As Nola drove home she thought about hearing, if you could call it hearing, Meana say, ‘I am happy he is here for you.’ Here for her. Yes, he was here for her. He was a new student and like all new students demanding and invigorating. There was something about teaching that always gave back to the teacher. She was there for him, but when Meana had said he was there for her, it had been less comforting than disconcerting which was odd because she had specifically asked the universe for a male student.
Meana was her Watcher, the Grigori who had adopted her, taken special interest. Meana had helped her cultivate her softer, warmer more feminine side and had taught her that there was strength there as well. Meana had been the Watcher who was closest in some very difficult times. Tago was foundation, the order and control. He saw what she was capable of and when he entered the circle it was as if to remind her of this, to hold the bar up or raise it and say, ‘Yes, I still watch.’ He had not rejected or ignored Owen. He acknowledged him as one of his own and he watched. Bellaria was the Grigori with whom she shared a natural affinity. There were no real lessons to for Bellaria to teach because Nola shared her passion for knowledge so Bellaria watched and encouraged as she explored. Nola sensed that Bellaria felt that same alignment with Owen’s easy, facile mind. Settrano was all passion and excitement and fury when needed. He had seen in Nola a kindred spirit. He still wished that she would have more fun; but had been reminded by the other Grigori that Nola had different lessons to learn first and that her natural alignment with his capacity for intensity was enough for now.
The Grigori were said to be beyond gender. But she found that despite this teaching she still thought of them as masculine and feminine. She supposed it was her failing that caused her to think of them as male or female and refer to them as he or she. The best she had been able to do was to envision a male Bellario and a female Taga or Settrana, feminine but with the same aspects as the counterpoints that showed up when she cast a circle, and sometimes even when she didn’t. The Grigori had a unique place in her tradition. The closest analogy was to the Christian angels. She supposed that Meana was the closest thing she’d ever have of a guardian angel. But she really didn’t think of Meana that way. She thought of Meana as a teacher and guide, non-corporeal but there none the less. Sometimes when she thought about this too hard, it seemed ridiculous. But there it was. And now Owen was introduced. It would be interesting to see what experiences he would have.
Owen stood in the driveway as she left and then looked up at the stars and wondered if the Grigori were really up there “watching”. It was a little weird when you thought about it, like a space ship with the ability to take sensor readings on Streghe. He shook his head and wished that she could have stayed. He would have like to have spent more time talking about… well everything. He hoped she would be able to come back this weekend.
The Grigori watched. Meana said, “It is good she has someone who feels and does not hold back or doubt his heart.” Bellaria said, “They both have interesting minds and together they think endlessly and robustly, it is pleasant and encouraging.” Settrano said, “Now he needs to let go and have fun and do what his passion tells him to do, instead of what he feels obligated to do”. Tago said, “Remember, we watch.”
Owen seemed to prefer phone calls to email so despite her resistance to the thing she contacted him from her cell phone to let him know that they were getting a tree Friday evening and that Jamie had invited her friends over to decorate it with her on Saturday and that they had been enlisted to help Jamie’s grandmother do the same on Sunday. “I’m sorry Owen, but I won’t be able to see you until Thursday.”
Owen was disappointed but managed not to let it show up in his voice, “Oh well, then what time should I expect you on Thursday?”
Nola said, “Around 8PM? I have to wait for James to get home from work. I’d rather not leave Jamie by herself. Is that too late?”
“Nope, not too late, I’ll see you then.”
Owen was again waiting for her outside. December weather in New Orleans could be mild and tonight was one of those perfect nights. When she drove up he opened the gate for her so she was able to drive right in. He met her as she was opening the truck door.
“Well, that’s service. Thank you, very much Owen.”
“I can’t leave my teacher on the street in the dark, now can I?” and then he handed her a small black box with buttons on it. “Here, keep this in your truck.”
“What is it?”
“It’s a remote to open the gate. This way I’ll know that you can always get in off of the street.”
“Hmmm, thank you….” She said, not sure she wanted to take it, “but are you sure that this can stay in the car and not bake in our summer heat?”
“Well I think it’s a good sign that you think that you’ll still be working with me in the summer. But yes, it will be fine. I keep mine in my truck and I haven’t had any problems with it.”
And realizing that she really didn’t have a good reason to say no, she said, “OK.” and put it in the truck’s center console.
As she did this he was looking in the truck bed and said, “No props tonight?”
And she smiled and raised her eyebrow at him and said, “No, tonight I thought we’d go over our mythos, our story of the Wheel of the Year in preparation for the Winter Solstice ritual. Unless you have burning issues or questions we need to cover first?”
“No burning issues or questions…, the mythos sounds like a good idea. It’s such a cool beautiful night, what if we were to sit out on the back porch?”
“OK, sure, that’s fine.”
He lead her into the kitchen where there were 2 glasses out on the counter and poured them some wine. It was a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Nola raised her glass and said, “To seeking and learning.” She swirled the wine in the glass and took in the fragrance before she took a sip and closed her eyes. Owen smiled and thought that he could become a wine connoisseur just so he could watch her drink new wines. She opened her eyes and said “ummm, tart, sweet, with a hint of flowers and grapefruit, it is clean taste means it’s was probably grown in hard slate soil. Yummy…. Owen you can choose wine for me anytime. Thank you.”
“Wow, how do you know so much about wine.”
“hmm? I don’t.’
“What do you mean ‘I don’t’. Flowers, grapefruit, clean, hard slate? And he looked at her as if to say, ‘Excuse me, but yes you do!’
“Well it’s just what I think. I could be wrong. I just took a sip. I think it’s good. Someone else could think it’s not.”
“Oh no, you can’t get off the hook that easy. Look at this description ‘Fragrant and complex, with a refreshing burst of lime, guava, grapefruit and grass flavors. Wet stone, passion fruit and oyster shell accents add interest, with bright acidity highlighting the vivid finish.’ ”
”Well, that’s not exactly what I said, and it’s not hard to taste the citrus in the wine and the clean taste is obvious too.”
“OK so you and Wine Spectator agree. But you haven’t answered my question. How do you know so much about wine?”
She looked at him from over the top of her glass, “From drinking it?”
He smiled at her and shook his head. “OK, obviously you have to drink it to know something about it.” Then raised his own eyebrows as if to say, ‘you still didn’t answer the question.’
“Jeezz, I don’t know. Give me a minute.”
And while he waited he took a sip of his wine and tried to taste what she tasted in it. He had to admit it was good.
She took another sip and then said, “My father died when I was 14. My mother, who had been a stay at home mom, had to go to work because we were 2 steps from the poor house.”
And he thought, for a story about how she knows about wine, this is a very strange beginning. “She went to work at the ship yard where my father had been a welder. There she met a German naval architect. They became an item and he made her very happy. Europeans drink wine. Lots more than we Americans do. So we had wine whenever he came to the house and he came to the house most weekends. He brought his European friends. They brought wine too. I was a teenager and I got to sit at the table and sip wine and listen to Europeans talk about wine. The French talked about French wines and the Germans talked about German wines and then each of them talked about what they liked about whatever wine they had brought to dinner that weekend. It was an experience and an education. I learned to sip and to listen to the wine. I learned about ‘terroir’.
"No Terroir. It’s French. It translates loosely into ‘sense of place’. It’s about how the climate and the soil influence the wine’s flavor. My geology background probably helps too. Geologists taste rocks.”
“Geologists can tell the clay content of rocks by tasting small bits of the sedimentary rock and feeling the clay content. I discovered that just like those Europeans had talked about terrior, the rock’s flavor told you something about the mineral content. It’s really all the same thing. It’s my basic, boring, scientific tendencies that make me pay attention to the data available to help determine history, content and connections. I guess in some ways wine tasting is something else I’ve come to do without thinking about it.”
He just looked at her and said, “Woman, your tendencies are anything but boring.”
And she looked into her wine glass and he could see that he was making her uncomfortable. So he grabbed the wine bucket and said, “Well let’s take this wine and go outside and you can start on the mythos.”
She reached for the manual as he pushed the back door open and she went out on to the porch. It was cool but not too cold. He dropped the wine bucket on the table and then lit the citronella candles for light instead of the more common bug control. There was just enough light for it to be cozy and comfortable. She decided to sit on the large practically twin bed sized porch swing with the large comfortable cushion thinking that it would keep her from getting cold.
He sat on one end and she sat on the other. The swing rocked ever so gently.
She said, “I think this is the largest porch swing I’ve ever seen. It’s comfortable.”
“Yes it is. It came with the house. I’ve always liked it. It’s one of the few pieces of furniture that fits my frame.”
And she smiled at him and took another sip of her wine and said, “Now I need to figure out where to start.”
“The beginning?” He said smiling at her.
She smiled back and said mysteriously, “Where is the beginning and where is the end? The pagan year is often referred to as the Wheel of the Year. Wheel. Circle. Endless. Is the beginning in the Spring when everything is new? Is the beginning at Winter Solstice when the light returns?”
He took another sip and she continued. “Officially our year starts at Shadowfest, Halloween. But I’ve always felt like the new year didn’t have a starting day, but a window of time over which the world reset itself for a new beginning. But it doesn’t happen all at once in a frenetic rush like our modern holidays. It takes its time and sets us up for new beginnings. This period starts right after Autumn Equinox and culminates at the Winter Solstice. You can’t really understand our version of the Winter Solstice without going back to the Autumn Equinox. At the Autumn Equinox the God dies. This is also one of the two points in the solar year when day and night are equal. If you looked at it from a purely scientific perspective you could say the sun and therefore the God started dying at the Summer Solstice as this is when the days start to get shorter. But anyone who has ever been through a summer in New Orleans would never say that the sun begins to wane in June. For us the hope of a break in the heat comes in September at the Autumn Equinox." She stopped and took another sip of her wine. He was still waiting for more so she went on.
“After the God dies at the Equinox the Goddess yearns for him. So she descends into the underworld at Shadowfest to find her consort and love, the God. There they meet and love anew. The Goddess realizes that she has become pregnant with the God’s seed and the God teaches her that death is not the end, that there is the cycle of rebirth. Shadowfest is also when the Goddess turns her reign over to the God.”
She stopped thinking he must have questions or something to say. But he was just sitting and waiting for more, like a sponge. Bellaria must be pleased. And Nola heard her whisper…. ‘Yes, go on.’ So she did. “At the Winter Solstice the Goddess, still in the underworld and in the presence of the Grigori, gives birth to the God, to Janus of 2 faces, to Lupercus, the wolf god and Kern, the stag god. The Grigori take the new born sun god from the underworld to the world.”
And Owen said, “The birth of the son, who will save the world.”
And she nodded, “The common thread of this myth is woven in many cultures. Christianity is but the last in a long line. The Winter Solstice and the return of the sun to the world, was one of the first things I taught my daughter when she was barely 2 years old. It was self defense on my part, a way to get something in her head before the common Christian mythos got to her.” She smiled and said, “Thankfully, it seems to have worked.”
He seemed deep in thought so she waited.
Finally he seemed to come back to himself and said, “So, no Oak King, no Holly King?”
“Nope, that mythos always seemed, to me, less than fully developed, or perhaps something has gotten lost over time.”
“You know I always struggled with it too.”
“Lupercus and Kern are a bit like the Oak and Holly Kings of Wicca, except that the switch takes place at the Equinoxes instead of the Solstices. Lupercus starts his reign in the waning year from Autumn Equinox until the Spring Equinox when he is killed. Kern starts his reign in the waxing year from the Spring Equinox until he dies at the Autumn Equinox. There is still a transition from one god form to another and the transition still takes place at death. But the transition takes place when the day and night are equal because the gods are equal halves of the whole.
“But how can Lupercus reign at the Equinox before he is born at the Solstice?”
“Huh, Lunar thinking? What is that?”
“It’s just the words that were used to describe the fact that it is not logical in linear time sense.”
“Sorry, I still don’t get it.”
She smiled him, “Don’t worry, no one does at first or we wouldn’t have the term ‘Lunar Thinking’. He still looked dubious but she went on. "At the Winter Solstice we have Dis, the Lord of the Underworld, Janus the God of 2 faces. The God has to have lived as Janus so that he can die and be Dis, Lord of the Underworld. Janus is both Lupercus and Kern. The God has to be in the picture so he can impregnate the Goddess. He is both her son and lover. The wheel of the year isn’t just cyclical, round and round. The wheel is a spiral. It has been and it will be again but not exactly the same as before. Each year, each season we have the option to learn something new from the experience. The many aspects of the God, or Goddess for that matter, exist simultaneously. It is not purely linear. It’s lunar.”
He looked like he almost got it but also like he wasn’t complete sure. She said, “Are you a Star Trek fan?”
“Where did that come from?”
“Work with me here. Are you a Star Trek fan?”
“Yes, I’ve followed all of the series. My nephew Eric, grew up on Voyager. My middle brother Ryan, Eric’s dad, is a bigger fan than I am. They have all the DVDs. Sometimes Eric would insist that we get together at Ryan's house and have marathons.”
“Well then, I’d probably like Eric and his dad Ryan. Do you remember the first episode of Deep Space Nine and the baseball analogy, where Captain Sisko is trying to explain to the wormhole prophets about linear time?”
“I’m going to have to bring our DVD of this so that you can watch it as homework. But for now, you’ll have to trust me when I say that the key is for you to accept that ‘it is not linear.’ Lupercus can reign because the God exists. Lupercus is just one aspect of the God. Lupercus and Kern are twin Gods, equal halves of the whole. It’s mythos Owen, not science, remember. Some of this is metaphorical. Even science has quantum mechanics which essentially says all possibilities exist simultaneously.” She smiled, “Don’t try so hard and it will come to you. Let’s take a break, your brow is furrowed.”
When she returned he was standing looking out into the backyard. She got their glasses refilled them and handed him his. As he took it from her he said, “So you’re a Star Trek fan?”
“Yes, We have all the DVDs of all the Trek series. I raised my daughter on Voyager. We’ve watched the Voyager series straight through at least 5 times. I love the universe that Gene Rodenberry created, with all its hope and possibilities. Star Trek is a perfect mythos for a scientist. A mythos is simply a way of looking at the world and exploring its possibilities, whether it’s Star Trek or the Oak & Holly King or Lupercus & Kern or the duality of God & Goddess.”
“But as a strega you believe that Lupercus, the God and Goddess are real.”
“You will believe that Lupercus is real or at least feel his energies once you do a Lupercus ritual. It’s pretty powerful stuff.”
She looked at him and said, “I was planning to work our way around the wheel tonight, but perhaps I should go and give you time to think about it.”
That snapped him out of it. He turned and said, “No stay,” and escorted her back to the cushioned swing. Without thinking about it he turned the full force of his personality on to her, “I do understand the basic outline and I also understand that it is mystical and not scientific, I just can tell that I don’t feel it like you do and I want to.” And Settrano smiled and winked at Bellaria. And Meana just smiled.
She felt his intensity. And then gathered herself, sat back down on the porch swing and continued. “The next ritual in the wheel of the year is Lupercus, the 2nd of February. This is a ritual that is all about connecting with our wild and primal energies via the wolf god. It is perfect for the young adolescent god, just born at the Winter Solstice. I think of it as the time where we purify ourselves from the cares and woes of our modern, developed world and return to our ancient primal selves. It’s one of my favorite holidays, I especially the idea of romping around like wolves and howling is great release even when it isn’t Lupercus.
He said, “You howl?” and sat back down on the swing with her.
“Oh yes.” She took a sip of wine. He still had a bit of an incredulous look on his face. “Once when my daughter was very young, we were rushing to get ready, showers, shampooing hair, getting soap in her eyes, combing out the tangles. I was stressed from my day at work and she was stressed by the pain of soap in her eyes. I’m afraid I wasn’t as sympathetic as I could have been and told her she sounded like a howling wolf. Then I got an idea and said, let’s go ahead and howl like wolves and I howled. And she was just young enough to try it. We ended up laughing and all the cares and woes fell away. That’s the essence of Lupercus.”
“You taught your 2 year old to howl.”
“Yep, perhaps everyone should do it. It seemed to significantly cut down on the whining.”
He just shook his head and smiled. She settled back into the swing and continued.
“The next ritual is the Spring Equinox. This is where the new God calls the Goddess to him from the underworld where she has been since Shadowfest and she begins her return and gives us the gift of the desire for life. Here we honor the polarity of the God & Goddess and bless the possibilities of new beginnings. It is said that anything planted at the Spring Equinox will come to fruition at the Autumn Equinox. By May Day, or Lady Day, the Goddess has returned from the underworld and blesses the earth. This is also when the God turns his reign over to the Goddess. Next comes the Summer Solstice, this is where the power the magic of the God & Goddess in their power joins with the spirits of the Earth and the elementals. We honor our connection and dependence on the earth. It is the one ritual where Streghe are charged to do magic to benefit nature and the earth and banish evil. In August we have Cornucopia, where we honor the gifts of the land and God before he dies again at the Autumn Equinox.”
“And round and round we go.”
“Yes and we hopefully spiral upward in our development too. At the Autumn Equinox the God dies and Lupercus takes over again. At Shadowfest the Goddess turns her reign over to the God of the underworld and at Winter Solstice the Sun is born anew. You should read through the mythos again. Every year I learn something new.”
And she shivered because it was edging on toward midnight and the temperature was beginning to drop. He saw this and said, “You’re getting cold. Let’s go inside.”
They dropped their glasses in the kitchen and he walked her to the living room. She sat in the chair. He found a blanket to put over her shoulders.
“Thanks Owen. But if I get too warm and comfortable I’ll fall asleep and not get home tonight.”
And his inside voice said, 'Good, stay.' But what he said instead was, “The mythos is busy with the transitions at the Equinoxes between Lupercus and Kern and the God and Goddess turning over their reign to each other.”
And he grabbed his manual off of the table and sat on the sofa. She watched and waited to see what he was looking up assuming he had a question and was looking for the thing he wanted to ask about.
She settled into the chair and said, “hmm, busy, I never thought of it as busy. But I can see how you might think so. I always thought of it as robust…, fully developed…, complex…., just like life.”
He smiled at her and realized just how tired she was. So he sat quietly with the manual and wished her off to sleep in his chair and she leaned over in the large overstuffed chair and fell asleep.
She woke not quite an hour later. He was still sitting on the sofa reading and watching her sleep when Meana nudged her. He saw her stir and was smiling at her as she opened her eyes. She looked around and realized quickly were she was and was more than a little embarrassed. “I fell asleep. How embarrassing. What time is it? How long have I been out?”
“About an hour.”
“An hour, you let me sleep for a hour?! Now I’m really embarrassed.”
And he moved to the ottoman and turned his formidable charm on her, “Please don’t be. You obviously needed it. I wanted to make sure that you would be safe driving home. Since you have to leave, I want you to be able to come back.”
She straightened in the chair and looked at him for a minute. “Well I suppose that does make sense, but I’m definitely awake enough to drive home now.”
“When will you come back?”
“A whole week?” and because he looked like a little kid who was told he had to wait to go swimming after having a lunch with ice cream she smiled at him.
“Well no, actually less than a week. It’s already Friday.”
“Ok, and you can’t come back if you don’t leave, right.”
He stood up and held his hands out.
She smiled and reached up and he helped her out of the chair and as he did pulled her into a hug. “Thank you.”
And smiling she said, “Gosh Owen, someone could get lost in one of your hugs.”
He smiled back and walked her to her truck and opened the gate so she could drive home. And Settrano smiled and said "Meana has had her turn now it looks like it's mine."