(Poem Prose 1) Witches in the Weeds by Sara Wright

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There she is in flight,

a shooting star on fire.

There she spirals eyeless

her blue wind births chaos.

There she moans bitterly

churning up dark waters.

There she plows fiercely

heaving up mountains.

Her Datura pods explode,

broadcasting black seeds.

Fire, Air, Earth and Water –

Old women stir the cauldron.

Shapeshifting into birds

they stalk fish in every marsh.

Black-crowned night herons?

Owls with second sight?

Ah, these are the women with wings…

soaring through the night.

Listen to the reeds applauding.

Brown Cattails are humming.

Bitterns sing love songs to

Witches in the Weeds!


Working Notes: In folklore, old women are believed to control all aspects of Nature – Fire, Earth, Air, and Water. However, in myth and story, old women have a special relationship with Water.

The title and poem “witches in the weeds” emerged after I did some research on the Datura plant. This plant is usually associated with old women and sorcery in myth and story. For example, in European mythology, the dark goddesses, Hecate and Baba Yaga, are associated with Datura. Datura is considered to be a ‘witch weed’ and is categorized as a poison along with deadly nightshade, henbane, and mandrake. The seeds and flowers have a history of creating visions, delirious states, and causing death. Datura thrives in wilderness areas. Old women, dark goddesses, and Datura have a lot in common.

Women and birds have been linked since Neolithic times so it seemed natural to use the latter in the poem. Scholar and mytho-archeologist Marija Gimbutas unearthed many bird-women sculptures that were fashioned out of clay in “Old Europe” six to ten thousand years ago. Old women in particular are most often associated with owls, herons, crows, ravens, and black birds of all kinds. It is probably the relationship between women and birds that may be the root behind the belief that old women can fly. The other root behind flight can probably be traced to the relationship that women had with the plants they used. Plants like Datura that contain alkaloid properties (scopolamine, hyoscyamine, and atropine) that are capable of producing visions of flight and are used by folk healers and medicine women and men.

The reference to watery marshes in the poem is important because it is in liminal space – that place between earth and water – that lends itself to transformations of any kind. Goddesses like Hecate inhabit such places, and with good reason because “transformation” requires suffering and death to old ways of being. It is important to have a Guide.

(To be continued.)

Meet Mago Contributor Sara Wright.