Thursday, October 20, 2005

White Owl Island

Shortly before 4pm I picked up my swansdown cape and my little pouch and set off for the quay.

It turned out that Madame Livia had been in communication with the Enchantress while I was in her bookshop and, by some special arrangement between the Enchantress and the Magiratha, had managed to organise a trip for me to White Owl Island to meet the Magiratha. She had told me to be at the harbour at 4 o'clock and to look for a boat with a white owl painted on it. So here I was, punctual to the minute, looking around for the boat.

The little boat was easy to spot and I walked eagerly to the edge of the quay and announced my presence to the young fisherman in the boat. He told me his name was Alec and that he would take me out to the island. His mop of brown curly hair lifted slightly in the breeze and a huge smile lit his sun-burned face when he talked. I handed him 5 owlets - special coins with a picture of an owl on them - the price of my trip.

He pushed the boat away from the quay and we were off. I installed myself in the bow of the boat and wrapped my swansdown cape around me to keep me warm and dry. Although it had been warm enough on shore, now out at sea there was a distinct chill. The water was a deep blue with little crests of white. Tall cliffs loomed on our left and sea birds called to us as we passed.

We were in open water now and headed towards a small dot on the horizon. Alec increased the speed of the boat and we soon reached the cliffs of White Owl Island. He took the boat into a small cove with a small rocky quay at which he anchored and helped me to climb out of the boat. He told me to make my way up the cliff path and I would be met. He told me that he would be waiting for me when I returned.

I slowly walked up the path, not really knowing what to expect. I soon became aware of a whisper of wings in the air and looked up to see first one and then two and then three snowy owls hanging in the air above me. They greeted me with soft tuwit tuwhoos and their big yellow eyes gleamed like lamps in the now setting sun. As I neared the top of the path I could see the outline of a woman silhouetted against the sky.

She waited until I had reached the top and then took my hands in hers. "Welcome to White Owl Island. I am here to take you to meet the Magiratha (or Owl as she is also known). Please come with me." By now the sun had gone down completely and the sky was lit with the most fabulous sunset.

Glow worms started to light up along our path and the moon slowly rose in the sky, a bright orange harvest moon. I hadn't realised until now that there would be a full moon this night. I could still hear the whisper of wings and knew that the owls were keeping us company. We were walking along a path of springy turf, which I guessed would be home to a multitude of rabbits by day. The sky was beginning to light up as the stars came out. It was going to be an exceptionally clear night. The woman's warm hand squeezed my own as she urged me on. My heartbeat quickened.

At length we came to an elevation with a single stone in the middle and a rowan tree. Four priestesses were waiting. After a short ceremony during which the stone was anointed with honey and a star sapphire touched to my forehead I was led to the entrance of the labyrinth. I passed between the stones that form the entrance. I bore in my mind the thought that a labyrinth is not a maze. "It's more of a spiral. A journey with no false passages. No blind alleys. Walking in a maze we could be lost. Walking a spiral path requires only the knowledge that it is a path and not a maze. The road may curve. Directions may change. Sometimes we'll be walking the opposite direction for a while". After only a few minutes I emerged in the centre.

The White Owl was standing before me. I bowed before her holding my hands, palms upwards, towards her. The question I wished to ask her is hovering at the back of my mind. She said softly "I am a mirror to those who come through the winding way. I vow to be the sealer as well as the revealer. What is your question?"

"How can I make the most of this journey?" The owl gave me this blessing: "travel with your eyes and ears open. Listen to the wind. Be aware. Speak not only with your mouth but your heart. You will see much and you should spread the word of what you have experienced. Go in peace with the wind oh daughter".

I thanked her with all my heart and left her a handful of seed pearls in reconnaissance. Unnoticed, the priestesses had followed me through the labyrinth and now led me out, along the turf path and back to the small stone jetty where Alec was waiting for me. As he took me back to Duwamish the sun was just rising, streaking the sky with crimson, pink and gold.

"I will go where the wild goose goes, on wings of joy, winging ever south to my heart's desire."


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