Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Upon Opening Goody Prymm's Past: What the Past Teaches

Remember sat spellbound, her slender hand holding Goody Prymm's first account of making her way to the New World.  She was beginning to understand the depths of Goody Prymm's knowledge and experience.  Placing the first page gently aside, there was no turning back now, and she settled in and leaned against the old cupboard to read the next account...

                                                                                                   May 25, 1627

I cannot look ahead without looking back. The past, though sometimes painful, is a part of us and must teach us, and we would be wise to hearken its lessons.  Samuel and I are headed to the New Land together, though for different reasons entirely...he is running to, while I am running from; he for business ventures and profitable gain, and I to escape the tyranny.  Tansy was no witch, though she was hanged for one.  She was my beloved sister.

My grandmother was a wisewoman, one of the cunning folk of our area of Lancashire.  I grew up with her healing charms...shoes concealed up in our chimney to keep away malevolent forces...I well remember the hexafoils she scratched next to our windows...and the hag-stone tied to the door with red yarn for protection.  The corn dollies at harvest time, amulets said to promise good crops the next year, and the blue glass beads to be worn to heal lung infections, were all truths in our child eyes---after all, they were our grandmother's truths.  Our mother was a healer too, and though she honored our grandmother, she did not practice in the same ways.  Like most of the people of Pendle who were still faithful to Roman Catholic ways, their Masses held in secret, my mother's healing ways were in offerings at holy wells, pilgrimages, and praying to the saints...our Holy Mother in particular.

They both grew herbs and made their medicine from the plants they harvested.  And this, this was the sticking point...these things, which had long been accepted, came to be viewed as "daemonologie," and we were now deemed religious nonconformists...and ultimately a threat to the Crown.  A simple old woman bearing the deep wrinkles of wisdom and a gobber tooth---a spindle in her hand---was now become a witch, and the Old Catholic Ways now akin to witchery.  It was Fear and Ignorance hanged my Tansy in the woods that day, and I'll not forget it.  Samuel has warned me that there will be Puritans where we go, and so I've determined to start anew.  I will be a healer, but different from my mother and grandmother, my healing coming only from the plants I will grow...and I will watch my tongue, most assuredly.

Thankfully, our journey has been smooth these past few weeks.  Sometimes late in the night I creep up on deck and secretly breathe in the fresh salt air and gaze at the stars, our tiny guiding lights.  I've heard talk that we are close to our destination...a place they call Salem.  My hope lies in tomorrow's sunrise...leaving fear and ignorance behind, and welcoming a New World.

                                                                       Imagination Prymm

Carefully placing the page with the one previously read, Remember sat quietly and reverently, reflecting on the old woman she had come to love so much.

***With a nod to "The Witch Trial That Made Legal History," by Frances Cronin, BBC News, 17 August 2011; and Touching Magic, by Ian Joseph Evans, Doctor of Philosophy and History, October 2010.

© 2017 Nancy Duncan


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