A medicine woman's honesty, lavender and lies
|The ancient medicine woman felt along her shelf for just the right ingredients. Her cloudy opal eyes could no longer see her precious herbs and powders. Fingers had to do the seeing. As her knobby hand touched each earthen jug or wooden box, she remembered pleasant days of searching for their contents. Ah yes, she thought, this box holds willow bark. It was wonderful for brewing up a powerful pain-killing tea. Touching a pottery jar, she thought, my health giving purple cone flower seeds. Finally her fingers met the dried lavender bunch. Yes, this would make a perfect poultice for my anxious visitor.
The teenage village girl kept adjusting her skirt and apron. The old witch frightened her and made her fidget. Looking around the dusty hut, she noticed a cob web glittered in the light cast by the small fire in the hearth. It would be night soon, and she needed to be home by then. The forest was not safe. "Will this take long?" she asked. "I can come back tomorrow evening."
"Tut tut," said the medicine woman. “Such impatience you young people have. No it will only take a moment or two." Reaching into a metal canister, she dug out a hand full of flour and dropped it into a bowl. Over this she crushed the dried lavender by rubbing it between her hands. She poured in a bit of oil, and just enough water to make the poultice into a paste. The results went into a wide mouthed jar. Inserting a wooden lid that plugged the opening, she held it out to the girl. "Rub a bit of this over your face each night."
"How long will it take to work?' asked the nervous girl.
"Oh, I don't think it will take much more than a week or two to make you the most beautiful girl in the village. If your young man is too slow, many other young men will come a courting."
Although she couldn't see the teen’s startled look, the old woman knew from decades of experience what the silence her comment meant.
“How did you know about Hedrick?” said the young girl in amazement. Was the hag really a saint? She noticed the wisps of gray hair floated about the dried-apple doll face like a halo. Looking again into those blind eyes, she reassessed, no, not a saint. Saint statues were beautiful. “Thank you,” she said, and dropped coins into the old crone’s skeletal palm.
The old woman smiled too. The “every man” story was as old as mankind. It wasn’t hard to guess the girl’s concerns. Throughout time teenagers had the same desires and fears. In this case the girl had acne. All the village teens likely did. By giving her a poultice of lavender her skin would clear up while rival’s remained spotted. Soon her clear skin would attract suitors.
Later that night, the medicine woman heard a knock at her cabin door. “Come in,” she called out. The door creaked open and the rustling of skirts was heard. She smelled mutton stew. Her stomach responded with hunger pangs. A pail made a slight clang as it was set upon her table of thick wooden planks. “Grace, how delighted I am you came. I knew you were coming. I saw you start out from your farm house,” she lied.
“Mother of the Woods, you scare me with your magical sight.” The farm wife set her lantern on the table too. “You know the people talk of you being dangerous with your dark arts. Yet you have never been anything but good and helpful to the parish people.”
“As it has ever been,” the medicine woman agreed. “But don’t worry about me. You all need the potions and remedies my herbs deliver.” Turning to her counter under the herb shelf, she felt about until she picked up a satchel of various herbs. “For your insomnia,” she said. Lavender, once again, was the chief among the little cloth bag’s ingredients. It was an amazing herb -if you could believe it. She wasn't sure she did. Holding it out to her visitor, she thought, oh, well. It was all in a day's work: a hint of honesty, lavender, and lies.