It is easy to pass judgment on an old and ugly crone, especially when she is as powerful as myself. The elderly are valued for their wisdom, but often pass before their age gets the better of them. Often they do not see age turn them into shriveled little creatures with sunken eyes and hair so thin as to reveal the shiny, crinkled scalp beneath. I, however, have not yet died, and this is the image of what I am. I am a hunched woman whose skin hangs from her bones. In my old age I still hold great power, just as all elderly men and women retain their wisdom to their dying breath.
I have never denied being a witch, for witch I am. I have never denied conversing with spirits, for converse with them I do. I have more practice in the magic of herbs and midwifery than any other may ever hope to achieve. And for all these things, the men and women of the earth cast suspicious eyes on me and whisper of my wickedness as I pass them by. And even in the light of these things, their hero-men continue to come seeking the hands of my daughters.
My youth has passed, and passed so quickly it seems. Though I have overseen so many generations, watched so many heroes rise and fall, watched gods retire, submitting their thrones and powers to more youthful ones. Someday I will do the same, for even I must eventually die.
When the time comes, I will pass my powers to my last remaining daughter, when all the others have married the hero-men who come to sweep them away from me, just as I have passed every ounce of my youth and beauty to them, divided evenly between them.
I try my best to protect my beautiful daughters. I try my best to keep these “heroes” away from them — these men who view them as pretty prizes to be won from me, the great monstrous witch and goddess of sorcery and black magic. These self-proclaimed heroes are little more than whores and tricksters — though there is something to be said for such beings. I, after all, am one.
Even so, these are not the men I want for my daughters, with their skin fair as the snow blanketing the plains. They are so fair as to be translucent, their fine veins flowing as rivers just beneath their snowy skin, ethereal and light. Their fingers are long and tapered and nimble on their spinning wheels, yielding the finest threads of gold and silver. They have all of the same litheness as I in my youth, tall with lean and strong muscles and hair of fine threaded bronze and night sky falling down their graceful curved backs. Their eyes are vibrant blues and greens and violets, bright and rimmed with long dark lashes.
I made for them chairs and mats in the clouds, safe from the wandering men while they sleep, while they spin, and while they pass their days. From these they can look down at the great expanse of Pohjola, and on occasion pluck stars from the sky and skip them across the frozen lakes. They watch the reindeer, the moose and the elk, the wolf and the great ottava as he lumbers on heavy paws across the ice.
But regardless of how fiercely I try, I cannot protect all my daughters forever. When one falls in love with the man seeking her hand, I cannot stay her from leaving Pohjola with him.
And so the ages have moved beneath Pæivæ. I have lost many daughters to these men, and only a few remain with me. My heart has broken all the way through each time one of those men has left here with his pretty prize: one of my beloved daughters.
In my life I’ve had many, many lovers. Each time one left at last or was captured by death, my heart broke. But how can that compare to wishing my daughter — composed of my flesh, blood, life, and magic — “fare-thee-well,” never to be greeted again? These young and most beautiful of women who suckled at my breast, who grew under my care, ate of the food and drank of the water I provided them; whom I taught to spin and weave and who spun and wove beautiful cloaks for me, whom I taught the ways of life and love — how painful to let them go from my home and into the cruel and deceitful and filth-ridden world of men! How I wish I could bring them back to me, but this will never be so.
And so I am left with only a few daughters, and I hold them as tightly as I can without suffocating them. And one by one they will continue to leave.
Until there is the last. And when there is the last, it will become clear to me that it is time for my own retiring. And so I will pass to her the cloaks I wore as a young and powerful sorceress goddess, and I will pass to her the rings of my fingers and necklaces and torques. I will lay my hands upon her shoulders and lay my last kiss upon her brow, and bestow unto her the very last remnants of what I was, and goddess no more shall I be. But she … she will shine with all of the power and all of the mystery and the dark of Pohjola, lit from within as though with the very power of the rippling lights in the night sky. She will wield all the power I wielded and she shall become the goddess Louhi in my place, and at long last I will travel through the whorl of the spinning sky dome and pass into Tuonela, and there I shall lay in the first restful and deepest sleep of my life, carefully and gently entwined in its depths as though cocooned in the softest spider’s silk. I will leave to my last daughter the beautiful Pohjola, which all the men and women fear — this great land of ice and snow and dancing night skies.
[Tahni Nikitins has been a practicing pagan for seven years, though dedicated to no one pantheon or Deity, and has been writing since she could maneuver a writing utensil. She is currently attending a community college with a psychology major and a minor in comparative religions. She regularly volunteers at Sexual Assault Support Services. ]