"Triple, triple, boil and quipple, double, double toil and grovel. Fire burn and cause much trouble".
The year is 1690 in Salem Mass., and the women of the Healing Cauldron tend their garden, they toil away happily, as they grow the healthy herbs and spices. With these plants they brew their healing potions, poultices and medicines needed to heal the sick and soothe the minds of the poor people living in the towns and villages. There was no magic within these plants, just loving care and the wish to be helpful to those who needed aid. These women were of the wealthier class, who felt safe in the protection of their fathers and husbands.
"Priestess Sarah, when will thee teach me the uses of all the forbidden herbs"? Anna asked.
Sarah looked around alarmingly, such words could not be heard by anyone on the outside.
"Be thee quiet young Anna. Thou must not mention those words outside of the hidden circle". She hissed quietly.
There had been talk about witchcraft and that the stiff-collared men of the church were making plans to burn witches. Sarah had no intention of adding fuel to their persecuting, ego maniacal desire to punish innocent people who practiced herbal healing, especially women whom they could not control. Women had to pretend to be stupid and bow to the bad decisions and tyrannical rule of stupid uninformed men.
But, unknown to them, the lonely witch Hagai was also tending her garden next door. Hidden behind the high shrubs, she heard every word uttered by the women who thought themselves alone.
Hagai was unmarried, miserable and envious. The women who were her neighbors were adored by everyone for their benevolence and kindness to the less fortunate. Sure they were, they had money, rich husbands and fathers who doted on them, not like her tyrant of a father who was of the church and as cruel and judgmental as the devil himself. Her mother had up and run away, no longer able to bear the feeling of her soul being ground down into the dirt. Yet she had left her daughter to bear the brunt of her husbands barbed words and unjustified wrath. Josiah Branwell interpreted the bible in his own grating and hard-lined ways. He was a most unhappy man.
Hagai herself was a secret witch. Had her father found out, hers would have been the first neck on the noose or in the fire. Yet she could just kill the cruel, uncompromising Satan of a man. Either way, she would get blamed, if only for the fact that she was female. Hagai was trapped between a rock and a hard place. Maybe she should join the coven of the next door witches. But her pride and unhappy heart kept her quiet and resentful, so she watched, gathered evidence and bided her time.
"Father, why do ye stand there observing the women so keenly". Hagai asked, as she perceived the lecherous sneer upon her father's hard, and wicked countenance.
"I be seeing you watching them with conniving and cunning intentions. What be the reasons ye watch them so carefully. Do ye wish to be them, ye ungrateful wench. They prance around arrogantly and go about dispensing distrustful medicines and herbs which are the devil's work. What do ye know of their works girl". Josiah's face was twisted and cruel in its deep resentment of humanity as a whole.
Hagai shuddered at the thought of the depth of cruelty and hatred which her father harbored deep within his heart. His father had been a pastor, as was his father before him. They had all been miserable men. She had no wish to end up with a replica of the man her father was, that was her destiny after all. She had been promised to one of his much older church colleagues in his horrid holy circle.
"They travel to the villages, giving herbs and poultices to the poor folks, is all that I know of it". Hagai lied so well, a result of years of practice.
Later that day when Josiah left to go perform his church duties, Hagai walked to the edge of the property where the women were sitting, tying bundles of herbs with strings. She watched them silently, they were unaware of her presence.
"May I join your coven". Hagai had spoken suddenly, startling the women, causing some to drop their toiling bundles.
"We know not of what you speak, Hagai". Sarah said a bit too quickly to be believed. Hagai smiled and reached out her hand towards the hedge.
"I be standing here and listening to ye talking. I know ye meet somewhere. I mean ye no harm, I just need to make some friends".
"Your father be of the church, why would we trust ye now, do ye mean to spy on us, to report our ways to him"?
"I hate my father, he knows not that I be a witch. I want to help, as he watches ye and talks about your witching ways with the herbs".
Th witches became quite alarmed. This man had a lot of influence, one word from him and suspicion would quickly turn to accusations. Maybe with Hagai as their ally, they could work things in their favor. After a quick debate they all decided to let Hagai into their confidence. She spent some time with them that day, acquainting herself with the medicinal practices of the women. Hagai had a wonderful day, but returned home before her father arrived from his 'ministerial' duties.
That night Hagai decided on a plan. She knew that her father was planning something about the women. He looked pleased as a cat that swallowed the canary, he never looked pleased. She told him that she had seen the women working magic and would lead the churchmen to their witching place. He never thought twice about the offer, but hurried away to gather his people and make plans.
Hagai ran next door, told Sarah her plans and they all agreed to work together. This nuisance of men needed to be stopped. They revised their potions and spells and chose the best ones to suit their purpose.
Two nights later the women gathered their coven and met deep in the woods at the arranged spot by the lily pond.
They chanted and brewed, they danced and fed the boiling pot.
"Wing of bat, toe of sloth, tooth of snake, poisoned toadstool all now boil and brew within the vat. Old men's souls, toads be told, tonight the lily pond shall ribbit and hop"!
They heard the townsfolks a'coming, they chanted loudly admonishing all the witching spirits to come a'running. The trees shook, the wind moaned most awfully, bats circled overhead, owls hooted and animals cowered beneath the shrubs and bushes. The witches stood in a circle, wands a'ready.
Pitchforks and men descended upon the witches. Torches burned bright, lighting up the already brightly lit moonlight sky.
"Arrest them for practicing yon witchcraft and unholy carryings on". Shouted Josiah, ahead of the whole bunch. Hagai ran to her new sister coven, startling her confused father.
The witches all raised their wands.
"Frogs and toads and witchingswitchingmakethemalltopondbehoming"!
The forest floor was littered with the empty clothing of two dozen or more men.
A mighty cacophony of 'ribbit', 'ribbit' 'ribbit' could be heard echoing in the night as the frogs and toads hopped towards the pond. They hid themselves under, behind and by the large leaves and overhangs within the pond. It almost seemed as if they were trying to cover their nakedness.
Haggai shouted and hooted as a heavy load had been lifted from her shoulder. The other witches joined in and they had a lovely dance.
They all mounted their brooms after the celebration, flew high into the night sky and on to the warmth and safety of their homes. Tonight, they would sleep without worry.
Tomorrow they would decide about frogs and toads and hopping lily ponds.