Chapter 1: An Introduction and a Masquerade
Usually people start with introducing themselves. They sum up all the facts they think will tell people who they are. What defines them. It is common to start with a name. But the information a name can give is based upon prejudices. A religious name might say something about a person's ethics and moral. Or not. Very few people know my birth given name. I believe that is between the Goddess and me. A name holds a lot of power. And in a world full of people of all kinds, everyone should be very careful as to whom they trust with their full, birth-given name. But interacting with people requires a name. So we, the Wiccans, choose a name for ourselves once we get Marked. At the time, I was at my most ironic, and I chose the name "Sunny".
When people hear my name, they expect me to be a cheerful person, which I most definitely am not. But I want to be cheerful and make people happy, so I chose this name as a lifetime promise to myself. In order to suit my name, my hair should have been blonde, thick and preferably long. But unfortunately for all stereotype-lovers, I have black, thin and short hair. My season-tan skin makes me look healthy in the summer, but takes on a yellow tint during the winter. I have discovered one thing that matches my name, though. My common-brown eyes turn yellow if hit by direct sunlight, scaring me quite a bit the first time I saw it happen in a mirror.
My mother used to tell me that it was probably something that went wrong in my making-process. She said she had eaten too much corn at the time the magick creating my eyes was working, and that when I was born I looked like I had jaundice. Fortunately I did not, but for my first living years I was checked every winter, until the doctors gave up and concluded that this was just the way I was made.
My cat's grunt notified me that we had a customer. Mrs. Starling, a middle aged woman with a love for carob. I once went to a tea party at her place, and I could swear by the Goddess everything she served tasted like chocolate substitute. Even her tea. With her characteristic ear-to-ear smile, one could simply not complain about her diet. She was convinced it was the reason behind her cheerful mood. Her smiling was a miracle by itself - her husband had been burned at the stakes. I admired this woman. After her husband's death she had moved to Crosston, a multi-cultural city with a wide range of ethnicity and religions. Mrs. Starling said she wanted everyone to learn more about each other, and hopefully stop some of the hatred going on between the different believers.
Today she wanted, no surprise, carob, coltsfoot and comfrey leaf. As I measured up the right amount in separate pouches, I asked her if she was going for some astral journeys since she was buying a significant amount of comfrey leaf. She told me her stomach had finally started a riot and she needed something else than carob to calm it down. I wondered if she really knew how to cook anything that didn't involve her beloved chocolate substitute, but polite as I am, I refrained from asking.
The kind of business I run makes a very good profit. I am a spell maker. What this entails is that I make rhyming poems with commands and pleads for a specific purpose. Wiccans come to me if they want to buy a spell for healing, hair coloring, shifting and whatever else they might need a spell for. There are very few people who have the ability to become a spell maker. It requires the element of Spirit, powerful magick and the ability to make rhyming poems, and most Wiccans have probably not even made an effort to master the last one.
One of the few advantages in living in a city with only a small amount of wiccans is that there is not much competition on the Magick market. My suppliers come from all parts of the world, and I make sure I only take in goods of the finest quality. This has earned the Sunny's Tools of Magick shop a good reputation and people travelling through Crosston are always pleased to find a shop they have heard about before. In addition to selling spells, I also sell herbs, crystals, books, incenses, oils and potions. I have to admit that I have actually not made many of the potions I sell myself, simply because those made by potion makers work about 30 % better. My customers are mostly travelers - I would not be able to keep the shop open if I was to only subsist on the locals.
Few wiccans like to live in the cities. They think that it is too far away from nature, and they have to co-exist with Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and other groups. Given our history together, most Wiccans like to keep away from the Christians, especially. But like Mrs. Starling, some Wiccans try to forgive.
My shop is located in the middle of a busy shopping street, and if it was not for some spells I put up, it would be quite noisy inside. Entering my shop is like going from one world to another. The smell of gasoline is replaced with the smell of fresh lavender, and the sound of vehicles driving is replaced with the sounds of a quiet, European forest. Non-wiccan people sometimes come into my shop just to relax and smell the herbs. I have put up a small coffee-table and some chairs so that they can sit down and have a cup of tea.
Most of these people are regulars, and I have been considering making it a more official relaxation place. Making them a cup of home-mixed tea is a very simple task, and the profit is good too. Some of them have even started buying some of my oils, and expanding my market would really help my business grow. Soon, I might even have to hire someone to help me around the shop. But being able to perform magick makes things a whole lot easier. Cleaning and picking up things are no problem if you know the right spell. Opening doors using magick is a habit most Wiccans struggle to break when they move to a multi-city. Somehow, other people do not appreciate doors being flung open without anyone pushing them. I have scared away quite a few potential non-Wiccan customers myself, just by trying to be welcoming and polite (the Wiccan way). The spell is very easy to remember and perform, so it is one of the first spells young Wiccans learn:
"Door, open wide
Please let me inside!"
Or outside, if one is going out.
Classes for youngsters are often held outside. Doors opening and closing can be very disturbing when one is trying to teach five-year-olds how to chant the Wiccan Rede. I remember one school trip to the Minerva Library in Astarte, one of the largest Wiccan cities and communities. A bully in my class thought it would be funny to shut the door in the face of an Astartian woman so she almost broke her nose. What we all learned that day is that the Astartians are the Wiccan answer to the Amazons. Even though the boy was just six years old, the woman picked him up and shook him so his teeth chattered. Luckily our teacher came to the little bully's rescue just as the Astartian was about to slap him.
One afternoon after closing time, I decided to go visit a very dear friend of mine, who also happens to be one of my suppliers. Her name is Katnip, and she lives deep inside a thick forest, surrounded by tall mountains impossible to climb by foot or any earth-bound vehicle. Since I visit her quite often, we have established a portal, making it easy to travel from one place to the other. My portal is under a hatch behind the counter in my shop, neatly and very originally hidden under a rug.
I fed my cat in a small wooden bowl I had gotten from a pet-shop in Old Witwarren, before I removed the rug and opened the hatch. I had to climb through a small tunnel, which was clean so that I would not get any dirt on my clothes, before I got to a rotating circle of green light. Feet first, I jumped in. I loved the roller coaster feeling as I swooshed to the other side of the portal. I landed about a hundred meters away from Katnip's house. Some people might call it a cabin, because it is quite small and has grass growing on the roof.
I walked through the pine-tree forest as I listened to the birds singing. Clouds had started to gather, and it would not be long before all small birdies would seek shelter in their nests. In an attempt to locate one of the singing birds, I forgot to watch my step and accidentally crumpled some fox's feces. That witch could just not keep her forest clean! Annoyed, I entered the clearing around Katnip's cabin.
The clearing was quite big, as she was growing herbs and had to have dozens of small fields in order to grow all the different kinds. A fox cub greeted me by the door. I tried petting it, but it was too playful and just wanted to nibble at my hand. My green-haired friend opened the door just in time to give the fox The Look before it bit through my skin. I am certain that woman could tame any wild beast just by looking at them. The cub and I both hurried inside just as it started raining.
Inside was warm and cozy. Katnip had made hare stew, and the three of us ate together. The name of the new addition to the family was Amber, and I quickly learned that this was a hungry little fox. She ate just as much as me, but honestly, who could blame her? The stew was great! Katnip told me she had caught the hare with her very own teeth and that Amber had been very helpful scaring it in her direction.
Shifting is a long process, compared to other spells. In order to fully change from ones current form into another, one has to have something from the animal one is changing into. Most Wiccans have a small bottle of glass with hair from a chosen animal around their neck. Katnip, for instance, wears a small bottle of fox hair as a necklace. The spell for shifting is quite long, and must be recited perfectly, or else one might end up half-changed and unable to function. That is why it is considered unwise to shift before being fully trained in the discipline.
In order to change back, one has to eat a small amount of angelica root, but it has to be used with caution, because it can affect blood pressure, heart and respiration in a negative way. Pregnant women cannot shift because the angelica root might cause miscarriage, so shifting is not taken lightly. Some women have tried to shift into an animal with an easier labor process just as the contractions start, but the result is a dark side of Wiccan magick history one does not want to dig further into. But some people, like Katnip, feel more at home in an animal body, so they spend days, or even weeks in a shifted form.
Katnip asked me if I wanted to shift with her. She wanted to show me Amber's family. The mother had given birth to too many cubs, so she could not take care of the weakest one, and so Katnip had adopted her. Even though fox is not the animal I am most comfortable transforming into, I really wanted to go to the den. We got undressed, and I held on to Katnip's bottle of fox hair as we started chanting the spell together:
"Black nose, fire-red fur
Goddess, let my spell incur
Mind full of wit
Milky-white is my tail-tip
Legs made for running
My elegance stunning
Teeth sharp and white
Made to smile and bite
Blessed be this shift of form
Goddess, let me transform!"
Keep reading, it gets better!
Please tell me what you think!
Positive criticism is most welcome!