It was finally Thursday. Owen felt like he had served a sentence in solitary. He was waiting in the driveway when Nola pulled up.
"How are you doing, Big Man?"
"Better, now that you are back." And he hugged her and she felt the link but was pleased that it was no stronger than the link she had felt to her own initiator many months after her initiation.
As he released her she looked at him and frowned, "Are you OK? Have you had problems since the initiation?"
"What? No. I just miss you when you're not here."
"Oh." And she thought, not that that's any better. I almost wish it did have something to do with his 2nd degree. “How was Eric’s visit?”
Owen smiled and said, “Perfect. You were right the kid was a great distraction. We had a lot of fun. We ate lots of seafood and poboys. Maurice took him fishing. I don’t think that stream fishing will ever be the same for him. He brought Star Trek DVDs and made me watch lots of Star Trek. We spent a ridiculous amount of time in the pool. We even shot hoops on your basketball court.” And he paused as he hooked her arm, “He asked where you were.”
“Oh and… where was I?”
“Taking care of some rebuilding responsibilities in your neighborhood.”
“Taking care of some rebuilding responsibilities in your neighborhood.”
She nodded a long slow nod as she said, “Well…that’s a very interesting way to tell the truth but not all of it.”
“I learned from the best. And since you had talked about your neighborhood activities when we all went to dinner in May, he didn’t think twice about it.”
“It sounds like you all kept each other so busy he didn’t have time to think about it.”
“It sounds like you all kept each other so busy he didn’t have time to think about it.”
“Or he’s smart enough to see an evasion and smart enough not to push. Maurice is smart enough not to dig. But I had to keep him away from Roger or….” Owen trailed off and Nola chuckled and rolled her eyes knowing exactly what Owen was thinking.
He opened the kitchen door so she could go in and said, "Let's get something to drink."
He had Prosecco in chilling in the wine bucket and immediately poured 2 glasses. She prepared herself for the inevitable.
"I thought that 2nd degree deserved Prosecco." And he handed her a glass and held his up so they could click in a toast. Nola had to smile and say, "To 2nd degree." And they took sips and then Owen kissed her.
"Well.... that's different."
And she thought she knew what he meant but said, "Different?"
"Well, it feels almost like the North & South poles of 2 magnets coming together."
"Ah, yes, left over 2nd degree impacts." And now that he was initiated she told him the story of her 2nd degree in detail.
"Well, I understand better now why you insisted we didn't see each other."
And he took another sip of Prosecco and then kissed her again.
The scientist in her was assessing effect. Owen was a really good kisser, but… and she put her arms around his neck and pressed against him and focused on more than the kiss. Their bodies aligned and ah, it was as if they hummed with power. Owen wasn't sure exactly what was going on but he liked it on more than one level. They finally came up for air.
She smiled and nodded. "It's an interesting effect."
"Interesting effect?! It's like being next to a live electrical line."
"Well there is power. You will have to work to build your own and maintain it. The Rite of Union helps with that."
He nodded and smiled realizing he really did know exactly what she meant, "I can see how it would. Interesting... Very interesting."
Nola waited to see if there would be any questions. But he seemed satisfied so she said, "Cornucopia is Saturday. So we should review the ritual."
He was still smiling to himself as he said, "Ok, to the library then." And with a sweep of his arm, he indicated she should go first and then grabbed the wine bucket and followed.
She settled into her corner of the sofa and waited until Owen settled too, noticing that the manual was on the table behind the sofa.
"Cornucopia is one of my favorite rituals."
"Really? Of all the rituals this is your favorite? Why?
"Well Cornucopia actually ties with Lupercus as my favorite. But it's definitely at the top of my list."
"Well Cornucopia actually ties with Lupercus as my favorite. But it's definitely at the top of my list."
He nodded. "I think I understand the appeal of Lupercus. It is so different from other Wiccan-Pagan rituals. The connection to the wild and untamed aspect of ourselves is... is...
"Intoxicating and fun?" she smiled.
He smiled back, "An intoxicating adrenaline rush, yes."
"Cornucopia is kind of the other end of the spectrum. It's an opportunity for review and introspection."
"The 2 rituals that are opposite ends of the spectrum are your 2 favorite rituals? Interesting. Why?"
"Hmmm. I don't know. Maybe it's because I'm a full moon baby. My sun and moon are astrological opposites. One of the things that I have striven for my entire life is balance..."
"Full moon baby? Hey wait a minute. When is your birthday? I don't know.”
She smiled, "It's in August. I'm Leo sun, Aquarius Moon, Sagittarius Rising. My birthday is just a few days after Cornucopia. Perhaps another reason why I like this ritual is because it aligns naturally with the tendency to assess our lives on our birthdays."
And he thought, Of course she is a Leo. She moves powerfully like a lioness. She is the provider for her family. Her hair is finely textured but so often it is like a mane. And those dark insistent eyes have the intensity of a wild thing. What he said was, "I have to take you out to dinner for your birthday."
"Thanks, but that's not necessary."
"Necessary? No, it's not necessary. But it's nice and I want to do it. What is your favorite high end restaurant?"
"Owen it's not necessary."
"I'm not taking no for an answer. As a Taurus I've been told I can be stubborn and insistent."
She looked at him and could see he wasn’t planning on backing down.
"Well, woman what is your favorite high end restaurant?"
She took a deep breath, "Owen…”, then realizing he wasn't going to let up said, “With the exception of going to Galatoire's when your parents were here; I haven't been to a fancy restaurant in so long I really don't know.” And then she paused, “What's your favorite? If you insist, let's go there."
"Oh, turning the tables on me."
She smiled, "Well, you're the one insisting."
"Ok, when do you want to go?"
"I'm insisting. When?"
And she finally said, "Next Thursday.", thinking that this way she would only have to see him one day next week and that it was going to take everything she had to make it through Shadowfest.
"Ok, next week Thursday. I'll make reservations for 7PM and you have to come here no later than 6:30 prepared to go to a dinner as fancy as Galatoire's. The restaurant will be a surprise."
She looked dubious.
"It's a birthday celebration, woman. Jezz, I can't believe that you would turn down dinner at a fancy restaurant. You are the strangest woman. Doesn't anyone ever do anything nice for you, just because?"
And she thought about that. People were nice to her. But nice to her just because? And she realized that the answer was essentially no and wondered why and got lost in thought thinking about it.
"Where are you?"
"Thinking about dinner. I'll be here Thursday at 6:30. Now let's talk about Cornucopia."
She picked up the manual and flipped to the ritual. “I’ll bring the cornucopia I have at home.” She looked up from the book and said, “This ritual is about acknowledging the fullness of the solar year and the gifts of the Earth Mother Goddess and Solar Sky Father. It’s a harvest festival. It is where we give thanks for our blessings but it also acknowledges that even with the blessings of our lives and the season that we can still yearn, or as the ritual says, have seeds that we want to see bear fruit.”
“I read that. I assumed that Cornucopia would be just a harvest festival, essentially a thanksgiving. Maybe it’s my protestant upbringing but it seemed strange to have a section of the ritual where we can actually ask for more.”
She smiled. “Americans can be so scarred by those very few Puritan ancestors from the northeast.” And she giggled, “I can honestly say that as a New Orleanian, I didn’t think twice about it.”
He looked at her like he didn’t believe her and that she had to be teasing and she responded laughing lightly. “Ok, I understand what you are saying, and I’m not being cute, it’s just that
was never Puritan. We are Spanish, French, African,
essentially Mediterranean in our culture, our essence. There is joy in how we
live our lives. Oh sure, this is a Catholic city, so there is guilt, but really
that’s an after the fact, after you’ve had your fun, kind of thing. And I was raised Lutheran by Germans so I get
the whole work ethic concept that I’m sure our Puritan ancestors would
appreciate. But this is an Italian Pagan Thanksgiving. We really need to leave
the Puritan Thanksgiving imagery and symbology out of this.” New
“Absolutely. But you could also think about it from a purely agricultural angle. This is the beginning of the harvest or hunting season. Lots of things can still go wrong. It’s not strange to ask for the full blessings and benefits that the earth can provide.”
“Well…” and he paused, “I never really thought about it like that. It does make sense to want to ensure the full harvest. So… I guess I can see the wisdom in being willing and able to ask for more, for fullness.”
She smiled at him and waited before she said, “You sure?”
“Yes, woman, I hadn’t looked at it that way, but I see what you are saying. I’m sure and you are too being cute.”
“Don’t tease your teacher, student.” And she turned the page in the book and said, “This next section is actually my favorite part. This is where we are reminded that we reap what we sow, get back what we put out. This is where a little bit of that work ethic slips in.” and she smiled at him. “But I also like that we are charged to consider our lives and to think on what is good and full as well as what is bad and empty.” And she paused and read,
“Now hear the words of Aradia: ‘know that every action brings forth another and that these actions are linked together through their natures. Therefore whatever you send forth, so shall you receive. A farmer can harvest for himself no more than he plants. Therefore, let us consider what is good in our lives and what is full. Let us also consider what is bad and what is empty. And let us meditate on the reasons for all of those things.’”
And she paused before she said, “You don’t see the charge to think about what is not good in many rituals, pagan or otherwise. But as a gardener I know it is critical to assess what has worked, been successful and what has not. It is critical to learn from your mistakes. It is also critical to properly prune or weed or even eliminate plants that have not been successful or have passed their season in order to provide for new ones.” And she paused again, “Here in
, August heat
takes its toll on plants and it is time for us to assess what is still thriving
and what will need to be changed as the season changes or even to plan for the
seasons to come.” New Orleans
He knew she was serious about gardening, but part of him also knew that she was thinking about more than the weather and gardening. “So you assess your life like you assess plants in a garden?”
“Nature is the Great Teacher.”
as a business
model and weeding your life.” Worms
She raised her eyebrows, thinking, did I really say that? Then she tipped her head and acknowledged silently, nodding and shrugging, I guess I did.
He said seriously “I would never have looked at quite that way.”
She sat quietly and let him think about it as she thought to herself, sometimes a gardener had to pull a plant from the garden because it had been too successful and was taking over. In many ways that seemed to be exactly what Owen was doing in her life. And she thought again about needing to follow through with her commitment to teach him and make it through Shadowfest. But that after Shadowfest it would be time to…
“Here you go.” and he was holding her refilled glass out to her. She took it without thinking. “You looked like you were going to need some refreshment.”
“Thanks.” And she took an absentminded sip after slightly lifting her glass in acknowledgement.
She was still thinking through the ritual and asked, “We will be using the cauldron to burn the petitions. I’ve burned petitions in the cauldron before but it can be really smoky. So I was thinking, since we’ll be inside, that we could place the cauldron in the fireplace when we burn the petitions.
He nodded ““Sure.” Then asked, “Well what about the rest of the ritual?”
She sighed ever so slightly, “There is the blessing of the wine and cakes and then the blessing of the strengths and contributions of males and females.”
“It has aspects of the Spring Equinox.”
And they both thought about that as they sipped their wine. Owen with pleasure. Nola with trepidation before she said, “Yes, similar words are used to acknowledge our human link to nature’s ways.”
And Meana said again, “You are safe with Owen.” and Nola thought, Safe. Ha. I am anything but safe. The things I think about when I am too close to him terrify me.
And as he smiled to himself he realized that she was still thinking deeply as she sipped her Prosecco. He let her and then finally asked, “What are you thinking so hard about?”
She looked up, “Oh everything and nothing. Cornucopia always makes me thoughtful. It should. It also makes me hopeful for fall. I love fall. I love the way the season changes subtlety, first the light, then the way the air moves, then finally that first real break in the heat when hope returns and we can feel the wheel move again.”
He just sat there looking at her and appreciating the way she looked at the world before he said, “You make the season change seem magical.”
“Well after the heat of our summer any break in the heat is absolutely magical. Maybe not for someone who has the bounty of a swimming pool. Now that is something to be grateful for. But for the rest of us…” and she lifted her glass, smiled and sipped her Prosecco.
Then she said, “You are priest now. So you will be able to bless the wine. And I will bless the cakes.”
He looked a bit surprised and then smiled. “Let me see the book.” And he looked at the text and said, “I think can handle that.”
She smiled and said, “I’m sure you can.”
And then continued, “Well I think I’ll leave you to think about Cornucopia. I’ll …”
“You’re leaving? You’re not leaving.”
He picked up the book and looked at the ritual knowing if he had a question she would stay. “You didn’t talk about why pregnant women are massaged.”
“Well…. it’s not like we’ll have any pregnant women to massage…” and paused as she realized that she was being flip and that he deserved an answer, sighed and then said, “The season is one of bounty and anticipated bounty. Pregnant women embody that literally. They are symbols of the ripeness of the earth. Massaging them is a way of acknowledging that.” and she trailed off… “I was very pregnant with Jamie in August. She waited stubbornly to be born until September but I was more than ready for her to be born in the middle of August. I would have very much appreciated a massage at that point.”
He chuckled. “Simon and Lisa’s baby will be born any day now.”
“Maybe you should tell your brother Simon about Cornucopia.” She smiled.
“Hmmm, Simon would probably be open to that… but I’m not sure that Lisa would appreciate the pagan aspects. She was not opposed to my pagan tendencies but she didn’t share them. Could pregnancy change that?”
“Hmmm… I don’t know, maybe.”
“But you’ve been pregnant.”
“Well, yes… I have and… it did affect my thought processes… hmmm, each time… but I already had pagan tendencies so I can’t really say.”
“Wait a minute… each time? You only have one daughter right?”
She sighed, “Well I guess it’s fair to say that I’ve had almost every pregnancy experience a woman can have. I carried Jamie to term. I had a miscarriage 3 years after Jamie was born during one of the most difficult years of my life. I was pregnant with my first husband, but I was very young and he was unemployed and I wanted desperately to find good job and be able to take care of my self before I had children so, with his blessing, I had an abortion.”
“It wasn’t a decision made lightly. I still think about the beautiful child we could have made. But… even then I knew that I was not in love with my first husband and well, it wasn’t right to have a baby and it was right to have the abortion. I… I think that we need to re-read Aradia’s Words on Rebirth and read the Words on the Act of Rebirth.”
And she looked at him and then the book and said, “Really.”
He realized she was serious and opened the book and read, “The human body will eventually fade…”
And she interrupted… “look at how it is written.”
“With the emphasis on the human body?”
And she nodded, “Read it again.”
“The human body will eventually fade away after the death experience. Yet the Soul cannot be destroyed, nor is it subject to physical actions or restrictions.” And he looked up.
“I know that pregnancy and birth are special and I understand the belief that life begins at conception. But I know we are more than the physical. What makes us special is the soul and the soul is not subject to physical restrictions. So a pregnancy, for me, at its very beginning is simply a biological way to create a place for a soul, just a collection of cells beginning to form the human body that will hold the soul. The longer a pregnancy goes on the more likely a soul will have chosen the more robustly formed collection of cells as a future home. But well… find the part about the Soul being the True Self.”
And his eyes wandered down the page and he said, “Ah here it is.
“The Soul is the True Self. Each physical body (and personality) is only a garment worn by the Soul.”
And she placed her hand on him arm so he looked up. “Think about that and an embryo. The embryo is an incomplete garment. The Soul is the True Self. When I was pregnant that first time, I didn’t feel a Soul. Maybe this was because I was not aware enough. I had pagan leanings but I hadn’t studied any pagan teachings. Only now, looking back, do I think I begin to understand. Why don’t you read the Words Concerning the Act of Rebirth?”
He found them easily as they were right after the Words on Rebirth,
“After the death experience has been completed, then the Soul is made ready to be born again.
When a couple is engaged in sexual union, a whirlpool of energy (a vortex) is created above them. This energy attracts Souls, who are awaiting rebirth, from the plane which is harmonious to the energy of the union (the vortex is a composite aura of the couple.’ …. Wow, now that sure will make you look at sex differently.”
And she laughed, “Yes, I guess it would. Notice it says Souls, more than one. We’re not talking about twins here, well we could be, but we’re talking about more than that. We are talking about Souls that are drawn to the energy created by the couple. I remember when I wanted desperately to be pregnant and with a girl. I decided, before I had even heard of Stregheria, that I wanted to offer my loved ones on the other side, from this life or from lives before, an opportunity to be my child, to have me take care of them, provide for them, be a part of their lives again. I remember the first night that I consciously called to them during sex. I felt the vortex before I ever read about it. I knew that there were Souls evaluating whether they wanted to take me up on my offer. When I read these Words of Aradia I had the ‘This is it!’ experience most pagan seekers are looking for. What the Words said I knew to be true and I had never heard it said that way before.”
“Yes. I understand it sounds strange.”
“I guess… I can see how a woman, who has to carry a baby around for 9 months, could look at it differently, but as a guy I never really thought about it like that before.”
“Well I don’t know if men are driven to want to have babies like women are… I really think that men are more driven to have sex… Jezz that sounds sexist, what I am trying to say is that the basic biological drives seem to be different, so I can appreciate that as a man you might not have looked at it like that.”
“You’re so cute when you are flustered.”
And she smirked and said, “Maybe you should keep reading.”
He smiled and continued, “Once attracted, the Soul will be drawn into the female womb and will enter into a new physical life (all conditions be procreant).
Before being born again, the Soul will obtain knowledge of the life to come. Then the plan is realized.”
“I believe that each pregnancy involves a Soul. Sometimes the Soul needs to be born and live a full life for the plan to be realized. Sometimes the Soul needs only to touch the life and soul of the pregnant woman or couple. Maybe she will have an abortion. Or maybe she will have a miscarriage. I know that before I had my miscarriage my maternal grandfather came to me to say thank you for offering him the option of physical life. But that he was Ok where he was and that he knew I loved and remembered him and that this was enough. I know this makes me sound like a crazy person. But this dreamlike experience I had before I miscarried was real to me and powerful, as powerful as many of the experiences I have had with fully flesh and blood bodies and souls in this life time. And this is why I said each time I was pregnant it affected my thought processes. I’ve come to believe Soul touched Soul enough for the plan to be realized.”
“If our Souls are recycled, get to have various experiences throughout multiple lifetimes, then I think that the plan is realized when we learn things that will help us eventually evolve to a place where we no longer need to be physical. Re-read the first part of Aradia’s Words on Death.”
And he had to flip around in the book to find them before he read, “Every beginning is also the ending of that which came before it. Every ending is likewise a beginning of that which is to follow. Coming and going are simply the two sides of the one journey.
Death is merely a change of awareness and of form.”
And she touched his arm. “So life and death are just 2 sides of the same coin, simply a change in awareness and form. So is birth and life. We learn from each physical existence even if that existence is short, sometimes so short that the soul doesn’t even get to be born.”
“Well…. That is definitely one way to look at it. I would never have thought about it like that. I think that it takes the actual experience of being a woman to get to where you did.”
And he finished his Prosecco and said, “I am definitely coming back to be with you in another life.”
“So you can be a woman and experience it for yourself?” She teased.
“No. So you can be a woman and have my children.”
And she raised her eyebrows surprised but managed to recover as she looked up at the clock and put her empty glass down. “Ah, yes, this lifetime you will have to have that experience with someone else. It’s time for me to go.”
And that was not at all what he expected to hear. He was still trying to wrap his brain around it and “Why?” slipped out.
She ignored him and said, “I really should be going.”
“Well, it’s much later than I thought it would be…”
“No, why will I have to have that experience with someone else in this lifetime?”
She swallowed thinking, Dammit Owen what a ridiculous question to ask a married woman. And then realizing that she needed to breathe and be practical, said simply and frankly, “Well… for one, simple biology. I’m going to be 48 years old. I’m still physically capable of having a baby but, it’s beyond my optimal time. Female eggs aren’t like male sperm. We don’t make new ones like you men do. We have our ovum from birth, they age with us. Pregnancies in older women aren’t as successful and there is a greater chance of birth defects. After my miscarriage I resigned myself to only having one child this lifetime. But you on the other hand will continue to create healthy sperm for a long time. At 44 you’re still plenty young enough to have children.”
“Maybe I don’t want children in this lifetime.”
“Oh well, that’s your prerogative.” She teased to lighten the mood, “As long as you are careful with your partners.”
And he was thinking about the fact that he hadn’t had and didn’t want any other sex partner. She got up because she didn’t like the direction the conversation was taking and was now desperate to leave. “I’ll be back here on Saturday for Cornucopia at 9PM.”
Owen looked up and realized she was getting up and said, “Nola, you and I both know how the ritual will end.”
She froze and thought, yes but I don’t want to talk about it. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it and not before. What she said was, “Yes.”
“I want you to arrange to stay. I want you to tell your family that the ritual will run late and that you are going to sleep here and that you won’t be home until later on Sunday.”
She sat fully down on the sofa. If it wasn’t Owen she was doing the ritual with it would have been a logical and practical thing to do for this and other rituals. But it was Owen and she had managed to avoid it. He let her think about it as he turned the pages in the book and then he read aloud, “We ‘pray receive our wishes and desires as they rise up on the smoke of our incense.’ You said that we’re allowed at Cornucopia to ask for more. It’s my first ritual as 2nd degree and I want you to stay.”
She was looking at him with those dark eyes, but she was wary and tense and he thought again how she looked like a lioness and wondered why he hadn’t realized it before.
She heard Meana say, “You are safe with Owen.” She sighed almost imperceptibly, closed her eyes for only a quick moment, opened them and said simply, “Ok.”
He smiled as Papa Eric said, “So you haven’t lost your touch.”
She managed to smile back but held out her hand and said, “Please walk me out?”
And he stood up and folded her arm under his, “Anything you want as long as you come back.”
She shook her head at him and tried to make light, “You really do need to get out more.”
“I am, next Thursday when I take you out to a birthday dinner.”
She smiled at him, “Incorrigible. Charming, but incorrigible. And I you know I meant out with people other than me.”
She grabbed her purse off the chair and they went out the kitchen door.
“Night, Nola. See you Saturday.”