by Kay Donnelly
ginger ale on ice
I couldn’t believe my eyes. There in front of me was a stone circle, beautifully made with selected stones from the beach. I was always curious about where the local witches held their outdoor rituals and now at last, it looked like I had found one of those places. At Halloween they do their Samhain Ritual on a small beach, surrounded by walls, in the middle of town with up to two hundred people watching them chant and dance around a cauldron. Most people think they are just acting but I know they are all practising witches. Nobody knows where all the other rituals take place.
It was a hot summer evening in late July. Not a breath of a breeze anywhere. I couldn’t stay in the house any longer. I had opened every window and door to try and create a draft but nothing stirred. In the end I figured out the only way to cool down was to go somewhere near the sea, where surely, the movement of the waves would move the lazy air into some kind of circulation.
But where to go? That was the problem. The two popular beaches near me would be invaded by desperate people all looking for the elusive breeze. Inspiration: I had a flashback to an evening, many years ago when two young lovers, looking for someplace out of the public eye, had discovered a hidden cove. It was hard to get to, but well worth the effort when we saw what was at the end of the trail. We had been driving around, keeping an eye on the coastline. After driving down several country roads, where grass took the part of the white line; where you couldn’t help wonder what would happen if you met something coming against you, we finally came to where the road ended. There was a locked gate across the road.
But we had a mission in mind and a Foxford rug and a transistor radio were not going to be wasted. We got out of the car, climbed over the gate and hoping we were heading in the right direction we ventured on to search for our elusive lovers hideaway. And we were not disappointed.
There was a vague kind of pathway worn through the grass and we took a gamble and followed it along for about a hundred yards. Suddenly it took a sharp turn and we could see a steep drop leading to a secluded, sheltered cove. It was shaped like a horseshoe between two steep headlands, not a house or a sign of life anywhere. No sound except from the waves with their hypnotic motion and the seagulls squawking, on their endless search for fish. Mission accomplished.
Now, the problem was, would I be able to find the hidden cove after all these years? I knew the turn off the main road and probably I’d be OK with one or two turns after that but what then? I took a chance and filled my imagination with the reward, cool breezes and rippling waves to cool down in.
Heading north out of town and crossing the bridge which spans the River Blacklwater, I was keeping a good look out for my first turn off. From that to the gate (which was still there) I only had to turn back once. There was no lock on the gate, but there was a notice saying that if you opened the gate, make sure you closed it again to prevent sheep from falling over the cliff.
I was glad to get out of the car. The heat, bouncing off everything around, was almost too much for me and the thought of the climb ahead and the steep narrow path to the cove was daunting.
I could vaguely hear the sound of the waves and it made me determined to keep going. Suddenly I saw the turn and the dip and before I knew it I was there. I kicked off my shoes and ran towards the water.
And I was not disappointed. The tide was on its way in. In it’s eagerness it was a little rough, just enough to make a zephyr of a breeze drift up and down along the white tips of the waves. I just immersed myself in the magic, walking along the surf, cooling down, feeling the tendrils of the hair at the back of my neck dancing recklessly to join in the fun and all the beauty and tranquility of the cove.
As I reached the far end of the beach I was looking out for the level grassy strip of ground just above sea level where the young lovers had thrown down the Foxford rug and turned on the music and escaped into a world of their own. Suddenly I saw it, right where I remembered it should be. I left the cooling sea and climbed up the slight incline of sand dunes.
It was then I saw the stones. All much the same size, making a huge circle with a small opening inviting me in. I couldn’t believe my luck . A real magic circle. My imagination ran away with me. I could see them, all thirteen of them, making their way here on the night of the full moon to celebrate their Goddess, the waves aiding their chanting as they honoured the forces of nature .
I was disturbed from my reverie by the barking of a dog and I dragged myself back to reality. There was a collie jumping in and out of the waves, and a girl getting splashed all over by his antics. She looked to be about eight or nine years old and I could see a woman higher up on the beach sitting on a large stone, keeping an eye on them.
As the girl got nearer she suddenly saw me and ran out of the water up towards the circle with the collie following behind.
“Hello there” I said. “You are having great fun with your dog”
"Oh he loves the water” she said, “Do you like our circle?”
Never, I thought to myself she is too young to be a witch, but then again….
“Your Circle?’’ I said.
“Yes, last Friday, before we broke up for our summer holidays, our teacher brought us down here for a picnic and we decided to make a big circle to sit around in, just for fun you know.”
About the author
Kay is a member of her local historical group and has had articles on local history published in her local paper and the Cork Holly Bough. She also has a story long-listed for her county library annual publication ‘FROM THE WELL" coming out in the Autumn.