisling with the Bard’s branch in one claw. It was obvious to Aisling the bird knew she was in trouble. The raven dropped the branch in Aisling’s waiting hands and cocked her head.
What was Aisling going to do? If she returned it everyone would be sure she had taken it and demand all the other missing items. This was not good!
The bird hopped back to her nest and pulled out the missing brooch and dropped it to Aisling too.
“Oh, no, you don’t. I’m not being blamed for this.” Aisling said firmly to the bird. “I’ll take responsibility for things I do but I’m not taking the blame for your thievery!”
“I’ll be cleaning up poop in the stable for years because they will be sure I did it!” Aisling shook a finger at the bird.
The Raven stepped worriedly from side to side on the branch and hopped back up and grabbed the Chief Druid’s torc and dropped it on Aisling.
“Nope, I’m still not taking them back for you. If you want to return them YOU have to come with me.”
The Raven jumped in her nest and hunched down.
“They keep telling us about personal responsibility and owning up to our faults. We even had to do a ritual about it. I’m not taking responsibility for something I didn’t do. If you want to return these and stop the yelling, you have to come with me!” Aisling was roaring at the bird. The Raven ducked its head and looked thoughtful and Aisling began to get worried. What is she was yelling at one of the Morrigan? That might be a lot worse than stable duty. Meeting the banshee was scary enough for her.
“How about if you come with me? If we do this together it might not be so bad for both of us?” Aisling asked the bird.
The Raven walked up and down the branch with her head tucked down and her wings stuck out behind her. The Raven looked disturbing like the Chief Ovate when he was thinking about a particularly knotty problem and that made Aisling want to giggle. The Raven looked at Aisling and hopped down the branch towards her looking Aisling right in the eye and then flew and landed on Aisling’s shoulder.
Now what had she done? The bird was enormous and a lot heavier than it looked. The Raven settled in and started to groom Aisling’s hair.
“Hey! Stop that! I said we could do this together. I didn’t tell you I needed a cleaning! I don’t have bugs!”
Aisling headed back to where her class had been. She hoped she hadn’t been gone too long but Aisling got back to the group just as they were collecting their things. The Teacher looked at Aisling and then she looked at the Raven and at what Aisling was carrying in her hands and shook her head.
“Only you, Aisling, only you.” The Teacher laughed and started back.
They got back to the village and walked to the grassy gathering area. The Chief Bard was still yelling. Aisling wondered at his lung power and he lunged at Aisling when he saw what she was holding.
“YEOOOOW!” he shouted holding his head and jumping back. The raven had pecked him sharply on the top of the head and then on his hand.
The Chief Druid was laughing at his colleague. “I think you have been warned.” He said in his mild voice. “I don’t think Aisling is the one who did this.” The Chief Druid was looking at the raven who really was a beautiful bird. She shimmered in the sun with colours of purple and green in her feathers and the raven was looking back at him, daring him to say anything.
The raven hopped down off Aisling’s shoulder onto her forearm and grabbed the torc. She then flew over and dropped it at the Chief Druid’s feet and landed and ducked her head. She should have looked penitent but since she was also looking up with a calculating eye at the Chief Druid this wasn’t quite working. The Chief Druid reached down and picked it up.
“Thank you for returning this, it means a lot to me,” and he bowed to the raven. The raven bowed back. Aisling was amazed. If she had done this the yelling would be deafening. Aisling handed the silver branch to the glowering Chief Bard and then took the brooch to the head Healer who had just arrived.
The raven flew back up to Aisling’s shoulder and settled in against her red hair.
“It seems you solved a mystery and made a new friend. I never know what you’re going to do next but I look forward to learning what it will be.” The Chief Druid motioned to the dining hall. “Isn’t it lunch time? I’m hungry!” and headed off towards the noon meal.
Aisling was sitting on the ground frustrated. She had to finish this assignment so she could help dye eggs for the Spring Feast. Her assignment was a test of herbal knowledge. She liked to grow herbs she just wasn’t always sure she cared what they were used for.
Her teacher had drawn the shape of a person on a hide and now she was supposed to match what herb was good for each part of the body. Her teacher was copying the story of Airmid who laid out the herbs and because her father was jealous of her knowledge he mixed up the herbs so now no one really knew what herbs Airmid had found. Aisling had sat here long enough that she wished Airmid’s father would do the same to her hide.
What really depressed her was this was just the first test. She had to match the herbs as they looked in spring and she would have to do it again in summer and then in fall. And in winter she would have to match their roots. This was a big fat pain in her butt!
She had matched some that were easy. Lungwort was good for lungs, duh! Piss in the bed (Dandelion) was good for, uh, making orange egg dye? No, that was what she wanted to be doing. She had helped the day before to make lots of colours of egg dye. It had been so much fun! For once everything had gone right and they had made lots of colours. That had been a fun way to learn the herbs but she didn’t think her teacher cared that red cabbage made robin’s egg blue or that carrot tops made a really pretty yellow. She had to finish this assignment before she could go have fun again.
Oh, yeah, Piss in the bed was good for clearing the liver. She picked a flower head and blew it all over and made a wish that her brain would work better.
She wondered if the boys who had been sent to watch on the sun come up at Knowth were back yet. If it was then they could have the spring feast. They had left last night but she hadn’t heard any cheering yet from the village.
Today she was just supposed to learn the healing properties of each herb. Next year she would start to learn the magical properties. She was stuck with this hide for a few years. She sighed and picked up some catnip. Catnip was good for sleep and it was good for calming. She placed it by the head. Hawthorn was good for the heart. She put that there.
She studied the hide. She now had it about half full. And she heard the cheering start in the village. Drat! That meant the boys were back and everyone would start dying the eggs the students had been collecting for days. At least the feast wouldn’t be until dinner time.
They had hardboiled the eggs. She had helped cooking the cabbage. She really didn’t like cooking cabbage. It tasted a lot better than it smelled. She knew there would be new lamb to for dinner which made her a little sad. She loved all the lambs but she also liked to eat. She knew the lamb had been properly thanked and blessed by the druids but still one of her lambs was gone.
The Druid that had chosen the lambs had said he would be kind and make sure to do all the right prayers but it still hurt her heart. Sometimes giving thanks for a life you knew was really, really hard. She was glad she hadn’t named any of her sweet babies. But people had to eat and she wondered if the lambs had been sad. Then she started to wonder if the cabbage was sad when it was picked. She had been taught that all things were alive and knowing and the Druids said even the plants were aware. They did seem to know where the best places to grow were and sometimes the best places to hide. She rubbed an arm she had stuck in nettles. It still itched. She carefully picked up the nettle and placed it in an area that was mostly skin. Funny that something that could make you itch was good for hayfever. She moved it near the nose. This wasn’t so bad, maybe. The noise was growing in the village. She sighed again.
Aisling felt someone sit down beside her and looked up. A strange woman with blond hair was sitting there looking at her. The woman spoke, “Where do you want to put this?” Picking up a piece of sage.
Aisling thought a moment and looked at the woman. “The throat.”
The woman nodded and carefully placed the sage down.
The woman was dressed in shades of brown and green and she had a silver circlet made of leaves on her brow. Aisling knew she was important by the circlet and the embroidery on her robes. The woman picked up another herb, this time a piece of milk thistle. The woman looked at Aisling. “How about this one?”
“The liver again or lady parts?” said Aisling thoughtfully.
The woman laughed, “Lady parts?”
Aisling blushed, “Her womb?” The woman nodded.
“Can I ask who you are?” Aisling asked shyly.
“You can ask,” the woman laughed. Aisling looked a bit confused.
“I’m Airmid, couldn’t you guess?” The woman laughed again. “I saw you struggling with my puzzle and couldn’t resist. Want me to help you finish? By the noise in the village, I’m guessing you’d rather be helping welcome spring and dyeing eggs.”
Aisling’s eyes had gotten rounder and rounder. Another Tuath De Danaan visiting! At least this time she hadn’t done anything wrong… she thought.
Airmid’s said, “Let’s finish.” And picked up some red clover. Aisling pointed at an area that was mostly skin.
“It’s for rashes.” Aisling said. She’d had more experience than she liked with salves made of red clover.
They continued until the whole pile of herbs was gone.
Airmid said, “Time for fun?”
“Yes!” and the two new friends headed to the village.
The Littlest Druid was sitting on the stone step outside her stone cottage in the village nursing her wounded finger. It was tightly wrapped in linen and herbs. The healer had bound it up while it was still bleeding and told her to sit with it higher than her heart. So she sat there looking at the spot where it was staining the bandage and trying not to cry because it hurt so much.
All she had been doing was going to feed the ducks. Nothing dangerous or dumb just something she did every morning when she had time. She took her trencher of brown bread and fed the ducks in the duck pond. (In olden times most people didn’t use plates they used pieces of bread for plates and then ate their plates or trenchers.) She loved the ducks and she thought they loved her but maybe they just loved the bread but they always got excited and ran to greet her when she came. She liked that someone liked to see her coming and most of her animal friends always did.
The geese didn’t but then they didn’t really like anyone not even the goose girl that minded them. They had their own pond and area near the entrance to the village because they also were the guards of the village. They were louder and meaner than any dog. Aisling didn’t like them and they didn’t like her. They always came running and hissing at her. She decided she’d stick to the ducks with their soft quacks and their softer feathers.
As she got to the pond she noticed some huge white birds that had no business being in the duck pond. They were a swan and her two almost grown cygnets. The cygnets weren’t very beautiful yet like their mother. They were still covered in a haze of dark grey as well as the white feathers they would have in a few weeks. They just looked dirty.
The mother was so beautiful Aisling decided they must be as nice as the ducks and when the mother came up for some bread with the rest of the ducks, she bit Aisling. She ripped open Aisling’s hand for no reason at all! She had the bread so it wasn’t greed. Aisling was now bleeding heavily from two of her fingers. How mean! And it hurt so much.
Aisling raced to the healer to get her hand bound up. She hadn’t meant any harm. She was just doing what she loved to do and she’d gotten bit! That was just wrong and she started to be afraid. What if those nasty birds stayed? Those were her duck friends and she couldn’t visit them if those scary big swans were there. They were almost as big as she was! They may have been pretty but they were mean.
Aisling sat nursing her hand and scowling and still crying a little. They had been working on animal symbols for weeks now and she decided that the symbolism for swans was all wrong. Whoever thought swan symbolism had never, ever, ever met a swan when they thought that up. Swans were supposed to be symbols of beauty and inspiration for poets and they were supposed to have lovely singing voices. They weren’t supposed to be mean, nasty, scary birds!
She felt someone sit down beside her and looked up. It was the Chief Druid settling his robe around himself.
“What happened?” He asked taking Aisling’s bandaged hand in his lap, somehow it felt better just because he held it gently.
“There are some nasty, mean, ugly, big swans down in the duck pond. I went to feed my friends, the ducks, and the mama swan bit me and I wasn’t even doing anything. ” Aisling started to cry harder. It was so unfair. She wanted to do a nice thing and that big bird had spoiled it. “They tell us swans are meant to symbolize beauty and grace and inspiration but they are all wrong!”
“Funny thing about symbols. You have to make some meanings up for yourself. Sometimes they come with a meaning that is only a meaning for you and no one else. That’s so when you see it again you get reminded to do something.”
“oh,” Aisling said. “Symbols can have other symbols.” She stopped crying and started to think. Something the Chief Druid knew she would do.
“So, what do you think swans will mean to you?”
Aisling thought a while, “Fear and maybe pain?” She looked up at the Chief Druid.
“And what have you learned about fear and pain?”
“That it’s best to face them or things get bigger and scarier.” Aisling said looking thoughtful.
The Chief Druid stood up and took her good hand. “So what do we need to do?”
“Go back down and feed my friends, the ducks and maybe the swans?” Aisling asked and was sure she didn't want the answer to be "yes".
“I think it’s enough to feed your friends at the moment.”
They got some more bread from the kitchens and went back down to the duck pond. This time the ducks came running first and the swans stayed at the far side of the pond. The Chief Druid and Aisling fed the ducks and Aisling let out the breath she had been holding in fear of getting bit again. She didn’t notice the mama swan heading for her until it was too late and she froze in terror.
“Aisling,” The Chief Druid said sternly. “Breathe deeply and look at her. Hold your hand flat this time. Don’t curl your fingers up at all and stay still.”
The swan came slower this time and Aisling put her hand out even more slowly and made sure it was as flat as she could make it. The swan grabbed the bread and headed off back off to the water gulping the bread.
“Oh! She didn’t hurt me!”
“I think she mistook your fingers for fat, pink worms last time.” The Chief Druid laughed. “What did you learn?” He asked.
“That maybe sometimes things seem scarier than they really are. And that if you have help it’s not as scary?”
The Chief Druid nodded, “Very good, anything else?”
“Now the swan means something only to me and that next time I see a swan I should ask myself if I’m afraid of anything I need to face. And that it’s okay to have help?”
“I think that’s pretty good for today.”
And the two friends fed the ducks until all the bread was gone and walked back into the village
Once upon a time the Littlest Druid had to go into the forest near the village. She really didn’t mind. It was calm and cool in the forest and she loved visiting it. She never seemed to get in trouble there. She liked that it felt like home to her. It felt friendly and she never felt lost there.
Today Airmid, the herbalist had assigned her to collect leaves from as many of the sacred trees as she could find. She hummed as she wandered through the woods. She already had oak, ash, hawthorn, rowan and hazel, and was heading for the pond in the center of the forest where she knew there were willows and reeds. She was saying the properties of the leaves in her head. Oak is for strength and protection and it was a gateway. Ash linked the inner world to the outer world. Hawthorn was chastity, cleansing and more protection. As she was saying this the woods the woods got a little darker and a little stranger until she came to a clearing she had never seen before.
It was huge and scattered with trees that looked like they were holding up the sky in a giant building except she could see the sky high over head. The bluest of summer skies, it was beautiful. Amongst the trees were pools of varying sizes and shapes and one large one out in the middle of the clearing. She couldn’t see what was feeding the pools. There was no stream running into the clearing that she could see. This was a very strange place and she had never seen it before on any of her rambles through the woods before. How strange?
She noticed that there were berry bushes around the outside and flowers dotted the forest floor and she stood and gazed at the wonderful sight. She didn’t notice the man seated in a throne like rock in the center until he spoke. “Welcome and enter, Aisling, child of the forest.
Startled she looked at the man. She assumed he was a man, he had a man’s voice but he certainly didn’t look like a man. He was covered in leaves. As she walked closer she noticed he even had leaves for a beard and eyebrows. He looked really funny but he also looked kind and wise. Even his clothes were made of leaves and they looked like all the leaves of the sacred trees she was supposed to be collecting. She hoped Airmid wasn’t planning on having her make a tunic like this. She knew that she could never copy something this wonderful and magical. She was afraid she was being rude and staring so she looked at the nearest pool.
“Come, come and sit by me.” The man said and motioned to a rock cushioned with moss.
Aisling made her way through the pools looking at all the flowers as she went. She noticed that there were all sorts of forest creatures around. There were squirrels and badgers, hedgehogs and bunnies, foxes and a large white wolf, all at peace with each other. Aisling was beginning to feel very small and very out of place and very out of her world. She made her way over to the rock and sat down and looked at the man closely. He was all varying shades of green and brown and one minute faded into the background and the next he was vibrant and alive like the most beautiful summer day.
She also noticed he had beautiful kind brown eyes but she had a feeling they didn’t always look so kind.
“Madainn mhath,” she said carefully. She thought it was still morning anyway and she wanted to be polite and wish a good one.
“Madainn mhath,” the man said back, “I’ve been waiting for you.”
“Waiting for me??!” squeaked Aisling. She wasn’t sure she liked the sound of that. Although she didn’t think she had done anything wrong. This man was a bit frightening and she could feel the power around him.
“Yes, waiting for you. You didn’t find your way here by accident. I called you.”
“Called me?? Whatever for?” Aisling was scared she had really messed up and this was obviously not a shepherd living in the forest.
“Because I’ve been waiting for someone kind. Someone who loves the forest and all it’s creatures as much as I do and I think you do.” The man said quietly looking at Aisling with a questioning look.
“Oh, I do love the forest. I love it even when there is rain or lightening or wind. When the sun shines through and when it doesn’t when it smells of flowers in spring and when it smells of rotting leaves in fall. It always feels friendly to me. It’s the one place that does.”
“And you don’t get in trouble here,” the man laughed.
Aisling was uncomfortable, so he even knew about that but it didn’t seem to bother him at all so she relaxed.
“Do you know who I am?”
Aisling shook her head, suddenly very shy.
“I’m the one they call the Green Man. I’m as old as the first tree and so old I’ve even forgotten my name if I ever had one. I needed to see who loved the forest so much that I could feel it the minute you entered my forest. I need to see who one of my next protectors would be.”
Now Aisling was really confused. Protectors? She was going to protect him?
“Protect you?” Aisling cried.
“No. Protect my forest and my friends.” He waved his hand indicating the whole woods.
“Every generation I choose a human to be my lands protector and you are the one I choose. You are strong and kind. You love the trees and the animals. You are curious and you will be a great protector for my land.” Said the Green Man.
Aisling felt a glow start from deep in her heart. This person thought good things about her. Nobody but the Arch Druid and her teacher ever said good things about her and she could feel that he felt all those things to be true. Aisling wanted more than anything for them to be true.
The Green Man reached down into the large pool and scooped up some water. He swiftly touched the top of her head, her forehead, her lips and her heart. “Be one with all that lives here. Be one with all that grows here, Be one with my heart and most of all be one with yourself.” The Green Man stood and smiled at her.
“Come let me show you my woods.” The Green Man reached down and took her hand and they started to walk around the pools.
That was the last thing Aisling remembered until she found herself walking out of the wood with a basket with one leaf from every one of the sacred trees. She felt like her head was going to burst and she couldn’t remember learning all the things that were now crowding her brain. She looked down at her tunic and around her neck was a silver oak leaf on a thong. Where had she gotten that?
She left the forest and noticed that it was almost noon. She felt like she had been gone for days and it was still morning. She didn’t know if what had happened was real and if it wasn’t for the silver leaf and the basket she would have thought she dreamed it.
She heard a noise from above and two squirrels dropped an acorn on her head and sounded like they were laughing. She picked up the acorn and decided it was time to talk to the Arch Druid and headed down the path.