pale leaf Gaia's Garden leaves




The Wheel of Life
by MommaWhiteCougar

dedicate this to the Morrigan, who whispered the memory in my ear. May She always remind me to be careful what I pray for in every Turn of the Wheel. It is a true memory of the past, and only Conrad is a bow to what should have been…had the Goddess willed it in this Turn of the Wheel.


Jenna sat by a deep, wide pool at the forest’s edge. In the distance were the hills that surrounded her homeland. The pool was fed by several springs and had been sacred to the Goddess since time out of mind.

Sighing idly, she tossed leaves onto the surface of the water and watched as gentle gusts of wind moved them around. Her mother Sula, the Voice of the Goddess, saw visions here when the Wellspring was still, but today the little ripples would have closed the Gates to the Otherworld.

Sighing once again, she looked anxiously down the trackway that led across the Downs and into her village. It was a fair distance away, but she thought she could smell woodsmoke, so the village must be waking up.

At least an hour had passed since dawn, and although she had arrived well before the first glow touched the sky, Con had not arrived as promised. Jenna shivered as the wind changed around to the East, and she drew the wolfskin snugly up around her head.

Growing bored - and annoyed at Con as well - Jenna changed from leaves to pebbles and calmly started sinking the arboreal boats.

Her mother would beat her if she found out she was waiting for Con, but she did not intend to be caught. Anyway, as far as Jenna was concerned, the rift between her mother and the rest of the People of Conaral had very little to do with her. However, if Con was much later, she would have to accept that even he had turned his back on her.

And there had been such high hopes for reconciliation between Sula and the Warlord Conaral on the previous morning as everyone prepared for the Festival of Harvest Home…


Con felt his heart beat hard against his ribs as he knelt behind the wall of spears set in the ground at a 45° angle. He could just hear the shouts of the beaters as they drove the boar down the track towards him.

He was beyond a curve, so the boar would have no warning Con and the spears were there until it was too late to avoid impalement. His task was to despatch the boar quickly before it ripped itself apart and damaged the meat for the Feast.

As he waited, birdsong floated on the breeze and a cool mist rose from the forest floor. His mind wandered. He hoped his marriage to Jenna would be announced that evening at the Feast.

Until recently he had been confused about the way she made him feel, but now he understood - they were friends, but more than that, they were Soulmates. Sula had explained it to them at the Wellspring the day after Jenna had celebrated her Womanhood Rites.

“Some people are fated by the Goddess to know each other down the centuries, reborn time and again on the Wheel of Life, sometimes as parent and child or brother and sister or inseparable best friends and occasionally - unhappily - born apart and doomed to a lonely lifetime.

“But,” she reassured them, “the best by far is the relationship is the one you both are fated to share in this Turn of the Wheel: a mated couple! I have seen it in the Wellspring and nothing can take away the fact you’re fated to be together throughout all your lives: Soulmates.”

Although he drew comfort from that memory, and the fact that he and Jenna had always played together and she was his dearest friend, Con still couldn’t stop a small frown creasing his forehead as he remembered another conversation: one he had overheard that morning between his father and Sula.

“I will agree to accept your daughter for Con,” Conaral had said, “not because of who you are, Sula, but in spite of it. I dislike your efforts to control my people,” Conaral had continued, “with these conveniently-timed visions warning against contact with outsiders. We may live on an island, but we aren’t alone in the world. You’re trying to prevent my people from a liaison with a race whose ways and Gods may be strange, but who offer us uncountable benefits.”

Sula had averted her gaze, thought carefully, then bowed her head and spoke contritely. “I hope this joining will be seen as a lasting end to our disagreements. Tonight, we will honour the Goddess, but tomorrow when Acturion and his Cohort arrive I’ll welcome them - if that is then still your wish - and the wish of the People of Conaral."

Con continued his daydreaming. He remembered that he had gone in search of Jenna. He found her sitting outside the dwelling that doubled as both the ceremonial heart of the village and her home.

At the sight of him, Jenna had jumped up and run eagerly forward. He had clasped her hands in his, and daringly brushed her forehead with his lips.

“The promise has been made! I heard them just now at the Council House. Come on!” Con pulled Jenna farther from the doorway. “We can spend the whole day before the Feast together, forget our parents and their stupid fighting. We can talk about what it will be like when we are grown and have a place of our own. We can start our own village, maybe.”

“Not today, Con!” She laughingly scolded him. “You know you have to hunt for the feast, and this will be my first time assisting in Ceremonial Rites. Our lives are fated: one day you’ll be Warlord and I’ll be the Voice of the Goddess. Because of this, we have responsibilities. We are almost grown and have to accept this, like it or no.”

Jenna’s resolve seemed to waver despite her fine words as she looked at Con’s crestfallen expression. She had just reminded them they were still really only children, after all. Then she had smiled brightly.

“I’ll tell you what! We can spend all day tomorrow together, making plans and dreaming of the future. We won’t tell anyone. I’ll meet you at the Wellspring at dawn tomorrow. Well? Will you come?”

“Yes, I promise! Nothing in the world will stop me. We’ll cement the relationship,” he said wickedly grinning. “I’ll be there at dawn, I promise.”

At the memory of that promise so recently made, a slow smile caused by his dawning sexuality spread across his face. “Maybe tomorrow at the Wellspring we’ll find out what it is like to be truly Soulmates!” He shut his eyes and leaned back against the bole of an oak snuggling in happily to wait for the hunt to reach him.

A crashing! It was there! He leapt to his feet and cried aloud as the boar suddenly dashed into view. It was huge! He cast about for the great knife he was to use to slay the beast, and seeing it beside the tree, ran back to pick it up, nearly beside himself with fear and anger. How could he have dozed off?

Luckily, the boar obligingly hurled itself onto the spears, and Con was able to run forward and slit its great throat before the rest of the hunters came around the bend in the track. He was standing bloody and grinning in the act of plunging the dagger deep into its heart as they caught their breaths and laughingly clapped each other on the back.

This was Con’s very first kill of an animal larger than a hare, and to have the honour of making the kill just in time for the feast meant he would be allowed to join the adults in the Feasting House. As this was the end of his twelfth Summer, it would have been embarrassing to still be with the children at the feast, especially since Jenna would be with other adults of her rank. Moreover, how would he have faced her tomorrow at dawn?

The killing of the boar was a perfect start to their celebrations, and as the hunters made their way back to the village, the women and children left the fields and joined them, carrying the fruits of their toil to begin the final preparations for the feast.


At the same time as Con daydreamed awaiting the boar; Sula was smiling at Jenna as her daughter led Magra into the Glade of the Goddess. “This girl Magra will work nicely for my plans,” she thought.

Magra, who had been chosen to be the Corn Maiden in the Spring, was amazingly the only woman to become pregnant that year. Magra’s baby was considered by all to be doubly lucky. It would be seen as a virgin birth, as the baby was conceived not of man and woman but of the Corn Maiden and the Horned One. Furthermore, Magra, as the only pregnant woman in the village, was the only one who could be chosen to represent the Harvest Mother.

“I was right to use the Summer Solstice to make sure she was the lone woman to bear fruit from the Beltane Fires. None could know there was ergot in the mead, and the loss of any new tribe members is well outweighed by my being able to present a Corn Maiden transformed into a fecund Harvest Mother. Yes. It suits my plans well.”

Sula knew she had yet to convince the People to accept her prophecies that the newcomers were their enemies. This evening all her specially orchestrated signs and portents, as well as this girl, would ensure that she would never have to keep her promise made to Conaral: to welcome the hated Romans on bended knee.

“The Romans threaten our very existence. By sunrise tomorrow everyone will fear and hate them, and Conaral will be the one standing alone. By the Dark Goddess I swear my very life to this!”

Sula and Jenna spent the entire day with the Harvest Mother engaging in purifying rituals. Near sunset, Sula turned to them, saying “I must pass through the fields on my way to the Downs. Stay on the trackway, and I’ll meet you at the summit.”

Jenna wondered what her mother was up to. Although she had never taken an active part before, she knew on all previous ceremonies her mother had followed the trackway that led directly from the Glade of the Goddess to the crest of the Downs which was the Western border of the lands which looked to the Warlord Conaral for protection.

Turning to her, Jenna boldly spoke out; “What are you doing, Mother? Shouldn’t we all three climb the trackway, bound together as the three faces of the Goddess?”

“Dare you to question me? There are things I must do that you’re not ready to know,” her mother stormed. “I am not now your mother. I am The Voice of the Goddess and you will obey me as you would the Goddess herself!”

It was as if her heart had died within her, but she had learned one lesson of the Sisterhood well: do not question the Voice of the Goddess. Jenna felt her stomach begin to churn. She knew that her mother had been changing since news of these Romans had reached the village. As she grew older, Jenna was becoming aware that sometimes the words that Sula claimed were from the Goddess were actually her own opinions and for her own ends. She had an awful feeling this was one of those times.

Jenna turned and took Magra by the hand. “Come, Harvest Mother,” she said forcing a smile. “We’ll walk the trackway together.”


At dusk, the People arranged themselves in family groups outside the palisade, facing toward the setting sun. As the sun touched the rim of the Downs, Sula appeared over the crest facing them, haloed in its rays and clad only in light, with the crescent Dagger of the Goddess about her neck.

Her hair, heavily streaked with grey, was unbound and hung to her waist. In her right hand was a stone chalice with water from the Wellspring, and in her left a spear cut from a living hawthorn in the Glade of the Goddess.

Looking down on the village from this vantage point, it was impossible for Sula to believe the divisions caused by rumours of newcomers would last this night’s work. Woodsmoke rising in columns in the still, chill air melded with the aromas of cooking and animal odours into a pleasant fragrance that was uniquely Home.

Sula intended for it to remain their home, and she concentrated all her considerable powers, called to the Goddess, raised the cup and slowly spilt the water there at the border of their tribal lands. It glowed like molten gold in the last rays of the sun.

At her mother’s call, Jenna dropped the wolfskin she had been huddling under with Magra and stepped over the crest of the hill to stand on her mother’s right. Jenna shuddered as a gust of wind caught her naked body, adorned only by a girdle of Autumn berries.

Jenna was shivering as much as Magra, and for much the same reasons ­ the cold and fear of the Goddess. She glanced sideways, moving only her eyes: watching the Voice of the Goddess, Sula, who did not waver in the stiffening breeze.

“The chill in the air is a good sign,” her mother said softly. “It is proof from the Goddess that Wheel of Life continues to turn. Don’t fear the future. Face it and make it your own.”

Jenna stood up straight and proud, her gaze fixed eastwards on the distant Tor. In her right hand was an unlit torch, and hidden in her left hand at her side was a glowing coal to light the torch as soon as the sun’s rays no longer touched the Tor. That would be the signal for the Harvest Mother to step up next to Sula. Sula’s eyes were unblinking as she faced East.

At the precise moment the Tor was plunged into blackness, she raised the hawthorn spear above her head, and shook it.

Jenna’s hand trembled as she touched the coal to the torch and sent out a silent plea to the Goddess that it would catch swiftly. She then spoke in a clear and carrying voice: “The Wheel turns and the Seasons pass. We are one with the earth and her fruits. Like the corn we are sown and come forth…” She stepped directly in front of Sula, and changed the torch from her right hand to her left.

Then Magra came over the brow of the hill, transformed by the afterglow into the Harvest Mother clad in garlands of corn and leaves, her gravid state accented by the side light from the torch.

She took the torch in her right hand as she spoke clearly: “We ripen and we bear fruit…” Magra stood to the left of Jenna and passed the torch to her left hand. Sula took the torch as she stepped to the left of Magra.

They stood there for what seemed to be an eternity, and the watching villagers could only stand in awe at the Magick before them as they saw indeed the three faces of the Goddess: Maiden. Mother. Crone.

“We are…” As Sula was about to continue, there was a collective sharp intake of breath from the Tribe. Forcing her eyes to see beyond the smoky and flickering light from the torch in her hand, Sula saw a shadow seeming to scud through the air ­ a bird ­ huge ­ black. The People groaned as the raven landed beside Sula. This was the Goddess’s hidden face: Morrigan. Death.

Coming like this, at the very height of the Ritual, it was a portent of tremendous significance. Jenna could see the terror she felt mirrored in the eyes of every member of the Tribe as Sula spoke the words: “We are cut down and consumed.”

Sula smiled a secret smile, for the Goddess had answered her prayer. Granted Sula had given Her a little assist in the form of the strong-scented emmer wheat which she had gathered in the field on her way to the Downs and scattered on the brow of the hill under the guise of shaking the spear.

This had enticed a homeward-bound raven to land, but the People could not possibly know this and they must believe her now. She stood with only the torch for light ­ groaning, moaning and swaying.

The People of Conaral shifted uneasily as they watched Sula transform completely into the Voice of the Goddess. Her very appearance seemed to change, and her entire being was trembling as her voice, now harsh, screamed out the warning: “The Morrigan is come!” she cried, “The Death of our people as foretold by the Voice of the Goddess is come! Run to your homes! Bar the doors! The enemy is come and he is at your gate! Look, you can see the fires in the East…I burn! I burn!”

Sula collapsed and allowed the torch to fall on some strategically placed tinder that flared dramatically for several seconds and then was consumed. The hillside was plunged into darkness, silhouetted against a sky the colour of blood.

There was complete silence for several moments; then the raven took to the air, wings clapping like thunder in the hush. Following its flight, everyone began speaking at once. Jenna ran to her mother, and knelt beside her, terrified she was dead.

“Get away!” Sula hissed. “Do not speak until I rise. I must press home the words of the Goddess that these Romans are evil. They mean to end our way of life.”

“But this is wrong! You are using the powers from the Goddess for your own needs. Remember the saying you taught me? ‘Be careful what you pray for, as you will surely get it!’ Just because you…”

Jenna stopped speaking and tears started in her eyes as Sula’s nails dug into her wrist, but as she looked into her mother’s face, she saw that Sula was no longer looking at her, but staring with terror toward the East.

There was a sharp intake of her breath, then Sula spoke in a harsh whisper, “It seems as if the Goddess would indeed use this night for Her own purposes, look now, Jenna!” She pointed directly over the heads of the demoralised villagers.

From the East there started a glow like a flight of fireflies approaching. As one, the villagers turned from the tableau on the Downs to watch the approach of Acturion and his entire Cohort, bearing torches to light their way and mounted on the fine horses of Rome.

Compared to the shaggy, stocky ponies of Britain, these war horses of the Romans were almost beyond comprehension: small neat hooves, wide-set intelligent eyes ­ incredibly beautiful.

The Celts had their stubby horses and cumbersome vehicles which were not as manoeuvrable as the high-strung war-horses galloping toward the palisade. If the truth were told, these glorious beasts were the main reason Conaral wanted good relations with the invaders: a man mounted on one of these could rule not a just village, but all of Britain.

The galloping horses slid to a stop next to Conaral and his family, and he returned Acturion’s chest-thumping salute with vigour, if not style. “Vale, Acturion,” said Conaral in an attempt at Latin.

“Hail and well met, Conaral!” replied the General. “I’ll be billeting my Cohort outside your palisade tonight. May I present my officers Flavin and Pacentius, and may I also commend to you my only son Lucius. I was hoping you would invite the four of us to come along to see these Harvest Celebrations of yours. They sound a bit like our Bacchanalia, and a rip roaring orgy is not to be missed!”

Jenna watched in horror as Sula drew herself up. The Rites practised at Harvest Home were not for outsiders. She knew when her mother drew The Mantle of the Goddess around herself she was a force to be reckoned with, and she honestly feared for the safety of this uncouth foreigner.

Fairly flying over the short grass of the Downs, Sula shrieked like all the fiends of the Otherworld, and the horses skittered and tried to bolt from this apparition that approached them. Her arrival did not have the effect on Acturion she expected, however.

Laughing hugely, Acturion leapt off his horse and approached her, opening his arms wide, intending to draw her beneath his cloak. “Come to me you Heathen Goddess! I admit you British do have an amazing religion! By Venus, we may both be getting on a bit, but we can still show these striplings a thing or two, I’ll wager!” He reached out and drew the struggling Sula to him.

Conaral made a half-finished gesture to stop the Roman, but then he seemed to consider the fact that Acturion was in armour and wearing a sword (and backed by the entire Cohort of trained troops who were setting up camp next to the palisade). By contrast, he was clad only in his ceremonial garments of wool trimmed with furs, and the nearest thing to a weapon was the spear Sula had used on the hilltop, or the crescent dagger at her neck.

“NO!” Jenna heard herself scream. “She is the Voice of the Goddess, and in this form may only mate with her Consort!”

“Well then, how about you, warrior maiden?” He asked starting toward Jenna. “You seem to be made of stern stuff, and you look like the Face of the Goddess to me. Perhaps you should be a native bride for my son. He is far too well-bred and could do with some fire to make his blood heat.”

“It has been decided that she is for my son, Con,” said Conaral hesitatingly. “It is seen as a way of linking the two ruling factions into one…” his voice began to trail off. The emotions that were racing across his face left no doubt in anyone’s mind he was seriously considering the offer made half in jest.

Con moved toward Jenna slowly, so as not to attract his father’s attention. When he was at her side, he gripped her hand tightly. “He can’t do this,” he whispered, “It would be unthinkable to break a promise to the Voice of the Goddess.”

Acturion was looking at Jenna in the fast fading light with an expression he usually reserved for a fine brood mare he was about to cover with his prize stallion.

“Tell you what, Conaral, let’s go into the feast and discuss this. The Emperor Claudius has suggested we take native brides to make our presence more ­ shall we say ­ friendly?”

With one voice, Con, Sula and Jenna screamed “NO!” Sula drew her ceremonial dagger in a futile gesture of defence.

Acturion only laughed at the three of them, then turned his back to face Conaral. “In the civilised world of Rome, we men make these decisions and don’t allow boys or the uneven humours of women disrupt something which is beyond them. I think that Lucius could benefit from a woman. He’s too much in the company of men, and I want to have an heir. Shall we go in, Conaral?” Then he put his arm companionably around Conaral’s shoulder and began drawing him toward the Feasting House.

“Go to the Wellspring,” said Con in an undertone to Jenna, “I’ll meet you as promised, and plot our escape if there is no other way to end this.” Jenna nodded, and began backing away. As soon as she was well away from the palisade, she turned and ran straight for the trackway. At the top she tripped over Magra, lying in a heap ­ alone and afraid. “Give me the wolfskin and get you down to the village,” she said.

The last thing Jenna heard as she went over the brow of the hill was her mother cursing Conaral and all Romans and the soft crying of Magra, a crumpled and forgotten lump on the hilltop.


Con turned to his father in disgust, and grabbed his arm to prevent him entering the Feasting House. “You can’t do this thing! I love Jenna and she loves me!”

Conaral threw his son to the ground. “Don’t embarrass me in front of the entire village and our guests! You are only twelve, and can know nothing of love.

“Besides,” he added in an undertone, “I have a plan that can convince Sula this is beneficial for her daughter, and if I do this, she will then support us and we will gain all the luxuries and knowledge that Rome can offer! Maybe one of the other officers has a daughter for you, you fool! Would you not prefer to be a Citizen of the Roman Empire?”

He turned then to Sula with a forced smile. She stood shaking with cold and anger. “Clothe yourself, woman. The day of the Goddess is at an end. The Roman Gods are more sophisticated, and have obviously overcome the Goddess. I shall have to speak more with Acturion about his Gods for men. Sula, tonight you will serve us at table. Con! Attend me!”

Conaral turned without another word or glance to see if Sula would do his bidding and went in with Con, sullen at his side.

It was Conaral’s plan to have Sula spend as much time as possible with Acturion. He was convinced that if she were near the Roman, she too would feel the power that was Rome and be bent by it. For that reason, he was going to insist Acturion and his son be housed with Sula in the Ceremonial House of the Goddess.

For the first time, Con sat beside his father, and all the while he ate and drank he watched the Romans: Acturion who was claiming kinship to half the royalty of the Roman world but with the manners of a sow. Flavin and Pacentius who wanted to recline whilst eating, and made a grab for any woman that passed by. Lucius who was Roman in a way Con had heard rumoured - Lucius only had eyes for the pot-boy.

Con shuddered. The more he knew of Rome and Romans the less desirable they became, rather than more. It was also the first time he had drunk the heady honey mead, and it seemed to him that the more he drank, the clearer the solution became: no Lucius, no marriage. He watched carefully to see when the Romans retired for the night. He intended to pay them a late night call.

And so it was that at the hour before dawn, Con rolled out of his sleeping furs, and crept toward Sula’s house. His head was throbbing incredibly, and his eyes refused to focus. Tiptoeing in an exaggerated manner, he crossed to the pallet where Lucius lay sleeping.

Then a groan escaped Con’s lips as he realised in his fuddled state he was weaponless. How did he intend to kill this Roman brat? He cast his eyes around the room, came to rest on Sula’s Ceremonial Dagger ­ and a smile lit his face. He drew the dagger from its sheath.

He placed a sleeping fur over Lucius’s head to muffle any cries, and thrust the dagger exactly as he had done to the boar on the hunt. He slit the Roman’s throat from ear to ear, then rammed the dagger home between his ribs.

In a moment, Lucius was as dead as the boar had been, and just as bloody. Realisation of his deed cleared Con’s head. He stood panting as if he had run a race, then turned and fled to his father’s house.


At the same time that Jenna was starting to grow impatient by the Wellspring, the village was waking. Acturion gently withdrew his arm from underneath Sula’s head, rolled over and glanced toward his son. The bloodstain had darkened on the fur and settled in a thick puddle on the dirt floor beside Lucius. The Dagger of the Goddess could be seen between his ribs.

Acturion turned to stare at Sula, who had not yet risen, but was looking in horror at the scene from the bed they had shared. A wail of horrible anguish escaped his lips. “Fiend! Demon! Slayer of children!” Acturion withdrew the dagger from the corpse of his only child, and with a single movement turned and plunged it into the breast of Sula.

He then ran out into the compound, shouting, “Troops! To me! To me!”

Pacentius and Flavin as well as several other half-dressed Romans appeared from various dwellings. They were belting on armour and wielding swords in confusion as they faced their commander. Conaral ran from his house and stood with his son by his side.

The sun rose over the crest of the downs and bathed the scene in tones of blood red and fiery orange, echoing the sunset of the night before. Acturion approached Conaral, tears streaming down his face, with his officers flanking him. “Claudius said you savages were not to be trusted, and I disbelieved my Caesar. He has been proven right. I have taken the life that took my son’s. But I demand another in his place.”

He gestured the officers forward to seize Con. “This boy is now my hostage: a son for a son.” They dragged Con screaming from the enclosure and threw him on a horse: one of the wonderful mounts that Conaral had so coveted.

Acturion went to Sula’s house and returned with the body of his son in his arms. He turned to Pacentius and said: “Burn these hovels to the ground, and start with the one that housed the Witch.”

He walked out of the compound, and allowed Flavin to help him affix the body of his son to a packhorse. He mounted and rode away leading the packhorse, and Flavin leading the horse with Con - bound and struggling. Acturion never looked back, and Con was not able to, but they could both hear the crackling: the village was in flames.

What he and Con never knew, as their horses galloped across the Downs, was that Pacentius had taken Acturion’s command one step further ­ the cries of the villagers filled the morning, followed by absolute silence and then the sound of galloping hooves as the Cohort pounded after their leader.

Acturion and his hostage were on the first ship back to Rome. Con did his best to forget where he came from. When he grew up to be a Citizen of Rome, he was ashamed of his ‘savage’ roots, except for the memory of a girl. He always planned to go back and find her, but growing commitments always got in the way. “It’s not too late,” he thought, “I have plenty of time to go back.”

But in his declining years, he would sit in his atrium on warm Autumn evenings and look at his plump, sedate Roman wife and dream of a girl he left waiting by the Wellspring.


When she smelled the smell of burning and heard the screaming, Jenna left the Wellspring and climbed to the top of the trackway on the Downs. From there she saw the ruin of her life.

She walked slowly into the pile of smoking ash that had been her home for all her eleven years. In the cinders she found the ceremonial knife and the stone chalice. Of her mother there was no sign.

She stood looking out at the enclosure through walls that had disappeared, and from force of habit crossed to where the door had once been and stepped onto the blackened grass.

All the people she knew seemed to have simply fallen asleep all over the compound, but the body positions were awkward and unnatural. She looked into familiar faces that were inexplicably altered. She saw Magra partially underneath a young man who seemed to have laid himself protectively over her. Jenna shook Magra’s arm. “Where is Con?” Magra only continued staring at the sky.

“Has no one seen Con?” she shouted. No-one spoke to her. They couldn’t. They were all dead.

Her mind could not accept the horror she had seen, and she told herself that Con would come to the Wellspring.

She went back to the Wellspring and sat and waited. “He promised. Perhaps tomorrow’s dawn,” she thought.

She did not eat or sleep, she just waited.

The weather grew worse, and as the first of the great Autumn storms roared across the Downs, Jenna drew the wolfskin around her head to keep out the biting wind from the East.

Still she waited.

After a time, the ravens feasted on her, and the chalice and the knife were forgotten, along with the Voice of the Goddess.

8. 1954

Jeanie sat beside a pond surrounded by catalpa trees. Sighing idly, she tossed leaves onto the surface of the water and watched as gentle gusts of wind moved them around. She was nine years old and playing one of her favourite solitary games of make-believe.

She was waiting for something or someone ­ she wasn’t sure. It was just that when she was here there was a feeling of loneliness she never felt anywhere else, and it was like she had just lost her best friend. Sighing again with a longing she couldn’t really understand, she looked down the road that led to Cassville, Missouri.

In disgust with her mood she changed from leaves to pebbles, and started idly sinking her arboreal boats. She then drew the hooded sweatshirt up around her head to keep out the biting wind from the East…


In Dorset, a man hurried to a small Spring-fed pool by a mill just outside of town. It was set in a garden, and a brass plaque said the seven Springs had been a Holy Well in pre-Roman times. Furthermore, it stated smugly, a knife and chalice found there could be seen in the local museum along with some female human bones, probably a Ritual Sacrifice.

Despite his overwhelming melancholy, he always expected to meet someone there. He sat on his usual bench and looked all around, feeling the customary sense of loss and longing. He had always felt this way near forest pools, and yet throughout his life had been drawn to them.

Although his entire family thought he was mad, he had just made the decision to move his business locally, hinged on the discovery of this pool. He felt better there than anywhere else on earth, even with this awful sense of incompleteness. And so it was, as the Wheel of Seasons turned, he attended to business, but spent as much time as he could at the spring.

After a time, the mill and its spring became a Trust Property, and was no longer open to the public as before. But down the years, the Trust Caretakers all turned a blind eye, as they could see how much it meant to this man to come and sit so quietly by the spring…


When she was twenty-one, Jeanie visited England and it lifted her in a way she could never explain. In a funny way, it felt more like home than America had.

Over the following seventeen years, she continued visiting England, and instead of decreasing her yearning, it increased dramatically. She lived for her twice-yearly visits, and all her spare cash was saved to make these visits possible.

Her friends thought she was crazy to give up a good job when she was thirty-eight and immigrate to England to live in comparative poverty, but she was happier than ever before, yet still there was that feeling…an unimaginable yearning…


In early September 1998, Jeanie went to Dorset for a Spiritual Workshop, held at a Trust property with an old mill. She was frightened and a little disturbed to discover the Wellspring there, as it looked so much like the one she imagined more than forty years earlier.

Then, as the weekend progressed, she could see this for what it truly was: part of the continual Turning of the Wheel, and she smiled with a measure of contentment.

On the final day, she had time to spare before her lift home. As she wandered around, she was drawn once more through the garden to the peaceful pool. Sitting on a bench, she passed the time idly tossing leaves onto the still water.

A chill wind rose in the East, and she drew her jacket collar up high around her neck. After a time, she switched to pebbles. As she sat there, idly bombarding her arboreal boats, her attention was drawn to an elderly man who was hurriedly entering the garden.

“He must be meeting someone,” Jeanie thought, “and he looks worried about being late.”

He stood looking in her direction, and then he smiled at her. Looking at him, she felt all the sadness and loneliness leave her to be replaced by a strange feeling of completeness.

Time passed un-noticed. She could have happily stayed there forever. Then suddenly she realised that time had indeed been passing. Glancing at her watch she knew she would have to run to catch her ride back to London. As she hurried past the pool and the old man, their eyes met again. She had an urge to run up to him - to embrace him. Disturbed by this amazing reaction, she stopped and looked closely at him, feeling a startling shock of recognition… somehow she should know this man…no. How could she?

Then he smiled at her, and she smiled back. “Were you waiting for someone?” he asked.

“Yes! I mean no, uh I was just waiting for a ride from a friend,” Jeanie stammered, embarrassed and vaguely disoriented. She heard the old man speaking once more.

“I hope your friend turns up soon,” he said, looking hopefully at her ­ for a moment she saw instead a youth wearing a torque looking back at her! The image shimmered, vanished.

“He has,” she said softly to herself, looking at him, “He has!” She looked deep into his eyes then allowed him to daringly brush her forehead with his lips.

Jeanie turned away, smiling serenely as she hurried to catch her ride.

Conrad was still smiling too, as he walked slowly and stiffly to the bench where Jeanie had been sitting. He lowered himself carefully, because bones that were eighty-seven years old were very brittle. He was very tired, but felt so peaceful. He was so glad that finally he hadn’t been too late. He smiled, sighed and closed his eyes.

The Wheel of Life gave another turn. Blessed be.

*        *        *

The Wheel of Life © MommaWhiteCougar


pale leaves

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