Defiance of the Tattooed Crone: a Witch’s Justification for a Life Well-Lived.


The spiral dance of time has brought me to the end of my days, and the bearded saint of my childhood nightmares guards gates far too posh for me to enter.

Surely, this pious man from a time long-forgotten must think me a sight, and I would wager my best crystal wand that he has already deemed me hellbound. My old, paper-light skin is covered in tattoos stretched thin from a life well-lived, and I must have died in the heat of summer without a stitch of clothing on my wise woman’s flesh.

Sparsely grown grey wires writhe like Medusa’s snakes around the silver tiara I was given by my lover on my eightieth birthday; I have been wearing it ever since, Crone-Queen that I am, for my world was ruled by me alone. I burned my shame at the stake long ago, and there is far more divinity between my warm legs than there is within these cold, golden steps under my feet.

Yes, my old body drips with quartz and garnet from crown to foot, and Saint Peter grimaces at my low-swinging breasts as I approach his pearly gates. My spine certainly does not straighten as it once did, but I do my best to stand tall as my arthritic, cracking limbs ascend the cloud-cloaked staircase toward my judge.

I suppose this sinful Witch will have much to answer for, but if I am to be tossed down to the devil’s house, I would like to get on with it.

“Ask your questions, man!” My gravelly bark startles the prophet. “Death has taken a lot out of me, and I am an inpatient woman.”

Saint Peter clicks his teeth and shakes his head at an infuriatingly slow pace before speaking. “Patience is God’s gift to women, but, alas, it is a virtue you never possessed.”

“You’re a sharp one, aren’t you?” I roll my eyes. “If we’re listing your God’s virtues, I suppose I fall short when it comes to prudence, temperance, and chastity also. I like to think I rank above average when it comes to kindness and humility, but it is my diligence that may well redeem me.”

“Oh?” Peter takes up his quill. “Tell me of your diligent acts, for the sins I have listed here number in the millions.”

I snort and choke back laughter. “Is that all? You must not have paid attention. Did you catch the time I threw caution to the wind and spent my entire paycheck on thigh-high boots? How prudent of me! Or the chilly night I spent drinking sweet wine by the sea all by my lonesome as I grieved for my unsullied heart? Such temperance I showed! Oh, and the chasteness of my soft body as I surrendered to my unbridled lust and took to bed with four hungry lovers!”

Saint Peter pretends to cover his ears but keeps listening; I know my tamest memories are stirring his most primal parts. I get closer to his perch and straddle the last step like a temple dancer rides a wild bull, grinding as if I were a pink and sultry Maiden stamping her yoni into precious metal so that it may be remembered forever.

“I suppose I was less than kind when I struck the one who betrayed me with a closed fist; I had worn my gaudiest rings that day, and she thought me too fearful to act. To be sure, it was beneath me to act violently, but should not every human being have their vision obscured by bright red bloodlust at least once in their lives?”

The old man smirked, and I knew just what he was thinking.

“Yes, you’re right,” I admit, still riding the golden ground. “It was not just once. I also struck my abuser in my youth, spitting on his face while he slept, and landing a hard blow right in his belly before running like a brave-hearted but weak-bodied freedom fighter. Even you cannot fault me for that, Peter, for you know the bruises he left on my skin.”

The Saint shows me no compassion but keeps scribbling in his book, adding to my list of sins, no doubt.

“Am I showing humility now, prophet?” I toss my hair and give a groan for good measure. “I bow to no one who would bid me apologize for being a woman. Tell me, how many robed predators have you let pass through these gates? How many times have you forgiven the vile thieves of young innocence because the soul-criminals knew the right words to say? How many rich creatures have been promised safe passage through your gates simply because their pockets were deep, and how many lives have been lost in the name of a religion only palely resembling Christ’s wisdom?”

Peter mutters something about blasphemy, but I stand and press on.

“My life was well-lived, prophet. I saw the edges of the great, green planet I was blessed to call my home. I bathed in hot springs and slept in the wild. I sucked the marrow out of honeysuckle flowers, smoked leaves of all sorts, and dyed my skin with henna. I planted fragile trees and mothered them while they grew, and I wrote hymns about a grace more amazing than any you have ever known.

I loved well, and I was well-loved. I pushed two babes from my womb and taught them to speak the language of soul and spirit in equal parts. I have wept and cackled in countless circles of wild women, and I have casted spells to heal a world wounded by the ego-madness your church fueled for more centuries than I care to count.”

The same fire that used to warm my belly in my younger years burns hotter now, and I snatch the saint’s pen and toss it down the steps.

“Life is heartbreak and tragedy, ecstasy and boredom, wanderlust and root-envy; prophet, I have felt it all so deeply my very bones were carved and shaped by emotional chaos. Life is longing and fruition, volcanic climax and sweet release, chilled apathy and hedonistic passion.

I am a holy heathen, and life is heart-to-heart partnership and sacred solitude, agonizing losses and long-mourned defeats, absolute certainty and dark, cocooned mystery.”

I stand so close to him now my dragons’ breath moves his beard. He tries to move away, but I force his chin toward me. “Look me in the eyes, prophet. Look me in the eyes and ask me if I died with sin in my heart.”

His veiny eyes are wet, and I wonder if I somehow reached a soft spot buried under the cement of his holier-than-thou self-reverence. “Did you?” He wonders, genuinely I think.

I press my still-soft lips to his, sinking in just enough tongue that he will have to go to confession, and then I smile at the smug bastard who would never deign to admit this old woman will be in his dreams.

“Fuck yeah, I did.” I slap his face lightly in farewell and turn my back, descending the stairs that will never be innocent again.

“Wait! Do you not want to hear my verdict?” the prophet calls after me.

I stop and bend over as much as my old body will allow, spanking my own saggy bottom in his direction.

“Judge this, holy man.”

My verdict is in, and my wild life was as good as my soul designed it to be. I scamper down the steps in search of horned ones with quick wit who are better-suited to my temperament.


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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