Beyond Hogwarts

(Part 1 from 4)

We take up the story as the adult Hermione Granger and Virginia (Ginny) Weasley’s, along with the other female pupils from Hogwarts, education has now progressed to the Dianic Craft College. The year is 1997. The word craft in the title of the College has nothing to do with turning wood or making clay pots but rather the ancient craft, that is witchcraft. It was named in honour of the moon goddess Diana.

It’s late September but the weather is mild and pleasant due to the setting of the college in a sunbathed valley in England on the coast of south Devon, warmed by the Gulf Stream. The students had arrived over the weekend, rested on Monday in the oak panelled Halls of Residence, the students being dived between the east wing and west wing. They were issued with their green cloaks, a new broomstick and a map of the College.

Their first lecture was held outside on Tuesday at noon in the Great Henge, a wooden structure set in the College grounds. Similar to Stonehenge in Wiltshire but made of oak and forming a complete circle. A large old stone formed the alter in front of which the Principle addressed them.
Those assembled number only the thirty-nine new students and four members of staff. This was an exclusive College, only for the star female pupils of Hogwarts and the other schools of witchcraft and wizardry. 

The Principle, also known as the High Priestess was wearing a magnificent gown covered in mystical symbols. She spoke in a crystal-clear voice, something like a Shakespearian actress. She only spoke for some ten minutes but during that time she was able to quickly explain that the College was in fact an exclusive and ancient grand coven and they were in the privilege position of being its apprentices. If they had the natural ability to learn the Craft and follow the ancient ways they would be accepted into the coven for all eternity. Failure to attain this goal was not an option, the pagan world looked to them for inspiration and guidance. 

He then introduced the other four tutors, all of whom were priestesses in the Sacred and Most Ancient Coven of Diana. 
Hermione's eye was strangely drawn to one tutor who seemed to stand out from the rest. She was Ms Virginia Rubster. She seemed to radiate a special aura and Hermione felt herself almost floating toward her. It was only a cough from a fellow student that made her grounded again. 

The students did their best not to giggle when the names of the other staff members were announced, Alison Caeus, Sophia Apple and Charity Aphrodite. They knew from experience that there would be a special meaning to their names. ‘The world laughs at the things they do not understand.’ The final words of the Principle’s address before departing the Henge rang in their ears.
The rest of the day they were left to explore the library and spacious grounds of the College. The next day would be the first real day of study.
Hermione and Ginny Weasley chatted as they walked away from the Henge.

‘What do you think the Principle meant when she said what we had learnt in the past was just silly childish games?’ questioned Ginny.
‘I don’t really know!’ advised Hermione wisely and thoughtfully. 
‘But I think she might be saying that we should expect the unexpected!’ Which did little to address Ginny’s concerns.

First Lessons
The new students were issued with their timetables that evening, Hermione pinned hers to the little notice board in her snug little room and settled down for the night. She picked up her new broomstick and carefully examined it. It was superior to the one she had at school being larger and more robust. Her hands run along its smooth ash handle and Hermione noticed that its girth was more generous than her old broom, in fact she could hardly get her fingertips to touch when gripping around it. The broom was also more crafted and ornate, having a rounded shaped end with strange ribbed carving, Hermione then blushed and giggled and realised that it looked a little like a penis from her biology textbook! She then noticed the small advisory leaflet attached to warning to try any magic until instructed by a suitable person and placed it back in the corner of the room.

She rose for breakfast and joined the other students I the dining hall. Soon it was 9 o’clock and time to attend her first lecture.
To her amazement standing in front of the small lecture theatre was Ms Virginia Rubster! Hermione felt herself blush and gulp. 
‘Why is this?’ she thought.
Ms Rubster launched into her lecture,
‘We believe that the way of practicing the Art of Magic is to be as free as possible of all moral dogma and rules, and to follow a way solely oriented to personal discovery.’ She paused.
‘Our practice aims to assimilate and then surpass the limited approaches to Magic which has hallmarked the manmade laws and traditions and shackles us to the past Magic is by its nature beyond our full comprehension, and beyond our ability to predict what direction it will often take.’
Hermione was somewhat perturbed by these sentiments. 
‘…free of all moral dogma and rules..’ she pondered
‘rejecting manmade laws and traditions..’ she repeated in her mind.
The lecture continued for a good hour, full of similar ideas which seemed to the new student both outrageous and chaotic.
As she left the theatre the new radical ideas sun through Hermione’s head. She remembered what the principle had said in her address, 
‘What you learnt in the past were just silly childish games…’
It was clear to her they were all going to be challenged during their time at Di’s. She tried to focus her mind and soul on preparing for mysteries unknown, and to put behind her any ideas or thoughts that might impinge the opening her inner-self and whole being to the future and enlightenment.

The Chosen Ones
The days passed by with various lectures and much time spent in the library and the apocrypha’s garden, seeking to learn the properties of the various herbs used in magic potions. To Hermione these activities all seemed dull and boring compared to the lecture by Ms Rubster. She found herself even dreaming of her favourite tutor and felt her heart race whenever she spied her. Today she would be attending another of her lectures and Hermione arrived early in the theatre to get a good seat near the front of the class. The room gradually filled up. 
Ms Rubster waited until all ten students were present before breezing into the room and taking her place at the lectern.
She welcomed them and then opened her mouth, Hermione waiting on every breath.

‘Wicca, the old word for witchcraft, began in pre-history as ritual associated with fire, the hunt, fertility, plant propagation, life and death and the curing of disease.’ She stated.
‘This developed into a religion which recognized a Supreme Deity, but realized that at their state of evolution, they ‘were incapable of understanding it’. Instead, they worshipped what might be termed ‘under-gods’: such as the goddess of female sexuality, Diana to give her one of her many names.’
‘Wiccan's continued their moon based worship, even as the mainly sun based faith of priests, the druids, developed and evolved into the dominant religion of the Celts in Europe at about 800BC. Wiccan beliefs in England survived the Roman, Saxon and Norman invasions by going underground. It suffered major losses during the Christian genocide into the 18th century.’

Hermione was reminded of the persecution suffered by those the followed the old true religions but was intrigued to find out more about the goddess Dianna - the Queen of Heaven, and wanted to learn more of the old ways which had been lost due to corruption and misinterpretation. 

Ms Rubster then told them that they way to further enlightenment was thorough the Great Rite. This was one of the almost lost rituals of pre-history. Through studying this ritual and rehearsing it they might become the keepers of it. They being women were the priestesses who traditionally would have lead the old pagan world. A matriarchal system rather than a patriarchal one. One in which the female figure was honoured over the masculine one.

Thus began the road to understanding which Hermione and the other specially chosen female students were to embark upon. They were to carry out their learning in a special room set aside in the north wing to which no one else would be allowed to enter. They would be free there to read, discuss, and share experiences and learning. It was here they would discover through openness the secrets of the Great Rite, practice it until perfect. Once fully converse they would then carry it out in the Henge on the Summer Solstice at midsummer’s night. This was to occur at midnight on 21st June some nine months away. 

June was a very special month for the moon goodness as it was named in her honour - Juno the Roman Great Mother Goddess also known in ancient Greece as Hera the Queen of Heaven. This coming Solstice was extra special as that night would be a full moon and fall on a Monday – the moon’s day. Someone would be chosen to take on the persona of the goddess, consisting with Her in truly intimate level, This student would become the Queen of the Sabbat.

Hermione went to the library and looked up the festival, to remind herself of the meaning of this special day. She found an old leather bound book entitled Old Traditions and took it from the shelf. She flicked gently through its yellowing pages and found the listing for the Solstice…

As the sun spirals its longest dance,
Cleanse us
As nature shows bounty and fertility
Bless us
Let all things live with loving intent
And to fulfill their truest destiny

Solstice, Midsummer or Litha means a stopping or standing still of the sun. It is the longest day of the year and the time when the sun is at its maximum elevation. 

This date has had spiritual significance for thousands of years as humans have been amazed by the great power of the sun. The Celts celebrated with bonfires that would add to the sun’s energy.
Wiccan’s are in awe of the incredible strength of the sun and the divine powers that create life. For people of old this spoke in the Wheel of the Year is a significant point. The Goddess took over the earth from the horned God at the beginning of spring and she is now at the height of her power. 
The people of old would hold small ceremonies in open spaces, everywhere from gardens to woodlands. 
Hermione drank in the words and read them at least three times just to make sure she had not missed anything. She began to understand the deeper knowledge that she must attain and looked forward to the challenge ahead particularly as it involved Virginia Rubster!

New Home
The students reported at the entrance to the north wing. They were meet by Virginia Rubster who unlocked the impressive door at its entrance. Once inside the entered through another door and then another before entering a very spacious room. They were then introduced to her two readers, who it was explained would be assisting the students in their arduous task. The students had not set eyes on the two women before. It was explained that the two top students from this set were given the honour of being readers for a year after graduating. Both Harmony Chalice and Liberty Fallow had achieved this goal. They now assisted and tutored the most gifted of students and carried out their own private research in their spare time.
Hermione and Ginny looked the readers up and down. They were about thee years older than themselves. One blonde the other auburn like Ms Rubster. The both wore long flowing white gowns under which could clearly be seen white thin dresses fasted down the bodice with a thin ornate rope. As they walked towards them and Ginny could see the split up one side of the garment to give greater freedom of movement. On their feet were white cotton slippers and the young women seemed to almost glide across the parquet floor in them. Hermione thought that they had the grace of ballet dancers.
Ms Rubster showed the students around the large room. It had a good selection of books and manuscripts and some tables around its perimeter. The fast majority of the floor space was empty. This she explained was for practicing rituals and learning magical dances and acts. In one corner Hermione noticed a pile of gym mats which she presumed were fro some kind of dancing or warm-up exercises. There were a number of locked large cupboards around the room to which no mention was made. 
It was then explained to the ten students that this building would be there new home for the next nine months. They were to bring their possessions to their new rooms. This they did. Unlike their former accommodation the students had to share their rooms with another. Hermione was to find that her roommate was to be Ginny.
They unpacked and went to find the washrooms chatting about their good luck in being chosen. 

The Gowning
The next morning they made their way to the Dinning room to find that they now had their own special table. Other students had heard of their elevated position and seemed to look on in awe. 
After eating they returned to the north wing and were joined by Ms Rubster. She gathered around the tables and spoke a few words and then handed out a sheet of paper which explained the basic outline of the Great Rite.
‘The readers will guide you through each piece of this fascinating ritual. Use you intuitiveness and let them guide you when you are unsure.’ She advised and then left.
The two readers entered the room as Ms Rubster left, their long hair and gowns flowing behind them revealing their sheer cotton dresses and thigh high slits. Hermione could not fail to notice that by the way their breasts were highlighted through the thin fabric that they were not wearing any bras, vests or slips! She felt herself glowing with embarrassment and quickly averted her gaze. Ginny’s attention had been caught by their unusual cotton slippers and then her eyes moved naturally up their bodies. She noticed the thigh length slit up one side of their white dresses. Her eyes continued to scan upward. To her horror she then speid from her seated position that Harmony, the blonde reader, had no undergarments covering her lower body! Ginny clearly saw her mound of golden hair completely uncovered and felt her jaw drop! 
Ginny’s complexion went almost as red as her hair and quickly glanced back down at the floor! Both girls wondered if their classmates had noticed the same shocking things.
The two readers now stood in front of the students completely unabashed at their skimpy outfits, now almost covered by their white capes. 

Liberty then spoke,
‘To be able to carry out the physical part of the ritual you will need to get changed. We have prepared your attire. It is laid out for you in the gowning room over there.’ She said pointing to a small door. 
The students got up and filed over to the door and entered the gowning room. It looked much like a cloakroom and laying on the wooden benches below the cloths pegs were individual brown paper parcels tied up with string. Each one with a student’s name on.

The students gingerly untied the parcels. In each one was a white flimsy dress similar to those worn by Harmony and Liberty. 
Harmony then entered the room and made a quick announcement,
‘Take off all your earthly clothing and put on the ritual gowns. Then put on your cloaks and come back in the main room.’
With that statement she quickly left leaving the students looking a little stunned. For those girls who had not caught sight of the skimpy gowns previously it was more of a shock. Hermione and Ginny were not too surprised. 
What crossed all their minds was the new experience of seeing others undressed in front of them and exposing themselves to others. Undressing was always done in the dark at Hogwarts and privacy seemed an unwritten rule. Tentatively they all began removing jeans and dresses, skirts and trousers, blouses, tee-shirts and jumpers. Once down to their bras and knickers they put on the white threadlike gowns. They then all seemed to looked around hoping for some guidance or leadership. Who would go first? Was the question on everyone’s mind. 

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