About the Artist: Wendy Hess is from Berkeley, California, and the Author of several unpublished Children's Books. After the untimely passing of her Mother and Brother, she delve into taking pictures as a means to distract from the Grief. To further create a world of comfort, she later took to drawing on her photos.
Dear Cauldron Readers and Contributors,
At long last we have the release of our 11th issue, Witch!
We had hopes to have this out long before now, but as you all now the world has been in a lot of chaos, and our team has had some personal struggles as well. But here we are! In the future we hope to have this issue back in our PDF magazine format, but for now Witch is live on our website. This issue was so much fun to put together. We hope you enjoy.
Thank you to everyone who contributed, we are honored to have you in this issue.
starlight twisted in her hair walks at midnight
lady. lady of the crossroads. ‘witch’ trapped in lips and spat
at her like an epithet. and
she’s the shadow by the mirror, the laughter
without people. she’s the falling marbles where no one
lives. thud. they run to her side and they say to stay away
clinging to her hands, cold phantoms along non-existent
skin. clocks ticking unseen in an empty corridor.
she laughs when they call her ‘magic’ when day comes, disdain
dripping from their lips, just like their fear dripped from their palms
the night before. her braids gleam, and her nails shine with a black
too deep to be polish. the day has come and the corridor
is empty. the maze of turns easily navigated in the light.
and then night comes again when day fades
they would prefer her to cackle but her laugh is
softer than a sea breeze. her domain is the mist-covered
roads, paths spread like a tree’s roots, root hairs that tickle
at her feet. Because when the sun sets, and no solution can be found,
black water pooling closer and closer-
About the Author: Syl (they/them) is a nonbinary writer living in Singapore. A fan of fantasy and speculative fiction, they can often be found badgering their friends about social issues, politics, and their latest writing ideas. On top of being a poet, Syl also translates Mandarin pop songs into English, a painful but fulfilling process.
Social media: @Fae_the_Inkspot on twitter
Magic makes a maniacal meandering out of existence. Distorts up from down, body from ceiling, life from death. One woman’s dust is another domicile’s grout. Do you like the tea? It’s Earl Grey. It was the silver that did it, you see. The shoes. Witchery is like fire, can’t be contained just here or there. It blows, catches, burns. Can’t douse it outright, only fan it along. Now, tell me, are you booksmart? Lettered? There’s lots and lots about us, I’m told. Memoirs, tales, rumours. Scholars, even. You’ve never noticed though, have you? A witch and a house. Always. Ginger-enticement and her. Zephyred farmhouse and me. Now this: Chicken-Legs and Baba. Put a stop to us and we go on to the next place. On and on. Cursed Sequence, we first thought. Now, we think it’s balance. Can’t have roses without thorns, after all. Only, last go of it I conjured up them poxy shoes before the house fell on me. Confounded myself to inbetweenness. To this. Never try to spell by proxy! A conscious construction isn’t something I would wish on anyone. Well, except her. She’s enjoying it too much. Seeing me hump her worldly belongings around mountains, marshes and moors. Let me tell you something about witches - heck, people - they don’t clean their houses. Not really. Not like they say. I have mites in my attic, rats in my cellar, and mould in my plaster. I used to like mould. Made death-maps out of it. I don’t think I will anymore. Have you finished your tea? Sugar? No. Don’t be silly. Here, sit down. Hold tight. Let’s go for a walk. Tighter than that, you fool. There. There. Now we’re moving. Them the Carpathian Mountains. Dagger-woods we used to call them. More tourists than birch, these days. Easy prey, though. Baba’s there, you know. Air-skating close to the forest floor, playing silly with their peripheries. Herding and hunting. Your parents are out there, too. Probably hollering fierce into the canopies, yowling bloody ‘napper. Probably. It’s the moving, see. Captivates the unready. I just walk on in, go round in a circle, settle myself and you come. You always come. I think it’s the bleed that does it - the natural-unnatural of me. I belong but I don’t. I enigmatize you. Throw up question marks in those tiny catskulls of yours. I understand. Living in wood, being living-wood, opens minds. I’m a light in the cemetery that you can’t quite turn away from, can’t stop yourself from muddying your boots to look upon. You’re not the first. Oh, now. Here. Here is something pleasing. Bathory bathed in that clearing. Once. The moonlight made the virgins blood black. It ran down her back like greedy fingers. Like unfurling wings. Baba held a candle for her, you see. Was there at the sentencing. Witches do cry. They do. You don’t ever want them to. But they do. Baba was reckless then, a scullery maid playing innocent for the great Countess. Smitten by sensation. Do you know about crocodile tears? They make great poison. My, is that the time. Red means bed means dead. Look! No, the other window. Doesn’t it look like fire. Doesn’t it look grand. I’m not allowed to use the oven. She’s afraid it’ll happen again. Sunset is all I get. Sunset and athlete’s foot. That tea finished yet? You don’t like tea?! But it’s Earl Grey. Satan Below you’re a fickler. Hold still, now. I’m setting myself down again. Move over to the left. More. More. OK, stop. No candles, so we need as much of that gloaming as we can get. Yes, we. I’m dead on my legs with all this. Do you know what it’s like being a house? Always being thrown open, slammed, trod on. Dreadful, it is. I’m done. Always kiddies that do it, see. That’s why you’re here. Why I lured you from your breeders. See, Baba will be back soon and I want you to kill her. Start a new cycle. Set me off again. Let me be the witch. She might get you, sure, she does like stringy ones too. Uses the gristle to brush her tooth. Still, it’s a risk I’m willing to take. Another thing about being a house: awful boring. You really do see things differently when they can stain your balding carpet. Now, listen close: the thing about magic is it is maniacal and silver and see-through, malicious and sinister and uncertain, malevolent and silly and all a pack of lies. I have a whole room of the latter. So, how do you kill a witch? Feed her what she wants with a little extra crocodile. How’s that tea?
About the Author: Ashley Bullen-Cutting is a creative-critical English Literature PhD candidate at The University of Sheffield. His poetry and prose has featured in over a dozen journals. He is the current fiction editor of the 2020 Route 57 special ‘Traces’ and a contributing editor at Barren Magazine.
I wonder if the shape
of her faith was apparent
as her body melted in flame.
Wreathed in glow and ash,
she is said to have emerged
unsinged. Arms pulled wide
in beautiful mockery.
No one scraped the boiling
pitch from her throat.
It is likely Reperata was no
more than fifteen when they
folded her body into
martyrdom. Do you think they
took her tongue? Slipped it
from her mouth to be put on
a high shelf, proud of the work
they were doing. The Romans
were always so good at taking.
Maybe they left out how she
refused to surrender her body,
and so history has left very little
of her. All that remains is magic,
mysticism. When they took
off the witch’s head, I wonder
if she was ready to die.
About the Author: Nicole Inge is a MFA candidate at George Mason University. She works for the Fall for the Book Festival, teaches creative writing to elementary schoolers, and writes about the monstrous feminine. Her work has appeared in Remington Review and Moonchild Magazine.
A crone, a shadow, a witch. A legend. She denied the linguists a foothold, when they failed to trace the Baba or the Yaga to Samarra; we know what waited for them there. She refused to exit the wilds to set a pointed toe in Grimm, let alone bothering with that dilettante, Lang. And she eluded even the (in)famous Joseph Campbell, who would have dispensed with her as a mere obstacle to his calf-brained hero. Only the grandmothers know her. She surfaces once in a generation.
She came to America, in times past:
For the flappers and the jazz luminaries, discarding restrictions.
For Rosie, and rivets.
For the third wave.
But not just for the women, not this time; their chorus of Me Too! has cracked the dome, and its pointed white shards will fall, fall, fall.
She comes because the dear old hut on its chicken legs teeters. The firebird has come to ancient forests and the air itself is smoking. The odor of rot haunts the familiar grasslands as primeval frosts devolve into oozing swamps; animal carcasses by the millions, putrefying. The land finds itself devoured like every naughty child in the fae canon.
The grandmothers herald her with dry tongues; indulgent-then-irritated descendants fail to shush them into shame. She comes, the Wild One. Only the tots listen, ears alert, jaws working, as their mothers pry their grubby fists out of their mouths.
Their leached bones can tell the weather and the way. They know this time Baba Yaga has come to whisper in little Greta’s ear and not to sue for Greenpeace. She has come to smell out the treasonous bots from their distinctive traces. She has come to intone the prehistoric songs, to remind the women that the forests were their first mothers. She is coming.
And then she comes, on a late September breeze, blazing through no-fly zones with her skull lantern held aloft. She is a comet, a ball of fire and ice, a prophecy. She sends seismograph needles flying and the Air Force scrambling; the latter-day clairvoyants doomsay via tweet. She alights before the rigid azure-and-steel monument to humanity’s aspirations and collective failures.
The meetings will occur today.
And even now she defies the scientists, the soldiers, the charlatans. She heaps scorn on security pawns’ demands to produce her badge; she astonishes the habitually poker-faced journalists; she thunders to the front of the room in a discordant pink hat. The slim, startled premier at the podium gives way before her – out of instinctive deference or terror, or simply recoiling at her stench. She bears a pestle, which she bangs on the podium. She brings a warning.
Not for herself.
Not for the women.
Nor the children.
But for the Great Mother, whose lungs collapse even as her children shriek and continue their global game, an endless repetition of Lord of the Flies.
And they have the facts already, the words and the numbers and the analysis, searchable for free, but the men in their soft suits disdained and discarded them along with their Styrofoam and junk awards. So she eschewed repeating them, and simply screamed the basic truth:
“YOU ARE KILLING THE MOTHER OF US ALL!
FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR DAUGHTERS AND SONS,
DO NOT LET THIS WORLD DISINTEGRATE INTO SHIT!”
About the Author: Linda McMullen is a wife, mother, diplomat, and homesick Wisconsinite. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in over forty literary magazines, including, most recently, Arachne Press, Luna Station Quarterly, Ripples in Space, Write Ahead/The Future Looms Magazine, Drunk Monkeys, Storgy, and Newfound.
the boy dismisses me but I know when I stumble
into restaurants, they suddenly become more
populous. one time I read a tumblr post in my frenzied
years about small magics
how someone makes an excellent cup of frothing tea, and even if you follow the same recipe, the imitation fails
how only the boy’s egg tacos with homemade sriracha-mayo taste like heaven
how someone always catches the frisbee right and never had to learn how
how I used to always guess the correct amount of M&Ms in the jar
how someone always makes it into the trash can with their paper balls and plastic bottles
how the boy’s yawns ceaselessly cause mine right after
and after repeatedly showing up at my favorite
taco place regardless of the time I noticed people would
follow me in. suddenly the place would bustle and initially
the boy played it off as a coincidence
he said “of course there are more people, we came right before lunch” or “dinner” or “breakfast”
he said “magic does not exist”
he said “there is no way that is true"
and I tried convincing him I am magic and only recently
did he consider I might be telling the truth because I
walked into a farm-to-table restaurant with a friend
in Mesa, Arizona at 2pm and
14 people came in after me. it was not
lunchtime and my friend confirmed to the boy that
indeed, I am magic, to which I nodded vigorously, and he said,
squinting, “okay, maybe I believe.”
About the Author: Sarosh is a mechanical engineer & anthropologist, and is particularly interested in the overlap between those subjects. She loves impulse buying poetry books and experimenting with her curly hair. Her Twitter and Instagram handles are @saroshnandwani. She has been published in Phemme Zine, the Hellebore, Peculiars Magazine, the Brown Orient, and is a regular contributor for Royal Rose Magazine. She is also a reader for Anomalous Press and Periwinkle Literary Magazine.
The real story isn’t as straightforward as the ones you might have heard. In most versions of the tale, of Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and Camelot, I am a witch. I am jealous. I am evil. I am a seductress. My manipulations tear down the greatest kingdom that has ever been built upon these lands and consign it to legend.
I am Morgan LeFay. I am the dark to Arthur’s light, he is morning, I am night, I am left, and he is right.
It’s true, I was the only one left when Camelot had fallen, and the only inhabitants left were the owls and the foxes. It’s also true that I am a witch, and that I have taken my share of lovers. But the rest? Ah, the true story is both simpler and more twisty and capricious than the story of good King Arthur, wicked Morgan and gorgeous Sir Lancelot.
Arthur and I shared a mother. Yvaine, duchess of Cornwall, famed for her icy beauty, her hair pale as moonbeams and her heart as cold and unyielding as a sword. She married my father, the Duke, for his wealth and lands. I was the only child of their dispassionate union and was a canker in the eyes of both parents. For my father, I wasn’t the desperately needed son, and for my mother, I represented her one great failure.
By the time I was seven, I knew there was no love or warmth in the great castle that huddled on the clifftop, pummelled by the winds and sea-storms and the howls of the gulls. I left it, each morning, to wander on the shore, to dabble my toes in the sea, to climb the blackened rocks of the cliffs. And it was there I found my sisters.
The women of the water. Sea witches, selkies, naiads – to this day I cannot tell you what those women are, for I don’t know. Nor do I care. They welcomed me, embraced me, loved me. As I loved them.
And they were my teachers, my instructors. They knew the magic of the seas, the great waters that imprisoned men on the lands they brawled to possess. They knew the magic of the air, of the birds that held themselves aloft on winds that were made of nothingness and yet were so forceful. And they knew the magic of the creatures that live in the betwixt places, places that are neither one world nor the other, that are both and neither.
By the time I was ten, I was an accomplished magic-user. I hid my gifts, shrouded them in silence. I was young but not naïve.
When I was eleven, Uther Pendragon visited the Duchy of Cornwall. He was tall, fair, merciless, humorous. And he cracked open Yvaine’s steely heart as if it were a hen’s egg, before strolling off to die a glorious death on the battlefield.
Father died before my brother’s eyes opened, which was a mercy for both him and my baby half-brother. One glance at Arthur and it was clear who he took after. I didn’t care. I loved my brother. He was as fair as I was dark, as merry as I was serious. We complemented each other perfectly.
I knew the hand of destiny was upon him, of course. My magic told me that. Whenever I held him, I heard whispers, of greatness, of adventure, of danger. The world would fade, and my eyes would perceive a shining kingdom, a cadre of brave knights, enemies of supernatural shape. I also saw a druid.
Merlin. He came and went with the winter, eying up Arthur like a butcher would a cow. To see if he was ready or needed fattening further. Perhaps that’s a bit unjust, for I know Merlin was truly fond of Arthur. But Merlin, a great and knowledgeable druid, had no time for a mewling girl who knew a handful of conjuring tricks. He patronised and condescended to me until I was ready to scream.
Once, when he told me to run along and return to my embroidery, I lost my temper and ordered the blackberry bushes in our garden to imprison him. They grew tall and impenetrable in less time than it takes for an archer to draw his bow. I left Merlin in there for an entire day, until his will crumbled and he humbly asked to be set free.
Merlin never forgave me. And I never forgave him either. A wild resentment took root in my heart against all who sought to diminish me. And that was the source of many difficulties, but not it was not the chief cause of Arthur’s downfall.
There were two things that caused the fall of Camelot. One was Arthur’s weakness for beautiful golden-haired women. And the other was a knight named Lancelot.
I shall hop-skip over the intervening years to when Arthur was King of Camelot and all was good and just and prosperous. I was one of his most trusted counsellors and worked my magic for the good of all, healing the sick and protecting the city. The lowly people loved me, but some knights and their fair ladies were less enamoured. It’s true, my habit of bedding married men was a bad one (it kept things simple). And I never bothered to soften my words. I never sought to win approval.
Yet all was well, until the Lady Guinevere appeared. At Merlin’s invitation. Arthur needed a queen and Guinevere was descended from kings. She would ennoble the royal blood of Camelot and bring a little gold to sweeten the bargain.
She was beautiful, I cannot deny it. Hair so fair it was almost white, eyes so pale they were shaded silver, as graceful as a swan on water. Arthur was smitten.
I wasn’t. I was biased, because she was Merlin’s choice, but even so, I thought Guinevere would be a poor queen. She was a milk-and-water creature, with no strength or resolve to aid her in times of trouble. She was a terrible flirt. She revelled in masculine attention. And she absolutely loathed me.
I never understood why Guinevere hated me so much. I suspect it was jealousy, of Arthur’s love and regard for me – not to mention the lovers I still had my pick of, despite being nearly twenty years older than her. I soon hated her too – quietly, you understand. I loved Arthur and wanted to keep his affection.
But I underestimated Guinevere and Merlin. She was adept at playing the victim and wore Arthur down with her whining and complaints about me. And Merlin, blast his eyes, had a solution. To wit, I was summoned to the King’s presence and informed a marriage had been arranged for me with Sir Urien, a lumpish knight who was infamous for his dullness and passed his days sulking in his family’s manor house.
I refused, which gave Merlin excuse to suggest Arthur banish me. Furious at them all, furious at myself for falling into such a poorly contrived, simple trap, I made the mistake of telling them what I perceived in Camelot’s future.
‘This kingdom will fall, Arthur,’ I told him, my voice even and eyes blazing. ‘It will fall within three years, unless you cast off your queen.’
Then I assumed the shape of a crow and flew to freedom. I always wanted the chance for such a dramatic leave-taking.
My prophecy came true. Only a short time after I left, one of Arthur’s former flames, the Queen of Orkney (blonde, rosy, beguiling) arrived at court with her son, Mordred. Arthur’s by-blow.
Guinevere was incandescent. She threw a truly stupendous tantrum, shrieking about the disgrace Arthur had brought upon them, about how the throne was no longer safe, how she wanted the Queen of Orkney banished. (I know because I had shape-shifted into a dove and watched the scene from the window-ledge).
It was all nonsense. Arthur had fathered Mordred well before he married Guinevere. The boy was a bastard, he’d never get within shouting distance of the throne. Besides, he was a good fighter but slow-witted and gluttonous.
But Guinevere’s words had planted scheming seeds in the minds of certain men. She and Arthur were childless, after several years of marriage. And then Arthur made a grave mistake in banishing his former lover and Mordred, in a futile attempt to appease Guinevere. The royal family of Orkney took offence and declared war.
Arthur went off battling the invaders, as did most of his knights. Guinevere was left behind, bored and with only her ladies to entertain her. It was then than Sir Lancelot, who remained to guard Camelot, began his own campaign. He conquered the Queen in rather less than a fortnight.
I sent word to Arthur, of course. Even Merlin, in my desperation. But I was ignored. In my rage, I turned my back and vowed never to aid Arthur again. I found sanctuary within a lake and resided there, occasionally aiding a troubled woman or cursing a cruel man.
Besides, Arthur found out soon enough. Lancelot, who had bedded half the women and several of the men of Camelot, could never resist bragging about his conquests. The news travelled and Arthur found himself enduring the spoken barbs of his enemy, not just the metal ones. He left Sir Galahad to direct the troops and rushed back to Camelot.
Lancelot did a midnight flit as soon as he realised. There was only the tear-drenched, humiliated Guinevere left to punish.
She grovelled for forgiveness, but Arthur had finally had his fill. He packed her off to a convent and turned his attention back to the war. To ever higher stakes, for now Arthur had no chance of fathering an heir, and Orkney had Mordred to supply the deficiency.
For several years conflict raged, until at long last an arrow sank itself into Arthur’s flesh, and festered.
It was then that he sent for me. Not to heal his body, for he knew it was his turn at death. To heal another wound.
‘I am sorry, Morgan,’ he said, voice coarsened by pain. ‘For casting you aside. For letting everyone say such vile things about you.’
‘I never cared for other peoples’ opinions,’ I scoffed. He chuckled.
‘No, you never did. But I shan’t rest until I know we are reconciled.’
‘We are,’ I assured him, kissing his ember-hot forehead.
‘Bury me, Morgan,’ he asked me. ‘Lay me to rest, with your rites and rituals. And never let any man imprison you. Stay free forever.’
I took his body to the Isle of Apples, to lie with death, the brother of sleep. Merlin, shrunken with age and disappointment, watched me as our little craft glided over the glimmering mirror-sheen of the lake. He was gone by the time I returned.
Mordred never ruled Camelot. The Saxons invaded, claiming all they could hack at with their battle-axes, including what little was left of Camelot. The Saxons never caught me, though. No human ever has. I have fulfilled Arthur’s final wish and lived free. I returned to the ocean and went to live with my sisters of the sea.
Sometimes I visit land – Cornwall, my childhood home, or the Isle, to speak to Arthur. But I do so less and less as the years pass. Especially since humanity seems determined to paint me as the villain in Arthur’s tale. It stings, especially since everyone is equally devoted to fawning over that faithless Lancelot. But freedom always has a price. I shall continue to pay mine.
And is it worth it?
Decide that for yourself, my dear.
About the Author: Carys Crossen has been writing stories since she was nine years old. Her fiction has been published by several online and print publishers, and her monograph The Nature of the Beast is available from University of Wales Press. She lives in Manchester UK with her husband.
Twitter: @AcademicWannabe Instagram: swintonwriter
She towers over the barren battlefield,
Her blank slate scoured by blood.
Shades of ancient sires
Whisper to the birds.
The banner of birth.
A halo of infinity
Crowns her blond head.
A glistening goblet rests at her feet.
Broken by a star of five,
Lies drifting on the briars.
Is wrapped inside a crimson cloak.
She looks up into the heavens,
The Lady smiles upon her majesty.
Ravens carry off the corpse of history,
Wisps of smoke
Ascend into the smiling skies.
A future, there is not
Until she wills it into being.
Sheathing her blade,
She lifts a wand from the ground,
And raises it into the air.
The seer, the shepherd and the priest
Bow before her.
From blood and muck they are raised by her hand.
And by her will
She remakes their world.
About the Author: Tuur Verheyde is a twenty-two year old Belgian poet and student, currently completing a Master’s Degree in English, Literature and linguistics at the University of Ghent. Although Dutch is his first language, Tuur writes poetry exclusively in English. His poetry focuses on combining politics, spirituality and highbrow and lowbrow culture.
Charcoal clouds part away
Stars illuminate in the skyand the crescent moon appears.
It casts Hecate’s enchantment over the cracked, smashed pillars and spider-web covered temples of Lagina.
Eurasian eagle-owl screeches its’ phantom call
A black dog with golden eyes sits beside a pillarand howls its’ surreptitious, melancholy song.
Mugwort, lavender and myrrh burn into the fire’sorange-golden mouth and their aroma permeates the air.
Spirits ascend from the underworld and walk among mortals.
My eyes, like the eclipse, illuminate
My body becomes submerged in witchery
My fingers become electrified
My heart palpitates and conquers desires
About the Author: Christina Ciufo is a passionate writer in poetry, short stories, flash fictions, fables, and completing her first novel. At a very young age, she always had a passion for writing stories and poems, specifically in fairytales, folklore, supernatural, and horror. After graduating Sacred Heart University with a BA in English, she continued to expand her writing abilities at Manhattanville College’s MFA Creative Writing Program and by May 2017, graduated with an MFA degree in Creative Writing. She has recently completed Sacred Heart University's Education Program in December 2018 with a MAT in Teaching in both elementary and secondary and is currently a Sunday School Teacher at St. Timothy's. She has appeared in Gravitas, Spillwords, Ovunque Siamo, Nymphs, Vamp Cat Magazine, Z Publishing Ohio, Truly Review, Mookychick, Door is a Jar Magazine, Bonnie's Crew, The Poetry Question, Twist in Time Magazine and Moonchild Magazine. @ https://twitter.com/ChristinaCiufo