Once, in a time that was and was not a time of transition a goodly gathering of womenfolk did descend upon the great Roman city by the Ex, to sup tea together and remember a time when women did not have such freedom, aye, and to remember too that even in their day there were women in other lands across the ocean that still had no such freedom.
In the now tranquil gardens upon the dreaded Rougemont Hill, where once three elders were tortured and hung to satisfy the blood lust of a baying mob, three hundred and eighty women and children and menfolk sat quietly to picnic and to remember…
From a town that is not too big and not too small with a river running through it and a steep, steep hill with a castle on the top came three deep watery women; two friends of the River Dart and a third, met by the train that would carry them forth, She of the Dolphin. Curiosity got the better of many who saw them that day; watery trio, seaweed hair, liquid imbibed from a silver cask and entangling chaos magic, and the question was asked;
“Whence do you go?”
And amid grins of glee were they told
“Why to Exeter go we, to meet with our sisters and celebrate the joy of having been born Woman, called there by the Grand Bard herself; the Lady Who Serves Juno”
And smiles did greet them, admiration for the collection of besoms; one of the genuine variety, a glorious slender garden sweeper, one carved from the oak of the Dart and fastened together with sweet woodbine blending ancient wisdom and the enticing scent of youthful bloom and a third a knarly old stick, curvy and mysterious, all tied off with newly cut straight willow, as the witches boarded the train broomsticks a hand…just in case.
As the train pulled out from out of her cloaks did She of the Dolphin produce a perfect silver cask engraved in a labyrinth fashion and offered to her sisters newly met a sip of mead made from the ancient recipe of the Benedictine monks from the nearby Fast of Bucks from local honey and lemon juice. The brew was good and the sisters did approve of it well, and settled back to enjoy the journey by wood and field, sea and town and good company as they learnt first one thing and then another from their companions newly made. Admiring creative besoms and adding new contacts to their phones they laughed at the paradox of a twenty first century witch, whilst exchanging recipes and telling of good foraging spots.
There was one who specialised mostly in Insanity and the goodly Mistress of Story said of this she would soon partake, and another who cannot help but create a new story wherever she goes, and the third a writer of tale too and the three did happily pass the time till the train it did stop and an announcement was heard
A suicide on the track
What an inconvenience
The male voice was heard to declare, what a bother, what a wait, what a perfectly unreasonable act!
The three women did look one to the other, compassion in their eyes for the one on the track that suffered so, and sat back, patiently, for it all to be resolved, musing that perhaps the time might be better spent in sending wists of positive energy towards the poor unfortunate that he might rise and try again to regain the path he had followed down to this earthly life, rather than disgruntled to complain of disruption to business as usual.
A little while later the disembodied voice returned, to tell a little more of the tale
The suicide, they heard, was dangling from a low hanging branch of a tree contemplating the manner of his death, what a bother, what a nuisance, why couldn’t he do it at home…
The passengers were quiet, the witches glanced one to the other
And then the train set forth in an instant, and the journey onwards had recommenced
The disembodied male voice returned a third time
To say cheerfully how he thought that they all must, like he, be thinking, most relieved that he must have got on with it quick so they could continue along their way. The horror of his inhumanness had them at first laugh in spontaneous shock – then gasp in horror at one who put expedience before life, before love, before compassion, and sincerely hoped the suicide had climbed down his tree into the arms of a loved one.
The train came to a halt after its wondrous passage along by the sea edge, where boats bobbed up and down upon waves and sea birds wheeled and let out piercing calls of greeting, and the souls of the women were stirred by the power and the serenity of sister sea, and out spilled the contents of the metal carrying snake onto the platforms of the great cathedral city of Exeter. Whereupon the three witches did spy two more of their kind; sporting pointy black hats and long black cloaks, stripy coloured socks, high heels and a broomstick apiece; sisters from the land of the Cornish no less and together the five; one for fire, and one for air, one for earth, and another water and the last for spirit, did wend their way through the station amidst guards who perhaps wondered, as tickets did they produce, at why they hadn’t simply flown aloft. Such a waste of good energy to use it thus; for that kind of power is saved for the things that really matter, and cannot be fixed by common man alone.
Out on the pavement the sun shone down on the cloaked backs of the 5, who heartily wished for black bikinis as the attire most fitting for that day, then they strode out towards the little path that crept snake like up between the buildings that led to the road to the city.
Marching purposefully up the road, commanding the traffic to stop at their bidding by means of simply striding out onto the crossing, did they go, confident of purpose, confident of the sisterhood, and the glimmerings of a knowing of why their ancestral sisters had been so feared. For none more than woman who feels her power can command such presence, such attention, such obedience.
Men from their metal boxes stared out in admiration of the freedom in action they recognised and worshipped as the 5 walked on towards their destination, comfortable in the company of like.
Of the costumes of pointy black hats and long flowing cloaks and the obligatory witch’s broom they were of ambivalent thought. The attention it brought was welcome, for none but women enjoy this more, but the need to dress uniformly instead of their normal magical selves brought with it a certain resentment as well as pride, yet being women each had brought her own particular blend of magic to bend the rules of convention and norm this way and that, till each one a perfect original was, shiny in their colours and their style; this one a warrior queen and that a wise respected crone, the third a powerful weaver of love, one of maidenly bloom and the fifth of matronly stature.
Green hair, gypsy bright, dark seduction, joker stripes and steadfast gaze the 5 strode into Northernhay gardens, there to be beheld by a young Hugh Grant who gazed and then gazed and then finally, in the manner of a film script just starting out said
“Would you mind awfully if one just asked what exactly is the garden today doing filled with witches with broomsticks, the like of which has never been seen, at least to my knowledge?”
The women surveyed the young handsome man in stripy shirt and confident air and briefly summarised their purpose today;
To pardon three elders charged with witchcraft, they uttered not for fear of causing alarm, but instead stuck to the mundane, to break a world record, the most witches to gather, in costume, in one place.
Thank you kindly, said he and sauntered off, amazement gleaming in his eyes, leaving the witches to imagine the setting as the film drew to a close; Hugh Grant with his witch in a clinch, with no way of telling how that story would end.
Now, the garden showed its flowers; witches of every manner and kind filled its green spaces, tall and short, big and small, ample and slender, male and female, old and young, sublime, ridiculous, flamboyant and showy, and discreet and hidden behind dark glasses, the witches by their appearance showed to the world their essence and type. Hats large and grand, perfectly crooked and jauntily set, hats tiny for fun and just for effect, and brooms even from the store cupboard borrowed and a cloak of thick paper only just larger than its defining sign in thick black felt tip “CLOAK”, it declared, cloaks gaffered together from black bin liners, starry spangled, and glorious hand stitched green velvet, a blue towelling robe and a warlock’s grandeur, silver locks and long black curls, sleek shiny Egyptian and the wild natural look, girl child in pink and shocking bright tights, rainbow hat and rainbow gown, feathers and spangles, boas and necklets, talismans worn, all manner of finery, all manner of witch were gathered in quiet respect, for the space, for each other, for the occasion for which they had gathered.
‘Will there be enough of us’, was the murmured concern as the witches filed around to sign the scroll to have the elders, the last three witches to be hung for the crime of being Woman, pardoned for all time. As the line gradually moved forward, and others joined, the socialising gently emerged as friends greeted friends and new ones were adopted, old acquaintances almost forgot and those barely known till now but part of the tribe, or should that be coven though there were many, many more than 13… and the gathering gathered its sense of being together.
Once signed She Who Serves Juno did call to be heard, at the sound of the horn blown magnificently by a glorious creature all dressed in brown, did her following assemble to hear what she would speak and then fell silent as she summoned the one who had travelled from far away Sussex who read to hushed breath the ode to lost sisters written in the times of great persecution nearly 400 years afore that told of the suffering, the great wrongs that were perpetrated; torture, humiliation, and death on those who were Woman and not bowed to the Patriarchy that had subjugated all comers to this life, male and female both, to a lifetime of denying their connection to the earth and all things, for fear of the power and the glory of the feminine principle within them all, whose strength and majesty terrified them to the point of terrorism , and still does to this day for those who fear the woman within.
Touched to tears, stunned to stony painful silence, shaken to tremors, humbled by those who had walked before, the women, children and their menfolk bowed their heads in memory and homage as one; words that touch hearts change minds forever.
Then The Lady Who Serves Juno did call to them to honour their sisters at the tower, now ruined, where they had suffered and died, and there at the foot of the now broken red Norman stones, symbol through and through of subjugation and the victory of might over right, three willow figures stood representing the elders who had died for being Woman, at the will of the mob, of the people, for the judges knew their innocence but the crowd wanted blood, scape goat, cursed symbol of our domination, symbol of a male worshipping religion, tribe ousted from their land, trapped in a cycle of oppressed and oppressor. Deeply engrained in their psyche, the people wanted death to be done, a sacrifice so that their inner demons they need not seek out, but rather project them on to those who were true to self and followed not sheep like the flock.
By small white cotton ribbons did the gathering honour those who had walked before, lay flowers, and big red juicy ripe hips and wrote messages of love, then silently they returned to the green park that now lay in peace about the cursed tower on the hill that once was the hill of the bard, and as she who had called them hither, in a cloak of white feathers stood that day, bard on the hill, the sins of the fathers melted away back into the cauldron of old mother time, and peace exuded from the hearts of those gathered observed by passersby and the old trees that had witnessed so much, and children played and frolicked, phones were checked for new messages, to reunite temporarily mislaid companions, and to take photos as keepsakes, and picnics were eaten as the families and the friends and those who had journeyed solo breathed in the air of freedom and gave thanks for the time they found themselves in, where freedom of speech and freedom of actions had softened across the centuries to this place of transition where the possibility of a new era was beckoning them softly forwards.
And once again the horn it did sound, calling the witches to the archway high above in the old castle walls built upon ancient sacred site, and once more as ancient ancestors must have done, they processed across the land to pass one by one through the arch to be counted, bright unicorns printed upon backs of hands by small girl child, to wait on the other side where Obama the pony watched and the memorial to those killed in war showed a more feminine side, ‘to the memory of the women’ it said , blazened in bright red harvest time hips, and the gaggle giggled together, admiring the craft of their fellows; hats, brooms and cloaks of every hue, talking of their art, and projects yet to come; the story of the old stones on our ancient homeland; the old Dart Moor, to be written as tale stead of old dry bones of facts gleaned from scientific observation that had missed the very heart of its subject.
Then, called to return they passed once more through the arch and returned to the valley where they gathered in a mosaic of colour picked out in black to hear that that day they numbered 380 souls and though no world record had they broken a local one they had and a desire was spoken to return year after year, to commemorate the day they broke the spell of tyranny over Woman and her kind.
The day ended for the two watery witches, by the sea, breathing in its fresh unpolluted air, sitting on the finely ground rock we call sand, fire in the heart for their projects yet to be birthed, new creations of the feminine to remind us all of the reason for life, not escape into idealism, quick fixes, or distraction, but full blooded commitment to be here, now, in the present, with all that it holds.