the homage of witches

October 29, 2019

A hag emerged from the forest. She was crook-backed and her head was poked forward, predatory, withered, and almost hairless, like a vulture’s.

“Here we are at last,” grated the hag, in a vulture’s voice.

She came closer, and cranked herself down on her knees, and bowed her face into the turf and the colourless flowers.

Bianca sat and gazed at her. The hag lifted herself. Her teeth were yellow palings.

“I bring you the homage of witches, and three gifts,” said the hag.

“Why should you do that?”

“Such a quick child, and only fourteen years. Why? Because we fear you. I bring you gifts to curry favour.”

Bianca laughed. “Show me.”

The hag made a pass in the green air. She held a silken cord worked curiously with plaited human hair.

“Here is a girdle which will protect you from the devices of priests, from crucifix and chalice and the accursed holy water. In it are knotted the tresses of a virgin, and of a woman no better than she should be, and of a woman dead. And here— ” a second pass and a comb was in her hand, lacquered blue over green— “a comb from the deep sea, a mermaid’s trinket, to charm and subdue. Part your locks with this, and the scent of ocean will fill men’s nostrils and the rhythm of the tides their ears, the tides that bind men like chains. Last,” added the hag, “that old symbol of wickedness, the scarlet fruit of Eve, the apple red as blood. Bite, and the understanding of sin, which the serpent boasted of, will be made known to you.” And the hag made her last pass in the air and extended the apple, with the girdle and the comb, toward Bianca.

Bianca glanced at them.

“I like her gifts, but I do not quite trust her.”

“All the same,” said Bianca. “I will let her tie the girdle on me, and comb my hair herself.”

The hag obeyed, simpering. Like a toad she waddled to Bianca. She tied on the girdle. She parted the ebony hair. Sparks sizzled, white from the girdle, peacock’s eye from the comb.

“And now, hag, take a little bite of the apple.”

“It will be my pride,” said the hag, “to tell my sisters I shared this fruit with you.” And the hag bit into the apple, and mumbled the bite noisily, and swallowed, smacking her lips.

Then Bianca took the apple and bit into it.

Bianca screamed — and choked.

She jumped to her feet. Her hair whirled about her like a storm cloud. Her face turned blue, then slate, then white again. She lay on the pallid flowers, neither stirring nor breathing.

Tanith Lee
Red as Blood


April 28, 2018

Make sure he always remembers your birthday!



March 5, 2016

Norse Gods off to rape, pillage and enjoy“Lørdag”

Norse Gods off to rape, pillage and enjoy“Lørdag”

Saturday…named dies Saturni, “Saturn’s Day”, by the ancient Romans after the Roman God of agriculture whose major concerns were the sowing of seeds and fertility.

Which brings to mind the Saturnalia celebrating the God which was observed on or around December 17. Originally for one day only the festivities soon spread to a whole week in duration. The festival was characterised by “role reversals and behavioral license”.

According to the Greek poet and historian Lucian, the festival’s observance in his time included widespread intoxication, going from house to house singing naked, the rape of both males and females – along with other and varied sexual license. It was also a time for the giving and receiving of gifts.

The early Christian leaders succeeded in converting large numbers of pagans to Christianity by simply promising them that they could continue to celebrate the Saturnalia as Christians. While there was nothing intrinsically Christian about Saturnalia, they remedied this problem by renaming the Saturnalia’s concluding day, December 25th, as Jesus’ birthday.

But I digress. It’s Saturday today which is my subject. The Anglo-Saxons called it Sater daeg, the French “Samedi”, the Italians “Sabato”…the Danes and Norwegians know it as “Lørdag” which translates as “washing day”.

Imagine all those rampant Vikings naming a day of the week to remind themselves when to wash…?

But enough. The weekend starts here. Enjoy it.

Last second Christmas gifts

December 24, 2015


Christmas gift idea for her

December 19, 2015



I mean the chair, of course. Not the lingerie. The chair…




So, you’ve got at least one sprog. You are a mum. A mother. And soon it’ll be Mother’s Day, a very special time of year dreamed up by Hallmark to boast their profits worldwide.

What should you expect to happen? Well, you’ll probably get a gift or gifts depending on the number of sprogs you’ve produced. Which is fine and dandy, but the last thing you want is for them to catch sight of something they gave you last year gathering dust in a corner. For those “why the hell did they get me that?” products, home-made jams, third-hand bottles of perfume that smell of stale lavender, abrasive bathsalts, simply flush them down the toilet. Put pens, cheap jewelry that turns your skin green, odd gadgets whose use remains undiscovered to the back of drawers. For books you didn’t want, “skim reading” is an answer. If you happen to be borderline illiterate or don’t have time to “skim read” , give them a slightly foxed look by kicking them round the living room floor. Alternatively , say, ‘The writing style was almost Proustian, I thought. What do you think…? (Not advisable if it’s Jilly Cooper.)

For those of you with very young sprogs, gifts will be purchased on their behalf by some significant other, possibly daddy. Make it clear what sort of gift you would like to receive on your special day. Do this at least one month in advance, and reinforce this message daily / weekly. Do not be surprised, however, when you open your gift on the day to find a pair of black fishnets and flame-red crotchless knickers. Simply smile, say, ‘Nice,’ then get out needle and thread to sow up the gapping crotch of the knickers.

In your heart-of-hearts you may be feeling like the hero of Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness” when he finds a cache of severed heads at the end of the Congo, but then we all have to face and overcome our demons. Continue to smile. Be graceful; charming. Revenge is a dish best served cold. Check the back of your food cupboards, look at the use by dates on everything – those tins of crystallized golden syrup, the penicillin-dusted jars of mincemeat, the papyrus-like remains of long abandoned packets of noodles – and put them all to one side. They will form the basis of “daddy’s” next meal! Oh, lucky daddy!