The Witch sat on the stone bench at the edge of her circle, staring into the fire. These last few years had all but destroyed her. Her faith and practice faded into a mere shadow of what it had once been. She had sought the help of the Shaman, out of desperation, if she was being honest. The work they’d done together thus far had been wildly successful. The skill and understanding of the Shaman had melded so seamlessly with the Witch’s natural ability for trance and affinity for shadow. The changes the soul retrieval work set off were sudden and powerful. Those who had seen her after had commented openly about how much better and more centered she seemed, body and soul. She’d felt better too. Literally something of herself she’d lost, had been returned.

But this? This was new territory for her. She had always believed magick should be fun, but her idea of fun was different from most, and this last ritual had been so light, bordering on random. The Witch had always had a way about her that was deep, intense, well planned, and unnervingly intimate. Spontaneous and breezy ritual just made her feel skeptical and a quite a bit like she’d been cast in some bad witchy tv movie. The Shaman saw well her reluctance and had urged her forward.

When she had arrived for the ritual, she was nervous. She’d been asked to bring four items and fretted over whether she’d chosen well. As soon as she saw the materials the Shaman intended to use, she’d realized immediately that one choice she’d made, the seeds, would be difficult and a mess to work with. She apologized. The Shaman just smiled, welcoming her, and her items and they set to work. The Witch tried to relax and let her creativity flow, but doubt sat fluttering in the back of her mind. At the same time though, she enjoyed watching the playful confidence and wild abandoned with which the Shaman worked. After a time the mood shifted and their creation began to take shape and feel complete. They started to share with each other what each item they contributed meant to them. As each item was explained, it was removed from the creation and placed beside she who had brought it, like pieces, one by one, being removed from a chess board after a game. As the items were removed an image began to appear underneath, impressions the items had made.

The Shaman went first and told from her vantage point what she saw. The Witch listened with her heart, wanting so much to understand not only their work together, but also this new paradigm. The Shaman saw indications of strength, protection, and blessings. Then she asked the Witch what she saw. The Witch looked down at the image in the center of the circle. The Shaman had been sitting across from her so their vantage points were inverted. Something like a mirror, a purposeful symbolism that hadn’t been lost on the Witch. She’d been anxious about this moment. What if it was like The Emperor’s New Clothes and she saw nothing? Apprehensively, she looked.

And there, on the floor, as if she’d drawn it by her own hand, was the image of her angel, her guide. The one who had been there since her birth. The one her mother used to see out of the corner of her eye standing over her crib. The one whose outline she’d see in her room when she needed protection the most. The one who had always come to her in her dreams and spoken to her when she was on the edge of sleep. The one whose name she and her mother had always known. She had felt so lost and so alone, that she’d secretly begun to believe he had abandoned her. But here, in front of her, and in front of the Shaman, he undeniably was. She understood now that he’d been there all along. Her pain had simply made her blind and deaf to him. She began to cry. Understanding, joy, and relief flooding her.

That had been just hours ago. She and the Shaman had gathered all the things used to make the image into two separate bundles. One for her and one for the Witch. The Shaman explained she would burn hers that night, adding a few things, in her own private ceremony as there were blessings she wanted to ask of her spirits and ancestors. She hadn’t instructed the Witch to do anything with her bundle, but the Witch understood a ritual of her own was in order. So here she sat on the bench, holding her bundle, staring into the fire.

It was dark and she could feel that somewhere, the Shaman sat at her own fire. She rose and offered thanks, to her angel, her gods, to the Shaman, to the spirits that guide her, to the ones who have gone before her. Once finished, she raised her arms and tossed her bundle into the fire, sat back down on the bench, and waited. It wasn’t cold, but after a time she began to rock slowly back and forth. She started to feel unsure of how long she’d been sitting there, and slightly, just out of the corners of her eyes, she began to see them. Just flickers and shadows of movement at first. Then stronger, outlines of people. Whispering, moving, dancing. She didn’t look directly at them. She knew better. But kept her eyes on the fire while she watched them and listened. She could feel they were here for her. Some of them she knew, others she didn’t. Probably friends of the Shaman, or maybe new presences altogether. But they had come, and she was not alone. She never had been. She had just stopped seeing and listening. She felt part of something again. She felt full. She felt grateful and blessed.

After a while, maybe minutes, maybe hours, the shadows began to fade, and the air grew still and quiet. It was time to go. She stood, keeping her eyes toward the fire and closed her circle. She let the fire burn and walked away not looking back. Though back she did go. Back to her home, back to her family, and back to the Woman and Witch, she had once lost, but had somehow always been.