It was an old, moss-covered stone, deep in the woods. They almost didn’t see it, covered, as it was, by mushrooms, lichens, and early Autumn leaves. But, once the archeologists saw it and cleared it off, there it was. A flat piece of marble with Gothic lettering:
The world has called me by many names: Lilith, Succubus, Cunning Woman, Hecate’s Child, Heretic, Whore. But they do not see my truth; they cannot guess the essence of who I am. I am a woman beneath the Moon, robed in magic, a practitioner of the Old Ways. I am a Witch.
“I wonder how it started?” the young woman with the camera asked.
The Spirits who had gathered round laughed, although the students and their professor were far too scientific to hear them. They laughed, glanced with love into each other’s eyes, and nodded with remembrance.
“I remember,” great, great, great grandma Cordellia said.
“No you don’t,” great, great, great grandpa Soren said. “You were mostly senile by then. I was dead, but when they brought her to you in the nursing home, you’d been watching birds outside your window. So you called her the “Bird Whisperer,” but that was just you being silly.”
“No,” said Cordellia, “I wasn’t being silly. You see now how I predicted the future.”
If you’d have asked her mother, though, it didn’t really start in the nursing home with great, great, many times great, grandma Cordellia, although they’d always been proud of themselves for braving the bad smell of the nursing home and bringing baby Willa to meet her almost ancient ancestress. Willa’s mother would have said that it began one afternoon at a Starbucks.
They had lots of Starbucks, back in those days, before it became too expensive to import coffee from South to North America, and suburban mothers would meet at Starbucks in the afternoon for adult conversation. It was on a sunny Wednesday in early March, her mother would later remember, that Willa, tucked under a crocheted blanket, sitting happy in her stroller, and basking in a small patch of sun on the patio, first watched a bird (her mother remembered it as a pigeon) peck at the crumbs scattered under the outdoor tables. Willa’s mother and her friend were sitting outside, sipping coffee, and picking at a shared scone. Her mother handed Willa a bit of scone and Willa gladly gummed it, dropping as many crumbs on the ground as she managed to place inside her mouth. And it was the crumbs, really — those random, unpredictable crumbs — that, in the poet’s words, “made all the difference.”
It was those dropped crumbs, Willa’s mother remembered, that drew the pigeons. They gathered around Willa’s stroller and, as they pecked up the bits of scone, made Willa babble with delight. From that moment on, you couldn’t feed the child anything outside but that she would break bits off and see if she could bring the birds. Birds seemed, her mother would say, to flock to Willa like fish to flies, like dogs to bones, like humans to humor.
But it was really at the bus stop, Willa’s brother, Wesley, would recall, that Willa first began to become a Witch.
/To be continued.
Picture found here.
Story inspired by this.