Thursday, March 4, 2010

Just Scrying Around

(The image is a painting by John William Waterhouse "The Crystal Ball.")

Appalachian  witches (aka granny women) practiced divination  or scrying  by reading tea leaves, cards, and clouds. They might also make use of bowls of dirt or water.

They wouldn't call it scrying, however, according to my friend Byron, a hereditary Appalachian witch (as well as a Wiccan.) They might say 'taking a look' or 'getting a knowing.'

There's an Appalachian witch in Under the Skin --my work in progressHer name is Amarantha and she lives in Hot Springs, NC, back in 1887. She has a special little pool in the woods that she uses  for her 'seeing' but she can also use whatever's handy. Here it's a bowl of sweet oil.

I went back and set myself at the little table with my elbows on either side of the bowl and my face resting in my hands where I could peer into the  sweet oil. 

Used to be, it took a long time for the pictures to come. I would wait and the least little thing would pull my mind away -- a fly buzzing, a worrisome thought -- but now it seems as if I can go to that place between the worlds in no more than a few heartbeats' time.

I let my eyes go foggy, looking without trying to see, as you might say. At first, there was just the rainbow shimmer on the surface of the oil then, as my breath hit it, lines and patterns grew, one inside another, and the pictures begun to come. 


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Pat in east TN said...

Oh Vicki, how you love to tease us with your future books!

Reader Wil said...

This is already so wonderful to read that I cannot wait to read the whole book! I also like that at the end of your novels there is already the first chapter of your next book. Thanks for your visit!

Vicki Lane said...

Well, Pat and Wil -- I was doing a little research as I was working on this scene and came across this gorgeous picture. I just had to use it for a blog post --

But, yes, it's a tease, just like those chapters at the back of the book. (That, however, is the publisher's decision, not mine.)

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Granny Younger knows Amarantha; they've been walking the same trails, catching babies, and scrying for a long time in that timeless realm of the Appalachian imagination. I'm glad to welcome Amarantha into mine. Granny's right glad to have her.
Love Waterhouse.

Vicki Lane said...

Thanks, Kay! I do love those granny women! I'd rather look like the lady in the painting, however -- I really love that painting.

It's seemed lonely here with so few comments after so many in the past few days. Then I found out that my links on other people's blogs aren't updating -- as far as the links go - they're showing yesterday's post. Which makes me wonder if this happens often and how many posts of other people I may have missed.

Ah, technology!

willow said...

The subject of scrying is so fascinating. This reminds me of that scene in Cold Mountain, where Nicole Kidman is lowered backward into the well to look into the water.

The Waterhouse piece is amazing!

Martin H. said...


Looks as though you're blog has been struck by the 'Google' bug. I've had this happen to me a number of times. The first time I wondered if it was something I'd said!

Fascinating post - now I can see it - I'm looking forward to reading 'Under the Skin'.

Vicki Lane said...

So it does, Willow!

Glad to be back, Martin!

Carol@ Writers Porch/ Book House said...

And just how long is it before we get to read "the rest of the story" ? I love Granny women!I thought the power went out when I couldn't find a post from you yesterday! :)

Vicki Lane said...

If nothing don't happen,Carol,I'll get UNDER THE SKIN finished this month. It will be out at sometime in 2011.

No power outage -- just Blogger jerking my chain.

Star said...

I've just got this post. I'm not sure what you mean by the links but maybe it's to do with receiving notification of new posts? If so then I suffer too. I have a long list of posts to read but on the right-hand side of the list I don't get all the posts, just some of them.
I like to scry but the last time I did it, I didn't like what I saw and it transpired that I was right so it put me off doing it.
Blessings, Star

Vagabonde said...

The painting is gorgeous – such a beautiful lady – such an elegant dress. I also like the bit about the story. It sounds very promising.

Vicki Lane said...

Hi, Star -- Of course it's my opinion that in scrying, one sees what one already knows or intuits. If one is going through a bad patch -- the news is likely depressing.

I,too, love that dress, Vagabonde! I like all of Waterhouse's spaintings -- I have a poster of his famous Lily Maid of Astolot in my work room. But this is my very favorite for the strong colors and repeated shapes.

jennyfreckles said...

Wonderful painting, and an intriguing glimpse into your story. I'm truly glad I can't see the future though!

Vicki Lane said...

I wouldn't want to either, Jenny Freckles. At least not all of it. How dull life would be with no surprises!

Tipper said...

Makes me want to know what she saw!!!