"LESSONS IN WITCHCRAFT"
NOTE: In the previous chapter, the three Halliwell sisters learn about magic tools and their status as witches, and unlearn a few misconceptions. The story picks up with Olivia McNeill discussing the previous lesson with Cole.
The doorbell rang. Exhausted from the lessons with the Halliwells, Olivia rose reluctantly from the sofa and walked toward door. She barked, "Yeah, who is it?"
"Cole," a muffled voice replied.
"You know how to get inside."
As she returned to the sofa, a tall figure materialized in the middle of the living room. "Hey," Cole greeted. Then he leaned down and planted a light kiss on the edge of Olivia's mouth. When she failed to respond, he frowned. "Something wrong? You look a little beat."
Olivia sighed. Heavily. "I feel worse. I just spent the entire afternoon teaching Paige and her sisters about the Wiccan Rede, some history on Wicca and magical tools. All afternoon. I even had to demonstrate on how to use each tool. And I had planned to talk about magick altars, but I never got the chance." Another sigh left her mouth.
Cole sat down on the sofa and lifted Olivia's legs upon his lap. "Poor Olivia. I guess you're not cut out to be a teacher."
Responding with a derisive snort, Olivia continued, "The problem is that I had overestimated on how much the Halliwells knew about the basics of witchcraft and Wicca. I mean, they've been practicing magic for nearly five years - at least Piper and Phoebe have, and Paige, for two years. I realize they're talented and all, but they really have no knowledge of the basics. What the hell were they doing all this time?"
"Dealing with attacks by the Source and his minions," Cole replied. He began to rub Olivia's right foot. "I guess they really didn't have the time to learn the basics."
Olivia nodded. "I can understand that. I remember what it was like when I had to deal with a lot of demonic and warlock attacks, a few years ago. That's how I first met Richard. The thing is, I never knew why."
Cole continued to rub Olivia's foot. His long fingers felt so good; she had to bite her lower lip to keep from moaning out loud. "You really don't know," he said. "Do you?"
Pausing briefly, Cole shook his head. "Never mind. Let's just say the Source had considered you a threat . . . along with Phoebe and her sisters. Only a threat of a different nature."
Olivia frowned. "Wha . . .? What on earth did the Source have against me? Had the Oracle foreseen that I would one day become the Aingeal Staff's bearer?"
"No, nothing like that. Although the Source did fear your Cousin Keith. He, uh . . ." Again, Cole paused. "Well, it seems that you had developed a reputation as a redeemer of daemons. Especially high-level daemons."
Olivia sat up and stared at her boyfriend. "You've got to be kidding! Just because I had managed to convince one or two daemons . . ."
"Actually, you had turned eight daemons, Olivia. You had turned eight daemons and . . . and a powerful warlock against the Source, during a period of ten years," Cole continued. "That's a feat unheard of for any witch. Or any enemy of the Source."
The whole matter seemed ludicrous to Olivia. She found it difficult to believe that the Source would consider her a threat over eight daemons. "I'm sure there have been plenty of daemons and warlocks that managed to 'redeem' themselves without my help, over the years."
Cole resumed massaging her foot. "True. But you're the only witch who's ever had such an impact on the Source's Realm. Killing them is one thing, but convincing them to turn against the Source and everything he stood for? He was never able to deal with such a betrayal. Why do you think he was so determined to go after me?" He switched to Olivia's other foot. "Strange that I had forgotten all about that, until now."
"I think my opinion of the Source has lowered another notch, after what you had told me," Olivia grumbled. "Sending assassins after me, for what . . . over eight daemons and Richard?" She shook her head in disgust. Then she returned to the previous topic. "As for the Halliwells - I understand that they had been busy fending off attacks, but the Source has been dead for over a year. Only Paige has made efforts to study more on witchcraft, since then."
"Don't have an answer for that one."
Olivia continued, "However, I really blame old Mrs. Halliwell. I mean I understand why she had to bound their powers when they were young. Some warlock or daemon was after them. But couldn't she at least teach them some of the basics of the Craft, while they were growing up? They were all in their twenties when she died!"
Instead of answering, Cole merely continued his massage. Then he asked, "By the way, what's the next lesson about?"
Sighing, Olivia replied, "Herbal craft. I had called Bruce and asked if he and Barbara would hold the next lesson."
Cole snorted with derision. "That will be a short lesson. If there's one thing the Halliwells know, it's herbal craft. In fact, it's Piper's specialty."
"Which is why I think Bruce had no problem in volunteering for this particular lesson," Olivia retorted wryly.
On the following Saturday morning, the Charmed Ones appeared at the McNeills' resplendent Spanish-Colonial manor for their next lesson. Upon entering the foyer, the family's manservant led them to the large kitchen, where the newly married Bruce and Barbara awaited them.
"Okay," the oldest McNeill sibling declared. "This morning, we'll be talking about the use of herb magick. Or herbal craft."
Piper heaved a small sigh. "Is this really necessary? I mean, if there's one thing we know is using herbs for magic. Including Paige."
The youngest Charmed One glared at her older sister. "Gee Piper, thanks a lot. I'm thrilled that you finally believe that I know something about herbal craft. Even after two years."
As her face turned red with embarrassment, Piper replied, "Look, I didn't mean to imply that . . ." She paused. "Never mind."
"All right," Bruce said, "let's see how much you know about herbal craft. What is snapdragon used for?"
Phoebe replied, "That's easy. Protection."
"Um-hum." Bruce nodded his head.
Barbara asked, "And what's the herb for an exorcism?"
Looking almost bored, Piper answered, "Basil. Look, why don't we just skip all of this?"
Bruce held up his hand. "Just one more question. What other herb can be used for protection? Aside from snapdragon?"
The question took the Halliwells by surprise. "Wha . . .?" Phoebe began. "What do you mean? Is this a trick question? Snapdragon is the only herb used for protection. At least according to our Book of Shadows."
Both Bruce and Barbara exchanged knowing looks. "Are you sure?" Bruce asked. "For a protection spell, we sometimes use mallow. Or ague root."
Barbara added, "And basil isn't just used for an exorcism. It can also be used for love spells, spells for wealth, flying . . . and protection."
The Halliwells, stunned by the couple's revelation, merely stared at them - boggle-eyed. "Do you understand what we're trying to say?" Bruce asked. "A witch has to discover what works for him or her - whether we're talking about spells, potions, or any other kind of magickal tool. What may work for one witch, may not work for another. It all depends upon the individual."
Shaking her head, Paige said, "I don't understand. What are you saying?"
"In regard to herbs . . . or even spells," Barbara began, "it's not about following the recipe. Paige. Didn't you once tell Maddy about the trouble you had with transforming objects into animals and reverse?"
The young witch nodded. "Yeah. I was having trouble using Prue's spell. The one she had used to turn into a dog. Even though I had finally managed to do it, I'm still having trouble."
"Honey, maybe the reason you're having trouble is, well . . ." Piper paused. "Well, you're not as experienced in magic, as we are." The older woman's words earned another glare from Paige. "I mean Phoebe can transform herself and other people, using Prue's spell."
Paige opened her mouth to retort, but Barbara spoke first. "I suspect that the real reason why Paige is having so much trouble with Prue's spell, is that it simply doesn't work for her. Paige, maybe you should try to find your own spell, using herbs or some other kind of tool that might work for you."
Bruce added, "Or try to use what you already have. Let's say that you want to do a prosperity spell . . ."
"Isn't that personal gain?" Phoebe asked. Her question drew stares from her sisters and the McNeills. "What?"
Frowning, Bruce said, "I thought Olivia had dismissed the notion of personal gain, as part of the Wiccan Rede?"
Phoebe's mouth hung open. Then, "Oh, uh . . . I . . . never mind."
"Anyway," Bruce continued, "let's say that you want to do a prosperity spell. Now, some witches believe that patchouli oil should be used. There are some who would use clove oil. Personally, I prefer jasmine."
Piper asked, "You've done a prosperity spell?"
Bruce shrugged his shoulders. "For a few friends, who are into Paganism."
"By the way," Barbara added, "not only herbs are used for prosperity spells. Many witches like to use candle spells. What we're getting at is that you need to determine what color candles, herbs, oils, stone or any other tool will work best for a spell or potion you are creating. Or using. Just use what works best for you. However, when using these tools for a spell or potion, make sure that you use three herbs. I'm sure that you guys know why."
Paige nodded. "For the physical realm, the mental realm, and the spiritual realm."
Smiling, Barbara said, "Nice to know that you have been listening. Now, as you all know, you might also need some form of animal part . . ."
"I thought Wiccans weren't into animal sacrifice," Piper coolly asked.
"I'm not saying that you should go out and kill an animal for a spell or potion. Just use the part of a dead animal. After all, didn't your potion to vanquish Cole require a pig's foot?" Barbara paused dramatically. "Along with a piece of his flesh?"
Phoebe remained silent, while Piper murmured a quick, "Yeah. Forgot about that."
Bruce spoke up. "Do you guys know anything about the background on herbal craft?"
"Not really," Paige replied. Her sisters shook their heads.
Bruce continued, "According to tradition, witches would go out on a full moon to collect strange plants. It seemed that the full Moon had special significance for Witches. At certain times of the year, the full Moon coincided with the one of the Sabbats, when they gathered to worship the God and Goddess. This is still true, today. Now, during these meetings, ritual ointments, made from the plants were employed to promote particular experiences."
"What type of experiences?" Phoebe asked.
"Of the spiritual kind." Bruce paused. "Like 'flying'."
Paige frowned. "Flying?"
The older witch nodded. "Yeah. There is a folklore about witches flying on broomsticks at night to meet the God and Goddess."
"I've flown on a broomstick," Phoebe commented. "Remember, Piper? Back in the seventeenth century?"
Barbara gave Phoebe an enthusiastic look. "You too? Both Livy and I did it at least twice. During a coven gathering in Modesto, when we were in college. Wasn't it great?"
Looking somewhat nostalgic, Phoebe nodded. "Yeah, it was."
Paige regarded Bruce with inquisitive eyes. "Have you ever flown on a broom?"
"No," Bruce promptly replied. "Nor do I ever intend to. The idea of whizzing through the air on a stick of wood doesn't appeal to me. If I'm going to fly unnaturally, I'll do it inside a 747." He paused. "But . . . there is another method for 'flying'. I'm talking about using plants and ointments to experience an 'out of body' experience. Or in other words, communicate with the Spiritual World. Many ancient religions throughout the world, practice this. Like, the Native American shamans. For example, I do know that peyote is commonly used by shamans in the Southwestern region, Mexico and other Central American countries."
Phoebe commented, "But is it really necessary to use plants to do this? Paige and I once used a spell to get into Piper's mind, when she was kidnapped by the Source."
"Something I hope I never experience again," Piper murmured.
Bruce continued, "Traditionally, there were other reasons why witches collected plants on a full Moon, at night. Witches also believed that the collecting of plants at night, especially when the moon was full had some kind of basis in plant biology. They felt that these plants were at its highest active drug content around this time. If you take away some of the magical aspects of Witchcraft, you'll probably find a deep understanding of Herbal Lore and Medicine."
"Is this why witches are highly regarded as healers?" Paige asked.
"Yeah. As a matter of fact, today's modern medicine owes a lot to traditional use of herbs in Witchcraft and other Pagan religions."
Barbara added wryly, "Of course, not many doctors would admit that, today."
Bruce nodded. "True. But there is an 18th century doctor named William Withering, who had admitted in his book on Foxglove that he owed his knowledge of the herb and for its use on those with heart conditions to Witchcraft herbal lore."
Piper frowned. "Foxglove. You mean Digitalis?"
"You do know your herb, don't you?" Bruce smiled at Piper, who looked slightly pleased. "Have you guys ever used herbs and other plants for medicinal purposes?"
"I once made an aromatherapy treatment for Phoebe," Paige piped in. "A facial crème. To help her relax for her wedding."
Phoebe murmured, "Now that's one memory 'I' would like to forget. I ended up being invisible." She glared at Paige.
"That's not my fault!" the youngest sister protested. "It was Cole . . . or should I say, the Source, who messed with the crème, after I had given it to you."
Phoebe merely heaved a sigh, and shook her head.
Bruce asked, "Anything else?"
The sisters glanced at each other. Piper shrugged her shoulders and said to Bruce, "Well, this Gypsy named Jenna once helped us make a salve for Phoebe's arm. And other than using herbs to make tea . . . no. Why?"
"You mean you've only made this salve for healing, once? Don't forget, one of the main tasks of a witch is healing."
Phoebe shot back, "We realize that herbs can be used for healing, but isn't that what we have whitelighters for?"
"Not all witches have whitelighters," Barbara countered, sarcastically. Everyone looked at her. "In fact, most of them don't. Many have refused to acknowledge the whitelighters' authority. I've never had one. Apparently, the Whitelighters Council has never been concerned about me."
For a moment, Paige wondered if she had heard a glimmer of resentment in her employer's voice. But considering the McNeills' prevalent view on whitelighters, she decided that she might have been mistaken.
Barbara continued, "Regardless on whether or not we have whitelighters, witches are healers. Which is why herbal craft is one of the first arts we study to become witches."
"I had found the recipe for the facial cream in some recipe book, left by Grams," Paige said. "But I couldn't find anything else, in regard to healing or medicine. So, where do we find stuff like that?"
Bruce replied, "There are plenty of books on the subject. And it's possible you might find something, either in your Book of Shadows or on the Internet."
"How are we supposed to know which herb to use for a specific reason?" Phoebe demanded. "Especially since it's apparent that our knowledge of uses for herbs isn't that great."
A smile lit up Bruce's face. He extended a hand toward Barbara, who placed in it, a yellow envelope. "I have copies of a list of herbs for magick uses, right here." He emptied the enveloped and passed out the lists to the three sisters. "We'll be visiting the greenhouse and the garden, while we go over the list. Okay?"
The Charmed Ones exchanged long-suffering looks, as they followed the couple out of the kitchen.
END OF CHAPTER 3