I am used to getting weird looks.
They range from the curious and surprised, to outright disbelief and disgust. I am not what you would consider ordinary.
You see, I’m a witch.
The neighbors don’t like it, so I tend to stay out of town. I venture in to do my shopping maybe once a month, so the townsfolk know who I am, but I am not in often enough to develop any sort of relationship with anyone.
They don’t know that I am a witch… but they don’t exactly not know that I am witch. It’s complicated.
One problem is the fact that I am the granddaughter of a murderess and accused witch… not to mention that my mother was involuntarily committed to an asylum for almost a decade. My family connections alone are enough to garner stares and whispers. I think the tattoos are the biggest problem, though. Kind of hard to fly under the radar when you are covered head to toe in warding sigils.
I guess we should start with an introduction, followed by a little history lesson.
My name is Cathasach Hazel Adalwulf. You can call me Cat. I come from a long line of powerful witches. My great-great-great-great… great(?) grandmother was Red Riding Hood. Seriously. They got the story wrong, though. The big, bad wolf didn’t eat her; she skinned that furry bastard and made him into a ruff for her hood. She was known as the Red Witch of Puszcza Białowieska, due to her fiery red hair and scarlet cloak. Her propensity for using blood magic may have also had something to do with it. She was one of my… darker… ancestors.
Usually the affinity for magic is passed down from mother to daughter. Occasionally it passes to a son, which is rare, or skips a generation. The Adalwulf family had maintained a steady line of strong, magical women for hundreds of years. My grandmother Drusilla was as powerful and wise as they come, but none of her seven daughters inherited the Gift. Not one.
This irked Gran to no end, and she often muttered angrily about curses and hexes whenever the subject came up. She waited eagerly for granddaughters to be born, ready to pass on her knowledge. The first six daughters gave birth to only sons. My mother, Rowena, the youngest of the sisters, had a daughter, Lisette Sage. She lacked the Gift. My middle sister, Astrid Helene, was powerless.
Gran was starting to give up hope on an heir to her wisdom, when I was born. Most infants (like my sweet sisters) come in to the world squalling in protest, angrily clenching their tiny fists with eyes squeezed tightly shut. Apparently, I was completely silent. Not a peep. Mother often teases that the day I was born was my last day of silence. Ha ha, mom. Good one.
Gran held me, and gleefully stroked my newborn, downy head. She swears up and down that I stared directly into her eyes as she named me. I have tried to tell her that I was silently reprimanding her for choosing such an awful name, but she won’t hear of it.
“The Goddess named you, not me. She spoke through me. Your power and bravery was known even then.” She exclaimed proudly, a smirk twisted her mouth. “I think that the red hair in our family is a symbol of our power. You’ll notice your sisters dark locks? Your mother and aunts are all raven-headed!”
Anyways, some descendants of witches have an affinity to magic, but some do not. As far as we can ascertain, there is no rhyme or reason to who is chosen to receive the Gift, and who is not. If a recipient of the Gift is not trained in magic, or not born into a magic-aware family, often she will try to suppress her power out of fear or confusion. Usually, this works fine, and she just is considered ‘sensitive’. Think of the sort of people who can see auras or sometimes think they see ghosts. These are also common abilities in individuals who have a small amount of affinity to magic, but lack the true Gift. Then there are those who try to force the Gift to manifest. This never ends well. At least, I have never heard a happy ending to that story.
My mother tried to force a manifestation of magic when she was seventeen years old. At an old crossroads deep in the woods, she summoned a demon, planning to make a dark deal to gain the powers she so desperately desired. The demon laughed in her face, possessed her body, and walked to town.
In a few short hours, the demon had wreaked enough havoc to earn my mother a place in the local mental hospital. My grandmother dealt with the demon in short order, casting it back to the shadows whence it came, but the damage was done. My mother’s psyche was polluted, her body sick, and her soul tainted. The disturbances she had caused in town earned her eight years in that wretched place, and it took even longer to fully recover her purity of spirit. Defilement by a demon is not so readily healed. Gran claims that she got off easy, that few can withstand the mental break caused by a demonic possession and exorcism. On bad days, I have seen mother stare blankly at nothing for hours. Her eyes are just… empty. Sometimes at night she used to wake up screaming. I think there is nothing easy about it.
The murder that Gran allegedly committed was part of the situation with my mother. When the demon was expelled, it immediately attached to an orderly that worked at the institution. Gran followed him home, and did what had to be done. It was ugly, and necessary. Since there was no body, the police couldn’t prove it was her, but the rumors persist, as rumors are wont to do. Anyways, the demon wasn’t psyched about the way that things turned out, and has declared a vendetta against the family. It stops by from time to time to taunt Gran and mother, and to occasionally try to possess me. This is why I am stuck with the damned tattoos; the demon is obsessed with me and my power. It also likes to harass my gentle sisters, but to less of an extent. Their warding tattoos didn’t need to be as powerful, or as extensive. Lucky wenches.
My magic is so strong that I often have a hard time controlling it.
The first time the demon returned to seek revenge, Gran was able to ward him away, and the next morning my sisters and I were tattooed with the protective signs. Between our shoulder blades, the Hand of Fatima was there to protect us, encircled by every protective rune Gran had ever come across. No demon would be able to get through that barrier.
This seemed to work fine for a few years, but as I got older, my tattoo started to fade. My sister’s marks were still dark and crisp, cool with their divine strength. Mine, I saw in the mirror, awkwardly peering over my own shoulder, was beginning to grow faint, and looked worn around the edges. It was also warm to the touch; warmer than the surrounding skin.
I didn’t mention it to my gran, thinking that the skin of my sisters’ just took the tattoo better. They are both dark haired, dark-eyed and olive skinned, duskier clones of my mother. I am pale as pale can be, with light eyes and red hair. Apparently, I take after my grandmother, unless my father was also a ginger… no idea, though. Mother has certainly never said.
Long story short, my magic was burning away the ward on my back. Gran gives the Hand of Fatima and the warding runes a touch-up about once a year, but we soon discovered it wasn’t enough by itself. I now have lines of runes, sigils and symbols running out from the center of my back. Up my neck to the base of my skull, along my arms to my fingertips. Down my spine, circling my ankles. I even have tattoos on my face! I look like a walking tattoo parlor.
Luckily, the tattoos are quite pretty, and I rather like them! It isn’t ideal to get facial tattoos at age 14, when the neighbors already look at you funny, and your hair is so big you can’t even control it with a fat French braid, but it is what it is. I would rather get a few strange looks than be possessed by a demon, you know?
So, you are probably wondering what it means to be a witch. Is it all broomsticks, black cats, cauldrons and cackling?
Yes, that sums it up. Don’t forget the warts, toil and trouble.
Seriously, though, being a witch really isn’t too big of a deal. Or really all that uncommon.
I have magical abilities; I can communicate with some animals, cast limited spells (these require a lot of prep and training, and don’t necessarily go as planned) see auras, read the stars. Sometimes I have visions, can see portents of the future in the lines of your hand or the leaves in your tea. I use many of the standard witch’s tools; broomstick, herbs, charms and crystals. I have a spellbook!
That isn’t what being a witch is truly about, though. I am in touch with nature, I listen to the wind and what the trees say in response. I try to heal the hurts of the earth, put forth good energy and diminish the bad.
Now that you know a little bit about me, we can begin the real story.
A tale of magic, tragedy, adventure; it will be an epic one day!
This is the story of how I found the great love of my life, and how I lost it.