Battle of Culloden – 16 April 1746

Culloden Monument

Culloden Monument

The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rising.  On April 16, 1746, near Inverness , the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) faced a royalist army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland.  The Jacobites had a goal – to overthrow the reigning House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne.   Their army consisted of Scottish Highlanders, a number of Lowland Scots, a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment, and French and Irish units.  They were supported and supplied by France.  The Duke of Cumberland’s army was largely English, with a fair number of Scottish Highlanders, and Ulster men from Ireland.

The battle on Culloden Moor was bloody and quick.  Over 1500 Jacobites were killed or wounded in an hour – while Hanovarian forces incurred light losses – about 50 dead and 250 wounded.  Many wounded Jacobites were slaughtered in the aftermath – earning the Duke of Cumberland the title of ‘Butcher’.   Charles Stuart escaped to France and made no further attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Britain.

In the following months, the King’s forces continued the assault on Jacobite sympathizers with the Act of Proscription, disarming them and banning the kilt and the tartan.  Violators were incarcerated or transported to a penal colony for a second offense.   Other Acts ended the feudal bond of military service and removed the sovereign power chiefs had over their clan.  The ban on kilt and tartan was not lifted until thirty-five years after the battle.  This monument stands as a silent reminder of this tragic event.

***

Here is a short story I wrote about this battle:

“Recollections of a Spirit”

It was a cold morning on April 16th, 1746. The sun had just risen.

Duncan and I had traveled for days on horseback, to join the army of the Prince. We trusted that he could defeat the red soldiers as he had at Prestonpans. Near Inverness, a French courier demanded our intentions and asked us to carry letters to Culloden House. Duncan took the letters, stored them in his plaid, and we continued on our way. His brothers met us at Inverness, telling us to fight with the Glengarry regiment, camped near Drumossie Moor. I took the letters and told him to join his brothers, that I would follow after I delivered them.

That was the last time that I saw him as a free man. I was taken at Inverness by the English and jailed. When it was determined that I carried letters in French, they beat me mercilessly, asking who they were for, and what their meaning was. I could not tell them. They kept me in irons in a cold cellar, without food or water. The beatings were relentless.

Word came that day that the Prince’s army had been soundly defeated. Other prisoners joined me, many with mortal wounds, dying shortly thereafter. Men arrived with limbs hacked or bowels pierced. The stench of rotting flesh was overpowering. There was no word of my friend or his brothers. They kept us in a cellar, bound, with no food or water for that day and the next. No one tended our wounds or administered last words. Men cried piteously for water or death. Still, I held out hope.

On the morning of the third day, I learned that I was to be executed as a rebel. After sunrise, I would be flogged to death at the tree outside the jail. They’d sent for a lowlander from a nearby encampment, known for his brutality.

Before sunrise, I was brought outside and made to sit on the cold ground to await my fate. I smelled wood fires and heard dogs barking, as red soldiers guarded me. Able-bodied prisoners were brought out to watch, but they wouldn’t look at me. I knew it was my last day.

As a young man, I was no stranger to whippings. I did as I liked and risked the consequences. Father whipped me soundly with a strap many times. I played a game that I would not flinch or cry out, so he beat me until he was no longer angry. These were my thoughts as I waited, that it would not be worse than that.

The red soldiers allowed a man of the cloth to approach me to say the last words. It was cold and he wore a hood that obscured his face. As he knelt beside me and pushed back his hood, I saw that it was Duncan. By God’s grace he had survived the battle. He touched my forehead and made the sign of the cross, saying the words we’d heard so many times. With tears in his eyes, he whispered that he couldn’t save me, but would avenge my death with his last breath. I begged him not to watch it, but he would not leave me.

At sunrise the Lowlander arrived, a muscular man with eyes of steel. Soldiers pounded stakes into either side of an oak, removed my irons and shirt, and tied me to the tree with rope. It was cold but I was sweating, and my heart pounded like a drum. As blood rushed in my ears, I heard the sentence being read.

A soldier gagged me, but the man removed it, saying that he needed to hear me. He took the ‘cat’ out of his bag and showed it to me. It was a whip of nine knotted strands, ending in sharp bits of metal. In a voice that was cold and deliberate, he taunted me, calling me a rebel, a traitor, and an animal. I burned with humiliation and anger.

All I wanted was to bear my punishment in silence and die like a man; but it wasn’t to be. I held staunch for twenty strokes and faltered, my pride crumbling. I grunted, cursed, and gasped for breath as the leather tails blistered my back. May God forgive me, I cried like a child, and rubbed my wrists raw against the ropes.

He stopped after one-hundred strokes to drink. I was nearly unconscious, so they roused me with water. Before he began again, he taunted me. He’d wagered that I wouldn’t last another fifty, and intended to finish me now. The man ran his rough fingers across the marks in my flesh, thrust his hand down the front of my kilt, and touched me as a lover would.

In spite of my predicament, I was furious and spit into his face. His eyes narrowed in anger.

He began again, whipping me with a vengeance. Blood soaked my kilt, ran down my legs, and pooled in my boots. I could barely stand, and the cries that I made were not even human.

I heard them call out one-forty.

Silently, I begged God to take my soul. I was cold and trembling, too weak to cry out. My body was dying but my mind was a raging storm. I held on to anger and refused to die. My inner voice cried, “I won’t let go, I won’t let go!”

Duncan’s anguished thoughts broke through my inner turmoil.

Eavan let go!

Let go! Eavan let go!

For God’s sake let go!

May God forgive me for not taking your place!

My mind calmed and my breathing slowed. A brilliant bubble formed before my eyes, translucent and full of light. I saw Mother looking out to sea for my brother, Grandfather whittling a walking stick, and young John struggling on his deathbed. The bubble enfolded me, and softly popped.

I was pleasantly confused, convinced that they’d stopped the execution. I stood among them in my best riding breeks, shirt, and plaid. It was lightly snowing but I was as warm as fresh bread. I flexed my shoulder muscles and gazed at my hands. My backside was whole and my wrists were healed.

The big man cleaned and oiled his whip and put it in his bag. He joked with the soldiers about the rebel bastard, and collected his wagers. Still I did not understand. Duncan mounted his horse and rode towards me.

I waved my hands. “Duncan. Over here! They let me go.”

My friend stared through me to a place beyond, his face lined with grief. What did he see? I turned my head and saw the bloody shell of a body that was mine, and knew I was dead.

A young soldier thrust his bayonet into the body. “The rebel is gone! Let this be a lesson to all who oppose the King of England.”

Duncan made the sign of the cross and rode off on his chestnut mare. I followed him out of town, where he dismounted and concealed his horse behind some trees. He sat on a log and waited, running his thumb along the blade of his dirk.

Before long a rider appeared; the lowlander with eyes of steel. Dressed as a man of the cloth, my friend concealed his knife and bid him stop. As the man dismounted, Duncan seized him and cut his throat from ear to ear.

I watched this without emotion. It didn’t matter. Mine was a world without pain and hunger, or domination by the English. Duncan would be along soon enough.

***

By Jeanne Treat

Jeanne is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a tale of 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  You can read about it online at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Illustrated!

Luc Gordon from Dark Destiny

Luc Gordon from Dark Destiny

In Search of a Grandmother

Granny - Clara Crate

Granny – Clara Crate

My search for my great-grandmother, a native American medicine woman, takes me to the north woods of Canada.

I have always been the family historian, researching genealogy, recording the stories of elders, and tracking births and deaths.  I had been successful with my father’s side of the family, documenting our history back to the 1500’s in England and Scotland.

My mother’s side was another matter.  There was a story told that her grandmother had been a native American medicine woman before she married a Hudson Bay man, moved to Saskatchewan, and founded the town of Rocanville.  They said that she practiced hands on healing and herbal medicine, delivered babies, treated wounds, and set fractures.  Known as “Granny”, she was the only midwife for miles around.

In 1994, my seventy-three year old mother found a tin-type picture of her grandmother and expressed a desire to learn about her heritage.  There was very little to go on.  We knew that her Christian name was Clara Crate and she’d married a Hudson Bay man named Auguste Rocan Bastien.

I sent out letters of inquiry to research societies, churches, and government agencies in Canada.  We were able to find information on Auguste in the Hudson Bay profiles, but nothing on Clara.  The town of Rocanville acknowledged that she had lived there, was buried there, and had been an important part of the town.  But they claimed that no one asked about her tribe because it wasn’t proper.

Early in 1995, my uncle offered me some engineering diaries that his father James (Clara’s son) had kept after he moved his family from Canada to Niagara Falls.  They were faded texts with crumbling covers, written partly in French and partly in English.  Drawing on my high school French skills, I spent months translating these work diaries, which contained personal information as well.

Towards the very end of the last book, I translated an entry that was to be a clue to finding Clara.

11/06/1933
“Sister Eveline’s 65th birthday.  Oh how I think of when we were little tots.  Don’t seem so long ago but what changes since.  Our mode of travel from Norway House northern Manitoba was by York Boats, 8 oared and helmsman.  There were 5 of these boats about 6 tons each fitted for the Hudson Bay Company.  We went from Norway House to Fort Carlton on the Saskatchewan River in the year 1875.   I believe it took us 4 weeks to make the trip.  I was baptized at Pas (or Ross) Mission, close to Norway House.”

I studied a tribal map of Canada with great expectation.  There was a reservation at Norway House and the tribe was the Woodland Cree.

An inner voice told me loud and clear “YES, YOU ARE CREE.”

I switched my focus from Saskatchewan to Manitoba and wrote to the pastor of the church at Norway House.  We sent him our information and hoped to get a speedy reply.  But months went by without a word.

My inner voice told me to travel to Saskatchewan and visit the reservation in Manitoba.  Logic told me to wait until we had more information; but the voice was persistent and won out.

I began the process of booking a trip.  It was easy to get transportation and accommodations in Saskatchewan but getting to the reservation was another matter.

I wanted to rent a truck in Winnipeg and drive north to the reservation at Norway House, but there were no real roads going up there.  A man at Travel Canada told me that the roads were dotted lines on the map, which meant that they were dirt roads at best.  Once we left Winnipeg to travel around the lake, there would be no place to refuel, buy food or water, sleep, or pee along the way.  Not real friendly for me and a seventy-three year old woman.  In closing, he said that they’d been fighting forest fires up there but that they would probably be out in a week.

Forest fires?  I asked the logical question.  Was there any other way to get there?  I was told that Perimeter Airlines flew out of a small airfield in Winnipeg.

Later that day, I sat across from a confused AAA agent, insisting that this airline existed.  Not referenced in any books or computers, she called dozens of contacts at Winnipeg airport before anyone would acknowledge it.

With phone number in hand, she called Perimeter Airlines for reservations.  The girl on the other end said just bring cash, we will get you on.  When the agent demanded a reservation number, the girl gave her the name ‘Gertrude’.

We had no set itinerary, yet my inner voice was insisting that we go.  It was telling me that, “ALL YOU SHALL NEED WILL BE PROVIDED.”

It was two days before the trip and we still had no definite plans.  Then a miracle occurred.  I received a phone call from a historian in Winnipeg, who said that a letter I wrote to the pastor at Norway House had been sent to him.  Ray Beaumont had our entire history for us in written form.  There was so much information on Clara’s mother Sarah Nekahwiw that they’d made a school project about her.  The school district had always wondered where the medicine woman, Clara, had gone and who her descendants were.  He was eager to talk to us.

We juggled our trip so that we could meet with him for an entire day before we left for Norway House.  Two days later, my mother and I flew out of Toronto for Regina, Saskatchewan.  Traversing that province, the ground appeared below us like a patchwork quilt, blanketed with squares of bright green canola and purple-blue flax, and adorned with miniature oil wells.

In Regina, we visited a local museum and spent time at a library researching birth and death records on microfiche.  Then we got some sleep and the next morning headed east across a desolate prairie to the town that her grandparents founded.

Downtown Rocanville had been a hub along the Canadian Pacific Railway in years past, but no more.  What remained was a wide street with tiny stores, a post office, a bar, and a dreary-looking Chinese restaurant.  A sign claimed that the population was 918, but even that looked outdated.  The townspeople were nice and showed us the cemetery where Clara and her husband were buried.  Tombstones claimed that many had been lost in the 1916-1917 world flu epidemics.  We toured a little museum where my mother saw a chair that her grandfather had made.

Such a tiny community!  We left that place thinking that if we ever needed to be in the Federal Witness Protection Program, here was a place that no one would ever find us.

We stayed the night in a motel and in the morning we were off for Manitoba!

In Winnipeg, we spent the day with the historian, who provided us with a complete family tree from my great-grandmother back five generations.  We received information on the Cree syllabic language, the Hudson Bay settlement, and Clara’s mother Sarah.  We learned about her marriage, her children, what jobs she held, ceremonies she attended, and what she bought and sold.  We found out why we had trouble locating information on Clara Crate.  She had been born Clara St Germain.  When her father died, her mother remarried a man named Crate and Clara took his last name.

The historian asked us if we had a guide once we got to Norway House.  We told him that we weren’t sure what we were going to do once we got there.  He made a call and arranged for us to have a guide meet us when we arrived.

He also offered to connect us with a distant cousin of ours, a full-blooded Cree living in Winnipeg.  When we returned to the hotel, our cousin Ken called and asked if he could come over to meet us, so we gave him our room number.  In the meantime, we went down to the lobby to have coffee.

Fifteen minutes later, a man came into the hotel, looked us over, and walked to my mother.  He touched her cheek tenderly with the back of his hand and held it there.  It was Ken.

He said “You don’t even have to tell me who you are.  I know who you are.  You look just like my grandmother.”

We spent an evening with him looking over the genealogy, discovering how we were related, and talking about Norway House.

Early the next morning, we arrived at a small airport and boarded a Perimeter flight for Norway House.  The aircraft was so tiny that you had to stoop to enter it and keep your head low as you walked the narrow aisle.  We were separated from the cockpit by a drape and the pilots looked like they were nineteen years old.  We sat down and looked around.  The plane carried ten people, all native Americans, who promptly put earplugs in their ears.  I remember having a ridiculous thought that we wouldn’t get breakfast on this flight.

The noise level was deafening and without earplugs you could hear the pilots fighting over the gauge alarms going off.  This was quite an unnerving feeling as we were flying over the waters of Lake Winnipeg.  Because of a lightning storm, we were diverted to Cross Lake where we landed hard on a dirt runway.

The pilots collected money from a rider and we waited an hour for the weather to break.  Then it cleared and we continued on to Norway House, where we landed on a rough gravel road.  Disembarking the plane, we learned that the airport terminal was a 20×40 deserted shack with a telephone inside.

I called our hotel and said, “This is Ms. Treat.  My mother and I are expected as guests.  Will you send a shuttle to the airport to pick us up?”

This evidently was not something anyone had asked for before, as it caused a stir on the other end of the phone.  They agreed to send someone and fifteen minutes later we noticed a vehicle approaching in a cloud of dust.  Soon, an old man covered with plaster arrived in a beat up pick up truck.  Without a word, he tossed our bags into the back of the truck, nodded, and helped us up onto the bench seat.

The hotel turned out to be the local greasy spoon with a couple of rooms above it, vintage 1950’s with dark furniture and chenille bedspreads.  We were informed that for the most part only Hydro engineers stayed there.  My mother and I settled into our room and went down to the restaurant.

While we were having a late breakfast, a man appeared at our table, who stood silently for what seemed like five minutes.  My inner voice was telling me to “BE STILL AND LISTEN”.

At last he spoke, “I am Byron and I will be your guide.”

Byron drove us around the reserve, then to the old Hudson Bay cemetery, where Sarah Nekahwiw was buried.  He introduced us to his people and showed us their community center.

Norway House was beautiful!  We saw shimmering lakes and fast-moving rivers, with little islands in the middle of them.  Byron then took us to Rossville, where we went to the church on the point and met the Reverend John Crate.  If you ever needed a beautiful setting to believe in God, this was the place.

Our guide took us to see the York boats up close and a team of women rowing one in preparation for York Boat Days.  What more could we want from a genealogy trip?  We thanked him and returned to our hotel with a sense of satisfaction.  Our trip seemed to be over.

The plane was scheduled to leave the next day at 4:45pm.  At this point we didn’t expect anything else to happen.  The next morning, we were having breakfast in the restaurant.

Byron appeared, sat at our table, and lowered his head.  He sighed and said that this is a very small place.  Everyone wanted to know about the two new women and what their story is.  The tribal council wanted to meet with us.

First he took us to the school, where he gave us books on the Cree and videos of the history of Norway House.  Then Byron took us to the longhouse to meet the elders.  More modern than I expected, we sat around a conference table and listened to the sounds of a fax machine.

I had photocopied my family tree and gave each man a copy.  Talk was friendly and we soon found that we were related to three of the men on the council.

My mother spoke at length about her father’s diary so we gave them a copy as well.   When she told them about James’ account of his trip on a York boat, they presented us with a three foot replica of the boat to take back with us.  I wondered how I would get it on the plane.

At last we stood.  The elders offered prayers about ancestors and family and held a ceremony to accept their lost sisters back into the tribe.

My inner voice came forth loud and clear “YES GRANDDAUGHTER, YOU ARE CREE”.

My great-grandmother followed me back that day.  From that time forward I felt unafraid to touch others who needed healing or reassurance.  I began to intuitively know about plants and to practice herbal medicine on myself and family members.   I sought out a local tribe, participated in rituals and drumming circles, and studied alternative therapies.

Many years have passed.  My mother died in 2010, but I shall always remember the times we spent reminiscing about the discovery of her grandmother.

“Granny” has been a dear companion to me, helping me to heal myself and others, and protecting me from those who would do me harm.

It was a worthwhile trip, a grand awakening, and I will always be grateful for her love.

***

About the author:

Jeanne Treat is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  To research her books, she traveled to Scotland to visit castles, seaports, and stone circles, and talk to historians.  She has also published in local newspapers, magazines, and anthologies.  She lives with her husband Robert and two Scottish terriers, Maggie and Duff.

You can read  Jeanne’s stories, articles, and poetry at:

http://www.authorsden.com/jeannentreat

Read about the trilogy at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Charles II was crowned King at Scone on January 1st

CharlesII

Charles II

On 1 January 1651, Charles II was crowned in a ceremony at Scone. His coronation was the last to take place in Scotland. His father, Charles I, having been put to the axe 30 January 1649, Charles II was declared king of Great Britain and Ireland by the Scottish Parliament the following month, but the English Parliament quickly made that proclamation illegal. Meeting and losing to Cromwell in battle at Worcester in September, 1651, Charles spent almost the next decade exiled on the Continent. The monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Privy Council were abolished and Oliver Cromwell, after much roiling of the traditional power structure of England, during which several parliaments rose and fell, became “Lord Protector” of the Commonwealth with all but dictatorial power. It would not be until Cromwell’s death in 1660, and the removal of Richard, Cromwell’s son and successor, that Charles II issued the Declaration of Breda in April of 1660, allowing as how he would return to the throne of England under certain conditions. In Winchester Abbey, 23 April 1661, Charles II was crowned the second time, and all relevant documents thereafter were dated as if he had succeeded his father in 1649.
(Historical commentary from ScotlandRising.com,  Illustration by Jane Starr Weils)
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Read a dramatization of the coronation ceremony at Scone from my novel DARK DESTINY:
_

“Coronation”

January 1, 1651

Scone, Perth, Scotland

The village of Scone had a long history of crowning Scottish kings.  Ancient Gaelic poetry referred to it as Scoine sciath-airde or ‘Scone of the high shields.’   The Abbey at Scone had two important functions.  It housed the coronation stone and served as a royal residence.

Prince Charles had been received by the Abbey with all outward respect imaginable.  Chaplains previously hostile to him approached on bended knees, in the humblest of postures.  The Marquis of Argyle was gracious, entertaining him with pleasant discourses.  But all was not as expected.  Upon arrival, the Prince had been separated from his English servants.  Attempts to restore them to his company were futile.  All else, he’d been allowed – fine meals, a good horse to ride, a walk in the night air.  At public appearances, he received the respect due a great king.  Why then, did he feel like a prisoner?

That morning, the Prince dressed in a royal coronation robe.  He was conducted from his bed chamber by the constable and the marshal to the Chamber of Presence.  There, he was placed in a comfortable chair by the Lord of Angus.  After a short repose, the commissioners of barons and boroughs entered the hall and presented themselves before him.

Charles was growing impatient.  “Get on with it.”

The Lord Chancellor’s eyes widened.  “Sir, yer good subjects desire ye may be crowned, as the righteous and lawful heir of the crown of this kingdom.  But there are conditions – That ye maintain religion as it is presently professed and established.  That ye conform to the National Covenant.  That according to yer declaration of August last; that ye receive them under yer highness’ protection, to govern them by the laws of the kingdom, and to defend them in their rights and liberties…”  The man droned on and on.

Charles stifled a yawn.  He cleared his ears and caught the last of it. “…For the maintenance of religion, for the safety of yer Majesty’s sacred person, and maintenance of yer crown, which they entreat yer Majesty to accept, and pray Almighty God that for years ye may happily enjoy the same.”

The Prince gave a rehearsed answer, “I do esteem the affections of my good people more than the crowns of many kingdoms, and shall be ready, by God’s assistance, to bestow my life in their defense, wishing to live no longer than I may see religion and this kingdom flourish in all happiness.”  Charles gazed at the faces in the audience.  They seemed satisfied.  He stood.

The commissioners and noblemen began the walk to the Kirk of Scone, two by two in order according to their rank.  The sword was carried by the Earle of Rothes, the scepter by the Earle of Craufurd, and the crown by the Marquis of Argyle.  Then came the soon to be king, with the constable on his right hand and the great marshal on his left, his long train being carried by chosen lords and their sons.

The procession entered the Kirk, which had been prepared for the solemn ceremony.  There was a table upon which the honors were laid, and a stage.  Upon this stage was a chair where his majesty would hear the sermon, and another chair where he would sit to receive the crown.  Under this chair was the Stone of Scone.  The commissioners and noblemen took seats on benches.  The Prince sat in the chair meant for the hearing of the sermon.

Charles pinched the bridge of his nose.  He was getting a frightful headache.

The Marquis of Argyle inquired, “Are ye ill, yer Majesty?”

“Nay!” Charles snapped.  “You may proceed.”  He stopped pinching his nose and composed himself.

The minister arrived and began the sermon.

Charles suffered through his boring words.  The things one must endure to regain their throne!  At last, the sermon was done.  They escorted him to the chair that sat over the Stone of Scone.

The Marquis of Argyle placed the crown on his head.  With great ceremony, he uttered the words that would make him king.  The man concluded, “And now, yer Majesty, yer subjects shall approach.”  They came on bended knees, bearing exquisite gifts – a pistol, a harp, an ancient gold coin… the list was endless.  Did they expect him to remember?

King Charles cared nothing for these gifts or the men who gave them.  His thoughts were with his murdered father.  I accomplished the first step, Father.  With the Scottish army, I will regain my English throne and punish the men who ordered your death…

_
The story continues in the Dark Birthright Trilogy (Dark Birthright, Dark Lord, Dark Destiny)
an illustrated tale of 17th century Scotland, England, & the Colonies
by author Jeanne Treat
illustrated by Jane Starr Weils

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice a the stone circle

The Winter Solstice is celebrated in my novel DARK BIRTHRIGHT.

Here is an excerpt from a chapter named YULE:

LOUDEN WOOD, DECEMBER 21, 1636

It was the evening of the winter solstice.  A heavy snow had fallen, blanketing the landscape.  Keira fastened her white cloak and went outside to gather pine branches for the feast.  As she walked in the sparkling forest, she pondered the events of the last few months.

Cawley and Florag died after the first snowfall, wrapped in each other’s arms.  It was sad to see the old ones go, but she knew in her heart that they wanted it this way.  Michael chose young Torry as his apprentice, to follow in his footsteps as priest.  She was so proud of him!  Best of all, her friends Janet and Alistair expected a child in March.

Her own future was unclear, frightening in some ways.  She closed her eyes and offered a prayer. “Goddess, hear me. I promised my love that we shall marry within the year.  He is kind and compassionate, with the soul of a poet and a song in his heart.  He knows you not, yet his heart is a reflection of your wisdom.  Mother whispers that our union is important.  Is it the end of the burning times?  Will I see the face of my newborn child or shall I suffer her fate?”

A gentle voice whispered through the trees. “Trust me, child.”

Keira was overcome with emotion as she held her hands to the sky. “Great Mother. I surrender my fear, my hopes, and my dreams to you. My life is in your hands.” At once, she was filled with a peace so profound that it defied description.  Warmth spread throughout her body, as the Goddess’ arms encircled her.  Her path was clear.  The future of her people rested with the handsome fisherman.  Wind whipped snowflakes into the air, stealing her breath, and bringing her back to the moment. “Thank you Mother,” she whispered. “For granting me a piece of the Summerland.”

Snow buntings twittered in pine trees, ruffling their mottled plumage. “Tirrirriripp….. piu… piu…”  Keira reached into her pocket and took out some cranberries, leaving them for the birds.  She gathered an armful of pine branches and walked to the barn.  Outside, a large cooking pot hung over the fire, filled with lamb stew.  Marcia and David West tended the fire and ladled stew into wooden bowls.

Marcia smiled. “Oh, good. You brought more pine branches. They’re almost done decorating.”

The smell of boiled lamb filled the air.  Keira’s stomach growled. “I’m starved.”

David nodded.  “We all are. It won’t be long now.”

Keira entered the barn and saw that it was decorated with holly and pine boughs.  Soft candlelight played on the walls.  Fragrant mistletoe, sacred to the Goddess, hung from rafters.  She placed her bundle on the table and arranged the branches.

Janet squeezed her shoulder. “Thank ye, lass.  Here’s a red ribbon to tie it together and cranberries to dress it up.”

Keira reached out and touched her swollen belly. “It won’t be much longer, friend.  Three more moon cycles.”

“Aye.  What more could I ask for?  I have a loving husband, a child on the way, and the best friend in the world. You mean so much to me, lass.”

Keira’s heart ached.  How could she tell Janet that she was leaving?  She lowered her head and tied ribbon around the branches. Torry pulled her close, kissing her on the cheek.  “Torry!”

“I can kiss ye. You’re under the mistletoe.”

“That I am.”

Janet laughed. “If you stand there, chances are you’ll be kissed more than once.”

It looked like everyone had arrived. David and Marcia brought in bowls of stew and set them on the table. The villagers gathered and bowed their heads in respect.

Michael spoke. “Friends.  We gather this solstice night to celebrate Yule. Let us reflect upon the abundance of the harvest and the gift of this wonderful feast. We thank the Goddess for plentiful crops and her profound love and protection.”

Keira smiled. “Blessed be.”

Michael held out his hands. “Peace be with ye.  Let the feast begin.”

The villagers gorged themselves on lamb stew and sweetened cakes, filled with nuts and dried fruits from sunnier days.  Aileana strummed the harp and George played the Bohdran.  They drank mulled wine and apple cider and retired to their homes to get ready for the walk to the stones…

***

***

Read more in Dark Birthright…

DARK BIRTHRIGHT is book one of an illustrated trilogy that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  It is followed by DARK LORD and DARK DESTINY.

You can read about it and view video book trailers at:

http://www.DarkLordTheNovel.com

keira

Keira

The Lost Spirit – a Christmas poem by Clara Treat

Meaning of Christmas

The Lost Spirit

I searched for the spirit of Christmas

In a silent, white starlit night,

And then on the city sidewalks

With store windows gay and bright.

I visited Toyland and found there

Happiness and real joy,

In the picture of children with Santa

As he promised each one a toy.

Then I took my babes to the manger

To wish the Christ Child well,

And there by the candle-lit crib

I captured the magic spell.

In the eyes of my own little children

The spirit of Christmas shone,

With love for the child who lay there

He was truly one of their own.

Author’s note:

Our home was the gathering place for our friends and relatives on Christmas Eve.  We exchanged gifts and enjoyed a great buffet luncheon.  With all the work of decorating and cooking and the kids getting restless, I’d lost my Christmas spirit.  I gathered my brood together and headed for the manger in our church.  It was there that I captured the lost spirit that inspired me to write this poem.

~ Clara Treat

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