Thursday, October 31, 2002

Hallowe'en Rant 2002


from a mostly Pagan
and respectfully irreverent perspective...

Witchery -- to some the word conjures images of mystery and power;
others simply embrace it in the beautiful yet ordinary trappings of daily life.
More simply, witchery implies recognition of magical power in our lives.
Magic is everywhere.
It arises in the passage of a book that evokes emotion,
in the aroma that revives long-forgotten memories,
in certain qualities of light and color.
All these bring magic to our lives by altering our perception.

-- Kerry Cudmore 10/2002, The Witches' Quarterly --

Ev'ry W'man has a lil' Witch in 'er...

Thus spoke my Maternal Great Grandmother...

It was many years ago, in my Grandmother's kitchen one sultry, late summer afternoon when the air was thick with the odor of thyme and sage wafting over a pot of chicken and dumplings simmering on the stove, where steam hovered like a specter on still air, where flies buzzed monotonously around the back screen door, where iridescent beads of condensation ran down the white granite pitcher and dime store ice tea glasses in little rivers pooling silently on the table, where I sat quietly sipping heavily sugared ice tea and listening to the prattle of the Old Women gathered there.

Old Women with short, permed haircuts in cotton print dresses.
Old Women with a fine sheen of perspiration under their noses.
Old Women with time-lined, care-worn, bright-eyed faces.
Old Women with gnarled hands, stiff joints and swollen ankles.
Old Women housed in stout bodies plump with life.

It was one of my favorite things to do when I spent the last few days of summer with my Grandmothers. I would sit quietly and listen... virtually invisible... which is why I was tolerated in their circle, I think. I listened intently while my Great Grandmother, my Grandmother, my Great Aunt and assorted other Old Women relatives and Old Women friends talked freely and seemingly non-stop of Women's concerns - of children and other relatives and assorted town folk and menfolk whose hi-jinx made them worthy of kitchen table discussion in Little Town Texas.

They talked about Life.
They cried about Life.
They laughed about Life.

They spoke about Life with respectful reverence.

Life's Woes...
Life's Joys...
Life's Little Moments of Wonder...

They talked about their children and grandchildren - their successes, their failures, their marriages, their divorces. They talked about births and deaths. They talked about gardens and flowers, the planting of things, the harvest, the cost of bread or a length of cloth. They talked about cooking this or that delectable dish in simple southern kitchens where home-grown, home canned and made-from-scratch meant something - something good and wholesome. They talked about sickness and how to cure it. They talked about health in a manner that indicated their own well-being was secondary to the health of those in their charge. They meant it. Health was something one was grateful to have in one's old age. They entered into good-natured debate over the best cures for this or that ailment, sharing and disseminating information gathered from who knows what source or experience - you know, the proverbial Old Wives Tale cures. They swore by the time-worn remedies that did not come over-the-counter from a drug store for a baby's colic, fevers, headaches, rheumatism, shingles, and grouchy stomachs. They discussed how, interestingly enough, to tell the sex of a child by the way a woman carried it. As far as I know. My Great Grandmother never missed naming the sex of a child.

I was, very simply - eavesdropping in on Life.

Life's Magic.
Life's Mysteries.
Life's Music.

Yes, it was Life's music - a music which thrummed about the table and filled the kitchen in a crescendo of layer upon layer harmony plucked from the instruments of Old Women's soft tears, quiet sighs and cackling laughter.

In ancient times or olden days as my Great Grandmother would say, knowledge and tradition was passed on from generation to generation by literally speaking the words over and over - by communicating the Craft of Life - the pragmatic rules of simple survival - to the next generation. It is known as Oral Tradition.

Modern day, self-proclaimed Witches say this is how they learned their Craft. Traditional Witchcraft they call it, and perhaps it is, but if it is, then it was spun around a kitchen table much like the one which sits to this very day in my Grandmother's warm century old home.

This fundamental piece of furniture, the kitchen table was adorned not with the accouterments of magic one would expect but with the rudimentary accouterments of life - salt and pepper, honey and sorghum and sugar, wildflowers poking helter-skelter out of a brown glass pill bottle picked by grubby, childish hands.

Ev'ry W'man has a lil' Witch in 'er...

I do not remember what prompted it, but I do remember that statement fell impertinently on my little ears. I remember the moment of stunned silence as the congregation of Old Women mulled this over in their minds. Witches were they? Then I remember their sudden, united chuckle that erupted into wild, uninhibited laughter - every one smiling and nodding soulfully at the other as that conspiratorial Old Woman's look passed between them, glances which welcomed and embraced the idea of Witchery in their midst.

Witches we are then - they seem to agree - So Be It!

Little did I know as I sat with elbows akimbo on the table and legs swinging to and fro, sticking uncomfortably to the vinyl of the chair that summer afternoon - listening, that they, the Old Women were passing on their own tradition, their own Craft, their own brand of homespun knowledge and experience - to me. I, in turn was absorbing their Old Woman mysteries like a sponge. I was being indoctrinated into their Craft.

This was my induction into The Craft of Womanhood whose business is the Craft of Life and sometimes Death, but always it is the business of Renewal. I say it again Women's business is The Craft of Tradition and Witchery, Mystery and Magic.

Ev'ry W'man has a lil' Witch in 'er...
Every Woman is a Witch.
I believed it then. I believe it now.

I believe every Woman has the capacity to tune in to the great mystery. Life. I believe every Woman is a part of that great mystery in and of herself. I believe every Woman has the power of intuition. I believe every woman is a psychic of some degree depending upon her willingness to focus on and accept matters that may lie just outside what is considered the realm of possibility. I believe every Woman has the courage to direct her life in a positive manner and affect the lives of those in her charge in like manner. I believe Women survive despite the demons that lie in wait along the path set before them and despite those disparate creatures that sneak up from behind. I believe Women are the original vanquishers of evil.

I believe Women possess the tools to break beyond the boundaries of the mundane and the ability to embrace with a whole heart that which is cast off or deemed unworthy by others. I believe Women are a storehouse of knowledge - not book knowledge but life knowledge. I believe Women reinvent themselves with each new generation and that Womanhood is a never-ending cycle of evolution toward something more pure, more beautiful and more enlightened, that we are all contributors to something great and vast and powerful which will reveal itself as the best of ourselves - in a better time - a future place.

...I have to digress and interject here that I don't necessarily think that Witchery is gender specific. Men are quite capable of great intuitive powers and extraordinary feats of wisdom and magic but Women own a part in the great scheme of things that is exclusively their own territory and it is with Women that this discourse is concerned.

As I walk my own path I find that a look over my shoulder every now and then does the soul good. It is easy to stay grounded in this life if you remember from whence you came. So, that is what I do come every Samhain (Hallowe'en). By remembering the ones (both living and departed) who have come before me - my Womenfolk, Grandmothers, Aunts, Mothers, Sisters, and Women friends I find the courage to carry on. Thus grounded, I can focus upon those who have and will come after me - Daughters and Granddaughters. We are all Maiden - Mother - Crone in our own season and in accordance with our own will and purpose. We will be remembered by those with whom we have shared our lives and who have partaken of our traditions -- our Craft.

Yes, I remember well and most fondly those Old Women gathered around the kitchen table, the ones for whom Witchery was merely a stamp on the validity of their fruitful and purposeful lives. It was a brief glimmer of the true purpose behind their never-ending toil in the mundane world - a world that often treats Old Women as if they are truly Witches.

I am grateful for those Old Women - their ever guiding presence in my life, for their gifts of magic and mystery, tradition and witchery, for their sense of mischief and good humor. And I am thankful for the memory of their Women's Witchy laughter ringing in my head like it was yesterday...a recollection that has me smiling, even now...

So, here I respectfully offer:
Bright Blessings
To Old Women
Witches One and All
Blessed Be!

Respectfully yours in caliginous chaos
An it harm none – do as you will…
© 2002 (text revised 2018) All rights reserved