I’m Hazel, and I have known you forever. Maybe you think you can harness my power? For years, your hands have held my forks, waiting for magic, for me to twitch. Dowsing, divining, or water witching. I’ll dance, ‘wyche’, or bend in a ‘wicke’ if I feel the life source deep in the earth. My limbs jerk alive if I sense a spring.
I’m Hamamelis Virginiana. When Autumn’s called time on summer blooms, I startle from hedgerows like yellow confetti. Fungus gnats. Hoverflies. Parasitic wasps. I’m a magnet for cold-weather pollinators. A temptress to those running Cupid’s errands. I dare the fall with velvet clusters, with fruit that’s formed from last year’s flowers. Capsules, ripening until they pop. Seeds, catapulted thirty feet. I reproduce. I nourish wildlife. I’m Witch Hazel the miracle tree, and I’ve always treated you well.
Afflicted by haemorrhoids or inflammation? I’ll reliably soothe your irritation, reduce the swelling, relieve your itching. A spell of calm on your angry skin. Tannins extracted from twigs and bark are distilled with alcohol to brew up a potion. I’m the only witch in the U.S.A to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Over one million gallons sold each year. I’m the world-famous Witch Hazel – and I swear you’ll come to know my brand.
Because I have witnessed your history: your treatment of healers, daughters of Gaia. Women with birthmarks, or simply unmarried. Black Magic. Poisonings. Lust for the devil – your false accusations made with convictions. Natural disasters blamed as hexes. Women on the margins branded as witches. But misogyny’s the canker left untreated when innocent folk are gaoled or tortured. Strangled. Garrotted. Hanged, or drowned. Burned dead or alive at the stake.
I’m Hazel, witch doctor, but also I’m patient. The time is just ripe for a sprinkling of magic. I’ve waited – for ages – made you a surprise, and you know how I love the shade. Could you guess how my roots stretch to connect with your poisons? The toxins you’ve dumped in the earth and her rivers. Assiduous, deciduous, I sucked them all up, to course through my sap, rest dormant in twigs – it’s the season to reap what you’ve sowed. An anointment with ointment. Witch Hazel’s revenge. Remember, how you sent those witches to blister? Now it’s your turn to feel the burn.
Kate Axeford (she/ hers) Social works by day and plays with words by night. She lives mostly in her head but pays for a roof in Brighton, UK. Her words appear in Ellipsis Zine, Fatal Flaw Lit, Splonk and Janus Lit amongst others. She has been shortlisted in the Bridport Flash Fiction Competition and longlisted for the Reflex Fiction Prize and Bath Flash Fiction Award. She has previously been a Retreat West Themed Flash Competition winner. She’s a bit rubbish at tweeting but if she does it’s from @KateAxeford