Every story holds within it the time, place and circumstances of its telling. My story, as I tell it here, arose out of a process of inquiry and sharing in a workshop called ‘Embody your Calling’ offered by Ria Baeck and Mary Alice Arthur. It took place at Kasteel Nieuwenhoven, a place which holds much magic for me – it was where I first learned about the work of the Green Witch.
Once upon a time – in the right place, at the right time, as these things always are – a Green Witch was born. She was born at the height of winter, when the world is most deeply asleep, in a wild and forsaken place far from civilisation (at a time when many people were born in hospitals) and close to many ancient places of earth power. Her birth took place in the last hours before a new decade, at the blossoming of the age of modernity, when humanity still thought progress meant cutting away our dependencies on nature and Mother Earth.
The little Green Witch was given the gifts of connection to the invisible realms of faerie and spirit, to the deep hidden lore of place and the unmanifest realm of epochal flows and patterns. She was given the gifts of music and language, subtle sensing and intellectual power. Her birth was attended – midwifed, actually – by a Fairy Godmother who gave her the gift of Mysticism.
From her parents she received the gifts of the material realm, of practical skills and also of appearances, together with the injunction to anticipate and adapt to the expectations and needs of the inhabitants of the human realm she had chosen to be born into.
For her mother recognised that she was a Witch, and she was afraid. Because this was a place where many witches had been burned in the past, and there were no outward signs that it was any safer today than it had been back then. So she whispered to her daughter “you must learn to dissemble who you are – let people see who they want to see, not who you are”. She was so afraid for her daughter that she never told her that she saw who she was – in case her daughter might discover who she was for herself, and be tempted to go down that dangerous path.
And so a misunderstanding was born. As she grew, the little Green Witch carefully guarded her secret life of communion and exploration in the hidden realms, for she had understood that there was something terribly wrong with her, that if she showed her true essence, she would likely not survive. And she had learned that her family pooh-poohed all that was not applauded as success in the material realms of work and society. So she navigated her education and career choices through sensing the approval of those whom she depended on for her physical and emotional well-being, learning so well how to anticipate their desires for her that she could take these with her as her guide even when she left home and went out into the world.
But our little Green Witch was not happy. Wherever she went, she knew she didn’t fit in, so she lived in her inner world and found it hard to make friends. She was filled with a longing and an emptiness that were so huge that sometimes she thought they would swallow her up before breakfast. And she saw in the eyes of the people around her, the people she loved and needed, that all they wanted from her was for her to be well, to be strong, to be sorted, balanced, healthy and successful. And so she learned to show these things to the world, and to cry alone at night, when she sometimes felt desolate for the gradual withdrawal and loss of the magic realms she remembered from her dreams.
But although she felt alone, her guardians, who were denizens of the realms that had sent her willingly on her life’s mission, always kept an eye on her, and populated her dreams with reminders of her power and lessons about the nature of space, time and the miracles of life. And yet she experienced these dreams of her power as horrific nightmares, and awoke from the dreams of life’s miracles into depression at the drudgery and greyness of her daily life.
And still, the world itself lent a hand, keeping her on track despite her forgetting, thanks to chance encounters that broke open her heart and changed the course of her life time and time again.
In time she settled in a foreign land, where she married and had children – although the quest to satisfy that longing for family and motherhood was long and traumatic. Born to her were twins who were each the shadow of the other, somehow mirroring her own life’s paradoxes, bringing them to life in manifest form in such a way that she was forced to reconcile them so that she could nurture and protect these two souls who had come, for a time, into her keeping.
As her children grew older, and the season of her life came for her to claim back her own destiny after the long, long years of her apprenticeship in the world of appearances, there came a time when the invisible realms erupted again into the centre of her life, and she found herself in the company of other witches, with different and complementary gifts, who could see who and what she was, just as she could see them. Together in the Coven, they learned that Magic was indeed real, and that Witches were not only no longer burned, but now needed and called forth in to the world. Her heart fair exploded with the joy of recognition and the obsessive thirst to steep herself again in the depths of the unfathomable invisible realms of her soul’s domain.
And so she found herself at the Crossroads called Dissolution. Torn in two, with a terrifying longing to jettison all she had built and become in the world of appearances, in order to follow her sisters into the mysterious caverns of the unmanifest deep. But she wasn’t alone at this crossroads. Thinking to step off the path and enter the caverns, she found herself eyeball to eyeball with a large blue heron. She stepped aside to pass him, he stepped to bar her way. She wasn’t surprised to find herself developing a crippling headache – and to hear the heron’s voice inside her head. “At this point in the story, I am supposed to give you a manuscript to take with you on your journey. As you can see, I am not equipped to write manuscripts, so you’ll just have to pay close attention and listen well:
“I represent the cosmic family whose bosom you left to embark on this life’s quest. I am sent here to tell you that you can go no farther from this point until you leave certain things behind. You have learned to show others what they want to see. It is time now to show them who you are. You must drop your protection of appearances and re-member who you are. You have been given certain gifts that are yours to steward and employ on behalf of that which brought you forth and that to which you belong. You are an elemental being and unless you openly step into the fullness of your own being, the world cannot be complete.
“Your gifts are not to be used in the place from which they came, but in the places where they are not otherwise to be found. You belong to two worlds, the visible and the invisible. You have reached a space where you are equally comfortable in both and you are called to bridge the two.
“There is in you a flaw that will be your guide in this work of re-membering. Remember that you are not only extraordinary, but you are also ordinary: you are a woman, a mother, a person with needs and a personal life. Take care of the small things, like being true to who you are. We give you this knowledge so that you can complete your journey.
“Now, go and get on with living happily ever after.”