Season Of The Witch

Des Cas des nobles hommes et femmes

The Book of hours: Des Cas des nobles hommes et femmes by Giovanni Boccaccio c. 1480.

Video: ““Floret Silva” by Estampie.

Season Of The Witch

It’s a chilly October morning and still dark when I creep from my warm bed. But that is a small price to pay for being the student of Mother Chandler. In the four months that she has taken me into her home to learn the uses of herbs, stones and enchantments I have earned the right to call her Alice. But only at home. In the fields or in the village, she is still Mother Chandler, the old lady who knows how to coax a baby from a wearying mother who has been in the pains of labor nearly two full days, and how to gently usher a soul dying in pain to a longed-for rest.
Once the fire is kindled up from last night’s glowing embers and the kettle is filled from the bucket, Alice surprises me by rising without my knock. She may have seen fully seventy summers and outlived five children and two husbands but still she treads as quietly as Coal and Cream, her two cats.
“Bring the basket, and bank down the fire to wait an hour or two for us. We go to gather the makings for Arnold Plow’s tea.”
And without another word, she is out of the door leaving me to scamper after her with the basket and a small knife as she strides purposefully up the lane. Stooping down beside the track she cradles a leaf in her hand:
“See how like it is to the shape of a horse’s foot? This is the coltsfoot, good for easing that troubling cough. Now gather two good handfuls and let me see what you pick.”
Alice is very particular about the quality of the materials selected; the leaves should have the right color above, slightly paler below, and be without blemishes or wormeaten. While I have been picking, already she is working her way deeper into the wood and calls me to her:
“Now this is the lungwort, to loosen sticky phlegm. Take a small handful of these.”
After a few minutes, I seek her out for advice.
“I cannot find an unblemished leaf!”
“Fret you not for the spots, they are in the nature of this plant.”
Sometimes I wonder if I will ever learn all the intricacies of healing herbs!

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