Sunday, 4 September 2011

Terry's Grandmother

Terry’s family originates from Germany and Yugoslavia. They travelled as Gypsies throughout Europe, and through the stories told to him by his Grandmother it’s clear that the strongest sense of magic in his life came from her. In Terry’s Grandmother all of the knowledge and skills of generations came together, and sadly no name is given for her in the account I read in A Victorian Grimoire by Patricia Telesco.

She had many magical things around her home such as a Ouija board that was still used on occasion when Terry was a child. It was a unique object; round with protective symbols at the edge and a pentagram in the centre. The family believed that the best wood for such a board was oak or yew, and this one was oak. The most unique feature of this board was that instead of a planchette it employed a blue crystal hanging from a chain. In this way there was no real physical contact with it other than when setting it up. There were traditional alphabet letters imprinted on it, but it lacked the “yes”, “No”, and “End” seen on more modern boards, and it was stored away in a special velvet cloth and left undisturbed when not in use. The crystal itself was left sitting out as decoration. Another tool, a two-hundred-year-old Tarot deck was sadly destroyed when one family member converted to Catholicism. It was reportedly made of cloth and slightly larger than the decks we use today.

Terry’s Grandmother was known as a wise woman and a psychic reader, often employing flower petals for divination in a perfectly Victorian manner. She had a talent for communicating with spirits, seeing into the future, interpreting dreams, and of course, healing love-sick hearts. For pregnant women she often advised different types of teas for each month, and her commanding demeanour usually kept them listening. In matters of love she had a very special, distinctive recipe, passed down to Terry himself, for spaghetti sauce. Made as if one were arranging a blind date, and then given to those who needed it. Most of the herbs involved were for love, sex and longevity. And Terry remembers times when the sauce was specially prepared and given to people they knew – they being none the wiser of its attributes.

She had a way with animals, and like a majority of superstitions from the Victorian era, a particular way with birds. She could still feed the birds in the city environment she lived in when an old woman, by Hand! She had unusual pets, like a pet bull that only she could lead, cats with seven toes, porcupines and skunks. And she had kept a kitchen garden at her home when she was younger, stocked full of herbs and useful plants. She had shelves filled with jars of all types of spices, and did her own herb gathering and drying. Usually, the herbs were dried by hanging, but certain herbs had to be dried in the oven at very low temperatures. Unfortunately as she aged memory failed Terry’s Grandmother, and she was unable to recall which herbs these were when Terry had asked her.

Terry’s Grandmother’s home showed a rich magical tradition. There were candles of every shape and colour wherever you went. Tables throughout the house where adorned with hand crocheted doilies, which, if examined closely, contained tiny magical symbols. There is still a brass vase in the family that no one is allowed to touch, but it draws children and adults alike to stare at it; energy radiates from the metal like a beacon. Visitors to her home still remember Terry’s Grandmother warning them of fairies in nearby fields.

I was so inspired by this account of a strong, caring, true Victorian Witch that I couldn’t resist making her as one of my dolls. I pictured her as a smart, intelligent lady. As mentioned in the full account I dressed her as she would have been at the turn of the century. And my Terry’s Grandmother wears sweet lace frilled long knickers and a mid-length white cotton chemise that has a lace frilled front to help emphasise the fashionable shape desired at the time. After a tightly laced corset to show off her still tiny waist Terry’s Grandmother wears a plum coloured petticoat that has a slight train and is gathered in back. Her crisp, high-necked, cream cotton lawn blouse is trimmed with lace to match the lace frills on the three-quarter sleeves of her dress. Which is made of a soft sage green checked fabric, and has a pleated cross front, tailored skirts with an elegant train, and a contrasting purple satin sash.
For this special lady I’ve made her own little scene to sit in, surrounded by some of the things she would have used in her daily life. Tiny jars of spice sit next to jugs of mysterious liquid, with her cauldron nearby ready to cook up the pumpkins picked fresh from her garden. Tucked away behind her handmade stool are two jars of her special spaghetti sauce, and her distinctive Ouija board can be set up for use by setting the curved twisted metal arm holding the blue crystal into the hole right next to the A.

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