The Legend of the First Nightwitch
At every Great Holiday, one story is always told: the story of the first Nightwitch.
“A lone girl was wandering in the woods. She was thinking long and hard about the lifepath she was to choose, as she was facing the naming of that path on the coming morn, the morn of her thirteenth birthday. She was partial to the witching craft, as her mother and mothers before her, but she found her solitary comfort in the enveloping night and the face of Elethay upon the changing moon, and so felt unwelcome in the bright and communal worship of the daylight and the temple.
“Lost in her thoughts, she wandered far, until she came to a clearing she did not remember ever seeing in her wanderings. There, in the center, stood a tall woman, wearing a cloak of dull grey, the hood shadowing her features. The woman was singing, the song a wordless croon in honor of the full moon rising over the trees.
“The girl knew not how she stood, listening to the song, but at its end, she started, and so broke the branch at her feet, the sound unmistakably loud in the sudden silence.
“The woman turned as the sound echoed across the clearing. The girl could see two bright eyes in the depths of the shadowing hood, watching her and measuring her, to her very soul. ‘Come,’ said the woman, ‘by Elethay’s name I welcome you.’ Her voice was the music of the wind among the trees. The woman sat down on a log and invited the girl to sit with her.
“‘What brings you to this place,’ asked the woman of the girl, and the girl, without any further prompting, told the story of her dilemma. She ended the story with a plea for guidance: ‘Whatever shall I do?’
“‘Seek a new lifepath,’ the woman said, ‘a lifepath to suit your needs and your desires, a lifepath of your own making. If you would choose such a lifepath, what would that be?’
“‘I would choose a path of the witching craft, but a path of solitude is what I want, a path of silence, a path of service in the shadows of the night.’
“‘And so you should have it,’ the woman said. ‘And what would that lifepath be called?’
“‘A witch of the night, or nightwitch,’ the girl replied.
“‘And so it shall be done. Return to your home, and on the morrow, choose that as your lifepath, and all shall be well.’ With that, the girl looked, only to find the woman had disappeared, and she found herself in a familiar clearing in the woods close to her home. She ran quickly and quietly through the night to her home and her bed, thinking long and hard on her encounter.
“The next morn, in the temple of Elethay in the center of town, the priestess called the girl forth to name her lifepath. The girl said ‘I would be a Nightwitch,’ and the priestess and the people stared. Such a lifepath was unknown, and the selection of such quite unheard of: even if she were allowed this choice, none knew who would instruct her in such a calling. The priestess began to voice her questions, when a voice called out from the edge of the crowd: ‘A Nightwitch she has chosen, and a Nightwitch she shall be.’
“Through the crowded villagers strode the tall woman, her cloak billowing out behind her as she walked. ‘I will take her, and, through her, found a new lifepath. A lifepath of solitude I offer her, a lifepath of silence, a lifepath of service to the Goddess in the shadows of the night.’ As she stepped forward, the sun darkened and the sky became as night, the stars emerging from their daylight slumber in honor as the villagers murmured amongst themselves.
“‘And who are you?’ asked the priestess, not knowing who this stranger was or what her intent might be, but then she gazed into her eyes. They were not the eyes of anything mortal; they were eyes the darkest night, showing the stars in all their glory. The priestess fell to her knees, bowing before her Goddess, and the villagers, seeing this, also knelt.
“The woman, Elethay in her guise as Guardian of the Night, took the girl by her shoulder. ‘Come with me, my daughter in the witching craft. I shall teach you the lore of the Nightwitch, so that you may pass it down to your daughters of the craft and their daughters.’ Then she gathered the girl underneath her cloak of night and together they walked out of the village into the darkness. And, as they walked, the sun returned to the sky, and the two vanished from sight along with the night.”