Today I share Becca's beautiful Swan Blessing story of 'the last town witch' and the freedom that comes from releasing an ancestral vow to keep medicine and old ways safe even if it means living a lifetime alone as 'the other'.
"As I looked into the well, I saw the face of my mother’s mother - but different and older. She was afraid, telling me “They won’t believe me!” with such urgency in her voice. As we held hands, she bid me to enter into her life story.
Suddenly I found myself in a town square with a well and horses and people bustling about. She was cloaked and asked me to quickly follow her to her home - outside of the main town in a hut with a leaking roof. It is rundown but this was the only place she feels safe. There’s a cat in the corner and fire in the hearth, with bottles of medicine and herbs hanging from the ceiling all around her. She is a medicine maker - making medicines to heal the women of the town who call upon her in secret during the day when the men are out. She goes to them and helps heal them, but there is a feeling of anger and resentment in her being. These women see her as other. They know they need her medicines, but don’t want to get too close or get caught being with her. She is the last town witch, and she is constantly in danger for what she knows. This makes her feel so sad and rejected, but she has made a commitment to the medicine and to pass it along.
She made it when she was eleven to her nanny, who raised her and was a mother figure to her. Her mother was gone and her father was a powerful man with a bad temper and drinking problem that she felt she must obey. She and her nanny would play in the bath, putting flowers and herbs into each other’s hair. They would walk in the garden - the nanny teaching her everything she knew. And when she was eleven, the elderly nanny asked her to promise to preserve the mysteries and keep making and sharing the medicine. She makes this promise earnestly.
When she is 22, she falls in love with a man who is equally in love with her. But he knows they cannot be together, as her father does not approve. He does not make enough money. So he leaves her behind - heartbroken and bitter, knowing she cannot disobey her father - she fears him and desires his approval. She is never to love or find companionship again. When her father dies suddenly, she buries him and then lives her life free and devoted to the medicine. But she is so so profoundly lonely - it aches her heart.
She gets very very sick and almost dies. She has no one to care for her in her house at the edge of town. But, by the miracle of her medicines, she lives. This frightens the town and she is even more feared and seen as dangerous for her wisdom and healing magic. She is further isolated by this.
When she is old, she discovers an abandoned baby in a stream. The baby is unwell. Even though she is old, she takes the baby in and nurses her back to health. The baby becomes her apprentice and is by her side as she dies. She dies still with the promise to preserve the medicine, even with the loss of her love and belonging in the town. She has kept her promise to her most beloved nanny.
I feel the weight of this anguish - this vow to protect the medicine and be alone and isolated for the rest of her life. It is a boulder weighing down her heart and mine. I take this boulder and place it in my own chest to take it from her and ask her to forgive herself - she did the best she could. I am now covered in a clay chain making its way all around my body. The well witch appears and gives a hammer to break the clay. I smash down right over my belly and the clay slits into a thousand pieces - allowing the boulder to fall from my heart and become nothing at all. The well witch blows on my heart and seals the hole from where the boulder came from. She takes me into the water and lays me down where I float.
All my grandmothers surrounded me in the water, blessings me with herbs and flowers and songs and ancient chants. I am free from this vow of loneliness. I am blessed to become all the light that radiates from within me. I rise up to become one with the sun above me- feeling the weightlessness of my soul self. The swan takes me upon her back and flies me back down to earth - to my home.
I am free and joyful and home. I proclaim it 3 times. It is so."
Thank you so much Becca for sharing your story and your heart! You can read about Becca's practice and work at www.beccapiastrelli.com