Song of the Earth
The Verbena are one of the Nine Traditions. Their focus Sphere is Life. Sonia Farooqi was once their representative member among the Avengers, but she is no longer. Other members include Eleanor Morris and Sapphira Wilson.
We come into the world bloody and squalling; we prey on flesh and fruit for survival; we grow, learn, and adapt; we wane and die, only to feed new life. This never-ending cycle occupies the Verbena, and its constant pulse is the heart of the Tradition. Primordial sorcerers, potent healers, skilled shapeshifters — the Verbena dive into sex, blood, and flesh without inhibition. Their passionate understanding of all life fuels an equally primeval magic.
Like the Tree of Life that they use as a symbol, the Verbena have deep roots. By their own lore, the first union of the fragmented Pure Ones — Avatars — with the new world of flesh created the earliest shamans of humanity. Newly formed, the flesh still kept its ties to the primordial state. The combination of soulful endowment with feeling, growing life created the first primal sorcerers. These living shamans, so the Verbena tell, understood their position in the cycle of living. Their connection allowed them to shape their bodies as they willed, to make their own place in life’s processes, and to understand the pulsing threads of the Tapestry.
Later, the rise of civilization caused these individuals to spread among many cultures and groups. They carried with them sacred knowledge of the living world, and they spread it where they could. However, people were always uncomfortable with notions like death and sickness, which were as much a part of the natural cycle as health and prosperity. So, even as healers and mystics, the Aeduna — predecessors to the Verbena — had to conceal themselves among secret orders. In doing so, they hid elements of their wisdom in bits of lore, small traditions, and common folk wisdom.
In Greece, Rome, England, and even farther afield, the Aeduna spread their mystic ways. Greek legends honored mother-figures and spoke of the thin borderlands between life and death; English Paganism paid homage to varied gods and goddesses of earth and sky with sacrifice and ritual; Romans invested the Earth itself with an identity as a life-giver. The dancing circles expanded and rites of fertility crept into common use.
The rise of Church power in Europe’s Dark and Middle Ages shattered Aeduna organization. Fearful peasants were taught to shun their base needs and desires, and an undereducated populace looked to the Church for salvation after the fall of Rome. Church inquisitors persecuted the “witches” and denounce their practices. The already cautious mages fled, hid, turned, and died in droves. Their power broken, the few remaining magicians retreated to Horizon realms, underwater labyrinths, and secret glades, or practiced muted forms of their magic as wise healers or herbalists without bringing their beliefs into public view. Indeed, the very term “Verbena” came into use as the moniker of a healing herb, applied to the Tradition for its noted herbal poultices, concoctions, salves, and remedies and also for its affinity for living, growing plants.
Pagans, naturalists, and seasonal celebrations sheltered the Verbena through the Renaissance and a rebirth of interest in occultism only continued to spur their growth in the 1800’s. However, many Verbena customs had been lost of diluted, and the additions of neo-Paganism and modern Wicca only came into the group haltingly and under some dissent. By the modern day, the remaining Verbena had adjusted enough to include such members, although teaching in the Tradition continues to go far beyond the notions espoused by such revival groups. Fortunately for the Verbena, they’ve always had a strong core. Their small covens are very personal, and Verbena are often more sociable (at least amongst one another) than other mages, so they’ve been able to hold on to many elements of heritage that would otherwise be lost. Interest in crystal magic, herbalism, aromatherapy, and similar holistic practices only continues to feed the Verbena Tradition, and those who feel the heartbeat of all life continue to join.
On the local level, Verbena tend to center around covens — small groups of practitioners and faithful, often in a mystically significant number like three or 13. Verbena covens often include entire families, where possible, and they can splinter or re-form as needed to make groups in different areas or to accommodate new members.
Large gatherings occur on seasonal holidays when many covens will join for special rites. At such gatherings, any properly initiated Verbena may speak, but weight is often given to those with the wisdom of age, insight, and strong memories of past lives.
Like everything else about the Tradition, membership isn’t for the faint of heart. Initiates experience a ritualized (and symbolic) death and rebirth, then undergo a series of ordeals to properly test their mettle and welcome them to the Tradition. Those who don’t have the strength to go all the way must remain supplicants or quit. Thankfully, however, the Verbena generally don’t kill those who fail their tests. There’s often some strife between factions as more progressive Verbena skip over the rituals that the traditionalists consider important, but everyone proves their dedication before admittance.
Believing that the Avatar embodies a reflection of primal energies, the Verbena tend to divide along lines of Essence. This distinction doesn’t come so much a matter of cataloging the Avatar and its individual foibles, as suiting the natural drives of the mage’s soul. Some Verbena even trace bloodlines in the belief that Avatars tend to reincarnate through familial groups, and there’s some evidence that they may be right. However, Verbena are by no means forced into a group as a result of their Avatar’s predilections. A mage can always choose an allegiance based on his personal preferences. Individual Verbena covens and cabals can sometimes be considered factions, although they’re usually too small to compare to the broader groups.
Forming the base of the Verbena Tradition are the Gardeners of the Tree, Pattern mages who try to keep the old ways alive and pure. These mages keep records, track family lines, and trace the heritage of Verbena rituals. Their scholarship is often noteworthy, as they pursue such goals rather doggedly. Conservative Gardeners count as “true Verbena” only those with a blood relation to some ancestral family at the root of the Tradition. More flexible Gardeners content themselves with remembering old rites and propagating the spread of the most fundamental elements of Verbena heritage.
Even more primal than the Gardeners are the Twisters of Fate. The mages of the Primordial Essence follow old songs that are heard no longer by other Verbena. Often considered a bit odd even by Verbena standards, they could be seen as a splinter group except that they have little unification. Still, they possess a keen wisdom and many have powerful memories of past lives. They often feel tugged to restore lost ways and to reduce complex Verbena rituals to their base parts.
Moon-Seekers fall under the Questing archetype. Such Verbena are travelers, explorers, those who welcome new ways into the fold. A Moon-Seeker is as likely to use a New Age crystal-waving ceremony as a traditional athame and rune-carving ritual. These Verbena wander far afield, bringing new bits and pieces into the Tradition’s repertoire and looking for the acknowledgement of life and divinity in the simple rituals that people create for themselves in the new millennium. These Verbena often have strong ties to the community, and they enjoy learning as much as teaching.
Lastly, the Lifeweavers tend to have Dynamic Avatars. These Verbena move far afield, ignore old rites, and make things up as they go along. More conservative Verbena often look askance at them, but the Lifeweavers still practice a reverence for life and know the value of sacrifice. These mages enjoy exploring the limits of their practice. They change shapes, work with many different Patterns, and generally get their hands dirty mucking around with as much Creation as they can handle. Theirs is the joy of discovery.
Life is the greatest mystery of the universe. Base matter and energy don’t grow, think, react, and multiply. All life is a cycle that forms the heartbeat of the Tellurian. In the tiny fragments of that web are infinite individuals, all woven together by their shared trials and breaths. To recognize the constancy of life’s cycles is to realize its pattern to grow beyond any expectation or boundary, to take any form, and to achieve any goal. The process is never easy. Often, it’s fraught with pain, predation, and death. Life preserves.
Blood-handed sacrifices and disturbing rites aren’t for the squeamish. Prospective Verbena must have strong stomachs indeed to fit in with the Tradition, and the Verbena can be blunt and uncomfortably open about practices that many would consider revolting or taboo. As a result, the rest of the Traditions tend to keep them at arm’s length. The more sterilized Traditions, like the Sons of Ether and the Order of Hermes, consider the Verbena uncomfortably primal. Intuitive groups like the Dreamspeakers and Euthanatos see a greater kinship, but they still look askance at the sheet viciousness with which Verbena can emulate the living cycle.
Since their magic is so very tied to their primal living natures, Verbena have a tendency to get lumped into the category of “Satanist witches” even today. While modern people may not understand, say, Virtual Adept technology, or Dereamspeaker cultural songs, they’re fairly accommodating. The brutal familiarity with which the Verbena strike home life’s truths causes enough discomfort that Sleepers who see their works tend to get frightened — and many lash out as a result.
Theories And Practices:
In many ways, Verbena see themselves as guardians of mythic threads — elements of magic that remain intertwined with the more mundane aspects of life. The earliest magicians naturally felt the interplay of life and spirit through their strong connection to Creation and the Pure Ones. Although such ties are weakened and dying, the Verbena still feel a similar pull, and they work to promote such ties wherever they can — in simple actions, beliefs, and customs that affirm the power of life.
With fertility rites, dances, and simply joy in living, the Verbena open their perceptions to the pulse of all life. To this Tradition, the acts that reaffirm living nature are sacred. Verbena acknowledge and embrace the changing seasons, health, sex and sensuality, raw emotion, and instinct dutifully.
In conjunction with their ties to life, though, the Verbena know that life isn’t always sanitized, pretty, or happy. Blood has raw power due to its symbolic and literal key as a fundament of life, and Verbena tap that power with scarification and sacrifice. Predators hunt and kill their prey, and Verbena believe in the correctness of he natural cycle in such actions. Pain is a teaching tool, not something to be shunned. Therefore, the Verbena are far more comfortable with their feral, instinctual drives than most people, an animalistic nature that can be disconcerting. Most other religions and groups have some line that they won’t cross or some belief that they won’t violate: A belief that blood is sacred and not to be shed, or that sex is empowered through denial. Not so the Verbena, who embrace all of these passionate techniques.
For their magic, Verbena use anything from bloodletting to rune-carving, to animal sacrifice, herbal mixtures, transformative rites, and even some New Age techniques that have blended into the Tradition. The key is to find a natural element that connects with the Verbena’s will. As the Verbena see it, the natural resonance of life never left the world, even if mankind has upset its balance with reckless growth and extinction of many species. Hearing that rhythm, the Verbena does what needs to be done — mores or conventions be damned.