On the full moon I gathered the leaves of nine poisons and slept with them under my pillow to hear them whisper their darkly tales. The dreamweavers, insanity-makers, deadly, bitter devils climbed their way into my dreams in horrifying ways. Sometimes I think I have stayed away for so long to avoid these dark and terrifying things. Life is hard enough without nightmares and omens terrorizing me in my sleep.
Certain spirits and beings are finding me in my art filling the blank space with their wicked grins and dark eyes, they call me in deeper, and deeper, their stories on the tip of my tongue but difficult to write or speak because I have been so distracted for so long…
So the Old Hag of the Woods came to me. I knew her once before, long ago, when she taught me spells in the bramble hedge. She is that Faery tale witch that we all knew as children, the one who would put us in her oven and bake us into a pie, unless we were cunning, and then she may gift us with something that we didn’t know that we needed…
What I long for is another kind of life. A life which is not easier, but different. I must admit that perhaps I am a little naive and have romanticized that other kind of life, but things were not always that way. Part of my ancestry lays within farm labour, and honestly I can see myself in that life, and have seen myself in that way since I was child. Perhaps I was remembering the lives of my ancestors in my bones.
And then of course there is the Nostalgia. I remember my great grandmothers farm, and finding a porcupine quill on the trail while were in a tractor which I have kept with me ever since-dried blood from the porcupine still stained on it. I remember the pigs which I used to talk to and refused to eat, the rolling hills and the misty travels up the humid mountains and that awful and sour smell of paper mills along the way. I remember sights and sounds, and scents of homemade jam on toast.
I truly do admire the wild herb women who make medicines from their land, who live a more simple kind of life, less processed and less filled with social media, who are more accustomed to living off the grid and off the land. I used to feel I was getting there in my own way as a suburban equivalent but inevitably the daily grind of the rat race keeps interfering. The fast pace of suburban/city life is soul crushing and technologically violent. I miss my childhood when I would be able to sit outside amongst the trees at night and look up at the stars, when we could go horseback riding along the dirt roads and have our own small adventures. Life was hard back then too. My childhood was not wonderful. It was filled with a lot of pain and bullying and turmoil. But in many ways it was more free than this life- always being on someone else’s schedule, renting space from crazy landladies who don’t share your love for plants, and being around people who I cannot relate to for the life of me.
Hags, ghosts, demons, poison plants, and books of folkore and ethnobotany are calling me. I want to get lost in the deep, dark woods, and feel the crunch of autumn leaves underfoot as I go searching them out. While there are spirits in the suburbs and it is something I have always stressed in my writing, it feels like the suburban walls and hubbub are blocking them out more and more. Encountering hags among the brambles is a lot more difficult when the brambles and weeds are being cleared from the roadsides and trees are being cleared for developments. And even so I can still sometimes feel my skin tingle with that feeling of liminality and magic in certain moments.
And so in one of those small moments, I gathered nine leaves from poisons both mild and deadly, in the light of the full Autumn Equinox moon, and placed them under my pillow. While my dreams have been terrifying and filled with a certain kind of ugliness, there is hope as well…
There are pilgrimages too, to wild and hidden places, hiking trails in semi wild places in the heart of suburbs far away from me. I caught a glimpse of this on Saturday as we trekked around unprepared in the midday sun in the scrubland or “bush”. I found African Wormwood growing there wild, and greeted butterflies and birds and acacia trees. It may not be a forest, but it is a certain kind of Wilderness which I have traveled before with Sobekh, up rocks and dusty hills, trying to find that secret thing which other witches have found in their own lands- a bit of the old spirit and deeper connection with it, that liminal magic that sings from inside the bones. We will visit again soon, this time better prepared for the terrain and the sun.
Even in the midst of these magical places and spaces, I struggle to tell the stories. Perhaps soon, with enough coaxing their voices will be loosed more freely in my writing and my art.