The Littlest Druid Celebrates Summer Solstice
Once upon a time in a very green land that is now called Ireland was the smallest druid or she would be if she ever made it to initiation. All the druids from Newgrange were getting ready to go to a big gathering at the Stone’s Dance across the water.
Every 10 years all the Druids met at the Stone’s Dance in Loegria. They came from all over the world. They came from the far north wearing clothes of wild checkered wool and the came from far to the East and wore leather but Aisling was afraid she wasn’t going to be allowed to go. She just knew she was going to be left behind with the babies.
Things hadn’t been going well for Aisling lately. She had done better after spending Winter Solstice with the Chief Druid but lately nothing she had done had gone right. She’d gotten seed mixed up in the planting shed and nettles were sown with the wheat and not in the medicine garden and it wasn’t going to be very nice when it came to reap that patch of grain. She’d already been told that she was going to have to do it. Good thing it wasn’t a very big part of the field.
At Beltane she had gotten her ribbon caught up and somehow ended up in a cocoon against the pole. She still wasn’t sure how that had happened. She suspected that everyone had kept going on purpose after she had been caught against the May pole but no one would admit seeing her there until the Chief Druid saw and rescued her. It just had to be him to find her.
She had wanted to do something nice for him because he was so nice to her when no one else was and had made him some special soup when she was taking her turn with the cooks and he had the runs for 3 days. Aisling felt very bad about that. It was just one more tally on her slate so she had a feeling no one was going to let her anywhere near the boats that would take them across the sea.
She’d asked Elen of the Ways and Brighid to help her try and be good but it didn’t seem to help. Aisling was sitting on the shore and the Druids getting the boats ready kept giving her looks as if they were afraid she’d sink them just by sitting on the shingle.
Aisling sighed. She just knew if they allowed her to go it would be alright. She never meant for bad things to happen she was just trying to help but somehow it always went wrong. She heard her teacher calling her name. She wondered if she could try that ‘no see me’ spell she had learned in one of her classes but with her luck she’d send up a flare instead. So she got to her feet and headed back to the class area.
“Aisling! I’ve been looking for you everywhere. Where have you been? We’re supposed to be learning new chants for the Solstice celebration.” The Teacher looked at Aisling with a raised eyebrow.
“No one wants me to go.” Aisling sighed. “They know something bad will happen and it will be all my fault.”
“ Do you mean for bad things to happen?”
“No, they just do.”
Aisling was perilously close to whining something she never did but she really did want to go and see the Stone’s Dance and if she was really lucky she might even get to travel to Avalon and see the Lady. She really wanted to meet the Lady.
“Aisling,” The Teacher said firmly, “The Chief Druid says you are to go and you are to sit next to him on the boat just like you did on the Winter Solstice.”
“Really?” Aisling wanted to dance but she didn’t dare hope to go until she was on the boat.
“Really.” The Teacher said firmly. “Now will you go and learn the chants and dance your group is going to do?”
“Oh, yes!” Aisling said and ran toward the class area.
The Teacher just shook her head. This may be one very long trip. “That child may be the death of me yet.” and followed her charge up the hill.
The days passed swiftly and soon it was time to set sail and sure enough there was special seat on the Chief Druid’s boat just for her! Aisling has trouble sleeping the night before and her teacher came to wake her up and get her to the boat without incident. Aisling skipped down the hill and across the shingle and over to the boat the Chief Druid was waiting with his hand out to help her in the boat. Her! Wow!
“Are you ready?” the Chief Druid asked.
Aisling bounced up and down and nodded yes. She was too excited to speak. The Chief Druid pointed at her seat and took his. He motioned to the rowers to take the boat out and the sailors raised the sail and the boats left the shore for Loegria.
It was only going to be about a day to sail to Cymru and then they would ride ponies to the Stone’s Dance.
Aisling couldn’t wait. She decided she was going to sit still and not move a muscle the whole trip just in case. This became very difficult very quickly because they picked up an escort of a pod of dolphins. The dolphins leapt with joy and raced the boats as they crossed the sea. Somehow Aisling found herself leaning over the edge of the boat to see without quite knowing how she got there. The first she knew about heading over the side into the ocean was when the Chief Druid hauled her back into the boat by the back of her leggings.
“Oops!” “Why don’t we sit and just enjoy the show?” The Chief Druid smiled at Aisling.
“You aren’t mad?”
“No, just a bit concerned that you were going swimming and you hadn’t planned on it. So you think maybe we could sit quietly?” The Chief Druid kept ahold of her hand firmly.
Aisling was really embarrassed and didn’t move at all the rest of the trip or at least until they could see the coast of Cymru. Then she decided it was okay if she just bounced a little in her seat. She could see a small herd of shaggy ponies on the shore. This was sooo exciting!
The boats pulled in to the beach and they were greeted by Druid in their whitest robes. The Druids from Eire were led to the ponies and the boat’s cargo of luggage and gifts were loaded into waiting carts. And they were off!
Aisling was on a pony sitting in front of her teacher. She figured this was a good thing, she couldn’t get in trouble here. One of the gifts they were bringing was a huge piece of stone for the center of the Dance. She wondered how they were going to get it there in time. The boats were pulling away and the stone was still on board its boat! The Teacher looked down at Aisling.
“ It’s alright, the stone is going by river and with all the other cargo on board it was going to be too heavy to go down the rivers. We are going to be visiting on the way to the Dance so we go by pony.”
Aisling nodded to herself, that made sense to her and she wanted to see everything she could. She leaned back against her teacher and settled in for a long ride. She listened to the teacher tell her about the stone that was to be the standing stone in the center of the Dance. She tried to imagine what the Dance looked like but she couldn’t hold the image in her mind because the moving pony was putting her to sleep the next thing she knew she was being tucked into a sheep skin and put to bed. This set the pattern for the next few days.
She barely remembered the evenings not even meeting the Chief Druid of Cymru who told the Chief Druid of Eire what a well-behaved child she was. Good thing she was asleep. She did remember seeing herds of wild ponies. She waved at the shepherds with their sheep on the hills. She liked watching the red and white cows and trying to see if she could see a white cow with a red ear since this was the way Brighid appeared sometimes but she never saw one like that. She saw huge flocks of egrets on lakes. She watched and imitated a heron during one of the stops for lunch but she just ended up falling over when she tried to stand on one leg.
But finally they got to plain of Sales and she could just barely see something that might be the Dance in the distance. She knew there was a huge hedge around the Dance. She wondered if the big stone had arrived yet. She really wanted to be there when they sunk it in the center of the Circle. She knew they were going to do that at midnight on Solstice and that she would have to try to stay awake, that was going to be soo hard but her teacher thought she could do it so she was really going to try hard.
The Dance grew larger and larger as they came. She saw that there were several rings and an avenue of trees that led all the way to the river. She saw tents as far as she could see in the distance. Some with banners and colourful flags streaming in the wind and she hoped they would set up there camp quickly so she could explore. The ponies started to go faster and faster and she held onto her teacher tightly. Today her teacher had made her get on behind her and hold on and now she knew why because the tough little pony was running as fast as the wind. Aisling turned her face to the wind and she felt a fierce joy, She was glad they had let her come.
They arrived at the Dance and rode to the place where they would be camping. Aisling’s eyes were as big as the moon so she could gather in all the sights. Aisling was lifted down from the pony by the Chief Druid,
“Why don’t you come with me to see the Dance?”
Aisling nodded and took the Chief Druid’s hand. They walked to the hedge that surrounded the Dance and slowly started to walk the spiral into the Dance. Every once in awhile she saw part of one of the stones from gaps in the hedge somehow she knew she should be quiet and let the Chief Druid lead her along.
Finally they were at the entrance to the stones. She felt the power of the Circle and their walking had created. It felt a lot like the cave at Newgrange had felt at Winter Solstice but bigger. She felt it all the way from her head to her toes and she wondered if her short red hair was standing on end.
The Chief Druid led her to the center of the Circle. “This is where our stone will stand.”
She saw that a deep hole had been dug awaiting the stone.
“So we keep watch all night just like in Winter?” Aisling asked the Chief Druid.
“This time there is dancing and singing all night. At Winter we sit alone or in small groups and keep watch for the sun but in Summer we are wishing it farewell as it travels to Winter.” explained the Chief Druid. “Your group will get to sing the song you’ve been practicing.”
“Oh,” said Aisling, she just hoped she’d remember her part. There were a lot of people here and she was going to sing in front of all of them? Uh oh.
The Chief Druid walked Aisling around the Circle. He was watching her intently but Aisling didn’t notice. She was touching each stone as she walked around and looking up at the lintels hanging high over her head. The stones were so big they made her feel very small. They seemed to hum back at her when she touched them. She didn’t remember the stone they had brought with them humming. Maybe it was only when they were joined they hummed. She was too shy to ask the Chief Druid so she just touched each one carefully. Maybe she could check their stone after it was in the Circle.
The Chief Druid led her out of the Dance and back to camp. It was time to get ready for the start of the night’s ritual. The Chief Druid was wondering if the things that happened around the littlest Druid weren’t accidents at all. He knew she was very special but not how special she was and he decided she would help him tonight,
The ritual started with dancing around and into the Stone’s Dance and back out again later the children’s voices were lifted in the song of blessing they had learned. As it got later and later more people sat around the outside ring of stones.
Aisling was sitting under the firm eye of her teacher with the other children in their group. She was so tired she kept falling asleep and jerking awake with the effort to stay awake but it was getting harder and harder to stay awake she woke up with a jolt when their stone was dragged into the Circle.
Suddenly the Chief Druid was before her reaching his hand down to her to pull her up. She looked at him in shock, what did he want with her now?
She gave him her hand and he led her into the center where the strong men were getting ready to heave the stone upright. It was time to bless the stone. The stone was upright in the hole held by ropes. It looked naked standing there all alone. The other stones had two partners but the stone from Eire stood alone held by ropes.
“Aisling, I want you to take this oil and anoint the stone in three places before it is set. You take the low spots and I’ll take the higher ones.”
The Chief Druid handed her a small phial of lovely smelling oil. Aisling looked at him with great trepidation and fear. This was where it could all go wrong and it would be all her fault. She looked around. Everyone was watching her. She couldn’t move. There were too many people here!
The Chief Druid gave a yank on her robe. Aisling gathered her courage. “Here goes nothing” She thought. She carefully touched the stone with oil, then she did it on the other side of the stone and she felt the stone start to hum slightly, she chose a last place to anoint with oil and has she did it the stone jerked. The ropes around the stone creaked and squeaked. It moved again back the other way and the Chief Druid pulled her out of the way.
All the littlest Druid thought was “here we go again!” The stone was walking itself over to the exact center of the Circle and pulling the ropes out of the men’s hands. There was a great sighing noise and the stone lay down with a slow shudder. Aisling started to cry, “Why, oh why did this have to happen? She just touched the stone, she hadn’t done anything else. Couldn’t just once something go right?
She sobbed into the side of the Chief Druid’s fresh white robe as if her heart was breaking. First there wasn’t a sound except for the stone settling into the earth, then a cheer started, then it was a roar and Aisling cried harder. The Chief Druid picked her up and whispered to her, “Listen.”
Aisling stopped crying long enough to hear that is was good cheering and not angry cheering. Then she listened, to what they were saying, they were happy.
“Why were they happy?” she asked the Chief Druid.
“Look closely at the stone.” He said in her ear.
The Stone had made itself an altar in the center of the dance and it was perfectly aligned with the rest of the Circle.
“I think it had an idea about where it belonged. It just needed you to help it.” The Chief Druid told her.
“Really?” She asked with big tears still flooding down her cheeks.
“Really!” He said.
The dancing had started again and her teacher had come to pull them both into the dance. She was laughing and grabbed Aisling and swung her into the air. “You did well!” Her teacher told her. And now if you visit a plain in Britain called Salisbury you can see the stone that danced long, long ago for the Littlest Druid.