Esbat the Novel

(For those in the know, I belong to a Wiccan church. If you want more information on Wicca itself you are free to visit my church's website: The North Carolina Piedmont Church of Wicca. To ease matters a bit with those unfamiliar with our practices, an Esbat is a religious worship we perform in honor of the moon cycles and the Goddess.)

Recently our church as begun to explore different ways to worship via our Esbat and Sabbats. One way that has proven successful has been Esbat the (insert idea here) format. This started out as an experimental idea we jokingly called Esbat the Musical. The church members made suggestions using different songs to represent the elements and invocations and other stuff. Songs like Cash's Ring of Fire, and Seger's Like a Rock. We played just clips of songs rather than the whole things, since folks were on their feet and we didn’t have all night. The result was a roaring success! Folks went into it dubious of the idea, but came away glowing with energy and overflowing with compliments.

A few months later, my sister carried this idea over to Esbat the Movie. She took clips from various films and edited them together with a few words of invocation and premiered it to an eager audience. We laughed, we wept, we gasped, and we loved it. Since then she has done a second version with other films too. We always look forward to Esbat the Movie night.

I followed this series of successes with my own idea, Esbat the Novel. Over a few weeks I diligently picked out segments from a variety of modern novels (roughly 300 words or so) and strung them together to represent the traditional Esbat outline. Just last weekend I was able to read my hard work aloud to a small audience. We had wine and cheese for our cakes and ale, as if it were a real author reading! Again, folks laughed and gasped and cried. Hell, even I had to resort to a backup reader because I got weepy early on.

I decided since some of our members missed the service, I would post it here for not only them to enjoy, but you as well, fine readers. If you are unfamiliar with the idea of an Esbat, don’t fret. I think you will still get much out of this.
Happy reading, and enjoy!
Esbat the Novel

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the western spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun. Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-two million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea. This planet has { or rather had { a problem, which was this: most of the people on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn't the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy. And so the problem remained; lots of the people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches. Many were increasingly of the opinion that they'd all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place. And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.
And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, one girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how the world could be made a good and happy place. This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.
Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terribly stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost forever.
This is not her story.
But it is the story of that terrible stupid catastrophe and some of its consequences.
It is also the story of a book, a book called The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy { not an Earth book, never published on Earth, and until the terrible catastrophe occurred, never seen or heard of by any Earthman.
Nevertheless, a wholly remarkable book.

The Adventures of Peter Pan by James M. Barrie

We now return to the nursery.
"It's all right," John announced, emerging from his hiding- place. "I say, Peter, can you really fly?"
Instead of troubling to answer him Peter flew around the room, taking the mantelpiece on the way.
"How topping!" said John and Michael.
"How sweet!" cried Wendy.
"Yes, I'm sweet, oh, I am sweet!" said Peter, forgetting his manners again.
It looked delightfully easy, and they tried it first from the floor and then from the beds, but they always went down instead of up.
"I say, how do you do it?" asked John, rubbing his knee. He was quite a practical boy.
"You just think lovely wonderful thoughts," Peter explained, "and they lift you up in the air."
He showed them again.
"You're so nippy at it," John said, "couldn't you do it very slowly once?"
Peter did it both slowly and quickly. "I've got it now, Wendy!" cried John, but soon he found he had not. Not one of them could fly an inch, though even Michael was in words of two syllables, and Peter did not know A from Z.
Of course Peter had been trifling with them, for no one can fly unless the fairy dust has been blown on him. Fortunately, as we have mentioned, one of his hands was messy with it, and he blew some on each of them, with the most superb results.
"Now just wiggle your shoulders this way," he said, "and let go."
They were all on their beds, and gallant Michael let go first. He did not quite mean to let go, but he did it, and immediately he was borne across the room.
"I flewed!" he screamed while still in mid-air.
John let go and met Wendy near the bathroom.
"Oh, lovely!"
"Oh, ripping!"
"Look at me!"
"Look at me!"
"Look at me!"
They were not nearly so elegant as Peter, they could not help kicking a little, but their heads were bobbing against the ceiling, and there is almost nothing so delicious as that. Peter gave Wendy a hand at first, but had to desist, Tink was so indignant.
Up and down they went, and round and round. Heavenly was Wendy's word.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury:

It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his head, and his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmet numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke, to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch and lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.
Montag grinned the fierce grin of all men singed and driven back by flame.
He knew that when he returned to the firehouse, he might wink at himself, a minstrel man, burnt-corked, in the mirror. Later, going to sleep, he would feel the fiery smile still gripped by his face muscles, in the dark. It never went away, that. smile, it never ever went away, as long as he remembered.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

It was a monstrous big river down there -- sometimes a mile and a half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes; soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and tied up -- nearly always in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them. Then we set out the lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom where the water was about knee deep, and watched the daylight come. Not a sound anywheres -- perfectly still -- just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line -- that was the woods on t'other side; you couldn't make nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreading around; then the river softened up away off, and warn't black any more, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away -- trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks -- rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look of the streak that there's a snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and you make out a log-cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river, being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way, because they've left dead fish laying around, gars and such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds just going it!

Lord of the Rings Book One: Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien

They hastened up the last slope, and stood breathless beside her. They bowed, but with a wave of her arm she bade them look round; and they looked out from the hill-top over lands under the morning. It was now as clear and far-seen as it had been veiled and misty when they stood upon the knoll in the Forest, which could now be seen rising pale and green out of the dark trees in the West. In that direction the land rose in wooded ridges, green, yellow, russet under the sun, beyond which lay hidden the valley of the Brandywine. To the South, over the line of the Withywindle, there was a distant glint like pale glass where the Brandywine River made a great loop in the lowlands and flowed away out of the knowledge of the hobbits. Northward beyond the dwindling downs the land ran away in flats and swellings of grey and green and pale earth-colours, until it faded into a featureless and shadowy distance. Eastward the Barrow-downs rose, ridge behind ridge into the morning, and vanished out of eyesight into a guess: it was no more than a guess of blue and a remote white glimmer blending with the hem of the sky, but it spoke to them, out of memory and old tales, of the high and distant mountains. They took a deep draught of the air, and felt that a skip and a few stout strides would bear them wherever they wished. It seemed fainthearted to go jogging aside over the crumpled skirts of the downs towards the Road, when they should be leaping, as lusty as Tom, over the stepping stones of the hills straight towards the Mountains.

The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Perhaps he would never have dared to raise his eyes, but that, though the piping was now hushed, the call and the summons seemed still dominant and imperious. He might not refuse, were Death himself waiting to strike him instantly, once he had looked with mortal eye on things rightly kept hidden. Trembling he obeyed, and raised his humble head; and then, in that utter clearness of the imminent dawn, while Nature, flushed with fullness of incredible color, seemed to hold her breath for the event, he looked in the very eyes of the Friend and Helper; saw the backward sweep of the curved horns, gleaming in the growing daylight; saw the stern, hooked nose between the kindly eyes that were looking down on them humorously, while the bearded mouth broke into a half-smile at the corners; saw the rippling muscles on the arm that lay across the broad chest, the long supple hand still holding the pan-pipes only just fallen away from the parted lips; saw the splendid curves of the shaggy limbs disposed in majestic ease on the sward; saw, last of all, nestling between his very hooves, sleeping soundly in entire peace and contentment, the little, round, podgy, childish form of the baby otter. All this he saw, for one moment breathless and intense, vivid on the morning sky; and still, as he looked, he lived; and still, as he lived, he wondered.

Skinny Legs and All by Tom Robbins

Except in an entirely secondary manner, Queen Jezebel never worshipped Baal. Baal was the ancient Semite word for “lord” or “husband.” The god referred to by the Bible as Baal had divine status primarily because he was husband to Astarte. It was Astarte whom Jezebel worshipped. Who was Astarte? She was a goddess; rather, she was the Goddess, the Great Mother, the Light of the World, the most ancient and widely revered divinity in human history. Shrines to her date back to the Neolithic Period, and there was not one Indo-European culture that failed to remove with its kiss the mud from her sidereal slippers. In comparison, “God,” as we moderns call Yahweh (often misspelled “Jehovah") was a Yahny-come-lately who would never approach her enormous popularity. She was the mother of God, as indeed, she was mother of all. As beloved as she was for her life-giving and nurturing qualities, the only activities of hers acceptable to the patriarchs, she was mistress over destruction as well as creation, representing, according to one scholar, “the abyss that is the source and the end, the ground of all being.”In Jezebel’s native Phoenicia, the Goddess’s name was Astarte. In Babylon, she was Ishtar; in India, Kali, in Greece, Demeter (immature aspect: Aphrodite). If Saxon was your indigenous tongue, you would address her as Ostara; if Nordic, you’d say Freya; if Egyptian, Isis—or Nut or Hathor or Neith. Oh, the Goddess had many names, and many roles. She was virgin, bride, mother, prostitute, witch, and hanging judge, all swirled into one. She had more phases than the moon. She knew the dark side of the moon like the palm of her hand. She shopped there.

Drawing Down the Moon:
American Gods by Neil Gaiman

“I feel,” Shadow told her, “like I’m in a world with its own sense of logic. Its own rules. Like when you’re in a dream, and you know there are rules you mustn’t break, but you don’t know what they are or what they mean. I have no idea what we’re talking about, or what happened today, or pretty much anything since I got out of jail. I’m just going along with it, you know?”
“I know,” she said. She held his hand, with a hand that was icy cold. “You were given protection once, but you lost it already. You gave it away. You had the sun in your hand. And that is life itself. All I can give you is much weaker protection. The daughter, not the father. But all helps. Yes?” Her white hair blew about her face in the chilly wind, and Shadow knew that it was time to go back inside.
“Do I have to fight you? Or play checkers?” he asked.
“You do not even have to kiss me,” she told him. “Just take the moon.”
“Take the moon.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Watch,” said Zorya Polunochnaya. She raised her left hand and held it in front of the moon, so that her forefinger and thumb seemed to be grasping it. Then, in one smooth movement, she plucked at it. For a moment, it looked like she had taken the moon from the sky, but then Shadow saw that the moon shone still, and Zorya Polunochnaya opened her hand to display a silver Liberty-head dollar resting between finger and thumb.
“That was beautifully done,” said Shadow. “I didn’t see you palm it. And I don’t know how you did that last bit.”
“I did not palm it,” she said. “I took it. And now I give it to you, to keep safe. Here. Don’t give this one away.” She placed it in his right hand and closed his fingers around it. The coin was cold in his hand. Zorya Polunochnaya leaned forward, and closed his eyes with her fingers, and kissed him, lightly, once upon each eyelid.
Shadow awoke on the sofa, fully dressed. A narrow shaft of sunlight streamed in through the window, making the dust motes dance. He got out of bed, and walked over to the window. The room seemed much smaller in the daylight. The thing that had been troubling him since last night came into focus as he looked out and down and across the street. There was no fire escape outside this window: no balcony, no rusting metal steps.
Still, held tight in the palm of his hand, bright and shiny as the day it had been minted, was a 1922 Liberty-head silver dollar.

Charge of the Goddess:
In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan

I guess you are kind of curious as to who I am, but I am one of those who do not have a regular name. My name depends on you. Just call me whatever is in your mind.
If you are thinking about something that happened a long time ago: Somebody asked you a question and you did not know the answer.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was raining very hard.
That is my name.
Or somebody wanted you to do something. You did it. Then they told you what you did was wrong—"Sorry for the mis­take,"—and you had to do something else.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was a game that you played when you were a child or something that came idly into your mind when you were old and sitting in a chair near the window.
That is my name.
Or you walked someplace. There were flowers all around.
That is my name.
Perhaps you stared into a river. There was somebody near you who loved you. They were about to touch you. You could feel this before it happened. Then it happened.
That is my name.
Or you heard someone calling from a great distance. Their voice was almost an echo.
That is my name.
Perhaps you were lying in bed, almost ready to go to sleep and you laughed at something, a joke unto yourself, a good way to end the day.
That is my name.
Or you were eating something good and for a second forgot what you were eating, but still went on, knowing it was good.
That is my name.
Perhaps it was around midnight and the fire tolled like a bell inside the stove.
That is my name.
Or you felt bad when she said that thing to you. She could have told it to someone else: Somebody who was more familiar with her problems.
That is my name.
Perhaps the trout swam in the pool but the river was only eight inches wide and the moon shone on ideath and the watermelon fields glowed out of proportion, dark and the moon seemed to rise from every plant.
That is my name.

Magic Rites:
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett

Esk obediently went inside and unhooked Granny's hat. It was tall, pointed and, of course, black.
Granny turned it over in her hands and regarded it carefully.
"Inside this hat," she said solemnly, "is one of the secrets of witchcraft. If you cannot tell me what it is, then I might as well teach you no more, because once you learn the secret of the hat there is no going back. Tell me what you know about the hat."
"Can I hold it?"
"Be my guest."
Esk peered inside the hat. There was some wire stiffening to give it a shape, and a couple of hatpins. That was all. There was nothing particularly strange about it, except that no one in the
village had one like it. But that didn't make it magical. Esk bit her lip; she had a vision of herself being sent home in disgrace.
It didn't feel strange, and there were no hidden pockets. It was just a typical witch's hat. Granny always wore it when she went into the village,  but in the forest she just wore a leather hood.
She tried to recall the bits of lessons that Granny grudgingly doled out. It isn't what you know, it's what other people don't know. Magic can be something right in the wrong place, or something wrong in the right place. It can be—
Granny always wore it to the village. And the big black cloak, which certainly wasn't magical, because for most of the winter it had been a goat blanket and Granny washed it in the spring.
Esk began to feel the shape of the answer and she didn't like it much. It was like a lot of Granny's answers. Just a word trick. She just said things you knew all the time, but in a different way so they sounded important.
"I think I know," she said at last.
"Out with it, then."
"It's in sort of two parts."
"It's a witch's hat because you wear it. But you're a witch because you
wear the hat. Um."
"So -"prompted Granny.
"So people see you coming in the hat and the cloak and they know you're a
witch and that's why your magic works?" said Esk.
"That's right," said Granny. "It's called headology." She tapped her silver
hair, which was drawn into a tight bun that could crack rocks.
"But it's not real!" Esk protested. "That's not magic, it's it's -"
"Listen," said Granny, "If you give someone a bottle of red jollop for their wind it may work, right, but if you want it to work for sure then you let their mind make it work for them. Tell 'em it's moonbeams bottled in fairy wine or something. Mumble over it a bit. It's the same with cursing."
"Cursing?" said Esk, weakly.
"Aye, cursing, my girl, and no need to look so shocked! You'll curse, when the need comes.
When you're alone, and there's no help to hand, and -"She hesitated and, uncomfortably aware of Esk's questioning eyes, finished lamely: "- and people aren't showing respect. Make it loud, make it complicated, make it long, and make it up if you have to, but it'll work all right. Next day, when they hit their thumb or they fall off a ladder or their dog drops dead, they'll remember you. They'll behave better next time."
"But it still doesn't seem like magic," said Esk, scuffing the dust with her feet.
"I saved a man's life once," said Granny. "Special medicine, twice a day. Boiled water with a bit of berry juice in it. Told him I'd bought it from the dwarves. That's the biggest part of doct'rin, really. Most people'll get over most things if they put their minds to it, you just have to give them an interest."
She patted Esk's hand as nicely as possible. "You're a bit young for this," she said, "but as you grow older you'll find most people don't set foot outside their own heads much. You too," she added gnomically.
"I don't understand."
"I'd be very surprised if you did." said Granny.

The Green Mile by Stephen King

I got down on my knees with John and thought there was a funny turnaround brewing here: after all the prisoners I'd had to help up so they could finish the journey, this time I was the one who was apt to need a hand. That's the way it felt, anyway.
"What should we pray for, boss?" John asked.
"Strength," I said without even thinking. I closed my eyes and said, "Lord God of 'Hosts, please help us finish what we've started, and please welcome this man, John Coffey - like the drink but not spelled the same - into heaven and give him peace. Please help us to see him off the way he deserves and let nothing go wrong. Amen." I opened my eyes and looked at Dean and Harry. Both of them looked a little better. Probably it was having a few moments to catch their breath. I doubt it was my praying.
I started to get up, and John caught my arm. He gave me a look that was both timid and hopeful. "I 'member a prayer someone taught me when I 'us little", he said. "At least I think I do. Can I say it?"
"You go right on and do her", Dean said. "Lots of time yet, John ."
John closed his eyes and frowned with concentration. I expected now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep, or maybe a garbled version of the Lord's prayer, but I got neither; I had never heard what he came out with before, and have never heard it again, not that either the sentiments or expressions were particularly unusual.
Holding his hands up in front of his closed eyes, John Coffey said: "Baby Jesus, meek and mild, pray for me, an orphan child. Be my strength, be my friend, be with me until the end. Amen."

Cakes and ale:
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

“There!” cried Mr. Wonka, dancing up and down and pointing his gold-topped cane at the great brown river. “It's all chocolate! Every drop of that river is hot melted chocolate of the finest quality. The very finest quality. There's enough chocolate in there to fill every bathtub in the entire country! And all the swimming pools as well! Isn't it terrific? And just look at my pipes! They suck up the chocolate and carry it away to all the other rooms in the factory where it is needed! Thousands of gallons an hour, my dear children! Thousands and thousands of gallons!”
The children and their parents were too flabbergasted to speak. They were staggered. They were dumbfounded. They were bewildered and dazzled. They were completely bowled over by the hugeness of the whole thing. They simply stood and stared.
“The waterfall is most important!” Mr. Wonka went on. “It mixes the chocolate! It churns it up! It pounds it and beats it! It makes it light and frothy! No other factory in the world mixes its chocolate by waterfall! But it's the only way to do it properly! The only way! And do you like my trees?” he cried, pointing with his stick. “And my lovely bushes? Don't you think they look pretty? I told you I hated ugliness! And of course they are all eatable! All made of something different and delicious! And do you like my meadows? Do you like my grass and my buttercups? The grass you are standing on, my dear little ones, is made of a new kind of soft, minty sugar that I've just invented! I call it swudge! Try a blade! Please do! It's delectable!”
Automatically, everybody bent down and picked one blade of grass — everybody, that is, except Augustus Gloop, who took a big handful.
And Violet Beauregarde, before tasting her blade of grass, took the piece of world-record-breaking chewing-gum out of her mouth and stuck it carefully behind her ear.
“Isn't it wonderful!” whispered Charlie. “Hasn't it got a wonderful taste, Grandpa?”
“I could eat the whole field!” said Grandpa Joe, grinning with delight. “I could go around on all fours like a cow and eat every blade of grass in the field!”
“Try a buttercup!” cried Mr. Wonka. “They're even nicer!”

Farewell to the Elements and Lord and Lady:
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

To the glistening eastern sea, I give you Queen Lucy the Valiant. To the great western woods, King Edmund the Just. To the radiant southern sun, Queen Susan the Gentle. And to the clear northern skies, I give you King Peter the Magnificent. Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen of Narnia. May your wisdom grace us until the stars rain down from the heavens.

The Princess Bride by William Goldman

That's Morgenstern's ending, a 'Lady or the Tiger?'-type effect (this was before 'The Lady or the Tiger?,' remember). Now, he was a satirist, so he left it that way, and my father was, I guess I realized too late, a romantic, so he ended it another way.
Well, I'm an abridger, so I'm entitled to a few ideas of my own. Did they make it? Was the pirate ship there? You can answer it for yourself, but, for me, I say yes it was. And yes, they got away. And got their strength back and had lots of adventures and more than their share of laughs. But that doesn't mean I think they had a happy ending either. Because, in my opinion anyway, they squabbled a lot, and Buttercup lost her looks eventually, and one day Fezzik lost a fight and some hot-shot kid whipped Inigo with a sword and Westley was never able to really sleep sound because of Humperdinck maybe being on the trail.
I'm not trying to make this a downer, understand. I mean, I really do think that love is the best thing in the world, except for cough drops. But I also have to say, for the umpty-umpth time, that life isn't fair. It's just fairer than death, that's all.

The End