The Story of a Witch
My grand-grand mother was a witch. She was so good that even the angels loved her. They stole her from this life quietly without a warning on a sunny summer day. She died at the age of 90, without suffering.
I don't know how she got to be a witch or who taught her but my grandma told me she had a hard life as a young girl -the daughter of a horse thief and a Greek beauty. I didn't get to know her very much for when she died I was probably 9 years old. All I know about her came manly from my grandmother and some from my sister.
Her name was Maria, the same as grandma, the same as my daughter...but Maria is a very common name. Here is her story, as it came to me.
She must have been born around 1885 in a small Romanian village, where the air was so pure, and the sky so blue that it would break like thin ice if you scream. The village sat on a valley, between numerous hills, sprouting everywhere like dinner rolls on a baking pan, topped with deep dark forests, where wolves where hunting the cattle.
Meadow with Crucifix
Her father was the son of the village's priest, a well respected man, with a long white beard specific to christian orthodox priests. He raised his children in love of God and tried to make proud men out of them and he mostly succeeded, except for this one, the witch's father. He was all after gold and money. In his very early youth he started a business, trading horses. People said he stole the horses and then sold them but I think some of them he actually bought.
One day, traveling along Danube river, he halt in a port, called Braila (a very nice city to visit today) where he met a family who just emigrated from Greece and wanted to settle there. He help them for a while not only because the money involved but mainly because they had a daughter. He fell in love with her. My grandma never said how they got married but she did said that the Greek girl never wanted to marry him. So, he kidnapped her. Now, in those days, kidnapping a girl was, in most cases, a romantic gesture. A young man would steal a girl because he loved her and she would run away with him because her parents would not let them be together. This wasn't the case for the Greek girl. Her parents almost exchange her for the services they received.
He brought her in his house where they lived together for few years, enough to have 3 children - two boys and one girl. Then she vanished. I was told that one day when her husband was away from home with business she run away with another man. The husband never married again.
His horse business made him good money. He never gave a dime to the children. So, by the end of his 50's they killed him. They committed patricide. My grand-grandmother must have not been part of the plan since she didn't get any money. Or she may have known but the brothers kept her quiet somehow. They got away with the crime but the community never forgiven them.
Maria was a tall, strong woman, a fierce young lady who once bit a man with a log stick she had torn from a fence. She got married and had kids of her own. By the time her younger daughter got engaged, Maria was already known as a witch.
Her husband fought and died in the first World War and Maria had to raised her children all by herself. She worked the land and kept the house. She lived from the crop she harvested, mainly grains for bread and corn for polenta, vegetables like potatoes, beans, carrots, onions, radishes and others that she stored for winter, fruits like apples and pears she would preserved them in hay to keep them fresh over the winter, also grapes and plums that she made them into wine and spirits. She may have cultivated tomatoes and herbs and other seasonals like lettuce or cucumbers. She also pickled cabbage, papers, cucumbers and carrots. The land supplied the food but she must not have had any other income.
Her brothers left the village and went to find fortune in Bucharest. I do not know how everything turned out with them but one came back home, sick with tuberculosis. He tore down the old cottage and built a big two story house and laid down to die. He left his house to my mother. That is the house I was born and grew up till I was 8 years old.
Pictures from my childhood village
Today, looking back. I think the house had something magic, or it's just because all houses we grow up seem special. The outside stairway that linked the first and second level was huge and sometime I was scared to go up because i thought the stairs may detach from the house and take me away. Sometime I was afraid to go to the second level because was always dark and cold, rarely populated. The first floor was the one I liked the most. There was this special shelf above the fireplace in the kitchen where my grandma used to keep her honey. She also used to make butter. My treat was always a peace of homemade bread with butter and honey. But the honey was never enough so, when nobody was around, I would get a chair and rich up on the shelf for the honey jar. There was also the jar with salt and some other smaller jars and bottles, filled with herbs and liquids. I knew the salt and I also knew witch one was the parsley jar or dill jar or other herbs and spices used for cooking. But there were these other jars and bottles I knew nothing about. Any time I would get myself a spoonful of honey, I would check out the other stuff. Some would smell like flowers, some would smell like cow droppings or just plain fad. Some of the liquids tasted like water and some of them, most of them were actually bitter. One day my grandma caught me there and she said that if I touch them again something bad is going to happen.
That was the shelf where my grand-grandmother, the witch, kept her potions and elixirs. She was old then and maybe many of her powers just got weaker because it doesn't seems to me that I got any bad spell by mistake. But I can only imagine if she had that much gadgets full with magic drinks and powders in her eighty's how many more would she have had in her 30's or 40's. She was well known in the village as a witch. I like to believe that she was the good kind of witch, the kind that made people feel good, get married, have children, overcome illnesses and diseases. She took her raw materials from the meadows and forests, from the small river that ran through the hills, from animals and birds in the wilderness. My sister told me that Maria, our grand-grandmother, would wake up in the middle of the night, make a big fire in the backyard and boil her elixirs, necked, singing and dancing and praying to Venus.
Her cures and spells might have worked because the people living in the village and beyond kept coming to her to solve their problems. Also they never isolated her and her family. Not even when my grandma's very old husband died unexpectedly, just days after their wedding. A short period of mourning ended up with my grandma leaving the village so she can meet her destiny, in Bucharest. She dreamt she will met my grandfather in a very big city and they will get married and live happily ever after.
None of witch's daughters took over her witchcraft. My grandma, indeed, met her new husband in a big city. They returned to her village and started a family. My mother was their second child. I am my mom's second child too. As for Maria, my grand-grandmother, God bless her, she passed away in a sunny summer day, alone with her angels. without a candle to light her way. I still remember her from a picture somebody took when she was an old woman, picture now lost among generation.
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