Testing The Site

Entry by: Cat Chase Tail

3rd September 2018

Hushed mutters as the wise woman arrived
Head in antler helmet, wrapped in rags of
Hare skins, feet leather-clad,
The crowd settled and stared

She gestured and a brand of ash,
Smoking and gleaming red in the glooming dusk,
Was passed to her hand
Streaming a line of smoke behind

She hunched, and silence spread
As she huffed breath on the ember, and sparks
Flew from her fingers: white-gold first, then amber,
Scarlet, violet, grass-green fire

That whirled and twisted thrice around her,
Probed the grassy flattened heathers
Tested, tasted, hither-thither
Sought for magic in the rain-damp meadows

Testing the site for spirits
Testing for gods and goblins
(The old farm withered so the family'd moved
To the heathery hills by the gushing river)

The sparks settled and the field fell to dark
But one spark, emerald-bright, sputtered
And the ground shivered, opening dark
A woman’s pallid face peered from the earth

The crowd gasped, but the wise woman stilled
Them with a wave and signalled a huntsman
To approach, a clutch of pheasants by the throat;
She seized one and flicked a blade from her rags

Slashing the dead bird and splattering blood
To the night-blackening grass
She bowed, murmuring in the tongue of the dead
To the peering lady in the earth

The woman within blinked assent, vanished,
And the turfs sealed. The wise woman sighed,
Staggered slightly and steadied herself
The huntsman rushed to spill a cup of water on her

Bloodied fingers and then
She pointed to the soil and spoke:
‘One sleeps here who would not be woke,
Spill blood each new moon and her wrath

‘Will be stilled. Your family are safe
In this heathery field.’
The crowd relaxed like a loosening bow
And chattered, moving to and fro

To their tools of bronze and stone
For the wattle and thatch
And by the rising star-light
They raised the home’s timbers.