THE ANCIENT ONES
I still think my time with Minnie was all too brief. Through
One summer and then the winter and the summer after we shared
Details and dreams of our lives. I felt few, if any, had ever heard
Before. I told her things I would never share with another, and I
Felt she did the same with me. Of all our chats and wonderings in
The forest I still found Wednesday nights to be the best. That was
The night we talked for hours.
Religion played a big part of our rural life and when the
Church doors opened, most folks were heading for their favorite pew.
Having reached the ripe old age of nineteen it was up to me whether
I went or not. I found my time was best spent with my Aunt. As
Most others in the community were heading off for Wednesday night
Services the two of us would mix up a pot of her Herb tea and then
Settle on the porch like two scholars solving the problems of all the
World. As we became closer my questions became bolder.
It was a warm July night of my second summer with her.
We had sat on the porch for more than an hour and hadn’t spoken
Twenty words. Comfortable in each others company, it just didn’t seem
Like talk was important at the time. We sipped our tea and watched
The sunset fade into purple and then a field of stars that shimmered
And glowed with all the glory of the universe. Good company, a good
View and warm tea at the end of a long summers day. It didn’t get
Much better than this. It was Minnie that broke the long silence.
"Your momma still bothering you about not being in church?"
"Just a bit. I couldn’t take my eyes off those stars. “She
Said we all need to experience the spiritual side of life and I should
Be there. I told her I’ve found few things more spiritual than good
Friends in conversation. That’s why I spend my Wednesday nights
Minnie sat quite for a moment, then looked over at me and
Smiled. "I’m beginning to wonder if your actually seeing things as they
Are, or if your just full of pee water, it’s getting hard to tell these
She was still smiling. The scent of the tea I had once found
To taste like dirt, wafted across my face like the very aroma of heaven
And I felt warm and safe in a moment of time that was slowly etching
Itself into my memory forever. I didn’t bother answering her remark.
There was no need. Still on nights like this, when the sky goes on
Forever and the possibilities are endless; you have to search for some
thing deeper. If for no other reason than to learn of the life of another.
To explore the soul of someone you have come to love.
"Have you made peace with God?" I asked. She knew I
Wasn’t there to try to save her soul. It was just a question.
"There was never a war." She replied. Staring off into the
Night sky, her mug held tight, her thoughts seemed far away. I waited
For her to go on but she didn’t. She had spoken what she believed
And that was enough. At least for her.
"Mom worries about my spiritually. She worries about the
Time I’ve been spending with you. There’s been talk. It seems a lot of
People think your some kind of Witch. "Please don’t take this wrong,
I love the time I spend with you; I just don’t know what to say when
I hear talk." I felt like I was babbling. This was someone I’d never
Want to hurt and I was asking things I probably had no right to ask.
I just needed to know.
"Say whatever comes to your heart,” she replied. “You’ll do
Just fine." Still lost in the long silence we had shared, Minnie seemed
Reluctant to come back for a chat.
I decided to let it go. If she wasn’t going to offer me an
Invitation to explore this then I wasn’t going to push my way through
The door. She had the right to her own privacy and I had the
Responsibility to respect that.
"Are you a Witch?" I asked. Once again my mouth was
Faster than my good sense. I had no doubt one of these days it would
Get me killed. It was too late though, the question hung between us as
If it had substance. The only way to make it go away was to pick it up
And place it where it belonged.
Minnie rose from her chair and picked up my mug. Hers
Was still in her other hand? "I'll top these off,” she said. Then she was
Off for the kitchen. All I could do was wait and wonder if I had stepped
Over some boundry that should not have been crossed. After a few
Minutes she returned. Setting both mugs on the table, she eased back
Into her chair and turned her attention to me. Silence. Just a stare
Across a million miles of experience and knowledge compacted into the
Four feet that was between us. To tell the truth, I was a bit scared.
"Are you a Warlock?" She asked. No smile, no frown.
Just Minnie looking into me with the very eyes of time itself.
"NO!" I shot back. "A Warlock is an oath breaker. He
Uses powers not given to him by the coven or Council. Without that
Guidance he becomes corrupt. He becomes the very thing that they
Oppose." It had come out more forcefully then I meant it to, but I
Knew I had to make this point clear. I was not a Warlock.
Minnie placed her head in her hands and began to shake
It from side to side, as she often did when I felt I had a point to make.
On more than one occasion she would say a prayer that I hoped was for
Me. In her prayers she always seemed to be praying for some mule,
From what I could hear of her whispers, something about giving sight to
Some dumb ass. This woman’s love had no bounds. Finally, she lifted
Her head and looked at me.
"You’ve been reading those funny books again, haven’t
You?" Funny books to Aunt Minnie were spiritual texts to me. Yes, I
Was studying other beliefs and cultures. My time with her had awakened
Something inside me to learn of the spiritual quests of others and find
Answers for myself. I felt I was covered with a veil and only through
Knowledge could I tear it away.
"There’s nothing wrong with reading." I told her.
"I agree." She stated. "It’s just when you take as the
Truth, the words on the page that you get in trouble. These books were
Written by people. Many do speak of the truth, but none have cornered
The market on it. Listen to the quiet of your own soul and there you will
Find what you are seeking."
"They speak of the truth?” I asked, “whose truth?"
I thought she was going to put her head in her hands again
But instead, she simply rested her forehead against her fingertips. Then
In a voice that always caught me off guard, the soft, gentle voice, she
Whispered. "Before mankind, before the planets and stars, before the
Beginning of time, Truth existed. It is the only thing that has never
Changed. It is the only thing that has never needed to change."
"Who’s truth?" I asked again. "Was it the Christians or
Muslims or Buddhists?" I needed to know.
"It is the truth of the one who created all things.,” she said,
Her voice trailing off again. She had picked up her cup and was holding
It near her face. I could see her leaving me as she fell back into the
Stars and night, getting lost in the wonder of all that had been placed
Before us. I wasn’t ready to let her go.
"You didn’t answer my question." I said.
She sat there, staring off into forever. For once in my life I
Kept my big fat mouth shut and let her find the place where she could
Speak with ease. I was the intruder here. Whether or not she chose to
Pass this lesson on to me was totally up to her. All I could do was wait.
With her eyes toward the stars and her thoughts coming alive,
Minnie began to speak. "In the olden days there were Ancient ones that
Walked the Earth. The term, "Witch,” meant learned one, The keeper of
Knowledge." It was a title to be respected and honored. More often than
Not a Witch was a woman but there were men as well. It was only later
That the term became corrupted and men became warlocks."
She took a sip from her tea. Her eyes never leaving the far
Away place she seemed to be staring at, then went on. "There was much
Magic in the land in those times, but it was nothing like the storybooks
That you are reading now. Magic was the creative force that flowed through
All people, and the Ancient ones knew better than any how to harness
It and make the world a better place. They used the plants and herbs to
Heal the sick, created tools to make the workload lighter, and the lives
Better for those around them. Though they could not tell all that they
Knew, they did give wise counsel to those in need. From the signs in the
Stars and the forests they knew what weather was coming, what crops to
Plant, where to build a home or start an orchard. They were loved by the
People for they loved the people. They taught them of the one that
Created all things."
She was silent for a moment, collecting her thoughts and deciding
Where to take me next. "In those days there was no evil, no duality of
The good and bad. Right and wrong existed, but not damnation. The
Ancient ones gave to mankind clarity of sight that has long been
Forgotten. It was understood that all life is a gift to us from the one that
Created all things. To say that the gift was bad or evil was to be
Ungrateful for such a wonderful present."
"Yes, life was often hard. People still died including many
Children. Houses burned down, crops failed on occasion. No one ever said
Life would be easy, but just because something is hard doesn’t mean it is
Bad. Lessons were learned and knowledge was gained, and the trials of
Mankind was understood for what they really were, a chance to grow.
Thanks was given for all things, even the troubles and trials, and man
Grew stronger with each passing generation from the love of the creator
And the strength of the Ancient ones."
"A balance existed between man and Earth. It was understood
We were all from the same source and should therefore care for each
Other. The Mother Earth provided us with food, shelter, and a home to
Call our own. With her plants she gave us medicine. With her seasons
She gave us change. With her love she gave us life. In return we tended
Her fields and fertilized her soil with our bodies when we left this place.
In one way or another we returned everything to her that she had given
To us. Her rivers were her blood, her forests were her lungs and she was as
Alive as all things that walked upon her."
"It was the Ancient ones, The Witches if that’s what you want
To call them, that kept the knowledge growing. They passed it from
Generation to generation. Making sure the future would not lose the
Lessons of the past. In a language all their own they wrote of what could
Cure the sickness of man, what signs would tell of the coming winter,
What food would give strength to the man in the field? The language was
A gift to them from above and so to most it sounded like poetry. To
Them it was of the language that the one had used when all things were
Created. It was respected and kept safe, as every trust in them was. The
Honor they felt was far too special to ever betray."
Not once had she turned her gaze from whatever far place she
Was looking into. My tea was finished and hers had only a sip missing.
I knew it had to have grown cold so I reached for her cup and left her
Alone with the world she was visiting, or revisiting. Sometimes it’s best
To just leave matters where they had been placed, so the owner will know
Where they are when they return for them.
I returned with fresh drinks and set hers on the table. The spell
Of the moment seemed to have been broken. She smiled and thanked me,
Back from wherever she had gone. I wasn’t sure if I should say something
Or wait for her to continue. After a few moments I decided to chance it.
"What happened to them?" I asked.
"Mankind entered the cosmic equivalent of the terrible two’s." She
Answered. Though she had a smile on her face, it seemed to be out of
Place. Like a mother who loved her only child and still had to deal with
The fact he was a moron. Minnie took another long sip of tea, then
"In order for man to truly know the breadth and beauty of all
That exists he had been given free will. The light, which was the love
Of God, would be taken for granted. If man never experienced the absence
Of that love, which was the darkness. The road of light they had walked
Upon came to a fork, and man chose the path that led into a tunnel. The
Light and love was still there. Man just couldn’t see or feel it." Again she
Seemed to be fading off into another world, to a place that only she
Seemed to know of.
"It started with greed, Minnie continued. One person claiming
Ownership over something that had once belonged to all. The Earth
Became something to possess rather than a partner in life. The balance
Began to shift and fade and soon would be lost. Mans journey into the
Darkness had begun. The greed divided the people into clans and nations,
And in each the greediest came to know power. The power corrupted the
Soul even worse than the greed did, and mankind learned of the concepts
Of war. What had once been shared by all was now something to kill or
Die for. Rather than caring for each other the people began to think of
Only themselves. The strong took what they wanted, the weak became
Slaves, and the sorrow of living spread across the land." She shifted in
Her chair, searching for either a more comfortable spot, or the right words
To go on.
"The Ancient ones were still accepted then. They were consulted
On most things and still given the respect they deserved. Even though they
Knew what had happened, most of the witches still tried to warn man. They
Reminded him of the light of love he could no longer see or feel. They
Tried to keep warm the heart that was growing colder with each generation
That passed, but to understand pure light man had first to experience the
"The creative force that had once guided them to better things
Was now used to make weapons to kill. The farmer who once tasted the
Soil to know what crops would grow, now tasted the fields soaked in the
Blood of his brother. The medicine once used to cure the sick was now
Used to poison one’s enemies. All the gifts that had been bestowed upon
Mankind was turned to be used for his own selfish purposes. Even the
Creator was exploited to give man the power he craved."
Again there was a silence. Minnie was still far away but I
Couldn’t bring her back. I didn’t want to. I wanted to hear the rest of the
Story. She sipped her tea a few more times then continue on.
"It wasn’t enough to enslave the bodies of others. In his mad
Descent into the darkness mankind decided it had to enslave the very
Souls of the people. Freewill was not a gift to one’s earthly body, it was
A gift to one’s spirit. But from the chaos rose the ones who denied that.
They claimed to speak to the creator himself and the news was really
Bad. Man was not worthy. The gift of life was not a gift after all but
A curse placed upon him. The human race was being punished for sins
Against the one who created us."
"The more out of balance we became the worse things got. We
Began stripping the Earth for metals and gems. Razing the forests for
Land we didn’t need and polluting the rivers with waste from our schemes.
Topsoil was washed away and crops failed in record numbers. What had
Been good land became desert. The rains came at the wrong time and the
Winds blew away all we had built. The Earth could no longer take proper
Care of the ones she had once loved."
"But of course it couldn’t be the fault of man. He was so
Blinded by the darkness that no truth could exist in his soul, and the
Ones who had given him the lies of his own unworthiness gave him
Someone to blame for all that went wrong. Different beliefs gave it
Different names, some called it evil while others called it Satan. The
Name wasn’t important. That it could be blamed for mankind’s misdeeds
Was. Man had been deceived they were told. It wasn’t our fault. Still,
Every newborn infant was born a horrible sinner and to get back into
The Creators good graces they had to surrender their free will to the
Church, live as they were told, and be ready to kill the infidels should
They oppose the anointed ones."
"The Ancient ones tried to keep the truth alive in the heart
Of man. That all of life was a gift to us from a creator whose love was
So pure it could never harm anything. That man had never fallen short
Of the glory of God, never sinned, and the light and love he had once
Known was still there, waiting for his return from the darkness."
"They became a threat to the slave holders. If any man came
To know the truth then they would be powerless. So the religions that had
Been created for the glory of the few who controlled them declared the
Ancient ones were servants of the devil. In the darkness of his own lost
Soul man accepted that. The witches were hunted down. Their knowledge
Lost as they and their books burned in the fires. It was the final
Cleansing of all that remained from the time before the fork in the road
Of mankind’s soul. The darkness was complete.
I hung on her every word. How she had come to know these
Things were beyond me, but I had no doubt she was sincere. This was a
Lesson coming from her heart. With my silence I prodded her on.
"The Ancient ones saw beyond what men saw. They knew that
Free will was a gift to the spirit and death had no true hold on anyone’s
Soul. Many of them chose to return to Earth. They became teachers,
Leaders, some even took up religion. In a quiet non threatening way they
Began to lead mankind back towards the light. To guide them once again
Into the balance.
"Am I a witch? She asked, and then answered, “No I’m not. A
Witch is one that shows man the path back to harmony. I don’t like
Anybody enough to do that. For all I care the dumb bastards can wonder
Around in the dark forever."
Minnie was one of the most caring people I had ever known.
She gave food from her own cupboard to those in need. Money to the
Poor. Counsel to the troubled. She may not have a powerful job or lead
A group, but with her life she was showing those around her the ways of
Love and life in harmony.
My Aunt Minnie was a Witch.
"How did you learn the things you know?" I asked her.
"I have a bad memory,” she stated. “When I was born I forgot
To remember that I didn’t know anything." Smiling again I knew she was
Ok with the story she had told. That she was back now from the place
She had gone. I had so much more I wanted to ask her, but not tonight.
We’d said enough. The tea still warm in our hands, we sat the rest of
The evening in silence and pondered the stars.
Love and light to each of you,