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 best known 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.”
Today I’m thinking about Titiba (or Tituba as you have likely seen her name spelled). There are many versions of her story, but the one I prefer is the one that highlights how her testimony turned the eye of the mob and its inquisitors away from the poor and marginalized and towards the wealthy elitesContinue reading “Advent Calendar of Witches, Day 16, Titiba”
When Catalina Ouyang wrote to ask if, as part of her work on a visual art installation, I could, along with several dozen other writers, create a poetic translation of the Conclusions & Findings section of the Title IX report from the 2016 investigation into her sexual assault at her undergraduate university, I was nearly finished writing a book about historical figures executed for witchcraft. Except I was stuck on one last chapter about a man named Johannes Junius.
Agnes Waterhouse, age 64 in the year 1566, was an impoverished woman who had a white cat named Sathan that spoke in a strange hollow voice and would do anything for a drop of blood. She had him kill her pig to prove what he could do, and then had him kill the cows and geese of her neighbors, with whom she had quarreled; neighbors themselves, with whom she had quarreled; her husband, with whom she had quarreled.
Hildengard von Bingen knew all the plant medicines, all the minerals, all the tender words you could whisper over a body in pain. In ecstatic trances she saw the face of the divine spread over the world. Despite the obvious similarities and the fact she was summoned to an inquisition, Hildegaard von Bingen was not a witch, she was a canonized saint.
A first-rate bard, Isobel Gowdie’s power came from storytelling and flyting (the fine Scottish art of flinging curses.) Her “crime” was being too mouthy in the direction of the landlord. It’s day 9 on the Advent Calendar of Witches, we’re in a global pandemic, and the rent is still too damn high.
Angela de la Barthe was wealthy. She owned her own property and thus wielded some degree of influence in the city of Toulouse, which was a stronghold of those who would resist the authority of the Church. To the inquisitors a woman in authority was confusing and created a sense of disorder – you might call it a feeling of bedevilment.
Nevermind what you may have heard, Theseus was a villainous monster. Medusa, on the other hand, brought corals, the Pegasus, and many other marvels into this world. It’s day 6 on the Advent Calendar of Witches and I want to celebrate Medusa.