My local herbalist is a hoot. She is almost never in her shop. Instead, a man her age is usually holding court. He is always there. So much so that I imagined the shop was his. But seeing how obsequious he becomes in her presence; you and I know what’s really going on! He has a quiet and slightly reverent style, and I assume he is her husband. And she, well…nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
My wife thinks he’s gay—par for the course…but she thinks that of many of us it seems. I always thought women had good gaydar, especially one such as my wife, a self-identified “fag-hag”…and yes, I do know that language is no longer acceptable.
Anyway, I’ve been meeting my herbal needs in this wonderful local shop for a decade. It is styled like an apothecary and stepping into it is to step back in time. There is a soft light inside, and every square inch of the shop is packed with goodies—they even sell loose herbs from old apothecary herbs, and scoop it out and weight it on an old-fashioned scale in front of you. Beautiful.
But in all this time, 10 years, it was only the man who was in attendance.
Curiously enough, it is only since I began my formal journey into the feminine that she has been there. And now, even if he is present, he respectfully leaves the shop floor when I am speaking to the Mistress of the shop…and the shop is hers, not his, she has informed me, and which she had no problem telling me in front of him.
We got to talking about an herbalism business that I would like to buy, and she offered to sell me hers, and this got the old conversational juices flowing. After all, this witch needs something to do. Idle hands are the devil’s play things–even more so when they are a witch’s hands.
Comparing notes on various herbs, various potions, various oils and tinctures…me trying to find the names of obscure plants in her language, and finding common ground with latin names.
“I am a witch,” I say to her.
“I too am a witch,” she says smiling back at me. This is two witches flirting. Her husband looks on in horror. We discuss a number of obscure herbs and their effects. The topic turns philosophical. Witchcraft and philosophy seem to go hand in hand. In Italy, every town seems to have at least one witch. Mine has at least 3, plus 2 on the outskirts, all with shops.
“Siamo quello che respiriamo, quello che mangiamo, e quello che crediamo,” she says in her beautiful native tongue. “We are what we breathe, what we eat, and what we believe.” The conversation had gone from skin oil, the rejuvenating and healing properties of sea buckthorn and calendula, had moved on to a range of tinctures that stimulate youthful skin from within, and as expected, this is Italy after all, the subject turned to food.
What we eat is who we become, quite literally. The things we eat are quite possibly the most single long-term determinant of our health and well-being. I am writing a book on the topic, and currently doing hours on my version of witchcraft—it is amazing how much the threads of this discipline are now institutionalized. Will let you know how it goes.
As a trans person, I am kind of caught up in the whole concept of inner beauty. Hey, we work with what we’ve got. But the idea that what we eat is what we feed…or should I see who we feed. What version of the self?
What she said about belief, however, really has me going. What we believe is who we are. I can think of how true this is on so many levels. It has to do with the energy we put out—what we put out is what we get back, what goes around comes around; what we seek is what we find; and the things we believe become the lens through which we interpret the world—and that is very much our truth, our weltanschauung, or world-view.
I believe it. It is called manifesting. And I am tired of manifesting the expectations of others. It’s time to breathe.