The Pact | Juliette van der Molen

deep in the dark
of the barn a lone
candle flicks and licks
ordinary spaces into
the spectral unseen.

we are hidden here,
all of us,
cloaked bedclothes
rustling to huddle for
warmth and maybe
protection, though
it’s not a thing
we need by daylight—
here in the blackness
privilege hides.

Betty[i] cradles the egg,
the head of a newborn
in a palm untouched
still smoothed, innocent,
and she won’t say how
she knows,
won’t tell us
who told her—
there’s power in that.

Abigail slides the jar
so ordinarily clear
against the straw,
nestled in the dirt,
a vessel readied in offering
her lips pressed tight
knowing she must place it back
precisely, lest the blank space
on the cupboard shelf bleat
her secrets
to the godless god fearing.

Ann brings metal,
filled with water,
sloshed through a wood
that slowed her
terror pressed steps for
this night, the most important
of all nights, the third leg,
and eye,
and ear,
for the necessary posture.

they won’t call it witchcraft,
this simple scrying,
a peek,
a wink,
into the future of hims and he.
no pins,
no chants,
no effigy,
just milky ribboned egg white
twirled into water—
readied with future for all to see.

held high in candle light
twists and twirls,
who is he?
this is what they need to know,
all that matters,
their future husbands-to-be.

breath held,
they will not disturb
Venus, as she spins
fortunes watery web.

a key?
a stalk of wheat?
a cross?
but no—
it is a coffin[ii],
death bell,
drawn by the hand of Satan.

a muffled shriek and shake,
glass slipped to break,
this whiteness now gleaming black,
these three,
now joined by secret[iii]—
Salem’s first witchcraft pact.

 


References

[i] Elizabeth (Betty) Parris, Abigail Williams and Ann Putnam, Jr. were involved in a form of Oomancy (divination by eggs) using a technique called the ‘venus-glass’. This involved dropping an egg white into a glass of water and reading the shapes created to determine who their future husband might be and what his occupation would be.
[ii] Prior to the beginning of the Salem Witch Trials, a coffin was seen during one session of the ‘venus-glass’, which reportedly terrified the girls and led to them having fits akin to possession.
[iii] Betty, Abigail and Ann never admitted to the Oomancy and instead chose to blame their afflictions on others once their physician determined that the only reasonable explanations for their fits was a response to witchcraft.


Writer’s Commentary

The Pact is pivotal to the story in discussing possible motivations for first three afflicted girls in Salem.  It is rumoured that they may have engaged in their own form of fortune telling and divination. When I started to think about the fact that these girls were young teenagers, it made me think back to my own impressionable time at that age. Many a sleep over involved half baked seances and ouija boards. We sought answers for a future that was uncertain and wanted more power than we had as young girls. This theory, that these girls seeing a coffin during their scrying, could have terrified them so much that it affected them physically and emotionally is one that I am interested in exploring. Like so many children, they’ll do just about anything to save their own skins, including lying about their ‘afflictions’ to the clergy and the doctor of Salem. These lies, whatever the motivation kicked off a chain of events that led to the death and trauma of many innocent people. I shudder to think what might have happened if Salem had access to social media channels during that time. What is real? What is fake? What is the agenda behind someone creating lies and accusations? These issues did not die with those in Salem and did not stop with the end of the trials, these are issues that have extended into our future


Juliette van der Molen is an expat poet living in Wales. She is an intersectional feminist and a member of the LGBTQIA community. She is a poetry editor for Mookychick Magazine and author of Death Library: The Exquisite Corpse CollectionMother, May I? and Anatomy of A Dress. She was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2018 and Best of the Net 2019. Her work has also appeared in Burning House Press, Memoir Mixtapes, Collective Unrest and several other publications. Her forthcoming collection Confess: The untold story of Dorothy Good will be published by TwistiT Press in October 2020.

 

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