My Mother the Witch

Screenshot 2015-05-26 18.54.18Lately I have been researching herbs and their medicinal properties.  I have had this urge to be able to grab a handful of herbs from my garden and then press them with other fruits through a juicer.  The idea is to bring back some long forgotten, free medicine (herbs) and blend them with fresh fruits.  Heavily laden with pollen allergies?  Here’s a fresh pressed juice with spinach  (flavonoids and antioxidants to support appropriate immune response), skullcap (an herb that replenishes the nervous system) and grapes (for sweetness).  It tastes great and heals you, or so I am dreaming in my head.

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This research has brought up a childhood memory.  When I was in 2nd grade my sister asked me after having read the book My Mother the Witch by Ross Blue, if I thought our mother was a witch.  To better answer her odd question I “read” (skimmed through the pictures) the engaging tale about a 10 year old girl who lives in Chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts in 1697, (five years after the Salem witch trials.)  She hears about witchcraft and after watching her mother work in mysterious ways she worries that her mother is a witch.  My child mind raced to a few of my mother’s peculiarities –

  1. her elaborate herb garden in our front yard
  2. her mortar and pestle where she ground up secret ingredients
  3. her thatched broom in the corner of the kitchen (Does she fly on it at night?)
  4. our aloof and disappearing cat that my mother named Sassafras (after the healing herb)
  5. the names of her children that she picked.  (I was named after a bird and my sister an herb.)
  6. People always saying “Your mother just lights up a room.”  

After making sure Sassafras wasn’t anywhere within earshot, I knocked on my sister’s door.  With caution I stated, “She might be”.

Soon thereafter we carefully peeked out the window and watched her clip herbs from her herb garden. We’d then quickly hide behind the dining room doorway when she came back into the kitchen and watch her grind them with her mortar and pestle.  We silently took note if her thatched broom was ever used (or moved.)

A few years later there was also the time we went to see the Salem Witch Trial performance in Salem, MA.   Our parents often took us on weekend day trips to “Supplement what you might not be learning in school.”  I sat with my family in the audience while watching a mock, witch trial.  I was mesmerized by my state’s witchy history and had complete empathy over the woman on trial.  I was relieved when the judge declared her innocence.  I was shocked when the lawyer cried out “But your honor she has the MARK OF THE WTICH!”  He thrust back her sleeve revealing an odd marking on her arm that looked like a large spider.   The woman accused let out a wail as she was dragged off to the dungeon.  I looked at my parents’ faces for solace and found them filled with empathy and shock as well.  I let it sink in.  This really happened to woman of power and mystery.  I certainly would never let another know if I was mysteriously powerful.

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Fresh pressed peach, lemon and oregano juice

After the mock trial we were taken down to the dungeon where we saw mannequins dressed as witches shackled up behind bars.   It was fun at first, a bit Disney- haunted house like.  We were escorted in the dark and encouraged by the tour guide to “lean in and get a closer look” at the witches in the jail cells.  We were suddenly interrupted by an ear piercing scream.  It was my sister, screaming that a mannequin had grabbed her.  To my surprise she was right.  The mannequin witch was actually a real person and had grabbed her arm through the jail bars for a thrill effect.  My sister was so frightened she jumped out of her shoes. No, I mean literally they had to stop the tour, turn on the lights, escort everyone out and search for her missing Dr. Scholl.   It took a while to look for her lost shoe and by the time they found it I had decided to put this “is my mother a witch” business out of my mind and never mention it again.

However, I did take note over the years of my mother’s possible “spells”-

  1. My Mother’s Getting Children to Behave Appropriatley Spell – “Treat them like adults, and always give them a task.  Children love to help out.”
  2. My Mother’s Turning Around a Bad Day Spell –  “Just get to school and smile girls.  Smile at everyone.  They will smile at you first the next time they see you.”
  3. My Mother’s Getting Children to Sleep Spell – “Shhhh, it’s ok.  Go back to sleep now.”  “Ok mom . . . zzzzzzz”
  4. My Mother’s Converting Mean Girls Spell – “Oh Rob, I look at it as a challenge when I meet someone like that.  I think to myself how much kindness and enthusiasm will this one take.”  I am still practicing this spell.  I currently get to 3 tries with my “kindness magic” and then walk the other way if they are still seeking me to worship them.  Although unintentionally it seems I am literally incapable of being a sycophant, but be your true self and I will always be your friend.
  5. My Mother’s Mosquito Bite Potion – “There’s some Witch Hazel under the bathroom sink.”
  6. My Mother’s Center Yourself Chant – “Live Free or Die” (my mother is from New Hampsha)

Oddly enough it was just a few years ago where I FINALLY had the nerve to ask my mother if she was indeed a witch.  I used subtly and a bit of humor and with butterflies in my stomach I said,  “You know mom, H and I used to think you were a witch when we were little,  ha-ha-ha!”  K and  Z sprinted passed our legs in her kitchen as I busied myself slicing potatoes . . . and held my breath.  Was this finally the moment when she was going to tell me the truth?  I looked up.

There was a twinkle in her eye and a wide, open smile on her face.  Without a moment’s hesitation she quipped, “Oh, you mean a white one” and gave me a wink.

My mind raced… wait, what?  They have colors?!

White Witch

White witch and good witch are qualifying terms in English used to distinguish practitioners of folk magic for benevolent purposes often using herbs to heal and full prescence of being to enact positive change (i.e. white magic)

Indeed they DO, and indeed she IS.   In aw, I smiled at my magical mother and realized I finally felt safe to admit that I was too.

Holding the Light,

Robin

 

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