At a time when many are focused upon preparing their homes and tables for coming visitors of ancestors and beloved friends, what do you do when an unexpected –and unwanted- guests arrives? I offer this tale…
Both the door at the bottom of the stairs and the door at the top blew open, sending a chilling breeze through the house and swirling about the house. Everyone froze and turned toward the door, startled, knowing full well that the door at the bottom of the stairs had been locked from the inside.
“What was that?” my eight-year-old son asked me. The other children turned and looked at me, their faces slack and wide-eyed.
I quickly saved the article I had been working on, set the computer aside, and rushed to close the doors. Senses on alert and suspicions confirmed, I walked back to the children.
“Come with me.”
The children rose, quietly, and followed me to the bedroom. I knelt before the antique yellow dresser I had gotten when an elderly neighbor woman had died. It was from her that my cousins and I had always gotten our pumpkins from for Halloween, and her yard was home to a gentle stag who watched the road from beneath apple trees and lilac bushes. I opened and closed various drawers, setting supplies down beside me on the floor.
“What are we doing?” my same son, again, asking for all the children. I rose and began collecting the items.
“Go. Head to the kitchen.”
The children turned and walked back through the living room and into the kitchen. The girls whispered among themselves, heads bent, voices hushed. One by one, I laid the items on the table, checking them over to be sure we had all we needed. I turned and grabbed the salt from the cupboard.
“There is only one reason why both doors, one of them locked, would both open suddenly like that.” Wide eyes met my glance. “We’re doing an emergency cleansing.”
The boys turned and faced each other, whispering to each other, knowing what I meant. They quickly explained to their sisters. I turned and grabbed a glass from the cupboard and filled it half full with salt. Consecrating it quickly, I set it on the table and picked up the familiar green chalice my family and I had used countless times in ritual and magick. I filled it with water, added a pinch of salt, and swirled it with my finger, blessing it as I did so.
With a smile, I handed it to my four-year-old daughter. “You’re going to handle the water. Sprinkle it like this along the wall.” She giggled as I dipped my fingers and flicked water on her hand.
Turning back to the table, I picked up the glass of salt and handed to my six-year-old daughter.
“You will handle the salt. Sprinkle just a little bit, like this.” She smiled, holding back a laugh, and watched as I demonstrated, sprinkling the salt back into the cup.
Carefully, I picked up the large piece of broken mirror from the table and faced my eldest son. Nearly shoulder height and a hard to believe ten years old now, I handed him the mirror, cautioning him on how and where to place his hands. Reaching into my pocket, I pulled out my trusty green lighter and lit the red pillar candle that despite being purchased so many, many years ago and used throughout hundreds of workings had only managed to be burned half down.
“You will handle the fire,” I said and handed my eight-year-old son the candle.
“But, I’m a water sign. Shouldn’t I hold the water?”
“You’re older and your sisters cannot handle the fire.”
The two-year-old looked up at me, waiting patiently but clearly beginning to squirm on her feet. I handed her the cast iron pentacle, covered in bells and Snow Quartz from my family’s land.
“Sweetheart, you get to shake this.”
“I shake it!” She immediately set to work, chanting, “Shake! Shake! Shake!”
I picked up the single incense stick off of the table and lit it from the flame of the candle my son held. Watching the flame hungrily eat at the compacted herbs, I gave it an experienced flick, extinguishing the flame and setting the smoke to curl into the air.
Rearranging the children into a different order than the age order they usually preferred, I explained what we were going to do and how. We solemnly walked to the front door and began our procession through the house.
My ten-year-old son listened intently to the words I chanted and picked up the chant before we had left the kitchen. We swerved, ducking in and out of rooms, purposefully gesturing at doorways, windows, and mirrors, leaving no corner untouched by our presence.
“Mom! My candle went out!” My youngest son rushed to the front of the line, arms outstretched and holding the smoking candle.
“That just means it’s working. Mind your candle, pay attention to the wax level.” Taking the candle, I lit it, showing him how to turn it to move the wax should it threaten to go out again.
Half way through the living room, the entry door opened again; my husband was home from work. The children cast a quick greeting in his direction, and then went back to warding the large window. I explained what had happened to him. He just nodded and went about his post-work routine.
Our procession continued through the house until we reached the door, then we slowly, deliberately headed down the stairs, past the entry door, and into the basement.
Darkness and the rich smell of moist, slowly molding earth welcomed us with its cool embrace, but we carried on, pausing at each window and working stubbornly through the side-room where the light was broken and the darkness became everything. Years of dusty spiders’ web wound their way about the incense and caught in my hair. My four-year-old daughter uttered a small shriek and we all turned to look. My youngest son’s voice came through the darkness, comforting her with the soft glow of his candle and his comforting words.
We turned back and made our way up the stairs, the last child turning off the light and firmly closing the thick, wooden door to the basement. We made our way to the entry door and back up the stairs.
“Mom! My candle went out again. And something just touched my arm, like this.” His eyes were concerned as he grabbed his forearm and held the candle out to me. I lit the candle without a word and we headed back into the house, finishing our chant and pouring the remaining water and salt along the doorway. The candle extinguished, the wax soon shared space with the water and salt; the pentacle took up its place on the door.
“Now,” I said, setting the incense down to continue smoldering, “who wants a snack?”
Throwing the Bones