The Witch & The Wise Old Woman


Life seems to come in threes. It’s the same with mythology and from that well, flows thousands of stories.

Stories depend on characters and the three recurring characters of mythological stories are: Witches, Dwarfs and Giants. For the past few weeks I have been haunted by witches.

Fortunately, they flash back into my life, but only in my moments of recall. How we recall I don’t know, but it is different from a revived memory. Memory is tricky. It changes details, dates and emotions. There must be a self-preservation at work.

But recall bursts out of the past with all the colour, sounds and conversations in vibrant detail. For a storyteller with the incurable affliction of being self-forced to actually write stories recall opens up scenes that must be scribbled down, read alone and eventually represented to a live audience who sits there only half listening, but recalling their own story. After the performance many will tell you, how much they liked the story. In fact, what they liked was you taking them back, recalling their own story.

First, Witches are a vital character in mythological stories. They have been given a very bad press. Disney and his imitators always present witches as horrible looking old hags who cast spells on innocents. This image is nothing like the truth.

Witches (not to be confused with Wicker), are women who live on the edge of the forest, or the edge of the desert or a vast ocean. They never enter the depth of either place. They have a particular job. They live there to protect a virgin girl who lives inside the forest. It is the witch’s job to test young suitors and to destroy young, or older men, who want to deflower the virgin as a trophy.

So, a virtuous young man approaches the forest to be met by the witch who gives him a series of difficult tests. A favourite trick is to ask the young man to sow down a paddock of mustard, seed by seed. If the young man is indeed virtuous, at night the girl will sneak out and cause a wind to blow the seeds into rows.

The witch then demands he re-bag the seed. He is in tears, but again the girl comes to his rescue by sending a flock of birds who collect each seed and put them back in the original bag.Eventually the witch recognises the worth of the young man and she condones the wedding.

Unfortunately, The witch is often confused with the Wise Old Woman. The Old Woman lives in the very centre of a dense and sometimes dangerous forest. If a young person is in danger she must work hard to get to the Old Woman. Once there, she is told what she must do to save her situation.

There is always hard work to achieve her goal, but if she keeps at it she will succeed.
The Old Woman (and sometimes an Old Man) occupies a valuable role, even in the lives of modern humans.

The Wise Old Woman is, in reality, the ancestral memory, deep in the stored information within every person. She has the answer to all problems. But she is difficult to access. To meet her you have to struggle though the forest of life. You can’t just pray and expect an answer. Nor can you get the answer by winning the lottery, using drugs or alcohol, or hoping for some inheritance. It can only come through hard work. It can also come through a form of prayer called Meditation. That is also hard work.

So the Old Woman lives in the being of every human being. Accessing her is the job.

Next Week we recall our Dwarfs.