Coven Chat

The Heart of Blending

Coven Chats are a series of video chats, hosted by the team here at Wyrd & Wyse. We believe that in this age of the internet that it’s good to see faces, hear voices and feel the energy of the folks we connect with from time to time in a more unscripted and real-feeling way. We don’t have fancy technology or video capabilities, just our webcams and a Zoom account. Please excuse any issues with sound, flying creatures, and visiting cats. This is real life, darklings, and we really want to share it with you.

Hello everyone,

Today we are kicking off a series of chats we've been meaning to have since the inception of Wyrd & Wyse about the darker and shadowy aspects of creative life. I'll be talking with several people into the dark months about their personal stories of dealing with shadow in the creative process, as well as different aspects of that process. We don't aim to solve any of these issues, but rather want to create an openness and solidarity around discussing what it's like to be a creative person in this particular moment of telling and sharing so much, so quickly.

I'm starting our chats with Lindsay Luna -- formerly of Altar & Leaf Apotheca, and one of the founding members of the Wyrd & Wyse team. Lindsay has always one of the people I trust most deeply with my creative life. She is a sensitive and beautiful soul who found herself faced with her own creative shadows last year, which has lead to a burning time and spending some time in her dark spaces. Today we talk about what was (and is) magical about blending tea and creating stories, what stung and tore -- and what happens when you come full circle on your own story.

You can find Lindsay (and her creative partner Sara) on Instagram @gatheratthestudio for more information on the creative space they’re creating on her farm in Washington state and @hagfoot if you are looking for the breadcrumbs that might lead to your next tea story…

Pour a cuppa and join us for a Coven Chat,

Allison

Season of Memory

Dr. Sarah Guthu is a creative midwife, who specializes in bringing others' dreams to fruition. She works as a professional fundraiser, writer, editor, marketing consultant, and strategic planner. An outspoken defender of the importance of health, balance, and support for the productivity of professional artists, she hopes to one day run an artist's retreat, where her hearth magic can nurture young artists in body and spirit as they launch their careers. She is currently working with her soulfriend Dr. Amal Eqeiq on an illustrated book of Eqeiq's poetry titled Diaries of a Hedgehog Feminist.

In September the days stretch themselves to gossamer, a mere film of the syrupy heat August poured upon us. The light wanes to silver in the weakened afternoons and the mornings darken as we track the sun southward along the horizon. In the air the first chills, not yet damp, calls to us with the mournful song of wild geese.

I was a small child when I read Jane Langton’s The Fledgling, an ode to wild things and humans’ place in the web of the world. Thoreau’s On Walden Pond hums steadily through this book, a touchstone. It would be decades before I read Thoreau, but I never looked at the wild geese the same way again.

I used to draw them obsessively, in shades of black and grey and white charcoal – and gold, always gold, the soft light of the setting sun that gilded their soft bellies and necks with the light of the setting sun. I close my eyes and I still see them that way, a line forever fixed against an autumn evening sky.

Or rising before dawn in the fog that spread like thick butter across the river to the hills, unseen but heard, as the sky paled and brightened. I’d often wake early and walk out to the fields to watch the sun rise as a child.  If it was August or September, I knew by the time I got home my mother would be pulling a blueberry coffee cake out of the oven, warm and fresh. She’d cut thick, soft chunks of it for our breakfast, crumbles of sugar topping dusting our plates.

This is that cake. Autumn is the season of memory, and for me this cake is forever tied to that momentary suspension between-times - those brief golden weeks when the heat has gone out of the summer but before the rains come, those days that seem to invite us so cordially to contemplate the elegance of existence. Over the years I’ve changed the recipe up a bit – made it vegan, pared back the sugar, traded the blueberries for blackcurrants. But I promise you, it is particularly good stuffed full of whatever wild berries or hedgerow fruits grow near you – catch them now, slightly dessicated and dusty, their flavors rich and sweet from their long ripening.

As you pull it from the oven, this cake passes through three generations of women of my family into your hands. We bid you welcome to our table, to morning, to communion, to a quiet moment at the pinnacle of season’s change.

Outside, the wild geese are calling, calling, calling the way home.


Hedgerow Cake

For the crumb mixture:

  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar

  • 1/3 cup flour

  • 1-2 teaspoons sweet spices*

  • ¼ cup coconut oil, or soft butter

For the cake:

  • 2 cups flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • Pinch salt

  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom, or other spices**

  • 1/3 cup sugar

  • ¼ cup coconut oil, or soft butter

  • 1 egg or egg replacer

  • ½ cup almond milk, or other milk (dairy or non-dairy)

  • 2 cups black currants, or other berries

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

  2. Grease and flour a 9” square baking pan. Or, to make this special, I like to use a springform pan, which makes it easier to make a nice presentation.

  3. In a small bowl, make the crumb mixture: rub all ingredients together between your fingers, or press and mix together with a fork until evenly mixed. The texture should be like wet sand. *I like to use a mix of allspice and nutmeg with blackcurrants in this cake, but see below for other ideas. Set crumb mixture aside.

  4. Now it’s time to make the cake: in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and spices until evenly combined.  Set aside.

  5. In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, coconut oil (or butter), and egg (or egg replacer). Add the almond milk (or other milk) and stir to combine. Now add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and stir to mix well. Gently fold in your berries.

  6. Pour batter into prepared pan, smoothing top. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over the top of the cake batter. Bake 45-50 min, until a tester poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

This cake is such a simple, easy base for any fresh or frozen berries you have that you want to use up, and it’s pretty hard to go wrong with any combination. If you use frozen berries/fruit, just make sure to thaw them first, and let them drain a bit in a strainer – try to eliminate any excess moisture, and plan on baking your cake a few minutes longer, so it’s not wet in the middle. While I love the combination of blackcurrants and cardamom in this cake, it works just as well with blueberries or raspberries or even a number of hedgerow plants, if you’d like to something a bit wilder on your palette, such as:

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Blackberries

Don’t be afraid to throw in berries that are a little dried out and wrinkly; they’ll be extra sweet from summer. Try pairing them with cardamom or allspice in the cake, and use a touch of cloves (just a little) with cinnamon in your crumb mixture.

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Crabapples

These ornamental crabapples are as edible as varietals grown for eating, but their fruits are smaller and tarter; some of them have an intense tannic bite, which I love. It takes a bit of time to remove the tiny cores and seeds, but the flavor is fantastic, especially in a baked dish like this. Substitute a mix of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves for the cardamom, and put allspice in the crumb. An autumnal classic!


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Huckleberries

Huckleberries. These are the evergreen variety, but the deciduous shrubs (both red and blue) are also delightful. Use cardamom in the cake and a 50-50 mix of allspice and cloves in the crumb mixture for something warming and deep.


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Oregon Grape

Mahonia has a deep, concord-grape flavor with a wild, earthy edge. However, do note: it should not be eaten by anyone who is pregnant or nursing! The fruits of the Oregon Grape have a big seed, so be prepared for a crunchy bite if you bake the cake with these. Consider using allspice and a touch of clove in the cake, and try poudre forte in the crumb mixture for an exciting tang to balance the rich flavor of the fruit.


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Hawthorn haws

Try picking and adding haws to your cake after the first frosts have sweetened the haws. They don’t have a strong flavor, so consider mixing 1 cup of haws with 1 cup of another kind of fruit – fresh or dried cranberries would be delicious. Use ginger in the cake and cardamom in the crumb mixture.


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Rosehips

These rugosa rosehips are a lovely source of vitamin C – and, like the haws, are really best harvested after a frost. However, be aware that each seed in the rosehip contains a little hair that will irritate your skin as well as your insides if you accidentally ingest them. Wear gloves and carefully cut the fruit open, removing all seeds and hairs. Wash the fruit carefully then cut into berry-sized chunks before baking. Rosehips would be lovely with a bit of ginger and some freshly grated lemon zest, with a nutmeg crumb.


A note from the Editrix: All photos and writing belong to Dr. Guthu. Do not use without permission. Violators shall feel our wrath.

Steps of Ash and Seedling

Emily Linstrom is an American writer, artist, and Pagan soul residing in Italy. Her work has been featured in a number of publications including Three Rooms Press, Nailed Magazine, A Women’s Thing, The Wisdom Daily, and Carve Magazine. She was the first prize recipient of Pulp Literature Press's 2015 The Raven short story contest, and is a regular contributor for Sabat Magazine, The Outsider, and Quail Bell Magazine. Additionally, Linstrom is a member of the faculty at the School of Witchery. You can view her work at: www.emilylinstrom.com and follow her adventures on Instagram at betterlatethan_em 

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Revisiting the Robber Bridegroom

in Light of #MeToo

Fairytales always fail us in the end. Let me rephrase that: popular fairytales, the ones hushed up and bleached of their truth like Hollywood scandals, will inevitably fail us, and with a smile.

I grew up with princesses raped and impregnated in their century-long sleep by the kind of prince who breaks more than a spell. I took my romantic cues from cinder girls beholden to abusive stepfamilies until fairy godmothers took pity on them. I swam with lovesick mermaids willing to forfeit their voices so they could dance on knives and sleep on cushions outside royal bedrooms like obedient canine bitches. I believed too early and for too long that wishing and doing were the same thing.

Red riding hoods cleaned and pressed of their menstrual blood, virginal hair so long and promising that a girl’s very future could scale right up it, sanctimonious frogs overstepping boundaries in the name of you owe me—these were the earliest tales I knew, painted in broad strokes for picture books or else breaking into song and dance onscreen. Their birds-and-bees origins stripped away, they were my beautiful but bad education.

Being the youngest in my family, my inheritance naturally consisted of hand-me-downs: too-tight dresses worn by my much slimmer sister, books she’d read, and toys she’d discarded in favor of more grown-up diversions. Among these effects was a small, antiquated book called Household Stories by the Brothers Grimm, adorned with macabrely gorgeous illustrations by Walter Crane. God, it was medieval. Something sinister tinged the already yellowing pages; sex sidled up and down the margins, coyly daring you to go there where context was absent. I was both fearful and fascinated. Here at last were Disney’s delinquents.

Of them all, one particular tale seized and sang to me. It seemed more cautionary tale than fairy story; it had gore and a beating heart and my kind of wedding. As I grew older I misplaced it somewhere in the flotsam and jetsam of childhood, till the time came when remembering was a matter of life and death.

Not so long ago, as I was nearing the end of my twenties, I returned to the most vital lesson of my girlhood, that of the robber bridegroom. I pushed my way back to that house in the murky green (Tori Amos sings a line from Black-Dove in my head: ‘in that tiny, kinda scary house by the woods, by the woods…’) and the goblin men who dismembered me there, taking what was mine under whatever pretense justified their actions, while my allies-in-waiting held back in the shadows. I swore to myself, to my former selves, never to forget again.

*

Once upon a time a miller had a daughter, because of course he did. The poor are always cursed with daughters, right? Which is why they sell them to the first bidder who comes along, even if he’s weird and the daughter’s intuition tells her something is wrong, terribly wrong. She’ll try to tell her father but he’ll brush her off, because what does she know, her silly instincts and primal wisdom passed down through generations of mothers still fighting for her in her blood?

Her betrothed comes to call each week, and she lets down her guard a little more each time—but only a little. He’s handsome in that roguish way most girls have a weakness for at some point; there’s an air of mystery about him that heightens the already heady aroma of grown-up initiation. She’s intrigued and maybe even a little in love, but the voice inside persists: there’s something terribly wrong.

Her betrothed complains that she never visits him, that it’s always he who makes the journey from his home deep in the forest and why should that be? After all, once they are married she will be mistress of his house. He insists that she visit the following Sunday, and assures her that he will sprinkle ashes along the path so she does not lose her way. Ashes.

Nope, says the voice. And so she stuffs her pockets with lentils and peas, and scatters them over the ash trail she is to follow. Eventually she comes to a solitary house in the heart of the wood, large enough but disquietingly gloomy. From inside a cage suspended above the entrance, a bird trills:

“Turn back, turn back, thou pretty bride! Within this house thou must not bide, for here do evil things betide!”

Undeterred, the girl goes from room to room. The house is empty. When she reaches the cellar she is greeted by a very old woman seated by the hearth. She inquires about her bridegroom’s whereabouts.

 Illustration by Walter Crane (1845-1915) for  Household Stories From The Collection Of The Brothers Grimm,  published in 1882

Illustration by Walter Crane (1845-1915) for Household Stories From The Collection Of The Brothers Grimm, published in 1882

"Oh, you poor child," says the old woman, "where did you come from? You are in a murderer's den. You think you are a bride soon to be married, but it is death that you will be marrying. Look: see that large kettle of water over the fire? Once you are in your bridegroom’s power he and his band of men will chop you to pieces without mercy, cook you, and eat you. If I do not show you compassion and save you, you are doomed."

The old woman hides the young girl behind a cask as footsteps shake the boards overhead.

"Be quiet as a mouse," she tells her. "Do not make a sound or move from this spot, or all will be over for you. Tonight when the robbers are asleep we will escape together, for I have long awaited this opportunity."

The robbers—murderers we must call them now, for there is honor even amongst thieves—enter the cellar, dragging a young woman with them. This woman begs for her life and this only excites them more. They jostle and taunt her, and finally force her to drink three goblets of wine: red, yellow, and white. This, we are told, causes her heart to break. The men strip her of her clothing, and while the devout Grimm brothers don’t go into explicit detail, I think we can correctly guess what they each take turns doing to her dying body. They then chop her up, and order the old woman to prepare them a feast. One of the men attempts to get at a ring on the dead woman’s finger, and in his frustration hacks the whole damn thing off. The finger jumps away and into the lap of the hiding girl. They make a fuss over searching for it, but the old woman tells them to sit down, that the finger isn’t going anywhere. They don’t notice the sleeping potion she slips into their wine.

Once the murderers have passed out, the two women lock arms and flee that house of horrors. (Though it’s never specified, I like to think they paused long enough to free that helpful little bird as well.) As predicted, the ashes have blown off the path, but the peas and lentils have sprouted in the moonlight.

The young girl and old woman tell no one of what has happened, and on the morning of the wedding the bride is dressed and brought before her bridegroom and his “best” men. She actually goes through with the ceremony, and during the banquet everyone takes turns telling stories for amusement. When it’s the young girl’s turn she recounts a dream that unspools into the very events that transpired that ill-fated night. She assures her visibly uncomfortable bridegroom that it was only a dream, my darling. She smiles, and pulls the ringed finger out of her pocket for all to see—especially her father.

The groom and his men are put to death right then and there, which abruptly ends the tale. Except I include my own addendum. The old woman and young girl become ever-after sidekicks, and go on to pursue a life in lieu of knights in shining armor that apparently was of no interest to the Grimm brothers.

*

The tale of the robber bridegroom, like many of its Bluebeard counterparts, is all about what it doesn’t come right out and say:

That not all parents protect their daughters, either by choice or ineptitude. And so we become as changelings, and will never really be theirs again.

That every old woman was once a young girl, and likely passed through a hell of her own. Let us be grateful that the crone concludes the Goddess triad, that there is hope—and help—even in subterranean cellars.  

That not all allies begin as such. That some stand by for years, complicit, defending the deeds of husbands, sons, brothers, fathers; that a lifetime of bad education may well take another to undo.

That all women are gifted with an inner voice, a bird that beats against the bars of its cage crying out to run! run! when there is danger, despite a world that is hellbent on silencing it.

That we can’t always know for certain who means us well and who means to do us grievous harm, that sometimes the only way to find out is to put our trust in that trail of ashes—and maybe line our pockets with reinforcements.

That to be brave and clever isn’t always possible when the moment demands it, that our courage and wits can absolutely fail us, or are no match for our assailants anyway. That sometimes we have no choice but to remain in those houses, those rooms, by force or stunted in fear, our bodies exposed and under threat but all the while determined to survive. That sometimes pieces are taken from us, and all we can do is grit our teeth and pray there will be enough to escape with.

I had to retrace my steps of ash and seedling back to that house, to that capable young girl and her better-than-a-fairy-godmother, because she is possible; to that bird still calling out from within. Help me, says the young girl. Listen to me, says the bird. Let me help you, says the old woman. There they are, waiting for me with the patience of folklore. They don’t chide me or demand apologies, nor do they reaffirm what is already a fact: that certain men throughout my life have harmed me beyond repair or pardon. That while I entered their dens out of love, or work, or chance, or friendship, sometimes willing, sometimes unwitting, what they chose to do will never, ever, be my fault.

No, they are there to be useful, to be allies, without judgement or you-should-haves. They come armed with love and roofies to roofie the roofiers, inviting them with a smile to their own blood weddings.

When you and I are ready we too can lock arms and leave that house in the dark wood, that too many girls must venture into and fight their way out of. I am here, because I was there. And I will go back for you, whoever you are, again and again and again.

The End


Coven Reads: September

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Coven Reads is a monthly recommendation of witchy/magical books, written by our resident book witch and literary interviewer, Sara Blackthorne. Sara writes with fervor, edits with empathy, and manages people and projects in her daily life. She loves good coffee, a hammock in the shade, and spending countless hours in the kitchen conjuring delicious food for dinner parties. You can find her online most places @sarablackthorne.

Standing Up and Settling In

Mabon Greetings to you!

I am so excited to begin my time here with Wyrd and Wyse, sharing book recommendations for changing our world. I want to start by sharing a little about me, so you have a sense of my lens as I’m bringing you titles to consider for your shelves.

I have over 15 years of writing and editing experience, from technical manuals to creative non-fiction and poetry. From the time I was wee, I could be found with my nose in a book. It’s often cliché, but when I say books saved my life I truly mean it – books gave me power through knowledge, and that power gave me my voice and my freedom.

 Photo by Thorn Coyle.  Used with permission.

Photo by Thorn Coyle. Used with permission.

As such, I have a high standard for books. I want toothy fiction that sinks into the fleshy part of my heart and doesn’t let go. I want non-fiction that peels back my inhibitions and false beliefs, and just like an onion makes me feel things. I want poetry that lingers in my hair like smoke. I demand that a book take me on a journey, short or long, and I want to be changed when I finish it.

When I thought about the first recommendation to offer you, I could only think of one series that would best introduce us. I’ve been a reader and “armchair student” of Thorn Coyle’s (she/they) since the publication of Evolutionary Witchcraft in 2005. I’ve gone through three physical copies of the book, wearing through the spine and even losing a few pages. In this book I found the language for so many of my personal beliefs around witchcraft and magic that I didn’t know others experience.

I’ve followed Thorn’s publishing history and now own several of their books. Recently they moved from the Bay Area to the Pacific Northwest, and with that move announced the release of their new series of fiction books, The Witches of Portland . I might be biased because I live in Portland, Oregon. But what shows up in these books is a roadmap for using our magical tools to combat the bigotry and racism burning through America (and the Western world) these days.

The series begins with By Earth, the story of Cassiel and the ghosts who speak to and through her. Using her gifts, she and her coven Arrow and Crescent take down some major developers who are cutting corners and negatively impacting the housing market. With shoddy materials and ever-rising rents, this is not an issue unique to Portland. What is truly universal about this story (and this group of powerful, passionate witches) is the way we need our communities to heal our communities.

In the second (non-consecutive) novel By Flame, we learn more about the members of Arrow and Crescent Coven and the issues being faced by the community: poverty, houselessness, racism, police violence against vulnerable communities. We also witness the challenges the coven itself faces from other community groups – namely an “interfaith” religious organization that chooses to exclude the coven from certain activities. In looking at these issues through the microcosm of Portland, Thorn offers wisdom and suggestions from over 20 years of magic and activism on the West Coast and around the world.

At this time, there are five books published in the series: By Earth, By Flame, By Wind, By Sea, and By Moon. Each novel builds on the others, but they don’t need to be read in a certain order to be enjoyed. At the center of each novel is one of the nine members of the Arrow and Crescent Coven: Cassiel, Tobias, Brenda, Raquel, Selene, Lucy, Moss, Alejandro, and Tempest. Through this interconnected series we learn more about each member of the coven, the world around them, and about ourselves.

The Witches of Portland is not Thorn’s first fiction series. The Panther Chronicles is a four-book alt-history series that reimagines the late 1960s in American history, and what might have happened had things gone different. It combines the Black Panthers, J. Edgar Hoover, community-building, and magic into a series that gives us a glimpse of what might have happened – and hope for what could be.

Because the core of Thorn’s work is community and connection. It shows up in their fiction, in their non-fiction, and in their activism. They’ve been arrested “at least four times,” and they are regularly visible on social media and on the front lines standing up for causes they champion. They recently spent several days in the #AbolishICE encampment in Portland, Oregon fighting for the closure of the private building being used by ICE to question and potentially detain individuals seeking asylum. They don’t just write about activism and community – they live it. Between cups of tea and writing sessions they teach magical practice around the world.

So pick up a cuppa, curl up under a blanket, and let yourself recover from this heady eclipse season by sinking into Autumn with an good book!

Note from the Editrix: We are working on paying our contributors for The Archive, but in the meantime, if you love Sara’s work, please consider buying her a cup of tea to say thanks.

Midnight Wren

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Sweat dripped down her back and humidity clung to her clothes, but as uncomfortable as she was, Wren did not stop sewing. Everything depended on finishing in time. The summer had been unusually hot at Briar House, and it was spilling into these early days of September. Her fellow inmates, teachers, and even Mistress Gregory had gone away for summer holidays and wouldn’t return for another week. Wren, of course, remained, with only the housekeeper and gardener to keep her company.

Like everyone at Briar House, they kept well away from her. The school was, without a doubt, a second-rate boarding school. Every student with a hint of scandal in her background, every teacher a bit too unrefined for better schools. Even so, Wren was shunned.

It wasn’t the circumstances of her birth. No, plenty of girls here came from unwedded houses. Nor was it her ebony hair, than shone in the moonlight with a hint of blue, the greenish cast to her skin in certain light, or her missing eye. There were other girls here who didn’t meet any standards for acceptable beauty or physical fitness, and they were all given the same adoration and attention. There was a kind of sisterhood among them, a sense of knowing that they would not fit elsewhere in society and so elevated themselves within their own.

Nor was it the whispers of the village over the mountain and through the treacherous forest. Billie May’s mother had been a Rider in her youth, before she turned traitor, and Billie was easily the most popular viper in their year. No, it wasn’t the vague association with the village, which no one ever confirmed with any certainty. It was something worse, something that could not be abided here, when every inmate of Briar House was someone’s secret shame.

It was the neglects that hung about Wren like a rotting stench. She wasn’t pampered like the other girls, despite the fact that her family was as wealthy as any of them. No one came for her on parents’ weekends, no one wrote letters, no one sent new clothes or trinkets for holidays and birthdays. Wren wasn’t here to be polished into something fit for the lower echelons of the highest society, it was clear she was here to be forgotten and so she was.

She was unseen and trapped, and would remain so all her days. The idea made her queasy and dizzy. To always be hidden, to never be free, to never know herself outside one prison or another -- it was very nearly more than she could bear. She shook these thoughts aside. Wren’s arms were tired and her back was stiff, but still she sewed. She must finish in time.

***

The sewing began after the headmistress departed for her summer home, with a warning. Mistress Gregory, imposing and impossibly beautiful said, “Touch nothing while I am gone. Do nothing while I am away. Be as a ghost in this house and leave no trace of yourself.”

Wren nodded in agreement. She knew how to be a ghost. She washed her own clothes, cleaned her own room, and stepped lightly on the floors and carpets. She stepped lightly on the gravel walks in the garden. She never touched a plant or picked a flower. She ate only what was leftover when the gardener and the housekeeper were done with their meals.

One day in late August, as twilight fell and the cicadas sang, she walked the garden paths, sure not to leave even a footprint behind, and spotted a feather. Glossy and black, it shone with blue, just like her hair. She looked around and could not see a bird that might shed such a treasure.

Something about it whispered, I am of your blood, I am of your bone. Mistress Gregory had been clear: she was not to leave a piece of herself behind. She picked up the feather and continued walking. She found another feather, then another and another.

Soon, dozens of them filled her arms, and eventually the skirt of her apron, which she used as a basket to carry them back to Briar House. The next day and the day after were the same. More feathers and no birds. She piled the feathers into baskets, which she wove from reeds near the river, just beyond the Briar House gate.

Then she waited. She knew the feathers were hers, though she did not know why she knew this. She didn’t know what to do with them at first, so she rearranged them by size and left them in the baskets that did not belong in Briar House any more than she did.

She watched the moon wax to fullness, and that night she startled awake. Her tiny room, at the top of the attic stairs was bathed in cool white light. The feathers glowed in the moonlight. Though no window was open anywhere, they rustled in their baskets, as if a breeze had blown gently by or they had been stroked by a hand.

At this thought, Wren felt cold and she reached for the sheet she’d thrown aside in the attic heat. Heightened awareness crawled over her skin and she felt something touch her arm, which she jerked away. It touched her again. Something cold and sharp. Something she might say felt like a knife, if she hadn’t known it was a claw. No, not a claw, a talon.

Then came the singing. It was a soprano, hoarse and haunting, but beautiful even when the notes it sung went flat.

Where oh where has my little bird gone?

Where oh where can she be?

Through blood and stone,

Feathers and bone,

Where oh where can she be?

 

She was here at the start,

But now we’re apart.

Where oh where can she be?

 

I have searched high and low,

But none seem to know,

Where she’s gone,

but she’s still dear to me.

 

Wren could hear there was more to the song, but the voice was far away. A cloud blew over the moon, and the spell broke. The feathers stopped glowing, nothing was touching her, and the house was quiet once more.

She spent the next day anxiously pacing. That night, the moon was still nearly full and she tried to stay awake to watch its effect on the feathers. But by the time the moon was high enough in the sky to cast its light on them again, she’d fallen asleep.

This time she woke to the scrape of a talon down her arm and the sound of the song, already in progress.

Where oh where has my midnight wren gone?

Where oh where can she be?  

Through blood and stone,

feathers and bone,

where oh where can she be?

 

She must hear my song,

For t’will not be long,

‘Fore they drag her back down,

she must sew a black gown,

a mantle that’s fit for a queen.

The voice continued singing, but again seemed a great distance away. She wanted to hear the rest of the song, but dared not leave bed, frozen as she was with fear at the line, ‘Fore they drag her back down. Her body clenched with revulsion at the memory. The one she could not place. The nightmare memory.

The hands that grabbed at her, thick and violent, pulling her from something she loved. Dragging her down and down. The shouts of triumph as they cut out her left eye to complete their evil spell. The blood that spilled on the ground, the crunch of bone as they made her anew. The never-knowing what she remembered, the fractured source of strength, the hole she felt at the core of her being, where something was missing. They took something from her, more than her eye, more than her freedom. They took something that must be returned.

She looked at the feathers in the moonlight and they did not glow. This night, they swallowed the light. She knew what to do with them, but she wanted to hear the rest of the song.

The next morning she barely remembered falling back asleep and she went through her day in a daze. As shadows fell, and twilight crept over Briar House, she felt as though she was waking up. Where she’d numbed herself for years, she felt again. She stretched into her skin, into her body. She gently touched the scar around her eye, and did not shudder once.

As night fell, she stroked the feathers and shivered with pleasure, because it was just like touching herself. She could feel her fingers stroke them. She felt them rustle as though they were attached to her own body. She and the feathers were one, and she would make the gown.

Wren curled into the chair, folding her long legs under her and waited for night to fall. This time she would not fall asleep. This time she would hear the whole song. But again she nodded off and was woken by the scrape of a talon on her arm. This time she was early, the singing hadn’t begun.

Deep within the house, she heard steps on the stairs. Up they climbed until they were footsteps outside her door. She held her own breath, only to hear heavy breathing on the other side of the door. Then the song began. The voice was closer than it had been before, as though the singer pressed their lips against the door, and the song had changed.  

Where oh where has my little bird gone?

Where oh where can you be?

Through blood and stone,

Feathers and bone,

Where oh where can you be?

 

You were here at the start,

But now we’re apart.

Where oh where can you be?

 

I have searched high and low,

But none seem to know,

Where you’ve gone,

but you’re still dear to me.

 

Where oh where has my midnight Wren gone?

Where oh where can you be?

Through blood and stone,

Feathers and bone,

Where oh where can you be?

 

You must hear my song,

For t’will not be long,

‘Fore they drag you back down,

you must sew a black gown,

a mantle that’s fit for a queen.

 

Where oh where has my little girl gone?

Where oh where can you be?

Stolen away,

Sixteen years and a day,

Steal you back, will I, so you’re free.

 

Now I see where you’ve gone,

And it will not be long,

‘Til I steal you back,

Steal you back,

‘Til you’re free.

Wren held her breath, until she felt her lungs burn and tears stung in her eyes. She gasped for air and rushed to the door, throwing it open. The hallway was empty. Sixteen years and a day.

Wren swallowed, feeling her throat acutely for the first time in years. She would be seventeen on September 6th, sixteen years after she’d come to live with her father. Impossible thoughts swirled in her head. Impossible, because her mother was dead, or so she’d been told. She almost pushed the idea away, but for a flicker of clarity. The memory, the nightmare memory of the hands. She was not being pulled down into something, but being pulled down from somewhere.

With certainty, she knew she must make the gown, and so stole into the headmistress’ bedroom, which was never locked. With the house empty of students, teachers and most of the servants, she was free to do as she pleased and had no remorse for entering Mistress Gregory’s room. She riffled through Mistress Gregory’s sewing table, looking for needle and thread.

She found the needle she needed immediately, but had to lift a secret panel from the deepest drawer to find thread. Such strange thread it was, not made from silk or satin. No blues or purples or greens, but only the color of hair. Here was Mistress Gregory’s secret, the mark against her.

Mistress Gregory was a sorceress of the worst kind, one who set the fate of her students with bits and pieces of themselves. Each spool of thread was tied with various beautiful bits of torn dresses and tattered hair ribbons, bound with sacred herbs and flowers, to promote abundance, wealth, and beauty. Each was made to ensure the success of the girl it was harvested from but one. Hers. Hers, bound with ugly, dingy twine and hunk of iron. She tore the twine and iron from her spool and her body felt light as air, as though her bones were hollow.

The next morning, she began work on the gown. It was a thrilling, but painful process. Just as she could feel her own hand touch the feathers, in the same way she felt her hands upon her own skin, she felt each prick of the needle, each tug of the thread. The memory of the hands, and what had been stolen eroded a little with each painful pull.

***

Finally, her birthday arrived and the gown was finished. She quivered as she slipped out of her badly made dress. This was different. It was sleek and elegant, and she was unsure how she’d known the way to sew a gown of feathers together, but it was stunning. Sixteen years and a day. If the song was to be believed, tomorrow she would be free. She pushed the thought of her mother away, afraid to touch it, afraid to hope.

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The housekeeper made no overtures for her birthday, and her father sent no messages or presents. It was as it had always been, until twilight fell and the cicada song turned to a chorus of screams. In the garden, in the place she’d found the first feather, she found a crown, wrought from the same black feathers that made her gown. As she drew it up from the ground to look at it, she saw it glittered with tiny, teardrop shaped diamonds.

Tomorrow, the wind crooned, in the singer’s voice. “Tomorrow,” she whispered back. When night fell, she slept easily and did not wake until late the next day. When she woke the sky was so dark she could only just tell it wasn’t night. The gown gleamed in the dim light of the attic.

There was little left to do but put it on, she supposed. As she stepped into it, something was different. Something about the interior of the gown was prickly, like pulling on a coat of burrs. It stung her body, clinging to her skin, but she did not take it off. Fear and anticipation sang through her bones and muscles when she looked at the crown. She felt her blood rushing through her veins, and the dress clung even more tightly to her body as she raised it to her head.

Open the window, came the voice she knew was her mother’s. She opened the window and an enormous raven swept in on the stormy wind. Their gazes locked and she nodded once in recognition. The nightmare memory was clear now. She’d been pulled from the sky. Pulled from freedom. Pulled from the shelter of her mother’s wing. Her eye taken to stop her ability to shift forms. Sent here to be hidden away and kept weak by Mistress Gregory.

But she was not weak now; no, now she was strong. The gown dug into her human skin, the little prickles became sharp talons. Wren’s human blood seeped into the dress and tears rolled down her face. They were tears of pain, but not of sadness.

She would not be parted from her own self a minute longer. Wren embraced the pain of becoming, and when she was whole once more, she spread her wings and followed her mother back to the sky.

Allison Carr Waechter is singing to bones and stones, calling autumn in. Send tea. You need not read the rest of the Tales of Wolf Hollow to understand this one, but perhaps you'd like to know more about the village over the mountain. If so, click here

Sleepy Hollow

Lindsay Hagfoot is an agrarian witch, living in the heart of the Pacific Northwest with a wild crew of boys and furred and feathered friends. Former proprietress of Altar & Leaf and Danmala Teas, Lindsay creates spaces for magical folks to gather and learn in community on her family’s farm. Follow her on Instagram @hagfoot and follow the farm @gattheratthestudio

This writing is adapted from Lindsay’s Ebook, The Heart of Blending: Autumn and the images belong to Lindsay. The Heart of Blending is being published in our quarterly print publication and here on The Archives on a monthly basis. Please enjoy these lovely rituals and recipes.

“let me sing a song for you of flower, root, leaf and seed ...”

Lindsay Hagfoot

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The altar cloth is laid out, incense spirals through the air as I prepare to concoct a brew inspired by the magic of autumn. This time of year is full of visual turning points. The golden gates of summer have closed. Leaving behind dusky skies filled with ashy smoke from the wood burning stoves. Crisp leaves fall at our feet bearing the skeletal limbs of the alder trees.

As I pull flowers, roots, leaves and seeds from the apothecary cupboard I pause and listen to what plants speak to me. Their vibrations become the audible chants of the Deva spirits. I settle into a meditative rhythm as I begin to stir the herbs deosil, direction of the sun.

Inspired by Mother Nature’s pageantry of color, I sprinkle in sunflower and safflower petals and the blend sings autumns praises.The aroma begins to release as the herbs transfuse. I declare to the botanicals that they provide the receiver with a reminder that all things must come to an end, to make time for celebrations and feast on your successes.

With the stirrings of magic in the air, I believe autumn to be the most auspicious time to honor the needs of self care, a time for reflection and gratitude.This is the season of ‘thankfulness’ for the cornucopia of abundance. We have worked hard to cultivate our dream seeds and tended to them as they grew. We watched them ripen and harvested the fields of their manifestation.

The cooling temperatures get us in the mood for warming spices such as ginger, clove and cinnamon. Festive Autumnal tea blends are falling into our tea cupboards to provide us with an array of sipping delights. Once evening rolls around and the air fills with that delicious fragrance of wood-fire stoves and the piquant scent of fallen leaves, our palate craves those richly warming flavors that celebrate the season.

Sleepy Hollow Tea Recipe

This autumn brew is inspired by the folktale of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. The sweet earthy apple - like flavor of Chamomile and slices of dried apples will sweeten your dark Autumn nights.

Herbal Tidbits: Skullcap is a tonic for the nerves. It helps soothe in times of duress- especially when the Headless Horseman is chasing after you. Chamomile is the darling coquette that smells like earth-apple and provides relief to sleeplessness.

3 parts Red Rooibos

2 parts Chamomile

2 parts Skullcap

1 part Cinnamon Chips

1 part Dried Apple slices

1 part Ginger root

.5 parts Nutmeg

.5 parts Allspice


A note from our Edtrix about images: The image in this post was taken by Lindsay. You will see Lindsay’s images all over tumblr, Pinterest and elsewhere when you make tea and witch related searches because they are often stolen, used without credit and reposted into eternity, with no attribution. We mean to rectify that here, so that our readers know where these beautiful images originated. Please do not use them without Lindsay’s express permission.

A Nubile Neck, A Curve of Claw

 digital collage by Allison Carr Waechter 

digital collage by Allison Carr Waechter 

Dark

by Kristin Garth

By day, a saint hides fangs and claws. A face

cherubic bends or breaks no laws. You drop

the civility for me — public grace,

polite humility. Rural chateau,

all fast asleep, jade carved coffin inside

a dungeon deep. Awake to stars, secrets,

bit lips express.  You race to taste your lithe

princess. In lace, I slumber, a nubile neck,

veined swath of flesh tempts teeth erect. My gasp,

your clasp of fingers keep.  A curve of claw

that rests against my cheek. My shoulders grasped;

you hold me still. You drink my blood. Withdraw

my will. My days are naps in meadows with monarchs,

skylarks — different duties after dark.

 

Kristin Garth is a kneesock enthusiast and a Best of the Net nominated sonnet stalker.  Her sonnets have stalked magazines like Glass, Five:2: One, Anti-Heroin Chic, Former Cactus, Occulum, Luna Luna, Yes & many more.  She has a chapbook Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), two forthcoming: Pensacola Girls (Bone & Ink Press, Sept 2018) and Shakespeare for Sociopaths (The Hedgehog Poetry Press Jan 2019).  Her full length, Candy Cigarette, is forthcoming April 2019 (The Hedgehog Poetry Press). Follow her on Twitter:  (@lolaandjolie), her weekly poetry column (spidermirror.com/the-sonnetarium) and her website (kristingarth.wordpress.com).

The Fourth Archive

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Hello Darklings, 

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Thank goodness it is September. Just about every witch we know is tired of summer and is longing for autumn's cool kiss right now. 

September closes our print issue, Issue the Fourth, and opens this newly re-launched digital space -- once called "Digital Journal" -- now named The Archives, because you can read all of the digital archives at once if you like. 

Pour a cuppa, snug a familiar, and sink into THE FOURTH digital issue, which will come out week by week this month here in Freshly Pressed, and will be compiled for posterity in the Archived Issues space. 

We have interviews, rituals, recipes, poetry, short fiction and much more in store for you. And hey, if you like what you see, we read for The Archives on a rolling basis, so send your best stuff along. And if you need a little inspiration, our Pinterest board for THE FOURTH is here or our general board for getting stories started is here

In magic and mayhem,

The Witches of Wyrd & Wyse 

Transformations

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By Allison Carr Waechter

The first time Jupiter followed me into the forest his words were honeyed, his doe-eyes slick with unshed tears. He spilled his love and his fear like rivers of intoxicating blood. As pine needles crunched beneath our feet he talked and talked, and never asked me a single question.

It was hard not to salivate over him showing his true self to me. He is so loved in the village, after all. To be paid so much attention, by such an eligible figure was a powerful feeling. And yet.

Behind the crocodile tears and possessive proclamations of ardor lurked a familiar danger. I could not rest easy while he traced my steps. I could not enjoy my grandmother’s tea, when I knew he waited just outside the door. And so I snuck out, with Grandmother’s help, and made my way through the deep woods, ignoring the path.

My dreams that night were haunted with visions of Jupiter pushing me down stairs, breaking my grandmother’s gold necklace, and shouting me down, down, down a hole of belittled fear and shame. I woke, covered in a cold sweat, under the light of a nearly full moon and heard the call of the snowy white owl from the eaves of my roof.

I climbed out my window and onto the roof. The cosmos swirled above me, sparkling amongst the milky rays of the moon. The owl sat still as stone and I asked her,

“Sister, what will happen if I marry Jupiter?”

She answered in a creaking whisper, “You will die.”

And I knew this to be true, from my guts to my bones. But the wise one had more to say,

“If you reject him and he lives, more will die in your place.”

With that, she flew away. I watched her go further and further from the village, higher and higher in the air, until she was naught but another speck, another star for me to watch. What way was there to stop this from coming to pass? I confess, my mind rested solely on the wise one’s phrasing “if he lives.”

If he lives… the pine needles whispered the next week, and the next, as Jupiter followed me through the woods. The further I strayed from the path, the more violent his words became. The louder he shouted and the more names he called me.

Each day that Jupiter followed me, before we went into the woods, I walked to the well at the center of town. It is a great machine, a work of science and magic working together. I waited for Jupiter as pails of water were drawn up, purified and poured into villagers’ waiting vessels. When he arrived I stood and said loudly, each time, hoping every ear within hearing would catch my message up and hold it close:

“Jupiter, thank you for your attention, but I would like to be alone today. Please allow me to walk to my grandmother’s house alone.”

And every day, he would argue that lovers such as we should walk together on the path. To this I responded,

“We have never been and never shall be lovers, friends or partners. Please leave me be.”

But he did not, and though I saw heads turn and eyes narrow as they watched Jupiter follow me, none ever stopped him. None ever joined me in saying that Jupiter should perhaps stay home, and leave me be in the woods.

Nearly seven months after being followed everywhere I went, Jupiter began to send letters to anyone I spoke to, letting them know that they were infringing upon his “territory.” She is mine, the letters said, even when those were not the words he used.

Eight months later, Jupiter moved into the house across the street from my own so he could watch my comings and goings more easily. I don’t know how he managed to find someplace else for Sister Marigold to reside, but one day she was there, milking her spotted goats in the yard and the next, he was there, brushing his unhappy horse.

If he lives… sang the stream.

If he lives… called the mourning doves to one another.

If he lives… whispered the wind through the pine boughs.

One day, Jupiter caught me by the arm in the forest and shook me. “Why do you say no so often, when we all know that you mean yes?” he hissed. “Why do you resist what you know you truly desire?”

“What do you know of my desire?” I screamed. “When have you ever once asked me a single thing about what I want?”

For one moment, I thought he would let me go. But he pushed me down instead and called me filthy names. I waited for the blow. I waited for him to kill me, but he did not. Instead, he walked away, shouting.

My heart beat fast and I was, in that moment, every tiny prey animal I have ever killed in the forest. My body flooded with energy to run, but I felt my teeth sharpen and my heels dug into the ground. My fingers lengthened into sharp claws and my body hunched and bones broke as I shifted into something else. Something dark, and sleek, and magnificent.

On four paws, I ran through the woods and felt my heart beat quickly, but steadily. My sense of smell grew sharper and my vision clearer. My ears, so much larger, picked up a noise I’d never heard, and that can only be described as celestial song.

For when I found its source, I knew it to be so. The gaping mouth of the forest was open in a grove of sacred trees-- and in it I saw the whole of the universe, dancing there to the beat of a distant drum and I bowed to its grace. The bowing trees danced in time and I knew this to be the forgotten place of my people, of my sisters, of the witches of old.

This was the place of the storykeepers, the truth tellers, the ones we villagers so foolishly relegate to the place beyond the village, to the place at the end of the path. Here in the dim light of twilight I saw the truth of the trees we cut to make our straight road and the angry darkness we sense within the woods:

We must be made whole once more, and this work would be done by those of us who are not the light of the village. Instead it would be done by the spat upon, the pushed down, the ones with the least. I would make an army.

We would do the work, and we would call the others to us, knowing they are unlikely to heed our warnings. The ones who would not would meet a different end -- a different kind of transformation, but a transformation all the same.

This work would not be for the Jupiters of this world, who so long betrayed it. They must be swallowed, digested, shat out and made to fertilize the earth, so they might grow anew. And my army would be the vessels that filter them out and start them again.

That night the moon was dark and I went to thirteen doors in the village. Each knock was answered, and they drank from my veins and shifted too into wolves and we ran through the forest to the sacred groves and there we drank from the waterfall that fell from the mouth of the universe and were given a triple life, as human, as witch, as wolf; and in the place where all three meet, there is the power to divine a new world.

Our eyes glittered with new power and knowledge, but sacrifices would be made. We shifted into our human bodies and joined hands.

Who will be consumed?  I asked.

All who will not join us. They answered in unison.

The universe sang its blessing and asked for a gift to seal our bargain and make this world whole once more. The heart of the poisoned, it crooned. All eyes turned to me and I heard the wise-one’s words once more.

I nodded once and we walked back to the village in silence, though Tamyr took my hand before they went into their home and said, “Good luck, Ruby.” I nodded to them once, they squeezed my hand and I was alone once more.

The next day dawned cold and bright. I slipped out of my home when I saw a village elder knocking on Jupiter’s door. Even he wouldn’t dare scorn an elder’s call. I made my way through the forest to Grandmother’s house. When I arrived, she was sitting on her front porch, brandishing a knife, a beautiful knife. She smiled a wolfish smile when she saw me coming up the path and said,

“You’ve come for this, dear one. And tonight you fly, if you give the forest what it needs.”

I took the knife and ran.

It wasn’t hard to find Jupiter. He was shouting my name. Shouting obscenities. Shouting for justice, he said.

My hand did not falter.

The cut was quick.

He fell with a gurgle.

And I gave him to the gaping maw, which did not spit him out to fertilize the soil and grow, but kept him in and shone brighter than I’d ever seen. Time had no meaning and darkness fell while I watched the forest consume Jupiter, and when it was done I could fly.

Allison Carr Waechter is over sea and under stones, behind the barrow, counting the bones. Send tea. She is the Editrix of this magazine and you can find the rest of the Tales of Wolf Hollow by clicking the tag at the top of the story. 

No more. No more. 

H.K. Jedrzynski is a bi-sexual cis yarn witch who tries to write LGBTQ Urban Fantasy and lives with her girlfriend and her boyfriend in Las Vegas, NV. Together they have three children, three cats, and a dog.

Fury and wine pulse through veins so long unused that the traces under the skin had all but disappeared. Words like "Fuck" and "Off" screaming through red streams, igniting the soul.

The body, once dead, now moving of its own volition, the flames burning away the past, cauterizing the gaping wounds of heartache and torment.

Ashes, the remains of tattered emotional scars, rise from the heated skin, swirling, creating a dark cloud of Self Preservation.

Accusations of selfishness and declarations of eternal adoration, cajoling, stabbing, meant to hit insecurities with lasting, detrimental impact, are repelled by ash and flame, and alcohol.

No more will abuse control the body like it was animating a corpse.

No more will the Master of Cruelty have a foothold in this sacred vessel.

I am stirring, burning, sacred, and finally unapologetic for refusing to be used by the weight of criticism and derision and pain dressed as love.

Stumbling out of the dark and into polyamory (non fiction) (Transition) (Names have been changed by the request of the persons discussed)

A few months ago I was talking with my spouses about our worst memories, and I fell into my past, becoming horribly depressed trying to decide which was my worst memory. I’ve lived lifetimes of misery - first with my parents and then my ex husband, all of which were abusive. My brain provided a montage of horrific memory after horrific memory and I started to drown in them.

In an effort to find a life vest, I started of list of happy moments to fight my worst memories and spent time dwelling on the brightest spots - my counterspells, my torches in the dark.

Memories of holding my babies while they slept, of hearing their first words, watching them become independent little monsters. That day I had terrible bug bites all over my calves and stuck my leg on my boyfriends lap and told him to scratch for me. And he did, carefully around the bites in order to not make them worse. When I was sad about my kids having gone to their father’s and my girlfriend knocked on my door and asked to come in. I was laying across my bed and she asked if I always laid funny and I told her I do what I want. And then she asked if she could join me and my heart leapt. We laid there, with my head on her shoulder, talking about...US. Something that hadn’t existed until that moment. We spoke it into existence. The way it feels when my boyfriend kisses his wife goodbye, and then me too.

But the memory that burns brightest, that lets me summon my patronus to fight the dementors of post traumatic stress disorder, the counterspell that I have used the longest is this:

We had a girl’s weekend we had titled Sappho Extravaganza. The four of us had not spent time together, just us, ever. I was in the process of leaving my abusive ex and had never spent a night away from my children before. Only Luz and I had children and were married, she left her child and spouse at home too.

Reva had met Luz online years before and introduced her to Deirdre. Eventually Luz moved to Las Vegas and the three set up house - as friends. I met Deirdre at school - we took a Goddess Traditions class together at the community college and became family quickly. She introduced me to the other two. That was twelve years ago. Luz and I had slowly been getting closer over the last few years and I had developed one mad crush on her.

So when we checked into the two bedroom suite in June, I was excited and nervous. We got all of our things into the room. Luz and I walked to the market in the hotel lobby for smokes - we weren’t really smokers, but it seemed like something we would want considering the amount of alcohol we had brought. Walking next to her in the heat, the fragrance of the jasmine floating around us, chatting about nothing and about to begin a three day adventure was pure magic. It felt good. Felt right.

We got back and everyone had dinner - Deirdre made steaks and they were so good. We watched a movie, listened to EDM while coloring with markers and colored pencils. We talked about our First Times and Deirdre took a shower then walked around naked, looking like a goddess - soft and lovely.

We poured drinks and then drank them. Luz and I went out on the balcony to smoke. Buzzed and giggling, we held hands across the patio table, not looking at each other, the energy building between us. And then Reva came outside and we let go.

We had a fantastic time, children at a slumber party with no adults and a plethora of beer. I ended up giving all three of them back massages just to have and excuse to touch Luz some more. At 4 am, everyone started to crash. Reva to one of the bedrooms, Deirdre to a couch in another part of the suite. Luz and I stayed up on the other couch, now pulled out into a really uncomfortable bed, talking, inches from each other. And then she passed out too.

I stayed there, laying across the pull out bed, head level with Luzs thighs and staring out of the glass doors, past the patio, to the twinkling lights of the city below. I layed there, staring as the sun started to rise and the world was awash in grey light.

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It is the most beautiful thing I had ever seen: the sun slowly emerging over the curve of her hip, her black pants and studded belt hugging her curves exquisitely. Luz was glorious. Beyond her, the scroll work of the balcony and the light coming in over the mountains gave the impression of a black and white photo. I wanted that moment to last forever, to lie there and feast upon the beauty of the moment. I tried to take a photo with my mind. I felt more at peace than I had in years.

When the weekend ended, we went back to our lives. My ex husband spent three hours yelling at me for having actually gone on the girls weekend, telling me I was selfish and had abandoned my family for people who didn’t love me. I called Luz, crying. I held the memory of that sunrise in my heart. I existed through the next three weeks.

And then I moved in with Luz and her husband and their son. I brought a dog to a house of cats. I brought two more children to into the life of an only child. But they made room for us, in their lives, their home, and their hearts.

They knew how I felt for Luz before I moved in. There were no secrets. And eight months later, the three of us adults are in a relationship together. I’m more in love with Luz than ever before. I love her husband too. We work. We function. We are raising our babies together and the dog still chases the cats, and life is hectic and messy and deeply content.

And on bad days - days when the PTSD is haunting me and I feel like I’m shattering into a thousand pieces- that memory of the sun coming up over her hip and the smell of jasmine counters the trauma, fights it, beats it back into the corner of my mind where the abuse and cruelty belong.