A dark lady, from a darker place, in the darkest time, comes forth to perform shadowy deeds. Her pathway is most crooked and madly beckons both Angel and Fool, but promises little hope of any safe return for either. Glowing eyes fall upon her, fast darting from the shadow, reflecting back the blackest of desires which burn unceasingly within her foul heart. For she, at this moment, has arrived to dance once more with her Sisters, and keep the age old appointment with her patron. An arrangement firmly made by her Ancestors, long before her mortal birth.
Underneath the pale light of the waning crescent moon and before an ample fire, she undresses slowly, slipping the hooded robe from her body; her milk white skin set aglow by the raging flames. She stands naked and proud before them; her unruly, raven hair hangs in waves down her back, a string of dark lustrous beads at her neck. The two girls watch, frozen in anticipation and silent awe at this spectacle.
Lifting a weathered earthenware pot of goose fat, pungent with the aroma of well steeped Witching Herbs, she slavers it onto her bare skin; a porcelain covering beneath which Eden’s cursed snake lies. Upon her wrists. Behind her ears. Beneath her breasts, and then south of Heaven to where God’s Light refuses to journey; the anointing takes place. As her head begins to shudder and spin, she quickly and with urgency, beckons the two girls forth.
Roughly disrobing and circling the fearful girls, she inspects with the Predator’s eye. And with the touch of the Nursemaid she anoints them with the eye-watering acrid stench of atropines amidst the rancid aroma of aging avian grease. She purposefully refrains from applying her own liberal amounts of the Flying Salve to their unaccustomed frames. She doesn’t wish them to fly too high this night; it is their first time after all. She is also keen to avoid the ceasing of the heart, an occupational hazard in such potent streams of their ancient craft.
Eyes widen, pupils dilating with confused exhilaration, these Sisters become uncomfortably numb and nauseous. Their dark world sharply blackening to the hidden Piper’s unfolding chaotic tune. Vision blurs, skin burns and throats dry. Their united cries become a rasping, hollow accompaniment to the increasing rush of noise within their head. Head swimming, the Lady plants the Serpent’s kiss firmly upon their arid and cracked lips, and then strikes hard with the palm of her hand upon the small of their fragile backs. And for that moment alone their world ceases it’s motion, grinding to a fearful halt, as stars in the night sky above them, begin to wink out. One after another the Heaven’s Lanterns are extinguished by the ghastly obsidian darkness.
Pungent plumes of grey smoke, a breath of scorched Moon-blood and resinous incense, rises from the Cauldron. And in that timeless and spaceless place, the Sisters seamlessly follow, rising into the darkness, carried by ill winds and Spirits that have watched and waited for the appointed time.
Now the dance begins: A larger, brighter, hotter burning fire. Heads alight, and blood warming again beneath their skin; the sound of it coursing again through their veins, filling their ears with the deafening, pulsing rush. Dulled senses now reawaken. The heavy smells of ash, blood, sweat and the sweetest of fragrant herbs assault their nostrils. As lightening lacerates the turbulent seething skies and the roar of distant thunder approaches, the Sisters sway and undulate to the fearful noise; as if softly caressed by the velvet darkness that surrounds their naked forms.
From out of the shadows and into the corner of their vision, the Mares of the Night step forth; patiently waiting to experience the young flesh, which dances so tantalizingly before them. They also know to leave the Witch with the Raven Hair well alone, for her hand is marked and reserved for another, their Master, the Lord of the Dance himself. As the pulse quickens and the dance picks up to a reckless pace, they draw in closer and then closer still. Dancing in wild, eerie patterns alongside the Sisters. The now wanton women welcome them until they are all but Shadows, whirling within and without the torn and twisted branches of the lightning-blasted tree. At dizzying speed, their heads, hearts and souls are fully released, and their hot, supple skin falls into the frenzied grasping hands of the Night Mares.
Lips clash, tongues entangle, corporeal and ethereal now merge as one. Rules and restraint are no longer valid here, for they have become unto Shadow, in which the unholy truth of their convocation lies concealed. For they are now bound by a dark oath taken; a promise which has been sealed beyond place and time. A promise which ushers forth memories that flitter between dream and waking mind, when they are once again set aflame by the toxin-led, lust-inspired arousal, that leads most to madness and some to death.
Howling now, with heads thrown back in fear and joy, deep ecstasy takes them and they call out into the utter blackness. To the space between the stars. Not in words, for words now surely fail them, but in guttural wild tones carried upon the dark winds by their desperate hunger for the source of this unholy communion.
The Witch with the Raven Hair stands still, motionless, surveying the chaos with her Hunter’s gaze. Her soft but sharp tongue speaks the ancient names into the void, singing forbidden psalms above the raging flames, until his scent overcomes her.
Wildfire, Man-blood, musk and the stench of damp disturbed earth; memories of the deep forest floor, of an Autumn, many moons ago, at the midnight crossroads.
He has come…
Regal, broad, tall and dark, the be-horned living embodiment of the Bringer of Black Light, now stands naked and proud beside the fire. He has called her name, she bears his mark and for her, there is no turning back. He reaches out for his Divine Whore and whirls her, deeper still, into the Devil’s dance. The inhuman waltz, both twisted and insane, bearing a choreography that melts the very fabric of time and space, as it challenges all rules and laws of creation and order. He has the lips of the Devil himself, and profane are the desires that dwell within his heart, desires which match her own. Deeply he kisses his raven-haired Witch; and she plummets sharply, and most mercilessly, into the white-eyed trance-state he demands of her.
“Remember” he softly whispers in her ear. She looks over at her two girls upon the ground. They lay like broken dolls, stringless puppets, muttering incoherently to themselves, annihilated by sheer exhaustion and bliss.
It is time…
The Serpent chalice is brought forth, and held aloft, she knows only too well what secrets that thick, dark red liquid holds. This vessel is brim-filled with a virtue that all laws oppose. The taste of iron coats her tongue, and with re-envenomed lips, they share that second, sacred, world-stopping kiss. Their mouths drink of each other. Purified in their filth, blessed in their corruption, they savor deeply. A wordless and formless communion takes place, and in the deepest depths of their shared solitude, they become as one. Passionate flesh abounds, in a yearning beyond comprehension, where their conjoined souls spiral down to the utmost depths, to the place where light is but a fading memory.
Once more, the ancient future is reclaimed; deep secrets are whispered and clear knowledge gained from the Spirits that whisper from the ice cold, pitch black, ebony depths of the secret hidden Earth.
And as the Good Lord’s Sun rises that very next morning, there is no trace of the Sisters and their consorts. No evidence of the Lady and Master, nor of their unholy union. Save perhaps from the pair of blood-stained hand prints on the trunk of the bone-white, long-dead, lightning-struck tree.
And of the Sisters three?
One dies while two thrive, the way it must always be…
Text – Sarah-Jayne Farrer & Matt Baldwin-Ives
Images © Matt Baldwin-Ives (www.milescross.co.uk)
* Witches’ Sabbat: photograph by Tracey Stephens’ with digital manipulations by Matt Baldwin-Ives.