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  • Writer's picture The Faerytale Apothecary

Letting the Story stay Lost

I am not a Witch

I did not choose or ask to be put in with all these other people

I am not a Witch

I am a woman, humble, quiet, trying to scratch a living in the dirt

I am not a Witch

I just want to live my life, simply

I am not a Witch

I never asked for fame

I never asked to be marked out or ridiculed

I just want to be left alone

I am not a Witch

Don’t make me into a cause and a martyr that I am not

I am not a Witch

I am a victim of crime and yet I am the one who is blamed

I never asked for any of what happened and what continues to happen to me and in my name

I am not a Witch

And yet you still persist in calling me one

I am not a Witch

I am a raped and villified woman made into something I am not

I am not a Witch

I am not a Witch

I am not a Witch

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I answered a call-out recently placed on social media. To honour one of the many killed during the witchcraft trials in England. I was assigned a name, just that, it was up to me how much or little I wanted to know of her. Eagerly I tracked her across the internet, found not her story, but a story. I would, I decided proudly, take her with me on my summer pilgrimage I thought, I would make homage to where she had lived, perform ceremony for her...then I heard her loudly quite by chance one morning and realised all my grand showy plans were not of her but of me.

Of my story not hers.

A phrase and an image from other stories immediately sprang up:

‘Hers is not my story to tell’ (Discovery of Witches)

but also Jesus confronting Paul about his falsehoods in the Last Temptation of Christ

‘it is not the truth’ Paul says ‘but the story the people need to hear.’

Which was right in this instance?

With the proliferation of shared stories on social media, so much of our lives are now lived publicly. Is any of this our own, private, personal, not for others to tell? Do we give up the rights to it once we let others in on the tale? Or perhaps even when we do not, how many times has a stranger’s camera pointed our way as they took a tourist shot? Or maybe, more startling, you dropped a cigarette butt and an artist extracted your DNAfrom it and turned your face into a mask for their art exhibition (true story). Who

has the rights of ownership, who has the right over the story, who has the right over the identity?

Are we like Paul in the film, denying someone the right to their own story or creating the story that needs to be told, that the people want to hear?

To come back to the woman whose name I was given; even though I don’t name her, don’t remember her in any public ways or continue to associate her with something she is not, I still betray her wishes, I still speak of her, still use her as an example. Should I be saying any of this or keeping silent?

I feel strongly that I want to stand up in voice for her and say “I am not this thing you continue to portray me as. To continue to be held up as a representative of.” Not in my name can mean, if we let it, many different kinds of stories being left in the lostness intentionally that is, not by chance. I realise that not all stories and myths that are buried have to be dug back up, we are not always doing them service by parading them about.

So how do I hon

our that?

Am I honouring her by just not saying anything at all? By performing a private ceremony for her? Letting her rest? Or am I honouring her by speaking what I feel she speaks to me?

But this is just my experience of it.

The person who gave me the name felt something different, or else she would have left her where she was. So is there something else here? That still her no is refused - for the report I found states clearly that at each turn she refused the devil, cried out for help, was forced against her will. Still her no is not listened to when she is spoken of now as a woman killed for witchcraft. With this post am I complicit in the continuing abusive behaviour towards a woman who just wanted to live her life quietly and simply?

I have no way to know if any of this is true but it is interesting that this is the story I receive. This is the story I hear. What story would you hear I wonder? Does that say more of me or you than her? When we sit with another person, and hear their narrative, their story, what story are they giving us and what story are we receiving? And once we have received the story, does that mean it is no longer a personal story? What of that story is then ours? We have breathed it in, maybe literally, it lives in us now, how does it shape us and change us? And what stories do we then tell in turn because of it?

What of the people who can’t respond to how we carry their stories?

Part of my work I always felt, was speaking the stories for the unnamed, the unheard, the unseen. And I had always taken that to mean - from an animistic point of view where everything is alive - speaking the stories that I hear whispered to me by the wind, dropped into my mind by the sunrise, brushed against my thigh by a high reaching blade of grass. But what about these other stories? These stories of the dead? The dead, I was once told in a graveyard when given a shard of bone, never forget, it is the living who forget. At the time I received this wisdom as a sign we needed to make sure we never forgot, but now I hesitate in that surety, maybe some things we are supposed to forget, the dead want us to forget.

How do I or any of us honour and speak their stories, remember their stories, how do we speak for them or should we at all? I have no answer but it is an interesting thing to think about, to ponder, to meditate on. What right do I have to speak out, to honour, a woman I do not know, a random name I have been given, who might literally be spinning in her grave shouting ‘give it a rest, leave it, drop it, is this all I am now?’ By speaking this story again am I revisiting somehow the pain upon her, keeping a memory alive that would rather become dust?

Of course, we live in a world where every single drop of us intentionally or not is pinned on a page, or rather, exists as ones and zeroes for ever more in the ether, nothing is lost, and if we do tell these stories we believe must be remembered, who are we telling them for the benefit of? I use this woman to illustrate a point, I acknowledge that, but maybe also she uses me to say leave me alone now.

Just as there are some stories it is vital to resurrect, there are also some stories that ask to be lost and stay lost.

This anonymous woman has much to teach.

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