In dreamtime, the witch came to her. Journey was sitting at the edge of the ocean, dark and churning at her feet. She felt the familiar fear, and saw the wave rushing towards the shore, a wall of water, towering over her. Journey looked up, knowing the ocean was going to swallow her, knowing it would mean her death. She surrendered to the ocean, and suddenly she was submerged in its depths. She found she wasn’t dead, that she could in fact breathe, though the darkness was still oppressive and the waves were churning and dragging her frightfully. From the darkness a voice spoke, though no body was attached to it: “I have been waiting for you, and the time is come for you to find me. It will come at a cost, but a pittance considering what I will teach you.”
Journey felt the voice resonate to her bones, and she shivered at the thought that this may be her teacher, the one she had been searching for. She asked: “What is the cost?”
The witch replied: “A piece of your magic blanket. You will not miss it, for I will give you so much new power and magic to weave into it that you won’t even remember the piece that is gone.”
In her dream, Journey snipped off a piece of her magical weaving, and was given a map to find the powerful witch. She set off the very next day. Her travels were long, but she was bolstered by the anticipation of finally meeting the teacher she had sought for so long, and her feet did not tire. She climbed through canyons and padded through forests, walking alongside crystal rivers and under the watchful eye of the moon. She pulled the magic of the moon into her as she had learned in her time as wolf-woman. She skipped joyfully to her destination, brimming with excitement.
When she found the witch’s hill, she was shocked to see a cluster of huts at the bottom, bustling with activity. The hill towered over the huts, higher than anything around it, and on top was perched a magnificent house. Tentatively approaching the base of the hill, she could see women working; cleaning and cooking and hanging the wash, with smiles on their faces and light on their feet. One called out to her: “Come sister, we are just preparing tonights dinner, and you must be famished with your travels! Come join us at our table!”
She felt the warmth of the women welcoming her with their arms open and eyes shining. She immediately felt like she had found home, her real home. She quickly went to work, helping with preparations for the coming meal. It smelled sweet, of roasted tomatoes and butter and fresh bread and greens newly cut from the earth. They hauled everything up the steep hill to the witch’s home to share in the feast.
The witch did not greet Journey right away, but was rather moving quickly around the house, preparing for the evening ritual. Her hair was long and wild, and she moved with purpose and severity. Journey did not mind, as she was enjoying the company of these sisters who had so readily taken her in as one of them.
As they sat to eat, she was finally able to see the witch’s face. Her eyes were gray-green, wide and round and crinkled at the corners. She had perfect teeth and a boisterous laugh and was youthful in a way that transcended time. She wore a golden robe that trailed to the floor, and was covered with tattoos and adorned with jewelry that clinged and clanged as she moved her arms when she spoke. The witch sat at the head of the table while the other women waited on her, adoring their beloved teacher. She looked piercingly into Journey’s eyes and said: “what are you called, then?”
“I have been known as Waking Journey, my mistress,” she responded. “What may I call you, teacher?”
The witch smiled so her eyes crinkled and her teeth shone in a perfect line. “You may call me Baba, young one. You are under my tutelage now, and will do as I say. First, you must give me what you owe for finding me.” Journey took out the snipped edge of her blanket, and handed it to Baba. “Now Journey, show us the rest of this blanket you so covet.”
Journey took out her precious weaving, which glittered and shimmered in the candlelight of the evening meal. Every woman was taken with it, and they all oohed and aaaahed over it’s intricate design and quality material. They could feel it was heavy with magic, and many tried it on, draping it over their shoulders. “That’s mine,” Journey said, to which the witch replied: “anything here belongs to me. This is my house. You may keep it for now, as the cutting I have will do for my purposes, and perhaps I will let you take it when you leave here. But all the magic in your weaving belongs to whomever I say it does.”
This was worrisome to Journey, and she felt her wolf growling in warning deep in her belly. She quieted the creature, as she did not yet quite understand the agreements of such an arrangement with a powerful teacher like her. Maybe it was just how things were done around here. She did not question or challenge it, waiting to learn more about the ways of Baba and her followers.
The evening ritual was powerful, and she could see why the witch had so many admirers. Baba called forth the fire and danced and howled around it, magic spinning around her in golden strands, twirling in her hair and on her fingertips. She invited the other women in the dance, and their golden strands began to weave into Baba’s, until there was a bright spinning web of magic encircling them, grunts and howls emerging from the frenzied dance, calling forth the magic of the Earth Mother and bringing it into their bodies. Journey could feel her body buzzing with it—a drunken, ecstatic sensation.
She knew she wanted more. Over the next few months, Baba taught Journey about magic. They spoke of herbs and incantations, practiced sigils and shapeshifting, cast protections spells and abundance spells and danced and spun around the sacred fire. It was a time of great learning for Journey, and her blanket was even more magnificent than ever before. She began to wear it over her shoulders, bound around her tightly, so she could feel the weight and importance of the magic she was learning, and so others could see how knowledgable and powerful she was. She became a favorite of the witch, and sat near her at meals, going for long walks together and talking of the nature of life and the world and man and magic. Journey felt special, even though she loved her sisters who lived at the bottom of the hill with her, for that is where they slept and worked and played, for the witch claimed there was no room at the top of the hill for anyone but her.
Also at the top of the hill stood a deep well. Baba claimed it held sacred waters that only she could drink from. She told the women it held wisdom so deep and ancient that none of them could hold it all, so Baba would drink the water and pass the wisdom along to them. For a long time, the women did not question this. They had their own well at the bottom of the hill and plenty of fresh water to drink. They trusted Baba’s teachings and wisdom and besides, how did they know how it should be done? Baba was the teacher, after all.
After their evening rituals, the women would return to their huts and talk deep into the night, sharing their desires of what they might do with the magic they were gaining. Some thought of finding their own hills to build magnificent homes on, and have their own following of loyal women. Journey thought this sounded nice, but also overwhelming to have so many women depending on you for their power and magic. She wrapped her shawl more tightly around her shoulders, and wondered how she might use this magic she was learning. She knew the witch believed the shawl was hers, that the power and magic did not belong to Journey, but was rather bestowed upon her by the witch. There was a time when Journey thought maybe she would stay with the witch forever, and it wouldn’t really matter which magic belonged to whom.
But her heart began to feel heavy, her wolf was wary and watchful, and she grew more fearful of losing her beautiful woven blanket to Baba. Her heart was not wrong, and one fateful night, as they were preparing for their evening ritual, Baba exclaimed: “Journey! Bring me your beautiful shawl. I must wear it for my magic tonight.”
Journey replied softly, “I don’t think so Baba. This wisdom is precious to me and I like to keep it close by.”
“Nonsense!” Baba retorted. “Most of the magic in there is mine, I gave it to you, and look at how magnificent it is. It would be old and tattered and disgusting if I hadn’t given you so much wisdom to weave into it!”
“No,” Journey said, looking Baba directly in her grey-green round eyes. “This blanket is mine and I will leave here if I have to, in order to keep it.”
Baba stared back at her. Her glowing eyes narrowed and her face began to contort, seeking another way to shame Journey into giving her the shawl. Her voice became quiet as she spoke: “You don’t understand, my dear. Let me explain it to you. Will you come outside and walk with me?”
Journey hesitantly went out of the house with her, the wolf within raising her hackles. They began to walk toward the well of ancient wisdom and Baba said to her, “My love, I know you think that you are powerful in your magic, and it is true that there is some power in you. But that shawl will disappear off your back the moment you leave this place. You may as well leave it here, and I’ll let you go without argument, and not take anything further from you.”
“So this is my ransom?” Journey demanded. “Are you casting me out for refusing you, for challenging you, for wanting to keep what is mine?”
The witch lunged at Journey, grasping at the shawl wrapped tightly around her body. In her rage, Baba pushed Journey toward the well, seeking to topple her into its depths. Journey clung onto the witch desperately to spare herself, and they struggled, locked together, for possession of the beautiful woven blanket. A moment came, when Baba’s back was to the well, and Journey’s wolf leapt forward shoved hard.
Baba’s screams were heard all the way down until she hit the water with a frightening splash. Journey looked down the well in horror at what she had done, and then at her shawl, which was coming unraveled, the thread tugging down the well. She realized the witch still had a hold on her, and before she could release the shawl, she too plunged over the side and down into the watery shadow.
All was dark as they sank into the water, save for a sliver of moonlight streaming down from the surface of the well. Journey’s shawl was wrapped so tightly around her she could barely move, and the witch continued to claw at her even as they sank. She did not want to lose her blanket but knew she would drown if she didn’t free herself soon. She wriggled her body out of its bindings and Baba clutched at it triumphantly, snagging it quickly away. The moonlight turned to a faint shimmer as they sank deeper and deeper. Journey’s heart pounded, and she felt the familiar surrender to the depths of the churning waters as from her dreams.
She let go of the blanket, and floated softly toward a solid, sandy bottom. There stood a glowing cauldron, lighting up the darkness. By this time the water had filled her lungs and she was breathing it in, she had become a creature of water and felt the wisdom of the ancient well waking up her cells, a deep knowing that had no words but felt like connection to all things, and peace.
Baba landed nearby with a gentle thud, clutching at the shawl with eyes closed and body curled protectively, as if unconscious. Journey felt herself drawn towards the cauldron, and as she approached it, she saw it was tended to by a woman with flowing red hair and bright blue eyes, belly round with child and singing softly to the potion she stirred. The woman looked up at her with a merry expression, and beckoned her closer.
“Look into my cauldron, dear one. It will show you what you seek.” In the swirling surface of the cauldron, Journey watched a story unfold.
A beautiful Goddess walked in a garden, with the power to create anything her heart desired. There was no contrast in her world, no struggle, no duality of light and dark. She knew she was all-powerful but felt little joy in this, and as the eons passed she became bored and dispassionate. To make things more interesting, she decided to split herself in two. Part of her remained the beautiful Goddess in maiden form, but wiped of all memory of her time in the garden and the knowledge of herself as creator. She was pure light and innocence and beauty. The other part became a hideous beast, the shadow to her light. He was violence and anger and darkness, and lived underground and feared the light of the sun.
The Beast both coveted and despised the lovely maiden. The maiden lived in apparent ignorance of the beast, until one day he snatched her from her home and stole her away to his underground world, holding her captive. She screamed in despair, terrified and violated. She begged the Beast to release her. The Beast snarled in response: “What could you possibly give me that would be worth your pretty head?”
“If you release me,” she replied, “I will return for half of the year and live with you underground. I will bring you offerings from the earth and fill your stores with delicious food and drink. I will serve you as you see fit, then return to my home when the days begin to lengthen, to prepare the land and tend the fields for the next harvest.”
The idea of the maiden serving him was much more appealing than her simply being a prisoner to him, and he agreed to the terms and released her.
And so shadow and light became of service to each other, the light bringing forth the growth and abundance of spring and summer, the shadow bringing death and destruction to clear the space for next years growth through fall and winter. It allowed for quiet and introspection, and for our deepest secrets to be unearthed and witnessed and healed.
As the tale came to a close, Journey looked up at the woman in front of her. “Who are you?” She asked.
“I am Cerridwen, keeper of the cauldron. I stir all things into it, and from it comes all of creation.”
“Why did you show me this?” Journey inquired.
“The witch is not your enemy. She is you. You created her because of your beliefs about power, because you desired a power outside of you to bestow your magic upon you. You sought someone who would betray you because of your belief about struggle and competition, an old structure that is crumbling now. You do not need to fight to be free. You do not need permission to be powerful. And you do not need to overtake another to be in your power.
“Ego is dangerous, though it serves a purpose. Baba is a trickster, and she reflects our shadow self back to us. Your shadow revealed how much you desire recognition and power and what you are willing to sacrifice to get it. You believe that this is what will bring you safety in your world, because you felt powerless for so long.
“You must see and recognize this shadow part of you, and you must honor and care for it, otherwise it will become an unruly beast and take over your life. It will cause you to dispose of others who don’t serve your selfish ends and be complacent in the suffering of others.
“But the thing to remember is this: the beast and the shadow were a part of the maiden all along. When they are whole, they again become the Goddess creator, able to manifest anything in the world.
“When you claim the word ‘witch,’ you claim your birthright as creatrix. All of this around you is your creation. You have been drinking from this well of wisdom all along, and your power is truly limitless. Abundance is a law of the universe and anything you call in will come in abundance to you, even if that is lack and fear and struggle.
“Now that you have seen your shadow clearly, you can begin to understand the true nature of magic. We do not create from just the light, we create from the darkness as well. And your magic is programmed into your DNA. There is no ‘finding’ it. That blanket of yours was a vanity of your ego, you don’t need it to remember the wisdom of your own power.”
At this, they both looked over at Baba, still lying curled on the sand, tangled in the beautiful woven shawl. Both witch and blanket began to dissolve in the water, into tiny floating particles that Cerridwen scooped into her cauldron. They sparkled and shone as they were stirred in to the mixture.
“Go now and weave magic, your true authentic magic, with this knowledge that you are responsible for what you create and the energy you bring to the world. Make friends with your ego but do not let her rule you. Know that dark and light are one and both exist in you, and this is the source of your power. Release the attachment to an external teacher. You are your own teacher, the universe is your teacher, as it is a reflection of you. Allow Spirit to teach you, but no longer follow the authority of another human. Trust yourself. Act out of love always.
“This is the true way of the witch. Claim it as yours now, and use your power to create the world you want to live in.”
Journey felt the truth of this rumble in her belly, and power surged through her limbs. Her heart beat resoundingly as the stood before the cauldron and spoke: “I am Waking Journey, and I claim myself as Witch!”
At this, a massive horse leaped from the cauldron, its coat glittering the bright colors from the blanket that had been destroyed. As a symbol of her power and freedom, Journey greeted it as an old friend and grasped its mane as she swung onto its back, carrying her up up up to the surface of the water.