The Props Master 1: Ritual Reality
Prologue and Cast
If you grew up in America during the ‘60s like I did, you are probably still humming Beatles tunes and wondering whatever happened to the good music. You might even have spent hours running the Abbey Road vinyl backward to hear the message “Turn me on, dead man.” You may have fought in Viet Nam or narrowly avoided the draft. Either way, it affected you and you knew people who were killed or wounded there. You were probably old enough to understand what happened when Kennedy was shot, to have joined the world in sadness when Pope John XXIII died, and may even have been on the streets protesting during the 1968 election campaign or when Bobby Kennedy was shot. You knew segregation, integration, the Great Society, busing, and the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I have a dream.”
Maybe more than any other generation, growing up in the ‘60s marked its progeny deeply with the culture of Woodstock, whether you were there or simply heard about it later. Even if you didn’t participate in all the drugs, sex, and rock & roll, you knew it was happening. The pill launched the sexual revolution. Women’s Lib promoted the burning of bras in the same fire some of us burned draft cards. We all had a glimmer of an idea that Haight-Ashbury was a Mecca for potheads, we’d been told to never trust anyone over thirty, and we knew the peace sign and were ready to fight over it.
We’d also seen race riots in Watts and Detroit that nearly burned cities down. With our long hair, beards, beads, music, and braless tits we went out to change the world.
Maybe we weren’t as successful as we wanted to be. Maybe we’ve forgotten the fervor and passion we once had. Maybe we didn’t use all the right methods. Maybe there were some people who were working toward other ends who knew the power that lay beneath our feet and to whom goddess-worship and magic were more than hippie fads. When we were standing on the pavement holding signs protesting carpet-bombing in Cambodia, the invasion of Laos, and the draft, maybe we should have been chanting spells around a fire as we did a naked spiral dance.
That’s the world Wayne lives in. Your typical, everyday theatre student, he is drawn deeper into the pagan cult that draws its power from the earth and uses it to repair and heal.
Of course, where there are good witches there are wicked witches. The whole thing just changes the battlefield.
While I tried to be as true to historical events as possible, keep in mind this story is fiction. But you’ll find a lot of things that ring true and you might get sucked into the magic the same way you get sucked into an enchanting performance on the stage.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
Now on with the show! The play’s the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.
Some ritual words are used in this that may be unfamiliar.
Athamé: is a knife or sword—a blade—sacred to the workings of magic and representative of Air and the East. The ritual Athamé of Coven Carles is named Creüs and was in the keeping of Ryan McGuire, The Blade.
Wand: may be a short wand (think Harry Potter) or a full staff (think Gandalf), sacred to the workings of magic and representative of Fire and the South. Usually, but not always, made of wood. The ritual wand of Coven Carles is named Iäpetus and is sometimes referred to as the ‘Staff of the Vagabond Poet’. It was in the keeping of Doc Heinrich, The Flame Keeper.
Cup: may be any shape or material, sacred to the workings of magic and representative of the West and Water. The ritual cup of Coven Carles is named Cottus and was in the keeping of Mrs. Weed, The Water Maiden, and then of a witch called The Cupbearer.
Pentacles: May be a star, star-shaped stone, medicine bag with symbols on it, or a disk, usually also engraved with a magic symbol or star. Sacred to the workings of magic and representative of the North and Earth. The ritual pentacles of Coven Carles is named Enceladus and was in the keeping of the high priestess, “Magda” Harmon.
My use of the word ‘pentacles’ may differ slightly from that of other practitioners, but to keep terms straight for readers of fiction, I offer the following. The tool referenced herein is always referred to as a plural. The use of ‘is’ or ‘are’ is based entirely on what sounds better in the context, but as much as possible, ‘pentacles’ always refers to the tool, no matter what shape it takes. The singular form, ‘pentacle,’ is the design on the tool. The design is not necessarily star-shaped. Of the forty-four known pentacles of Solomon, only two designs (the second pentacle of Venus and the first pentacle of Mercury) have a five-pointed star. In magical workings, however, a five-pointed star is often drawn on the floor or even in the air. This specific symbol is a ‘pentagram.’ There are many ways of drawing the pentagram (forward, backward, upright, inverted) and each has its own use. But all are five-pointed stars.
Witches often name each of their tools, but I am only listing above the names of the Four Faces of Carles, the sacred tools of the grand coven.
Names of places and things:
Old Celtic words are sometimes used when those intimate with the circle are speaking. Coven Carles might be referred to as Cobhan Carles and the children or members of the coven might be referred to as cildru.
A grimoire is a book of witchcraft with spells, chants, rituals, and various charm-making recipes. It is usually intended to be copied and/or passed on to another witch.
A Book of Shadows is a journal kept by a witch, chronicling what he or she has learned, including dreams, rituals, spells, and lore. One witch’s Book of Shadows may become another witch’s grimoire.
Pagan holidays fall at the quarters and cross-quarters of the year, in other words, the four celestial holidays and four between them. They are:
Yule, the winter solstice. This is considered by some traditions to be the start of the pagan year. ~December 21.
Imbolc, in the United States it is Groundhog’s Day and in the Catholic church is marked as Candlemas. ~February 2.
Oester, the vernal equinox. Originally the feast of Astarte, near Jewish Passover and Christian Easter. ~March 21.
Beltane, or May Day. The first of May has long been celebrated as the great fertility festival. May 1.
Litha, the summer solstice. While westerners largely consider the quarters to be the beginning of the season, old references point to the fact that these were considered mid-season, as in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Longest day and shortest night of the year. ~June 21.
Lughnasad, also called Lammas or first harvest. This festival celebrates the death of the corn king. ~August 1.
Mabon, autumnal equinox. End of the harvest season and sometimes celebrated with the burning of a wicker man. Current celebrations in the U.S. that arise from the tradition include Burning Man over Labor Day weekend. ~September 20.
Samhain, or All Hallows Eve, Halloween. This celebrates the end of the pagan year as it descends to the darkness of Yule. It is said that on this night, the veil between the worlds (of the living and dead) is thinnest and both humans and spirits may walk between them. October 31.
Indianapolis. As much as possible, the places in and around Indianapolis are real or were real in the ‘60s, though some names (especially around the college) have been changed. And yes, there really was a tour of Hamlet to England, but in 1970, not 1969, and the people who went on the tour would recognize little about this story other than the locations. As it happens, the calendar days and days of the week in 1968-69 align exactly with the calendar days and days of the week in 2013-14.
England. As nearly as I can remember them, the locations in and around Keswick, England are described accurately for the time, and the geography is at least nearly the same, though some landmarks have been moved for convenience.
The Grand Coven Carles Castlerigg (Cobhan Carles) comprises four smaller circles, named for the landmarks that surround the stone circle, Skiddaw (in the north), Threlkeld (in the east), High Lodore (in the south), and Braithwaite (in the west).
Theatre. Okay, maybe it was pretentious of us, but when I majored in it, a theater was where you saw movies and the theatre was where live performances were given. Therefore, we majored in theatre and went to movies at the theater. Live with it. Oh. And my sister, bless her little old Hoosier heart, pronounces it with the accent on the second syllable and a long a, as in “rate.”
Wayne R. Hamel, junior Theatre Major at Indianapolis City College. He is the Props Master and Technical Director for the college theatre. Initiated into the Art by his uncle and given the secret name Promethean, to be known as The Unbound.
Judith Harmon, sophomore standing, transfer student from England majoring in English Literature. She’s actually a few years older than her classmates. Involved as a consultant in the theatre’s production of Hamlet. In the Great Coven of Carles Castlerigg, she is known as The Swordmaster.
Dr. Rebecca Hart Allen, Professor of Anthropology. In the Coven she was known as The Hart, but after last year’s challenge at midsummer she is also known as The Huntress.
Lissa, the doughnut lady. Just a late-night doughnut stop for Wayne until she learns he has been introduced to the Art. Under her coven name The Chameleon, she undertakes some of his training.
Elbert “Uncle Bert” Parker, Wayne’s great uncle. The former spy living in an underground fortress quickly initiates Wayne into the Art and gives him his first tool. He also gives him a robe and a Book of Shadows. His secret name is Prometheus, and is known as The Bound.
Dr. McBride, the High Priest of Coven Carles, also known as The Barber.
Serepte Allen, Rebecca’s thirteen-year-old daughter. Already savvy about the workings of the coven.
Jim Richards, Theatre Professor at ICU, just trying to get a show on the road.
Glenn Little, Wayne’s best friend and fellow theatre person.
Gail Bremen, student costumer at ICU and on-and-off girlfriend of Glenn.
Beth Donaldson, student lighting tech for the theatre.
Joe Hamel, Wayne’s cabinet-maker father.
Dean Krannert, Academic Dean
Dr. Crowell, University President
Other theatre students and cast members: Lena Bowen, Chuck Miller, Steve Barnes, Phil Anderson, Carol Nygard and others.
And people who are present only in their absence:
John Keats, English romantic poet (1795-1821) who once got lost while on a walking tour of Northern England and to our cast is known as ‘The Vagabond Poet’.
J. Wesley Allen, Rebecca’s husband caught in a rift between the worlds in Greece in 1955. Missing ever since.
Ryan “The Blade” McGuire, former High Priest of Coven Carles, known as The Blade, and bearer of the First Face of Carles, the sacred Athamé, Creüs. Judith’s father. He was lost at the same time as Wesley, possibly into the same rift between the worlds. The Athamé called Creüs was also lost and has not been seen in fourteen years.
Benjamin “Firebrand” Wilton, a scholar and adventurer whose legacy was to bear the staff until he gave it to Doc Heinrich. Wilton was sometimes known as The Firebrand and was the only one this century who was known to actually call fire with Iäpetus.
Mrs. Alice “Hebe” Weed, The Water Maiden of Carles and Rebecca’s sponsor for initiation fourteen years ago. She keeps the Third Face of Carles, the Cup, Cottus.
Doc Heinrich, The Flame Keeper, bearer of the Second Face of Carles, the Staff of The Vagabond Poet, Iäpetus.
“Magda” Harmon, High Priestess of Coven Carles and bearer of the Fourth Face of Carles, the pentacles, Enceladus. Judith’s mother.
Credit where credit is due
This story has been hanging around for a long time. It was first drafted in 1980 and was released without benefit of thorough edits in 2013. This edition owes much to four fine editors: Floyd, Mr. Spock, Old Rotorhead, and Pixel the Cat. Without their careful proofreading and editorial comments, this book would be much less.
The story is my creative work, copyright ©1980, 2013, 2017 by Elder Road Books. It is a work of fiction. People and places that might be recognized probably aren’t who you think they are. All remaining errors in this text are solely my own, sometimes ignoring the good advice of my editors. Enjoy!