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FC: Humanities Honors Inquiry Project | by: Sarah Sy and Rachel Lynch

1: Special thanks to Victor who helped with coloring

2: Chapter One It was a cold windy day. The weather forecaster on the TV had said that we were going to have a huge storm this weekend. The storm was going to bring huge gusts of wind and many feet of snow. As I walked to school, grey ominous clouds covered the sky. The calm before the storm was very evident. Due to my pondering of the weather, I arrived late; but when I walked through the door, I found it odd that the bad weather could not smother the merriment that was growing at Woodsdrow Elementary School. The children of classroom B-5 did not share the clouds’ mood at all.

4: Then I remembered why they were all happy. It was Friday ,and earlier this week, my class had voted that they were going to decorate the whole classroom. Even my teacher seemed to be a little excited when we had voted to decorate. My class, B-5, wanted their last week before Winter Vacation to be merry and Christmas themed. Ms. Reynolds and the rest of my class were adamant to decorate for the Christmas holidays; and so they made it happen. As I walked in, everyone was at work at different stations to create garlands and other decorations for our Christmas tree. My teacher was at her desk working with yellow paper, looking from her computer back then to the paper, and seemed a little confused. It was a rather funny sight. When she noticed me, she beckoned me forward, took my late pass, and told me to join a table to work with.

6: By the end of the day, we had intertwined green and red garlands hung around the classroom like streamers. Our makeshift Christmas tree stood in the back corner of the classroom, near the door. My peers used an ordinary brown pot to “plant” our tree in. The trunk of the tree was a cylinder shaped cardboard. The actual tree was a series of triangles stacked on top of one another and it was made from paper mache. The class placed green crumpled paper all over the “tree” to give it texture and the result looked more like an oddly shaped bush rather than an actual Christmas tree. Nevertheless, the others were proud of their handiwork. Then, they decorated their tree with home-made plastic ornaments they made as part of their homework the week before. Some students brought real Christmas ornaments that their parents had donated. Ms. Reynolds added the final element to the tree, which was a 3-D star made of yellow paper. The decoration of the tree seemed to be similar to a ceremony which was a rather funny site because there was very little order throughout the whole process.

8: By the end of the day, everyone was very happy with their work except for me. I thought that it was strange that everyone was talking about what they were going to do this weekend all day. Every table that I sat at was having the same discussion. As I started to walk home, I then realized that they had never once talked to me and they don't respond to me, instead opting to sit far away from me. On the entire walk home, I was trying to think about why they did that. I guess I am pretty small and thin for a fifth grader because I am the smallest kid in class. I have green eyes and dark hair that I usually spike but no matter what I do, it ends up looking like a wild mess. Most of the time, I think that my class thinks that my desk is empty because no one ever talks to me unless they have to. But even then they don’t like to talk to me. One time, one of my classmates asked why I carry around my book. He was the closest kid I probably could have described as a friend, other than that I have been avoided at all times. I really don’t understand what makes them avoid me. I don’t have baggy clothes and I dress rather normally. I was neither rich nor poor and I have one of the highest grades in class yet I am not what others would describe as a nerd. The only thing that I could really think of would be my Wiccan book that I always carry around. Other than that, there is nothing else that separates me from the rest of the people in my class.

10: On Monday, I guess Ms. Reynolds felt bad about wasting a lot of time just decorating so she wasted no time jumping into our next unit, which was about the Salem Witch Trials. “The Salem Witch Trials are a time where the townsfolk of Salem prosecuted people for being witches,” Ms. Reynolds continued, “One of the people who were accused was Ann Dolliver-” “Hey! She has the same last name as Brennon!” Sean interrupted. “Yeah! Brennon, your grandmother is a witch!” Karen accused while pointing to me. “I knew he was a freak the moment I saw that book he has!” Jared sneered at the Wiccan book that was sitting on top of my desk. “Freak!” shouted Jesse, “Freak! Freak! Freak! Freak! Freak!” joined Karen, Sean, and Jared. Soon the entire class was chanting the word “Freak!” over and over again. They were pointing and making faces at me. I couldn’t take it. I want it to stop. No one noticed me slipping down my chair to hide under the desk. Soon, I could only hear my classmates’ voices.

11: I felt something wet go down my face. In that same second, my tears came gushing down my face and I started trembling to quiet my sobbing. I hid my face in my book that I was holding to my chest as if it’s my lifeline. I didn’t even realize that I took my book with me. Ms. Reynolds was trying to control the class but I could she was failing. I could hear the faint sound of Quiet’s and Enough's that were drowned by the class’ loud jeering. Freak!Freak!Freak!Freak!Freak!Freak!Freak!Freak!Freak!FREAK!FREAK!FREAK! FREAK! “QUUUUIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEETTTTTT!” shouted the angered Ms. Reynolds. Sniff. Everyone had quieted.

12: I could hear Ms. Reynolds reprimanding the class. “I have never been so disappointed in this class,” she ranted, “the behavior that you exhibited is appalling and disgusting. You all should know better about other people’s cultures. What is the most important rule in this class?” she questioned her class. “Respect each other”, I heard the class mumbled in unison. “Exactly,” Ms. Reynolds sighed, “now back to your seats and read your Independent Reading books.” Immediately, I heard chairs being pulled out and people sitting in them. After a few moments, silence was all I heard. I peeked out from my arms to see my teacher’s kind face looking at me. “Brennon, please come out”, she reasoned gently. I shook my head vigorously and tucked my head back to the safety of my arms. I didn’t want to come out of the safety of under my desk. I can’t stand their hateful and pitying stares that was directed to me. I was fine where I was. But Ms. Reynolds was intent on getting me out under the desk.

13: “Please,” Ms. Reynolds said softly, “We’ll talk outside. No one is going to tease you anymore.” I remained frozen at my fetal position. Who was going to stop them from teasing me again? I took a peek again to see my teacher getting out of her crouched position. I saw her legs heading toward the door. Is she leaving? I panicked and got out my hiding place. I didn’t want her to go. I didn’t want to be left alone with my classmates. I’m sure they’ll start teasing me again once she’s gone.

14: After a while, I could no longer help myself and I had to move. Unfortunately that drew attention to me. I peeked up to see Ms. Reynolds to looking at me with a concerned expression on her face. I suppose she must have seen the tears on my face because her eyes suddenly widened and then she closed her eyes and sighed heavily. When she opened her eyes, she reached out a hand and smiled reassuringly at me so after a moment I reached out and took it. When I took her hand, she seemed to be grateful that I had trusted her and then she helped me out of my desk. As I stood, I held onto my Wicca book and we walked together to the door. I did not look at anybody as we left the classroom. Once the door closed behind us, I breathed a sigh of relief. In the window across from us, I saw my reflection and was not surprised to see that my eyes and nose were red and blotchy from crying. I also had tear stains running down my face and quickly tried to wipe them away. Ms. Reynolds turned back to the door and opened it and said to the class, “I want a page letter from each of you saying you are sorry to Brennon before the recess bell,’” she said firmly, “or you will not go at all if you are not done. You have 15 minutes. Get started.” Then she closed the door again and led me towards the stairs that led to the Principal's office.

16: Chapter Two Ms. Reynolds stopped me before we went up the stairs to the office. I sat down on the second stair and clutched my book to my chest. She sighed again and sat next to me. She paused for a while as if trying to find the right words to say to me. “Brennon” she started, “I am so-" However, I interrupted before she could finish, “I want to go home,” I said with what I hoped was a strong voice yet I kept my head down so that she couldn’t see how close I was to crying again. She paused again and I thought she was going to argue but then she asked, “Are you sure?” “Yes.” I and I know I sounded and looked confident in my answer because I looked at her directly in her eyes. “Alright, I will call your grandmother,” she said and then she stood up and started to walk up the stairs but then she turned around as if remembering something and added, “stay here alright?” I shook my head in agreement because I had no desire to have other people find me and make fun of me some more. I caught one last glimpse of pity on her face before she turned away

18: I heard Ms. Reynolds’ conversation with my grandmother. I didn’t mean to eavesdrop but the phone was just on the other side of the wall. “Hello, Mrs. Dolliver? I am Brennon’s teacher Ms. Reynolds,” I heard her say through the phone, "Would you be able to pick up your grandson from school?” She paused for a moment to listen to my grandmother’s reply. Then she started talking again. “We were learning about the Salem Witch Trials in class today and the lesson ended badly,” she explained. After a minute, she said, “Thank you for understanding. Good bye.” I peeked inside the office and saw Ms. Reynolds handed the phone back to the secretary, Mrs. Dandridge, who then asked in a motherly voice, “Has it been a bad day dearie?” “Yes, the children weren’t very open-minded about the lesson and they bullied a student in my class because he is an outcast within the class and he happens to share the same last name as one of the people in the lesson,” Ms. Reynolds admitted. “Well they are only children after all, they can be quite fickle with new things,” Mrs. Dandridge replied kindly, “I am sure if you give them time they will be more accepting of the child and the lesson.”

19: “Well they are only children after all, they can be quite fickle with new things,” Mrs. Dandridge replied kindly, “I am sure if you give them time they will be more accepting of the child and the lesson.” Ms. Reynolds smiled at her and said quietly, “Let's hope so. I better get back to my class. Thanks for the reassurance, bye.” Mrs. Dandridge shook her head and said, “It’s no problem dear, bye now.” Ms. Reynolds headed out the door and towards me. “Why don’t you sit be the stairs near our room, Brennon,” she asked me, “I’m going to wait for your grandmother outside, okay?” I nodded and across the playground and toward our classroom. I sat on the third step down and waited for Ms. Reynolds and my grandmother to come and get me.

20: I sighed quietly for the fifth time, wondering when my Grandmother would be here. I was sitting in the same spot that Ms. Reynolds left me in. It is been ten minutes and still she has not come back. I looked around again hoping Ms. Reynolds was back. I did not want to go in the classroom in fear of being teased again. I just want to go home, sleep, and not think about this horrible day at all. BRRRRIINNNGGG! I jumped at the loud recess bell. I sighed. Where is sh-? I stopped at mid-thought and a growing sense of dread started going through my body. I just realized that my class would be getting out soon. And they would pass by me to get to the playground. Click. I heard the lock turned and the knob slowly open. Without a moment of hesitation, I bolted down the stairs and hid under them, just in time for me to see the door open. I saw my classmates thundering down the stairs and straight to the playground. I sighed in relief as I saw them mix with the other students playing on the playground. “Brennon!”

21: I turned and saw Grandmother and Ms. Reynolds walking toward me. My eyes widened and did a mental happy dance in my head as I ran towards Grandmother. “You okay, kiddo?” Grandmother asked, crouching down. “I wanna go home.” I told her, looking at the ground. “Here’s your stuff, Brennon,” Ms. Reynolds said, holding out my backpack, “I got everything so don’t worry, okay?” “Thank you.” I replied softly, taking his stuff and giving Ms. Reynolds’ a grateful smile. “Let’s go, kiddo.” Grandmother said, leading the way the entrance of school.I trailed off after Grandmother, quickly muttering a good bye to Ms. Reynolds.

22: Chapter Three Freak!...Freak!...Freak!...FREAK!...FREAK!... FREAK!...FREEAAAAKKK!! I bolted up, my eyes wide as saucers. I could feel cold sweat go down my face. I closed my eyes and took deep breath, attempting to slow down the fast beating of my heart. After a few breaths, my heart and breath was normal.A dream. Just a dr- “Brennon.” I whipped my head towards my bedroom door to find Grandmother’s head poking in. As I took in her expression, I noticed she had a strange expression. But before I could decipher what it was, she shook her head and sighed, “Dinner is ready.” I nodded and got out of bed. I followed Grandmother down the stairs and to the dining room. Mom and dad were on vacation in a cruise, so it is just me and Grandmother in the house. I could smell the delicious aroma of the fresh baked bread floating in the air. On the table was a bowl of meatball and spaghetti, home-made bread sticks on the silver tray and Caesar salad with light Italian dressing on a large clear bowl. A large pitcher of iced tea sat next to the bowl of salad. My eyes widened at the food Grandmother prepared.The first thought that went to my head was Uh-oh, I am in

23: trouble but then I decided to just shut it and eat. Both of us got into our seats and started eating. It was dead silent in the room, only the clanking and scraping of our silverware could be heard. Once I was done, I excused myself and took my plate to the kitchen. As I was in my way to my room, Grandmother stopped me in the middle of the hallway. “Wait,” Grandmother said as I passed by the door, “Wait for me in the living room will you?” I nodded and headed to the living room. I sat on the white fluffy couch and waited for Grandmother. After a few minutes, I saw my grandmother appear on the entrance of the living room. She went over to me and sat down. She sighed and asked, “What’s wrong?”

24: I took a deep breath and rushed out, “The kids at school were making fun of me. We were learning the Salem Witch Trials and they were teasing me and calling me a freak because one of the people who were accused as a witch had our last name. Then it did not help that I practice Wicca too.” I let out a large breath after talking and collapsed head first into a pillow on my side. After five minutes of total silence, I peeked from my pillow towards my grandmother to see her thoughtful look. I frowned, sat up, and questioned her expression. “So that is what happened,” she mused. “You know better to listen to other people,” she chided, “and besides, Ann Dolliver was not the only one who was convicted. Many others were accused as well. Actually, we are technically connected to Dolliver. She is our ancestor. But that does not mean that she was an actual witch. The Salem Witch Trials were a period of time where people were paranoid with people whose actions were strange; whose actions were out of the norm. Dolliver was the daughter of Rev. John Higginsen in Salem Town. Actually, Higginsen defended a woman who was accused of witchcraft. I read in an article that this might be the reason why she was accused. The two analyzers of Dolliver’s trial said that there is a scheme almost with the way people were accused. The Salem village was trying to earn its independence from Salem town, a prosperous seaport. They saw a pattern that most of the accusers were connected to the Village

25: while majority of the accused were connected to the Town. Dolliver’s case fits this “plot” perfectly,” Grandmother made air quotes when she said plot and continued on. “Those two analyzers think that because of her connections to Salem Town and because her father defended one of the accused, her trial was a way to get back to Rev. Higginsen.” Grandmother concluded, “so there’s a chance that she wasn’t a witch at all.” I sat there shell-shocked at Grandmother’s little story. That was a lot of information to take in. I can’t believe what I just heard. True, the connections with the town and the village were a coincidence but there’s also a chance that it could be true; that the people in Salem Village really did just accused people connected to Salem Town. It’s mind-blowing how one side if a story changes the entire perspective. “See, so you should know better to listen to other people’s taunting,” Grandmother scolded me. Then she smiled. “I’m going to head upstairs alright? You should probably go to bed as well.” Grandmother got up and headed towards the stairs. I sat there thinking and absorbing the information I got. I went to bed minutes later.

27: Chapter Four The storm had finally decided to strike. It began to snow. Grandmother and I had started to prepare for Yule. Unlike most people who celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, Yule is celebrated on the 21st of December because it is the Winter Solstice. Yule is a large ritual and celebrates the oncoming winter. Yule is celebrated by Pagans or what some call Wiccans. Grandmother and I had been busy all day, hanging mistletoe on every door and placing a huge evergreen wreath above the fireplace. The fire was blazing and made the rest of the house nice and warm. We also put some incense to burn which was creating a nice aroma of pine and wintergreen around the house. Grandmother’s house is huge and the railing going up to the second floor was wrapped in garlands made of evergreen. We had placed a Yule log cake on the old coffee table in the living room. It was chocolate cake that had been cut into a rectangle that was rolled up and had creamy white icing in the center of the cake. We also added brown frosting to make it look more like a log and added powdered sugar for snow. The final touch was holly that had bright red berries and green leaves that was on top of the cake. The cake rested on one of Grandmother’s best china. I could not wait to eat it because it looked delicious.

29: Grandmother and I set up the altar for the ritual on the patio. We used a circular table and covered it with gold cloth. The next thing that we did was place a plate with a pentagram on it on the center of the table. When we were almost done with setting up the altar, the rest of Grandmother’s coven showed up to join in the celebration. Normally there are a lot of people at our rituals but only the Richard family of four and Mr. and Mrs. Villegas were able to make it. After the sun set, we gathered around the table. Grandmother was leading the ritual because she is the High Priestess of her coven because she has the most experience with Wicca. The first thing that she did was place the gold candle on the northern side of the table, then she placed the white candle to the left of that, and lastly she placed the green and red festive bowl on the right. The bowl contained a black votive candle and a holly sprig. After that, she placed the green candle and a sprig of mistletoe on the table behind her. The last thing she did to prepare for the ritual was to cover the bowl with a matching lid and turned around to face us. Grandmother then used her empowering voice to cast the circle.

31: “From the darkness is born the light, From void, fulfillment emerges. The darkest night of the year is at the threshold, Open now the door, and honor the darkness.” Then, she removed the lid from the bowl and handed me the lid. She took a small yet shiny lighter from her pocket and then she lit the candle inside and replaced the lighter. Everyone was silent in honor of the Holly King. The Holly King is the ruler of the dark half of the year. In this moment of silence, everyone reflected on their past year. Then when the ten minutes of silence were over, Grandmother continued on. “Dark my surroundings, and cold be this night, But Your labor, Blessed Mother, has reborn the sacred Light.The child diving, the most honored Sun Shall return with the sunrise; Two will be One.” She carefully removed the holly from the candle and with her right hand she presented the holly to the four elements in a clockwise manner. She then put the holly on the table behind her to signal the death of the Holly King. Then with her left hand she reached behind her a grabbed the mistletoe and the green candle and presented to the elements in a clockwise manner. The mistletoe and the green candle were then placed in the festive bowl.

32: Then she lit the green candle with the black votive candle and said, “Behold the rebirth of the King of the Woodlands! Behold the Oak King, strong and vital he rises!” After she said this, she extinguished the flame on the black candle and placed it down on the table behind her with her right hand. Then there was complete silence again as everyone honored the Oak King. After the pause she began once again. “Awake now Your Mother, Your Lover, Your Lady Awake now the Goddess of Life, Death, and Rebirth.” Then she lit the green candle with the black votive candle and said, “Behold the rebirth of the King of the Woodlands! Behold the Oak King, strong and vital he rises!” After she said this, she extinguished the flame on the black candle and placed it down on the table behind her with her right hand. Then there was complete silence again as everyone honored the Oak King. After the pause, she began once again.

34: “Awake now Your Mother, Your Lover, Your Lady Awake now the Goddess of Life, Death, and Rebirth.” She took the green candle out of the bowl, lit the white candle, and set it in the bowl once again. With both arms, she took the white candle at arm’s length and said, “Awaken, my Lady, look upon Your divine child, His rebirth while You slumbered was subtle and silent. The Stag King, the Green Man, Lord of Fertility, He awaits Your wakening, gentle and benevolent.” Grandmother placed the white candle back to its original position and she stretched out her arms with her palms facing up and she recited, All hail the Oak King; His rebirth, a promise. All hail the divine child, Giver of Life. All hail the blessed Sun, reborn to the Mother For He retakes His throne at the end of Solstice Night!”

36: She then turn back towards the altar and began to close the ritual, “Before my circle tonight, I close with blessings I ask for this house and my kin. Tomorrow at daybreak, when I arise A special flame I will carry within. And a gold candle upon my altar I will light Adding my will to the Sun King's intent To climb aloft in the vaulted skies. And for strength back to me; the strength I've sent.” Grandmother extinguished the green candle and placed the mistletoe on the pentagram and with that the ritual was done. She left the gold candle on the altar so that tomorrow morning she could light it. When this was done the circle was disbanded and everyone headed inside and began to feast on all of the food that they had prepared. By the end of it, I was so full I could barely move.

38: After that talk with Grandmother, I started becoming more open with others. I do not know why actually. Somehow, the huge epiphany I made while listening to Grandmother talk that night struck a cord in me. School is both the same and different. I actually made a few friends. Although some of my classmates still tease me, I do not let it bother me anymore. They are entitled to their opinion and I am entitled to mine. Jared and Melanie are actually quite nice. They are also practicing Wicca so we have something in common. I do not know if you got any lesson out of this. Honestly, this is a memory that I wanted to share with you readers. So if you got some morale out of this, good for you. If not, then remember that this story was just that; a story.

39: The End

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