Lavendula and the Purple Shoes: A Halloween fable
Lavendula and the Purple Shoes - A Halloween fable
Two good good witches
You may think of a witch as an ancient hag, hideously ugly, whose cackling laugh could scare the eyeballs off a corpse. The truth is, long before witches were feared, they were beloved wise women, sought for their ability to tell the truth and to heal.
Yes, indeed, they had magical powers, but they used them only for good. Lavendula and the Purple Shoes is the tale of two such witches and how the first passes her gifts along to the second.
With no further ado, begin the tale.
Lavendula and the Purple Shoes, a Halloween Fable
Once upon a time, long, long ago, in a land far, far away, the Widow Belinda and her daughter Marlee foraged in the wood.
Autumn neared its end. Soon the cold winds of winter would be upon them, and there would be no more fresh berries, pippins, nuts and mushrooms.
They must gather all they could while the weather remained warm and the forest bountiful.
Thatched Cottage, Barbara Van Zanten, photographer...
This day, they had wandered further and deeper into the woods than ever before, hardly looking up to notice where they were going, when Marlee raised her head and cried out in wonder. "Mama!" She said. "Look!"
The Widow Belinda raised her head and was astonished at what she saw, for before them, in a sunlit clearing, lay the most charming cottage either had ever seen.
Its white walls gleamed in the afternoon sun. Its thatched roof, looking as if the last bundle had been fastened only that morning, glowed golden. Surrounding the cottage was a garden so full of vibrant color and bloom, it was as if the first frosts of fall had passed it by, while all round the region gardens lay in frost-charred crumbles.
Then, without realizing anything had changed in their field of vision, mother and daughter gasped, for at exactly the same moment, each saw the woman standing at the edge of the garden, a woman they were sure had not been there a moment before. But of course she had been. Must have been, for there she was!
And the moment they saw her, the woman turned, as though expecting them, and immediately walked toward them, hands outstretched. "Welcome!"
Neither the Widow Belinda nor her daughter Marlee could speak, their mouths agape.
The woman was barely more than a girl, that young and vibrant was she, and clad entirely in purple, from the velvet hat jauntily covering her raven locks, to the simple lavender apron covering the darker woolen gown, to the warm leggings peeking beneath her skirts, every inch was purple and shades of purple.
Most astonishing of all, were her shoes, for they too were purple, and of leather so supple a queen might wear them in her boudoir, and not a speck of dust or smudge of mud to be seen. Nor was there any sign of wear where velvety loops wrapped around tiny golden buttons. It was as if she had put the shoes on for the first time that very moment.
"Welcome!" the young woman said again, reaching with her hands for one hand each of theirs. "I am Lavendula. You must be famished! Come. I have refreshments for you."
Lavendula stooped near the brook running past her house and pulled a small milk jug, tied to a rope, from the spring.
Instantly, the Widow Belinda and her daughter Marlee felt a deep thirst and yearned to drink every drop from that jug, but it was small. They knew they would have to share what could barely be enough for one.
Lavendula stepped to the open door of her cottage and stopped again, this time to remove those extraordinary shoes. The Widow Belinda and Marlee began to remove their shoes likewise, but Lavendula laughed and shooed them inside. "No, no, no!" She said. "Only I must remove my shoes. I don't need them inside."
With that, she bustled about, pouring milk from the jug, bringing down a wheel of cheese, from which was missing just one thin wedge, and uncovering a loaf of freshly baked bread, with three slices already laid and buttered. A small crock of fruit butter lay nearby, with a tiny silver knife. Marlee would tell her mother later the crock was so fragrant she knew instantly it was pear butter, and her mother agreed, the most delicious pear butter she had ever tasted.
Lavendula chattered a bit about the warm, sunny day, about the bounty of pippins on the edge of the wood, and of which they were welcome to pick as many as they would like before winter set in and the fruit had frozen.
All the while, she saw to it that their cups never emptied before replenishing them, the cold, delicious milk smelling faintly sweet even before they lifted it to their lips
Marlee and her mother marveled that such a little jug could hold so much milk, for they slaked their thirst, and drank seconds and thirds, and still the jug seemed full when Lavendula set it down. They ate wedge after generous wedge of cheese, and the gap in the wheel seemed to grow barely larger.
Grown bold with Lavendula's friendly manner, Marlee blurted without thinking, "Why do you wear so much purple? And why are your gardens filled with purple flowers when all the other gardens are limp with frostbite?"
The Widow Belinda gasped at her daughter's affrontery, but Lavendula only laughed. "I grow lavender and purple coneflowers and purple foxglove and all the other lovely flowers because I must. I dye my clothing purple because I must. There is no other way, you see."
Further emboldened, Marlee risked another question. "Where did you get those marvelous shoes? Why aren't they dirty?"
"Oh, my dear," Lavendula said, more like a woman the Widow Belinda's age than the maiden she was, "Don't you know my grandmother gave them to me. She gave them to me as her grandmother gave them to her, and her grandmother before her."
"But they cannot be that old! They're not the least bit worn!"
"Oh, yes, I know. I can't explain it now, but one day you will know."
"And why do you take them off before coming inside?"
"I told you, I don't need them inside." Seeing the puzzled look on Marlee's face, Lavendula took a breath and spoke again. "I am ever safe inside. Outside, so long as I wear the purple shoes, no harm can befall me or those in my care."
Time to go
A Mother and Child, David Woodlock, artist, 1842–1929
Marlee opened her mouth to speak, but the Widow Belinda, seeing that the sun had settled lower on the meadow, rose abruptly.
"We must hasten home," she said, "before the woods darken so we cannot find our way. I thank you kindly, Lavendula, for your generosity, such as I have never known, and likely never will know again."
"It is my pleasure." Lavendula said. "You shall never hunger again," and the widow and her daughter knew in their hearts she spoke deepest truth.
"But wait," she cried, "The goats are coming in for milking. Give me just a few minutes and I will send fresh milk with you."
As she spoke, she produced a most extraordinary basket, from whence, neither Marlee nor her mother saw.
It was as if it appeared in her hands at that very moment, and as purple as anything Lavendula wore, already filled with a napkin-wrapped round of cheese, a loaf of bread smelling as though it had that moment come from the oven, and a capped jar of what could only be more pear butter.
Handing the basket to Marlee, Lavendula laughed that bright, tinkling sound that filled the hearts of mother and daughter alike with comfort and joy, slipped on her purple shoes, and led them outside the cottage and around the corner.
"Mind, you must rip the basket to shreds first thing in the morning and plant it all round your cottage. Do you understand?" She spoke only to Marlee, as the Widow Belinda was already chortling at the goats.
"Why, it must be some trick of the light!" She said. "Their skin and fur is nearly purple!"
Patiently nibbling at the grasses growing just at the edge of the meadow, were three goats, their udders hanging heavily, and yes indeed, in the late afternoon light, their fur and the skin beneath had a distinct lavender hue.
Lavendula said nothing, but faster than the eye can blink produced a tiny milking stool as mysteriously as she had the basket, and expertly pulled sweet smelling milk from the teats of the first goat into a tiny pail, pshphttt, pshphttt, pshphttt, pshphttt. The rhythm of the milk hitting the pail soothed the mother and daughter so they felt no discomfort whatsoever at the extraordinary events of the afternoon.
At Lavendula's bidding, Marlee grabbed a small milk jug from a hook on the cottage wall and held it while Lavendula poured the warm, frothy milk. Capping the jug, she gave Marlee and the Widow Belinda each a hug, laughed again, and shooed them on their way. "Don't forget to put the jug in the stream the moment you get home," she called after them. "The stream will keep the milk sweet."
"Yes, yes," the Widow Belinda called over her shoulder, too concerned about the darkening shadows of the wood to stop even a moment to call another thank you, though her heart was as filled with gratitude as her belly with good food.
Back at their cottage, on the other side of the wood, Marlee wrapped a rope around the neck of the jug and tied it securely before lowering it into the stream. Her mother put away the wheel of cheese, the fruity butter and the loaf of bread.
The next morning, they breakfasted on their unexpected bounty, discovering it had lost not one whit of freshness in the cool of the night.
While her mother preserved the fruits of the forest they had gleaned the day before, Marlee took the basket Lavendula had given them, tore it to bits and planted them all round the cottage, just as the purple-clad maiden had instructed.
That night, the pair supped again on the fresh milk, cheese, bread and pear butter and marveled that it had grown even more delicious.
Though they had eaten and drunk their fill, there seemed plenty more for the next day's meals. Once again, mother and daughter fell into bed to happy dreams, sated and without worry.
The next morning, they awoke to a wonderland of purple blooms outside their cottage.
Frost tinged the grape vines and rose bushes, but a riot of purple blossoms, looking for all the world as though they had always grown there, appeared entirely untouched.
Those blossoms remained untouched until the first snow fell and finally crinkled their leaves and branches. The plants withered into the ground instantly, and the snow banked up against the cottage, helping to keep it warm all the long winter days and nights.
Spring came, and with it the purple garden.
Not only did the purple garden flourish that year, but the herb garden and the vegetable garden and the fruit trees produced more and sweeter fruits than ever they had before. And so it went, year after year, the mother and daughter wanted for nothing, just as Lavendula had said.
In time, a young man happened by the cottage, and a very fine man was he, with curly, raven locks, twinkling eyes, a dimple in his cheek, and a laugh that set everyone within earshot to giggling uncontrollably.
By now, Marlee was woman enough to see the heart of such a man and soon they were wed, with the Widow Belinda's blessing. A girl was born, and then a boy, and then another girl. The children were strong and sharp of mind and wanted for nothing.
One day, the Widow Belinda, having led a full and happy life, fell asleep and did not waken.
The family buried her lovingly in the wood, and as they said their goodbyes, a goat with a full udder appeared. The goat walked right up to Marlee, now Goodwife Marlee, and nudged her hand.
Marlee giggled at the moist, soft touch of the goat's mouth on her hand, then let out a little gasp, for the goat's fur was a certain shade of lavender, and just beneath the fur, the skin was purple.
Tied round the goat's neck was a tiny bell and a small pouch. Marlee opened the pouch and pulled out a note. "My gift to you and all who come after, for I shall have no granddaughter to whom I may bequeath my shoes.".
"Look, Mother!" Cried Marlee's eldest daughter. Marlee looked, and there, emerging from the wood, was a second goat, a buck, and his skin too was purple.
In time, those two goats produced many goats, all with purple skin.
When each goat had lived its fullest and breathed its last, Marlee skinned and tanned the hide. She could not say how she knew to make the hide so soft, but know she did, and the goat leather was the softest, purest leather anyone had ever seen.
The family never wanted, for always a milk jug lay in the stream, filled with fresh goat's milk. Always sweet butter and fruits of the garden filled the larder, and always there was grain a plenty with which to make their daily bread.
Marlee was well on in years when her eldest gave birth to a raven haired daughter. Marlee gifted the child with a pair of purple leather shoes, a pair of shoes worn only outside, a pair of shoes that remained soft and new as the day they were stitched
And that, my dears, is my Halloween gift to you.
Did you know there are good witches practicing today? - Learn about modern day witchcraft from a real witch
Author Gerina Dunwich is a practicing, modern-day witch. In Witch's Halloween she provides a primer in modern day witch lore as well as the history of western witches, harking back to Celtic times. Here, too you will find incantations, Halloween recipes, and much, much more.
If you've ever wanted to know more about Halloween and what lies behind the witch tales, this book is a fun, as well as informative, read.
How can you tell if you've met a witch? Not all witches identify themselves. How would you know?
Have you ever met a witch?
About this story
"Lavendula and the Purple Shoes" is an original story, which I wrote on Monday, October 31, 2011. On that day, I published it on Wizzley.com, where it remained until August 30, 2012, when I moved it to Squidoo. In August 2014, Squidoo and HubPages merged, and now many of my Squidoo pages, including this story, are published here.
Copyright L Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved. No part of this story may be republished or copied without express, written consent from the author.
You are free to publish a link to this page, and I invite you to do so. If you have any questions about copyright or the story, contact me.
For Wise Women Everywhere
"To be called a Witch is an honor, for Witch means Wise Woman."
Cheryl Croce Culver, in We Witches Are Wonderful Things on Crafty Kitchen Witchery, October 30, 2013
I invite you to share your thoughts
I'm curious to know what you think of a witchy Halloween story that is neither scary nor ghoulish. Do tell. Something good will befall all who speak truth in these pages.
© 2012 Kathryn Grace