Samhain Comes To Willow Grove

Fall weather came early this year Gwen thought
as she raked up the beautiful fallen leaves.
What brilliant colors! Red and rust, gold and yellow,
cinnamon and burnt sugar brown.
They crinkled and rustled under the bamboo prongs as she
fought to get them neatly tucked into the biggest piles ever.
She gave a quick smile to the nearby tree that
stood half bare in the chilly breeze.
“Thank you friend, these leaves have served
you well and now we’ll have some fun!”

She spent all of her Saturday morning and half of
the afternoon jumping into the huge piles. Just to
rake them up and run through them again and again until
she was so tired she could just sit and watch as the
wind picked them up and carried them away in a gusty
little tornado of swirling colors.

Gwen had been so busy at playing that she forgot today
was the day she had planned to walk into town
with her mom and aunt Star to do some shopping.
They didn’t often go to town because almost everything
that they needed could be found on their tiny little farm
or in the woods at the edge of their property. But today,
they needed special things to decorate and
prepare for the upcoming festivities.

Gwen loved this time of the year better than
any other! Sure, she loved springtime when everything
was fresh and new! She loved summer when there was an
abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables in the groves
and gardens. Oh, but fall was the best! As soon as
she felt the first hint of a cool breeze and saw
the first leaf begin to turn color, she knew that
Samhain was just around the corner!

Well, most of her friends called it Halloween.
They talked on and on about what costume they would
wear and how spooky or beautiful they would look.
“I will be a fairy princess,” her friend Katy said.
I will wave my magic wand and have my way whenever I want!
“I will be a Wizard,” said Jake. “I will cast
evil spells on all of the grownups and make
them do what I say!” Then Katy and Jake
would laugh and whisper to each other so Gwen
couldn’t hear. Then they would talk about the
mischief that they would cause if they didn’t get
buckets and buckets of candy and treats! Lots of talk
about whose windows they would slather with soap or
whose yard would be littered or destroyed. Gwen would
just listen. She knew that they were bound to be
disappointed, and pretty sure to end up in trouble of
some sort. Gwen knew without a doubt what
she would be on “Halloween”………She would be a WITCH!

It was mid-afternoon when Gwen, her mom and aunt Star
started off toward town. They chattered about the
cool weather and about all that was left in the
fields to be harvested. “The last harvest” aunt Star said.
Gwen felt her heart drop to her stomach! “What do
you mean last” asked Gwen? “Are we moving somewhere
new? Won’t we plant again in the spring?
Mom, what is she saying?”

“Calm down Gwen! It is the time of the year for the
last harvest. When the earth takes time to rest and
replenish its self beneath the blanket of snow that will
quickly be upon us, and our fields. We take this
time to make them ready for their rest and No,
we are not moving! We have a great festival to plan.
Hurry now, lets get to town!”

As the three walked into Willow Grove, Gwen was
astounded by all of the decorations in the shop windows
and on the dusty sidewalks. There were dried cornstalks
tied up to the street light poles and bales and bales of
hay stacked everywhere. There were pumpkins of all
shapes and sizes sitting on windowsills and on every
table in town it seemed. Spooky ghosts and bats
floated from the trees and in almost every window
was a green face with orange straw hair or a cutout
or drawing of an ugly hag with missing teeth and warts
and wrinkles. Oh my, and her clothes, where on
earth did they find those black and white striped
rags she was dressed in? Sagging socks and buckled boots,
pointy hat and all! “No self-respecting witch would
ever be caught out in public dressed like that”. Gwen said.

Gwen looked at her mom, her mom looked at Star
and Star looked back at Gwen. The ladies on the corner
must have thought they were crazy when they all
three looked at each other and burst into fits of
uncontrollable laughter! They took turns looking into
the shop windows at their reflections. They searched their
faces for warts or wrinkles or even a missing tooth. Nope,
none to be found! They looked each other over
and couldn’t find a green spot anywhere on their faces,
nor did their soft and shiny hair resemble the dry,
drab straw that stared back at them from the cut outs in
the windows. As for their clothes…Yes, they wore black,
but no stripes and no pointy hats! Their boots were
shiny and so were their bright and sparkling silver rings
and bracelets. The pentacles that hung around their necks
were just as shiny, but privately tucked away as not to
alarm the good citizens of Willow Grove.

They walked on and went from shop to shop and
gathered bags of supplies for the party that would
follow the big dinner and ritual that was always held on
Samhain night. It was getting cooler as the day
wore on so, when their shopping was done, they stopped
in at the café to have a cup of tea.
As soon as they went in, they were greeted with
hugs and cheerful smiles. Lady Crystal owned the tidy
little coffee shop, and served the best herbal tea Gwen
had ever tasted. Except for the ones her mom made that
is. Crystal, as she was called in town, finished serving
her other customers and came and sat down with them.

Star showed her all of the cool things they had
bought for the party and made sure that Crystal
and her husband Merlin would be there for the festivities.
“Now, where else would we be on such an important night?”
Crystal asked and winked. “How could we start our
new year with anyone other than our sisters and brothers?
You can bet your best cauldron that we’ll be
there before the moon shows her lovely face!” With that,
Crystal got up and went back to tending her other
patrons. Gwen just had time to slurp up the last
drop of her chamomile tea before her mom and aunt Star
stood up to go. They paid Lady Crystal for the
cups of tea, exchanged warm hugs and started the walk home.
Once they were out of town and back on the dirt road
that led to Gwens comfy cabin on the edge of the
woods, they began once again to laugh and make
jokes about the silly notions of the town folk. “Wouldn’t
they be surprised that real witches live right here in
Willow Grove? “Oh, Goddess, What do you suppose
would happen if they knew that their afternoon tea was
being brewed and served by our own high priestess?”
laughed Star. “They’ll never know who we are because we
don’t have green faces and straw hair! We don’t wear stripped
rags and pointy hats either! AND, this morning when
I brushed my teeth, I remember them all being
where they should.” Gwens’ mom laughed so hard she had to
stop walking to catch her breath.

It was getting dark. The trees were beginning to sway
in the chilly evening breeze. Gwen heard a creepy
whistling song float out of the woods and follow right
behind them as they made their way towards home.
They walked a little further and just as they
went around the bend in the road they saw the soft lights
flowing out of the windows of their house. They
felt the first drops of rain on their noses and
decided to run the rest of the way up the path to
the warm fireplace that waited just inside the big bright front door.

The next couple of weeks were busy with a flurry of
activity around Gwens farm. The fields were cleared and
all of the corn stalks were cut and tied in big bunches
with orange and black ribbons. All of the crops and hay
had been brought into the house or barn and put up for
the long winter that was approaching. And then, there
was preparation for All Hallows Eve! Gwen was so
excited! This would be the first year that she would
be allowed to attend the whole nights festivities!
She had been included once before at the mid-summer
celebration, but she was not allowed to participate.
She only got to watch the ritual and to share
in the cakes and ale. Tonight would be different!
Tonight would be special!

All of Gwens’ friends teased her about not wanting to
come and trick or treat with them. They called her a
baby and said that she was afraid of the spooks and
goblins and witches that come out on Halloween.
They wouldn’t try to understand that this was a special
holiday for Gwen and her family. They didn’t really
care if she joined them or not, they just liked to tease
Gwen because she was so much different than they were.

Gwen didn’t care either. She thought that they were
the babies! Why, they wouldn’t know a witch if they ran
right smack into one! They already had many times and
never even knew. Jake and Katy had visited Gwens house
all summer. They ate cookies and drank lemonade and sat
on the porch and talked and joked with her and her mom
and even aunt Star. No, Gwen was definitely not
afraid of witches!
Spooks and goblins maybe, but witches……NEVER!

October 31st. started out just like every other
morning on the farm. Feathers, the old red rooster woke
everyone up with his cock–a–doodle–do just as
the sun peaked over the horizon.

You could hear the whole family one by one as their
feet searched for their warm slippers. They put on
cozy fleece robes and started to the kitchen for breakfast.

That’s when Gwen got her first hint that today would
be one for learning and remembering. She took
her place beside her aunt Star at the table.
Her dad took his place at the end of the table across from
where her mom always sat. But what is that? Right across
from her and aunt Star were two more plates!
“Are Crystal and Merlin coming for breakfast mom?”
asked Gwen. The grownups looked at each other and
finally Gwens dad said “No Gwen, those are spirit plates.
We have set a place for our friends and family
that have crossed into the summer lands. Today is
a day to welcome them back among us. Gwen missed
her grandma Sue that had gone away almost two years ago.
She hoped she would see her again smiling from across the table.

Before they ate their breakfast, they lit the orange
and black candles that sat in the center of the
table. They called to the goddess and thanked her
for the season’s bounty and they went one by one
around the table telling her one thing that they would
do differently in the coming year.
They thanked her for listening and bid her good day.
When they had finished their meal, they
quickly tidied up the kitchen, because
there was still much to do before the sunset.

There were jack-o-lanterns to carve, twigs and
branches to stack for the fire later tonight, there
was special food to prepare and a trip to the family
cemetery. Gwen and her family often talked about and
visited the family that had left them, but today, was
special. Today was their day of honor! Today, they would
take pumpkins and gourds, and colored candles to
leave for them instead of the flowers that had been
left in the spring and summer. And today, they
would leave cakes and wine.

As the sky began to darken, more and more friends and
family started to arrive. Everyone was coming tonight
Gwen thought. She was so excited! Most of the
little kids wore silly costumes. Most of the boys wore
super hero costumes and the girls were dressed as Cinderella
or gypsies. They were happy and content with their
bags of candy and treats. They played and ran through
the remnants of Gwens leaf piles. They were fed a good
dinner of funny named things that were really
good food with Halloween names. Bug Juice
Stew was really just beef stew, but the kids ate it up
and giggled at the name! After dinner, all of the little
ones were sent to sleep in the living room.
Sleeping bags and big cushy blankets made great
beds for a cozy nights sleep.

Gwens dad and his friends started to drift outside to
get the big fire started and the ladies began
to get ready for the evening. Gwen
rushed into her own room to get herself ready for the
very first time. Now that she was ten years old,
Gwen was finally allowed to stay up late and take part
in the Sabbat ritual and the following party.
It seemed that she had waited forever to be
included. No more getting sent to bed with the little kids
and no more peeking out the windows when she thought
nobody would see her.

Suddenly Gwen remembered Katy and Jake.
She could just imagine her friends in their
costumes. Kate as a fairy princess…hmph!
She wouldn’t have a clue. And how about Jake?
A wizard? Wizards are magickal. Wizards are brilliant
scholars. Why did Jake pick a Wizard?
He could have chosen to be a ball player
or a toad, but a wizard? Gwen liked
picturing Jake in her mind. She really kinda
liked him, but he didn’t need to know
that. And Katy better not tell him either!

Gwen took a warm bath and used the herbs and oils
that her mom had blended for her especially for tonight.
Then she sat at her vanity table she brushed
her long red curls until they were shiny and
soft. For some reason she thought that she looked
different. Maybe it was all that she had seen
and learned today. Maybe it was because she was
getting older. She couldn’t quite decide why, but
she knew that somehow she was different than she
was yesterday. “Oh well” she thought as
she began to get dressed.

She slipped on the new black dress that had been
made just for tonight. She looked at herself in the
triple mirror. Then she got her shiny silver rings
and put them on all of her fingers,
and she put her bangle bracelets on both wrists.
Then so very carefully she opened the box
on her table. The one that held her special jewelry
and took out her best silver pentacle and placed
it around her neck. She looked at herself
for a few more minutes before she heard
her name being called from the back yard. As she
stood to go, she reached into her closet and took down
her black velvet cloak with the big round hood and slipped
it over her shoulders. She looked into the mirror
one more time on her way out the door and she
smiled at the image looking back at her.
As she switched of the light and pulled
the door to her room closed she softly whispered,
“Tonight and forever more, I am a witch!
Blessed Samhain Katy and Jake, Blessed Samhain!”

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