“A witch is, actually, a successful (in the sense of surviving) deviant. You have a cultural, ideological, social, what-not pattern which is, for that society in question, normal (and, importantly, this is understood as a synonym for natural). Most people survive because they conform to these patterns, because they behave normally. […] But then suddenly you get a deviant which survives, and since it does not draw its support from the normal pattern, […] that deviant is understood as drawing its support from “unknown”, “supernatural” sources. […] If we cannot survive without our order, how can she [the witch] survive in solitude? Hers must be indeed a very powerful order to exist so independently, without all the inter cooperation and individual compromise which we have to go through to survive. And if it is so powerful, then it could destroy us. We must try to destroy it first.”
Maya Deren, “From the Notebook of Maya Deren”, 1947, October, vol. 14 (Autumn 1980): 21–45.
The first time I head the term The Poisoner, was while listening to modern horror fiction in 2010. It was a story by Holly Day, on the podcast, Pseudopod, one of my favorites to listen to while I carve or paint. I was struck by this story. A tale of a woman who knows which plants kill and which plants can cure, but she has a mad lust for the killing variety, and for witnessing death. She is the witch in the wood, the senseless murderer, the ungodly follower of evil for the sake of evil. She is a deviant. She is the Poisoner.
Recently, as is no news to anyone, there has been an intense amount of challenge and struggle. There is a deep fear building up, like the poison from the narcissus bulbs thrown in the well by the Poisoner. Fear, both real and imagined, permeates our social media, or newspapers and our daily conversations. It is horrifying, exhausting and stressful. It means life or death to some, and brings on mental health struggles in others. It has shown us where deep rifts were covered by thin carpet, barely allowing us to cross, and where in each of us there lies poisoned wells.
Many have written pieces on self care during these times, and these come deeply appreciated. People write of bane work, hexing and cursing with new fervor, further causing rifts and divides as some camp on the side of "do no harm! You go too far!" And some holler back from the other side, "we're fighting for our lives! You cannot understand, you cannot see us."
I'm not saying anything new here, anything original, I'm just so impressed. Impressed at how many powerful, wonderous people there are in our communities locally and at large. And I want to make an offering. I want to give you the power of the Poisoner. The reason she exists is because of the fear. The fear of the "other". She exists because what is medicine is also poison in large doses. They say that hexing is the tool of the oppressed. So then let's hex, let's introduce ourselves to the poison plants, and understand them. Like knowing the darkest parts of ourselves, let us know all the uses and magic of the plants, including the dark ones. Knowledge is a type of power after all.
It does not mean that we are violent when we learn self defense. It doesn't mean we are sluts when we learn which herbs bring on the blood. It doesn't mean we are Poisoners when we learn the poison plants. It means we know. It means we're not defenseless. It means that we are empowered. It means that there are great threats that exist. To our health, happiness, and to some, our very lives. We are becoming wiser. This is my offering.
I'll be teaching "The Poison Plants" at Raven and Crone this Sunday. If you're local to the Asheville area, I hope I see you there. If you can't I'll make the PDF of the booklet I wrote available for donation in my store.
Many have made lists and posts of things we can do to care for ourselves and others, radical acts of self care and community support, personal work and rising to try and be real, grounded, humble allies to our friends who are queer, POC, differently abled and/or in danger under this new administration. The ones of us who have been studying plants and ALL of their uses are needed now. We've always been needed, but now there is a pressing feeling that we have work to do. Those of us who can do it. Now is the time.
<<some important things (but obvi not all)>>
Herbs for Resistance by Janet Kent
Self Care: Wort Cunning
This great piece by the amazing Rae about Relentless Self Love
Sarah Anne Lawless's, "Awakening from the Dream to the Nightmare of Reality."
Self Care under Capitalism
This excellent list: The Witches Resistance Action List
Poison Path Resource Guide
Very good piece about the ethics of hexing <<TW for almost everything>>
The Curse Collection of Sarah Anne Lawless <<TW for sexual violence>>
Why Walk the Poison Path
Getting our Shit Together so we can actually try and be good allies
White Awake: resources for white folks to face and combat white supremacy
Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
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