So the long promised tale of werewolves, Solanaceae; the lost legend I’d been promising herbalists I’d recreate for a long time, the missing link that explained the flesh crawling, skin walking, shape shifting, Atropine aggravated descent into fluid filled paranoia and night terrors brought in on the tidal flow, seven days before the red run, as the flutter of malicious pleasure at the call of no holds barred, social graces denied, premenstrual ruination….
I wrote the story late one night, the weather unseasonally chill, the new flat squeaking and creating, rustling as it adapted to the novelty of our presence, the story had been paced over, facts researched but the words hadn’t come, then they did, they poured, I told them to the child: In the sunlight of the morning when it came….I wept, she totally understood it, though its not for children.
I told it to a new friend as we chatted over classic texts of women and wolves, of Bluebeard and Mr Fox, for the bookclub at Wholefoods Market Giffnock , she approved.
It still hadn’t found its home…..I tried it on various lovely female friends, maybe it is just mine, but I don’t want to write my own ending……not yet…….
I’ve told stories a lot for the last few weeks, bee dances, herrin’s heids, borage and a real mobile meadow have all had a role to play….but the culmination of this work was the annual gathering of the Scottish herbalists, as I drove with the child, through a massive thunderstorm after a day so exhausting I could barely stand, I said to myself I wouldn’t tell stories unless I was asked to, that I’d sit back and listen…..urm no….so that didn’t happen now did it??
No, no, the night was dark, the bonfire hot, the smoke seamed with thuja…..one of my best friends from college days was getting married the next week, now the werewolf had found its home, a wedding tale, a tale for grown ups, for herbalists (it was very lovely to tell to a group for whom the double meaning of ‘inflammatory cascade’ is a huge joke!), a tail (sic) for women, girls, and men that are calm and comforting in the face of intensity…..read it, its mine, dont steal it, or something might come and get you in the night, a tail for a wedding, for love. A story or two was told that night but….this is the werewolf story….THE WOLF PEACH….and this is how it goes….
There was once a girl, a girl who lived alone with her mother in a dark wild wood; a wood on the edge of a dark wild town, a town torn from the bed of the river and ripped from the heart of the meadow; a town with towers taller than the trees, towers with more inhabitants than the trees that came before it; more inhabitants than the ash or the mighty oak itself. Inhabitants dwelling like the folkloric spiders in a gall wasps oak apple, spiders foretelling of shortages and tainted crops. Inhabitants restricted by invisible chains, chains of service, chains of fear and mistrust, chains wrought when their knowledge had been wrenched from them……. left afraid, afraid of the wild wood and the tidal waters beyond.
Day by day the girl watched as her mother tended the plants in her garden, a garden half tame half wild wood; she watched and learnt as her mother brewed tisanes, steamed soups, baked cakes, infused teas, chopped stews, cut herbs and harvested plants. She watched and tasted, learnt and listened. Every day she listed to her mother every fruit and vegetable, every flower and leaf, very herb and spice, every tree and root; all the ones she loved and all the ones she didn’t, all the ones that healed and all the ones that harmed, all she liked and only one she loathed; red and night shade scented, juicy and spongelike, textured like cut tongue; the slippery hint of antagonistic green guarding the seeds within, criss crossed with membrane, too visceral, too sweet; its sharp acidic punch bringing bile to her throat, making her mouth water and her stomach gag; simultaneously, confusing and repellant: the wolf peach.
Her mother had known, as the child had swollen inside her; known as her own body had reviled the shades: the potato, the aubergine…..tomatoes had brought heartburn, heartache, nausea and dreams, dreams of skin walkers prowling and inflammatory. Now as the girl grew, sought womanhood and wider knowledge, she beseeched her to try, to discover for herself its inflammatory cascade, as she knew eventually she must.
But alone in the house the girl carefully kept the fruit to its place, on the mantelpiece… ripening, designed that way to repel bile and attract money, a more positive cause and effect she felt.
Eventually the day came when full grown, the men started to come to her door and beg and promise, cajole and insist, beguile and charm, promises in hand but bags empty, and she took to handing out the loathed fruit to suitors and watched as one by one, they bit and swallowed and howled at the moon, as they grew viscous, demanding and calous, malicious and malodorous; til exhausted and fearful she slammed the door and reached for her mothers hand, held tight and did not understand her mothers eyes of sorrow or her disconcerting mirthless laugh. ” You’ll get it right in the end” she said, “you just need to trust yourself and keep watching for it”.
So she watched and she looked, hunting amongst the dust purple pollen of the nightshade, tomatoes beautiful disdainful aunt with a venomous nature; crawling wide eyed amongst the evil peanut stench of the Datura, through Hemlock and Henbane. ‘Til she realised, the answer lay not there, but amongst the basil and the melissa, the thyme and the sage, herbs of knowledge and strength, along the celery’s conduit for paranoia, the parsleys trigger for tidal flow; and with the wolf peach itself. The more she knew the less the suitors chapped at her door, ’til one alone stood forward, shaking his head, refusing the tomato she offered, till the girl stepped from inside her mothers house and as the moon rose and her body swelled and the tides across the dark town drew her near, she took the wolf peach and its lycanthropic call and consumed it, and as the ill minded lurking in the shadows of the nearby woods cursed her and withdrew, the one was left, standing, watching, arm outstretched, ready to catch her if she fell. He did not roar back as she screamed, transformed, lycanthropy complete, but knew in his heart that this wolf woman had a beauty and strength to resist the darkness, to know it, engage with it, and with him by her side, and take her place alongside her mother as a woman in the wild wild wood.
Now then late night snack…..ripe tomato anyone?