How Willow and Ash Found Their Place and Got Their Feet Wet — A Vecatran Folktale

Once upon a time, when the world was brand new, Trees walked the earth like creatures, looking for their favorite places to grow. None could settle into the ground, and eventually, the many faces of Vecatra grew tired of the chaos and indecision. They called a meeting of all the Tree people so that everyone could claim a territory for themselves. As the day of the meeting approached, the trees all talked excitedly about which areas they wanted— Oak and Holly arguing in booming voices over which time of year was best, Fir and Pine arguing over the high mountains—until their voices sounded loud as the ocean.
There were two trees, however, who didn’t participate in the shouting and bragging. They were quiet souls, given to contemplation, and didn’t like the noise and competition of the greater forest. These two, Ash and Willow, had been friends since they were saplings, and so they wandered away to find a quiet place together.
It was early Spring in this new world. The snows were melting, the rains had been falling, and without trees in the ground to anchor the soil and slow the waters, fields, and low areas were beginning to flood. Rivers crested their banks, carrying away good soil and carving new channels. Willow and Ash, out walking together, discovered a deep channel with a river raging away at the bottom and stood together to watch. The waters raced and churned, for the river was in a hurry to reach the ocean. Ash threw a stick into the water and they and Willow watched it sail away.
“Willow,” said Ash, “I don’t want to go to the meeting.”
Willow looked at her friend. “Why not?” she asked.
“Vecatra scares me. How can I ask for what I want if I’m too scared to speak?”
Willow looked back at the water. She bent her head as low as she could and dipped the ends of her hair into the river. Her feet were sinking into the mud around her. Ash threw another stick.
“I don’t want to go to the meeting, either,” said Willow. “I bet the faces of Vecatra wouldn’t even miss us if we stayed here.” She had sunk to her ankles in the mud, and the cool earth felt good around her toes. Just upstream, a part of the riverbank gave way, and mud collected against the little dam she was making with her feet. Soon, water pooled and a little eddy formed. Ash dropped a seed into the eddy, and they both watched it swirl around.
Ash hopped to the opposite bank. “You should let your feet sink into the ground,” said Willow. “It feels really good.” So Ash wiggled their toes until they were buried, and then laughed as the worms crawled around the hairs on their feet.
“Willow,” said Ash, “you’re growing.”
And she was. She was growing strong and supple, nourished by the water and rich mud of the riverbank. Her feet sank deeper still, and she stretched herself further over the water. “I love this place,” she said to Ash. They looked very handsome over there in the evening light, their broad leaves glowing.
That night they watched the stars come out and shine in the still water near Willow’s feet. If they wished for anything on the evening star, neither said anything about it to the other. They had always been comfortable with silence in each other’s company.
The next day, all the trees gathered together around standing stones in a great meadow. At the appointed hour the many faces of Vecatra arrived—they came as a great, branch-shaking wind and as a shower of rain. Some came on the notes of a tune, and others in a twinkle of starlight. In the mighty presence of such company, how could the Trees keep up their arguments?
One by one the trees discovered their places and left quietly—some abashed and others with a short laugh, as if they were just learning their purpose in life. Oak and Gorse together took the fields and meadows, with Aspen close behind. Fir and Pine took the high mountains, along with their cousin the Cypress. Apple went on a long walk to keep a meeting she had with an emerging species of monkey and wound up settling near a mountain range in the center of the continent. Soon the meadow was empty again, and Vecatra saw that it was good. They just had one more stop to make on this early Spring morning.
Meanwhile, back at the riverbank, Willow and Ash were having a great time gazing at the surface of the water and trying to count the fish swimming by. It wasn’t until the small birds took shelter under Ash’s branches that they noticed that the wind had picked up and that thunderheads were starting to gather overhead. Ash felt their heart race, and Willow was nervously flashing the white side of her leaves. Thunder boomed, distantly yet, as Willow tried to tug her feet from the sucking mud.
“Willow,” said the River, in a voice like an echo from a deep cave, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know! We missed the meeting!” She replied.
“I think Vecatra is coming to us,” said Ash.
“Ash, Willow, listen,” said the River. “Have you not already chosen your places?” Willow stopped tugging at her feet to consider the question as a light rain began to fall. “Am I not a worthy place to grow?” asked the River. “Have courage. We will face Vecatra together. Let me help you.”
And so Willow and Ash buried their feet even deeper in the mud, toes becoming roots and reaching into the river bed. Water filled their trunks and branches, and swirled around their knees. Willow felt the River cool her anxious heart, and a sense of belonging suffused her spirit. Ash took a deep breath and looked at their friend, and together they faced the growing winds.
“Willow and Ash,” boomed the voice of thunder. “We missed you this morning!” “We…we already found our place,” said Willow.
“We didn’t want to trouble you,” said Ash.
“Are you sure?” asked the Thunder. “We could give you any place you want.” “We’re sure,” said Willow.
“Why would you not face us?” asked the Rain.
“Oh, hush,” said the River. “Am I not a face of Vecatra? I knew where they were and we have chosen their place together.”
There was a pause.
“So be it,” said the many faces of Vecatra together. “all is as it should be, and as it shall be. Willow and Ash, yours are the waterways. Guard them well.” And with that, they left in all their noisy splendor, and to this day Willow and Ash stand side by side near the rivers and streams of the world, cooling the water in summer and anchoring the banks in spring. The rivers strengthen the trees, feed them, and carry their seed. All is as it should be, and Vecatra sees that it is good.

A Folktale for Rowan

Long ago, there was a little cottage perched high up the side of a mountain. This mountain towered over a little village and only one steep little footpath wound down from the heights. In that cottage, a druid named Bridget lived with her chickens Ruis and Luis, and her lovely red cow Caorann.

So as all observant children know, few things can grow in the high mountains. But the rowan tree loves the rocky cliffs and the wind in her leaves, and folk called the tree flying Rowan because of this. As it happened, the Druid’s cottage had five flying rowan trees growing around it, and in the spring when the tree was in full bloom the frothy white petals made it look like her house was ringed in clouds. In the late Summer, these flowers would ripen into flame red berries and were the favorite treat of Caorann the cow, the chickens, and the Druid herself.

Now on the lower slopes of this mountain, was the finest grazing land for miles around, and Bridget would take her cow to those fields to let her eat her fill. But the villagers would also use these grazing lands for their own cows. For years the druid and the villagers were able to share this land. But the Druid, being wise in the way of the trees, knew that when her rowan trees had a bountiful summer harvest, the following winter would be a hard one; and that the snows would last near to April and the grass on the slopes would be thin and late. So the druid saved the rowan berries. She threaded them on a string and dried them in her rafters, she made them into jelly, jam, and pies.

The druid weathered the long hard winter and sated herself on the rowan jams and other saved summer crops. But hunger struck hard at the village below, and where there are hungry bellies, malefic spirits will come to fill them. Knowing this, the Druid turned once again to her protectors, the rowan trees. She remembered that her mother had taught her the rhyme:

“Red thread and Rowan tree make evil spirits (Malefic) lose their speed.”

So the druid tied charms of rowan twigs with red thread and hung them above her chicken coop, and around the neck of the cow, and on the lintels of every door and window in her home for protection. By night she burned a few rowan twigs to aid her in her divination spells and listened well to what the gods told her. Her divinations told her that a mob of villagers, possessed by hunger spirits would come to burn down her cottage under the light of the full wolf moon.

To prepare, The druid wet down the walls of her cottage and her barn and redoubled her charms and she set trip threads with alarm bells along the narrow path up the mountain and wove red yarn into nets that she strung from her Rowan trees. When the moon rose full behind the winter clouds, a mob from the village tromped up the winding mountain path to her cottage. Blinded by the might of spirits that possessed them, the villagers stumbled over the alarms, and the druid knew that her predictions had been true. As the mob approached her door, she hid among her rowan trees, just as the possessed villager came under their canopies, she whispered to her tree friends, and the roots rose to bind their feet, and the nets fell upon them from above. Thus captured, she drove the spirits out of the villagers and banished them from the world. Now clear of mind, she freed the hapless and hungry people and shared with them some of the food she had saved for winter. She gave each one a protection charm of rowan and told them to plant the seeds near their houses, and sent them back down the mountain. Soon the spring came and new rowans sprouted, and all was well for many more years.

A Mother’s Reminders

It is done. A year’s work culminates in this. Patronage and Motherhood. After I lost Glycine I never dreamed I would be a mother again. I felt that stirring pain deep in my womb for a moment with Gorse’s touch, that promise that I could bear a babe inside me. But it would have been a spirit’s get. Not the seed of a lover buried in fertile ground. I am barren and I know this. I’ve accepted this truth about myself. The temptation to devote myself to him was so strong but after all I’ve done pursuing Apple, it just turned to ashes in my mouth.

I told Apple that my conflict was wanting to hold my childhood in one hand and my womanhood in the other. I so deeply want to honor both Apple and Gorse. Both the union and the fruit it bears. But I have courted Avalon Apple, and she has risen to meet me. They will give me a child to care for and I can raise another of our scared ones and teach them the ways of Vecatra.
Twofold shall I become a mother. I will protect and guide our circle to the best of my ability.

I tell myself all of these things. I will be strong. I will be brave. I will be wise, patient, and endlessly supportive. I will earn the respect of my community and my circle. I will stand side by side with Etienne and together we will move mountains. But what if I fail? With so many people counting on me, there is so far to fall. Apple, Etienne, my Crone, my circle. There are days the doubt consumes me and all I want is to walk into the thicket or hide in the woods forever.

But Vecatrans do not run in fear. We look upon our duty to each other, to the spirits, and to Vecatra herself, and know that challenges help us to grow into the very best people we can be. Just as a dandelion grows through the stones on the path, so too will I strive to reach the sun.

The Acorn Song (Ka Thunk Thunk Thunk); A song for the children of Luisant

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Drop little acorn
In a mighty wind
The wise ones know that
you hold all life within

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Roll little acorn
Nestle into mud
Deep inside your shell
is the first little bud

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Wait little acorn
Buried ‘neath the snow
When the spring comes
you will start to grow

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Grow little acorn
Send forth searching roots
As up from the ground
Pops your little shoots

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Thrive little acorn
Send your trunk up to the sun
And under shady leaves
We shall all have fun

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk
Wow little acorn
You’ve become a mighty tree
And now Grandfather Oak
The wind blows your acorns free

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk

Ka thunk thunk thunk
Ka thunk thunk thunk

*Author’s note: on the “Ka” clap, on the “Thunks” alternate stomping feet, left right left, right left right.

A Frantic Mental Patchwork (Game 6)

Sweet standing ones what have I done? They tell me I had a sister but she’s gone. Neatly clipped out with sewing shears. I have the edges, but not exactly what happened.

Someone held me in the dark while I cried and sang me lullabies the nights after my mother died. It wasn’t Papa, he was drunk as a bear and shouting at everything and nothing. I was sad and scared.

Someone tricked me into climbing into a barrel and then tipped it over and rolled me down the hill. I don’t think it was Pascal M, they helped me climb out and get the stains out of my skirts. I remember how embarrassed I was.

I spilled someone’s favorite perfume all over her favorite dress and then threw it into the pigpen. I remember someone being furious at me. This was after Mama passed so it couldn’t have been hers. I felt really guilty, but also triumphant.

Someone cut all fur off the cat’s tail and blamed me for it. I got in so much trouble! Papa beat me black and blue. I couldn’t sit down for three days! I was so mad!

Maybe Axé can help me put the pieces back together. I will go ask him, once I get over how stupid I was.

A Letter for the Dead

Enter the wilds with care my love and speak the things you see, let new names take and root and thrive and grow.

My dear Natalie,
You are dead and gone and I’m glad of that after what we did to each other, but you are still my sister, so I may as well keep writing you letters even though I will never send them and you have no grave to bury them. Perhaps I will read this to the grove where I buried what bits of your heart I could find.

A plague spread through the town preying on the weak and infirm. Willow told the circle that if we sacrificed one of our own to her, she would save the rest of the sick ones, but that didn’t become needful. We managed to get together enough herbs that Lunette and Doctor Alphonse were able to save everyone. I have been spending time with the children as they recover from their illnesses. I’ve been telling them stories and doing little puppet shows with Penelope who has captured all of their hearts. We have been singing songs altogether and doing small crafts with scraps of cloth left over from Tiphananie and Delphine’s needlework. I’ve had a few of the more restless children rolling bandages for the hospital. They have nearly finished a whole crate!

The orphanage is coming along well and I am so grateful to Granny Jo for including me in this project. I find myself longing for a babe of my own, but that will never happen, and I believe that’s for the best, Especially after the loss of my dear little Glycine. It would be much harder to spend my nights in a tavern singing songs with handsome men.

Kierlou taught me so many new things. Not just new songs, but how to bind someone with clever words and encourage them to continue talking long after they think it might be wiser to stop. I wish Papa had taught me these things, but of course, all I got from him was my fiery personality, green eyes, and a tendency to let lust rule my heart when I drink. If it made him happy though, will anyone but Gorse be angered if I sleep with a man thrice my age? I’ve still so much to learn from my elders. May the grove preserve me so that I too may one day become wise.

I certainly do not possess that wisdom now though. I went to investigate one of the strange laboratories with Jaquet and Gerald, though they were of little help. It was all about forces, and it seems I have enough force of personality to have won the day and the treasure, though not without pain. Inside there was this strange blackened armor, and I swear the influence of the being within made me cockier than my usual self, but I tried it on. The most curious sensation of dominion and lust for power came over me though I was able to resist the urge to keep it on forever. But these pieces must not be joined, I believe it would spell ruin for us all, and told the townsfolk as much.
Anyway, This letter is more than long enough already, and I have chores to do for Granny.

May you continue your quiet rest, Colibri