Beside the road, I sit and wait, looking east to the purple sky just before dawn. The balmy, moonless night wanes and… there! I see Sirius, the Dog Star, lustrous and rising. With my iron tool in my left hand, I dig awkwardly and chant:
“All-heal, thou holy herb, Vervain
Growing from the ground
Blessed is that place
Whereon thou art found.”
Giggles grow behind me, soft and sugary, mingled with the pit and pat of tip-toes. Rose petal fingers cup over my eyes. “I’m all well, thanks to thee!” whispers to my ear.
Turning, I clutch the small hands, Sarah’s hands. I feel, searching her forehead, neck and arms. Fever is gone… so, too, the ghastly rash. “Yes, thou art well!” I say as I feel blessed for the knowledge of healing given to me from my mother, and she from hers before that.
“This basket of eggs and grain art for thee, in heavy thanks.” Tears of joy trickle down Sarah’s mother’s cheeks. “Please come to our home this day for a meal in rejoicing.”
“I thank thee; but I cannot, as I shall visit the Archbishop of Saint Andrews on this day.”
“I hear he ails awfully, near death,” she says, her head shaking.
“Alive, he ails no more!” I wink. “Busy have I been.”
I stand behind the Archbishop’s House and face the much acquainted door… tall and locked. Always closed, keeping ‘us’ from ‘them,’ the followers of Christ who chose to turn away from The Earth Goddess who loves them still. “Tush, tush,” I chide myself. I knock lightly against the thick oak. Once, twice, thrice, and again, in even sequence, as instructed times before when summoned to this threshold. Although today the house appears all the more cordial with the sun in the sky, rather than the moon. Whilst I wait, I remember my first visit to this place. I was hurriedly summoned in the dark of night through hushed whispers. Poor soul, His Lordship, lying stricken, dreadfully ill and fevered. Bled so repeatedly by his esteemed physician, he had been robbed of his life blood almost beyond hope. Nothing but a wraith he was. ‘I beg of thee, healer Peirsoun, save me from the clutch of death, for I feel and fear its hand,’ he had cried, with eyes so large in their sockets and hands holding on, so desperately, to my old clothing. ‘No need for talk of death,’ I had said, like to a child. ‘Thou wilt be well again once my tinctures and suchlike have done their work.’
Click clank of the lock, the door opens now with hesitation. I am whisked in with a hurried hand. Mister McPhee, His Lordship’s assistant, doth not smile, and the housekeeper flits about with frantic hands and downcasteyes. “Is something the matter?” I ask, “You look as you did upon on my first visit here!” Both look to the stairs.
“My Lord!” I exclaim, “Such a treasure to see thee on legs and feet!”
With wide eyes, he says, “’Tis daylight, and thou were not summoned! Hath anyone seen thee at my door?”
“I do not think so,” I answer him, bewildered by his tone.
“What brings thee, Alison Peirsoun?” he demands, in clear annoyance.
“Why My Lord, the successful treatments for thee have greatly depleted my seed and rootstock, some of which I must order from the Americas. Now that thou art healed, I have come for payment.”
The Archbishop’s brows constrict. His hands turn to fists, whitening the knuckles of them, and his mouth seethes. “Alison Peirsoun of Byrehill, thou hast made grave error in returning to this place… Graver still that thou ask anything of me!”
Cold water on my naked body wakes me, once again, after my fainting from the pain. My body hath suffered the unthinkable. Stick, tied into my hair and twisted, leaves skin torn from my skull. Thumbscrews leave my toes and fingertips crushed. Blood sprays on my tormentors. Boots of wood and iron encase my legs, knee to ankle.
Wooden wedges have been mercilessly hammered down, crushing my legs as small as might be, ‘til the marrow of my bones doth flow. I will not be needing my legs anon, for I am not long for this world. I pray to leave this torture, to return to Mother Earth. And so, I confess that which hath been fed to me with forked spoon:
“I, Alison Peirsoun, confess I have made a pact with the devil, doing so at the age of twelve summers when thoughts of loneliness were within me. The Devil, Master Persin, first appeared to me as a black man who climbed down from a tree. He pushed me down and had intercourse with me. His penis, of such largeness, was cold as ice. After this, he said to me, ‘Thou art mine. Have no regret.’ His honeyed words to me included promise of the power to heal as well as to harm, if I should serve him. ‘Thou shalt give me thy body and soul,’ he said. He then scratched me on my back, leaving his mark, as thou hast seen already. I renounced Christ and pledged myself to Master Persin. I did so willingly.”
Alison Peirsoun of Byrehill, Healer
Found guilty of witchcraft and burned at the stake
Story written by Tori Jones
copywrite 2004 Tori Jones