Scenes from the Whirram Way
These are the beginnings of scenes for book one of the Whirram Way an anthology of my ramblings about white witches and their journeys to the otherworld. Characters include Mary Anne, Lettice and Elizabeth (Lisbet) – a family of women with the knowing – the White Witches of Treffgarne. Mary Anne my great grandmother was born in 1833; her mother, Lettice was born in 1808; and her mother Elizabeth was born in 1786.
Story begins with Mary in 1840:
”You are needed, your way begins, Look inward, the gateway is open”….
Mary first heard these words on the wind waking her from sleep – the night of the raging storm. When Mary stirred, rain was in the air, but not yet here – just that familiar metal smell and the rushing of the wind through the trees in the woods. She slipped quietly from her bed, her bare feet flinching on hard cold slate, and tip toed to the window. She unlatched the window shutter without a second thought of fear and pushed the window wide. Gazing out she searched for her moon! Was it there? Yes! The moon glided into view from beneath the blackened swollen clouds, and she smiled. She shivered there in the cold waiting for the moon to rise and the rain to begin its rattling on the roof. She did not know where the gateway was waiting and why she was needed, but she knew she was ready.
Here we step further back 10 years time to Lettice’s story as a young midwife in 1830.
It was dark and wet in Friar’s Lane as Lettice hurried down past the old Priory walls and into the back alleyways on her way to Shut Street. Another dark ‘Whirrham’ call from a soul in need and she knew that a young woman was in trouble. She knocked on the door of number 55 and pushed it open, calling out “Hallo!” as she entered. In the darkened space she smelt the bitter tang of mildew but was warmed by the sight of a fire in the hearth. An old blackened kettle was steaming on the hob and the soft moans of a woman in pain drew her attention to the figure on the bed, an old iron cot, in one corner of the room. The woman began to cry and groan as Lettice came inside and shut the door. She took off her damp cloak and hung it to dry near the fire, placing her bag and basket on the only chair in the space. She took one look at the young woman on the cot and saw the fear in her eyes. ‘A first one?’ she asked. The woman nodded her head, tears streaming down her face, her hair plastering closely and the look of despair in her eyes.
This is part of the song that weaves through the stories..
”Listen for the song o’ the moon
As she waxes and wanes
Bringing light into darkness
And bathing night with her glow.
You are one with the moon
As you drift into dreams
Guiding you to truth and the Way
And returning the love that you know.
Listen to the song o’ the moon …. “
Here we step back 20 years in time to Elizabeth (Lisbet’s song) in the 1790’s
It was a clear, bright Autumn afternoon in Treffgarne, the eve of Beltane, when Elizabeth Mary began her journey into the Whirrham Way. The four brown hens were busy clucking their way through the fields and she drew them into the kitchen garden and scattered the seeds for them. They were greedily feasting on these as she latched the garden gate and walked towards the grove behind the fields. She had on her oldest clothes – ragged and frayed – the sort that her mother would not mind if she got them dirty. Her look was determined as she followed the well worn path to the standing stones. Elizabeth had been to the stones many times, and she knew them all. She had felt their craggy faces and often paced the distance between these sentinels guarding the Faeries well. She knew each one of these granite stones standing in a circle inside the grove, hidden from the roads by the Oak and Rowan trees. They had stood there for centuries and would, most likely, stay standing there for centuries to come.
“As she descended the steps into the well, Elizabeth (Lisbet) could smell the damp earth. Pungent and persistent, the smells became stronger the lower her feet took her into the gloom. Another elusive odour then caused her to take in her breath in a short sharp gasp, it was of something long dead. Trembling, she felt along the knubbly walls to steady her steps and with another sharp intake, she drew back her fingers. There was a different surface here now, smooth in places yet familiar shapes jumbled together. The looked and saw that the walls were inlaid with bones.
By the light of the torch fire, she spread out the map on the top step of the stairway. Some of the words were a bit strange, but she could recognize the ancient symbols etched in black on the worn, leather map. She wished her grandmother was beside her now, guiding her, as she glanced up at her own shadow dancing in the torchlight. She spoke out loud to steady herself. “I can read and write, and I have the gift to complete the task. I know the meanings of the runes. Grandma Eliza taught me long ago.”
With her small fingers she now traced the shapes of the runes carved into the small statue and the rock wall inside the niche. In a small, high pitched voice, she read the words out loud.