The sun was beginning to set. It wasn’t quite hitting the horizon, but it was definitely on its way there. We had about, maximum, an hour of light left. I told myself that we should be well done and over with by that time, but I knew it was a lie. We wouldn’t be done until three am, if Amethyst didn’t insist on doing something else special for that occasion.
It was then that I wondered if I was getting paid enough for all this drama. Seriously, I thought, I’m holding ritual with a bunch of random pagans who aren’t even of my particular faith – it’s like a very strange pagan gathering. A very strange one, I thought, taking a look around and especially at the corgi-turned-witch.
“Merry meet, everyone!” cheered Amethyst as our little troupe of mish-mashed pagans arrived at the fire pit. A fire was already crackling there, a bit crooked and piled precariously high. “Brightest blessings and -” her eyes landed on me, then flicked to Sapphire. “No ritual robes?”
I shrugged and held up my wand. “Brought a stick!” I said playfully.
There was several snorts, as my wand was a bit more than a stick. It was a carefully carved twist of wood with engravings → but it might as well have been a stick for the big frown that it brought up on Amethyst’s face.
I waved my wand feebly, hoping to redeem myself. But it flopped like cold spaghetti onto the floor. Amethyst looked at me with a frown. “You’re not even wearing black.”
I looked down. Green t-shirt, jeans, brown shoes… Okay, maybe not the witchiest attire but… one look to Sapphire’s gray suit and I figured it couldn’t be all that bad.
“Ritual robes are not necessary for many of the faith,” said Sapphire primly.
“Yes, actually,” said Aurora.
Amethyst’s frown settled on Sapphire, then hopped around. Then, just as she was trying to smile, she looked down. Her eyes landed on the irreverently dressed corgi. She paused. Her eyes looked to Sapphire, who smirked.
Ruffling her shawls around herself, Amethyst cleared her throat. The group began to settle around the fire pit. I tentatively stepped to her side, but that wasn’t good enough. “You go here,” and she positioned me beside her, then began flitting around positioning people. I stared on in abject shock as she had Bjorn stand switch places with the math teacher, then ordered Crystal and Aurora to swap sides of the fire. Then she fretted, frowning at the principal. “I just don’t know where you go,” Amethyst huffed, wringing her hands.
The principal flashed a smile that was a bit nasty and gestured to the earth beneath her. “I go right here.”
The innuendo flew like an unseen dove over Amethyst’s head. “No, no, maybe over here?” And she gestured to beside Bjorn, then while the principal walked over, Amethyst shook her head and pointed a little more to the left. Biting down on her patience visibly, Sapphire stood there, which just so happened to be on the polar end of the circle from where I was standing. Our eyes met and I tried a feeble smile. She raised an eyebrow. My smiled widened.
“Ah! Perfection!” Amethyst crowed as she ran around the circle to come and stand beside me, to my right. “Now!” she turned around and gestured us back. “We need to include the altar! Widen the circle! Bigger circle, everyone!”
Indeed, just behind where I had been standing, outside of the circle of light of the fire, was one of the chairs, covered with a cloth beneath which poked up various things. Curious excitement and morbid realism clashed within me.
On one hand, I was all ‘ooo, flashy wiccan goodies! I wonder what kind of statues she brought!’, but the realistic part of me figured it was going to be badly painted plastic things with pointed breasts and giant phalluses that could knock out a satyr. Good grief, the stuff was probably a glitter fest and hideous.
Amethyst shuffled the chair/altar farther into the light of the circle, getting it dangerously close to the fire.
“Watch the fire,” said Sapphire, ever the grim voice of reason.
“It’s not too close,” said Crystal.
“Just close enough,” beamed Amethyst, rushing around to check its distance. I found it a tad bit close, but hey. It wasn’t catching on fire and it wasn’t my stuff.
Satisfied with her altar, Amethyst drew the cloth back from it, revealing all her goodies. A crooning of oohs and aahs went up from nearly everyone. As a whole, the group leaned forward to look.
There was several statues to say an understatement. There was a small army of statues would be more accurate.
There was a dragon statue. There was three fairies, one sitting on a moon and all with glittering wings. There was a chunky buddha, the lucky one that was laughing and with a bag slung over his shoulder. There was three goddesses on a stand, the triple moon framed behind them. There was a pan with (mercifully) no whack-a-mole penis. There was even a Kali, dancing on her husband’s body with a lolling tongue.
“We have everything we need!” cheered Amethyst, shaking her arms in the air as if this was the first step to victory.
“Did you buy all these today?” asked Sapphire, seemingly in awe of the army.
“Only some, the rest are part of my shrine,” said Amethyst with a cheerful flap of the hand. “Now,” she began pointing at the rest of the shrine things. “We have white sage, a seashell to burn it in, all the pink salt we need,” which apparently, was a whole jar full of the stuff “we have moon water,” a large jar of it “our candle holders for the elements,” which, oh goddess, were each sculpted things with pointy breasts and large phalluses “incense,” because apparently we needed stick incense as well. “The bell,” an ornate thing with leaves and twigs on it. “The sacred oil,” a little glass decanter full of what looked like seasoned olive oil. “a pyramid,” a pink crystal pyramid the size of a palm, because why not? “and!” she drew up the piece de resistance. Which was, just to rub Sapphire the wrong way, two circlets.
“To represent the Goddess and God,” said Amethyst, beaming as she held them up. “No one will be wearing them,” she flashed a smile at the very stoic Sapphire. “But they will remain on the shrine.”
Sapphire flashed back a similarly double meaning smile. Glowing with her victory, Amethyst placed them at the head of the shrine.
Aurora piped up. “You do know you’re not supposed to burn the white sage in the shell, right? It’s offensive to lots of Native American beliefs.”
“Yeah,” I muttered.
Amethyst flashed her beaming smile. “I’ve never heard of that. But White Sage is purifying, so it’ll destroy any negativity from the shell,” and she flipped a hand at Aurora to dismiss that idea.
The principal raised her eyebrows and folded her arms across her chest. It really was too bad she was straight across from me. Her face was just too expressive right now.
But Aurora wasn’t done. “Are you lighting a candle for each of the elements?”
Amethyst nodded as she rearranged everything on the altar a final time.
“So a flame is going to represent the element of water?” asked Aurora slowly.
The principal snorted, badly disguising it as a cough, then she seemingly did choke on herself and coughed. Bjorn was grinning widely.
Amethyst drew herself up, readjusting her shawl on her shoulders primly. “The flames represent their presence, their essence, and their spirit!” Then, waving her arms as if to dispel any more questions, she said “We are going to begin!”
Okay, well, that was a way to start things off.
Everyone shuffled their stance a little wider, as if bracing themselves for what was to come. Deep breaths were had. But that was all before me, in the rest of the circle. Amethyst was already beginning, sweeping her arms out and upwards to the sky, letting out a warbling cry.
Warbling was the word for it. It wasn’t one note, nor was it several clear or distinct ones. It was a battle cry of sorts. Or perhaps a dying wail of all our prides and prejudices giving up the ghost.
Dramatically Amethyst thrust her hands down, as if flicking lots of goo off herself while uplifting her face to the stars that had begun peeking out.
Oh, I insanely regretted being here. I wanted to break circle and leave – would it really be breaking circle if the circle hadn’t been cast yet?
But already, it was too late for that. With a flair of the arm, Amethyst picked up her wand from the side of the altar. Gulp. Here we go.
Like a certain video game character, Amethyst struck a pose, wand up in the air and legs braced for war. In a large arc, she drew the wand down to point towards the ground at our backs. “Above, below, and in the in-betweens, I cast a circle! So MOTE IT BE!” she fairly boomed out the words.
Well, I thought as she began walking around us. She was stern-faced and stiffly holding out her wand to trace the circle in the air about us. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t help but think that if there was wildlife observing us, they’d be startled by our strange social rituals. And, oh my, suppose a Christian was to drive by? It was a good thing the building blocked us from the view of the road…
My mind was racing with humiliated thoughts as Amethyst marched back. She drew the circle closed behind me, drawing the line up and seemingly sewing it shut with her wand. She then turned to face the rest of us, belting out “The circle is cast! As above, so below!”
Pretty sure that wasn’t how that phrase was supposed to be used, but oh well.
“Yay,” muttered someone, unironically.
Amethyst stood there, glaring off into the space between us. The fire crumbled on itself a little, shifting as it tumbled lower.
Amethyst placed her wand back on the altar. Then she selected the white sage, the shell, and drew a lighter from her bra. “Here, hold this in sacred trust,” she said, handing me the shell.
Uh, okay. I held it carefully in both hands, the papers tucked under my arm. On first try, Amethyst lit the white sage bundle. “Thank you,” she said loudly, taking the shell from me and setting the white sage in it.
Well if we had any hard of hearing spirits around, at least they could hear us.
Then, like a video game character having unlocked something, she thrust the sage and shell up into the air. “I cleanse this space, by the power of the ancients, ancestors of all, sacred lineage, and powers within!” She fairly bellowed before beginning to march around behind us, waving around the white sage that was still sitting in the shell.
The sage burned well (always a good sign), the smoke wafting out and out as Amethyst walked around. In fact, there was a lot of sage smoke going around. A heckton. A lot times a lot. The air was turning thick and mist-like when Amethyst finally placed the sage bundle back upon the altar. My nostrils were burning with the smell.
Amethyst straightened beside me, taking in deep breaths with her eyes closed and arms lifted a little at her side. Bjorn sneezed into his sleeve. Drawing a final deep breath, Amethyst opened her eyes. With purpose, one could say, she strode the step to the altar and picked up the incense. With a flick of the lighter, she set the stick a-burnin’. Again, she held it dramatically high, declaring that it was lit in so many words. “By this incense, living proof of fire and air,” say what? Everybody knows fire and air exist? “I cleanse this circle!”
Once more, she marched around, wafting the stick. I began to feel sleepy. And irritated. And bored. I looked down into my papers, and saw that I didn’t have anything to do until the elements, watchtowers, and Goddesses were invoked. Then I had to invoke the phallus-thumping god with flowery words and – oh my. Such words. Much phallus, much thump, as the internet would say.
I was still staring in dismay at these words when Amethyst returned, doing a final waft with the incense. It smelt sweet, but there was a hint of acrid in the air. Maybe it was cheap incense.
Humming loudly, Amethyst then poured a chunk of pink salt into the sacred water. She shook the jar, still humming with her eyes closed. Then, holding it aloft in what I was going to call the ‘hero pose’ she declared that she was, by this water and salt, “living proof of water and earth, consecrating this circle to the sacred work of the Goddess and God!”
Well, that was it. Now she was doing another lap and we were all just standing there. Boredom settled in even harder.
Alright, focus Thunder, I told myself. This doesn’t have to be painful unless you make it! Focus on the numenous! Focus, my friend!
So I closed my eyes, took deep breaths, and tried to feel. But there was that acrid smell in the back of my throat. There was no wind, there was just smoke. I felt irritated, like I was itchy all over. Something just felt wrong. Annoyingly wrong.
Wow, I thought to myself, I’m being such a jerk. I mean, this isn’t my way of doing a circle, but I really shouldn’t be so judgemental, right?
So I made sure to put on a smile when Amethyst finished her last lap, sprinkling salted water in all directions. She beamed at me, then at the circle, and placed the salt back on the altar.
She picked up the oil and struck a two-handed ‘hero pose’. “Oh, great Goddess and God! Bless this oil with your purity of thought and power, so that we may be like you in our essences!”
Then, solemn as she could be, she turned to me, tipping the decanter over with her finger plugged in it. So unsanitary. “Blessed be,” she said emotionally before reaching down and sprinkling my feet with the oil. She then repeated the phrase, sprinkling my knees, my hips, my chest, and my face.
It was a good thing I wasn’t wearing something that I didn’t mind getting olive oil stains on, I thought grouchily in the back of my mind.
On she went, blessing every one in the circle like that. Alright, I may be a stick in the mud, but that blessing was usually reserved for the high priest and high priestess to do to each other.
So guess what? I waited for my turn to bless her, watching attentively as she went around the circle and blessed every single one.
Except when she took her stand by my side, she didn’t hand me the sacred oil. Instead, she blessed herself, murmuring ‘Blessed be’ and sprinkling herself all the way up.
I had to stop myself from gaping. How? Why? What?
Then, beaming as if she was fully enlightened now, Amethyst placed the oil back onto the altar. Alright, okay, I thought. Let’s move on to – I checked my papers – the watchtowers. Good gods I was bored.
Of course, thinking you are bored in a ritual is just asking for trouble, right? Spirits love to play tricks and we seemed like the perfect victims.
As she reached for a candleholder, Amethyst knocked over the sacred oil with her arm. Splat! Oil splattered over the altar, dousing the Kali statue and beginning to pour out onto the chair.
“Oops!” Amethyst snatched up the bottle, chuckling to herself. “Guess they wanted a blessing too!” and she set the oil bottle upright. Then, smiling to herself, she picked up the candleholder.
It was painted with white swirls on a black background, with the silhouette of a hunky man on it. Perched atop it all was a tall candle.
Clearing her throat, Amethyst picked up her papers that she had folded into a corner of the altar. I groaned inside, thinking that if there was enough of an incantation that she needed to read it, we’d be here a while.
And I was right.
“oh, element of air! Brilliance of the mind, wind of the sky,
Oh, element of intellect! Element of the high mountains that caress the sky,”
I groaned inside, annoyed and so annoyed. Just annoyed. On and on Amethyst waxed, invoking the element until she dramatically lit the candle, culminating with a “I summon you!”
Oh, finally, I thought as she set that candle holder back onto the altar in the small puddle of oil that was collected there. Now only three times more of that to go. Ughhhh.
Amethyst picked up the next candleholder, which was fire, symbolized by bright orange flames painted all over the candleholder, which was in the shape of another hunky man. And then, lighter in one hand and candleholder in the other, the invocation began.
I sighed. Alright, I did it. I really, really, was fed up. I was tired, sick of this, and was it me or that acrid smell was just getting worse? What element of air had she invoked?
A wind picked up, wafting the fire towards us. The smell got worse, like the smell of burning plastic –
OH SHIT! I thought, as something clicked into place in my head and I stared at the altar chair, very much a plastic lawn chair coated in oil next to a fire that was blowing towards it.
Okay, stay calm, I thought. Just pull the chair away from the fire.
So I stepped towards the fire just as Amethyst finished her schpiel and lit the candle. “What are you doing?” asked Amethyst, still using her boombox voice mode.
“Just pulling this away from the fire,” I muttered as I tried to drag it back. But it wouldn’t drag. And just then, Amethyst set the candle of fire onto the altar.
I’mma go out there and say that, ritually speaking, it was a bad move. She set the element of fire onto the almost burning chair. What could go wrong?
Fwoosh. The tip of the chair, which I suppose had been smoldering until then (hence the horrible acrid smell), officially caught fire.