The Devil’s Grandmother is as old as bones. She is both villain and helper, a liminal forest witch with a long crooked nose, and sharp iron teeth.
How did I come upon this Yaga’s hut, wound with wool, and bound with bone?
I travelled into the roots, and under the hedges. I was digging for something. I did not know what I was digging for. My fingers just kept on going, until I had dug myself a tunnel. With blood and dirt under my nails, and black earth on my hands I pulled up bones.
There was something strangely familiar about those bones.
I carried the bones with me and went into the forest, that is when I changed my name and came across the hut. The Yaga reminded me of my Ouma, more stern, more bony, a little more ambiguous than the goodly dead. She made me work in her garden. Now when I grind the Venomous herbs I grind them in Her Mortar and Pestle. The one I named for Her.
I forgot along the way…Her fingers kept twirling in my hair, long and crooked like an elder tree, twirling and spinning in my dreams, old crooked ladies hanging from trees, in garbage heaps, in thick, thorny hedges.
I took myself so seriously, scouring all the “new” books on the market, collecting statues, collecting practices, setting up altars and shrines for every wayward spirit and wandering god who passed by. Some taught me lessons, some taught me nothing more than how to fill up space. There were a lot of empty spaces in my heart and soul. What was missing?
I began living on my own for the first time, and the emptiness still threatened to swallow me up from the inside out, so I started digging. And there were questions, and books were almost torn in anger, and there was frustration and there were tears and there was a taste of something like honey on my tongue. This was not a linear journey. It was crooked, like a serpent. I kept repairing the gaping wounds, the open spaces, filling them with things, new things, fascinating things. Accumulation. I have spoken about it before, the way I like to collect and hoard and hold on to things like some strange little Smaug- trinkets, and papers, and jewel-coloured junk- a treasure trove of consumerist crap.
I was changing, parts of me wanted shedding, parts of me had already turned toward the darkly, venomous path. Even as a child I was odd. But I had been carrying around the safety nets for years. I could not let go, not now, not even when they were holding me back- keeping me from the wild.
So The Yaga waited and she twisted my hair into knots and created her poisons and hung like a spider on silver threads, teeth dripping with saliva, and bones creaking like a rusty gate. I said goodbye to some gods- and forgot about others. They were never mine.
The Dogs, the Dogs are in my bones and blood. And so I took the oaths. One of Venom, one of Bone. And I still could not shed some of the things, still struggled to say goodbye to some o the old practices. The altars became full of dust, the statues empty of gods and spirit, and the offerings faded. Other spirits came, ones of another kind, wilder, older, more crooked beings. Beings I had known once but was told to forget, beings who come from the other side, fae, toads, devils and hags, beings of a different persuasion. Sorcerous beings. Venomous beings.
And then came twenty seven, I speak a lot about twenty seven as if it is a place on a journey rather than the years I have been alive, and that is because it is Saturns hold. I never much cared for pop astrology and the silly things about finally becoming an adult. I have been an adult for a while, but it was not until I swallowed the Scorpion and the Scorpion swallowed me that I began to see the crumbling walls around me.
The Yaga was laughing, and with every crack of laughter from her bony throat the walls crumbled a little more. Grandmother Saturn’s laugh peeled paint off the walls and scented the air with stench and wormwood. I was going to die and the Yaga was laughing. Laughing and laughing like a true villainess. She isn’t Fate, but something like it, and one of the greatest weavers of them all.
But I didn’t die, and wasn’t quite alive, and so in the in-between space and in-between time I walked, and I was pulled by something deep inside of me. So I weaved a Yaga hut for myself, with my dreams and hopes and with every thread of wool I called the Yaga closer; I was following an ancestral thread, like an unwound piece of wool, back to the hut, back to the Yaga.
My Paternal Grandmother, was a Pole, who escaped a concentration camp with her sister to South Africa. I regret not knowing more about her life, about that line of my ancestry, about the stories and tales that she surely knew. On some level, I know that the knots in my hair are the knots of lost knowledge, and that I am attempting to unravel the mystery of why the Yaga scratches at my heart with her bony fingers.
I remember the digging, and the blood, and the soil, and the bones that I found, and I realise they are the parts of me that are missing, the parts of my soul that need to be sung back together, the old parts, the parts that have been coming back gradually since taking my oaths. The Yaga is one of the Old ones, one of the ones you can never quite shake from your hair once her fingers have found their way into your roots. She is like the tower raging and crushing you under her pestle. She is Grandmother Saturn shaking and breaking boundaries and sometimes she brings death and sometimes she brings life. You can never be sure with Old Bony.