Winter brings with it the secret emotions held in time by each of us. Even now, when standing beneath the twinkling stars, the crisp, clear night sky is like a blanket over me. It envelops me like a child in a mother’s love. The sweet aroma of smoke drifting on the cold night air gently carries my spirit. This is when I remember my childhood and those magickal times I spent with my Great Grandmother.
Normally, winter was a fiercely cold time of year in the mountains of Wyoming. However, this year’s winter seemed as if it might never arrive. Yule had come and gone, but it was almost like spring outside. The birds were singing and the small puddles of ice around the house had turned to mud. The sky was crystal clear and the sun gleamed bright in its deep blue. There was not even a cloud to mark the sky.
I had been playing, running in and out of the back screen door of the house. I could hear it bang behind me each time I ran through it. The large, heavy, wooden door had been propped open with a laundry iron so that we could let the sweet fresh air from outside fill the house. Through the open door, my Great Grandmother could be seen in the kitchen cooking something on the big black stove.
The wood popped and crackled as it burned and I could hear a sizzling as the bubbles from the pot burst and splashed onto the hot stovetop. Soon, my Great Grandmother carefully moved the boiling pot from the stove and placed it to the side allowing it to cool.
While the mixture was cooling, she selected herbs from the many various ones she had placed on the kitchen table earlier. Then she took three small jars from the shelf above the stove and began adding herbs. She placed different herbs into each jar, so no two were the same. Then she cautiously poured the hot brew over the herbs in each jar, sealing their lids tight.
This confused me. I knew that she had been asked to make a special brew for a lady in town. She told the lady that she would make her what she needed to help her. Yet my Great Grandmother had made three jars, each now different from the other, according to the herbs added.
I slowly walked back through the screen door and over to the table covered with herbs and jars, trying to figure out which herbs were in which jar. My Great Grandmother looked at me and smiled. She could see the puzzlement on my face. I picked up some of the herbs and asked my Great Grandmother why she was using herbs that did such different things with such different outcomes. Some were for love, some for hate, some for protection, and some for change. I didn’t understand. Was she making something for this lady or someone else?
Looking at me, she shook her head, saying, “Things are not always so black and white. Sometimes you have to wait and see what colors they become.”
Still confused, I put down the herbs and turned to go back outside. My Great Grandmother stopped me and asked me to go and get more firewood and stack extra in the corner for later. There was a storm coming.
I looked in the wood box; it seemed to be near full, to me. Plus it was a glorious day. I turned and questioned if it really needed to be done right then, since it was so beautiful outside and I wanted to play. My Great Grandmother simply turned and looked at me. That was all it took. I understood that when she said something, she meant it — even if I didn’t understand why.
I got the firewood and stacked extra in the corner by the great stones that made the fireplace wall. All the while thinking how silly it was, when I could have been playing outside. I guess that was why I didn’t notice the clouds moving in or the temperature now beginning to drop so quickly.
It was evening when I hear a voice coming though the door. I had just finished with the firewood. It was the lady returning. She was small and spoke so quietly. She made me think of the doves that hid in our barn during winter. My Great Grandmother had her come in and made her a cup of tea. I could hear them talking and the lady was crying so very softly.
I watched my Great Grandmother as she held the lady’s hand. My Great Grandmother seemed to have a gift, a way to help others hear what was in their hearts by just talking with them. After a while, my Great Grandmother said to the lady that what she had asked for was on the table.
The lady walked over and stood for a few moments, then picked up one of the jars, thanked my Great Grandmother, and left. I watched her walking down the path. It had begun to get dark and the light from the door reflected on her big black coat now glistening with the tiny flakes of snow that had started to fall.
As my Great Grandmother began cleaning up, she took the two remaining jars out into the yard and poured them onto the ground. Now I was really confused. I asked my Great Grandmother, “Why did you throw them away?”
She looked at me and said, “They were not the answers she truly wanted.”
My Great Grandmother explained to me that the lady had come to her very sad. Something had happened in her home and she didn’t know what answers she needed or what she should do next. She was lost. The three jars held a different answer in each. The lady decided for herself, with her own heart, what she needed to do. She found her own answer, her own way. It wasn’t my Great Grandmother’s place to fix it for her or make her decisions.
My Great Grandmother explained that by allowing the lady to see the choices in front of her, she was able to understand what she truly wanted.
After dinner, I curled up next to my Great Grandmother in front of the fire, which was burning nicely with the firewood I had carried in. The wind was blowing outside, clicking the snow against the window glass.
I asked my Great Grandmother how she knew it was going to snow and how she knew what jar the lady would pick. She smiled, looking down at me, and said; “It’s magick.”
My Great Grandmother taught me that. “Magick is that element of our spirit held deep within each of us. It is that secret part of a natural knowing, not always understood.”
“Just because others do not always see the truth in magick does not negate the truth that magick exists.”