Question: What does The Witch of Willow Lake have in common with The Wizard of Oz?
If you answered, “They both feature a good witch and a bad witch,” you’d be correct.
Of course, the bad witch is the one Kyr and Company are most concerned with, but Kyr also has a good friend who practices Wicca and owns her own metaphysical/New Age shop in Gettysburg. This friend assists Kyr in getting rid of a cloud of negative energy that has attached to her, and gives her a stern warning about someone who wants to harm her.
For today’s post, I’m sharing an excerpt from Witch of Willow Lake in which Ione performs a cleansing ritual for Kyr.
Ione pulled a piece of black tourmaline from the pouch on the corner of the table and handed it to me. “I’ll take back the sodalite now, Kyr, and you can hold onto this one for protection.” My eyes widened apprehensively, and she quickly reassured me, “I don’t expect there to be any trouble, but I believe it’s better to be prepared when dealing with negative energy.”
I took the black stone from her and grasped it tightly as she got up and ducked behind the screen. I heard the protesting wood-on-wood groan of a window being opened. When she emerged from behind the screen, she invited me to stand and led me to the middle of the room. Next, she went to the corner to fetch a small, short-legged bench and set it before me. She then gathered her supplies from the reading table and arranged them on the bench. “Are you ready to begin?”
Still somewhat uncertain, but eagerly desiring to be rid of what I was sure was the spirit of a very evil woman, I simply said, “Yes.”
“Good.” She positioned herself in front of me, with the squat little table between. She stooped to pick up the jar of salt, then met my eyes earnestly. “The first thing I will do is cast a circle of protection. As I do so, I will offer up a prayer to the deities I serve, and I encourage you to do the same, either out loud or in your head. As you pray, try to envision a golden-white light descending from above to envelop you.”
I watched as Ione closed her eyes and took a deep breath before raising her hands above her head in supplication to whatever deities she called upon. As she lowered her hands slowly, I tried to imagine her drawing a shimmering dome around us. In one smooth motion, she then stooped to pick up the jar of salt and stepped away from the bench to walk in a large clockwise circle around us, using the salt to make a perfect ring on the floor. When she started to speak, I shut my eyes and quickly bowed my head, feeling out of place and uncertain. The smell of the smoldering incense and the cadence of her chanting flooded my mind with memories of sitting through my cousin’s Catholic wedding ceremony when I was six years old. Now, as then, I wasn’t sure what to pray, and struggled to keep my mind grounded. Finally, I stumbled through the Lord’s Prayer and what I remembered from Psalm 23, all the while half-listening to her lilting voice as she prayed effortlessly:
“Creators of all living things,
Spirit guides that fly on golden wings,
Surround us now with purest light,
And keep us safe in your loving sight.
Now guide our hands, our thoughts, our hearts,
And may all negative energy now depart.
Protect us now; O, hear my plea.
As I will, so mote it be.”
When she finished casting the circle, she knelt to set down the jar of salt and took up the bundle of herbs. Pulling the lighter from her skirt pocket, she gave it a flick and held the flame to the bundle until the tips glowed orange and then began to smolder. Tendrils of smoke rose, and the pungent aroma tickled my nostrils, making my nose twitch with the urge to sneeze.
She placed the burning herbs in the glass bowl and picked up the feather. As she fanned the smoke around my feet, she began to chant in a low, reverent tone. “Air and fire, earth and water; cleanse, dispel, disperse.” Over and over again she spoke her incantation as she walked slow circles around me, fanning the fragrant smoke over my entire body.
At first, I was mindful of her purposeful actions and her soothing words, but by the time her ministrations reached my shoulders, my thoughts had drifted to Luther and my father, and what they would say if they knew I was here. The old familiar feelings of guilt rose within me as their harsh voices echoed from the depths of my memory, chastising me, judging me, condemning me for my blasphemous foolishness.
By the time Ione finished smudging the crown of my head, there was such turmoil in my mind that I was in tears, and I squeezed my eyes shut in a futile attempt to stem their flow. Seeming to sense my emotional state, she lowered her voice as she completed her ritual, and my ears zeroed in on her words of benediction. “By the sacred smoke of these fragrant plants, may this dear one be cleansed and free.”
The room fell silent as her words rained down into my thirsty soul. The words cleansed and free resonated deep in my spirit, and the image of chains falling away came to the forefront of my mind. I took deep, cleansing breaths, filling my lungs with the acrid-sweet smell of the smoldering herbs, and when I released the breaths, I imagined expelling my feelings of guilt and of being held down by my family’s rigid beliefs. By the time I opened my eyes, the tears that remained were tears of relief, and I felt freer and lighter than I had in longer than I could remember.
After saying a prayer of thanks to her gods, Ione walked counterclockwise around the circle, “to close the circle and end the ritual,” she told me. When she finished, she stood in front of me once more. She studied me for a moment and then smiled and nodded approvingly. “Kyr, you look like a different person. Your aura is clearer and brighter than I’ve ever seen it. How do you feel?”
I wasn’t at all surprised that she could see a difference in me; the change I felt was so great it was almost tangible, and I actually looked down to make sure my feet were still on the floor. “I feel amazing! I don’t think I’ve felt this good in years.” I laughed out loud, thinking I sounded like one of those elderly women on a late-night infomercial who had regained her youthful stamina just by taking some miracle supplement not available in stores. “If you could bottle that and sell it, you’d be a millionaire in no time.”
Ione’s laughter echoed mine. “It sounds as though you were long overdue for a bit of cleansing, although I firmly believe that some of your new lightness of spirit comes as much from confronting some of your personal demons as from my smudging. Now that some of these issues have come to light, you would do well to spend some time examining them rather than running from them.”
Even though I knew she spoke truth, hearing those words made me feel a bit less light. “I suppose you’re right about that.”
“Of course I am,” she joked, sounding annoyingly similar to Spook. “As for bottling a smudging, I can’t do that, but I can give you something you can use on your own.”
We left the Reading Room and made our way back to the main part of the store. Ione led me to the Herbal Magick section and quickly plucked a bag of crushed herbs from the shelf. This is a mixture of the herbs I used in my smudging ritual: white sage, cedar, and sweetgrass. You can perform your own smudging ritual at home just as I did here.” She briefly gave me instructions before handing me the bag of herbs. “I recommend doing this every so often in your home, as a preventative.”
Ione headed for the cash register, and I followed. When she rang up my purchase and gave me my total, I realized she hadn’t charged me for the Tarot reading or the smudging. “Wait, how much do I owe you for your services?”
She waved away my question. “That one is on me. I like to give one free reading each month, so I’ve just satisfied that requirement.” I was doubtful that was true, but she continued to refuse payment, telling me to pass along a kindness to someone else. “Also, I ask that you be very careful when you return to Willow Lake. Take precautions during your investigation, and be sure that everyone involved—you especially—watches their backs. Make sure you take along your tourmaline, these herbs, and anything else you find to be empowering.”
A chill ran down my spine as I realized that her warnings sounded much like Spook’s, only much more detailed. Still, I trusted her advice, and I knew I would take her words to heart.
Click the link below to enter to win a free ebook copy of The Witch of Willow Lake!
CONGRATULATIONS, CHRIS V! YOU HAVE WON A FREE EBOOK COPY OF THE WITCH OF WILLOW LAKE!
Get the Kindle version of The Witch of Willow Lake here.
Get the Nook version here.