I woke yesterday morning to find Jay’s place beside me cold and empty once again and rose with a sigh to draw the curtains. The day I had dreamed of and looked forward to for so long – my Summer Solstice handfasting – had arrived, yet my beloved had disappeared and was still missing. I turned to go and wake Minet, determined that she should have a wonderful day, even if I should not, but a small commotion in the garden took me back to the window in time to see two magpies jumping up and down on the fence squawking raucously. Two for joy! My heart lifted immediately, Spiritual Insight returned and I knew that all would be well and all would be well and all manner of things would be well.
But Minet’s room was empty. I stood for a moment wondering where she could be. It was only as I was preparing a celebratory breakfast of homemade museli and goat’s milk that I heard singing becoming gradually louder, and went to the kitchen door to watch her cross the wet grass. She had been to pick redcurrants and wild raspberries in the orchard, and had some wondrous news – Jay had returned! He had asked Minet to tell me that he would greet me at the ceremony, as it would be unlucky to see me any earlier. I asked her where he’d been, but she said it was a surprise and I would have to wait to find out.
Minet had been busy while I’d spent those days walking in the rain, and everything was ready. Jay’s old friends who were to officiate as priest and priestess were parked in the lane in their ancient kombi – Minet had invited them to stay, but apparently Crow was allergic to cats, and Azriel, his lady and their seven little ones would be sure to bring on an attack. Minet said it was just as well though, as otherwise there’d have been no room for Henna and her young Vic. ‘What!’ I shrieked. ‘Henna’s here, now, this very minute?’ ‘Of course,’ replied Minet. ‘We couldn’t not invite our own mother!’ I had to admit there was some logic in this statement, and felt relieved that the Grand Ovum was not accompanying her, as I knew he would detect the presence of his book as soon as he set foot in the house.
Breakfast over, all that remained was to prepare ourselves for the ceremony. We met Henna and the young Vic (whose name by an odd coincidence just happened to be Victor), coming out of the spare room. It was strange seeing her again after all the drama about the Druid’s book, but she had returned to her multicoloured gear and looked more like her old self than when she’d left the last time. She greeted me as usual with a simple Hiya Aisse – today’s the day then girlie! the diagonally broken tooth adding to her slightly comic look. I think she must have been bouncing on the bed again as we’d heard her while eating breakfast, and she did look very flushed. Mind you, so did the young Vic. He looks about nineteen and has the face of an angel.
It was time to get ready. Minet had made me a combination tinfoil hat and willow crown to set off my new blue gingham dress, white blouse and red sequined shoes. She looked beautiful in a long gown of green satin with a hooded patchwork cloak of many colours and patterns and the contents of Henna’s jewellery box.
And so, after a fortifying glass of elderflower champagne, Minet and yours truly, Aisselle AT Gabegie, made their way across the wet grass of the orchard followed by Boötes and Baaaarbara and all the goats and alpacas, with dear little Leon dashing here and there among them, doing his best to be a proper sheepdog but failing happily. Henna and the young Vic had left earlier. And there in the orchard, under a bower of baby apples, just as the Lovers Tarot had predicted, splendiferous in his robes and antlers, stood dearest Jay with the priest and priestess. As we approached two figures stepped out from behind the trees. I recognized the aged crone from the battered caravan immediately – she was still wearing the long red velvet dressing gown and the huge pink carpet slippers. They must have been rather damp, for although the sky was cloudy and there had been no rain so far that day, the long grass was still wet from the night rain. The crone didn’t seem at all bothered, and waited silently (as was her wont), wrinkled hands buried in the deep pockets of the gown. I wondered if she were to be a guardian or witness, and how she would manage without speech, but she must have read my mind because she removed one hand from a pocket and flashed the flash cards she’d used the last time I’d seen her. Dear Copwatcher, dressed in her long purplish pink robe, the trusty binocks at rest on her bosom, completed the picture. All our friends were here!
George stepped out from the opposite side. I have to confess that he gave me a slight turn as he was dressed in his policeman’s uniform, but a sideways glance at a radiant Minet told me that this was exactly what she wanted.
Miraculously, the sun appeared from behind the scudding clouds to bless us, and the lovely ceremony began. Ancient traditions were revived and leapt into life, pledges were made and poems spoken. And then, telling us to wait, George and Minet disappeared into the depths of the wild orchard only to reappear moments later as… Joel and Georgina! Joel was wearing his red shirt with the frills around the cuffs, but strangely, Baphomet took no exception to it this time. And Georgina looked exactly like the Queen of Swords in the Golden Tarot of Klimt, except that she’d added a satin blouse to the ensemble and had replaced the high heels with pink spotted wellies just in case it rained again. Minet (or rather Joel as s/he now appeared) said that s/he’d made Georgina’s outfit her/himself after I’d posted my reading for them on the blog! They intend to spend half the year as Joel and Georgina, and half as Minet and George. So Mollie Promp was right, and Joel did return – even if only temporarily.
The whole ceremony was performed again for Joel and Georgina before we all wandered in procession to the magic wood to pass ritually through the hollow tree from one part of our lives to the next. The sun had not left us – it seemed we were touched by some magic. And so onwards through the trees to receive the blessing of The Woodman before completing the circle by returning to the orchard for the handfasting feast, where Jay’s disappearance was explained by his gift to me. He had journeyed far to collect a special carving, which I could see standing beneath our handfasting bower as we approached. Carved from a trunk of pine stood the Green Man in all his natural glory. He will remain there to remind us of this day, and though he may weather and darken, and cracks will appear in his body, he will endure, just as we will.
As the sun went down and the longest day drew to a close, we lit the solstice fire and gathered round with a good supply of elderflower champagne, nourishing goat’s milk quiche, nettle and carrot cake and fresh raspberries and redcurrants. Be glad for me, dear friends. I have never been so happy.
Till when, Aisselle