Remembering Pat, a ‘witch.’

The word witch is one that has many connotations, frequently used by people who don’t belong to that group, and it has developed a spectrum of meanings for a woman who professes special skills. Sometimes the word is complimentary, sometimes derisory.

I grew up with women who could heal and foretell, but I never saw these skills as unusual or troublesome. Witch was a term I only heard as a child in literature, but to me it was normal that plants and stones could help to cure and that the future wasn’t always concealed.

I’ve always been very open to a wide range of therapies and it was through seeking solutions to a medical problem that I met a person who actually called herself a witch.

My partner Big G had a skin problem on his hands, an eczema that would itch, crack and weep. The GP prescribed a sticky white cream that didn’t really help much. We tried things I knew about: aloe vera, cider vinegar in baths, but nothing would make a difference. A friend suggested visiting Pat, a local woman who claimed to be a witch, and I rang her and booked an appointment.

Her house wasn’t easy to find. On the outskirts of a village, behind a tiny wicker gate, beyond a thicket of flowers and plants stood a tiny green wooden door. A notice simply said Come in, so we did. There was no-one to be seen, apart from a ginger cat cleaning its fur with a rough pink tongue.

Pat was an ordinary white-haired woman in a track suit, eyes glistening, her face inquisitive. She spoke quite bluntly. ‘What is it, then?’

We explained the problem and without any more words, she seized G’s hand and began to wave a quartz stone on a string over it. Then she said ‘Dairy, that’s your problem. You have to stop eating cheese, drinking milk. Then the skin will heal.’

We thanked her and turned to go. She grabbed my arm. ’You have always had a terrible phobia…’

I nodded. ‘I have…’ It’s not something I can talk about, it’s primal, so I didn’t say any more about it.

‘That’s because you died and were eaten by those creatures in your last life in Africa…’ she added simply. ‘You won’t get over it – it’s who you were.’

‘Oh, alright,’ I said with a shudder. Then I felt lighter about a shortcoming that had been with me since birth. Now I had a reason. I could deal with it.

We went home and Big G gave up dairy. He hasn’t had eczema since. I’ve accepted a phobia that is part of my life – I don’t blame myself or try to deal with it logically now.

So, huge thanks to Pat. Whether she was a witch, or had special powers, or whether she was simply empathic and grounded, I’ll never know. But she was a special lady and I was glad to have met her. She certainly made a difference.

And if she was a witch, then that’s good: I’m happy with that.

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