Queen Of Wands – Part 3
Part 1 | Part 2
From her position at the picnic table, Tamatha watched Ellis step off the truck bed. His feet touched the earth, matting the soft mulch below. The back of the truck raised, its shocks defying gravity’s tug on the pile within.
Tamatha settled in to create a simple protection bottle, but Ellis worked all morning. Not one to carry excess baggage of his own, he loaded the bed of the truck with items Tamatha had acquired over the last two and half centuries.
As he bent to hitch the rig to the truck, his sandy hair fell over one eye. He slid his palm through, smoothing the damp locks back, and Tamatha imagined her own fingers slipping through the thick waves.
Biting her lip, she struck a match and lit a thin black candle perched in a bronze holder. The heavy patina told the object’s age, though few would guess it had been with Tamatha all its life.
She spread her silk cloth, a scarf adorned with leaves of brown, red, and green, over the table. At the corners, she placed the candle, a small stone vessel of stream water, a large amethyst carved to a point like the tower of a castle, and the long striped tail feather of an osprey.
She pulled a small glass jar and cork stopper from a box at her feet and nested them in the center of her alter. Next, a sage sprig, a bundle of dried rosemary, pink sea salt, red pepper flakes, a cinnamon stick, and a thumbtack came from jars in the box.
The sound of Ellis rolling up the awnings floated over the top of the rig. He would want to leave soon. Tamatha reached down and selected a dried leaf from the litter. Its curled edges were crisp and brittle, but she gently flattened it, scrawled a sigil with a soft charcoal pencil, and placed it with the ingredients.
When the items were in position on the alter, Tamatha searched through her tarot cards. Beside the candle, she placed the queen of wands. Beside the water, the queen of cups. Beside the crystal, the queen of coins. And beside the feather, the queen of swords. She held the sprig of sage in the flame, watching the smoke twist and curl as it floated toward the bright morning sky.
“I call upon the queens and their elements,” she whispered, dragging the sage through the air, making a counter-clockwise circle around the four corners. She hovered the sage above the items before her and lifted the bottle, letting the smoke drift inside, then placed the stem into a small crack in the candle.
As she rubbed her hands together, Tamatha closed her eyes, imagining a warm, protective glow surrounding her. Protect me, she thought.
The heat mounted, moving into her wrists and her forearms. When the magical energy reached its peak, Tamatha spread her arms out. She held them at her sides, feeling the energy move through her like a circuit. She clapped her hands together. Protect me.
The words rumbled her thoughts, sending chills over her skin. She clapped again. Protect me.
And again. Protect me.
Tamatha lifted her chin to the sky, fluttering her lids open. “Mother of fire, mother of water, mother of earth, mother of air.” Her voice came low and gravely. “Goddesses of love and light, protect me now, use all your might. Guide my step, my word, my thought. Keep me, mothers, from all that’s fraught. As above so below.”
The sound of a twig snapping in the tree drew Tamatha’s eyes upward. A flash of red whizzed from the tree as a cardinal, perhaps more crimson than most, soared toward the burning sun.
Turning back to her work, Tamatha carefully added the blessed items to the spell bottle as Ellis strode toward her.
“We’re all packed in,” he said, planting his foot on the bench opposite Tamatha. “You just about ready?”
“Almost,” she said, stuffing the stopper in place. She tipped the candle, letting the black wax seal her spell, and placed the jar at the top of the cloth. “Just one card for our journey.”
She picked up the tarot deck and shuffled. Ellis nodded, plopping onto the bench as she spread the cards across the cloth.
Tamatha closed her eyes and traced a familiar line over the cards until her fingers tingled. Touching a card with her index finger, she slid it out of line and turned it over.
“Eight of cups,” she said, her brow wrinkling as she peered at the card. A stack of eight chalices filled the foreground. A figure turned away from them, heading for the mountains with a walking rod in hand. The colors seemed more vibrant than ever. The red of the man’s cloak, more intense. The greens of the landscape, bright chartreuse.
“What does that one mean?” Ellis asked, interrupting her ruminating. He’d always quietly observed her readings, though never asked questions before.
“It usually means something is missing. The querent is called to search, despite the eight full cups before him. It’s a bit like the story of the shepherd who leaves his flock to find a single missing lamb.”
He shook his head, and his damp strands bobbed at his temples. “How do you do that?”
“Do what?” Tamatha’s eyebrow raised, and she stirred the card into the stack then mixed them together in a counter-clockwise motion, washing the energy from the deck like delicate fabric in a basin.
“Every card you draw perfectly fits the situation.”
“Ah, well —“ she said, reversing the direction of her mix, infusing positive energy. “It’s magic, my dear.”
“Magic, huh?” He released a soft chuckle as he stood and moved beside her. “I hope you’ll fill me in on that someday.” Sliding his fingers through her dark curls, he gathered her hair at the nape of her neck. “Whenever you’re ready, baby. I’ve got nothing but time.”
Tamatha smiled softly, admiring the golden tones that settled into his green eyes in the bright Fall light. He placed a kiss on her forehead and headed for the RV. She squinted after him as he checked the latches and tethers one last time. Did he know how close he came to her truth in that statement?
She wrinkled her nose, looking down at the neat stack of cards on the table. “I wonder…”
Dozens of questions swirled in her mind as she lifted the cards and began to shuffle. As fingers worked, Tamatha sifted through the thoughts, knowing the cards would not predict the future. Nor could she will the tarot to show her what she hoped to see. Quieting her chattering mind, she narrowed in on a suitable query, breathed in deeply, and sighed out her question. “What can the tarot see in Ellis that I cannot?”
Her fingers stopped, capturing the cards in her right palm. With her left hand, Tamatha split the deck in two. Flipping the top half over, she revealed a man and woman, naked in the wilderness. An angel loomed above them, his hair alight with flickering flames.
“The Lovers,” she said, gazing at the woman casting a hesitant glance at the messenger in the sky. Tamatha’s brows knitted together. “Thank you, Tarot, but after so many years, I knew as much.”
As she placed the stack face-up on the table, Tamatha’s attention shifted to the male figure on the card. He stood before a tree engulfed in fire, but his focus never wavered from his love.
A familiar twinge began to pulse in her right hand, drawing her focus. When she glanced to the facedown card — the card that was pressed against The Lovers only moments ago — a jolt surged from the cards to her skin.
“I wonder…” she whispered again, resting her fingertips on the deck. A shock of electricity shot through, and she drew them away with a yelp, stuffing them into her mouth.
“You okay?” Ellis called from the driver’s seat of the truck. She hadn’t noticed he’d started the vehicle and was waiting patiently.
“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be right there.” A deep furrow settled into her brow as she cut her eyes back to the deck. “What more have you to say, old friend?”
Tamatha released a long breath and hovered her fingers over the card. As she flipped it over, her throat clenched, catching the inhale in its grip. The same nude figures from The Lovers stood with chains around their necks. Devil horns protruded from their heads, and flaming forked tails snaked from their backsides. A demon with the horns of a ram, chicken legs, and monstrous wings wielded a fiery club behind them. The man and woman kept their eyes tightly pinched, refusing to see the beast.
“The Devil,” Tamatha said. Her eyes shot up to Ellis sitting in the truck, his head nodding gently in time with the radio.
Tamatha’s lips curled upward into a crooked smile, and she peered at the two cards lying innocently beside each other. “Trying to startle me, I see.” She flipped the cards, stirring them into the stack, cleansing the energy. “Well, Tarot, you and I both know The Lovers and The Devil can simply indicate a choice to be made.”
Wrapping the silk cloth around the deck, she placed it in the box at her feet along with the candle and other spell ingredients. All that remained on the table was her protection spell bottle, her intent sealed by the dried black wax on top. “The question is, who must make this mysterious choice?” Tamatha stuffed the small bottle deep into the pocket of her skirt. She lifted the box, perching it on her hip, and made her way to the truck.
Photo by Joshua Newton on Unsplash. Edited by Haley P. Law.