Standing on her tiptoes Lisbet Mary could just reach the wooden lever hidden inside the niche. Not sure what to do next, she pulled her hand away and read the instructions again. She was shivering in the cold, dark tunnel, wishing she had put on her extra thick winter cloak; but she was glad of her sturdy boots. Autumn in her Welsh valley was beautiful, but she had little time to admire the russett trees as she had hurried along the route to the standing stones. Now she was below the stones, in an underground realm, deep in the Faery Well where all was grey and damp. She sneezed!
By the light of the torch fire, she spread out the map on the top step of the stairway. Some of the words were a bit strange, but she could recognize the ancient symbols etched in black on the worn, leather map. She wished her grandmother was beside her now, guiding her, as she glanced up at her own shadow dancing in the torchlight. She spoke out loud to steady herself.
“I have the gift to complete the task. I know the meanings of the runes. Grandmother Elizabeth taught me long ago.”
With her small trembling fingers she now traced the shapes of the runes carved into the rock wall inside the niche. In a small, high pitched voice, she read the words out loud.
“Climb the winding stairs beside the iron gates
Find the niche behind Teiwaz, guarding doors
Reach inside and find the lever Thurisaz
Pull toward you, and the Underworld is yours.”
She had found the iron gates, after her thousands of steps along the tunnels hewn into the rock, and climbed the winding stairs. A scary grown up adventure for little Lisbet Mary. Facing her now were the heavy oak barriers to the Otherworld.
She had found the statue of the warrior Tiewaz in a niche beside the carved Faery Doors after searching by her firelight. She knew about Tiewaz, the Sky God, the spiritual warrior, the one whose battle is always with oneself. His sign, the upward facing arrow, is easily recognisable. And she knew about his message for all travellers.
‘Remain mindful that timely right action and correct conduct are your only true protection’.
She also knew about Thurisaz the God Thor, the Gateway. He reminded her that
‘… the gateway is to be approached and passed through with contemplation’.
The Runes and their teachings had been with her for as long as she could remember. Stepping up once more, intent on her task, she whispered the lines again and pulled the lever forward, slowly.
She heard the creaking of the hinges as the two carved doors swung inwards before her. A large room lay beyond. Blinking in the shadowy light, she looked back, reassuring herself that she was alone. The shadows grew and shrank as she waved the torch from left to right, and then she turned to face the open doorway. The waft of woody scents delighted her senses, and she took a deep breath.
Holding the torch high in her left hand, Lisbet Mary stepped through the doorway into the Otherworld. She trailed her fingers across the carved door on her right, marvelling at the scenes of idyllic woodland beauty, and the Faeries. She took three steps forward – her teeth no longer chattering, but her nose was cold and runny. She took out her white handkerchief from her jacket pocket and wiped away the dust from her face, wiping her nose at the same time. Some of her tawny curls had escaped from her hooded jacket and she reached up to push them back, smoothing her fringe into place.
She looked down at her knees and brushed away the dust and dirt that had clung to her breeches as she had knelt on the stairway to read her map. Thinking of the last words of wisdom she had learned from Grandma Elizabeth, she tucked the handkerchief back in her jacket pocket.
“A little ‘spit and polish’ will surely set you on your way. You must be well dressed and groomed appropriately to meet the Faeries; lest they think you ill-mannered and rude.”
Suddenly, from behind her, the creaking noise began again, and she jumped forward in surprise as the doors swung shut with a loud resounding THUD. She could feel her heart pounding, her hands were moist, her lips were dry, and her bravado was thinning out as she wondered just ‘who’ she was going to meet down here in the Otherworld.
Lisbet’s deep blue eyes grew big and round, widening as she peered into the ‘first room’ of the Otherworld. She felt the circular, wooden walls knotted and rough, like the bark of the trees. Here and there, she saw niches were filled with miniature wooden cups, tiny silver swords and small glass bottles filled with brightly coloured liquids. She thought she could hear the sound of tinkling bells somewhere beyond the room. She crept forward another six steps and realised that she was inside a large hollow tree; the woody smell aromatic and comforting.
All was still, like the room was holding its breath!