As Nola drove home she realized that she had meant to show Owen the description Lake Nemi the book Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia and to talk about it. But the lesson had started off so strangely and then ended up no where near where she intended them to be. Meana smiled knowing that it was exactly where they both needed to be. Meana had also realized she had an ally in Papa Eric.
It was late Friday evening Owen had settled in to reread Aradia's Words on the Gods.
“Know that the Gods need our worship even as we need food and drink. Do not think that they serve us, for we are their servants. Therefore do not bargain or demand through prayer or ritual. The gods shall provide that which is needed.”
Nola was right. He had been bargaining and demanding. He knew full well that he did not honor his grandfather when he behaved in ways his grandfather would have told him were unrewarding.
“Do not blame the sorrows of life upon the gods. For it is humankind which creates the despair on Earth.”
I sure did create my own despair didn't I?
“Do not doubt the reality of the gods, for they do exist and are many. They have been since long before people walked upon the Earth. Yet as we are capable of understanding them, they are no older than we. For they are not the personifications, nor the images we establish. But the gods do respond to us through these things. We are linked to them by virtue of our yearning toward a higher nature.”
Well Papa Eric I never doubted you are there for me. But I guess I was missing that bit about yearning toward a higher nature.
“The gods are attracted to our rituals because of the sacred signs that we use, and because of our worship which is vitality. They are attracted by the ritual fires and incense and by the purity of our naked bodies. They give and take the vital essences that we both need, through the power that we raise.”
Hmmm.. what did Nola say? Something about the quality of the energy I was giving off and it not being what would attract his grandfather to him.
“Each god is like us for our ways are but reflections of theirs. Each god has likes and dislikes and must be approached in accordance. Each god is linked to the culture of the people who give worship to it and must be called by appropriate ties.”
Likes and dislikes. I guess I focused on the physical like and dislikes you had and forgot about those other appropriate ties.
“Yet beyond all this are the God and the Goddess who together are the One; herein does the true worship belong.”
Owen closed the book, shut off the lamp and leaned back against the pillows. He drifted off to sleep as he thought about walking the ridgeline.
And Papa Eric was careful this time to speak to him without waking him. "Evening son."
Owen smiled in his sleep and said, "Evening Pop."
"Now that Nola's cleaned up the portal, you have to agree this is a much better way for us to communicate."
"It sure is."
"Nola is some woman."
"What do you think about all those complex levels of relationships she described?"
"I think that it's hard to keep up with how complexly and completely Nola thinks, about everything. Are relationships really as complicated as she said?"
"They certainly can be, son. Especially when you throw, to use Nola's phrase, IN Love, into the fray. Love can be complicated enough but she's right about In Love."
"I've never really been IN love have I pop?"
"Nope son, I don't think you ever have been. You love and love well. You do know how to enjoy your life and you are getting better at it everyday.
With a little help here from my new friend Settrano", and he winked at Settrano. "But you've never been in love."
"Why not, pop?"
"I have some ideas about that but I'm not quite ready to share them just yet."
"Why do you think you haven't Owen?" Meana whispered.
"Maybe because I haven't wanted it as badly as she did. Maybe because haven't asked the universe for it like she has. Maybe because I haven't really been willing to risk it."
And Papa Eric said, "Nola has an interesting, but apparently pretty effective, teaching style."
"Impressed by her huh?" Owen kidded.
"You have no idea, son. You have no idea."
Owen woke refreshed and calm and after the frenetic energy of last week stayed strangely calm and contemplative. He continued to feel that his grandfather's presence was very close. He felt that if he could just be still and listen, what he was looking for would come to him.
It was before 9PM on Wednesday. As Nola drove to Owen's for the Full Moon Ritual she hoped that is was like the one before. Calm, relaxed, flowing, meditative. She felt they both needed it after the odd lesson last week. As she pulled into the driveway she saw Owen open the front door and smile at her and she smiled back thinking, Well, that's a much better start.
He let her through the door, she was holding a small vase of what smelled like mint and looked like daisies, then followed her to the kitchen. She put the vase on the counter as he handed her a glass a Brunello. She smiled at it and him. Was this wine going to become their Veglione wine? "hmm, thank you" and she kissed him lightly.
"The moon is up and making the back yard blue. Do you want to soak up some moonlight?”
"I'd love to. I think I'd like to change into my robe first, ok."
"You do that."
Nola went to the downstairs bathroom and saw that Owen had already taken his robe from the closet. She took off her clothes and hung them in the closet and slipped her robe over her head, tying her cord to her left. She took a few deep breaths to center.
Owen was already in his robe and in the back yard so she met him there.
He took her arm and tucked it under his and they just stood there for a few minutes. They looked at each other and Nola said, "Shall we do the Rite of Union?"
Owen nodded and let her start, before he joined in and they did it together. Once, twice, three times. Just because it felt right.
Then she said, “There is a total eclipse of the moon tonight.”
“I know cool right? It goes total around 9PM.”
“Well, it’s important that you know that tradition says you don’t do Full Moon Rituals when there is an eclipse. Tradition says that energy of the moon as transmitted from stars and sun to the moon and then to the earth is disrupted during an eclipse and there is logic and science behind that view.”
“But we are doing the ritual anyway?” He said a little confused.
“Yes, I was first adopted into the Ways as a Tanara”
“Tanara…” he said partially remembering.
“Yes. Tanara, Janara, Fanara. The 3 Clans in Italy. Star, Moon, Earth?”
“Ah yes I remember reading about that in the manual.”
“Raven’s family is Tanara. I was adopted as Tanara. Raven was later given permission by the Tanara in Italy to create an American Clan. That Clan was called Umbresi and our Patroness was Umbrea, the Goddess of shadows and enchantment. An eclipse is the moon in shadow. In my opinion there is no better time to honor Umbrea than during an eclipse. I was initiated to 3rd on a Dark Moon. My Initiator has a very personal relationship with Umbrea. I do Full Moon Ritual at eclipse in honor of my Initiator and his patroness. But as your teacher it is important I make clear that traditionally a Full Moon Ritual would not be done on the night of an eclipse.”
“Ok, I understand.” And he paused before he said, “You really take teaching the tradition seriously.”
“Very seriously, Owen. It’s and honor and a privilege that I can't take lightly.”
Then she smiled at him and they moved back into the kitchen.
Owen picked up the wine bottle and the cookies and Nola the vase and her purse as they walked to the living room.
As she knelt next to her ritual box and unload the items they would need, Owen said, "Shall I cast the circle again?"
And Nola smiled at him and said, "I'd like that."
He spread the cloth, set the items as appropriate and called to the elementals. He used her blade to lay the circle, then nodded to her so she could get up as they prepared to call the Grigori. The Grigori entered with a strong and immediate presence. Owen rapped the wand on the altar and the circle was cast.
Nola opened the ritual. They charged the wine and drank a toast to Aradia, then they both settled into a comfortable position on pillows on the floor before Nola led them on a meditation. They both knew where they were going.
"It is a beautiful cool pleasant night.... The moon is high in the sky and stars are dense and sparkling.... You make your way slowly down from the gentle ridge of a bowl-like valley... following a small, bubbling stream as you walk along the soft path.... You smell the earthly scent of the oaks and the crisp scent of the pines as you walk along the path... as you step out of the trees you reach a smooth lake... and then slowly make your way to the round temple.... you enter... and stop and do the Rite of Union in front of the God and Goddess statues...... and then you step under the portal in the roof and find the eclipsed moon… You breathe in and out and align yourself with the energy of the moon........ You then leave the temple and make your way up a path that takes you to a high ledge in the side of the bowl-like valley..... You lie down on the ground under the dark moon and bright stars and open yourself up to the universe and all its wonder......
The Grigori were quite pleased and guided each of them where they needed to be.
Papa Eric looked around and said, "Well son, this is as good as our little ridgeline. And Owen said, "Sometimes it can be much better, pop."
"Ah... have you been thinking about our last visit?'
"I have been thinking and trying to be still and listen. It seems to be working."
"You're doing great son. Aren't the stars beautiful?"
Nola met her initiator on the ledge. She thanked him again for the gift of her 3rd degree. And he thanked her for the privilege and they honored the Goddess and the God as priest and priestess.
After what seemed like a long while....Nola's voice broke in as she said... "in the distance you hear the howl of one wolf..... and then the answering calls of others..... you pick yourself up and slowly make your way back..... past the temple.... past the silver lake.... through the oaks and pines .... following the small stream .....up to the top of the rigdeline...... where you return to the world.....
Nola felt Owen’s breathing change so she continued with the Veglia, blessed the cakes and wine. Nola offered the plate with the cookies on it to Owen and took one herself. Doing something so physical and mundane as eating helped bring them back to this world. She took a sip of wine while he ate the cookie with out thinking about. Then she handed him the chalice so he could have some wine and watched while he ate another cookie. She refilled the spirit bowl and relit the flame. Then the both sat quietly and watched the flame. Tago brushed Owen's thoughts and said, "Find a way to do something practical with her." And Meana smiled at Tago knowing that was the way to Nola's heart.
They finished the blessed wine and then Nola gave the Charge and Closing Prayer. When Nola took the spirit blade from the altar, Owen stood up and faced her with his arms open. She stepped into his arms and put the blade to her chest. He pulled her close until the blade was wedged between them and then they hugged gently moving their hands up and down each other's back. While they were charging the blade they kissed softly. As they separated she took the blade in her fingers and placed it on the altar and turned to him and said, "Thank you."
Nola again added spirit fuel to the bowl and relit it. They both watched it for a few minutes. When Nola sensed she had just enough time to take the circle down before the flame went out, she did just that, feeling again that the Grigori were pleased with the ritual.
They had managed to do the ritual at exactly the same time as the full eclipse which was now waning.
She poured more wine into the Chalice and then said, “Let’s go outside and watch the eclipse.”
He nodded, “I love that idea.”
“They sat quietly for awhile in his back yard before she said, "I love the peaceful way that we do the moon ritual. Let's keep all the elements of how we meet at the door, change into robes, do the Rite of Union before we move to the ritual."
And he smiled at her and said, "Ok, I like our wine ritual before the teachings."
She smiled at him and said, "Yes, and thank you for that, it really is a gift."
She got up and running her hand over his shoulder so he wouldn't get up too said, “I’ll be right back.”
He watched the eclipsed moon and waited peacefully until she returned. "I meant to show you this last week". And she opened the book to one of the pages she had marked and read by the small citronella candle he had lit:
"... the road curves, cresting the crater's ridge, and one finds oneself in a world of incredible remoteness and indeed, sacredness, even while the noise of schoolchildren playing has not yet died away. The sanctuary is set in the crater of a small extinct volcano, above a lake that appears almost perfectly round, although a cartographer would show it slightly irregular and oblong. Within the crater the woods are thick and green and birdsong fills the air, and the perfect blue of the lake reflects the sky and the crater's sloping sides.
The old Roman road has, it is true been asphalted, but it still slopes gently down from the crest to skirt the lake, moving away toward the sanctuary at a point where the lake leaves a blunt triangle of level land. To pass over the ridge into the crater is a very real experience of crossing a boundary into
what is still effectively sacred space.
The crater is steep and the lake 30 meters deep, with only a narrow
shoreline. On the northeast side is the one bit of level land beside the
lake, roughly triangular in shape. ... Just to the east beneath the
sheerest rise of stone, a great spring poured from the crater wall and
into the lake. ... The crater is large enough to define a world of its
own but not so large that it invites fragmentation of its interior space
and in this very contained space, the triangular flatland forms a single
The crater is the natural place for a hunting cult. It is the universe
writ small, uniting the three cosmic levels - the earth, the canopy of
the heavens, and, through the depths of the lake and the caves at its
shore, the underworld. It was then, as now, a place of stunning
beauty and peace, sacred and remote. ...
It is a small lake, spring fed, ... As there was no above-ground
outlet, the lake level would have changed according to seasonal rain or
drought although over time such changes would be moderated by the
underground outflows. ...
This triangle, broad across the curve of the lake and narrowing into the crater walls, is where the terrace for the lower sanctuary was eventually built. It resembled the stubby handle embracing the bottom of an Etruscan mirror. On a calm day the lake reflects the sky and the shoreline with shimmering perfection. The Romans, much more attuned to the visual impact of the setting than we can be, called the lake the speclum Dianae.
The crater has its own microclimate. Violent thunderstorms, earthquakes
and thick fogs are all more frequent there then they are in the plains
of Latium beyond. Trees - today chestnuts but in antiquity also beech
and oak - as well as scrub and the larger woody bushes grew thick on the
crater slopes: the area was densely populated with wildlife."
Owen said, "Yes it matches the picture that you've created in my head." And she giggled. He smiled at her and said, "What's funny?"
"When I first read it I was amazed at how closely the authors description matched the picture in my teacher had made in my head a very long time before the book was written."
"Interesting, so your meditation has been passed down from your teacher?"
"Yes and No."
"You like that answer don't you?"
"Well I find it allows me to answer more accurately. Yes, because it is based on a description of a meditation place that my teacher used as a very effective training tool when I was doing so much of my studying via eMail. And No, because I've never experienced anyone ever using anything like what you and I have in a ritual."
"Oh so that is our place?
"Well in a way yes."
"But in a way no, huh?" he grinned at her.
"Well because it is so closely aligned with the actual past and with the place my teacher created for her students, don't be surprised if we occasionally get a visitor."
"Oh! That reminds me." And she looked at him quizzically. "Papa Eric visited me on the ledge.”
“Really? You've met with him again on your ridgeline?"
And he smiled a really big smile before he said, "Well yes and no."
And she giggled back at him before he said, "I've met with Papa Eric on the ridgeline in Pennsylvania, but he was also on the ledge with me tonight."
"Well that is something."
"Someone told me it was all about learning to be still and listen."
She smiled at him again and they watched in silence as the moon slipped from shadow and they finished the bottle of wine.
She shivered in the cool night air and then said,
“Do you mind if we go back inside? I’m getting cold.”
He smiled and said, “Ok.”
She went back to the living room and started collecting items to return them to the ritual box. She packed while he brought the items to her. When she was finished she took the vase toward the mantle and said, "I think since Papa Eric was with you tonight that it is appropriate to leave the flowers on the mantle? What do you think?"
"Sounds good to me, son." And Owen smiled and said, "He'd like that."
Nola placed the flowers on the mantle and brushed her fingers along the edge of frame. Then she turned to Owen and said, "I'll leave 'Roman Religion and the Cult of Diana at Aricia' here for you to read. It is a well constructed and researched book. It’s not actually about the ways, but it has rich history and context on the environment that fostered the ways. I should actually read it again myself. It might be fun if you read it and we talk about it."
"Sounds good. It might be fun to use something other than the manuals."
Nola slipped into the bathroom to change out of her robe. Smiling as she hung it up in his closet. As Owen slipped out of his robe an idea popped in his head. I wonder if Nola has time next week to work on the front yard. The 2 crews are going to be between jobs. Hmmm....
When Owen stepped in the kitchen he was still working out the possibilities for the front yard. Nola saw the look on his face and said, "What are you thinking so hard about?"
"I am wondering if you can make time next week to plan out the front yard, and maybe work with me to decide what plants we need to switch to permculture instead of grass."
"You really want to garden with me?" And Tago actually smiled to Meana.
"Owen I would love to. When do we start?"
"Well that was what I was trying to figure out. The guys are between jobs starting next Tuesday. I'd like to be able to keep them as busy as I can until the next set of jobs start up March 3rd."
"I know I saw a calendar...." and she looked around and found it. "Ah... ok. Hmmmm, what are you doing this weekend?"
He thought so that's the key to getting her to stay around, letting her get her hands in the dirt. "I don't have any firm plans." Then he smiled as he thought well she is a geologist by training.
"Well Jamie has a sleepover on Friday and James is working until late that night. So after I drop her off, I could be all yours."
And Settrano and Papa Eric grinned at Tago as if he were a genius.
Nola continued, "If you get some measurements of the front yard layout we could workout a basic plan and how many plants you need. Then, James is working on Saturday and Jamie is going to come home and sleep all day after her sleep over, so if you want you could meet me at my house and we can go to Banting’s and I can spend someone else's money on plants for a change."
"You weren't..." she almost looked hurt.
"Oh no, I was definitely serious, I just didn't expect you to say yes so quickly.
"It's gardening Owen. For me it's like candy to a kid."
Nola swung her purse onto her shoulder and said, "I can't wait!"
Which was when Owen realized she was leaving. She smiled at him and said, "Don't look like that. If I don't leave..."
and he finished "you can't come back. Ok Woman, I'll walk you to the door."
As he walked back the house he realized that he was going to be tearing up both his front and back yards at almost the same time.