Gardens of Witchy Delight

I’ve been contemplating faerie-tales. Ruminating upon them, mulling them over, inhabiting them in the dark forest of my imagination. Not the sanitized, overly sweet pap currently dished up for children, mind you, but the blood-freezing marchen my great-gran used to tell in the howling winter gloom – tales of witches and goblins and poor, lost children. Magic permeated those tales, dripped like black honey, deliciously sinister, from every word. I don’t think I slept comfortably for years, yet I wouldn’t trade one fright-filled night for all the handsome singing princes and bluebirds of Disney. I was a child of dark mind, and I guess not much has changed as I approach my 43rd birthday.

One thing that always fascinated my young imagination more than all the other fantastic fare in those venerable tales was the recurring witch’s garden. Shades of my future, I suppose. I am an avid gardener, much given to musing on the magics inherent in my unruly masses of herbs and billowing borders of wildflowers. Every bird that flits from elderberry thicket, every toad that bumpily blunders from beneath the clary sage, every dark-eyed chipmunk that whisks along the shaded understory of the roses is replete with enchantment. Does a squadron of wild geese shadow the moon, or a lone heron draw a blue line across bales of autumn cloud? It is a sign. It is a story. And the story is magic turning in the air like faerie lights, and I am gone from this modern existence as speedily as Alice down the rabbit hole.

Rapunzel was a passive bore, up there in her tower room; the prince no match for the wily witch and her spellbound thorns. The witch’s garden started the whole show, filling Rapunzel’s mother with such longing that the doomed trespass was inevitable. I longed to enter that garden, so tantalizing it was worth the price of a daughter.

Sleeping Beauty, silly thing, never heeded the 13th Faerie’s curse; she stuck her finger on the spindle just as she was warned all her life not to do. I had no patience for her. But the thorny rose fortress that bloomed with witchy vigor around the sleeping castle – that was treasure to me. All those roses, fat on the blood of vanquished princes whose bones hung amongst the thorns in mute warning, those roses clambering up and up, and sprawling out toward the forest, roused a desire in me to have my own rose-girt haven.

Another Beauty found herself the price of desire when her father plucked a rose from the Beast’s enchanted garden. Such a garden that was! And the house that extended from it was itself a living thing – the ultimate magic garden to be lived in like a wildling, sheltered by a spell of dire elegance. The idea of confusing in with out, of transforming garden beds into green rooms and carpeted rooms into lush gardens, turns my head like a rare perfume. The swooning perfection of the witch’s garden lives in my mind as the pinnacle of magical deftness. The stories all avow the ease with which the charm can be joined.

All one has to do is to gather up the courage to step through the gate…

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11 thoughts on “Gardens of Witchy Delight

  1. i’d rather like a witches garden, i always had a wild jungle type of garden, now it’s all tidy from a re-vamp and I feel as though I’m living in a park

    1. My garden is wild and woolly. I know lots of people who prefer a more manicured look, and I enjoy that, too, but the witchy kind of botanical explosion suits me better in the long run. 🙂 I do have a backyard area that would be nice as a park, though. Hmmm….

  2. Love the gate photo – an invitation to enter the garden. “Grimm’s Fairy Tales” was one of the first free books I downloaded on my iPad – lots of powerful imagery that continues to inspire artistic creativity. As for witchy gardens, one of my favorites is Lily’s (Mia Sara) cottage and garden in the wood in the 1985 movie “Legend” directed by Ridley Scott. Very evocative.

    1. Hello, and welcome to my blog composerinthegarden! Grimm’s has a special place on my bookshelf, too. And I love the film Legend! I haven’t seen it for years. You inspire me to watch it again and pay attention to the woodland garden.

  3. There now: I’ll be dreaming about enchanted witches gardens 😀 I love this; it’s after my own heart, Elizabeth. I must scurry off to the Russian fairy tales – my absolute favourite – to learn whether there are any with gardens in them…

    1. Oh, I love the stories about Baba Yaga! The cottage in the woods on its single great chicken’s foot, and the fence of bones with skulls atop. Or the rusalka, lurking by the riverside. Such great tales, Kate! Is The Red Shoes a Russian tale? Now I have to go look 🙂

  4. Great post, Elizabeth. I agree with Andra – I hope you’re going to take us through the gate.

    I agree with you about the ‘pap’ which is currently ‘dished up’ to children but then I was brought up on Struwwelpeter – children who sucked their thumbs had them cut off and those who played with matches got burnt. Not a lot of fantasy there! I could never be doing with Disney, even as a small child, far too sugary. Have you read any Angela Carter? If not, you could start with ‘The Bloody Chamber’.

    1. Your reply made me chuckle, Earlybird – those old stories we were brought up on had some fairly bloody lessons and dark corners. But I loved them. I am a devoted Angela Carter fan, and The Bloody Chamber, in my opinion, is her best work. Her novels can sometimes feel a little overblown, but I enjoyed Nights at the Circus very much. Have you read E.T.A. Hoffmann? More great faerie tale stuff…

      1. No. I haven’t… although I’ve seen the ballets of Nutcracker and Coppelia. I’ll add him to my list of things to read. Along with Nights at the Circus. Thanks.

  5. I hope this means you will be taking us through the gate with you in the coming days. I’ll sign up for that journey. 🙂

    Thanks for helping me remember some stories from my childhood with this post. My mom always told me one about the teeny, tiny woman and another about a golden arm. I need to brush up on those and recommit them to memory.

    1. I remember The Golden Arm! What a great story. Some of the stories my great-gran told me are the foundation of the book I’m working on. Funny how those old tales resurface later in life. Through the gate we go…

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