Category Archives: Stories

Sea of Trees

Photo by Matt Clarkson on Flickr
Photo by Matt Clarkson on Flickr

The wind told me a story, this story blew in on a gentle night breeze, softer than the touch a luna moth’s wings and darker than the places between stars. It spoke to me of a land of the dead, and of music like none I’ve even known. Hear these words as told to me by the wind.

If you follow the path of the sun, follow it straight and follow it true to the place where it sets each day. There, through the fire and flame, past the dying light, is a forest. Well, no that’s like calling the Atlantic a body of water. If you follow the sun to the land where it dies there grows the Sea of Trees. It is exactly as it sounds, a forest vast as the open sea. Trees so tall that their branches grow to bracket the stars and their roots sink down to sip the stuff of other worlds. The forest belongs to the dead and the secrets they keep. The living should never trouble the dead. Of course what should be, and what is, often have miles of difference between them..

Grimoire and scrolls, books and stories tell of necromancers, those who would divine secrets from the dead. They detail incense and rituals to call up and bind the spirit, words to compel them, sigils to command them and hold them to the truth. In the Sea of Trees is their world, not ours. There the dead are not compelled by the living… Only madmen, fools, and those seeking to join their number attempt such a thing. They must be treated with, and in the long history of the Sea of trees there is only one thing they have ever been known to accept in exchange for their secrets or safe passage through their lands… music.

Now. Sam was a bard worthy of the name. With soft words he could charm birds down from trees. With a few bars gently hummed he could turn a mans heart. With his lute in his hand he could wring tears from a stone. Far and wide he was known as the greatest musician of his age. He wandered far, welcome any and everywhere for the gift of his music. He walked to the storm wall, and learned the music of the Everstorm. He tracked through Jackuracu, the burning plains, and learned the song of the desert and shifting sands. He traveled to the lands of giants, and to the peaks of the world’s end mountains to learn their music as well. Inevitably his travels brought him to The Sea of trees. On his first day he strode past the dying sun and where its flames leapt up to burn him and turn him back, he struck a note on his lute and intoned in a soft singsong:

“Peace , O flames of burning day, harm not your cousin made of clay.”

At his voice the fires parted before him and so he walked on. On the second day he found the edge of the forest. Before him trees and branches, vines and brush rose up in an impassible wall, sharp thorns and twisted growth rearing up and up and stretching on and on in all directions as far as he could see. At this he struck a chord on his lute and sang in a voice rich and proud:

“Where music flies there I will follow, through glen and forest, glade and hollow.”

Then, he looked hard at the wall of thorns and branches and he saw in it three notes of music clearly penned. He sang them out, he sang them hard and sharp and white as fire, and struck another chord on his lute. At the sound of that note, ringing out hard and pure and true the way opened before him and he walked on. On the third day, Sam found himself deep within the Sea of trees. All about him ranged the dead, in all shapes and sizes and forms both foul and fair. Many of them reached out to him some beckoning some demanding. Wisely he stepped aside– it is not a good thing for the dead to touch to living. At first he thought to continue on his way, but soon the dead crowded about him so thick that he could go no further safely. He stopped and looked and everywhere he saw the dead. He looked again and this time he saw the music in them, so he raised his lute and played that music, he played and sang it out in wild notes that shivered his soul, he sang it in mournful minor keys that set him to weeping, he set it free in leaping refrains that flitted about the trees in dazzling notes before flying off to dance among the dead. He wrapped himself in the song, wove it about himself in a glamour fit for the fae. At the sound of this music the dead stepped away and a path opened before him. Sam with the music burning in him walked on, he walked and he played for three days unceasing in the light of the sun, and for three days unceasing in the light of the moon. And on the dawn of the fourth day he saw a thinning in the trees and could see in patches the open sky. He sang on though thirst and hunger wracked him, he sang on though sleep blurred his thoughts and made his step stagger. A hundred yards to the end and he sang on though his throat was agony, fifty yards and he sang on, though he could barely remember why he was singing at all, twenty yards and he sang, though sleep was right there close enough to touch. Ten Yards and he sang.. even as a nightingale, a small thing flitting by overhead drew his eye. A small distraction, but that was all it took, there was a burr in his music a missed note…

His spell unraveled and the dead took him.

The wind says that if you follow the sun to the place where it dies each day, there through the fire and flame in the dying light you can hear music wild and otherworldly coming from the Sea of Trees.

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Making Sure the Dead are Truly Dead and Gone

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Normally I hear my stories on the wind. It sings them to me on storm winds and sea breezes, it whispers them to me beneath the full bellied moon. It brings them up from forgotten places and plays me echoes of secret memories. Normally I share what I hear, this time let me tell you what I lived.

Some people have a knack for walking in the other world. It is a talent that can be learned, it can be trained and it can be honed. But some people, they just have it from birth. They walk through life straddling worlds, sometimes seeing in this one, sometimes gazing into others. This is a story about such a man. He is married to a dreamer, she is many things make no mistake, but above all else she dreams. Together they have a son, a toddling thing best described by his mother’s wide eyes and his father’s thirst for adventure. Completeing their family and filling their home is the Bear, a large man, shaggy and strong, gentle save when stirred to anger.

Now living where they live, and being what they are, they are no strangers to death. They have seen it from afar and they have held it in their arms. To the Dreamer death was a mystery and a puzzle, to the Walker death was an adventure and a promise.

So, tell me; what do you think they did when confronted with a situation where death and the newly dead were in their hands… why they Fucked it up of course. And therein lies the story…

It isn’t just humans who can become lost in the here after. The spirits of Birds and beasts can as well. Aye, they live closer to death, they have fewer walls erected between them and the truth of it. They are born knowing its nature, they live with it day to day hour to hour. Death however comes in more forms than there are stars to light the sky, so when it comes in a shape foreign and sudden… then can be a problem. If a deer is taken down by a wolf that is the nature of things, if a mouse is taken by an owl on the wing, that too is the nature of things. There is little shock and a clear understanding in the mind of the prey. There is fear. There is pain, but no suprise, no confusion. Death has come and they must surrender to it.

But what happens when death comes sudden, swift and strange to the predator, what does the wolf, or owl, the bear feel when they are struck down by the doings of Men. I think that for prey animals it is easier, they’re constantly dogged by the spectre of death, but for the hunter to be struck down causes a disconnect. The wolf knows old age, it understands thirst, and famine, disease. But what’s a rifle, what is a car to barrel up and pounce so brutally, to pulp flesh, snap bone, and savage organs. Whats worse it rolls on without a pause, no memory of prey to humble the predator, no flesh taken to fill an empty belly no purpose beyond clumsy power and inconsiderate speed. How does the predator reconcile its death to this?

Simply put, they often can’t. If you ever find yourself near the results of such a collision, take a moment and observe. There is a palpable miasma of confusion and indignity, an alpha predator reduced to a ragged bundle of fur or feathers crushed and tossed without a second thought.

I know what death is to me, through this experience I also have found what it means to me as a witch.

The Dreamer found the body, a wind tumbled ball of feathers left without ceremony on the roadside with its neck broken. She called the Walker to bring it home. He approached it with the care he would the honored dead, with gentle words to sooth it, and if truth be told to sooth himself. He was no stanger to spirits, but this one was lost and confused and its presence was echoe and emptyness. With what ceremony he could afford it, and such dignity as he could grace he brought it home, laid it beneath the familiar oak and begged it peace and easy sleep.

A day passed, then two, and he stopped feeling the spirit so strongly, he looked with eyes open in both worlds and saw nothing and so they put the body to the knife, passed it through incense and blessed it with prayer, some parts they preserved and the remains they put in the ground there beneath the sun and the branches of that oak.

Naive of the Dreamer, Foolish of the walker.

The Walker you see, he went walking the other world under the eye of the sun. Small wonder he found no sign of the lingering spirit then. It was nocturnal in life and so too in death. It wasn’t gone to its rest, only sleeping… Foolish, naive.

Only the oak bore witness to the momement when the spirit found its buried body. Only the oak and the wide night sky. The Walker wasn’t there to bear witness, he didn’t feel it, didn’t notice at all. The credit for that goes to their son, the toddling child all eyes and curiousity. “What’s that?” Sometimes that’s what it takes for that voice in the back of your head that’s been screaming “Hey idiot pay attention” to get its point across. The Walker didn’t see the how of things, he only saw the results. The wretched thing, lost and bearing the wounds of its death and the marks of its body’s internment in the ground. Shambling up like a night born creature from someone’s bleak and blackest dreamings. Empathy was never a gift of the Walker, but understanding… that he bore the burden of. This he understood on a primal level, the knowing of it settling on him full and heavy. With slow and deliberate care he reached out to the spirit. He wrapped it in threads of himself, spun thin and strong as spider silk. He tied it to him and made it whole. In his trance he saw it flying, and amidst the incense of cedar and lemon grass his son saw it too. “Flying, mama, happy” he giggled, pointed and signed.

Now in a fairy tale this would be the happily ever after. But fairies and their endings have no place in this tale today.

I think that this is not an end at all but a beginning, and that is where I will leave you. At the beginning.

Welcome to Our Corner of the Wyldwood

 

From clutteredgypsy.tumblr.com
From clutteredgypsy.tumblr.com

You have been walking for some time now, so long that you have forgotten, in fact, where you have come from or where you are going. You have traveled from the sea, over rolling hills and mountains with their snow-capped peaks reaching towards the stars. At last your trail has brought you to a forest. As you walk along the deer-trodden path, you realize that you have surely left civilization behind you. There seems to be no touch of man in this place. The trees grow strong and thick of trunk, their boughs creating an ever-denser canopy above you, letting little sunlight through. You see sign of beast and bird as you go along, and every once in awhile you meet eyes with a large buck before he bounds off into the underbrush. Birds sing all around you as they eat berries from the bushes that line the way. Rabbits peak their twitching noses out from underneath the fruit-heavy branches, they themselves dining on the bounty within their own reach. A sense of calmness envelopes you as you walk, and you begin to daydream. Suddenly you realize that the sun is kissing the horizon, and you know not where you are nor where to set up camp for the night. Most of the creatures have gone silent. An owl beckons to the coming night from its tree, golden round eyes glowing in the dimming light of a dying sun. A chorus of frogs erupts from somewhere near by, so there must be water, you think to yourself. The frogs are singing the sun to sleep, and with the cover of the canopy above, it grows darker faster than it would have otherwise. Your pace quickens as you scan the darkness for a place to make your bed and light your fire against that which comes with the darkness. You spot a clearing up ahead, and as you burst through the treeline you find yourself upon a cottage. White-grey smoke curls up lazily from the chimney and a candle lights a window where a black cat lounges on the sill, its tail twitching. You push open the small gate and follow the stepping stones past mammoth sunflowers, lavender bushes, blood-red poppies, datura trumpets and foxglove bells that are all now quiet– the bees have gone to sleep in their hives for the night. The scent of moonflowers greets your nose and you look around you, spotting them crawling up a trellis leading into another garden space. You take the path to the right, which leads to what you assume to be the front door. Knocking, you hear a woman’s voice call out from within.

“Come in, Traveler, if you mean my house and kin no harm. For friends and weary wanderers there is ale and bread upon my table and a bed by the fire.”

You gently turn the knob and swing wide the heavy oak door, that you now notice is etched with runes ’round its edge. The scent of fresh bread and drying herbs greats your nose and you breathe deeply. Stepping across the threshold, a tingling skitters across your skin as you pass through the home’s ward– it has allowed you to enter unharmed. Shutting the door and the sudden chill of the coming night behind you, you are greeted by the warmth of a hearthfire and the smile of a woman, hair of dark brown and fox-red, a babe upon her hip; as well as by the curious gaze of a man, skin like the dark night, who is seated already at the hardwood table with spoon in hand, about to take a sip from what smells of lamb and thyme in a rich bone broth. After a pause, he finishes bringing the stew-laden spoon to his mouth, closes his eyes momentarily as he savors the meat and herbs, then opens them once more casting his gaze your way. Still silent, he nods, and looks to his wyfe. She sets the baby down on the bench beside his father and begins to ladle stew into a wooden bowl, placing it on the table at the seat across from her husband. “Sit, eat, drink,” she says and pours a hornmug of ale for you. Hunger overcoming your hesitance, you drop your bag by the door and sit at the place she has set for you and begin to eat. 

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This blog will be a collection of magical musings and experiences, original stories, and store updates from two wytches– owners of the budding business The Twisted Tree~ Apothecary & Occult Shoppe. Our workings, writings, and business reflect the kind of magical practitioners that we are. Be prepared for ‘darker’ things upon these pages– things of bone and blood and dark moons and deep ocean. But also things of the green earth, of the sun moving through its cycles of spring and summer, fall and winter– of dark sleep, rebirth, returning, high reign, and decline once more. We will speak of shapeshifting, flying ointments, charms and curses, bardic storytelling, priestess-hood and polytheism, bioregional animism, spirits, and more; as well as share store updates, coupon opportunities, contests, information on custom work, etc.

Welcome to our corner of the Wyldwood~

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