Evocations of the Sabbats

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Mabon: Never Thirst

by Melanie Fire Salamander

You sit in a meadow of fall flowers: goldenrod, pearly everlasting, fuzzy purple butterfly bush, fireweed.  Around you, brittle tan grasses wave in the breeze; low to the earth, clover heads nod gently.  You fold your arms around yourself; it's chilly.  On the horizon, a hill furred with fir- trees, the red-orange drop of the sun balances; it is sunset. 

As you watch, the sun-drop on the horizon breaks, evaporates; the focus of the light is gone, all that's left is an echo, pale-gold light against which the trees rise black.  To your either side, you feel the arms of the forest encircling you.  Under their branches, trailing to earth, the firs hold darkness, night coming.  The darkness beckons, safe, protective, a little melancholy, like sleep. 

You stand up, brush yourself off.  Ahead is a break in the firs, a dirt path winding downhill.  You have time in the twilight to explore a little, before full darkness comes. 

You come to the head of the path, begin.  It starts downward steeply.  To either side tangles low blackberry, Oregon grape with spiked leaves green and red, tiny berries blue-black.  Dirt and bits of stick and bark roll under your feet as you put weight on them; you tramp downward with a swinging gait, till suddenly the dirt under you loosens and slides.  Catching a branch, you manage to keep your balance.  You continue onward more slowly. 

Under the trees, blue shadows hang dense.  The trail goes steadily downhill; the air gets slightly warmer, wetter.  You see more maple and alder, the alder bark mottled gray-white, trees draped with hanging moss, yellow-green tangled hair.  The earth below grows muddier. 

Suddenly to your right you hear a cracking sound, a branch breaking.  Your head whips 'round to look.  In a glade close to the path stands a young buck deer, antlers single-pronged.  He stares at you with black unblinking eyes, sensitive nostrils twitching.  Then with a bound he's gone. 

You stand a moment staring.  It's as if he couldn't have been there, so empty is the spot he stood, and yet he stood there. 

I'll go just a little farther, you think. 

Your path comes to a stream, water trickling over dark rocks, their heads rising from the water mossy.  On the other side, the path turns uphill again.  It looks inviting: drier, winding among bigleaf maples, their fallen leaves brown and big as platters.  The forest is more open there, lighter than the way you've come. 

You leap the stream, misjudging the width a little, splashing; your shoes get wet.  You walk uphill. 

The hill seems steeper than the one you came down.  Quickly you begin to sweat.  After twining through the grove of maples, the path turns under firs again.  Even when your eyes adjust, it's dark, late twilight.  Time to turn back, you think. 

But as you think this, you walk into a glade; it's lighter, open to the sky.  At its far edge, where the trees begin again, you see a shadowy form, which resolves itself into a picnic table.  It seems to have something laid on it.  Curious, you cross over. 

Coming up, you see lying on the table apples, grapes, tomatoes, gourds, Indian corn, potatoes, zucchini, cut herbs tied with ribbon, wheat in sheaves.  At the table's far end are two pewter plates, two matching goblets.  Looking up, you see behind the table two figures: a woman with a flowing gown patterned with vines, leaves, harvest spilling from a cornucopia, and a man naked to the waist, wearing buckskin trousers.  On their heads twine wreaths of ivy.  In the shadows you can hardly see their faces. 

"You've brought nothing to our table," the woman says.  Her low voice is melodious, but not sympathetic. 

"I didn't know I'd find you here.  I'm sorry." 

"No matter," the woman says, after a moment.  Perhaps she smiles. 

The man gestures toward the table.  "These are fruits of the earth.  They come very easily to you.  Do you appreciate them?" 

You think, I just go to the store.  What would I do if I had to raise my own food?  With a twinge of fear, you say, "I do appreciate them." 

"Do you?"  the woman asks.  "Will you drink with us, then?" 

Your fear whispers to you.  You think of people given fairy-food, who never come back, or Persephone fed by Hades.  The man and woman smile at each other.  "You have drunk with us before," the man's low voice says.  "If you ever drink, you drink with us." 

"Have we not given you all your food and drink?  Here."  The woman hands you a pewter cup.  It's heavy, and cool with what it carries, moisture beading along its sides.  You sniff at it; it smells heady, of grape and spices. 

Each with a hand on the cup, the God and Goddess together raise the other goblet in a toast.  They watch you; their heavy gaze forces you to sip.  It's impossible to tell what's in your cup; it could be grape juice; it could be wine or mead.  Whatever it is, it tastes like heaven. 

The Goddess and God smile.  "May you never lack for harvest," they say.  One then the other, they pledge each other from their cup. 

Watching, you set your own cup on the table.  The wood seems to move under your fingers, and you look down.  You see the table is empty, fruit, grain and vegetables all gone, the pewter crockery too, even the cup you just set down.  You look up again quickly.  The God and Goddess themselves are gone. 

The grove is empty, but for yourself and the picnic table.  Around you lies full darkness, blue-black.  On your tongue lingers the taste of nectar.


Copyright (c) 1995-2009 by Melanie Fire Salamander

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