As the pregnant Moon ascended the September sky, my stomach was aflutter with nerves. Her countenance held promise in its light but I was unsure if I was worthy of grace.

I’d been preparing for this moment for four years; now that I was at the precipice, I was unsure of myself. Was I ready for this? Was my faith strong enough?

I took a deep breath and pushed self-doubt aside. I couldn’t afford to waste energy on uncertainty, there were more important tasks ahead. Everything was prepared to the best of my ability; the ritual could begin.

I entered the bathroom. The steaming water in the tub was scattered with rose petals, sage and mint. The cleansing herbs danced on the waves my body created in the water, like tea leaves swirling in a cup. I slipped into the hot water and allowed all extraneous thoughts flow out of me. I breathed in the scent of the herbs and the vanilla candles that lit the room. The flickering flames  reflected in the drops of water twinkled like fire opals on my skin. There was more than candle light refracted in the droplets. Brilliant colors shimmered in the water: blues, greens, oranges, reds and yellows. It reminded me that one small element could contain everything necessary for life, including mystery.

With a slight smile, I got out of the bath. It had served its purpose; it cleansed my soul of doubt while it cleansed my body. I was embarking on a new journey and it was the right one for me.

I slipped on a simple linen robe and snuffed out the candles with my fingers. Before heading outside into the moonlight, I swirled my velvet cloak over my shoulders, laid a wreath of rose buds and laurel on my head and picked up the basket filled with supplies necessary for the rite.

I walked barefoot down the narrow path to the river. The Moon above shone upon me, lighting my path. While my task was a solitary one I felt as if someone walked beside me, the presence warming me even though the night was cool.

I reached a cross-roads. The Moonlit trail continued on to the bank of the river, the other route was shrouded in shadows and led through the underbrush into a strand of ancient trees. I didn’t pause to consider my choices; my course was decided long before I reached this point. My fate was set the instant I opened that book so many years ago.

I moved off the well-tread path and stepped between two large trees. Debris from the forest crunched underneath my unclad feet. I felt bereft when the Moon disappeared behind the canopy of trees, leaving me in blackness. A shiver ran down my spine as a tingle of fear crept over me. I wrapped my cloak tighter around me to ward off an unseen chill.
An owl screeched, disturbing a flight of smaller birds causing a shower of autumn leaves to rain upon me. The call of a bird, cut off in mid-song, meant the owl found its prey. The silent flight of the predator whispered past me; an eddy of air brushing across my face and the scent of fresh blood were the only evidence of its passing.

The recesses of my mind were as dark as the night around me and it chittered at me like the night birds. Old fears surfaced and I felt alone, abandoned. Did she desert me as others had? Despair threatened to overwhelm me but I continued to stumble along the path, my soles burning from the cold.

The trail widened and I collapsed against the trunk of a nearby tree. I needed a moment to collect myself. I closed my eyes and breathed. As I expelled my breath I felt the energy of the woods. From the sap running through the tree beside me, to the insects burrowing in the bark, to the bats hunting above, there was a whole ecology living in the darkness surrounding me. It lived and breathed just as I did. Everything was interconnected, unable to exist without the other.

Like the droplet of water, this was a reminder of my faith. I was never alone; even at one’s darkest, light is always within. I had to find my inner light and, in between one breath and the next, I did.
I straightened my spine, even more determined to complete the ritual. A few more feet along the trail the forest opened up into a small Moonlit grove. I walked into the center of the clearing and turned my face up toward the Moon. As I felt her rays on my skin my fears and worries melted away. This was the right place; this was the right time; this was my night.

A quick check of the time showed I had less than ten minutes until midnight. Luckily my preparations were simple. I readied my ritual space using the contents of the basket. The trappings of religion weren’t as important as what was in one’s heart and my heart led me to this place, at this hour.

I unfurled my cloak upon the ground and sat upon it. I lit the candles on the small altar before me and spoke the ritual words I’d memorized. I closed my eyes and blocked out everything except my intent.

When I was ready, I stared up at the expectant Moon with open eyes and an open heart. There was only one question in my mind, “Goddess, may I call myself a Witch?”
The silvery light of the Moon illuminated the spot where I was sitting; a stray breeze extinguished the candles and rifled through my hair as a light fog rolled off the river, surrounding me in a gentle mist. I had only an instant to take it all in before I was swept up in an incredible wave of love and acceptance and a single word.