I’m so grateful to largehearted boy for inviting me to make a The Witch of Eye playlist.
In “The Invention of Mothers,” an essay from The Witch of Eye that is close to my heart, I wrote about Rhiannon, the fairy queen accused of eating her own child. The victim of a coup, she fell asleep and woke smeared in blood and surrounded by the bones of a dog her accusers said was her baby. For this was she bridled like a horse at the gates to the city until her son grew up to escape from captivity and return home to her. She is best known, though, for having called forth the Alder Rhiannon, those three magical birds who sing so beautifully they send the living to sleep and raise the dead from their slumber.
So of course a The Witch of Eye playlist must include Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon.” But how to represent so many other wrongfully accused women – the midwives, healers, activists, leaders, philosophers, and successful business owners – whose ways of being in the world gave some priest or friar or judge or king a bedeviled feeling? Whose songs would call to mind Lisbet Nypan, who, even under the most dire circumstances, refused to apologize for herself or for her work healing the sick with rituals of salt. Whose voice could echo that of the midwife Walpurga Hausmännin’s as she confessed to every crime the village had ever known, every stillbirth, every miscarriage, every sick cow or hail storm, so that the inquisition of Dillingin, Germany could be snuffed out with her? Is there a song in the key of Agnes Naismith laying a dying woman’s curse on the mob gathered to watch her hang, then burn?