Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Making of a Witch

The Making of a Witch

“ All witchcraft comes from carnal lust, which is in women insatiable.”
~Malleus Malificarum

A green-gowned maid sat by the stream
combing out her floating hair,
when dancing on the firefly air
there came to her a man of dream.

He loved her out of her fine array,
praised russet hair with silver tongue;
in the melt of the winter's dead white sun
she quickened his child as he rode away.

She hadn't learned to reckon cost;
what's quick to grow was quicker to die.
A fast coiled steam of fire and sky,
her love bled out with the babe she lost.

The witchlight flickered in the dark,
the fat white mare was foundered lame.
On the thirteenth night, the black dog came
to suck at her breast and leave his mark.

She scryed her crystal in cold midnight
for sign of him who'd cracked the bell,
drew nightshade visions from the wishing well
to give her in nightmare a second sight.

Of wolfsbane, poppy, black hellebore
she mixed the paste that gave her flight
from mem'ry,  to melancholy, feeling, fright;
She screamed till she could dream no more.

They burned her where the high roads cross.
Priests plied the censor while cowards dug
to cover her bones bound tight and snug
washed clean of her fever, at what a cost.

~October 2012

Posted for   real toads
Sunday Mini-Challenge: The Envelope Quatrain
Kerry gives us a profound narrative challenge: to follow in Tennyson's footsteps in In Memorium. I wouldn't pretend to go that far, but I've tried to preserve a period feel. 
For a full description of form and subject, see above link.

Header Image: The Love Potion, 1903, by Evelyn De Morgan
Footer Image: Inspire (c) Ellen Wilson
Used with permission. Thanks, Ella!


  1. Oh my
    I think Lord would be pleased
    If i began to preach on all the great lines here, we'd be at this all day.
    But i sure had trouble getting past that quote.
    What a rich telling, Hedge, that made me wish i had popcorn while i read it.
    This should've been written long ago, but then, it probably was.
    Then buried with the bound bones.

    1. yes, the quote is meant to be a bit ironic. I forgot to add an appropriate tag--'eve et the apple and adam fell' Thanks, rick.

  2. I sat back, relaxed and allowed myself to be taken up by your story. Your have put the envelope quatrain to excellent use in this narrative verse, but that did not detract from the story itself, which was chilling, tragic and gripping to the end.

  3. Perhaps because I have the mien of an alchemist, I loved this piece. I've often thought I'd have been burned in other times for my inclination toward natural well-being and my mystical patterns of thought.

  4. First of all, the opening quote is hilarious. Got to love when the accusation applies much more to accuser than accused.

    This piece is fierce and absorbing and edgy. Fool her once and there ain't gonna be no next time. The price has been high and she's ready to share the pain. The stanza with the horse and dog was especially good, I thought.

    There is always a wrong at the heart of this kind of witchery; the beauty doesn't just get up in the morning and take up's learned. Still, the pious and puny will do the burying in the end, unfair as that is.

    This reminded me of a song i have always really loved, "Tam Lin" by Fairport Convention.

    1. Perfect song.
      '..None that go by Carter Hall but they leave him a pledge
      Either their mantles of green or else their maidenhead

      Janet tied her kirtle green a bit above her knee
      And she's gone to Carter Hall as fast as go can she..'

      Thank you Shay, for easing my anxiety, and for reading this piece so well.

  5. The making and perhaps the unmaking of the witch. The beginning has a lovely Yeatsian feel to me - you seem to be bringing him to mind frequently (a great thing) - you know that poem The Wandering Aengus, I think, - about catching the little silver trout that turns into the woman he wanders after.

    This takes a much darker turn of course - but I found the lyrical beginning especially captivating - the green-gowned maid, the floating hair (which has this Silkie feel though she seems not in the stream- she seems almost the magical one here )--the firefly air, the man of dream. (It's so powerful that the the dream is screamed out of her later.)

    Second stanza too = loving her out of her fine array - (terrific) and the russet hair and silver tongue - And that melting sun so beautiful.

    I tend to find the lighter parts more poignant than the dark -- though there is great incantatory magic in them - the black dog suckling - yikes! And I'm quite sure that other more feisty readers will be more into the feistiness. My generation perhaps more attuned to the intriguing victim than the scryer for revenge -though you handle very well. But the beginning parts -her really rather naive seductiveness brings up all these Flannery O'Connor situations- Good Country People - and A good Man is Hard To Find - watch out for those smooth strangers, huh--or you end up rather spread out. (sorry.) k.

    1. Yes, carnal lust is a great spreader of things. ;-) Thanks k--I'm glad (and flattered) you feel some Yeats in this--I love that poem you mention-I think I'll put it up on the Off the Shelf page for Hallowe'en--it's more a Samhain feel, though, full of Irish.

      I didn't mean to make her sound overly vengeful, just driven, and perhaps in the end driven mad, to an evil that only death can cure. Your usual cautionary tale, indeed.

  6. wow nice story telling hedge....dang the man for loving and leaving ...esp allowing her to pick up the pieces and deal with the death of the child...there is def madness that can come of both of these things and drive one...i kinda felt the vengence as well...or her own quest for answers in the after...

  7. I can hear the ramblings of a woman scorned... great narrative...

  8. Wow! I am not sure what to say other than this is fantastic. "She screamed until she could dream no more." Love that. Great job as always!!

  9. The fourth stanza especially spoke to me, also "to cover her bones, bound tight and snug"........fantastic write, Joy. You are the queen of witchy poetry. Fantastic rhyme and meter.

    1. Thank you Sherry. Always appreciate you stopping by to read.

  10. What a write!.....fantastic....

  11. The words quatrain and iambic tetrameter are great. Poetry in themselves. I felt the tradition and tribute to the craft in The Making Of A Witch. Snakeroot or Cohosh Bugbane would have been good addition to the potion. Just like it's not nice to fool Mother Nature, holier than thou types shouldn't go around burning people.

    1. Aren't they? The music of language. Re the snakeroot/cohosh-I think those are New World plants?--Latin America has some amazing shamanic compounds, too, datura, and famous Bufo toads. And yes, the history of the witch hunts (say, the Pendle witches) is pretty damn sordid stuff. Thanks for stopping by, Scott.

  12. You've definitely preserved the period feel here, Joy, with your wonderful use of words and attention to the form. A great piece of work.

  13. Form...what form? You make this look and sound so easy, Hedge!

    I love your choices on how you describe her being disrobed the first time and then the mention of the cracked bell and what that implies. The way you word things is very poignant and affecting but yet it is tasteful.

    Really great write, Hedge...I feel so bad for the misunderstood.

  14. Perfect form and great storytelling in the fine tradition witches-are-not-born-but-made. My favorite line: "She screamed till she could dream no more." Still alive then, she had to act. So fine.

  15. Wow. I'm bewitched! This was fantastic! The quote was perfect and set the tone for a truly captivating story. At what cost, indeed?

  16. what a gripping narrative! and a great period feel to the verse...difficult to pick any favourites here...the whole is totally riveting, poignant and fierce both


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats