I stood at the crossroads next to the graveyard, the dewy mist of the clouds resting on the ground dampening my cheeks. Taking the cool vapor in with a deep breath, I lifted my face toward the waning moon. “Paul,” I whispered, “I look forward to meeting up with you tomorrow under the new moon.”
Touring the garden at a snail’s pace, Amber paused at every plant just to explore a leaf. Taking each one between her thumb and forefinger, she gently rubbed it with the intention of expressing a hint of essence. She was clearly pleased with this experience as each stop produced an orgasmic episode of fluttering eyes and a big soft smile.
Completely unaware of the fact that I had been observing her deep adoration for a while, she was positively startled when I called.
“Amber. May I speak to you a moment?”
“Oh! Hey Circe. I didn’t hear you come out. Either that or you deliberately snuck up on me. Is everything okay?”
I reassured her with a nod. “Absolutely. I just wanted to ask you for a favor. I have a big project needing my undivided attention for the next ten days. Would you mind keeping an eye on things around here until I’m through?”
“I don’t mind at all,” she replied. “But where are you going?”
“Nowhere. Well, I have to make a quick run into town to pick up something from Paul’s place later today. But starting tomorrow, I will be in the lab, day and night.”
“Day and night?” she asked. “Why? What’s going on? Why would you sleep in the lab?”
Unwilling to indulge her insatiable need to know, I lurched past her in the direction of the garden. “God, it’s beautiful out here!”
Teetering in the wake of my enthusiasm, Amber did her best to stay on her feet. “Good lord, Circe! What’s gotten into you?”
“The aroma coming from this yard!” With the greatest bit of overacting I could muster, I seized the opportunity for a luxurious wallow in the scented air. Swirling around, I squealed, “Are you telling me you can’t smell this?”
“No buts! Get into it! Exercise those nostrils like this,” I suggested as I tossed my head as far back as I could without losing my balance. “Those herbs are reaching out!.” I grabbed Amber by the wrist and whisked her toward a lavender bush.
Pulling away as fast as I had latched on, she demanded, “Let go of me!” “What the heck is going on with you? Oh, wait a minute. I know what this is all about.”
Pausing in mid-sniff, I glanced at her over the tops of my sunglasses. “You do? Tell me.”
“Circe, every time I ask a question you’re uncomfortable with, you turn on the clever charm. This is one of those times.”
My hand flew to my chest as if it were magnetized. “I’m appalled. Am I not entitled to enjoy the fragrant outdoors,” I asked as I continued strolling through the plants. “These babies are ripe with life! Just look. When you gently massage a leaf—”
“I know. I do it all the time,” she retorted. “I wasn’t suggesting that you weren’t enjoying the garden. I was merely pointing out the obvious. You’re avoiding the question.”
Skipping past her towards the wormwood, I teased, “Well. Aren’t you the little genius?”
“Circe. Could you please stand still long enough to talk with me?”
“No,” I replied. “I’m having a good time. Besides, this is my only chance to get some fresh air for a few days.”
“Is there something I can do to make it easier on you?” she asked.
“I already made my request. Keep up with the house and yard,” I answered. “Oh yeah, there is one more thing. I would be forever grateful if you would harvest the herbs from this list.” Pulling a piece of paper out from the bodice of my dress, I handed it over to her.
“Lavender, bay laurel, mullein, cedar needles. What are you going to be doing with these?”
“Amber, please put a pause on all the questions! I need to run into town. I’ll be back shortly,” I conveyed as I turned and walked in the direction of the barn. “Probably before you’re through gathering the materials. See ya in a bit.”
Fortunately, no one was at the house, and Paul’s belongings were only partially packed. I just needed to borrow an outfit to wear over the next few days.
“What was that?”
Peeking through the curtain, I saw one of his daughters and the caretaker coming in through the back door. “Damn it! They can’t see me! How do I know if any of this will fit?” Breaking into a sweat, I couldn’t waste time searching for the perfect ensemble. This was for Paul and me. No other eyes were going to see me in it, anyway! I blindly grabbed an armful of clothes and stepped behind the bedroom door just as they walked past and into the next room. With a deep sigh, I wondered if they could hear my heart beating as I could. It was time to go. With my left arm wrapped around the bundle, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath to calm the angst, and snapped myself back to the barn.
The sun was beginning to settle in for the evening as I walked back to the house. And wouldn’t you know it? Amber was still harvesting leaves, bark, and flowers for me. But when she looked up, her eyes spit fire in my direction.
“Whoa! What’s the matter with you? You aren’t still mad at me because I won’t fill you in on my mission, are you?”
That got her. Those words no sooner left my lips when she snapped. Hands on hips, the sassy side of her went into interrogation mode. “Mission? Now you’re on a mission?”
I wasn’t in the mood, nor did I have time. At sunset, I could no longer look at anyone until after the ceremony. I had to move on. Dismissing Amber with a wave, I continued toward the house. I was about halfway there when I had a thought. I spun and called back to her, “Please leave the baskets next to the door when you are through. And at midnight on the 23rd, come to the lab, and I will tell you everything.”
Without saying a word, Amber glared at me, and with a graceful flip of her hand, there it was. Her middle finger reminded me that I was not above the consequences for excluding her from the activities.
“Okay. Go ahead and pout. Just be there at midnight on the 23rd.”
Nine days went by surprisingly fast. I was sure it would seem like an eternity, but there was a lot that had to be done. Isolation was only the beginning. The entire purpose of this process was to connect with the spirit of the deceased, in this case, Paul. Prior to his passing, he insisted that there was an important message he had to deliver, but he never got or took the chance.
It was necessary to unite with his energy and temporarily call him back into the physical world. To do this, I had to wear one of his outfits the entire time I was secluded in the gloom of death. This is the reason being around the living was forbidden. It would break the space of sorrow.
Another aspect of this preparation, one I didn’t care for, was sacrificing a coyote. Thankfully, I hadn’t had to trap one. This poor guy tangled with a bobcat not far from the house and managed to find his way onto our back patio about a month ago. I did everything I knew to repair his wounds and get him back up on his feet, but nothing worked. He had been maimed and wouldn’t survive in the desert with such injuries. However, once Paul passed away, I understood the significance of this experience. He was offering himself up in service of Paul, making it possible to share his message.
Dogs are the animal familiar of Hekate, and although this process seems morose, they are sacrificed to the goddess for purification and protection. Even so, every goddess has her limits. With Hekate, all canines are an acceptable offering, except for black dogs. They are her family. If I disrespected the goddess’ boundaries, I risked losing everything, including my immortal life.
I did my best to honor the goddess and let nothing go to waste. I saved the blood and bones for the night of the ritual and feasted on the meat while sequestered. Every morning, I took communion with black unleavened bread and grape juice as I burned some ceremonial incense made of dried apple, willow, cypress, and tobacco. I anointed myself with the essential oils of bay laurel and myrrh. This nine-day period was a protection ceremony, and it was imperative I used the proper tools as I deliberately beckoned the spirit of a dead man. He may have been a nice guy while alive, yet all hell could break loose when a dead man is raised.
I hoped that Amber would arrive shortly. Everything was ready to go. The only thing left to do was write out a blessing on the birch bark:
Paul, thank you for bringing forth the gift of your knowledge to this physical plane. And as your mortal life was lived in peace and pleasure, so shall your eternal life be. Blessings—
“Circe? Are you in there?”
“Give me a second!” I almost forgot to grab the potion for Amber, and would you believe I had misplaced it?
“Circe! You said midnight!”
“I know! I’m sorry. I’ve misplaced something.” As my anxiety kicked in, it quickly turned to frustration. How dare she rush me! If she doesn’t dial it down, I have a wand, and I’m not afraid to use it. I will not allow this uppity contender to bully me. So, for giggles, I knocked over several jars just for the effect because I already knew her reaction.
“Jesus, Circe! What’s taking so long?”
“Nothing,” I said as I flung the door open. “I found it!”
“Okay. This is weird. What are you wearing?”
“We are going to perform a ritual that calls on his spirit to deliver a message.”
“A ritual? Me? And what’s with the blindfold?”
Dizzied by yet another onslaught of questions, I responded, “Yes, you. We’re heading up to the crossroads next to the graveyard, and I could use your help with setting it up. This must take place at 1:00 AM, and it will be much easier with two of us.”
“Well, okay, but why a blindfold?”
“I’ve spent the last nine days connecting to the Underworld. To look at a living being before carrying this out could force me to start all over again.” Thrusting a chalice at her. “Here, drink this.”
“What’s this for?”
“I need to collapse space to get us from here to there and back again. This potion prepares your body to move through this with ease.”
I was certain she had more questions, but she ended up surprising me. She unknowingly became the container I needed to embody Paul’s spirit once he came through.
With the circle drawn around Paul’s grave, I placed Amber on her knees in the center, laid out the bones, and sprinkled blood just inside the perimeter. I then anointed her forehead and heart with protection oils and began burning a small pot of mullein and cedar placed in front of her knees. The mullein would help me see any spirits other than Paul, and the cedar blessed the area as it exorcised all malevolent energies.
With that, I paused for a moment to take in the stars. New moons have always felt especially magical. So with a deep and soulful inhale, I circled my arms in the air as a silent gesture to join us in this sacred space.
As I exhaled, I slowly backed out. I tripped and found myself on the ground. How could I be so clumsy? Maybe it was Paul’s shoes. They were a bit too big for my feet.
I got to my feet and turned to walk out when I noticed someone coming up the road. Who could that be? It’s one in the morning! I couldn’t concern myself with that at the moment. With a wave of my wand, I ignited the circle surrounding Amber and spun back to freeze whoever was headed my way. I felt like a dual-action superhero.
Taking a moment to ground myself, I commanded the darkness to release Paul’s spirit to join with Amber in the sacred ring of fire:
hic en spiritum
sed non incorpore
evokare lemures de mortuis
de angelus balberith
en inferno inremeablis
I repeated this incantation two more times, and with a thunderous whoosh, Amber was on her feet, flailing and sputtering as if she were a wild beast.
“Circe,” she bellowed, her body heaving with every breath. “What is the meaning of this?”