No Mercy for the Maidens: an Imbolc Fairy Tale of Birth by Fire.


My red hood is raised, my lantern is lit, and I am the only one marching in this procession of the distressed, damned and doomed.

In a forest haunted by childhood fantasies of romance and princely salvation, I am searching for the others. So long we have wandered here, pretending to stealthily hunt for a life we were told to want. We had almost forgotten our own names, but now, as the waxing Wolf Moon promises clarity and the fires of Imbolc burn bright, we remember.

Come out, ye Maidens and ye princesses! I howl with all the courage I have. Meet me by Brighid’s well-tended altar fire, and let us forsake this too-small, so fragile life. I am reclaiming long days of sacred work and long nights of sex-prayer, and I am bidding you to do the same. Fear not the wolf or your wicked stepsisters, for these primal feminine creatures are but shadowy incarnations of your deep self.

Look for no rescue here. There is no one coming for you. I stretch my quivering hand into the night. Harvest your most lurid longings! Hone your night vision! Shield yourself from the spells cast against us by the ego-mad so long ago! Remember your protection magick, and take my hand. Walk with me on this Winter’s ground. I know the way out!

A resurrected Sleeping Beauty who was awoken not by any man’s lips but by her own private epiphany steps out of the shadows, slaps my hand away, and nods in fierce affirmation of our journey on this night. She has shredded her gown and painted it with symbols of rebellion. This one, this blessed orphan, has bent the metal of her crown into a weapon and let the once-perfect black eye-paint stripe her cheeks.

This beauty has indeed never been so awake, and the bubbling fusion of the Wolf Moon’s milky beams and golden Imbolc fire is fueling our hurried movement now; there are sparks erupting from beneath our bare feet as we walk on this frozen ground, and our fairy godmothers are nodding with approval.

Our captors never thought we would have the Maiden’s mettle to break free, but they underestimated the collective ire of caged women. They discounted the merit of sisterhood, and they ignored the power of feminine resolve. Surely we would not sacrifice security and predictability for some mysteriously sweet liberation. Little did they know we have been planning this fairy tale jailbreak all along.

We bear the scars of the wounded Feminine, but our bodies and souls belong to us. Together, we search for more brave creatures, willing them to join our army of fallen angels, sullied Maidens, and graceless outcasts.

A wild-haired Snow White-turned-temptress slinks out from behind the trees, arm in arm with an intentionally prince-less Cinderella. They have been eating the forbidden fruit this whole time, and the orphan-queen has made them matching necklaces out of bloody bones and shattered glass slippers.

We are nearly there. The smoke of the fire is intoxicating, but we need to feel liberation on our skin more than warmth.

Someone begins crooning a whimsical song from our girlhood, a song about dreams and wishes, and it morphs into a punk rock anthem. Rapunzel leaps down from the Mother Oak in front of us with a banshee’s cry; she had been up there for weeks, braiding her severed locks into a whip and tattooing her shaved head with anarchist slogans.

The Witches appear, some from out of thin air, and they are not in disguise. They have let their wire-hair run free like Medusa’s serpents, and left their clothes in the forest that was their prison. Together we walk now, a shunned horde exiled into tales of woman-taming and witch-hunting, but all the while we have been planning our uprising.

Every time a little girl traced our tragic image while her grandmother whispered words of our dependence, we divined prophecies of this blessed night. This is the great liberation of the trapped heroines. Tonight, we are dark Goddess warriors. Tomorrow, we will all be Persephone returned from this Underworld.

We arrive at the stone circle, and the Imbolc blaze is so hot we fear for the trees; it has overtaken Brighid’s altar, and I think she willed it so. This fire is the crucible of our transmutation, and it is our only way out of this hell into which we were cast.

They thought we would never try, you see. These Maidens are too fragile and fearful, they thought. These Witches are too old and set in their ways to come out of the dark.

We share grins and cackles now as we stand at the verge of our holy transition, for they will certainly not see us coming. We chant and cheer for our shunned sisters, and, one by one, we run straight into the wildfire of death and birth. We do not know where we will wake, what awaits us on the other side of the flaming portal, but it matters not; all we know is we cannot stay here.

Have no mercy on me I whisper-pray to Mother Brighid, to the Mystery, to the genderless Goddex. I want to feel the agony of my rebirth. Do not romance it for me. May I wake in a place where I am truly seen, where I am called by the names I have given myself, and where no one shrinks against my worth. Have no mercy on me or my sisters-in-crime; we do not need it.

We are seething beneath our skin, poised for climactic eruption, and no story written by someone else’s hand will ever contain us again.

It is my turn now, and I take my red hood down. The last sounds I hear are the joyous howls of my beloveds and the roar of the flames. All that I was is gone, and all that I am is cosmic crystalline dust being reformed into my most soulful shape.

And I live happily ever after.


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Danielle Dulsky

Danielle Dulsky

Danielle Dulsky is a heathen visionary, Aquarian mischief-maker, and word-witch. Author of 'Seasons of Moon and Flame: The Wild Dreamer’s Epic Journey of Becoming', 'The Holy Wild: A Heathen Bible for the Untamed Woman' and 'Woman Most Wild' (New World Library 2020, 2018, 2017), Danielle teaches internationally and has facilitated embodiment trainings, wild circles, communal spell-work, and seasonal rituals since 2007. She is the founder of The Hag School and the lead teacher for the school’s Flame-Tender Facilitator Training and online coven, The Hag Ways Collective, an E-RYT 500 and YACEP, a Fire-Keeper for Ord Brighideach, and a dedicant to Irish-Celtic spirituality. She believes in the power of wild collectives and sudden circles of curious dreamers, cunning witches, and rebellious artists as well as the importance of ancestral healing, embodiment, and animism in fracturing the longstanding systems supporting environmental unconsciousness and social injustice. Parent to two beloved wildings and partner to a potter, Danielle fills her world with nature, family, art-making, poetry, and intentional awe.
Danielle Dulsky
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