It was a clear, bright Autumn afternoon in Treffgarne, the eve of Beltane, when Lisbet Mary began her journey into the Whirrham Way. The four brown hens were busy clucking their way through the fields and she drew them into the kitchen garden and scattered the seeds for them. They were greedily feasting on these as she latched the garden gate and walked towards the grove behind her grandmother’s cottage. She had on her everyday clothes – the sort that her mother Lettice would not mind if she got them dirty. Her look was determined as she followed the well worn path to the standing stones. Lisbet Mary had been to the stones many times, and she knew them all. She had felt their craggy faces and often paced the distance between these sentinels guarding the Faery Well. She knew each one of these granite stones standing in a circle inside the grove, hidden from the roads by the Oak and Rowan trees. They had stood there for centuries and would, most likely, stay standing there for centuries to come.
Grandmother’s cottage stood cold and brooding at the edge of Wolfscastle Forest; no smoke from the chimney, no smell of fresh baked bread from the oven, and no loving arms to grett her. Lisbet was waiting for that special moment at dusk when the ‘jack-o-lanterns’ flitted over the marshy ground, shining their phosphorescent light to show what mostly stayed hidden in darkness. She waited for the right time to find the opening to the Faery Well – her new place of learning. She was glad it was not Friday. Friday was when those stricken with the ‘falling sickness’ came to the stones to be cured. These folk were frightening with their strange ways and looks and often brought in the cocks and hens to the stones – offering them as sacrifice for the sake of their cure. She thought it was very cruel to use these lovely feathery creatures so violently – she usually stayed away on Fridays.
She waited for the time when the moon began to rise and the sun to begin its descent, sending out its speared flames of gold to bathe all below in the glow. The skylarks and the robins would begin their even’ song and if you listened carefully you could even hear the wind sighing through the Aspens near the river and the soft swish of their drooping boughs as they lapped the water. It was like the earth was holding its breath! This was the magical time when the ending light shone directly into the circle of stones and illuminated the old markings.
Lisbet loved this time of day and was not afraid as she walked through the grove of Aspens, and then deeper into the forest of Oak and Rowan trees. She stopped just once to pull her hooded jacket close around her, then walked on to the great stone circle of Treffgarne.
Lisbet Mary stepped into the circle and paced her way round each of the sentinels once, then twice and on the third sweep, stopped to place her hands gently on their faces, tracing their marks and feeling the light tingle in her fingertips. She was following the ancient way, the way that many before her had practised, and remembering what she needed to do. She now knew the runes and their meanings and started again to place her hands on them, this time in the order she had learned. The order was important – press them wrongly and the Faery Well would remain hidden – press them right and the entrance to the Well would be revealed. Twelve stones, twelve paces between each one and twelve runes on each. The key, the right way to reveal all, was to press the one essential rune on each stone in the right order. Only those with the ‘gift of knowing’ could lead her to the stones and only one with the ‘ancient code’ could teach her the right order.
Her own grandmother Elizabeth had taken Lisbet Mary to the stones, each year in May, every since she was old enough to walk. Beltane was the time when her grandmother would tell her the old stories and teach her the way of the runes. She had taught her how to look for the runes at dusk, when the light was right. She had taught her how to walk among the stones and to embrace them and know them. She had shown her where the ‘key’ runes were on each stone and explain their meaning. She had promised to teach Lisbet Mary the right order for selecting the runes when she was old enough and tall enough to reach the highest marks. She told her of the ‘ancient code’ being passed down from grandmother to granddaughter for centuries and that at the age of seven, she would be ready.
The stories beguiled and enthralled Lisbet Mary and she was eager to be seven, eager to be ready. She knew she was being taught important lessons and she concentrated hard when Grandmother Elizabeth was speaking to her, in her soft whispery voice. She was told that she already had the ‘gift of knowing’ – how she had been born with a caul covering her face – and how she was always seen as special, and treated differently by the people of Treffgarne. To her delight she was also told the truth about the Faery Well – it was hidden inside the circle of stones – and was the entrance to the ‘otherworld’. “You will only be able to reach the ‘otherworld’ when you are old enough to press the key runes in the right stones, in the right order and in the right time,” her grandmother said. “Only then will you be able to begin your journey into the Whirrham Way, as I have done before you.” Grandmother Elizabeth then passed on the ‘ancient code’ in the words of the song, and told her how to use the runes in the stone circle.
” Listen for the song o’ the moon
As she waxes and wanes
Bringing light into darkness
And bathing night with her glow.
You are one with the moon
As you drift into dreams
Guiding you to truth and the Way
And returning the love that you know.
Listen to the song o’ the moon …. “
Now it was time! Lisbet Mary say her song and completed her third circuit of the stones, pressing each of the twelve key runes, in the right order! First Thurisaz as it is the gateway. Sceond Berkana for new beginnings. Third Wunjo for success. Fourth Othal for legacies. Fifth Eihwaz for protection. Sixth Laguz for intuition. Seventh Gebo for committment. Eighth Ansuz for wisdom. Ninth Kenaz for enlightenment. Tenth Uruz for strength. Eleventh Tiewaz the warrior. Twelfth Rhaido the journey.
Thurisaz – the gateway
Berkana – new beginnings
Wunjo – success
Othala – legacies
Eihwaz – protection
Laguz – intuition
Gebo – committment
Ansuz – wisdom
Kenaz – enlightenment
Uruz – strength
Teiwaz – the warrior
Raidho – journey
She heard a faint rock on rock scraping sound which grew louder as she whirled around to face the centre of the stone circle. Another arched stone of granite rose from the earth, still covered in clods of dirt, and revealed a darker patch of dirt right in front of the stone. It was inside this dark patch that she could now see a set of stone steps descending into the earth. Her heart was racing now as she moved quickly to the stairway, and breathed in the earthy smell from the Faery Well. As she cautiously peered down she realised she would need to be quick, as the sun’s rays were leaving the sky and all would soon be in darkness. She took a deep breath and put on her brave face, and began to descend the twelve steps in to the Faery Well.