The children and I stood gathered about the shrine, watching as the last of the torches atop the amphiphontes glowed from within the cake. The other torches had all extinguished themselves by now, but this one held on stubbornly, a tiny spark and subtle glow holding tight to the candle wick.
My five-year-old daughter’s eyes were wide and round above the small hand she held across her mouth, not trusting her ability to hold her breath. Each of the children held a wish in their minds, eyes focused on the shrine.
Larger candles flickered at the back of the shrine, rivulets of wax along their lengths. They had held up well for the processional about the old farmhouse within which we currently dwell; my 9-year-old son had managed to keep his lit despite the wind -a fair turn of events as my 10-year-old son’s candle refused to stay lit for more than a few paces.
I had carried the plate of freshly baked emphiphontes. The many candles atop them illuminated the silver border of the plate they sat on, a plate that had once belonged to my step-grandmother. My 3-year-old daughter followed behind me, wool wrapped lilac-wood stang in hand. She marched, pumping her arms in the air, having more fun than was probably warranted, though she knew this walk was special and was for our Lady. My 10-year-old son -candle bearing- followed, then my 5-year-old daughter, then my 9-year-old son, then my beautiful, stubborn 7-year-old daughter, dragging her feet for having to bring up the rear though she held her stang tall and true.
Our processional had wandered about the yard, passing sunset, blackbirds, ancient maple trees that remembered a time before the farm fields had appeared around the house. We ducked under lilac bushes, fat with buds, wound around the rusted windmill, and back into the house. From room to room we quietly stole till making our way to the shrine set for Her, only ever Her. We had offerings and so many thanks to give.
Now, the flames made strange shadows appear thanks to the lilac stangs arranged along the wall. Their shadows danced erratically, strange forests that jumped along the walls, further impressing the need for silence within the room.
So abruptly that it might have been missed, the tiny flame that held on so strongly went out. Muffled giggles took its place, filling the room with warmth and cutting through the reverent mood that had held us all captive.
A new processional began. The children left the room, hands now empty of candles and white wool wrapped stangs. They chattered to each other about how none would dare reveal their wish -or else it wouldn’t come true. I smiled, watching them wander off to their rooms to get ready for bed, wondering at their future.
Polytheists children raised in a household where witchcraft and spirit work is the norm… Their world is a different place than I’ll ever know. Even the stories the 3-year-old tells are proof that the world for them is so much more, so filled with Beings and possibilities. Already, they have a mythic way about them, and yet they speak such profound truth with the simple ease that only children can.
This was their first Mounykhia -combined with a late Hiketeria due to complications with timing on our end. But, the festivals blended well together, as both focus so strongly upon giving thanks. Next year, however, we shall try more strongly to give each its own day.
As we’ve gradually expanded our religious calendar this year to account for annual holidays, the children have been excited -more special baking, more sacred rites, more family feasts, so very much more to be excited about. This Spring is so full for them, as these new holy days have filled these past two months and will keep the next just as full. And just when the pace of new sacred celebrations threatens to ebb …the baby will be born. It is a very full time, indeed.
Throwing the Bones