In Hartwood Grove, we three novices are working our way through a sort of hypothetical active practice in which we read a lot of theory and all get on the same page with our magical knowledge base and then put it into controlled practice by responding to a set of scenarios. By the end of this month, we must respond to the first two-part scenario, “The Miller’s Daughter.” Below is the first part of the scenario and my own response.
One fine Spring morning you are surprised by a visitor. It is Eileen, the miller’s daughter, a pretty innocent girl who is watched with some interest by the local young men. She comes to you in tears and confesses that she’s desperate. She is hopelessly in love with the smith’s apprentice, but he shows no interest in her. She asks you for a love potion to make him fall in love with her. How do you handle her request?
Unfortunately, I do not communicate well with highly emotional people, so my first objective would be to calm Eileen down. To do so, I’d probably invite her to have some tea and biscuits with me on my garden patio. Why the patio? Well, it’s sort of a transitional space between indoors and out. Eileen might potentially feel uncomfortable actually inside ‘the witch’s lair’, so the external domestic space would strike a good balance between coziness and freedom. For the tea, I’d throw together some chamomile, lavender, and spearmint. The first two are great ‘soothers’ in general, but chamomile’s water and solar energy might better help Eileen feel more secure and help her clarify her conscious desires and the mercurial energy of the lavender might help her better articulate those desires to me. The spearmint inclusion is mostly for me as I’m not overly fond of the taste of chamomile. I do, however, like the freshness mint brings to the brew. Luckily, it’s energies of healing, love, and mental sharpening will add to those of chamomile and lavender well. As far as cookies go…I wouldn’t be baking up anything on the spot, so I’d put together a plate of what I had. If I had oatmeal cookies handy, I’d use them though just because they’re very earthy and comforting to me.
While Eileen and I sipped our tea, I’d eventually get her to tell me what it is about the smith’s apprentice in particular that has her feeling hopelessly in love. Feeling safe and stable, Eileen would soon open up. As she’d reveal, many of the village boys had begun eying her over the past couple years and that they’d now become very aggressive about it with their escalating innuendos and some even trying to cop a feel or steal a kiss. These behaviors make innocent Eileen feel very uncomfortable. In contrast, Eileen has discovered that the smith’s apprentice is much more gentle than the rest of the boys. She’d not really noticed him before since the other boys were making such a presence, but Eileen had taken her father’s cart horse to the smithy to be shod a few weeks ago, and it was the apprentice who did the work. Eileen got to watch him and was struck by how tenderly he had treated the finicky nag. In fact, the shodding went more smoothly with the apprentice than it ever did with the smith. When it was all done, Eileen even caught the apprentice slip the horse a bit of sugar and give her an affectionate pat. Eileen fell in love with him on the spot, but he barely even looked at her even when she was settling the bill. Since that time, Eileen had seen the boy at different places around the village and loitering around the churchyard with the other young people on Sunday afternoon, yet he never once even tried to approach her like so many of the others did, thus leading to her current woebegone state. Of course, Eileen also admitted to being drawn to some of the apprentice’s physical attributes, but the strongest amongst these was how strong and capable the boy was.
Me being me, I’d probably remark that Eileen certainly had her eye on a fine young man and reiterate what Eileen found to be his character strengths. But we’d probably have a discussion about how it would be unfortunate to do something that would compel the apprentice to fall in love with Eileen; after all, Eileen doesn’t like it when the village boys try to steal a kiss from her. Instead, we’d come up with a plan for how to attract strong and capable young me who are also kind and gentle.
Part of creating a solution here would be to contemplate what ‘flaws’ could follow some of these character strengths if they were to get unbalanced. For example, strength drawn to excess can be domination instead of stability. Kindness drawn to excess could be smothering, and an excess of gentleness could be shyness. From what Eileen has said, the apprentice seems to be a fairly well-balanced person—he didn’t dote excessively on the horse or try to flaunt his skill. Instead, he worked quietly and carefully. However, he did sneak the horse sugar when he thought Eileen was distracted, which indicates some sort of shyness: he is more comfortable taking actions when there is no audience.
If Eileen wants a person like the apprentice, then, Eileen will probably have to be the one to initiate some sort of interaction. At the very least, she’ll need to cultivate an appearance of “it’s okay to approach me.” She might need to catch his eye and smile, for example, or be the first to say “Hello, apprentice” and start a conversation.
When we talk about this, Eileen seems very reticent. Innocent that she is, she’s always thought that the bloke should always be the first to make the first overture. So we have a conversation about how it is okay to make that first overt move, but even if she doesn’t that there are still some covert things to increase the likelihood that a shyer fellow would feel safer initiating something. For example, when she catches the apprentice’s eye, smiles, and says “hello”, he might be more inclined to have an extended interaction if she isn’t surrounded by all her girlfriends who will be staring at the pair of them and giggling.
When Eileen gets the general picture, we start focusing on some specific, concrete actions she can do to help make herself feel more confident in initiating something. Looks being as important as they are in confidence boosting, I ask Eileen what she likes best about her appearance and she says her hair. To her credit, she does have lovely thick, strawberry blond hair, but—working in the mill with her parents as she does—she often has it tightly braided and coiled up and more often than not wears a headscarf, all of which help keep the flour dust out of her hair. So we talk about how she can vary her hairstyle when she’s not working in the mill. In fact, Eileen has sharper facial features, and her severe hairstyle can make her look a little intimidating, so we play with a few softer options. Eileen also has to brush the flour out of her hair every day, so I tell her that as she brushes, she is to think carefully about initiating interactions with people she’s attracted to and visualizing herself as that cool, composed, and confident young woman she wants to be, perhaps repeating a mantra to herself with each brush stroke.
In addition, I give Eileen a recipe for a hair rinse: Combine 1 cup of dried stinging nettle leaves and 2 cups of apple cider vinegar in a large bottle. Keep the bottle tightly capped and in a cool dark place for two weeks, then strain out the nettles. Combine 1 tablespoon of the vinegar mixture with 1 cup of water and pour it through the hair after washing and rinsing it. Towel dry—any residual vinegar smell will disappear after the hair thoroughly dries. Any hair-helping herbs could be used, but the nettle would be free for Eileen since it grows all over our village area as a weed. However, its Mars energies will also help Eileen cultivate some productive assertiveness. In addition, nettle has some powers of protection and lust, so when Eileen thinks of the qualities she desires in a partner and those she’d like to be protected against as she uses the rinse (as I instruct her to do), she’ll also get a bit of a magical double-whammy.
Finally, Eileen confides that she is worried about her acne—one reason she feels more comfortable letting boys approach her is that she instantly knows her red spots don’t bother them. So we come up with a skin care regimen. The smith’s wife happens to be a very talented and creative soap maker, who recently has been making a nice light goats milk and oatmeal soap. I recommend that Eileen offer to help the smith’s wife make soap in exchange for a few bars—the woman can’t quite keep up with demand on her own and it will give Eileen an excuse to spend time at the smithy. I tell Eileen she is to wash her face every morning and night with a little bit of the soap and lots of water. Once a week, she is to scrub her face with a tablespoon of brown sugar moistened with a little water. Finally, I tell her to use a raw honey mask two or three times a week (1-2 tablespoons of raw honey smeared even over the face and allowed to sit 15-25 minutes). Together these should keep her face clean, exfoliated, and moisturized and should reduce the frequency and intensity of her breakouts. I also give her an ‘internal potion,’ telling her to gather up a bunch of red clover blossoms, dry them, crumble them up, and make a tea from them by steeping a couple teaspoons worth in a cup of hot water and drinking this tea two or three times a day. The smithy’s pasture just so happens to be full of red clover, so I tell Eileen it might be best to ask the smith if she can pick clover blossoms there on Tuesday afternoons. This is another one of the magical double whammies. Clover blossoms are great for the skin already, but their mercurial energy correspondence will also help boost that conversational confidence Eileen’s seeking, and the confidence angle will be strengthened by collecting the blossoms on Mars’s day.
Reminding Eileen to smile and say hello to the apprentice and other boys she’s interested in, I get Eileen all bundled up and send her happily on her way.