This is a tale of a woman’s quest to meet with one of her gods to seek forgiveness for past actions.
It was not long after the evening star had appeared in the sky when I sought out the council. At that time the council were seven and these are the names given to me. The council host was the Speaker for the Land; his fellows were the Guardian, the Watchful Healer, the Lore Keeper, the Spirit Walker, the Word Smith of Taranis and last but in no way least Hearts Counsel. As we gathered the Guardian lit the fire. The bowl was filled and the mead passed round. As the mead flowed a hymn to the gods of our tribe was sung. I placed an offering on the fire that my prayers be heard. Then the Speaker for the Land bade me tell of my questing.
“I seek the Old One of the Land. She who is to me the First Mother, Sister-Mother to the Great Queen.” I told how through serving a tribe in the North I had been part of a calling on the Old One, a calling out of season and without due honour and respect. I told of how she came to me strong and powerful, how she left sinking deep and taking me with her part of the way. I told of how since that time I have felt her near me, felt her touch in the lives of those around me in that Northern tribe. I needed to seek forgiveness for my part in that calling. It was not entirely of my doing and yet I felt I needed to say sorry for my part.
The council then questioned me further and I answered as clearly as I could.
“What do you wish to do?” asked one. “I wish to perform a spirit journey to meet the Old One if she will let me.”
“What do you hope to achieve?” asked the next. “I wish to say sorry for my part in a calling out of season and hopefully be forgiven.”
“What role do you wish us to play in this?” asked another. “I wish for your support and guidance as I fear this journey will be hard on me.”
“Where do you wish to do this?” “I am not sure” I replied, “in a place which seems right, in the hills, where earth, waters and sky are in balance.”
“How do you plan to do this spirit journey?” yet another asked. “In silence with one or two of you watching over me while I journey” I replied.
The questions continued with various council members helping me to clarify my intention. Eventually the questions stopped and the council agreed to support me in my quest. The next day we would travel into the hills and if all went well I would carry out a spirit journey.
The night was a clear one and it became very cold. I spent that night on the ground and could feel the damp earth leach the warmth from my body. In spite of being wrapped in layers the air cooled me even further and I spent much of the night shivering. At last the morning came. The night had left me drained and unbalanced. It was my self appointed task to feed the council that morning and I willingly began to cook. I think we all felt better for a bowl of porridge.
Later that morning the journey to the hills began. As we prepared to leave a cuckoo called out, its voice an omen of magic for me. The Speaker gave me a hazel staff to aid me in my journey. I learnt later that this staff had been cut from a hazel near an ancient well known for its healing properties and that this hazel was considered to give protection to those travelling in the mountains. Carrying what we would need for the night to come we began walking. Not long into the journey the skies darkened and rain began to fall, then hailstones, followed by more rain. Our cloaks protected us from the worst of the weather but it was not a comfortable walk.
I did not know this path, this Land was not mine but the Speaker of the Land was our guide. Onward he led us. When we paused we looked out across a stark beauty coloured by the actions of generations.
I was already tired when we began and as the walk went on I began to enter a state where slow plodding on was as much as I could do. Onward and upward we walked. As I moved on words began to circle in my head:
“Old One will you meet me
As I walk towards you.
Old One will you meet me
Daughter of your strength.
As I journey onwards
Walking to my future.
Old One will you meet me
Daughter of your strength.”
I moved to the rhythm these words made in my mind, walking onwards slowly. Aware always of the others around me, walking up the hill with me. Never alone, always someone watching over me.
Most often it was Spirit Walker I felt behind me. A gentle and reassuring presence. At one stage the Word Smith walked beside me. I had barely known him before this and it was good to have this opportunity to learn more of him.
And still rain fell, still I laboured to catch my breath.
At some stage the rain had stopped but I barely noticed. We paused in our journey and the Speaker for the Land pointed out across the valley. “That is our resting place this night and look there beside.” A black mountain pony grazed there. These wild ones are spread out across these hills and to see a black one by our resting was a further strong omen to me.
After a time we came to the final stretch of this path which was steeply downwards over a rough rock strewn stairway.
Just as I began to make my careful way down I heard my third omen. A raven called. Rare to me is the voice of the raven, rarer still is it for me to see one. I paused for a moment to catch my breath and looked up. At that moment the raven flew out across our path and off towards the snow touched crags beyond. I was crossing into another realm even as I clambered across the rocks. Something in me knew I had entered the realm of the Old One and she had heard me.
I fell. I wasn’t hurt but I did have trouble getting to my feet again. The Guardian and the Speaker came beside me. One took my pack for me while the other helped me onwards to a safer area of the path where I took up my pack once more.
We made it down and the rain fell once more as we reached the shelter.
We were not alone at the shelter, there was one from another tribe there and his manner was strange to us.
I knew I would not be doing a spirit journey that night. I was tired beyond imagining and as we sat my body began to cool and I started to shiver once more. Tears rose to my eyes and I bowed my head, turned my face away from those with me while I struggled to contain them.
After a rest the Speaker suggested going back to one of the lakes we had passed but I could not face a further journey, even a brief one. I did not want to stop their going, I could wait where I was and rest. The Watchful Healer stayed with me.
I made a place to rest and wrapped myself in many layers. I thought I was warming and then the shivers started again. Watchful Healer sat beside me and took my hands in hers. Her touch brought with it warmth and healing. My balance began to return to me.
When the others returned the fire was lit and warmth began to penetrate the shelter. Gradually I began to warm too until at last I felt restored. Food and drink was part of that restoration.
As we sat darkness began to fall and I offered hymns to the Old One and to her Sister-Mother, the Great Queen. Then the strange one came to our fire and we turned our minds to sharing song and story. The Word Smith of Taranis shared his tales and sang for us, well did he entertain us that night. Tales and songs we shared of that and other lands on into the night. Later still another traveller came to the shelter and joined us.
That night we slept in warmth and we woke early.
As we left the shelter to return to our beginnings I saw and heard wild ponies playing in the valley beyond us. Above us clouds wreathed the snow touched crags.
We walked past the black cold waters of the lakes and I touched my fingers to those waters and then to my head, lips and heart in blessing.
We began to climb that rough stairwell. Towards the top I paused and looked up. At that moment the raven flew out, circled round us and then flew off once more. I was passing through the gateway and returning.
From there the walk was a gentle stroll back downhill. As we walked the rising sun warmed the Land and the clouds began to clear.
Omens three I had seen and heard travelling to that place in the hills. Omens three I received on our journey back. The last one being the sight and sound of a lark rising in a field across from our journey’s start and end.
I had walked out in winter to seek the Old One, to say how sorry I was for my part in what had happened those months before. I had asked for help and guidance from the council because I feared that my journey would be hard on me. My journey became both more and less than I had expected. My spirit journey was not a separate journey but one woven into the physical realm. The journey was hard on me and the council supported me, protected me and guided me throughout. Their presence was a part of my journey even though in part it was my path alone to walk. I felt the Old One’s presence up in those hills. I believe that she heard me, allowed me to feel her and forgave me for my part in what had happened.
I had walked out in winter to seek the Old One; I walked back in the promise of summer, with joy beyond expressing rising in my heart.
The bonds that this journey has forged in my heart will remain with me and my heart swells with love for each of those who journeyed beside me. For the Speaker of the Land, for the Guardian, for the Watchful Healer, for the Lore Keeper, for the Spirit Walker, for the Word Smith of Taranis and for Hearts Counsel. For the council was seven and these are the names given to me.
This was the tale of how I sought forgiveness of one of my gods and here it ends.