It was a normal sunny day in the Deep South, hotter than hell as usual. The squirrels were scrambling up the pine trees and the guinea hens and frizzly chickens were scratchin' up the yard. There were two roosters at one point - not sure why that was but it didn't last long. Roosters don't like to share just like some people don't like to share, I remember thinking to myself. But this one rooster - a black rooster - he was something else. He was the one we had to look out for because he sure enough would chase you around the yard if he had the chance. And the way he patrolled the yard was nothing short of a militant guard on duty at Buckingham Palace, only a bit disheveled and much louder and well, I suppose the only actual resemblance to a guard at Buckingham Palace was his absolute dedication and commitment to protecting family and territory.
Mamaw had about 2 acres of land that butted up against the bayou. The bayou can be a dangerous place but that never stopped us from exploring and playing there. In fact, at 5 years old, it just was what is was, a beautiful place full of secrets, places to hide, mysterious creatures and big cypress trees swaying in the wind with Spanish moss hanging to the forest floor.
Mississippi was where my Mamaw lived, about a mile off the Gulf Coast. We spent almost every weekend there when I was little - it was only about 2 hours from New Orleans so it wasn't a horribly long drive even for young kids like my brothers and I. We looked forward to getting there and hunting for snakes and alligators and skinks and turtles. The creepy-crawlier it was, the better. Both my mom and my pop didn't mind I was right in there with my brothers doing these things and in fact they encouraged it. When we found wasp nests and baby caiman we were applauded. If we wanted to take it home with us we were given the means. I'll always be grateful for how awesome my folks were about such things. Sometimes my mom "wanted" what we found and we gladly gave it to her. I never did know what she did with it back then. She collected everything. I do know there was more than one occasion when there was something boiling on the stove that we weren't supposed to pay any attention to.
On this particular day, we were tooling around the land behind Mamaw's house heading back to the bayou. Like so many times before, we passed up this little yellow building on the left with a blue painted door. It was off limits, but you know how that goes when you are a kid. Tell us its off limits and that just makes us want to see what's inside. This time, my brother and I dared to peek inside. Looking through a screen door we saw there was nothing remarkable inside, just a long table with chairs around it. I always thought "how strange is that?" I mean, what were all the chairs for and why the long table? Was that what made it off limits?
"Niecy!" I heard my aunt call. She was walking towards the back where I was and I just stood there like a deer caught in the headlights. My brother took off running and all I could think about was how much trouble I was in.
Turns out, I wasn't in trouble at all and this would be a pivotal day in my life - the day I was formally introduced to the Mysteries.
"It's time you see what's inside there girl, c'mon...let's go in." She opened the door and we walked into the room with the long table and chairs. She said, "So you want to know who those Spirits are that are calling you, huh? I always knew you were the one." She proceeded to pull out a single white candle and put it in the middle of the table.
I wasn't scared. I was excited. I was excited that she knew that I knew though I didn't really know what I knew at the time. I was excited that she was going to tell me. She was always workin' roots...all the women in my family did. It was like a big secret finally being revealed. A big secret that turns out had to be kept for years and years.
She then pulled out a white enamel bowl...it was a rather large one. She had me go fetch some rain water she had collected and kept in a metal bucket and she poured some of that rain water into the white enamel bowl.
She then said, "Now Niecy, go out to Mamaw's gardens and get me some lilacs and wisterias. I'ma goin' over her to get me some green herbs. Come right back with those flowers, ya hear?"
I ran off to get the flowers and ran right back. I'll never forget how fragrant they were that day. I mean they were always fragrant but for some reason that day they seemed to be more fragrant than usual.
When I got back to the yellow house, she was already there tearing up the herbs and putting them in the bowl of rain water. I gave her the flowers and she added them to the water. It was so beautiful...all those colors of greens, blues, purples and lavenders. I think from that day on my favorite color was purple.
I remember telling her how much I loved flowers and the smell of all the herbs and flowers together that day. I was then instructed to put my hands in the water and work the herbs til the water got "green like the blood of Mother Earth".
At some point she had lit the candle... I didn't notice it when she did or at least I don't remember I was so young. She proceeded to wash my head, my hands and my feet with the water. I remember her telling me "now you have life in your hands, and your Mother upon which to stand" and something about my head though I don't remember. She also said "now your Papa is always with you, never forget that, he walks with you."
She then proceeded to show me how to call on the spirits using a single candle.
There would be many more lessons like this throughout my early childhood...