Everyone stood as the druidess entered and held her arms out to them. “The moon has risen. It is time to begin the ritual.”
Her two guards, as well as Calach, Brude, Ciniatha, and the other nobles gathered in a circle around the druidess. A glow of warmth filled her, as if family gathered around her, taking comfort in rituals and traditions. She loved
conducting celebrations more than all the other duties of a druidess.
Tanwen spread her arms wide. “Lleu Strong Hand, god of sun and war. We the druidess, chief, and high nobles of the Caledonii give thanks for the bountiful harvest. For the light you shone on the crops, we honor you. Our bellies will be full, even in the dark of winter.” A warm, soft, purring-cat vibration began
in her chest and spread to every pore in her body.
As Tanwen beckoned Ciniatha to step forward with the first baked bread, she chanted, “Shining One, Lleu of the sure hand, we come together to share our first baked loaf. For as you honored us with a fruitful harvest, we honor you with our labor in reaping, threshing, and baking.” With her arms raised high, Tanwen invoked, “Great Goddess of Lughnasa, Blodeuwedd, you give us seeds for sowing. Your womb of earth birthed our wheat, which gives us life. From your bounty, we glean the first grains, to bake the first bread, and to brew the first ale.”
Ciniatha handed Tanwen the loaf. She broke off a piece and handed it to Calach, who tore off another and gave it to Brude, the third to Ciniatha, and in turn to each member of the noble ranks.
She gave Huctia and Gethin one piece each. Her heart clinched. She wanted to reach out and hug them. They were like her family now. As she performed the ceremony, she thought of the druids who had taught it to her, Rhys and Sulwen. She
missed them so much, and the entire Silure tribe, who gave her succor and sanctuary. She gulped, smiled at her guards, and then continued the ritual.
She tore her remaining `hunk of bread into two pieces and shook them in the air. “Goddess of seed and flower, as you give to us, we give to you. Accept our offering. Lleu, Sun King, Lord of Summer, we partake of this sacred bread, which ripened under your sultry heat. So the tribe will be bountiful, live long, and sire many children. God and Goddess, as you, the earth and sun, conceived our grain, we bless you. We call on you to bless our tribe, as we share this bread.”
Tanwen tossed a piece of bread into the central hearth. As it burned to a crisp, the smoke curled and rose to the gods. She let her sadness over leaving Sulwen and Rhys, and the deaths of her family, melt away. This was her new tribe, and she loved them.
She led the chief’s household and her two guards in a circle around the central hearth as she chanted, “Earth gave us life. Death returns us to her womb. Unending, the circle runs forevermore. Sun, earth, and grain: all which falls shall rise again.”
And that is why I’m here, Tanwen realized. She symbolized two great tribes destroyed by Rome, yet with Brude, she would make a stand to keep the brutal foreign force from Caledonia’s borders. She and Brude would see to it that no Pict tribe would be annihilated. And her descendants would teach the Celtic ways to those in the future, who after accepting foreign beliefs, would come to forget their ancestors. In that, she was like the goddess: she carried the seed of rebirth, so that which had fallen would rise again.
Now, she was hopeful for this marriage. A soft, warm feeling rose in her and spread its hopeful glow through her body. She knew her face had broken into a smile. Boudica was wise and had led her to the right tribe, the right man. Her new tribe, the Caledonii, would not be annihilated by Rome, as her mother’s and her grandmother’s. She and Brude would rouse the northern tribes to fight the Romans and win at last, keeping her new tribe and her future family—the children she would have with Brude—safe and free of Rome.
At that moment, her eyes were caught in Brude’s fiery gaze. He wanted her, and she wanted him. The gods had made it so. Tanwen stuffed the piece of bread into her mouth as the others did the same. The soft warmth melted on her tongue as she chewed. It was so delicious, so filling…so blessed.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day,