Tonight is the dark of the moon. The sky is peppered with stars, the Milky Way like a snowstorm. The single lantern at the postern gate of the chateau is far distant. Earlier the lady and man bathed in preparation. Together, they rowed across the shallow lake into the darkness, then stepped onto the grass.
Still in silence, they walk to the well, each acutely aware of the other's body beneath the simple, light cloaks. The track through the woodland passes a small chapel, dedicated to Notre Dame de la Fontaine. She is, of course, the latest incarnation of the spirit of the well, already old when the Lady arrived here.
Generations have trodden this path, reverencing the well as a place of healing, asking favours or simply finding love. The couple follow in their ancient footsteps and walk with confidence to a clearing, pausing at the edge to pay their respects before approaching the well itself.
This setting is slightly different from the rest of the Flowing Well, for two reasons. Firstly, the solidly English setting of the Arthurian background I've used so far might not be to everyone's taste. For some, the elegant French setting of Chretien de Troyes' Graal material may work better.
More importantly, though, this isn't an exercise so much as a ritual. I wanted to use slightly different imagery to keep it separate in my own mind: it came about because someone called me on what I'd written about Courtly Love. It's not as simple as it looks: you could try it at any time, but I'd suggest that it's better to reserve it for use when you've gone as far as you're going to go, so to speak.
For that reason I'm assuming that you know enough to fill in the blanks where I haven't explained something explicitly. If you really must come to this blind, please at least read the section on basic techniques as well as my description of the Great Rite and explanation of brain activity elsewhere.
Welcome to the world of Courtly Love. Chretien de Troyes set his Graal stories in Paimpont Forest in what is today Brittany. He was writing at the time that the Courts of Love at Poitiers were at their height, and the tales reflect the realities of the period. I've taken liberties with the geography, but the well is really there, if you want to see it, and despite fences and tourist signs the area does indeed have an air of magic about it.
The two turn to face each other and for a single moment the fingertips of their right hands touch. Agonisingly, bodies yearn for kisses, caresses, but minds and spirits long trained in the Courts of Love know that there is no need. Without further communication, they unfasten their cloaks, dropping them to the ground. Naked, clad only in starlight, they stand together for a while, aware of each other but watching the stars in the still water of the well.
Then, they kneel to fill a small shallow chalice with water. For a moment the stars disappear and the two wait and watch as the ripples still and the stars return.
First, they drink, the cup passing from hand to hand although they are careful not to touch, a choreography that matches the dance of the stars. Minds thus refreshed, each now points the first two fingers of their right hands, kisses their tips and dips them into the cup, before tracing a line from throat to navel, anointing their bodies. Finally, each pours a little of the water into the other's cupped left hand, empowering spirit. A little water remains and they return this to the well with thanks, once again extinguishing the stars for a brief moment.
If you want, use the imagery you've already developed and make changes to the rest of the ritual as necessary: if you're working solo, the necessary changes should be obvious. If your room is very dark, light a candle or use another very gentle light source, but don't place it somewhere that it could become a focus. You could add incense, as a trigger, although bathing with scented oil might be more appropriate for this ritual.
All that's really necessary, though, is the focus on the chalice and the meaning it gives to the water it contains. I'd suggest using bottled or filtered water: if you already have a bowl you've used for other workings, you can use this as the well, to dip the water from and pour it back into, but think about what this does to your existing imagery. If you're working as a couple, think the triggers through carefully because you may want to use the ritual again if you're parted for some reason (contrary to popular belief, a telephone can be a powerful magical tool).
Just as they were aware of the bodies concealed by the now-discarded their cloaks, the couple look within each other to renew their awareness of the strength and beauty there. They sit together, stilling their minds and becoming aware of each other's breathing, gradually synchronising. Then they begin to repeat a line of poetry, in silence, weaving it through their breathing, again reflecting the dance of the stars, spirits conjoined as surely as bodies would, needing no more to raise the power. Then finally, with a soft sigh, they stop, silence rushing in to fill the void as they project the healing power back to the spirit of the well, part of the source of its fabled restorative power.
Sit with straight backs but as far as possible relaxed. Try to breathe through the nose and match your breathing rates unless either causes problems, but in any case focus on your partner's breathing. Pick a phrase that means something to you both, bearing in mind that this will also form part of the triggers. Consider something such as "I serve the noblest Lady in the world; Her love purifies me daily", the refrain from a troubadour song of the period: You could read poems of the period together as part of the preparation, until a single phrase springs out to you both.
You might find it useful to try the repetition and concentration phase before using it in the ritual. Obviously, thoughts will sometimes intrude - unlike the imagery building techniques I've described elsewhere, you should try to put them gently aside. Arousal is almost certain and it probably won't allow you to ignore it, so use it in the same way as the troubadours did. Fuse the thoughts of arousal with the poetry and project it onto your partner, perhaps imagining it passing between you with the gentle, regular breathing.
Work done, the pair sleep, curled comfortable on their cloaks, until the stars fade with the approaching dawn. Then they rise and dress. Now cloaked, they embrace lingeringly before untying the boat and rowing companionably together back across the lake to the postern. Since they freely gave their power to the well, they find that they, too, are healed.
Work together for as long as you can: if you've done the other exercise you should be able to manage at least twenty minutes, but don't be disappointed with less: it's not a failure. If it seems right, then at the end touch the fingers of the right hands together again. In any case, sit together quietly for a few minutes before robing. Now you can embrace gently.
Hopefully you'll now see that the working isn't as simple as the stripped-down choreography might imply. The choreography is such that you might want to try it out of doors. Fine, if you have a location that's really secure, such as a private garden that's not overlooked, but a word of warning. I've seen (and indeed taken part in) rituals by other workers where the frisson of risk generates a feeling of taboo-breaking as part of the ritual. That's not appropriate in this case: this case - it's a working that requires absolute confidence in the surroundings. Don't leave the door open.