Village Witch: Scenario A.2, The Miller’s Daughter

And here’s my response to the second part of the scenario!

The next day, the smith’s apprentice, Jock, comes to you. He’s a handsome but extremely bashful young man. After much stammering and hesitation, he finally asks you for a love spell to attract a certain young woman. After some discreet questioning, he confesses that the young woman he’s interested in is Eileen. How do you handle his request?

After meeting Eileen’s Jock in person now, it is achingly clear that the young man is suffering from some fairly major confidence issues. His stammer is a little more than that—the boy has a stutter that intensifies dramatically when he is nervous. Consequently, he’s become more withdrawn than his peers and that has escalated into some pretty severe shyness around others and a reticence to put himself into unknown situations in general. As Jock eventually manages to tell me over a cup of my tea (dang, I’m starting to think it’s as good as Veritaserum!), he’s been pining after Eileen for months, but she’s never noticed him—even when they were alone in the smithy she just sat quietly working on some knitting. After that, his agony got worse and worse until he finally worked up the courage to come see me.

This boy is completely breaking my heart. It would be so easy and so gratifying to whip up some concoction, tell him it absolutely guarantees his success in one endeavor of his choice, and tell him to down it and go ask Eileen if she’d like to see the traveling play with him…but this would be a very immediate gratification and wouldn’t help poor Jock learn anything or grow in any meaningful way, not to mention it’s in the greyer shades of ethics.

So Jock and I have a little chat and I learn why Jock is so fixated on Eileen. It apparently started last summer when he saw Eileen and a gaggle of her girlfriends returning from a swim in the river. Eileen had uncharacteristically let her hair down to dry, and Jock found he couldn’t stop thinking about her red gold waves and how they curled around her face and how that face was laughing and teasing as she convinced her friends to go pick plums afterwards. (I silently congratulate myself on helping Eileen play up her hair…quite serendipitous!) Whenever he saw her after that, he noticed that Eileen was often the brain behind her friends fun schemes and that she also usually chose to do some form of work and make it fun, such as picking those plums on that summer day. He admired how easy that confidence with her friends came, and how assured she was among the boys her age, too. (Another congratulations on encouraging Eileen to develop her confidence!) He loved that she had the self-assurance to tell off the boys who tried to steal kisses or leer at her, but it frightened him, too. After all, his friends were all cool, suave men who didn’t stutter. Surely Eileen wouldn’t even have time for him—something that came true when she ignored him the entire time he was shoeing her father’s cart horse.

Jock seemed to attribute everything about himself back to what he perceived to be his only defining characteristic: his stutter. Worse, Jock thought that this only characteristic was a bad one. So Jock and I had a long conversation about his other great abilities. For example—knowing that Eileen loved how kind Jock was to her horse, I asked Jock how the way he shod horses differed from that of the smith. When he said that the technique he used was the same as the smith, but that he actively did what he could to make the horse calm I said that was wonderfully kind, which was a beautiful part of who he was. We came up with a few more things to consider as core characteristics. Then I asked Jock to write them down on little scraps of paper that I then folded up and put in a jar. I added a sachet of dried meadowsweet, cloves, holly, blessed thistle, rose, and violets to the jar: two Jupiter herbs to help encourage Jock to expand his sense of self, two Mars herbs to help him assert his strengths and love himself, and two Venus herbs to help him develop his strengths in a balance attractive to women. I put these same herbs in a second sachet along with a chip of amethyst which—in addition to being a Jupiter stone and thus encouraging of the expansion necessary here is also a stone long associated with sobriety; after all, Jock is a pretty well-balanced individual, though his gentleness far skewed into shyness. I didn’t want Jock becoming too drunk on self-improvement and becoming an overly assertive boor!

I told Jock to keep the sachet with the amethyst on his person at all times, and to sleep with it under his pillow. At the end of every day before sleeping, he was to think of one new self-defining characteristic he displayed that day, write it down, and add it to the jar, upturning it at the end of every month and reviewing all the different, wonderful things that makes him who he is.

To help Jock with his stutter itself, I recommended that he go ask the priests in the village church if he might join them in choir practice once a week. I told Jock that I thought that choral singing and learning how to control his vocal chords and breath might help him minimize his stutter. As the priest in charge of music at the church and I are good friends I knew he’d welcome Jock, so I assured the boy that the father would welcome him even if Jock never wanted to perform. That priest cannot pass up the opportunity to teach anyone how to use his or her voice as an instrument, after all. Finally, I told Jock that he was a fantastic boy and that any young girl would be lucky to have him…but that he’d never get to know anyone if he didn’t make himself known. So I advised him that the next time he saw Eileen—or any girl he was interested in—unsurrounded by her friends, he should say hello—stutter be damned!

As he left, I found I couldn’t quite help myself and succumbed a little to my first temptation: I mentioned that I thought Tuesdays would be a lucky day for him to work outside and that he should ask the smith if perhaps he could dedicate Tuesday afternoons to work on the fence surrounding the smith’s clover-filled pasture for the rest of the summer.

I hope getting the newly confident Jock and Eileen alone together will finally give them the opportunity and ability to talk to each other and get their feelings sorted!

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