The Power of the Witch

November 10, 2019

otherworldly

October 27, 2019

Religion by definition has a mysticism to it. No matter what creed or denomination or belief system, it all has to do with the human and supernatural exchange. There’s something otherworldly about it, as with witchcraft, so the two are necessarily linked in my mind. I think people balk at the idea that a belief system like Christianity has anything to do with mysticism or magic, but in my mind it absolutely does. Witchcraft has historically been viewed as the wrong side of the coin, something sinister and dark, but the two work in tandem, and that’s always intrigued me.

Tamara Jobe
Interview with H/M

Did you think when you burnt us…when you put our flesh to the torch…watched the flames lick the skin from our bodies…that the wrath of our revenge would not return…that the atavistic vengeance of our anger would not resurface and return to destroy your own Souls reincarnated in the same pallid flesh which light Souls always regenerate in…fools…pale fools with minds chained by morality and orthodox hatred…a new Dark Age is upon you, the world is becoming enveloped in uncertainty and chaos…and this is only the beginning of your torment, of our retribution…when set light to the Daughters of Satan…when you hung the Daughters of Lilith…you murdered only the flesh…Our Spirits rose like the flames of the phoenix from our ashes and cursed you stagnant Creeds to damnation…that Curse is now beginning to manifest itself…and with those who now call themselves our Brothers shall aid us in the final vanquishing of your crumbling monarchies!

Brother Salem
666 Salem

eyes like balls of fire

October 22, 2019

‘This,’ said he, ‘I plucked from the beak of a raven feeding on a murderer’s brains! This is the mad dog’s foam! These the spurgings of a dead man’s eyes, gathered since the rising of the evening star! This is a screech-owl’s egg! This a single drop of black blood, squeezed from the heart of a sweltered toad! This, an adder’s tongue! And here, ten grains of the gray moss that grew upon a skull which had lain in the charnel-house three hundred years! What! Not yet?’ And his eyes seemed like balls of fire as he cast them upwards. ‘Not yet? I call ye once! I call ye twice! Dare ye deny me! Nay, then, as I call ye thrice, I’ll wound mine arm, and as it drops, I’ll breathe a spell shall cleave the ground and drag you here!’

William Mudford
The Forsaken Of God

I inherited poetry on both sides of my family. My parents met at a lecture on Shakespeare by Auden. They both loved to read poetry and recited it aloud a lot, and of their five children, I was the one poetry stuck to. I was a quiet, introspective child who felt the magic of connecting to nature and the universe, and poetry enhanced that feeling. By age seven I was memorizing and performing poems from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, and I began to write my own poems shortly after. My mother was my first poetry teacher.

My earliest poems were chants about dreams and visions. After my seventh-grade English teacher told me that real poets write in free verse, I did so for about 15 years — but I still used rhythm as much as I could, because it was like a physical hunger. I’ve always wanted my poetry to create alternate reality, sacred space.

In my 20s I performed incantational free-verse ritual poetry in the performance poetry scene in New York and San Francisco. I earned a Ph.D at Stanford, where I developed two ideas, both of which I have written about at length, that helped me define my adult poetic voice. One, “the metrical code,” explained how meter creates meaning and inspired me to write in a whole range of meters. The other, “poetess poetics,” led me to write within women’s poetic traditions as an alternative to the male Romantic ego. Now that I had my tools and my tradition, I developed my spiritual path in witchcraft and women-centered spirituality and found my subject matter.

My poetry today uses a full range of meters and participates exuberantly in the tradition of women’s poetry while reaching out to contemporary listeners in the service of the matriarchal culture I feel is finally on its way — and just in time to save the earth.

Annie Finch
Interview with Frances Donovan
Gender Focus 27th March 2016

repetition celebrates a cut the song has made. likeness severed from the binding self. in a short drawn breath, we are mourning both the intake and expulsion.

I at least, for my part, indeed, for myself.

the foricalmarks the point in the ploughed land where the furrows cross. the surrogate birds collect here and hesitate.

the quick of the present, softened into the conditional, which props up those who the song has emptied. it looks accidental. maybe the listing is accidental.

[…] attacks upon urban oligarchies in the early seventeenth century were common in Kent, particularly in Faversham in the decade after 1610, and Joan Cariden’s verbal assault on Mayor Greenstreet and his jurats may well have been in that tradition. Clearly dissatisfied with the administration of justice, the troublesome woman threatened to petition the lord warden of the Cinque Ports and instructed her son to ‘goe and arest goodman Chillenden’, and her son also said that ‘he could not have noe justice of Mr Maior’. By mid-September 1635 Faversham had a new mayor, but ten years later Robert Greenstreet once again took up office, and within twelve days, intriguingly, Cariden had been thrown into gaol. Soon afterwards she was tried and executed as a witch. […]

Joan Cason, the witch hanged at Faversham in 1586, confessed not only that John Mason ‘had the use hir bodie verie dishonestlie whilest she was wife to hir husband’, but crucially that she had failed to make the bequests stipulated by her lover in his will. Guilt over this omission caused Cason herself to believe that the deceased Mason had sent the rat which paid frequent visits to her house, in order ‘that she shoolde see hys wyll fulfylled & … she dothe thincke that yt as Masons soule’.

Jonathan Barry, Marianne Hester and Gareth Roberts, Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe, pp. 268 and 280

ruddock | the winder | otherwhile | and now | we
longtails | the linger | maudring | in the forical
anyone | when spree | chitter | o | thrible
anyone | but | upon | the | rush | mouth | which | bly
still | for | lirry | the flinder | lip | and | hussle
whitter | but | into | thicket of reeds | still | the song skipjack | bring | the song
| whipsticks | melting | if | and now | that stilt

Galatea exemplifies the disembodied glimpse—the stealing glance— a gestural point in the transaction of male desire. as performance of volatile elusiveness, she is constantly already evaporated. a grieving in the weed and the wood.

labial reflection of the lily. guttural reflection of the lily. beautiful tumour of the dirge. the mouth is afraid of inexact retrieval. Galatea’s round eyes grow mildewed in the foam of the poem.

But concerning these images, it is certeine that they are much feared among the people, and much used among cousening witches, as partlie appeereth in this discourse of mine else-where, & as partlie you may see by the contents of this storie following. Not long sithence, a yoong maiden (dwelling at new Romnie heere in Kent) being the daughter of one M. L. Sttippenie (late Jurat of the same towne but dead before the execution hereof) and afterwards the wife of Thomas Eps, who is at this instant Maior oi Romjiie) was visited with sicknesse, whose mother and father in lawe being abused with credulitie concerning witches supernaturall power, repaired to a famous witch called mother Baker, dwelling not far from thence at a place called Stonstreet, who (according to witches cousening custome) asked whether they mistrusted not some bad neighbour, to whom they answered that indeed they doubted a woman neere unto them (and yet the same woman was, of the honester & wiser sort of hir…

Reginald Scot, The Discoverie of Witchcraft (London: Elliot Stock, 1584 (reprinted 1886)).

the | mouth | itch | so as not to | bring
longtails | the linger | maudring | in the ood
cluther | now | lilies | the | limb | someoneday | lurry
sit | after | the oare | the saltings
nohow | for | equal | one-eyed | cut song | truly | flee
her | ood | lilies | but | stolt | see | the saltings

little clicks the poem makes. anything can be swollen like this, outside of its quantity, into the sum of the sand. the shepherd puts aside the ox, in favour of the gift which is to die alongside, though only in the dirge, where he sits himself desolate. in the stubble that remains after the cut.

in the word dois the allusion of possession not present in the dirge itself. the poet bestows upon the dead a sense of ownership; that they may keep their own death like a small and tidy house. any action contained in the word is a form of work.

every way, on every side, all, let me tell you.

this dying is a solid thing. though we could not know it.

Mildred Wright is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Anne Wilson is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Mary Read is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Anne Martyn is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
Anne Ashby is hanged for being a witch on July 30 1652.
[…]
Anne Ashby allegedly ‘swell’d into a monstrous and vast bigness’ (like false pregnancy) in court, claiming she was possessed by her spirit Rug. This was witnessed by E. G. Gent.
[…] Mary Browne, Anne Wilson, or Mildred Wright (the author is uncertain) is tested with a pin; she neither felt the prick nor did she bleed.
[…] Mary Read of Lenham allegedly has a witch’s mark under her tongue which she shows to many, including E. G. Gent.

E. G. Gent., A Prodigious & Tragic History of the Arraignment, Trial, Confession, and Condemnation of Six Witches at Maidston Kent, (London, 1652) p. 6.

now | even now | grasp | the swell | in | salts
sit | bligh | bud | but | yet still | fatting
longtails | the linger | maudring | in the ersh
as if all went | to rights | o | doers | to die with | gifts
we | jawsy | kiss | lip, a lip | fret
and now | sartin | o’er | the body | welter | shut | love

Eleanor Perry

I’m probably going to die
at midnight.

Don’t worry—
I’ll set the timer on the coffee pot
before I go.

The crows will be up with me
and the witches.
I’ll watch them through the window
and they’ll watch me back.

I’ll crack the window
so I can smell
stew simmering in cauldrons.
I’ll give some thought
to how it might taste—
boiled lizard eyes
& toad brains
& fingernails of newt.

You’ll be asleep
but that’s okay.
The crows will bob their heads
in time to your snoring.

This morning, a witch came to our door.
She didn’t seem gloating or gleeful
or even wicked.
Not much.

She had a card with my name on it.
She gave it to me.
She tipped her black hat
and went back down the drive.

We thought you might want to know,
the card said.
Don’t worry too much.
It happens to everyone.

Maybe the witch had cast
a calming spell on the card
because I’m not concerned
about dying.

I’m ready to settle in with the crows
and smell the boiling hummingbird’s feet.
I’m ready to leave you with a clean oven
and coffee ready in the pot.

I’ll miss you
but I suspect the crows
will keep us up to date.
They talk to the dead, I think.
They must be watching something
with those keen, staring eyes.

Rachel Swirsky

Witchcraft

May 12, 2019

 

For you, I would burn this night a thousand times just to watch you form stars out of your witchcraft.

M Channing
The Petals Of Lilies

The truth is that the witch is a descendant of ancient goddesses who embodied both birth and death, nurturing and destruction, so it is not surprising that she has both aspects. But when religions decay and gods are replaced, there is a consistent dynamic: the gods of the old religion inevitably become the devils of the new. If serpents were once worshipped as symbols of magic power, they will later be despised as symbols of evil. If women were once seen as all-powerful, they will become relegated to obedience to men and feeling pain in childbirth. The symbols remain but their values are reversed. The snake in Genesis is now the devil. The first female, Eve, has gone from being a life-giver to a death-bringer. Good and evil are reversed. This is the way the politics of religion work.

The contemporary image of the witch incorporates detritus from many religious sects over many millennia. Like the wall of a Crusader castle in the Middle East, it rests upon a foundation of remnants from a variety of periods. Like Hecate and Diana, the witch is associated with the moon and lunar power. Like Aphrodite and Venus, she can make love potions and fly through the air. Each attribute of the witch once belonged to a goddess.

Erica Jong

Witches   

red, red heart

March 31, 2019

Maybe it’s not a lesson so much as it’s a magic trick. You can make a little girl into anything if you say the right words. Take her apart until all that’s left is her red, red heart thumping against the world. Stitch her up again real good. Now, maybe you get a woman. If you’re lucky. If that’s what you were after. Just as easy to end up with a blackbird or a circus bear or a coyote. Or a parrot, just saying what’s said to you, doing what’s done to you, copying until it comes so natural that even when you’re all alone you keep on cawing hello pretty bird at the dark. 


Catherynne M. Valente,   


Six-Gun Snow White