Pagan Parables

Poke Along Pumpkin
by Charlotte Bennardo, Art by Lindsey Becker 

“Hello! You over there,” said one pumpkin to another as they ripened in the warm sun, “What do I look like? What name would fit me?”

“Hmmmm, I think you are the tallest pumpkin in the field. How about Longfellow?”

“I like it! And you already have a thick and sturdy shell. You can be Shelley.”

One pumpkin began rolling round, “What about me, what about me?” he called.

“You’re Wild!” laughed Shelley and Longfellow.

All day the pumpkins named each other except one quiet little pumpkin, still very green and quite small.

“What kind of a name can we give you, little pumpkin?” asked Longfellow. “What are you waiting for, November?”

The field rippled with laughter.

“I’ll grow when I’m ready, and not before,” said the little pumpkin.

“You’re so pokey and slow to grow,” teased Shelley. “That’s it!” he cried, “We’ll call you Poke Along!”

Giggles and snorts floated over the patch.

“Pokey pumpkin! Poke Along!” cried some crows wandering through the fields looking for bugs and spilled seeds.

Poke Along didn’t care; he wasn’t ready and that was that. He snuggled into his vines and the warm earth to snooze.

October arrived. All the pumpkins rushed to grow the last little bit bigger and rounder and taller so that people would pick them for their Jack-O-Lanterns. No pumpkin wanted to be left in the fields. Poke Along didn’t seem to be bothered that he was behind in his growing and that people passed him by without a glance.

“What’s so good about being a Jack-O-Lantern?” he asked Donne, who’d finished growing a week ago and was hiding a small mushy spot. He needed to be picked very soon.

“Don’t you want to light up the Halloween night?”

“No,” said Poke Along. “People just cut holes in your beautiful shell, leave you outside to wither and rot, then throw away your seeds. I want to be helpful.”

Donne looked confused. “What can a pumpkin do, other than be a Jack-O-Lantern?”

“Lots of things!” cried Poke Along. “My shell can give insects food before they go underground for winter. Some of my seeds can feed birds today, and some can be stored for later by squirrels and chipmunks. My pulp can feed deer and small animals. I can help so many others, instead of just looking silly or scary for one night."

“I would rather be a Jack-O-Lantern,” said Donne.

A week before Halloween, more people arrived and picked all the pumpkins in the field except Poke Along. He was still a little green. Halloween came and went. Poke Along was alone. Even Farmer forgot about him. November grew colder and colder until one night, there was a frost. Poke Along shivered. There were no other pumpkins to cuddle with. His leaves started to wither. Maybe I should have finished growing sooner, he thought tearfully. Maybe being a Jack-O-Lantern was better than rotting alone in the field, forgotten and useless.

“You’ve missed Halloween,” squawked a shiny black crow scrounging for a stray worm for breakfast one day. “Too bad, too, since you look like such a nice pumpkin.”

Poke Along sighed sadly. “Now I’m finally finished and no one will ever know. I really am a poke along pumpkin.” He would be left in the field to rot, then soon be covered by winter snow. The crow flapped away as Farmer and his wife came tramping through the field. Poke Along strained his vines to hear what they said.

“I tell you, there has to be one!” cried Farmer’s wife. “All I need is one!”

Farmer shook his head. “It’s too late. Nothing’s left in late November.”

“Look!” She pointed at Poke Along. “I told you there would be one pumpkin left!" She ran and picked up Poke Along, now heavy, round and very orange. Gently, she wiped the dirt off, then handed him to Farmer to carry back. In the warm kitchen he was washed and set on the table. “Oh, you are a special pumpkin!” she told him. “You’ll make the best pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner. Your shell will be a special treat for our pigs and your seeds will fill my bird and squirrel feeders.”

“Don’t forget to save some seeds for me to plant for next year, dear,” said Farmer. “Imagine, perfect pumpkins in November! Never saw anything like him. I’m glad he took his time to finish growing.”

Moral: Everything comes in its own time. Don't rush--when the time is "ripe" you'll be ready!

Rufus and the Big White Lumps
by Katharine Clark, Illustrated by Robin Ator

Rufus, the Shih Tzu puppy, couldn't believe his eyes!

 Looking out the glass deck door, he saw a sea of white where his back yard used to be. Overnight, someone had laid down a thick, fluffy blanket of--well, STUFF--all over everything. He stood up with his paws against the cold pane, trying to get a glimpse of the neighbor’s yard before his breath steamed up the glass. Yep, the same thing had happened to them over there. Did Mommy know?

“Morning, Rufus. How do you like your first snow?” Mommy asked as she sipped her tea and joined him at the door. Rufus turned and wagged his tail, then sat and tilted his head. His human Mommy knew that meant that he didn’t understand.

“Snow--that stuff out there. It’s dry and wet, soft and heavy, really cold, and not too deep for you to go enjoy. Do you want to play outside?”

Rufus barked and danced in a circle. Outside was fun, and this “snow” business sounded intriguing!

“OK, then.” Mommy pulled on her coat, and boots, and gloves. “Only, be careful. This storm sneaked up on us, so there are still things in the yard that should have been moved, like the last pile of leaves. Oh! And the picnic bench…and I think I see a snow drift. Just mind where you play.”

With that, she opened the door and walked out onto the deck, with Rufus bounding out behind her. He came to a jolting stop. Wait a minute, his feet were gone-- sunk into the white “snow” stuff, and his pads were cold. He lifted a front paw and bright, icy crystals flew away from his fur. Interesting!

He turned around and watched a circle grove form in his wake. Hey, this was great! What would happen if he ran through the stuff, or dug under it? Would it have a smell? Does it taste good? Expectantly, he stared up at Mommy.

“OK--go ahead. Mind the steps and remember what I said about--”

But Rufus was already on the move. A quick tumble down the stairs produced a slight avalanche and a cool dusting of snow on his belly. Undeterred, he raced through the yard, scratching, rolling, and checking for the scent of wild animals and small birds. It was then that he spied the first lump. What was under there? Could it be food, toys, someone trying to hide? If so, he would surprise them good! With a mighty leap, he landed on the top of the lump … and struck something hard. A few quick digs exposed red wood.

“That,” Mommy said, watching from the deck, “is the picnic bench.” Rufus barked to let her know he heard her. From his vantage point on the bench, he saw another bulge nearby. What was that? Taking a flying leap to the ground, he bounced over to the second lump and sprung to the top. This time, his landing was soft and mushy. “That would be the leaf pile,” Mommy called. “Just be careful, you!”

Rufus wagged his tail, but his attention was caught by the biggest lump yet, back by the fence and the bare maple tree. He couldn’t begin to imagine what was buried beneath, but he was determined to find out! Without a second thought, he propelled himself full speed towards the fence, threw himself into the air and dove paws first into the hill of white, and landed on. …NOTHING!

Rufus was shocked! His little feet started paddling, but he kept sinking into whiteness. It was in his nose! It was in his eyes! It was caving in on him from above! He was in a cocoon of wet and cold, and dropping slowly downward. He whimpered and shivered and then--suddenly--two wooly gloves reached down, grabbing him by the belly and pulling him back into the light. Next thing he knew he was chilled, covered in a hundred tiny ice balls, but cradled safely in Mommy’s arms.

“And that, little man, is a snow drift.” 

An hour later, after being warmed by a hair dryer, toweled off, and nestled in his fleecy blanket with his stuffed bunny, he heaved a relaxed sigh. As he closed his eyes, he knew the only “drifting” he would be doing for a while was off to sleep.

Moral: Dabbling with Magic is a lot like lumps in the snow. Know what you’re getting into before you jump in with all paws!

Rufus and the Magic Box
by Katharine Clark, Illustrated by Robin Ator

Rufus, the Shih Tzu puppy, was bored. It was a sun-shiney day out, but no one had time to go into the yard to play. Auntie Char-Char was at the grocery store, Auntie Claude was doing the laundry, cousin Keith was working on his computer, and Mommy was busy cleaning and dusting the ritual room. 

He squeaked a few purple snakes and flung a couple of rubber kitties in the air, but nobody came to tug the other end or play catch. He tried digging under the bedroom rug and rolling around underneath, but Mommy just shooed him away, saying he was underfoot. No, there was nothing to do, and the minutes felt like hours. With a heavy sigh, he shuffled off, with head and tail drooping low, to go sleep on his meditation mat in the corner of the ritual area. At least, he figured, he’d be in the same room as Mommy and she might spare a moment to pat his belly or scratch him under his chin. However, as he circled round, kneaded the cotton filled mat into a soft ball, and lay down with a sigh, Mommy didn’t even seem to notice. She was busy with her head stuck in the herb cabinet, dusting and sorting and rearranging the dark amber bottles. 

 At one point, she reached behind her, without turning, and deposited on the floor the prettiest box Rufus had ever seen. It was long and slender, made of wood, and painted in beautiful jewel tones. It seemed to shimmer in the afternoon light. There were pictures on the sides of winged goddesses and green men, and on the top of the lid, a pentagram in gold. Rufus had never seen this before. From his place in the corner, an aroma seemed to reach out across the room and tease his now twitching nose. What WAS that scent? Was it something special? Was this magic box hiding some special treat? Mommy usually left him little gifts and goodies on the floor… was this a little something for him?

As quietly as he could, Rufus got up and approached the box. The closer he got, the better it smelled! Ever so carefully, he took his paw and moved the colorful lid open on its brass hinges. Inside was a variety of small, cone shaped objects. Each one had a different smell, some spicy, some flowery, some like vanilla and honey too! These HAD to be treats for him!

With hungry speed, he quickly gobbled them up, barely tasting the first few bites. The treats didn’t really taste the way they smelled, but neither did many of the treats made for puppies. In less than two minutes he finished them all, and went to lie back down on his mat with a full and contented stomach.

But that’s not quite how the afternoon went.

About ten minutes later, around the time Rufus started to feel a gurgling and a churning in his tummy, Mommy turned around and noticed the empty incense box. She was up on her feet in alarm at about the same time Rufus felt a terrible need to gag, and all those half chewed treats of multiple colors ended up in a rainbow puddle on the ritual room floor.

He felt horrible and, what was worse, the look on Mommy’s face made him cower in fear of being scolded. All he wanted was a little attention, but not like this! Now he was sick, and miserable, and a little afraid. Then, Mommy’s eyes got a softer look, and a sad smile spread across her lips. She carefully placed the now empty box for the magical incense on the altar and fetched a clean rag from her dusting bag. She gently wiped Rufus’ whiskers and nose before cleaning up the mess on the floor.

She sat down crossed legged next to Rufus on his mat, and gently pulled him into her lap.

“That was both our faults,” she soothed, rubbing his ears and stroking the hair out of his eyes. “I should have been more careful, and you should have been less… well… careless!”

Rufus nestled into her arms, and burped.

In memory of Rufus Clark 
Safe journey across the Rainbow Bridge, little friend!

Moral: Life is like magic, and not everything is as it appears. Be careful what you taste and ingest in haste, lest you be doomed to taste it again!

A Fairy... Tail?
by Katharine Clark, Illustrated by Robin Ator

There once was a fine young witch, who decided to use some spell-craft to aid her with her studies. Oh, she wasn't a bad student. She had every intention of reading her assignments and putting in some extra effort... but it never seemed the right time. It was hard to study when she was sleepy, or tired after school. Now finals were looming, and she knew she would need a little extra mental boost if she was going to do well. 

She gathered all her needed ritual supplies, and found a quiet place in the nearby woods where she could focus on the spell and concentrate undisturbed. She realized this would take as much effort as her actual studies, but knew it would be worth it in the long run. The spell was to help increase her energy so she COULD do the work, and do it well. 

She found a comfortable place among the pine needles to sit and spread out her tools. She lit her candle and was just starting to ground out, when a wizened old fairy flew down from the nearest tree and landed on her book of shadows. He had a long nose, big feet, and very black tattered wings. The witch was slightly taken aback until he spoke. 

“A young witchlet here I see. 
Why'd ya stop to visit me?” 

“I didn't come here to visit anyone,” she answered. “I have work to do. Alone.” 

“To seek my help then you must rhyme, or else don't try to waste my time,” replied the fairy, in a slightly foul temper. 

The witch sighed. She didn't wish to upset any resident of the “other world,” and she knew if she didn't play along, the fairy might never leave her alone. 

“I'm sorry sir, I meant to say, 
but I don't need your help today. 
A 'study wish spell' I must do, 
and for that I need me, not you.” 

“Don't be so hasty, little hon, 
at wish spells I am number one. 
And since I'm standing right at hand, 
I'll cut work short. Yep, I'm your man.” 

The witch thought about this, but only for a moment. If the fairy was willing to handle the wish spell, why should she sit here being pricked by pines and bit by bugs, chanting into the evening? This could be over, her wish fulfilled, and she could be back at home taking a little nap before hitting the books. 

“Well, if you're willing... able, too... just tell me what I have to do?” 

The fairy smiled a sly little smile, and fluttered closer on his torn little wings. 

“You see the candle you lit there? 
Well, pick it up; give it a stare, 
then blow it out and make your wish. 
Ha! Just like shooting barreled fish!” 

The young witch picked up the candle, looked at it, and then blew on the flame. It didn't even waver. 

The fairy giggled. “You call that a blow? Not enough, you know!” 

The witch shot him an annoyed look before turning back to the candle, glaring at it, and blowing at it again and again until saliva was flying and she slumped, breathless. 

The fairy fluttered around her head. 

“Don't be flustered. Don't be cowed. 
And – yeah – that spitting? Not allowed.” 

The young witch slammed her fist into the dirt, grabbed at the candle one last time, looked at it with growing hate and then blew at it as hard and as many times as she could...but the flame remained steady. 

“Huff and puff, still not enough!” chortled the fairy. 

That was it. The young witch sighed, then placed the candle behind her. She didn't see that her sigh had finally extinguished the flame. Turning to the fairy with defeat she said, 

“I wish to stop, and I'm an ass. 
I should have paid more heed to class. 
Instead of playing 'round with you, 
I should have done the work that's due.” 

But then, her voice turned from a cadence of human words to a strange braying. Her nose grew long and hairy, and her hands and feet grew hooves. Within moments, her ears were long and pointy and her bottom sprouted a long, coarse tail. 

Where the witch once stood, a dark grey mule brayed in fear. As she ran off into the woods, the fairy called after her. 

“I thought you were an ass before, 
when school work you chose to ignore. 
But now, a proper ass you be 
with hairy hide and knobbly knee. 
Your best intentions went astray, 
when you chose “wish” not “work” today. 
Next time think twice when fairy folk 
Into your business pry and poke. 
We're not all sweet and pure and slick.
These ain't black wings for nothin' chick!” 

Moral: In magic, as in life, if a short cut seems too good to be true, it probably is. Magic requires our full work and attention. Nothing less should do!

Backyard Barnyard
by Natalie Zaman, Illustrated by Robin Ator

The following tale is based on true events...

"Let’s get chickens!” Dad crowed over breakfast one morning.

Mom frowned at Alice, purring loudly on a pile of freshly folded sheets. "We already have a cat,” she said.

“And Fuzz,” I reminded her about the rabbit. 

“And that crow,” Mom grumbled. 

“Jeckyll! Jeckyll!” squawked the silky black bird perched on the window sill. 

“Chickens are a good idea,” Dad insisted, “we’ll have eggs every day!” 

I bobbed my head up and down, but Mom only plucked Alice off the laundry pile and glared at Dad. “We don’t live on a farm.” 

“They’ll eat the beetles off your roses,” he coaxed. 

“We’ll have a barnyard in the backyard,” Mom sighed. She looked at Dad and then at me. “I want nothing to do with those chickens.” 

That afternoon Dad and Beck brought Suzy and Polly home. 

“Lunch! Lunch!” Jeckyll cackled at Suzy as she strolled under Fuzz’s hutch. 

“Quiet bird-brain!” I scolded. “Don’t give Mom any ideas!” 

The chickens strutted around the yard eating bugs and scratching up weeds. And there were plenty of eggs. 

“Maybe it’s time to hatch some baby chicks,” Dad mused one morning between mouthfuls of omelet. 

Mom said nothing, but when Dad brought home a box of hatching eggs for the hens to sit on, she threw up her hands and stalked off muttering something about chicken nuggets under her breath. I put the eggs in the coop Dad and I built next to the rabbit hutch. Polly plopped herself on top of them. So while Suzy clucked and scratched in the yard, Polly sat…

and sat... 

and sat... 

She sat for nearly three weeks when… Crack! A chick pecked its way out of its shell. 

Another crack, another chick.

"Babies! Babies!” Jeckyll trilled. 

Eight baby chicks!

Puff and Muff, Stinky, Inky and Winky, Speckle, Egbert and Peeper. They lived in a little cardboard nursery, a chirping mass of fuzz and beaks and button eyes. 

They didn’t stay cute for long. In two weeks, they doubled in size. In another week, they grew scrawny necks and scaly feet. Cheep-cheep-cheep turned into brock-brock-brock. Downy fluff disappeared and feathers sprouted in the oddest places. In no time at all, they were the same size as Suzy and Polly. And egg production exploded. 

I found eggs in Fuzz’s hutch. 

And Alice’s cat bed. 

And the garage. 

And the middle of the road. 

Bob across the street found one in his mailbox. Mrs. Flopbottom, two doors down, found one on the seat of her car—after she sat on it. There was even an egg in Fang’s dog house. Fang belonged to my friend Gina who lived at the end of the block. 

“You girls are going have problems if you keep laying eggs everywhere,” I warned the flock when I rounded them up for the night. 

Sometimes, I hate being right. 

The next afternoon we all heard an angry-sounding knock on the door. It was Mrs. Flopbottom, holding a statue in her pudgy hands.

“Look what your pets did to my gnome!” she snorted. It had sticky yellow splotches on its nose and hat. “This neighborhood is no place for chickens!” 

Dad apologized to Mrs. Flopbottom and gave her a dozen eggs. Then he passed the statue to me. "Why don't you give this little guy a good scrub.” 

I cleaned Mrs. Flopbottom's gnome. Then I scoured chicken spots off the Smith’s diving board and retrieved two eggs from the bottom of their pool. I'd just finished washing Bob’s front steps when a shriek echoed from up the block. 

“Fang! NO!!!” Gina jumped and flapped her arms. 

Stinky clucked like a mad chicken, running for her life with Fang right on her tail feathers. 

“HELP!” I shouted, leaping up as Gina raced after Fang. Heads popped out of doors and windows to see what was happening. The Smiths jumped out of their pool and sloshed into the street. Bob dashed down his front steps to join the race, knocking over my bucket of chicken-spot-scrubbing suds. Soon everyone was chasing Fang and Stinky--into Gina’s yard, through the bushes and down the street. 

“Stop! Stop!” crowed Jeckyll, joining in the chase, but flapping at a safe distance overhead. Beck pushed Fang aside and snatched up Stinky. Gina grabbed Fang’s collar. Dad stood cheering on the porch with Mom behind him, one hand covering her eyes. 

“Mom!” I panted, staggering up the steps with Stinky under my arm. “Dad!” I took a deep breath and flopped onto the top step. “I think we have too many chickens.” 

Mom raised an eyebrow while Dad put his hands in his pockets, looked away and whistled. 

“Please,” I begged, “take some of them back to the farm.” 

“But you wanted chickens,” Mom said. 

Mrs. Flopbottom tapped her foot. Everyone stared at Dad. Suddenly, he brightened. 

“You’re right,” he smiled. “There are too many chickens.” 

I helped him crate them up—all except Suzy and Polly—and put them in the car. Then Dad took them back to the farm. 

“Who’s that?” Mom said, gaping into the bearded face that stared out at her from the back seat of the car when he got home. 

“Isn’t she great?” Dad bleated with a wink. “And we won’t need a lawn mower any more!” 

He really knew how to get Mom’s goat. 

Moral: In magic as in life, don't think excess is the answer. Those who think "more" means "better" could end up the biggest CLUCK of all!

A Lesson From The Birds
by by Rachael McCall, Photos by Dominic Alves via Flickr Creative Commons

Origami birds are easy to make. 
Crow pecked through a garbage can one summer day. He found an old slice of bread for lunch.

Eagle soared above. He caught a fish. When Eagle spotted Crow, he landed beside him while he ate.

Eagle saw what Crow had for lunch and laughed.

“What are you laughing at?” asked Crow.

“I am laughing at you,” said Eagle. “All you have for lunch is a piece of bread. I have a fine fish.”

“It's better than nothing.”

“You have to settle for that,” said Eagle. “But I get the very best.”

Crow was offended. Eagle had hurt his feelings.

“Go away,” he told Eagle. “I wish not to speak to you.”

Eagle flew off. Crow felt badly for sending Eagle away, but he was still upset about what his friend had said to him.

These were used to make Peace Chains to help Tsunami victims in Japan. 

“I will go see Wise Owl,” Crow said to himself. “He will know what I can do about Eagle.”

Wise Owl told Crow he needed to forgive Eagle. Crow didn't think he needed to forgive. He thought Eagle needed to apologize. It was starting to get dark, so Crow flew home unhappy.

Eagle didn't understand why Crow sent him away. He went to Wise Owl to find out what he would say.

Wise Owl told Eagle that he needed to apologize for what he had said. Eagle didn't think he needed to apologize, and he too flew home unhappy.

Wise Owl hopped into the hole in his tree and fell asleep.

During the night a huge storm came. The tree shook. Lightning flashed and thunder bolted. The rain poured down. By morning, the ground was still wet. Trees had fallen over.

Crow came out to get breakfast, and started for his favorite trash can. On the way there, he saw that Wise Owl's tree had fallen over in the storm.

Japanese legends say that strings of 1000 cranes will bring good luck. 
“Wise Owl!” shouted Crow.

Wise Owl didn't answer. Crow saw that Wise Owl's hole was against the ground so he couldn't get out.

Eagle was soaring in the sky above the river. Crow did not want to talk to Eagle, but Wise Owl needed help. Crow decided he had better ask Eagle to come anyway.

When Eagle heard Wise Owl was in danger, he forgot he was mad at Crow.

Together they dug at the ground underneath Wise Owl's tree. Once there was enough room, Wise Owl came out. He was shocked to see Eagle and Crow.

“Well, this is a surprise,” said Wise Owl. “I didn't think you two would become friends so quickly.”

Eagle and the Crow looked at each other. They smiled.

“I am sorry for being rude to you,” said Eagle to Crow.

“I forgive you,” said Crow.

“Since you two have saved my life, I think we should all celebrate,” Wise Owl suggested.

Birds from miles around were invited to the feast. All had a wonderful time, especially Eagle and Crow, who became best friends from that day forward.

Moral: Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Forgive--and if you're the one who made the mistake, apologize. Don't stay angry--that doesn't help anyone, including you!

Make your own origami crow, eagle, owl and other birds by visiting the Origami Resource Center! Make enough birds and you can create an Affirmation Chain by stringing them together like the Peace Chains in the pictures above. Remember that different birds symbolize different qualities--what good things do you want to grow in yourself?

Meditating Molly
by Katharine Clark, Illustrated by Robin Ator

Molly was very pleased with her progress. For the past six months, ever since she turned twelve, her mom and dad had been instructing her, in earnest, in the Craft of the Wise. She had always loved their seasonal rituals, but now she was learning the ways of spell-crafting, elemental work, wort cunning, and much, much more. She enjoyed and embraced all this new knowledge with gusto, but the thing she loved the most was meditation.

When she sat in her quiet room, wind chimes gently ringing in the breeze outside her open window, she could close her eyes and enter another realm. Not only could she calm and center herself, but snipets and pieces of her past lives started to pass before her mind like brief scenes of a hazy movie. The more she meditated and relaxed, the more fragments of her other lives came to her--places, faces, even voices--stronger and clearer than before. It was fascinating.

In fact, one particular evening it was so fascinating that she completely ignored Hazel, the family lab, when she brought Molly her food dish and whined in hunger. It was so fascinating that she forgot that it was her turn to take out the garbage bag for the morning pick-up.

While Molly sat crossed-legged on the bedroom floor, watching her former self dance among the standing stones of Avery, her homework and study materials for tomorrow’s test sat in her backpack, untouched. Also untouched was her supper, stone cold on the kitchen table downstairs. She had been enjoying a memory of her life as a gondolier in Venice when her mom finally gave up calling her to come and eat.

It wasn’t until her tummy started to cramp with emptiness that Molly reluctantly stretched her arms and legs and decided to go to the kitchen. Dreamily, she moseyed down the stairs, past the grandfather clock in the hall (did its hands really point to 10 o’clock?) and into the kitchen, where she came face to face with Mom.

Mom did not look happy. She stood with her arms crossed, resting her back against the kitchen sink. On the floor at her feet was the garbage bag Molly should have taken out. It was ripped to shreds and strewn around by Hazel, in a frantic search for food. The empty dog dish sat on the kitchen counter, next to a plate of congealed mashed potatoes and gravy, and slowly graying meat.

“Hi, Mom” Molly said, innocently. “Is there anything to eat? I need something that’s fast because I still have to go study for tomorrow. I was meditating on past lives…”

“First of all” Mom said slowly, but deliberately, “You will feed Hazel her food. Next, you will clean up this mess, put the garbage and your supper in a new bag, and take it to the curb. Then, once you swipe the floor and wash your dish, you may go to bed.”

“But, Mom!” Molly exclaimed. “I’m hungry and I have a TEST tomorrow!”

“But nothing” Mom replied. “Molly, meditating and recalling past lives are fine, but you have a present life as well, and responsibilities here and now. What good are past lives if you aren’t living THIS one? Try meditating on that for a while. Now, see to your chores and then off to bed.”

It was a very hungry Molly the next morning, cramming for her exam on the bus to school.

“Life was easier as a gondolier” she sighed to herself.

Moral: All things, even the magical arts, need to be done in moderation. We should strive to keep a balance between this world and the spiritual. After all, this is the life you may remember next time!

Herbie and the Spite Corn
by Katharine Clark, Illustrated by Robin Ator

Herbie and Joey were good friends and next-door neighbors who shared many of the same interests. They both liked to work with tools, they both liked back yard cookouts, and they both were very VERY serious about keeping nice lawns.

Joey and Herbie were very different people, however. Herbie always made sure that the tools he borrowed were returned in the same, if not better, shape. Since their back yards touched and looked like one sea of grass, he also made sure that he did nothing to spoil the look of Joey’s lovely lawn. On the other hand, Joey returned what he borrowed, but not too quickly and not always in the same shape. He kept his lawn beautiful by piling all the yard sticks, leaves, pine cones and debris in the far corner of his land—the part near the front of Herbie’s house! 

Herbie knew Joey wasn’t a mean person, just thoughtless. He put up with the twigs and leaves, the missing and bent tools until, one day, Herbie’s favorite mower showed up in his shed, broken, muddy and out of gas. That was it! Herbie had enough! He knew he should let Karma take care of teaching Joey a lesson about caring and sharing, but he decided to take matters into his own hands. Joey needed to be punished, but how? He thought and he thought, and then he hit on the perfect plan. Nothing mattered more to Joey than the pristine look of his velvet green lawn, where every blade was the same height and no weed would dare trespass. If he could only make the yard look ugly without harming the innocent grass… Aha! He knew exactly what to do.

The next day, all along the boundary between his and Joey’s yard, Herbie planted a row of corn. At first, all you could see was a ridge of brown earth, but with watering, lots of energy, and warm spring days, the plants soon broke ground. It wasn’t long before a line of tall, spindly, leafy corn stalks were bobbing and waving in the gentle wind, trailing the silk of growing corncobs in their wake. Herbie called it “spite corn” and grinned sheepishly. Joey called it an eyesore, and asked that the corn be taken down, but Herbie refused. The summer passed. Joey held his backyard cookouts, as usual, despite the ugly corn stalks just meters away. Herbie, however, had to stop his cookouts when his friends no longer wanted to use the yard. They all had a funny feeling that the corn stalks were hissing at them, and that made them feel too uncomfortable to eat their hot dogs.

When the stalks matured, Herbie looked forward to eating some nice, fresh corn, newly picked. He boiled it with a pinch of sugar and buttered it well, but after the first bite, he spit it out and threw it away. Every ear of corn had a bitter taste, too nasty to be eaten. Even the crows wouldn’t come near it. Finally, at the end of summer, Herbie took down the dried stalks and burned them in his ritual pit as part of the Samhain fire. The smoke from the stalks was thick and oily. It clung to everyone’s robes, and filled the yard with a horrible black smoke. It even seeped into the house like an evil shadow. Herbie learned his lesson. Nothing done for spite is right.

Moral: Be careful of what you do, for it will come back to you 3 fold . And also--avoid hissing corn!

The Rule of Three
by Rich Gawel, Pentagram Necklace by Brenda Starr at Flickr Creative Commons

“Out of our way!” 


Somebody shoved Melissa from behind as she and her friend Celine were on their way to third period algebra. Melissa’s backpack swung around, and as its straps dug right into her shoulders, she stumbled and almost fell on the hallway’s hard tile floor. A moment later, Chelsea plowed right between Melissa and Celine, followed by Staci and Traci. Their identical ponytails bounced with their stride as they walked down the hall without looking back. 

“Now they’re letting devil worshippers in this school. It’s like they don’t even have standards,” Chelsea said to her companions. 

Anger boiled in Melissa’s gut, and she was about to shout something back when Celine interrupted. 

“It’s not worth it,” Celine said. 

“Aren’t you tired of it?” Melissa asked. 

“Sometimes, but you didn’t really get hurt,” Celine replied as they continued down the hall. “See? The charm must be working.” 

Melissa fingered the pentagram that hung from a silver chain around her neck. Celine had given it to her as a Winter Solstice present last year. Melissa had thought it was a satanic symbol at first, but Celine had said that was a myth, perpetuated by the movies and TV. It actually was an ancient symbol of protection. 

 “I guess,” Melissa said. “But can’t you put a spell on them? Turn Chelsea and her friends into toads?” 

“Real witchcraft doesn’t work like that,” Celine laughed. “And even if it did, you know I wouldn’t.” 

“What goes around comes around, right?” Melissa said. 

“Something like that,” Celine said. “What you do comes back to you three times over. Both the good and the bad.” 

The halls were thick with other students rushing to beat the passing bell and make it to class on time, and Melissa and Celine were just about at their algebra class. 


Someone screamed, and the buzz in the hall stopped as everyone looked toward the stairwell. Chelsea was there cupping her nose in her hand. Blood squirted through her clenched fingers. 

“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to open the door that hard!” Staci said, clutching Chelsea’s sleeve. 

“I didn’t think it would swing back and get you like that, really!” 

“Why do you have to be so clumsy?” Chelsea wheezed. 

“Let’s get her to the nurse’s office,” Traci said, leading Chelsea back toward Melissa and Celine. 

Blood dripped down Chelsea’s blouse, and she started to sob. The crowd in the hall parted to let the girls through. 

“Let me see that,” Celine said, catching Traci by the arm as they passed by. Chelsea managed a sneer through her grimacing face. 

“What do you want?” Chelsea said. 

“First, tilt your head back,” Celine said. Chelsea hesitated, but then she arched her neck. Celine pulled a dark blue scarf with a pattern of moons and stars out of her backpack. She held the scarf up to Chelsea’s nose and pinched. “This should stop the bleeding,” she said. “It also should keep the rest of your shirt clean. Hold it there until you get to the nurse’s office.” 

 Chelsea looked up at Celine with wide eyes. 

“Let’s go,” Traci prompted. She ignored Melissa and Celine as she led Chelsea away. Staci followed, still apologizing. Melissa and Celine watched them leave. 

 “Thank you,” Chelsea said over her shoulder before rounding a corner. “And sorry about before.” Celine waved, turned, and began walking. 

“Why did you do that?” Melissa asked, catching up to her. “It’s not like she deserved it. And you ruined that scarf I gave you.” 

“Chelsea needed it more than I did. Besides, I’m sure she’ll clean it and give it back. I’ve got faith in the rule of three. I mean, her nose must hurt about three times as much as your shoulder,” Celine said with a wink before walking into algebra class. 

The passing bell rang. Melissa paused before stepping inside too, caught up in her own thoughts. “What goes around comes around,” Melissa said as she took her seat. 

Moral: Plant the seeds of kindness today, no matter how difficult, and you will have a better garden tomorrow. Be patient. Karma repays our errors, but also rewards our wisdom.

by Charlotte Bennardo, Illustrated by Leeza Hernandez

“If I work in the fields with you, will you feed me?” asked the stranger. His skin was wrinkled from long days in the sun, and his hair, white with years, billowed around his shoulders in the brisk morning breeze.

“We will share what we have, friend,” replied the farmer. “Come help us.”

So the stranger and the farmer and the villagers, young and old, worked gathering the crops. It was harvest time, and the fields, trees, and hives were bursting with vegetables, nuts, berries, fruits and honey to be collected and stored for the winter.

After their midday meal, they loaded a cart with fat, ripe pumpkins. The stranger lifted a perfect one out from the pile.

“This is the finest pumpkin I have ever seen,” he mused. The villagers gathered close.

“It’s my field, I should keep it,” said the farmer.

“We gathered the pumpkins, I say we cut it up into even pieces!” shouted one woman.

“No, I loaded it onto the cart, I should get it!” argued a young man.

“I can make delicious pies!” said a mother with three children holding tightly to her skirts.

So much arguing, thought the stranger, and over one pumpkin! But it was a splendid one, perfectly round, evenly colored, and smooth skinned. And everyone wanted it. They argued and fought till the stranger could take no more. He seemed to grow when he stood tall, and the people hushed.

“For sharing your harvest with me, I will give you a gift.” Whispering soft words over the pumpkin, it floated up, up, up onto the back of a wagon. With a gust of wind and a swirl of dust, its smooth skin transformed into the face of a woman. She had eyes of morning glory blue and a mouth shaped for kind words. Her ginger skin was like a polished copper pot. The villagers gasped.

“There are two rules," said the stranger. "At sunset you can ask Jacqual one question, and everyone must agree on that question.” He looked at them sternly. “If you fight, I will know.” He bowed low and with a rush of fog and wind, disappeared.

As the golden rays of the setting sun touched the pumpkin, she breathed with life. She stared at them, smiling.

“I am Jacqual. You may ask me one question, and only one! Be swift! My life fades with the sun.” They whispered among themselves. At last, a wrinkled woman, leathered from sun and stooped with age, stepped forward.

“Jacqual, may we have some of your magic to make sure our crops grow?”

She closed her eyes. “You have the magic of rich soil, warm summers and many friends to gather the harvest.” The villagers murmured in agreement.

A little boy, with a dirty face, blurted out, “Will we see you again?” The crowd mumbled fearfully. He broke the rule! Would Jacqual be angry? Would the stranger return and bring bad luck to them?

Jacqual turned her blue eyes and sweet smile on the boy. “Plant my seeds and when my children grow, face them towards the sunset on this same night. One day, the magic will return."

The sun fell behind the faraway mountains, but its rays filled up Jacqual. All through the night, her face glowed and the people admired her.

From that time on, children gathered pumpkins, which they called Jacqual lanterns, carved faces on them, and set a candle inside, put them on their porches and in their windows, facing the sunset while they waited for the magic to return.

Don’t forget to ask your Jacqual lantern one question, and only one!

Eldon's Last Complaint
by Charlotte Bennardo

“Just look at him, primping all the time in the water bowl. You’d think he never saw his own reflection before.”

"Stop complaining, Eldon,” said Festus the donkey. “You know that turkeys get all the attention around this place. You’re a rooster. Get used to it.”

“It’s not fair! What’s so great about Otto? I do more things around here than he does.” 

Eldon continued to grumble as he strutted back to his perch on top of the fence post. He proceeded to cock-a-doodle, just to make sure Farmer didn't forget that he was on the job. Otto stuffed his beak, preened in the sun and slept away most of the day. It really wasn't right. Eldon was up every morning in the cold darkness. As the sun peeked around the hills and through the trees, Eldon crowed, telling everyone it was time to get up and start their chores. The animals, Farmer and his wife, and even Otto needed Eldon. So why did that dumb turkey get the best grain, the freshest berries and the first drink from the water bowl?

The more Eldon thought about the special attention Otto received, the madder he got. But none of the other animals wanted to listen to Eldon grouse. They were busy taking care of babies, or exercising wobbly legs, or working with Farmer. Even Francine the rat refused to discuss Otto. Everyone seemed happy to mind their own business. Eldon sulked.

Days passed. Summer blew away and Autumn snuck in with brisk weather and crisp apples--Eldon’s favorite treat. This year, though, Otto got most of the best apples. Eldon and the others, even Farmer’s favorite horse Spencer, had to wait until Otto had his fill.

By late October, Eldon was furious. He refused to talk to Otto, although these days, Otto was quite full of himself and didn't speak to anyone. That gigantic bird thought he was too good to chat with the working animals like Eldon or Kirby, the workhorse. Otto was king. He did no work, he did nothing but eat and grow. And grow. And GROW.

November arrived and the days snapped with coldness. Still, even in the dark before dawn, Eldon hopped up to his fence post, his feet freezing, to cock-a-doodle-do. He never missed a morning, but Farmer never said, ‘Thank you, Eldon,’ or, ‘You’re doing a great job, Eldon.’ Only Otto offered an opinion. He wanted Eldon to stop doodling so he could sleep late.

“Sleep late!” squawked Eldon. “You sleep half the day already! How much more can you sleep?”

“With my thick legs, plump chest and magnificent feathers, I get very tired strutting. I need my rest.”

“Some of us have to work, even if we would like to sleep in once in a while. Farmer and the animals depend on me to wake them. You’re a lazy turkey who doesn't do anything for anyone!”

Otto yawned noisily, then dozed off, leaning against Eldon’s fence post.

“COCK-A-DOODLE DOODLE DOO!” screeched Eldon as loudly as he could. 

Otto jumped, harrumphed at Eldon, and tottered off to find a quieter place in the barn. When Eldon started complaining about Otto again, the animals meandered away, shaking their heads. Only Calliope, the ancient farm cat, remained to listen. When he finished his long list of criticisms, Calliope simply shrugged.

“The grain is always better in someone else’s trough,” she purred.

“What do you mean by that?” asked Eldon crossly. He was in no mood for puzzles. And why wouldn't anyone sympathize with him? He couldn’t understand it. They were all getting cheated.

“All I’m saying is that sometimes it seems like someone else is getting more than their fair share. Wait and see if you think Otto has it so good.” 

“Wait for how long? Till Yule?” snapped Eldon. 

“Not that long,” was all the cat would say and she, too, went into the barn for a nap.

Eldon waited. The next day, Otto was still getting the best of everything. The day after was the same. Eldon shook his comb in disgust and went to work. He crowed until Farmer turned on his light, then waited for his breakfast.

One day, Otto was no where to be seen. He didn’t make a grand appearance for any of the meals or extra tidbits, not even for his daily parade around the yard. Eldon was too happy to care. With Otto gone, he could get the best food- especially since he was the first out of bed.

The days passed and Otto never reappeared. No one talked about him, so Eldon didn’t bother either. He was thrilled to be getting all the best grains and scraps. He was plump and sported grand feathers for a rooster. And since two youngsters were practicing their doodles, he didn't always have to get up early every day.

“So,” hissed Calliope, “the best grain is in your trough now. You’re getting nice and plump!”

“Yes!” piped Eldon disdainfully. “It’s my turn now.”

“So it seems. I hope it’s all you wished for.” She slunk off toward the root cellar where Hamilton the rat sometimes hid. At lunchtime, Farmer strolled by, throwing down some delectable apple chunks for Eldon.

“Coming to show his appreciation at last,” mumbled the rooster unkindly. In one lightning swoop, Farmer caught him, and holding him upside down, headed off to the woodshed. “Say hello to Otto for us!” snickered Francine.

After dinner, Calliope sat by the fire, scrubbing her face and paws most thoroughly. Eldon was a good friend, but he was a better dinner.

Moral: Wishes are powerful. Sometimes things that others have or do might look a lot better than what they really are. Be careful of what you wish for--you just might get it!

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