Secret Recipes of Wicked Women: Wild Matrilineal Wisdom for the Mabon Bride.
The late September sun is setting on her life as a lone wolf, and the bride-to-be runs into her dying garden searching for a holy elixir, a blessed brew to ease her guilt.
Her would-be virginal dress is already muddy at the edges, and she wonders how she will ever explain this pain to her lover. Blackbird songs, falling leaves, and squirrel-speak are harbingers of her tears, and she weeps now as the horizon glows a pumpkin orange.
My lover deserves better than me she whimpers. Surely, I am meant to be alone. She leans heavy against the guarding, maternal oak tree at the garden’s edge, and the bark snags some lace and thread from the embroidered bodice. My lover should have someone who is devoted and obedient, a woman whose heart has never been bound to another, a maiden whose legs have never opened for anyone else.
A quiet, peaceable, soft thing with tamed hair and painted lips; this is who my lover deserves.
The bride-to-be sinks down to the Earth now, letting the limp, browning wildflowers hold her.
Not me, not a woman who would leave her house hours before her wedding. Not a scarred, wild creature who will always yearn as much for solitude as for a lover’s arms. Not a woman who would much prefer to be clad only by moonlight than by all the fluffy tulle in the she-kingdom of Gaia.
She unzips her dress just a little, offering her lungs a bit more breath, and the first evening stars appear in the cloud-streaked expanse of indigo above her. She closes her bloodshot eyes, crushing her lids shut against the luminous, silver sliver of the waning Harvest Moon as it beckons her to calm her weary mind.
Not me she whispers, clawing her fingers deep into ground and pulling up a twisting night-crawler. Not a wicked woman like me. She kisses the worm and tucks it back into bed. Not me.
She is quiet now for a time, this anguished bride, resting in a crumbling garden and pondering the deep questions of soul and spirit. The night grows cooler and windier. Her bare, goose-pimpled arms wrap around her heart, shielding her most vulnerable place, and she wonders if it is already too late.
Surely, my lover will leave me she whispers aloud. Surely, it’s chaos in my house now as they search for me! I will not be forgiven, and they are right not to trust me!
A soft mist begins to encircle the garden now, but the bride is blinded by her own shame. She sits upright, pulling the silver combs and dead leaves from her hair. My lover will not understand, and I have ruined the most sacred relationship I have ever known!
The mist thickens to a dense fog now, and the bride takes notice. No longer can she see the rotting tomato plants at the garden’s edge. Had she not still been able to feel the roots of the oak beneath her, she might have lost her sense of place entirely. Pulling herself to her feet, holding her dress in place, she turns to run, but something, some small hint of form in the swirling earth-clouds, stops her.
Before she sees the old, wise one, the bride hears her voice: If your lover doesn’t understand why you need to be here now, child, then your relationship is most certainly not sacred. A hooded, round woman with her mother’s eyes steps toward her just as the ethereal energies solidify into a line of other women. All ages, dozens of maidens, mothers, and crones standing side by side, looking bone-deep into the bride’s soul-wounds.
They are all from different times, different places; not all of their cultures match hers, and yet she feels a kinship with them. The bride silently swears the hooded one is an ancient Priestess, primal symbols tattooed on her cheeks, but a young girl in saddle shoes and still another in purple jellies represent more recent positions in her matrilineal heritage.
We are the women of your blood the old one affirms, and we come bearing bridal gifts just for you.
A mousy-haired woman, who holds her shoulders in the same proud way her grandmother did, steps forward, carrying a small, pink-icinged cake on a platter. On my wedding day, I wish someone had brought me this. She lays the cake at the bride’s feet. It’s the taste of so-sweet, so-sugary sensual mixed with just a drop of bitter blood. Remember, my love, that your sexuality is holy and yours.
No one owns you, and it is a wise woman who mixes warm compassion with raw, feminine substance.
Yes the mothers affirm in unison. The bride nods in perplexed gratitude, dipping a trembling finger into the icing.
A paper-skinned and dark-eyed woman in a red dress comes forward bearing an immense clay chalice; surely her great-grandmother, the bride thought. Drink from this, and you make the true vows she bellowed in low, gravely tone. It is dark sipping chocolate mixed with spit and chili powder, and it is the taste of venerable presence. Drink from this, and promise to be fiercely and unapologetically here, on this Earth, every goddamned day.
Drink from this, and affirm your perfect beauty and complete worthiness.
Yes hiss the mothers, and the bride drinks.
The little girl in purple jellies steps forward, her arms barely able to hold the steaming cast iron pot, and it is as if lightning strikes the bride’s heart when she realizes who this young one is. This is the salve of sacred solitude the high voice squeaks. It’s made with forest berries, snow, sweat, and pine oil. Paint stars on your heart and belly with this brew and run into the woods when you need to remember who you are.
Give yourself permission to be alone. The little one manages to lower the pot to the ground, grunting. Always embrace your wild worth, and don’t let anyone tell you your value is determined by what you do. Right now, with a makeup-and-tear-streaked face, torn dress, and broken spirit, you are absolutely whole and perfect.
Yes! The mothers wail, and the bride slathers the goop on her forehead like war-paint, and the scent nearly knocks her over.
A white-haired woman, from a time the bride cannot quite place, comes forward, carrying a loaf of bread as long as her bejeweled arm. And this, my love, this is the hearty bread of fem-fire; it has been baked in the blazes of our funeral pyres, smoked in the houses they burned, and seasoned with the ashes of the holy healers burned at the stake. This is the taste of righteous rage. Don’t eat this before bed, or you will not be able to rest.
Remember your birthright as a wild woman. Wail and knock to the ground any cage they left open for you. Howl at the injustices of this world, and hold the hands of those who will stand with you.
One by one, more and more women step forward, bringing food, drink, and medicine to the bride-to-be. By the time the moon is high, the bride is so full of the feminine wild that her dress is bursting at the seams, but while her soul has most certainly been nourished, she is despondent. She has not known any of these magick women in this life.
Her great-grandmothers down the mother line back to the old country, the sisters of distant relatives whose names would only be spoken in jest at a holiday table, the little niece who died a tragic victim in a house of addiction; they all have her eyes and her smile, but she would have liked to know these women so much better, these mother ghosts, these lost ancestors come to heal their living daughter.
The bride steps back now, readying herself to offer some final words of thanksgiving and grace, but she is stopped by yet another woman, and this face she does know.
Oh, baby girl! Her dead grandmother booms. I’ve missed you!
Gram the bride breathes. She had wished with all that she was her grandmother could be at her wedding, and now she is here, apron tied neatly and with outstretched arms.
You called yourself wicked earlier her grandmother speaks in her ear, holding her close. I thought myself wicked once too. She pulls back and waves her hand ceremoniously from left to right, blessing the matrilineal line with the utmost reverence. We have all thought ourselves unworthy, false, sinful, shameful. The mothers nod and murmur in agreement.
Indeed, we’ve all been called these things as well, but who are they to claim to know us? Who are we to speak low of ourselves, when we harbor all the she-magick of our mothers, grandmothers, and every woman who has ever taken, or will ever take, a breath on this great green Earth?
Your lover is blessed to love a woman as wicked as you, for what you call wicked, I call wholeness, strength, and soul-food for the Feminine collective. Your lover does not threaten your wildness, nor do the vows you are about to take, for your forever unnamed and sacred untamed nature is a soul-deep and hereditary trait. You wear the wedding band of mother-love, and in your bridal bed sleeps the shadow-self.
If you are willing, go home to your lover now, speak your words of sacred relationship and holy, Tantric fusion, then consummate your marriage with promises to ask each other the hard questions every day.
Tell your lover that the quest to know yourself is a great and divine mission that is never-ending, and the merit of belonging to a blessed partnership does not come from interdependence; it comes from a love-softened ego and immense, wild vulnerability.
Tell your lover that you come from a long line of women they called wicked, and you share their enduring passion, raw sexuality, and shining spirit. Her grandmother begins to back away, blowing a kiss and offering a final benediction: On this night and every night, go home as much to your Self as to your mate. To your soul be true, till death do you part.
Tell your lover that your mother-line is full of and forged by wicked women, and you know where to find all their secret ingredients.
Yes! The mothers howl, a so-bright, so-white mist swirling up from the ground and around their feet.
Her grandmother smirks, taking the hand of the hooded one, and the holy ghosts fade into the night.
The bride awakes with a shiver under a still-orange sky. She had not missed it. It is not too late. With her eyes, she searches quickly for the brews the mothers brought to her, but there is nothing in this dying garden but the remnants of a fertile summer and the promise of fallow times; it is no matter though, for this wild woman remembers the secret recipes of wicked women.
She strips down to her skin, sauntering back to her busy house, dress slung over her shoulder, a guiltless, rejuvenated, and wild Mabon bride.