by Stina Gray
Days grow cold as autumn draws her golden mantle over the northern lands. Into the dark we go with flame burning bright in hearth and heart. The time of the Crone is here…
The Crone took my hand and led me to her cauldron. “Look inside,” she said.
I hesitated. The old woman looked me deep in the eye and squeezed my hand. “Don’t be afraid. I am here and I will stay by your side.”
Taking a deep breath, I peered inside.
I saw myself, clear and true, staring back at me from the depths of the cauldron.
First, she looked calm, a slight smile on her lips, but then she changed.
Her sweet smile changed into a scowl and her bright blue eyes transformed into fire. When she spoke, I recognized her voice as the one who had been following me Goddess knows how long, stalking my path like a shadow.
“Sister,” she hissed. “Look at you standing there with old hag by your side. You think you’re brave? You think you’re better than me?”
Every word she spat at me felt like a dagger to my heart. For so long, she had held such a power over me.
In her presence, I cowered.
In her scorching gaze, I felt my every dream and every hope burn to ashes. She both infuriated and terrified me at the same time.
I wanted to go, I wanted to run; but I continued to look into the cauldron.
“You’re a fraud!” screeched the woman. “A coward! A fool! A wretched witch following a hopeless dream that will never come true!”
As she screamed, the water in the cauldron began to boil and spit with rage.
At the same time, I felt the calm and strength of the old woman by my side, like a great tree with roots growing deep into the earth.
She held my hand and whispered words of love in my ear. “Stay calm and let her rage all she wants…”
Her pain was my pain, and her screams worked me like a spell, invoking the shadows and wounds of my past.
On the outside, I was calm, but on the inside, I was a battlefield. All my battle training and defence plans torn to shreds. My best warriors were cowering on the ground, their swords thrown away in defeat.
Am I ever going to be free? I thought. When are these shadows every going to stop following me and stalking me like dark clouds, forever intent on dragging me down?
Please, stop, I pleaded. I have had enough. I have suffered enough…
I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS BULLSHIT!
The woman’s screams changed into sobs. Looking down I saw her grow smaller, until finally, she peered back at me with the innocent eyes of a little girl. I picked her up and held her close.
I let her cry and I felt her pain.
Closing my eyes, I felt the pain inside my body, and I took a deep breath, breathing it all out. Rocking from side to side, I felt the pain moving up and down in spirals, up and down, up and down, growing lighter and lighter with every breath.
The Crone patted me on the back and said, “It’s time. Put her back in the cauldron now.”
She was sleeping. Carefully I lay her down in the cauldron where the water had grown cold.
For a second, I hesitated. “What will happen to her?”
“Great Mother will take care of her,” said Crone. “Let her go.”
Ever so slowly, I placed her into the dark water and watched her sink down into the darkness. As I watched her fade away, I felt lighter.
Turning around I faced the Crone and looked into her eyes. She took my hands and gave me a big, toothless smile.
“Good work, my daughter,” she said. “Be proud. You are braver than you know!”
“Will she be back to haunt me again?”
“She will find you again, of course,” said Crone, chuckling. “But her power over you is slackening. You are beginning to find your own power, and that is something she doesn’t stand a chance against.”
“What is my power?”
“Yours is the power of seeing. Truly seeing. It might not sound like much, but it is in the light of seeing, and becoming conscious, that all true power is born. And that, my dear, is a power beyond the fighting force of any warrior.”
“Thank you for helping me.”
“There is always help, my daughter. Never forget that.”
For a moment, we stood and held hands, looking into each other’s eyes. There was so much love in her hands, and I felt it flowing up my arms and into my heart.
I sensed it was time to go. Time to go back into the world again.
Walking away, I felt lighter. I felt the power she was talking about, awakening within me, like a phoenix rising from the ashes.
If this essay resonates with you, please join our WITCH email list by using the forms on this website so we can stay in touch.
About the Auhor:
Stina Gray is a wandering woodswoman, singer and storyteller. With her roots in Sweden and New Zealand, she lives a nomadic life, collecting stories, songs and gems of wisdom wherever she goes. Currently she is working on a new project ‘Woodsfolk Wanderings’ researching forest folklore and interviewing woodswomen and woodsmen about their journey into the wild. Check out Stina’s website or follow her wanderings via Instagram and Facebook.
featured image source