This month we start looking at some of the historical figures in PCEarth who happened to be witches. Their biographies are very similar to what is known in our “real” world, but their witchery abilities have made for some interesting differences.
We start with the PCE biography of Harriet Tubman, one of my favorite historical figures. Enjoy.
Born in 1822, the woman who would eventually be known as Harriet Tubman was a slave of African descent. While still a young girl, Harriet was accidentally hit in the head by a thrown piece of metal. This caused many problems in her life, but also awakened an unexpected witchery talent. As far as was known, none of her ancestors had been witches, so the people who owned her were not on the lookout for witchery in any of their slaves.
Unlike other witches – perhaps due to the severe injury to her head and the need for assistance that injury caused – Harriet’s familiar appeared within minutes of her witchery’s first manifestation. She immediately manifested a strong Air Talent, but the appearance of a star-nosed mole as her familiar confused her and the (very) few others who knew about her Talent. A burrowing creature seemed inappropriate for an Air witch, but the bonding took place and North the mole with the star-nose that actually created light remained with Harriet throughout her life.
It was the bond with a burrowing animal that prevented her “Masters” from ever finding out about Harriet’s witchery. So few people ever saw her familiar that no one ever suspected that she might be a witch. The visions she claimed to have were written off as nothing more than madness from the injury to her head, when in actuality they were scryings and remote viewings done via her witchery. This would come in handy later in her life when she began the work for which she would be most well known.
Never one to use her witchery openly, Harriet may have been afraid of her own abilities. One of the earliest workings she was known to have done was framed as a prayer to the Christian God, in whom she had a great faith. In danger of being sold to a new owner, she prayed that her current owner would die. To the surprise of many and the horror of Harriet herself, he did. This was later revealed to be a working that went beyond any training and education she had, which were far too little for someone of her talent and strength.
As the pressure to escape her enslavement grew, Harriet spent quiet time learning more and more about how to use her Air witchery. The greatest revelation she received was a simple understanding of the fact that air moves without being seen. This became the foundation for the workings she used to move herself and other slaves out of Southern states, through the northern states where escaped slaves could be sent back to their owners, and on into Canada, where they would remain free.
The familiar, North, was unusual among his kind in that he possessed not one, but two, supernatural abilities. He could generate light from his nose – creating the story that Tubman guided slaves to freedom by following the “north star” – and he could also communicate with Harriet no matter what the distance between them. This allowed him to move ahead of her, burrowing through the earth, until he reached a safe destination. He would then relay the location to Harriet, who would lead her charges to where the mole waited. North had an unerring sense of direction, but as this is a common trait among burrowing animals, it may have had little to nothing to do with his nature as a familiar.
Harriet used her Christian faith as the basis for many of her workings, including the one that allowed her and the escaping slaves in her company to pass without being seen. She would sing the hymn “Go Down Moses” as the foundation for her Air working, pulling the power of her element to wrap it around herself and her charges. This song along with her practice of waiting for nightfall to begin any journeys, and her diligence in taking the exact right route all added up to an unorthodox, but very powerful and effective Air working. This working was repeated many, many times, enough so that Harriet Tubman entered history as one of the greatest workers for abolition of slavery to ever be known.
It was not until after her death in the early part of the 20th century that Harriet’s nature as a witch became public knowledge. Even now, Air witches learn her “Go Down Moses” working as a standard part of their training, because it remains true to this day that only air can truly pass without being seen.
Sid says: One of the things we’re having much fun with in our monthly meetings is deciding how witches affected the course of history. James has taken on the task of doing biographical sketches of some historical witches, while Mickie has decided to focus on some historical events (for an example, see her earlier blog post ). Of course, there is so much more to say about these witches and the history of PCEarth that it would take an entire other series of books to explain. Not that I’m hinting, or anything. **whistles innocently**
Mickie says: We’ve really put a lot of work into building PCEarth. It’s not only building the Present, where our stories are taking place, but creating the Past, using our world’s history and historic figures and making sure it actually works in the world we’ve created. We’ve discussed at length how the presence of magic and witches would alter history, and tried to keep events fairly parallel. James has really used his imagination in this sketch, taking a powerful historical icon and adapting her and her story into our world.