Witch Roots: true confessions of a part-time crystal squeezer…from memory

she clutched the lustrous gleaming red apple in her hand.  the sanguine orb trundled finger tips to palm as she spoke.  and before I could inquire about the masses of blood-red spheres, she devotedly clasped her athame, dividing that suffused ruby-red ball perfectly to reveal the star.  do you know of this? Are you privy? if you slice an apple in half, just right, it will gift you with the star symbol, precisely in its center, its belly, where the seeds live.  i was in awe.  i was jejune.  I was 11.  and she was the most magical, mystical, and enchanted person i could ever imagine containing and including in my lackluster life.  she was my cousin.  my seven years older companion. my dad's sister's daughter.  and i was in genuinely love with her.

the alluring red apples were ubiquitous on that visit.  she had them all around her room,  in every quarter of the basement cave in that old gorgeous house in Wallingford.  and we were continuously left to our own devices there in that deep, cozy underground hollow.  it was a safe and bewitched space.  and i was privileged enough to be permitted in.  and there was shimmering candle light,  lots of luminescent candle light.  and hazy incense,  one after another with the enticing smoky incense. i asked her why red and not green with the apples.  and she said red, always red, never green.  she spoke to me of the symbolism of apples:  love, youth, beauty, happiness and immortality.  she whispered dreamily of the isle of avalon being apple island. and she made sure i understood that our scandinavian roots, being nielsen's and all, were bound to the legends of our scandinavian gods and goddesses, in the other world, who were fed an apple, the life-giving fruit, every evening by the guardian goddess Iduna,  the goddess of spring and youth, who nurtures an apple orchard in Asgard.  it was all about magic, mystery, the mystical, and the sacred.  my witchy cousin was ensuring that i too would be passed the gift of understanding symbolic meaning, gaining the ability to use herbs and potions to heal, and have knowledge of our pagan roots that informed our quasi-catholic upbringing.  she was initiating me.

the apples are just one of my first significant memories surrounding this idol of mine, my cousin, my sister.  she was just enough older than me that she had a "real" job, first at rainier bank, and then whatever it morphed into, when i was still quite impressionable.  i was open and she was willing so i was bestowed her imprint and i lavished in it.  in those glory days the money flowed like liquid gold and she had a no holds barred attitude where i was concerned.  especially when it came to supplying her agreeable petite apprentice with paraphernalia, tools, essentials on the journey into teenagedome and becoming a free thinking iconoclast.  this is how she justified her untethered spending on me: it was crucial to her that i was schooled, prepared, and developed within a certain elemental specific spiritual framework to make it thru the coming passage with as much room for growth and gaining knowledge and as little pain and agony as possible in my juvenile years.  it was of the utmost importance to her that i knew i was enough, that i understood the long line of strong creative women i came from, and that i trusted she was there to have my back in case i faltered.  she could not completely insulate me, by a long shot, but she gave me the securest cushiony landing spot and room to flail.  she held the space for my breakdowns and dissonance during my teen years in a way that supported and didn’t stifle. she was present and alert.

my ambitious mom divorced and left my sad dad by the time i was four.  pa stayed in windy, dusty ellensburg, where my 18 month younger brother and i were born, while my determined mom relocated us to the west side.  my temporarily heartbroken dad was a firefighter and had an irregular schedule.  my parents agreement was that dad would have us once a month.  it fuckin sucked.  it was hard and harsh.  And we missed him like crazy.  but when he finally showed up each month, it was like christmas morning, a celebration, a festival of love, longing, and reunion.  it was the best and we unquestionably endured our separation from him hungering for reunification.  and since he came over snoqualamie pass to retrieve us, we would most often spend the weekend with our grandparents in renton, instead of heading back over the cascades to ellensburg.  looking back now, my folks being separated and having been afforded a weekend nearly every month with my paternal grandparents, was one of the utmost gifts of my childhood and my parents’ split.  A hankered for blessing in disguise. basking in the ecstatic love and adoration of my grandma, in person, once a moon cycle, jam-packed me up with the love i craved and ached for and wasn’t getting elsewhere, namely from my distracted mom, whose attention was laser focused on her fresh rebound husband, while his attention, in turn, was laser focused on me.  but that tale of preoccupation is an account for another time.  and so, occasionally, instead of shacking up with my beloved and darling grandparents, we would hightail it across the 520 bridge, venturing into the big, bright, bustling city toward my dad’s sisters, and stay, at first on palentine, and then on latona, with my aunt, uncle and cousin, in seattle.  it was on those rare weekends, in the early years, that i was sanctified by my cousin and aunt's devotion, love and pandering.  it was these too far and few between journeys that my cousin would entice me subterranean to her chamber to be marinated in her glow, sequestered, in secret, the outer world shut out and time standing still. it was entering another world entirely and it was profound.

from time to time, and especially as i did actually near my teens, the older adults would "allow" my cousin and i to venture off into the heart of the mysterious city on our own.  she, of course, had been roaming, carousing, and taking seattle by storm since her very early years but for me to be allowed to go out with her, walking long distances or taking the city bus, since she didn’t drive, was a big deal.  through the years, and once i could drive into the city myself, we had several spots that i call the "usual haunts" on our route.  when i would get to her house each time, whether when i was much younger with my dad in tow, or a little older and on my own, she would have some variety of multi-layered gift for me and some portion of the gift was always an indulgent wad of cold hard cash meant to be spent on particular items in specific locales.  often the other components of the gift were small indicators as to the wondrous places she would take me by the hand to discover.  there was always music, incense, herbs, crystals, vintage trinkets, clothes and jewelry .  all riches to my naïve, rural, bugged out eyes.  for me they were otherworldly treasures, not the kind of stuff you could acquire or procure in the suburbs.  once gifted my supernatural loot, we were off to peruse the brick and mortars ourselves so i could see, feel, pick, choose, and buy, with her endowment of funds, more of the same.  it was a veiled dream come true and i lived, really longingly and anticipatorily existed, to fulfill my burgeoning wanderlust in her sorority.

one of our usual haunts was tower records, in the mid-80s still a block off mercer street, and quite near my uncles offices at seattle center.  it was actual records we were after, back in the day, albums, not cassettes, and cds weren’t even available yet.  she knew I scarcely possessed any music but there I was, trailing behind in her herbalicious fragrant wake, as she called out, do you have this?  What about this? oh you must have this…you won’t make it thru without this.  essentially and effectively the message came across loud and clear: you won’t endure the passage to enlightenment or survive your coming of age if you don’t listen up….literally. i just stared, wide-eyed, chin on the floor and gulped it all deep soul down.  i couldn’t get enough. and so then there we hovered, with a mass of albums, her trying to decide which mound of lyrical poetry i MUST obtain that interval.  there was the Stones (her fav), Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and the Doors. then later the indigo girls, REM, and U2.  and there were many many more:  punk, reggae, blues, indie, world, new wave, ethnic, alternative, jazz, cajun, rock a billy, etc, but the others were the most conspicuous.  she and we would pick 3 or so for me and a few for her and off we’d fly to our next lair.  i still have all my albums and then some and since my 3 guys bought me a new turntable a couple years ago, I get to listen to them.  and it takes me back.  deep soul down.

additional habitual sanctums we craved were zenith supply on Roosevelt or tenzing momo in pike place market.  Back in the day these became our everyday, routine, normal, go to hamlets for crystals, pendants, wands, incense, candles, oils, books, herbs, and all things witchy, occult and esoteric.  i was being steeped and brewed in the ancient wise woman path and yet I was none the wiser in that moment.  i was squarely thrilled and awed by all she knew and her precious gift of instilling it on me.  i remember specifically twice that she guided me in choosing crystal mineral and gemstone pendants for myself.  one was a marbleized green malachite crystal set with a small fiery opal cabochon in the center and another was a dark stripey obsidian crystal with a midnight blue lapis cabochon in the center.  I wore both of them religiously and I was the only schoolgirl in junior high who dared be so bold and untrendy.  our favorite incense was night queen by primo.  we would also get frankincense, patchouli, or amber once in a while, along with stalking up on whatever other occultist accoutrements we needed for the season at hand.  now, if i smell any of the aromatic zephyrs we regularly consumed then, the scent memory is so durable it tugs me right back to that cherished and lusted archetypal age.

When I recount the spellbinding emporiums as becoming common for my cousin to expose me to, it is only in sheer contrast to our annual pilgrimage to seattle center, for the folklife festival.  The other harbors grew inevitable and orthodox while still evoking giddy delight upon pursuing them.  But Folklife, when my uncle was the director of it for 16 years, was the yearly local holy grail of whimsical nonconformity, celebrated diversity, a musical, theatrical, performance tribe and wild circus clan descended and created a world all its own where we could get it all and have it all over one long provocative weekend.  we lived for it, we dressed for it, we prepared for it and we became one with it.  We would save our money for weeks and months to take possession of the fantastic worldly ethnic goods we had held our breaths 4 lengthy seasons for. There was much planning, prep, scrutinizing the schedule and dissecting which vendors were where.  (as an aside, the only dreamy and bewitched vendor we were willing to drag our lazy asses out of bed for on the first day, and wait lined up early for outside the exhibition hall doors, was our very own duvall handcraft legend, the goddess paula strobel, whose dolls and enchantments were collected by us with sheer panic and hysteria!  Imagine my frenzied delirium many years later after having moved here to discover paula worked in the bookstore. and boy howdy was she ever so humble and even embarrassed with all the feverish gushing I spewed upon realizing her in the dusty stacks.  she has been ever so gracious and charitable in symbolically patting my eager head while my tail still wags in her presence all these years later.) but back to folklife. my cousin and aunt had taught me to love well and deeply great fancy feasts of food.  real, fresh, made from scratch honest to goodness food, in all its varieties, colors, flavors and textures.  i was used to government cheese and there wasn’t a brown packaged brick in sight.  that said, the availability of diverse fare at folklife was staggering and gorge worthy, thus the poring over of the scheduled food vendors and thus we stuffed to bursting.  and none of our greenbacks had to be spent acquiring this gastronomic bloating of our own gluttonous epicurean ways.  which was just one more charmed homerun for these kin of mine I revered so severely.  all we had to do was trot around the grounds with my uncle, the bigwig, the director of the festival, whenever we got hungry and he was offered food left and right, hand over fist, more than he could every put away himself.  so there we were to take up the slack, help him out, and make sure he didn’t need to reject his vendor’s culinary advances.  it was our pleasure to proffer this favor so he didn’t look rude.  it was wholly fantastic for a girl who was raised on frozen cardboard pizzas, metallic canned veggies, and free public school lunches.

so, without exception, i was nourished entirely and completely under the protection of my kinfolks.  their generous tutelage allowed me to propagate, mature and ripen into my own as a young adult. i am the unconventional parent, the eccentric and eclectic woman, the redemptive partner due to their planting of seeds. I have chosen authenticity, braveness, vulnerability and imperfection as a lifestyle thanks to their initial tutoring. we aren’t all as close as we once were and lately i’ve been feelin like there is a massive jagged hole in my heart that only they can plug up.  i want to curl up with them, hold their fleshy hands, whisper what they mean to me and ensure they comprehend that i am me because of them.  i want them to know.  i hope they know.