Hedge Witches by Vonnie Winslow Crist
With Halloween almost on our doorstep, our thoughts drift to goblins, black cats, ravens, werewolves, and witches.
The word witch conjures up images of an old woman astride a broomstick soaring through the night sky or a crone waiting in her candy-covered cottage for hungry children to stop by and sample a bite of chocolate. Or even worse, a spell-casting evil-doer focused on harming her neighbors. But I think the witch of folk-belief and fairy-tales is little more than a misunderstood hedge witch.
Hedge witches are women attuned to nature, knowledgeable about animals and plants, and practitioners of herbal or folk medicine. Quite often, they were apprenticed as girl to an older woman who was a midwife and healer. Usually they keep a journal, diary, or book of recipes with notes on the treatment for ailments and the formulas and uses for homemade medicines.
But in Salem, Massachusetts 250 years ago or in 16th century in France and many other places, women who were healers and midwives were often tried for witchcraft. Their apparent power over disease was viewed as magical. If a woman was able to cure an illness, some people suspected she might be able to cause illnesses. If she helped birth babies, wouldn't she be able to open the door to death, too?
So because of fear, jealousy, or the need to keep power away from females, charges of witchcraft were sometimes leveled at those women who seemed different. A perfect example of this is written about in Katherine Howe's novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane.
In my Young Adult fantasy adventure novel, The Enchanted Skean, there is a sisterhood of hedge witches that help the protagonist, Beck, and his comrades as they travel across Dobran battling goblins and unraveling mysteries. I call them wisewomen, but they are modeled after the hedge witch archetype. And I was careful to give each of my wisewomen an individual personality, manner of speaking, and appearance.
Dia, the first wisewoman Beck meets not only treats his goblin bites, but also tries to help him understand the magic contained in an enchanted dagger (or skean) he found in his father's grave. She is ageless, beautiful, and friends with an owl-sprite. Hellemic, the second wisewoman Beck encounters is a tall, big-boned, no-nonsense healer with a pet dog. And Helga, the third wisewoman Beck has dealings with is shriveled with age and foul-tempered. She uses a spittoon, keeps a pet toad, and has a wicked sense of humor. But despite their differences, each of these wisewomen or hedge witches serves her community as healer and record-keeper.
So when you see a gaggle of black-garbed witches running across your lawn with trick-or-treat bags in hand, think of Alice Hoffman's Practical Magic's sexy hedge witches rather than L. Frank Baum's Wizard of Oz's Wicked Witch of the West. Unless, of course, they climb on a broomstick and soar skyward!
About the guest writer: Vonnie Winslow Crist is author of a YA fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, 2 speculative story collections, The Greener Forest and Owl Light, and other books. A firm believer that the world around us is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic, Vonnie celebrates the power of myth in her writing.
Read an excerpt of The Enchanted Skean featuring a graveyard, goblins, and Wisewoman Dia: http://vonniewinslowcrist.com/books/the_enchanted_skean_excerpt
Learn more about Vonnie and her writing: http://vonniewinslowcrist.comhttp://vonniewinslowcrist.wordpress.comhttp://facebook.com/WriterVonnieWinslowCristhttp://goodreads.com/vonnie_winslow_crist http://twitter.com/VonnieWCrist Purchase Vonnie's books: http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-Amazon and http://tinyurl.com/Vonnie-Winslow-Crist-UK-Amazon
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