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Festival

As the day of the summer solstice festival finally arrives, the grounds of the Wellspring Temple – even more than usual, is brightly decorated. Sacred statues in and around the main temple are decorated with cloth sashes, vibrant summer flowers and a wide assortment of food offerings or other votives from the local community. Various vendor stands line the square as children and their families explore them with cheerful wonder. Escaping from the dry desert heat in Rancho Duna, some of the patrons outside make their way into the Wellspring temple bookstore as well.

Above the main entrance of the bookstore is a worn sign that greets customers as they pass through. Eugene, along with other founders of Wellspring, commissioned the sign from a local craftsman. Given the opportunity to choose a name for the store, Eugene decided on Lotus – both because of the watery associations of the lotus flower and because of the store’s focus on blossoming spiritual potential.

Unlike most days however, the current focus of the Lotus bookstore during this festival is less about quiet refuge and more about lively celebration. This change in tone is shown in the ways Lotus mirrors the bright festival décor outside. Sacred charms and jewelry for the occasion are on full display, and festival relevant books are available for purchase.

In addition to Eugene and Magid, the other original temple founders, Phineas and Lucretia, are also participating in the event. Whereas Eugene and Magid are set to perform a ritual in honor of Ubertas in the evening, Phineas and Lucretia are providing healing and blessing services to attendees of the summer solstice festival.

In contrast to boars like Eugene and Magid, Phineas and Lucretia are tall, statuesque, lizards with smooth olivine scales and eyes. They are both modestly dressed for the occasion, but not without sacred jewelry to adorn themselves with.

Taking a break from services in the temenos, Phineas and Lucretia visit Eugene and Magid inside the Lotus bookstore – approaching the front counter with cheerfulness.

“Greetings Eugene” Phineas says. “I see you’re busy as ever.”

“That’s certainly true, but I’ll have some free time in a little while” Eugene replies.

“That’s good to know” Lucretia says brightly. “Phineas and I wanted to know if you’ll be at the martial arts demonstration in the community center on the west side of the temenos.”

“Lucien and a few of his new students will be showing off their skills and giving a basic introduction to the festival attendees who are interested” Phineas says.

“I thought you were busy with healing services today” Eugene says.

“Phineas and I are finished for the day” Lucretia says. “All that is left for the festival is the martial arts demonstration, some festival entertainment and the evening ritual you and Magid will be performing.”

“Well, I was just about to close up the shop for the day – since the festival entertainment will be taking precedence over quiet book reading after sundown” Eugene says.

Irene chimes in, saying, “Magid and Cassandra will also be a part of the demonstration, and they both want us to watch them.”

“Give me and Irene a little while longer and we’ll meet you over there” Eugene says.

Sometime later, Eugene and Irene enter through the large double-doors of the west building in the Wellspring temenos. It is a large open area with multiple rooms for things like crafting, workshops, meditation and the martial arts demonstration they are all about to watch.

Much like both the main Wellspring temple and the Lotus bookstore, the Wellspring community center is built with a mixture of Gallo-Roman and Alexandrian elements. There is a lot of warm wood and the colors of terracotta clay – evoking not only the importance of hearth cultures but also the themes of pure water and fertile mud that dominate Wellspring.

There are several small shrines in different locations around the space, but one of the largest is a shrine dedicated to various forms of Sobek. In the back of the area set aside for martial arts and other more physical activities is the particularly watchful gaze of a crocodilian Sobek statue – carefully adorned in honor of the summer solstice festival.

With a similar intensity to Sobek is Lucien – dressed in a white martial arts uniform along with Cassandra, Magid, his newest students and a number of excited guests.

“Like many of the practices from ancient times, what I’m about to show you is focused on grappling and wrestling techniques” Lucien projects into the room. “So, it’s always best to learn how to fall more than anything else.”

Cassandra steps up towards Lucien and they both get into appropriate stances – trading off between coordinated throws and opposing grapples to demonstrate the core concept.

“What I’m about to show you now is how this works in practice” Lucien says. “With the help of a few of my experienced friends, I’ll show you what sparring looks like.”

Turning up the heat and intensity, Lucien and Cassandra jump into much more of a combative posing – getting quite close and really showcasing their skill. Lucien lands the first throw – making a loud slam on the floor. With a look of excitement, Cassandra comes back towards Lucien with more zeal – exchanging a few more grapples and averting another throw by Lucien before tripping him successfully. She grabs his hand and pulls him up to his feet.

With much the same excitement, Magid gets into a combative stance before Lucien, and the intensity gets even stronger than before. Despite Lucien’s small size compared to Magid, he produces just as much strength and intensity. Lucien and Magid exchange a series of powerful trips and throws, with slams and grunting that reverberates throughout the community center – drawing the attention of attendees who seem quite entertained by the display.

Once they are done sparring, Lucien’s eager students practice with him. As well, a few of the attendees jump in to experiment with his techniques – emboldened by the excitement of the event. This sparring continues for a while longer – before a brief moment of silence falls over the building. Lucien, Magid and Cassandra make a silent prayer before the Sobek shrine and the demonstration ends with a sense of peace and calm.

All of the people who participated in the demonstration head to the locker rooms, take showers and get back into their normal clothes before exiting the community center into the open-air festival that is still going on outside.

“We have a little bit of time before we need to prepare for the ritual” Eugene says sometime later. “Would you like to enjoy some of the festivities until then?”

“Definitely” Magid says. “I’m absolutely starving.”

Under the warm glow of festival fires and lanterns, Eugene, Magid and his other friends enter into the main square beneath the imposing grandeur of Wellspring Temple – in the hours of early evening after the particularly energetic martial arts demonstration moments earlier. Vendor stands with various items and delicious food are quite popular – even more than then during the hours before sundown, and the cheerful noise of festival goers fills the air.

Quite the extravaganza, there are jugglers, illusionists, fire breathers, dancers, musicians and artists from all around Rancho Duna and elsewhere – filling the festival with the vitality that Wellspring is best known for. Not content to make the summer solstice a solemn festival, everyone involved has brought their excitement to every aspect of the celebration – something that fills Eugene with great joy and satisfaction as he explores the rest of the temenos with Magid and his friends.

“We are incredibly lucky” Eugene says with a soft smile.

“Why do you say that?” Magid says.

“We have so many people who are dedicated to making Wellspring and the Lotus bookstore inviting places for people to be” Eugene replies. “This year has even more excitement than ever.”

“It’s truly wonderful” Magid says “I’m sure that you and I will be able to show our gratitude when we perform the ritual later on tonight. But for now, let’s just enjoy some revelry.”

“Sounds good to me, babe” Eugene says happily.

Before the festival comes to a close, Eugene and Magid quietly break away to setup for the Ubertas ritual – getting into more formal clothing, lighting candles and incense and setting up various other ritual items.

Sometime later, Eugene’s friends and various attendees assemble into the Wellspring temple and stand in rows before the main altar space.

“On the night of the solstice,“ Eugene begins “We honor the fecundity, fertility and abundance of Ubertas – the mistress of the marshes and wife of the waters.”

“We present you many offerings and votives on your most sacred day” Magid says before presenting and addressing several offerings around the temple floor.

“We honor you as she who emerged from mud and formed the therians from sacred clay – out of the land at the edge of the abyssal waters of creation” Eugene intones.

“We ask that you keep us in your blessings, protect our community – particularly our women and children, and are honored by what we present to you now” Magid says.

In the Wellspring Temple, sacred music and dancing fills the space. More offerings are brought into the temple and nine statues of Ubertas – representing all therian species, are blessed with fine oils and even more fragrant flowers of various types.

“As this most blessed evening ends, may all sacred divinities, powerful spirits, wise ancestors and assembled festival attendees depart in peace and benevolence” Eugene says – finishing the solstice rite with his solemn words and extinguishing all the candles with the help of his partner Magid.