ALCHEMY – A WITCHERY SCIENCE

In medieval Europe and Asia, in the world we know, many scholars and learned men pursued the art of alchemy.  This forerunner of chemistry has been discredited on this Earth, but on PCEarth, that is far from the case.

While all witches are able to use physical items as a focus for their workings, those with the Earth Talent are most likely to do so.  The solid nature of their element makes working with tangible objects a reasonable and easy channel for their witchery.

Before the Pact and its spread to most of the world, many witches felt the need to hide their workings from their Ortho neighbors; this required secrecy that was not easy in most cases and not possible in others.  Earth witches took to working plants and creating potions with their workings embedded within the liquid.  A plant known to cleanse the body would be worked by an Earth witch and become a potion that purified wounds and enhanced healing.  The witchery would be used to bring out the inner properties of the plant and to enhance them, then the worked plant would be changed into a form that would make it useable by anyone, witch or Ortho.

This spread to include all manner of materials.

Before long, Earth witches had developed the science of alchemy.  Careful studies of natural objects and the inherent properties of each became treatises of how to use each in a plethora of potions, powders, unguents, and material transformations.  Each of the elements of earth, air, fire, and water was represented in the alchemical art, and witches of each Talent began to practice it.  However, alchemy remained the especial province of Earth witches, as their Talent has the greatest strength in drawing power from and granting power to materials found in and grown from the earth itself.  Other Talents, dealing as they do with elements that are less solid than Earth, are not as adept at this sort of working.

For a time, alchemy was the science for medical treatments and the improvement of people and things through witchery.  As other sciences grew, however, and became more widely known, alchemy fell out of favor.  While a witch skilled in the art of alchemy could produce a potion to counteract a poison, so could any pharmacist or physician – Ortho or witch – who had learned the medical sciences.

Alchemy could only be practiced by a select few, and the number of those few doing so began to dwindle rapidly.  Before many generations had passed, alchemy was nothing more than a brief aberration in the practice of witchery, no longer a subject of anyone’s concern.

Now, in the 21st century, that is changing.  A new generation of Earth witches is finding promise and potential in alchemy again.  A new witchery practice is being developed.  This new practice is known as Thaumaceuticals; it is a new attempt to embed witchery workings into medicines, allowing healing witches to expand their work beyond the few people they can personal attend.

The inspirations for this field of study come almost purely from ancient alchemical practices.  Other than updated materials and equipment, most of the workings done in thaumaceutical work is identical that what was done by alchemists.

Will this new form of alchemy become a viable and respected part of witchery or will it fade away as it did once before?

 

 

Sid says:   The world of the Perfect Coven grows yet again! I have to confess that alchemy has always fascinated me, from the accounts of John Dee to the mysterious St. Germain to its inclusion in the Harry Potter books. James has dropped a few hints about what’s to come next, and now to know that there will be an alchemy element makes me even more eager to get the first trilogy wrapped and move on to the next books!

 

 

Mickie says:   One of the most fun things about writing is that you can invent stuff and then make it work in your world.  Thaumaceuticals – such a nifty concept.  I love the connection to alchemy.  I enjoy the esoteric mystery of it all.  And again, it gives us another opportunity to incorporate real world history into our story world, as there are some very famous (Isaac Newton) and infamous (Faust) Alchemists whose secrets may have major impact in our timeline!

Joan of Arc – Auger Witch or insane heretic?

The woman who would go down in history as “the Maid of Orleans” was born in France in January of 1412.  Her mother had a very difficult pregnancy and delivery, barely surviving the experience.  She had been terribly sick during the pregnancy and her husband feared that should would not survive.  He brought in a local midwife, who happened to be a highly skilled, if not very powerful, Earth witch.  The woman assisted in the delivery, and brought mother and baby daughter through in the best condition that could be expected. She spoke to Monsieur d’Arc and casually commented on the fact that if there were more Earth witches in the area, the delivery could have been much better, and lamented on the fact that so many of the local witches had died in recent years, falling to odd fevers.

Though the family did not learn of it for some time, the midwife herself died only a few weeks later. Her family feared she had contracted the Black Fever, as it was still known to exist in some isolated areas. The Black Fever, however, should not have caused her to lose control of her witchery as she did. Her death was mourned by the community she had served, but then passed off as simply one of the tragedies of life.

When she was twelve years old, Joan had her first vision of a divine being.  At least, that is how she explained the experience, referring to the entity as Saint Catherine of Alexandria.  Over the course of a very short period of time, she added many other names to the ones she saw, including “Saint Michael the Archangel”, “Angel Gabriel”, and “hosts of heavenly angels”.

Given that there was no significant history of witchery in their family, and that the girl had no familiar – which was known to be the single most indicative sign that one was a witch – no one suspected that Joan’s “visions” might be anything other than what she claimed them to be.  The era was rife with religious fervor, and for a virgin maiden to see heavenly personages was not removed from the worldview of the people around her.  The facts that she claimed to see a bright light just before the appearance of the visions, and that the ringing of bells often triggered such visions added to the perceived sanctity of her visions.

One of the most significant factors in Joan’s visions was that on at least two occasions – so stated in Royal Decree – other people saw the angels in her presence.  This surely, said the common wisdom of the time, proved that the child had commerce with the heavens.

Modern scholars of witchery claim that Joan had Talent as an Auger.  Not only is this one of the rarest of witch Talents, but it occurs most frequently in certain geographic areas, and France is not one of those. As no one at the time believed Joan to be a witch, she and those of her acquaintance quite simply believed her to be in communion with Heaven.

During the years of Joan’s early adulthood, war raged and grew between France and England. While this war was far from new, it reached some of its greatest ferocity during this time. Joan claimed that the angels and saints of her visions had instructed her to “go to France” making it clear that what was meant was the original royal domain of the nation.  Always before, the only advice the angels had given her was that she should be a good and pious woman, but now they began stating that God supported the claim that Charles was the rightful heir to the throne and that the English claim to France was unsupported by the divine. They began to instruct Joan in the ways of war and politics. Finally, they instructed her to seek an escort to the royal court.

Being, as she saw the matter, a pious woman of true faith, Joan followed the instructions. Some historians would later that say that this was the step that would eventually spell doom for the Maid of Orleans. Being told by one of her “visions” that “only men may command in battle, you must become a man,” Joan began to dress as a man and to exhibit male mannerisms.

After many days of travel, Joan arrived at her destination and was escorted in to see King Charles. She immediately began speaking to the king of his own personal concerns, and prayers he had made to God. During her time with His Majesty, she was reported to be looking over his shoulder or to one side, as if listening to someone other than the king. It is now believed, of course, that she was listening to instructions and information from a variety of spirits, including those who would have been in the king’s presence during his prayers and could have conveyed such knowledge to the girl.

To test Joan’s orthodoxy and to see if she were truly blessed by God or a raving heretic, the girl was taken to the city of Poitiers, where refugee professors for the University of France tested her knowledge of theology for three weeks. During all their questioning, she answered everything they asked with precision and a vocabulary and understanding not expected of a barely-educated farm-girl. As when she spoke to the king, Joan only rarely made eye contact with any of these learned men, always looking over, behind, or to the side of them. In their ignorance of what she was doing – an ignorance many now believe she shared – they thought her to be humble, shy, and respectful to those of higher station.

As Joan went about reforming the French army, the force of her personality and the sheer vibrant charisma of all she did brought her a reputation as being a “living saint”. Despite the humility she had previously attempted to convey, she began to embrace the title. While never stating that she was, indeed, a saint, at no time did she deny the term nor ask that it not be used. Anecdotes from that time state that she had begun to act as if she were not even part of the group she grew to command, but distant from them in some way.

Not long after this, Joan’s behavior began to arouse suspicion in those around her. In the claim that would be seen as the moment that led to her eventual downfall, she stated that she and some other virgins had gathered in the local church and prayed over a dead infant so the child could live again long enough to be baptized. The doubt over her claim came with her statement that the child had indeed returned to life but died again almost immediately after being baptized. Only those women who were with her, of course, could testify to the event, and their statements of what had happened were far from in accord with one another.

After this event, her troops began to view Joan with more fear than respect. While always a figure of awe and divine majesty to them, Joan’s open claims to supernatural power of her own – literally the power to raise the dead – had turned her into a figure of fear and dread.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their fear of her, Joan’s troops rallied and fought like no soldiers had fought before. They brought victory to France, and led to the coronation of Charles.

The beginning for France was the beginning of the end for Joan. Overconfidence inspired by the almost non-stop promptings and speech of the various angels and saints led Joan into courses of actions that soon brought her to being injured in battle and captured by the English forces.

The charge brought against Joan was heresy, which while religious in nature was still seen as a legal violation. Joan’s apparent piety touched the hearts of the judges, and she was sentenced to prison after having recanted her heresy as the overly enthusiastic actions of a deluded and hysterical maiden. One of the strictest conditions of her sentence was that under no circumstances was she to ever again dress and/or act as a man. She agreed to this.

Very shortly afterward, Joan’s brothers arranged to break her from prison. This plan was dictated by several of Joan’s unseen advisors, who insisted that her work needed to continue and she could only do the holy deeds required if she were free from prison. By this time, her own will had been completely eroded by the incessant prompting of the various beings, and she immediately complied, forcing her brothers to make plans as instructed. Part of the plan was to have her dress as a man again so she could walk out with them. This plan, needless to say, did not succeed. Joan was arrested again, and this time the charge placed against her was “relapsed heretic”. Once convicted, there was no option other than a death sentence.

Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.

In 1920, an investigation by the Catholic Church found that the region of Joan’s birth was still infested with pockets of contagion of the Black Plague. By that time, it was also known that the Hexern virus had been riding many strains of the Black Plague and had brought about the death of many witches. Scholars now believe that Joan was a witch with the Talent of the Auger, the ability to pierce the barriers between worlds and to call spirits into the mortal realm. How could this have gone unknown, since witchery was well-known then? If the child were infected while still in the womb – the mother was very sick – the virus would have been situated to manifest when the baby’s witchery came forth. No familiar would have ever bonded with the girl, as no familiar would have allowed himself to be bound to a witch who was already sickened with an illness that would claim his life as well.

Further, the beings Joan saw and spoke to are exactly the sort that were most often called up by the few Augers of European lineage at that time. Almost all such workings were done in a religious context, for fear that the power of man would be insufficient to deal with such beings and that the blessings of God was required.

Was Joan of Arc really a witch who fell victim to insanity brought on by the Hexern illness? Was her loss of will truly the result of unending spiritual visitations or merely the last stages of a fatal illness? Sadly, while history and science now indicate that this was indeed the case, no firm answer will ever be found.

Sid says:  Oh, wow. Joan of Arc/Jeanne d’Arc has always been a favorite legendary/historical figure of mine (along with Pope Joan), and I actually think I like PCEarth Jeanne even better! This is an amazing piece of PCEarth history, along with some significant insights into the effects and the reach of the Hexic demon. Our world grows ever more complex, deeper and richer with every blog post, short story, and discussion.

Mickie says:  So many possibilities and as much of a mystery as the Joan of Arc of our world!  We’ve been working to build the history of Perfect Coven Earth, tying it to our history’s famous events and personages, but making sure the magic of PC Earth is alive and believable.  Writing these stories and histories and giving them a supernatural or magical twist helps us define this world we’ve created and understand it better.  It’s also a nice reference library for building new characters.

Historic Witches – Winston Churchill

One of the most influential witches – indeed, one of the most influential people – of the past few centuries was Sir Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England during one of the most turbulent times that country and the entire world ever knew.  Born into a family of aristocratic background, Churchill came into the world with privilege known to few.  Being born a witch with the Druid Talent added to that.

Most witches with Druidic Talent tend toward a scholarly bent and embrace education fervently.  Winston was only a mediocre student during his school years and found formal education to be difficult and tedious for him.  Because of this, he felt his witchery Talent to be of no real value and turned away from it, simply not seeing it as part of his life.  Despite this avoidance of his witchery, Winston was bonded with his familiar in his middle teen years.  A bulldog named Dodo became his near constant companion.  While naturally possessing the necessary physical “anomaly” signifying a familiar, Dodo’s difference was not a visible one, as has been known to happen with other familiars.  History now shows us that the bulldog Dodo actually possessed a band of feathers around her neck.  Winston kept the feathers cut back as far as possible, making them look (to a casual glance) like a collar around the dog’s neck.  Her power was a rather subtle one, but one that proved invaluable later in Churchill’s life:  any working done in Dodo’s presence was magnified two-fold in effect, literally increasing Winston’s power.

Many people in his life remained unaware that Winston possessed any sort of witchery at all.  He was rarely seen to do any kind of working, and his growing love for all sorts of animals made his traveling with one or more dogs seem less like a witch and his familiar and more like a man who loved animals wanting them in his company.

Upon attaining the office of Prime Minister, Winston Churchill found reason to finally embrace his Talent as a Druidic witch.  Given the Druid tendency to work through connections to what they are affecting with witchery, Churchill used mementos from people, including correspondence, to work the people he knew.  His workings were geared almost exclusively toward creating for himself the strongest network of people he could.  The people he wove into his web became advisors and assistants in his government work.  His ability to understand the people to whom he was connected allowed him to make the greatest use of the abilities and skills of those around him.

As he became more comfortable with his Talent, Churchill found himself being more drawn to scholarly pursuits, and found a great love for knowledge.  At one point, he was recruited into a coven composed entirely of Druids who embraced the goal of rediscovering and revitalizing some of the ancient Druidic workings.

But Churchill’s greatest workings of Druidic witchery were done purely on his estate.  He learned a Druidic working that allowed him to communicate with animals, something that was apparently common knowledge to ancient Druids.  His estate became a sanctuary for animals of all sorts: dogs, cats, butterflies, pigs, and swans were among the most commonly found there.  Winston spent his happiest hours in the company of his animal friends and speaking with them.

Though his witchery remained a minor aspect of his public life, the results Winston Churchill achieved from it have caused him to become one of the best-known people in the history of the modern world.

Historic Witches – William Shakespeare

Bards are one of the more rare of the witch Talents on Perfect Coven Earth, although everyone knows of their existence and influence on the craft of witchery.  As one of the few Talents able to create workings that can be used by witches of any Talent, Bards are one of the Talents of which most witches are at least aware.  And everyone knows that Bards work their witchery through music and song.  This is common knowledge.

Common knowledge is not always right.

This is one of those cases.

Bards do not necessarily do witchery through music and song.  Bards do witchery through PERFORMING.  While music is the most common type of performance for Bards, it is far from the only one.

One of the most famous witches in PCE history was a Bard, but not a musician.  This Bard did his workings through the plays he wrote and performed.  His plays remain popular to this day, something about the workings he crafted into them binding them to the human psyche as well as to Western culture.

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

Born in April of 1564, the fact that William Shakespeare was a witch took no one by surprise.  His mother, Mary, was an Earth witch from a family in which that Talent ran strong and true.  Her father was a very wealthy farmer, and it was well-known that his prosperity came from judicious and skillful use of his witchery to produce the best goods any farm in the area could be expected to put forth.  What surprised and perplexed his family was when his witchery manifest as something other than an Earth Talent.

Growing up in a large family – eight children plus the parents – William lived in a small town roughly 100 miles from London.  He was exposed almost constantly to the agrarian lifestyle of his mother’s relatives, but had virtually no exposure to formal education, art, or entertainment.  When it was found that the boy could devise clever wordplay and influence events, his mother and other family members grew puzzled at the unexpected display of this witchery Talent.  Stratford-on-Avon, the town in which William Shakespeare grew up, was home to many Earth and Water witches, but almost none of any other Talent.  William’s unusual gift made him known to the people of the town by the nickname that would go down in history:  The Bard of Avon.

Not ones to discourage a child – a rare trait at that time in history – William’s parents did what they could to help him learn to use his witchery, though their knowledge of witchery was of little use to the boy, being entirely of that Earth workings.  His greatest teacher in witchery appeared a few years after his Talent manifest.  It was his familiar, a crow by the name of “Upstart”.  This crow could speak, according to William, though no one else ever even once heard the bird utter a single sound other than the typical caw and cry of its species.  Unlike most familiars, there was no obvious physical trait that marked the crow as anything out of the ordinary.

Shakespeare’s sudden rise to part-owner of The Chamberlain’s Men, one of the most prestigious acting troupes in England, part him to popular attention.  His writing of many of their plays – and his acting in small roles in said plays – brought him even more acclaim.  When King James ascended to the throne of England, he commissioned the troupe as his favored players, changing their name to “The King’s Men” as a sign of royal favor.  This gave Shakespeare the royal patronage necessary for advancing his career.

Witchery?  How did this man use his Bardic Talent?  His plays.  He took part in each of his plays, at least in the first performances.  He devised the plays themselves as intricate Bardic workings.  Their purpose was to influence the minds and hearts of his audiences.  The words of almost every line were carefully chosen to carry William’s Bardic witchery deep into the consciousness of anyone watching the plays.  The end goal of these workings was to bring William Shakespeare to greater fame.

Clearly, it worked.

Through a mechanism unknown to other Bards, perhaps simply a facet of Shakespeare’s personal Talent, the witchery aspect of his work has remained.  Each performance of a Shakespearean play revitalizes the original working, tying the audience to the play, touching the hearts of those who watch the play, and keeping the work and identity of William Shakespeare alive.

Sid says:  Ah…The Bard; a man of mystery, of unparalleled talent…of witchery that lasts through the ages. I have a deep and abiding love of Shakespeare, and I have to wonder if, perhaps, James isn’t right about the power imbued in his words….

I also wonder about the famed Dark Lady sonnets, and how Master Shakespeare might have done a Bardic working through them, perhaps a love working that turned out badly (as they are wont to do – read Cursebreaker’s Dance for more on that topic)!

Mickie says:    I like the different interpretation of Bardic Witchery.  It’s true that a Bard, in the traditional sense, was a poet, and heavily vested in the oral tradition.   It’s a modern invention that makes a Bard music oriented.  Great job by James to make us all think outside the box.

Historical Witches – Harriet Tubman

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.

 

 

Poll! Tell Us What You Think!

We will soon be pitching the Perfect Coven series to agents and publishers, and we are looking at various ways of presenting it. The series is thirteen stories, each a paranormal romance, but the entire series contains one over-arcing plotline that will not be resolved until the final book.

We have two options under discussion:

Option One: thirteen novels, each published separately. The books would be put out at the publisher’s pace, with each group of three forming a trilogy, and the last book wrapping up the ongoing story.

Option Two: four omnibus books, each containing one trilogy, and then a final capstone book.

Let us know which option you’d prefer.