YGDRASIL: A Journal of the Poetic Arts

October 2006

VOL XIV, Issue 10, Number 163

Editor: Klaus J. Gerken

Production Editor: Heather Ferguson

European Editor: Moshe Benarroch

Contributing Editors: Michael Collings; Jack R. Wesdorp; Oswald Le Winter

Previous Associate Editors: Igal Koshevoy; Pedro Sena

ISSN 1480-6401



   Laura Stamps

   Laura Stamps


   Laura Stamps


This is a chapter from my new novel-in-verse WHITE WITCH.  The main character, 
Ravena Riley, is a solitary Wiccan Witch, who successfully approaches her 
catnip business, feral cat rescue, perimenopause, and fibroids with magick, 
spellcrafting, and herbs.  But when her husband Odell suddenly sinks into the 
angry depths of a mid-life crisis, Ravena realizes she will have to conjure 
the greatest spells of her life to determine whether her marriage is worth 
saving.  In this chapter she has taken a trip by herself to the Blue Ridge 
Mountains of Asheville, North Carolina, for 3 days to sort through her 
feelings, spend time seeking advice from the Goddess, and hopefully make a 
decision about whether she will remain married or file for divorce.  This is
the fourth novel in my series of novels and novellas-in-verse with 
Pagan/Wiccan themes.  In all of these books my desire is to portray Wiccans 
as they go about their everyday magickal lives in our society today, and I 
also include real spells and chants from my own personal Book of Shadows.  
In WHITE WITCH, I wanted to address the two questions I am asked most often 
by my women readers at bookstore book signings.  Namely, 1.) how I care for 
and socialize colonies of feral cats and 2.) how to shrink fibroids naturally
without surgery.  So it was great fun to give the character Ravena Riley a 
past history of fibroids and a life-long love of feral cat rescue.  She was 
a fun character to live with as I wrote this book.  Of course, by writing 
this novel and all the others in verse I hope to introduce fiction readers 
to the wonderful world of poetry and to help them to overcome their fear of 
it, since it is such a versatile, enjoyable medium.

Laura Stamps


Sometimes the cool fingers of 
sadness grip Ravena's heart, 
and she mourns the plans she 
holds for her marriage that may 
never come to pass.  Other 
times tears cling to her lashes, 
even though she looks away 
and closes her eyes.  She scolds 
herself for this, but knows she 
cannot stop.  It's as if some 
part of her life has fallen into 
the dark folds of the night, 
and only the ache, grief, and 
empty space remains.  A nap 
helps, and she often awakens 
refreshed but a different woman, 
tears always the great motivator 
of change.  "Women work so 
hard in a marriage," she sighs.  
"Women work so hard."  She 
brushes away the sudden tears.  
"How many pieces of myself 
will I lose in the course of 
this marriage?" Ravena asks.  
"And how many new parts 
will develop, eager to be 
discovered?"  Again she 
sighs, knowing this sadness 
only intrudes on her joyful 
life after she's stumbled over 
one of Odell's angry moods.

And then other days flow as sweet 
and smooth as a stream of honey.  
Ravena recalls an afternoon in March 
when she sat on the sofa, reading 
a book, Cherry curled in her lap, while 
Odell watched a ballgame on television.  
He glanced at her and then turned 
away quickly when she noticed.  
"What were you doing?" she asked.  
"Nothing," he replied.  "You were 
looking at me," she said.  Odell smiled.  
Can I look at you if I want to?" he 
asked, his eyes twinkling.  "But what 
were you thinking?" Ravena continued.  
He stared at her.  "You look very 
pretty right now," Odell said.  "Are 
you happy?"  Cherry rose, stretched, 
and whirled herself into a sleepy knot 
of fur.  "Yes, I am," she replied.  "I 
was thinking how much I love you," 
he continued.  Ravena laughed, thinking 
about the maddening hills and valleys 
of marriage that follow no sensible 
track.  "I love you, too," she said.  
But the next day his mood blackened 
for no reason, and she found it easier 
to talk to the cats than her husband.

Ravena's hotel sits between 
a national forest and one of 
the oldest, wealthiest neighbor-
hoods in the city.  After dinner 
she drives along a quiet street 
winding through the forest 
toward a cluster of stately homes.  
Suddenly a deer bursts through 
thick foliage, running next to 
her car, its sleek body tawny 
and finely muscled, its coat 
sprinkled with flecks of sunlight.  
Then it disappears into the 
forest, as if it were only a dream 
or maybe a trick of the evening 
mist.  Before the deer's appearance 
Ravena had been thinking about 
the forest, the way tall pines 
stand cleanly on a floor of needles 
carpeted with little underbrush, 
and of her girlhood, times when 
she would wander through the 
Blue Ridge on her way home from 
school.  Out of the quiet two or 
three deer would instantly appear, 
dash before her, and leap up a 
wall of rock in one fluid stroke, 
a wall higher than the tallest man 
she knew.  They would dart and 
disappear as quickly as they'd 
come, disturbing nothing but pine 
needles and the beat of her heart.

Occasionally, Ravena's customers 
ask how she catches feral cats and 
socializes them quickly for adoption 
or a visit to the vet.  Those easily 
tamed with Goddess chants and 
faery spells she picks up and carries 
inside the house to a tiny half bath-
room.  Rather than scruff a feral cat, 
she grabs it under the arms, swinging 
its back legs to prevent scratching 
from frantic paws.  But scaredy cats
require a different method, and for 
these she uses a big dog taxi, which 
she places in the middle of the feeding 
area, usually the patio or porch.  She 
leaves the door open and throws dry
food in at mealtimes, so the cats will 
feel comfortable walking in and out 
to eat.  After a few days the taxi no 
longer threatens, and the cats ignore 
it.  Next Ravena sets the food bowls 
in front of the taxi, forcing all the 
cats to eat in front of it.  Then 
it's just a matter of waiting until 
a scaredy cat turns its back to eat.  
Quickly Ravena grabs the cat under 
its arms and tosses it into the taxi, 
slamming the door.  A few hours 
later, after realizing it cannot escape 
by gnawing on the door or sides of 
the taxi, the cat calms enough for 
Ravena to crack open the door and 
slip in a litter box, food and water 
bowls, and a soft towel for sleeping.  
Some cats adjust quickly and enjoy 
the situation, realizing they no longer 
need to compete with the other cats 
for food.   A scaredy cat in a taxi 
can only be feed until its vet visit 
arrives, since it isn't tame enough 
yet to touch.  However the cats in 
the bathroom receive more personal 
care.  These Ravena trains to use 
a litter box.  She prefers a mix 
of newspaper litter and pine litter 
rather than dusty clay.  Often when 
training feral cats she cuts up pine 
needles from the forest to sprinkle 
on top of the litter box, making the 
transition easier for the cats.  Then 
she visits them throughout the day, 
singing to them, pushing them to 
tolerate her presence, stroking their 
fur until they purr every time she 
enters the bathroom.  Each of these
cats receives a bath and a dose 
of herbal antibiotics if injured or ill.  
Those with eye infections Ravena 
treats with goldenseal tea.  She 
empties a capsule of the powdered 
herb into a cup of lukewarm water, 
then places a paper towel over an 
empty mug, carefully pouring the 
mixture over it, straining out chunky 
clumps of herb.  She soaks a cotton 
ball in the clear tea and gently dribbles 
it into the cat's eyes twice a day, 
soothing away any irritation.  Within 
a few days the cat heals completely, 
and begins to bounce around the 
bathroom, anxious to be released.

On Saturday morning cumulus 
clouds swing from the sky, 
their shadows slipping over the 
mountains like slow, gray boats.  
Standing before the bathroom 
mirror, Ravena studies her hair, 
possessing no obvious control 
over her bangs.  Organic hair 
spray helps, yet she can never 
tell from one morning to the 
next how each blonde curl will 
twirl, winding to the whim of 
three natural cowlicks.  She 
could spell them into obedience, 
yet prefers to save her power 
for more important tasks.  Each 
morning begins not so much 
as a quest for perfect hair, but 
for one golden moment she 
freezes in a light mist of spray, 
a moment that will stay with 
her throughout the day.  In the 
bathroom Ravena feels like an 
artist creating an abstract painting, 
one that follows no rules and 
offers no warning when complete 
until that anointed moment.  This 
morning standing in a bathroom 
laced with steam, she patiently 
combs and styles and waits.

An hour later Ravena turns onto 
the Blue Ridge Parkway, a ribbon 
of asphalt flowing like a lazy river 
through the mountains of western 
North Carolina and Virginia.  In 
May wildflowers crowd the sides 
of the road and climb up into the 
rocks.  Scenic lookouts speckle 
the route, as the highway begins 
to creep like a cat over the crest 
of each mountain.  Hundreds 
of yellow butterflies swirl among 
spears of goldenrod, shimmering 
in front of her car like sun crystals.  
Crows continue to accompany 
her on this trip, and now two 
pose atop a pebbled marker 
at the first lookout, as if they 
were faeries watching over her.

Once again she thanks the Goddess 
for her Wiccan faith, a spiritual path 
sparkling with life and the divinity 
of nature.  When most people would 
see only a lovely panorama of trees, 
Ravena peers beyond to another realm,
a world entwined with the Fey.  Each 
tree, flower, and plant houses a faery 
of its own, responsible for its care and 
growth.  Through Witch's eyes Ravena 
sees a world bubbling with life, and 
traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway only 
heightens this awareness.  Bedazzled 
with the beauty of this area and the 
glamour of faerie magick, she begins 
to sing her driving chant, enjoying the 
five elements and their mystical dance:

"Fierce Durga, Great Goddess of Travel,
protect me whether I drive or amble.
Bless this trip with abundant success.
Lead me safely, guide my steps."

As her car climbs higher the road 
narrows, curving sharply in some 
places with little room for two lanes, 
winding back and forth like the snakes 
she knows sun themselves on the flat 
surfaces of boulders pressed into the 
mountainside.  Jagged rocks burst 
from corners, and trees grow side-
ways from tiny crevasses, bending 
upward at the base, reaching for the 
shaft of sunlight they've been seeking 
since seedlings.  Five thousand feet 
above sea level Ravena stops the 
car at a lookout.  Yellow jackets 
and bumblebees, dazed by the drop 
in temperature, bump into trees and 
cling to spring leaves as she climbs 
the rock path.  At the top she stands 
before a waterfall curling down the 
next mountain.  The water drops at 
a deafening speed, crashing through 
trees for several hundred feet, its roar 
the only sound she hears until two 
hawks circling in the valley below 
begin to shriek.  Yet a sense of calm 
blankets this moment.  Just the sound 
of the water hurling down the mountain, 
the hawks, and the breeze.  Nothing 
else.  Ravena begins to gather power 
from the silence, breathing in crisp 
air and the intense green of pine trees, 
breathing out emotional weariness 
and fatigue, until a retired couple 
from Illinois scrambles up the stone 
steps of the lookout.  They talk 
for a while, exchange stories from 
their home states, and then Ravena 
returns to her car feeling refreshed.

But at the next curve in the road 
her worries return, rustling their 
dark wings, wrestling with her 
again, asking their ever-present 
question.  "How can I be so happy 
with my life, while Odell wallows 
in misery?" she wonders.  These 
days her husband reminds her 
of high-strung friends she left 
behind years ago, his anger and 
neediness draining her energy 
like an emotional vampire.  This 
thought unearths another painful
memory, the few people from 
her past she refers to as feeders, 
those suffering from low self-
esteem who siphon her power 
in subtle ways, leaving her 
depressed and hopeless.  She 
shudders, happy they no longer 
plague her, the Goddess as 
relentless as a mother cat when 
it comes to running feeders and 
emotional vampires out of her 
life.  "These people must want 
to be healed," she muses.  "No 
one can make this decision for 
them."  She always keeps a few 
rose quartz and satin spar selenite 
crystals in her handbag for those 
times when she meets a feeder 
or an emotional vampire in need 
of healing.  She cheerfully gives 
these gifts to them, knowing 
her only responsibility lies in the 
magickal way she lives her life.  
Her actions, her words, her faith.  
"But where does this leave Odell?" 
she mumbles, truly mystified.  
Her right hand grasping the cool
steering wheel of her car, Ravena 
draws the rune for peace in the 
air with her left hand, and instantly 
feels its relaxing power swim 
through the bunched muscles 
threading her shoulders and neck.  
The slopes and valleys of the 
Blue Ridge loop around her, spruce 
needles twinkle under the bright 
thumb of the sun, and she smiles.  
"Thank you, Durga," she sighs, 
"for your protection and peace."


Laura Stamps is an award-winning poet and novelist.  Over seven hundred of 
her poems, short stories, and book reviews have appeared in literary journals, 
magazines, anthologies, and broadsides worldwide, including the Louisiana 
Review, the Pittsburgh Review, Poetry Midwest, The Wheel, Big City Lit, Poesy 
Magazine, American Writing, and the Chiron Review.  Winner of The Muses Prize 
Best Poet of the Year 2005 and the recipient of a Pulitzer Prize nomination 
and six Pushcart Award nominations, she is the author of more than 30 books 
of poetry and fiction.  Her archives are housed at The Poetry/Rare Books 
Collection of the University Libraries, State University of New York, Buffalo, 
NY, and Special Collections at James B. Duke Library, Furman University, 
Greenville, SC.  A Wiccan, she has been involved in feral cat rescue for many 
years, and currently cares for four housecats and a feral colony of nine cats.  
More information about books by Laura Stamps can be found at 
www.KittyfeatherPress.blogspot.com.  For a free catalog of poetry books and 
novels-in-verse by Laura Stamps email laurastamps@mindspring.com. 


  All poems copyrighted by their respective authors. Any reproduction of
  these poems, without the express written permission of the authors, is

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