Monday, November 15, 2010
"Lessons in Witchcraft" [PG] - 2/9
"LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT"
NOTE: In the previous chapter, Paige had decided to get extra lessons in witchcraft after reading a book she had purchased during a vacation in Scotland. Paige ended up being surprised that her family's views on being a witch and Elise McNeill's views were far apart. The story picks up with Paige informing her sisters about her lesson with old Mrs. McNeill.
Both Phoebe and Piper stared at Paige in disbelief, while she repeated Elise McNeill's words.
"That can't be right!" Phoebe declared. "Our Book of Shadows specifically states that it is our duty, as witches, to protect the innocent!"
Piper added, "And how else would you explain all of those demonic attacks that we've endured over the years?"
Paige heaved a sigh. "I don't know, Piper. The Source, himself? I mean we all know that the Oracle had foreseen us killing him. Maybe he had put a bounty on us. To make sure that didn't happen. Isn't that what Cole had told us?"
"Yeah," Phoebe replied. "But still . . ."
"But what?" Although she understood her sisters' reaction to what Elise McNeill had told her, Paige also felt a slight twinge of frustration at their reluctance to even consider that the elderly witch may have been right. "C'mon, Pheebs! Has it ever occurred to you that whoever said we had a duty to always fight evil, may have been wrong? Maybe the reason the McNeills have managed to live long lives is that they don't go around chasing after demons and warlocks at the drop of a hat."
Piper rolled her eyes. "Paige, I realize that you think the world of the McNeills, but it is possible that the, uh . . . old lady may be wrong."
"Or she could be right," Paige countered. "Anyway, why are you arguing against this? Wouldn't you like to accept the possibility that being a witch doesn't mean that we have to go around vanquishing demons all the time? You don't even like being a witch. Remember?"
The oldest Halliwell looked away, her dark eyes unfathomable. "Don't forget that I had a chance to give up being a witch . . . and I didn't take it."
"Yeah Piper!" Paige's voice dripped with scorn. "And we all know why. Don't we?"
"Paige . . ."
Paige heaved a sigh. "C'mon Piper! Be honest! You had turned down the chance to give up your powers, because of us. Because Phoebe and I had decided to remain as witches. You had accepted our decision, because you had no choice. Majority rules."
Piper's mouth tightened. "What are you getting at, Paige?"
"Maybe you should join me in these lessons," the younger witch replied. She glanced at the middle Halliwell. "Both you and Phoebe. I mean, wouldn't it be nice to find out that being a witch is more than just killing demons and warlocks? I swear, sometimes I feel that we're nothing more than supernatural killers. And we're no better than the people we go after." Both Piper and Phoebe exchanged uneasy looks. "C'mon guys!" Paige added. "What's the harm? We all know that the McNeills know a hell of a lot more about the Craft than we do. And Phoebe, haven't you always said that we need to learn a lot more? Well, here's our opportunity."
Piper was the first to speak. She sighed. "Well . . . okay. I'll join you for one lesson and see how it works out. Pheebs?"
The middle Charmed One hesitated. Then she growled, "Okay. Sure. Although I think we're wasting our time."
Paige ignored Phoebe's last barb and continued, "Great! I'll call Olivia right now."
"Olivia?" Phoebe looked unpleasantly surprised. "But I thought Mrs. McNeill was . . . Paige wait!" But the youngest Charmed One had rushed upstairs, before Phoebe's cries could sink in.
The following Sunday afternoon, Olivia appeared at the Halliwells' manor, carrying a large knit bag. "Hi guys!" she greeted upon entering the house. "Ready for today's lesson?"
Paige replied cheerfully, "I'm ready! And so is Phoebe." She indicated her older sister, sitting morosely in one of the living room's chairs. "Piper's upstairs with Wyatt. She'll be down in a few minutes."
While Olivia removed a few objects from her bag, Piper appeared on the staircase. "Okay, I'm here for the lesson," she drawled. "Although I think I know all there is to being a witch."
Olivia responded with a polite smile. "If you say so." She continued to remove more objects from her bag. "So Paige, what did you learn from my grandmother?"
After taking a deep breath, Paige replied, "I learned that the word, witch, means 'wise one'. And that witches are basically are basically healers, teachers and spiritual leaders." She paused before adding, "And not protectors of innocents." Piper's eyes rolled, while Phoebe's mouth formed a tight line.
"Anything else?" Olivia asked.
"Oh yeah. Mrs. McNeill talked about the history of Wicca, and its origins in British Mystery Traditions, like the Picts, who were around before the Celts. The early Celts, and aspects of Celtic Druidism. She also added that modern day American Wicca is descended from British Wicca, which was originated by some guy named Gerald Gardner, back in the 30s."
Olivia corrected, "Actually, many witches believe that present-day American Wicca comes from the studies of Gerald Gardner, Alexander Sanders, and Celtic Paganism. Did Gran tell you how people become witches?"
Before Paige could answer, Piper turned to her. "I don't know about your grandmother, but Paige didn't say anything. Paige? Did she?"
The youngest Halliwell hesitated, before she finally replied, "Oh yeah. I forgot about that. Mrs. McNeill told me how people become witches."
Both Piper and Phoebe looked confused. "How they become witches?" the former repeating. "What are you saying? That people aren't born witches?"
"That is exactly what she's saying, Piper," Olivia answered. "I was not born a witch, and neither were you or your sisters."
A half-hearted laugh escaped the oldest Halliwell's mouth. "Okay, I know this is a joke. We weren't born witches? Now, I really find that hard to believe. I mean, we all had our powers when we were born. Well, I don't know about Paige . . ."
"I had my whitelighter powers," the younger woman interjected.
"This is different, Paige," Piper continued. "I'm talking about witches' powers. When I was young, I already had the power to freeze, Prue had her telekinesis and Phoebe . . . well, Mom was able to use her power of premonition, while she was still in the womb. Shouldn't that have made us witches from birth?"
Olivia shook her head. "Sorry honey. You're confusing psychic abilities with magick. There are plenty of people with powers similar to ours, but they're not practicing witches. I know what I'm talking about. My telekinesis had manifested when I was very young. But I didn't first become a witch until I was eighteen. I had began studying to become one, about a year or two earlier." Piper began to speak, but Olivia interrupted. "Let me finish. People become witches by Initiation. And that involves contacting and forming a good relationship with the God and Goddess of Wicca. A person who wants to become a witch, studies real hard for about a year and a day, until a qualified Wicca priest or priestess initiates him or her in a ceremony. The latter two are used as channels to pass some their power onto you, as newly made Priest or Priestess. Or a witch. That's how all of us became witches. Gran and a priest named Walter Goodman were the ones who had initiated Bruce and me." She paused. "Have any of you ever been initiated?"
The two Charmed Ones stared at the red-haired witch with dumbfounded expressions. The youngest merely sighed. "No," she answered. "Not really. Although I did study to become a witch, under both Piper and Phoebe." She turned to her sisters. "Have you guys ever been initiated? Piper? Pheebs?"
Phoebe remained speechless, while Piper managed to squeak, "Uh . . . no. Wait!" She shook her head, as if trying to comprehend what she had just heard. "Are you saying that technically, we haven't been witches all this time?"
Olivia responded with a shrug. "Unless your grandmother had initiated you, no."
"Then what the hell have we been for the past five years?"
Another shrug lifted Olivia shoulders. "I don't know. Ceremonial magicians? Magick practitioners?" Aware of the uncomfortable pause that followed, Olivia added, "So . . . Paige? Did you and Gran discuss anything else? Like the Wiccan Rede?"
"Huh?" Paige croaked.
Olivia bit back a sigh. "The Wiccan Rede. Did you guys talk about that?"
"Well . . . yeah."
"Do you know anything about the Rede?"
It was Phoebe who finally spoke. "At least this is easy. 'An Ye Harm None, Do What Thou Wilt'."
Olivia nodded. "Actually, the Rede is longer, but it all comes down to that line. What about the Law of Three? What do you know about that?"
The Charmed Ones fell silent. Each shot anxious looks at the other. "I think that sort of went by us," Paige replied sheepishly.
"Okay, basically the Law of Three or the Threefold Law is this - any energy you send out, will come back to you in threefold. Or, the actions and thoughts of an individual are visited back upon him or her in threefold the intensity of the original. This is otherwise known as either 'what goes around, comes around' or 'karmic payback'." She paused. The Charmed Ones remained silent. "Any other questions?"
Phoebe hesitated before she asked, "What about personal gain? Where does that fit into the Wiccan Rede? Or the Law of Three?"
"It doesn't," Olivia quickly answered.
Her questions produced gasps from the three sisters. Piper frowned. "What do you mean, it doesn't? Isn't there a rule about personal gain?"
"But . . . there has to be! It's mentioned in our Book of Shadows!"
Olivia shot back, "Not in mine."
Piper, however, refused to give up. "But Leo . . ."
"Ah, yes! Leo!" Olivia nodded. "That whole thing about personal gain? Whitelighters' rule. Now, there are many complexities to both the Wiccan Rede and the Law of Three, but I have to tell you that for witches, it basically boils down to not deliberately harming someone. Or using magick on a person, against his or her will."
Shaking her head, Phoebe shot back, "That can't be true! When we had first became witches, I used magic to win at the Lottery. I had the winning ticket, but it disappeared. That means, using powers for personal gain . . ."
"If you had studied Wicca a little more thoroughly, Phoebe, you probably would have realized that the ticket had disappeared for reasons other than personal gain." Olivia paused. "Your little magical ticket would have prevented the real winner from collecting his or her prize. Remember the Wiccan Rede . . ."
Phoebe sighed. "'And Ye Harm None, Do What Thou Wilt'," she quoted morosely.
Nodding, Olivia added, "That's right. By conjuring up that ticket, you were in the process of robbing the true winner." She paused to stare at the sisters. "So, anymore questions on what we had just talked about?" No one answered. "Okay, let's move on to something less controversial. Like magick tools for a witch. Do you guys know anything about that?"
After a brief hesitation, Piper asked, "Will this be about herbal craft or spells? Because we know all about that."
A wry smile touched Olivia's lips. "Not exactly. I'm referring to tools used by witches as part of a symbolic system. A provider of a map for entry into, say . . . unfamiliar psychic spaces." She paused and frowned at her audience. "Did anyone understand what I had just said?"
"We got it," Piper replied sarcastically.
"Good." Olivia continued. "Now, one example of a witch's tool is my staff. Which, by the way, symbolizes the Fire element. So does a wand."
Paige piped in, "Like in HARRY POTTER."
One of Olivia's brows formed an arch. "Ok-ay. I suppose that's a good comparison. Now, the properties of fire represent will, transmutation, life force and power." Olivia picked a small black cauldron. "This cauldron corresponds to the Water element - cleansing, regeneration and emotion. A cauldron is also the symbol of the Goddess. Filled with water, it can be used to glimpse into the future. Which is basically called Divination."
"What?" Phoebe's eyes grew wide. "Did you just say . . .?"
Olivia interrupted, "That's right. I did. A cauldron can be used for Divination - scrying into the future. So, if you ever lose your power of Divinity, you can always use a cauldron." She picked up a silver chalice. "This chalice also represents Water. Like the cauldron, you can fill it with water and use it for Divination. You can also use the chalice to hold the ritual wine. Now, the broom, which also represents Water, usually involves cleansing and protection."
"I remember that," Phoebe said. Everyone stared at her. "Remember Piper? When you, Prue and me went back to 1670 Virginia? We had learned about the uses for a broom. Only," her face fell, "I guess we just forgot about it."
Piper nodded. She wore a reflective expression. "Oh yeah. I had forgotten about that."
Pleased that the sisters had learned a few lessons about certain magick symbols, Olivia smiled. "That's great! Do you know anything about the ankh?" Confusion appeared in the Charmed Ones' eyes. "I guess not. Well, the ankh, the Keppen rod and a quartz crystal all represent the Spirit element. Which symbolizes perfection, summation, balance, illumination and eternity."
Olivia picked up an athame. Paige crooned, "Ooooh! Phoebe has one of those," she declared. Olivia glanced at her questioningly. "It once belonged to Cole. You know, the one she had used to kill that Crozat warlock on the night we had first met."
Comprehension gripped Olivia's mind. "Oh my God!" she cried in horror. "I had forgotten." She stared at Phoebe. "Do you still have that athame?"
"Yeah, sure." Phoebe nodded. "Why?"
Olivia harshly ordered, "Get rid of it. Now!"
Before Phoebe could speak, Piper demanded, "Why?"
"Because an athame is suppose to be a tool used for spiritual and magical rituals. It's not a weapon to be used to harm someone." Olivia heaved a sigh. "Goddess, I wish I had told you this, when we first met. That athame is tainted with blood. Do yourself a favor and get rid of it."
Aside from the grandfather clock ticking in the background, an uncomfortable silence filled the living room. Olivia noticed that Phoebe's face had grown considerably pale. "Um, what element is the athame associated with?" the middle Halliwell finally asked.
Olivia quietly replied, "Air. Like the sword. Of course, there are certain Wicca sects who associate both the athame and the sword with the Fire element. The athame is used to direct energy. And it's an instrument of power and manipulation. The handle is usually a dark color . . . to absorb power."
"Anything else?" Piper asked.
On the table before Olivia, laid a stone. She picked it up. "Well, there are the tools representing the Earth element. A stone and the Pentagram."
Nodding, Piper said, "We know about the Pentagram. In fact, the manor lies in the center of a pentagram's five points - the five elements. In the center of a Nexus."
"Hmmm," was Olivia's only reply. She glanced away.
"Nothing. I . . . uh, I have a few ideas about the pentagram. But I'll talk about that later. In fact, we'll discuss the pentagram in another lesson." Olivia cleared her throat. "As for the stone, or any other kind of mineral - like salt, is used to symbolize the Earth properties - communication, vitality, intellect and understanding." She paused. "And that's it. That's the lesson for today on magical tools. Any questions?"
Confusion darkened Phoebe's eyes. "Are you sure that you haven't missed something. Because I have this feeling . . ."
"I have a question," Piper said, raising her hand.
Olivia directed her gaze toward the eldest sister. "Yes?"
Piper hesitated. Then, "Do you mind repeating all of that? The list of magic tools? I think I might have to take notes."
END OF CHAPTER 2