I quickly settled into a routine as Lady Sirena set about teaching me the fundamentals of witchcraft. The mornings were devoted to learning her hedge witchcraft.
As the sun rose, we would make our way to a brook that ran through the silver birch glade at the back of the house. The crystal-clear water flowed over a flat-topped rock and dropped a couple of feet into an icy little pool. This paradise seemed to be the center of nature.
On the first morning as we picked out way towards it, we watched a deer and its fawn drinking from the pool, the golden light of the morning lighting up their soft hairs on their back. A kingfisher, undeterred by their presence, dived in from a nearby branch, it’s blue and white feathers shining effervescently in the reddish sunlight. All around us, the forest was coming to life; birds twittered in the branches as they flitted about looking for a morning snack, butterflies took to the air as the sun warmed their wings
Lady Sirena taught me how to cast a circle besides that idyllic pond. We marked it out with a few flat stones, and under her guidance, I learned to call out and thank the spirits of the air and fire, water and earth. We made a little altar from rocks from the river, and decorated it with gifts from the forest and fields around; posies of yell flowers and blue bells, a bird’s nest that had fallen to the ground, pieces of shell, fragments of stone. Pebbles and crystals from the river bed, interesting twigs and leaves that caught our fancy were added to the mix. We would leave a glass of berry juice, a slice of freshly baked rye bread, or a sweet biscuit in thanks to the spirits.
We walked through the woods and meadows, collecting herbs and roots, mushrooms and grasses. Sitting together on a rock by the stream, she taught me all about them; which to grind and which to dice, which to dry and which to preserve. She taught me how to make remedies and potions, balms and tinctures. Some we bottled for use in our practice, and some was put aside for sale at the market. We plaited the grasses and made wreaths for our hair, weaving in colorful flowers and berries from the glade; bluebells and yellow daisies, lavender and red berries
Lady Sirena loved to reach out to the fairies in the woods. We would make small houses with sticks, pebbles, leave and moss, and then decorate them with flowers and little pebbles we found at the side of the brook. We made up dandelion flower juice for our little mystical friends, and we would leave it out in half walnut shells for them to slake their thirst.
Lady Sirena gave me a leather-bound book to keep for my Book of Shadows; whenever we were out, and as new knowledge was revealed, I wrote down all that I had leant. As my knowledge of the forest and its gifts grew, the happier I became with my newfound life. I felt content and at one with nature, relishing the new treasure that the Beltayne season offered.
We would return to the house for lunch in a small sun-room off Lady Sirena’s chambers, and then retire to our rooms for an afternoon nap. I had been allocated a tiny room next door to Lady Sirena’s. I was quite content with it; I didn’t need more. I had shelf for my white silk robes which Lady Sirena’s chamber maid kept freshly laundered and folded, and a small basin for my ablutions with fresh cleanser that our chamber maids made. It was simply a place to sleep; most of my waking time was spent with Lady Sirena.
If I could liken the morning sessions in the Silver Birch Woods to a series of marvelous, magic filled, field trips, then the afternoon sessions were like a return to school.
We worked in a small room off her chambers. At the one end, there was an alter that reminded me of a simple lectern. A pentacle on a shield was attached to the front post, and the shelf held an assortment of candles, crystals, potions and sacred objects. There was a locked cabinet built into it, in which Lady Sirena stored her grimoire. Old books, many of them leather bound filled the bookshelf against the eastern wall; paintings, diagrams, notes and sigils were tacked to the western side.
I would sit at a bench in front of an old scarred table in the middle of the room, doing my formal education; my Book of Shadows was always at my side, and under Lady Sirena’s watchful eye, I would keep it updated with all my newfound knowledge.
Sometimes, she would lecture me, other times she would set me tasks to research on my own. The reference books were magical; they had spells and customs, teachings and creeds. Many of the pages had annotations, a few were in Lady Sirena’s hand, but many were not. Drawings, some in color, the paints made from witches’ brews, some in charcoal, elucidated the text, giving insights into how the procedure or rituals were to be conducted.
When she lectured, she would pace up and down in front of me, her red robe seeming to float along behind. Her movements were fluid and graceful, but there was tone which I sometimes found menacing. She usually held a wand on these occasions; it was a white willow stick, its handle bound in black leather which she would tap rhythmically in her hand.
She would use the wand to point out facts on pictures on the walls, tapping the image as she tried to reinforce its message, or she would stand behind me, tapping on a sentence of the text I was studying, making sure that my eyes were drawn to the right place.
I learnt about the esabats and the sabats, their spirits and gods, symbols and practices. I learned which herbs and flowers to collect, which crystals conducted the most energy, which incense to burn, which gems to collect. The names were strange to me, but she drummed them home; Wolf Moon, Storm Moon, Chaste Moon, Seed Moon..... Youle, and Imbolc, Ostara and Beltane. Litha and Lammas, Mabon and Samhain.
I would have to stand on the bench and recite it over and over again until it was ingrained in my psyche like a magic litany.
She taught me about the energy of the crystals, the medicinal applications of herbs, the seasons and the spirits, the powers of earth and fire, water and air.
She would teach me spells, and for those too, I had to stand on my bench to recite them aloud.
“You need to learn the structure of the spells Sandrine, how the witches before you learnt to craft them. When you are ready, you will make your own spells and you will learn how to breathe magick into them, but for now, you need to learn from the powers that came before you.”
Lady Sirena had a bottle of pebbles which she would pour out onto my work table. Golds and browns, greens and silver. They would lie there lifeless, until Lady Sirena bade me to pick them up, and she would teach me to identify each, their properties and uses. As I held each one, it would take on a life of its own, glowing in my hand, allowing me to connect to the vibration within.
If our mornings were like field trips, and out afternoons were like going back to school, then it was night time when the spiritual happened. After an early supper followed by a sleep, the Chamber Maid would wake me just before midnight, and then Lady Sirena and I would head outside into night for practical magick sessions.
Sometimes we went to the pool in Silver Birch Woods, sometimes we would head into the meadows. It was always a magical experience. The night was alive with nature; the mystical calls of the owls and nightjars thrilled me, the rustle of the breezes through the leaves and grasses made me feel free yet connected to the elements
When we got to our desired place, we would mark out a circle, and holding hands, we would step inside. Going through the four points of the compass, we would turn, calling out to the spirits of the elements: ““Spirits of Air, I call on you.....Spirits of Fire, I call on you....Spirits of Water I call on you.….Spirits of Earth, I call on you.”
Strength, reverence, mirth, beauty, compassion and power; Lady Sirena’s voice was crystal clear in the cool, night air; it was so mellifluous, so enchanting, so ethereal.
I could almost hear the spirits responding. The cool, fresh air seemed to stroke my naked skin, the earth vibrated beneath my bare feet. Moonlight danced across the ripples in the waterfall pool, the stars twinkled in the crystal-clear sky.
We would dance hand in hand around the circle, relishing the magic that pervaded the air. She was graceful when she danced; our diaphanous white night gowns would flow behind us as we moved, caressing our skins, floating in the air.
Under the silvery moonlight, we would look up to the starry heavnes and chant spells that I had learnt in my daily class, giving thanks to the spirits for the gifts they bestowed. Sometimes we would let our hair down, laughing, dancing, celebrating in joy.
I was always sad when we closed the circle, pulled on our robes, and headed inside. We needed to catch a few hours of sleep, because we had to be up at sunrise to start the cycle again.
Clearing the Mind
I found the pace of learning relentless, and as we went into the second week, I felt that I could not absorb any more. Lady Sirena not only sensed this, but her irritation at my performance seemed to be growing by the minute. The tempo of her wand tapping increased, and her pacing became urgent and angry.
Eventually she swiveled on her bare feet, and glared at me.
“Sandrine, we need to clear your mind. I have found the most effective way to do that, is one that has stood the test of time over the ages. You do know what that is, don’t you?”
I looked up into her smoldering eyes; her face which had the ability to look so soft and compassionate, now looked angular and hard, totally, uncompromising, devoid of sympathy.
Glumly, I looked down at the text in front of me.
“I am sorry, Lady Sirena, I will try to do better.”
She wasn’t having any of it.
"Come to my chambers, Sandrine. Let’s us cast the circle and perform the rite.”
She took my hand and led me through the tall, double doors that led into her chambers. Afternoon sun poured through the three, beautiful arched windows that lined the southern wall.
“Disrobe, Sandrine, and leave your robe and underwear on the bench.”
I looked around; there was no bench. As had happened the first time I had entered this room, a low, velvet padded stool suddenly appeared in front of her throne; one minute there was nothing, the next minute it was there. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I looked at Lady Sirena quizzically; she gave me an enigmatic smile, lifted her eyebrows and shrugged her shoulders. Tapping it with her wand, she waited for me to take off my robe, and fold it, before placing I neatly on the bench.
We stood in the center of magnificent pentacle tiled into on the floor, and she bid me to cast the circle.
Open up for what you yearn,
Clear your mind, make space to learn.
Bear the strokes of my disciplinary cane,
Without suffering, you know, there can be no gain.
Accept the spirit in which it is given,
Your lapse in diligence is now forgiven.
Right before my eyes, a low stool appeared at the base of the pentacle.
“Bend over Sandrine, and place your hands on the bench.”
It was a long way down, and I was grateful that my legs were spread, making it easier to get low enough.
Lady Sirena moved swiftly. There was no warning, no time for me to gather my thoughts and prepare. The wand she had been carrying had apparently transformed into a cane; I could actually hear it whistle as it cut through the air, and the awful splat of it smacking against my naked flesh seemed to precede the ghastly wave of pain that ripped through me by at least a few seconds.
I screeched in pain, and tried to stand up and reach back to massage my scorching flesh, but the same magick that had caused the bench to appear, had attached my hands to the bench by some magical force.
I was still trying to process the pain, which was throbbing through my bottom, when that dreadful whistling and smack sounded again, causing a new wave of agony to flood through me, not only revitalizing the existing pain, but building on it.
I could hear myself sobbing, feel the tears running down my cheeks. Mortified, I felt drool leak from my mouth, but I was unable to lift a hand to wipe it away.
“Stand up, Sandrine, and put your hands on your head. Go and wait in the corner; we have ony just started!”
I waddled across to the corner waited in trepidation for Lady Sirena’s the next move.
“Who did you share a room with on your first night, Sandrine?”
“Abigale, Lady Sirena,” I responded.
“Celeste, come in here, will you!”
I assumed Celeste was her chamber maid, but I did not dare to look around, keeping my eyes riveted on the corner.
“Celeste, please go downstairs and summon Abigale. Tell Mrs. Beeton that Abigale will be spending the rest of today and tonight upstairs with us, if you will. And please bring back a couple of Mrs. Beeton's switches; I think two will suffice.”
It seemed like an hour before I heard Celeste and Abigale come back into the chambers; I was mortified that Abigale should see me like this.
“Abigale, please remove your clothes; like Sandrine you should be naked for this activity. Don’t fret, you will not be punished; it is only Sandrine who will be taught a lesson.”
I waited a few moments; I assumed Abigale was stripping, and would be confused as to why she was here.
“Thank you, Abigale!” Lady Sirena was gracious even at moments like this. “Now, if you and Sandrine will please stand in the center of the circle, and Abigale, please horse her as soon as you are ready.”
I stood behind Abigale, feeling her lithe body against my own, my breasts squishing between us, her the feminine scent from her neck caressing my senses, her hair gently caressing my face. I placed my arms over her shoulders and felt her hands grasp my hands. How could I not respond? I felt the warmth between my thighs, the blood engorging my parts. Shame engulfed me that my reactions would be so visible to Lady Sirena and Celeste, but I was unable to control my reactions.
Despite Abigale’s small stature, her hands were ferociously strong, and with a gentle heave, she bent over, leaving me exposed, once again, for the attention of the birch.
“Her thighs, Celeste, please play close attention to them. You will see that I have already taken care of her seat.”
To be swished by a chamber maid was the ultimate humiliation; how could it have come this?
The first strokes that Celeste delivered were almost gentle; far from the anger and viciousness I had experienced at Mrs. Beeton’s hands. Backwards and forwards she swished the birch across my upper thighs, slowly building the heat in an almost sensual way.
My head rested against Abigale’s; her hair was silky and soft, freshly washed with a shampoo she had obtained on her trip to the Sunday market. Sandalwood and moss, birch bark and mint; an ethereal mix made by an old woman who dwelled in a shack at the edge of the forest.
The tempo of the switching increased, and I could feel my legs flailing around in response. It was a glorious pain, not one of punishment, but one of pleasure. I could hear my screams of agony as the tips of the rod occasionally bit into the tender flesh between my thighs, the sting as the buds opened a new laceration.
Yet my cries came to me from a distance as I was engulfed in the pleasure of Abigale’s body rubbing against mine, the scent of her hair and neck, the way her body writhed beneath mine. I could sense her own breathing becoming labored beneath my weight, and the scent of her own arousal drifted gently off her neck. The sensations were all too intense, and in a magickal moment of heavenly release, my body shuddered to a climax that I thought would never end. Waves of intense pleasure rippled through my body, delivering an intoxicating brew of pleasure that left me sobbing; sobbing with pain, sobbing with pleasure, sobbing with relief.
“Enough, Celetse, thank you! Put her down Abigale, if you will, thank you for your assistance!”
As I was let down onto my shaky legs and my arms were released. Never have I felt so emotionally and physically spent; never had my slate been wiped clean like that before.
Abigale turned to hug me, holding me tight, cradling my head, rubbing my back soothingly.
“Take her to her room, please Abigale. Minister to her body, and stay with her till the morning.”
I moved in a daze, as Abigale led me by my hand, out of the chambers, to my own room; my release had been delivered under the switch, but hers was still to come.
© Gail Fae 2020