The Little Old Weed and Oma Apfel

On this blog, I write a lot about my journey through mental illness, the state of Paganism presently, and also what Paganism has the potential to become. I share my experiences in folk Magick and also tell stories of my childhood. This is something completely different. This is a simple little story intended to teach a lesson to those struggling to find their roots. I’ve always been enchanted by fables such as ones told by Aesop, so I wanted to join in and contribute something of my own. As the cold winter begins to roll in, many of us feel the stranglehold all too well. The winter blues begin to set in and we have choices on how we handle such things. We can either find something create to do, share our time with friends, organize our Magickal cabinets, allow ourselves time to journey inward and seek out introspective thoughts for consideration, or we can succumb to the darkness and let it consume us. The latter is probably true for some folks that read my blog and I wanted to provide some insight if you’re like me and have felt useless or unsure of your direction. Anyone who gives enough effort can find untold treasures within themselves that they can share with the rest of the world to obtain some measure of happiness and purpose in their lives. This is a story of such character and is given to you, the reader, as a wellspring of inspiration during the bleak months ahead. Thank you for reading along and sharing in this sojourn.

 

Once upon a time, there was a sprawling ancient forest that extended as far as the eye could see. Hugged around this forest were tremendous blue mountains that projected into the lofty clouds that gave way to an unfathomable sky. The forest surrendered to a fertile meadow that overlooked a humble town whose hearth fires occasionally speckled the zephyr. Nature seemed to be at Her most mirthful when She created this place, for flowers of every color and hue seemed to laugh into being as they sprang up from the dark earth beneath. The landscape was a spectacle of life, teaming with endless plant and animal life. The town was renowned for being one of the happiest places in the territory. It was true that the people of the town suffered from the usual daily annoyances, yet surrounded by such natural glory, no dreariness could inhabit their hearts and minds for very long. The folk of the land were pioneers, stout and sturdy people whose laughter rose up and echoed in the surrounding meadow, giving a new dimension of life to the simple little burrow of which they called home.

The meadow was just like any other meadow except that it possessed a dazzling array of plant life. There were blossoms that shot up of pinks, blues, reds, and yellow. Lush and inconceivably enchanting were the plants that dominated the fields. They seemed to have a life of their own and it was said through local legend that the plants were able to speak to certain individuals who took time to listen to what the local flora had to say. It didn’t take a wise person to realize the riches that the meadow held, as the townspeople would often go into the meadow to collect the blossoms, buds, and flowers that made their home. These remarkable bouquets adorned the tables, doorways, and hearts of all of the homes within the town. Unprecedented festivals and celebrations of life and wealth dotted the calendar of the people who made the valley their home. There was so much life to celebrate and to hold dear it was no wonder that this place was known as one of the happiest places in the land.

The townsfolk unknowingly were being watched by the creatures who inhabited the woods and prairies. Every beast, plant, gust of wind, tree, and stone had a life and the intelligence to observe the town and the events that went on. The plants and animals of the area were proud to have such a special purpose and to be able to bring such joy to the folks of the valley. Life was good for everyone. Even the flowers themselves, who were harvested for the festivals, took delight in their role and swayed happily in the gentle breezes that coursed through the mountains and cascaded through the lowland basin. The flowers were often the most talkative creatures aside from the birds who flew over head. They were constantly preening themselves and each other through word and thought. The loveliest roses bowed to the magnificent daffodils, the peony sang praise to the Hydrangeas, and the sultry Dahlia’s flirted with the the carnations. Even in the dark of night, the blossoms chattered among themselves at who would be selected for the sacred role of bringing untold bliss to the people. This ability to bring euphoria, even in the darkest of times, was viewed as a coveted form of Magick and was respected by all who made their home in the basin. Flowers were undoubtedly the most important source of life, aside from the crops who sustained life, and were treated with such respect that even the largest of  critters were careful not to step on any of them for fear of invoking bad luck and discord.

Not everything was peaceful in this meadow. Not everyone lived happily or even well. There were the weeds of the meadow whose ugly appearance was considered an eyesore. The beasts of the field regularly trampled on them. The people of the village would often come up to the prairie and rip those weeds out by their roots to make sure that there was even more room for the delicate, charming flowers who populated the swells of earth. The weeds were, despite the abuse, a tenacious group of folks, though. While clinging to life, these weeds made the best of their life while either being mistreated or wholly ignored by the populace. The flowers, despite their vast beauty were often spiteful to the weeds and told them nasty, horrible things that made even the strongest greenery creep along sadly and seem to wilt. One such weed was probably the most hated in all the land. It was one of the ugliest and awful looking creations that Nature had ever conceived. The deer, snaking along their hidden paths, often crushed it yet the weed would spring back to it’s original shape. The little long-suffering weed had a name and it was Purslane.

Purslane was probably the most hated flora above all in the wood and field. Her appalling look, alien to the rest of the landscape, stood out like a sore thumb as she winded her path between the Hyacinths and Begonias. She did not bare a single eye-catching flower, although she did produce small yellow flowers that were compared to rotten mustard by a neighboring Robin who couldn’t seem to keep his mouth shut. Never growing straight or tall like the rest of the plants, her chubby exterior was considered an eyesore and no person ever paid her a compliment. Purslane endured the abuse silently and never shed a tear or fought back. Some nights were unbearable, as the cruel words echoed through her mind and haunted her in her dreams. People, animals, plants, even the wind its self would seem to take delight in her suffering. Often, she found herself spiraling down a dark thought path, shaking in the morning dew as the sun betrayed her over and over by exposing her frightful appearance in the light of day. Every morning, afternoon, and evening drew on in unending pain as the creatures of the woods, mountains, field, and even the sky continued to chide her. Some creatures even asked her why she even bothered to grow at all. Purslane’s only fields were the gentle rains that sustained her, the warm rays of sunlight, and the dark nourishing soil beneath her that clung to her roots.

Purslane could have chosen to stop growing, and she could have even shot back a clever remark at the individuals who decided to make the drama of life most painful. She did not, however,  join in the antagonism. It seemed pointless to argue against so many who seemed to have her pegged as useless and unsightly. Purslane kept to herself, a hushed prisoner to the malevolence that infected the world around her. It seemed to be her lot in life to be pounded down and defined as worthless. Perhaps this is why Nature even bothered to create her in the first place, so that everyone would have some one to blame and laugh at. Year after year passed, and Purslane started to believe what the others said. Despite this overwhelming pain inside, Purslane kept growing and feeling like there was some other purpose for her that was beyond being an ornament in a wreath or an adornment in a bridal bouquet. Somewhere, deep down, Purslane knew that there was a reason that she existed that was beyond her imagination and despite her endless growing in pursuit to find that role, Purslane kept pushing forward.

One bright, sunny day, Purslane looked up from her toils of growing and being a weed and saw hundreds of birds rushing towards the meadow. It wasn’t an unusual sight to see a few birds, yet this flock of birds were messengers of every kind. Ravens, robins, meadow larks, and chickadees flew over head and didn’t bother to even stop and lend a cruel word or nasty thought to dear Purslane. The little weed thought this was quite odd and made sure to quiet her thoughts so she could hear what was going on. Flowers and blossoms and even the field mice chattered among themselves as the birds told a terrifying story of what was going on in the village. It had been quiet lately, the townsfolk hadn’t been coming into the fields very much and it seemed eerie to Purslane that the normally jubilant activities had all but ceased as of late. The birds told of a mysterious illness that was sweeping through the town and crippling the inhabitants. Some of the elderly had already died and were laid to rest in a quiet little cemetery. The usual festivities were put on hold during the epidemic until a cure could be found. Doctors from all around the land had tried and failed at curing the town and hope was beginning to dwindle.

The Raven, who had been the biggest and strongest of the messengers was asked by the ancient Elk of the wood if he would carry word to Oma Apfel. While she was not a doctor, she might be the only one who knew what to do with the situation at hand. She was very old and no one in the land knew when Oma came into the territory, she simply seemed to be as ancient as the forest its self and there was legend that she was one of the original creators of the world. Oma Apfel, although very eccentric, was widely respected as a healer, wise-woman, and also a mystic of sorts. When great tragedies reared their ugly heads in the past, every one, from the smallest babe to the colossal black bear, knew to call upon Oma for help. Famine, disputes, wars, and illness were all in the realm of her expertise. It had been many years since anyone had seen Oma and it was not certain that even the clever Raven could find her in the thicket of the hoary wood. It was believed to be the only way to restore the health to the village and keep the balance of Magick in the land. Everyone who was able bodied took up the search for the great medicine woman.

A few more desperate weeks past and even more townsfolk had contracted the strange illness. The meadow was a desolate place as most of the animals and insects had taken up the great shakedown for the wise woman. It was becoming bleaker by the moment and Purslane was getting most of the attention. It wasn’t the kind of gentle regard that she craved, it was the unending scrutiny of her existence that was made all the more darker by her fellow flora.

“You’re rather ratty looking today, Purslane, why don’t you just spare us all the eyesore and rot away?” Nipped the Snapdragon as it swayed in the ever-growing cold that penetrated the lonely field. Since the illness had taken root, it seemed like even the sun refused to shine in the valley.

“Purslane! You’re touching my roots! How dare you!” Yelled the Violet, she shook in the breeze.

“This illness is probably caused by Purslane and her wretched kind. We should make the oxen from the town trample all of them before all of our precious villagers are sick.” Snapped the ill-tempered Daisy.

Purslane felt like she wanted to sink into the fertile earth that had bore her into the world. All she could do was wait. Time seemed to be ever fleeting as the cries of those sick and dying crept along the wind and made even the stones weep.

“You should all keep yer stringy mouths shut, ye nasty lot!” A bright voice suddenly shot out from the miserable atmosphere. There was a tiny gnome clad in brown and black. He did not display the same cheery look as the rest of the gnomes who made their home in the thicket. He was a stark opoo “All I’ve been listening to all week is the whining and moaning of you flowers at this poor weed.”

The outspoken gnome was known as Hard Wrench. Everyone in the land kept their distance from this gnome as he was known as a humbug. He was sort of an exile among his kind and he was usually known as a bit of a shrewd trickster. Purslane could scarcely believe that anyone, let alone Hard Wrench, had bothered to stand up for her and stop the constant onslaught of toxic words. Hard Wrench stopped and surveyed the lush foliage that made up the weed known as Purslane. “Don’t you mind those pollen heads, all they know is what they’ve been taught. You’re kind of different, I notice you suffer in silence. You should tell them off once in a while. It would feel good.” Spat the gnome as he cleaned off some of the dirt that had been kicked on to Purslane during the episode.

Purslane blushed and shook herself, she was unused to the attention being paid to her by the scruffy looking gnome. “I couldn’t do that to them. I don’t want to be like them. I’m something else.”

“Eh? Well, yer better off not emulating that crowd. Look at them now… all sufferin’ as bad as the people in the town. Their purpose is robbed from them. It serves them right, the heady bunch.” Hard Wrench surveyed.

Purslane regarded the gnome thoughtfully, “Why did you stand up for me? No one likes me or any other weeds.”

“I’ve never been a fan of the majority, weedy. Besides, we gnomes know better, all plants were created for a purpose. Nature has Her way of doing things and making magick. Some of them seem to exist only to serve the role of dunce!” He shouted in the direction of the Snapdragon who puffed up her blossoms and turned away.

“You really think I was created for a reason?” Purslane perked up. The feeling inside her was foreign. She wasn’t familiar with the excitement that was beginning to stir within her. It was almost scary and she felt the fear begin to build within her.

“You should ask Oma Apfel,” Hard Wrench offered. “She would know. She is known as a two-headed woman.”

Purslane emitted a tiny shriek. “She has two heads?!”

“No, no. It’s a term used to describe a woman who has her head in this world and the spirit world. Such people are blessed with a certain wisdom that can discover things that aren’t obvious. If anyone could find a purpose for you, it would be Oma Apfel. When she comes, and she will, I will ask her for you and tell you what I find out.” Hard Wrench said as he picked up his tiny pack and brushed a stray lock of his heard aside.

“Thank you, Hard Wrench!” Purslane said and went to hug him with her prickly branches.

“WOAH! There, there, weedy,” Hard Wrench said with a laugh and still all the while artfully maintaining his sour expression. “People are going to get the wrong idea… they’ll start thinking I’ve gone soft. Can’t have that, I still think most of the folks in this wood are daft. Keep your prickles to yerself.” He patted her leaf softly and carefully pushed her branches back.

Purslane smiled to herself, maybe things could get better. She watched as Hard Wrench descended into the thick under scrub that had become her home over the years.

After some time, there was a trumpeting that roared from the wood. A large entourage of creatures, birds, and insects were processing from the woods, following a cart drawn by a magnificent, fluffy white unicorn. An elderly woman, cloaked in deep red and adorned with an abundance garnet jewelry and shining blue eyes made her way across the prairie. The lordly Elk hopped behind her and the immense black bear nodded his head in excited approval. Everyone, even the stones were singing and rejoicing at the sight of Oma Apfel returning to the land. The cart rolled to a stop and kindly Oma stepped out to embrace every single creature that had gathered to meet her upon arrival. Purslane had the delight to be parked over by Oma and while most flowers would be shrieking their crowns off, Purslane felt honored. She got to see first hand the lady that had the entire wood abuzz. Purslane noticed that Oma Apfel creaked like an old tree when she moved. She had many bags in her cart and immediately began handing out presents to those who had gathered. There seemed to be a giant that accompanied Oma, a very beautiful yet muscular maiden with striking icy eyes who carried a sword and shield. Purslane had never seen a warrior quite like her. There was something that told Purslane that this was not a giant, yet something else that was not obvious. Even the unicorn that pulled the cart seemed like she was enshrouded in some kind of faerie Magick.

The unicorn bowed her head as the Warrior undid the tack that kept her bound to the cart. The two exchanged a look between them and the Warrior sighed heavily as the unicorn began to talk to everyone who had gathered.

“Hello everyone, I’m Shining Qui-” The unicorn was quickly shut down by the lady Warrior who plugged her mouth shut with a juicy carrot. “Mmm… this will do.” The unicorn began to contentedly munch. For a moment, the unicorn did not appear to be a unicorn, she seemed for just a split second to be nothing more than a one-horned goat. Surely there was no end to the Magick that Oma Apfel commanded.

“Eat that, Quill and please spare us all the speech. I’ve heard it one too many times and it gives me a headache. Oma Apfel can announce herself. ” Snorted the Warrior who surveyed the surroundings. She was ever at the ready for any attack that may present its self. Quill laid down by the Warrior and happily munched away at the bag of vegetables that had been provided. The Warrior sighed and stared at the unicorn and shook her head.

Quill spoke between mouthfuls of heavenly tasting carrot, “I was just trying to help, Bry-” The lady Warrior poked the Unicorn hard and Quill emitted a squeaking noise unfitting of a majestic Unicorn. It sounded like a common goat, noted Purslane.

Oma laughed at the sight of the two friends and offered a warm smile to all those gathered in the clearing.  Her face took on more reserve and she spoke in contrast to the vision of the antics of the Unicorn and the Warrior, she spoke in a hushed tone. “I hear you have a nasty disease that has taken hold of the town. Your townsfolk are being picked off like flies, huh?”

“The towns people are dying! They no longer come into the meadows to choose us for their bouquets and honor us in the fertility festivals! We’re being ignored.” whined a particularly dashing looking tulip.

Hard Wrench had come back from his journey in the hills upon hearing that Oma Apfel was in the area. He heard the ignorant words of the tulip and immediately began spouting a litany of curse words that made even wincing Oma creak in shock.

“Hard Wrench! That’s enough!” Yelled the lady Warrior clad in armor who was camped next to the Unicorn and trying to avoid being covered in half-eaten vegetables as the beast stuffed it’s self silly.

“Fine, fine. Ye get the privilege of being with Oma and you forget what it’s like, lady. I get to stay with these pollen brains and listen to their chortling and carrying ons. We have a bad epidemic on our hands. If folks don’t begin performing rituals and maintaining the Magickal balance, Chaos is going to rear His ugly head and we’ll have even more to deal with, you remember what happened last time, don’t ye, Bry-” Hard Wrench coughed as an orange was pitched at him and hit him in his gut. The lady Warrior smiled wickledly, pleased with herself and her work. “Oooph!” he stammered as he got his footing and shot the lady Warrior a harsh stare.

“Honestly, it’s amazing anything gets done in this land with all the bickering going on between you all.” Oma stated as she brushed a stray wisp of white hair back into her cloak. Upon her face there was a knowing and wry grin that warmed even the hardest of hearts.”Alright, let’s get down to business. I’ve already seen the town and I have a pretty good idea of what ails them. There is something growing in this meadow that may be of use to us and a potential cure. ” Oma motioned for the Warrior to strap a leash to the unicorn. “Take Quill and have her sniff out what plant we need. Don’t let her eat it again, it was rather embarrassing last time.”

“Yes,” snorted the lady Warrior, “I remember,” she said as she easily pulled the reluctant Shining Quill away from her feast of carrots and turnips.

“I’m beginning to feel a bit like a pig looking for truffles, guys. I know there’s a charm cast upon on me to find Magick, yet this is getting ridiculous…” The fluffy unicorn complained as she obediently began to sniff the ground in search of the herb or flower that would be the life saving cure.

“If the horseshoe fits, Hooves.” Chuckled the lady Warrior. The two made their way around the meadow. There was no such luck. Oma herself began to poke around and question every bit of flora she could find. Purslane watched on in silence.

A few more hours passed and the situation grew even more dire as the assembled adventurers failed to find a plant that would act as a suitable cure for the disease. Hard Wrench, the lady Warrior, Shining Quill the Unicorn, and Oma Apfel all met up back at the wagon. The wise old crone sighed and closed her eyes as if she was asking the universe for a solution. The lady Warrior sat down and stared at the earth beneath her boots, her head hanging crestfallen. Even Quill had lost a bit of her twinkle as she sat down next to the pile of turnips and carrots that were still littering the ground after her initial sloppy feast.  Hard Wrench packed his gnomish pipe and began to light it. He twirled his dark beard in his tiny fingers and exhaled loudly in frustration at the situation. As he did so, he took notice of Purslane who was still trapped under the oaken wagon wheels of Oma Apfel’s cart.

“Oma,” Hard Wrench began. The time-worn gnome cleared his throat and respectfully nudged the old woman.

“Yes, Hard Wrench,” Oma said as her eyes moved back and forth under their lids as if she was in some kind of otherworldly trance. Hard Wrench was internally fighting a nasty old ball of nerves that settled in his stomach. It wasn’t like him to be weary of anyone, except that Oma Apfel was one he held in such high regard. Oma’s voice was warm and welcoming and won over his fears as she pulled him into a friendly embrace. The stout gnome felt insignificant compared to the crone energy of the prudent old woman. Faintly, he could smell the scent of apples around her as sweet as the spring sun.

“There is one more plant we did not consider. She is not very well liked here, yet I know her to be a good character. Her name is Purslane.”

“PURSLANE!” snapped the meadow almost in unison. “She’s nothing but a nasty, ugly weed!”

Oma Apfel put up her hands and her voice rang out in a resounding boom. “ENOUGH OF THAT!” Her voice was clear yet stern and instantly the crowd went silent. There would be no bickering in front of one of the ancient souls who called upon the first Magick. “Where is this poor creature?”

“Right there, under your cart wheel.” Hard Wrench winced, he was almost embarrassed for Purslane. What a horrible situation, he wondered if Purslane was not tempted to join in the hatred and snap back. True to her nature, Purslane was under the cart keeping silent. Hard Wrench swallowed roughly and motioned for Oma Apfel to follow his lead.

Oma gasped and at once called for Quill and the lady Warrior to move the cart at once. They quickly compiled with Oma’s orders and both stood back so that the Crone could properly regard the humble weed.

“What is your name, dear?” Oma said as she bent over. Her limbs and joints were creaking something fierce. It sounded as if a very large and archaic tree had bent over to shield her, Purslane, from the glaring eyes of the denizens of the prairie.

“Purslane,” the little weed said in a whisper. She was almost heady with excitement. She had never had the spotlight on her in such a way. There was something about the many deep wrinkles and cheery rosy cheeks, and the flash of blue and green in the old woman’s eyes that warmed the little weed’s being. She felt that she could instantly trust this soul that had looked out for her safety and now spoke to her with a tone of respect.

“Little Purslane, who are you?” Oma said thoughtfully as she carefully inspected Purslane for any damage from her cart.  The kindly old woman touched her leaves and stems and seemed to be handling her as if she was glass and might break at any moment. After all the stomping and horrible words, Purslane might as well been made Queen for a day with how she felt right now. It was alien, perhaps a little scary at times. Deep down, Purslane felt herself wanting to talk and held herself a little higher despite the trauma caused by the old woman’s cart.

“What do I do? They say I am a nasty weed. The others in the meadow, Oma.” Purslane said, there was fear in the young weed’s voice.

“That’s not what I was looking for, Purslane. Only you can define yourself. Tell me who you are, without thinking of what the others said. Who are you and what do you want to do?” Oma Apfel said with reverence in her voice.

Purslane could feel the generosity and sincerity coming off the old woman in waves. No one had ever asked Purslane to define herself before and so the question rolled around for a few silent moments. Quill the Unicorn had fallen asleep and began twitching her leg as if caught in a dream. The lady Warrior sat intently watched the interaction between Purslane and Oma Apfel. Something was going on here, noted the astute Warrior. Oma Apfel had chosen her to be an apprentice, which was initially a surprise to the lady Warrior who had always previously been known for her strength and prowess on the battlefield. Oma had seen past brute strength and saw a capable woman who could command the respect of many with her actions. The lady Warrior was just beginning to see this for herself and smiled as she realized that she had been in Purslane’s position once before. Watching this interaction between the two souls proved to be a look in the mirror to how far she had come in her pursuit of defining herself.

Purslane spoke slowly and made sure that her voice lifted up so that the meadow could hear her. She had spent so long being afraid and silent that she knew that it was inevitable that she would be hated for what she was so she might as well make sure the entirety of the prairie knew what she felt on the inside. There was no downside to sharing it. She would be picked on, she would be hurt. Now was her moment to shine for Oma Apfel and perhaps the last chance she would ever have to find out for herself.

“I want to be a healer. I listen to the bickering of those in this place. The birds, the flowers, the frogs, and even the humans and my heart swells for them. I see darkness in them yet I also see a yearning for something better in some of them. I have lived with being called awful, ugly, stupid, and worthless my entire existence. I have grown in twisted paths and unusual ways because of it. I am not a freak. I am not worthless. Even though I accept that this is my lot, I also know I can control myself. I chose not to engage in the anger, in the darkness of others. I was wrong to be silent about it! I wish for you all to have understanding despite how you treated me. I forgive you and I do not hold on to pain because it only begets more. I want to heal.” Purslane said. Her voice was carried throughout the meadow and seemingly into the mountains. Everyone gathered, except Shining Quill who was passed out from eating too much, stared in silence and awe at this remarkable creature.

“And so you shall heal, just by your actions. Purslane, you are the cure for this. Will you willingly give yourself of yourself, your knowledge and wisdom from your life and bring healing to all who suffer from the illness?” whispered Oma respectfully as she gently ran her finger along one of Purslane’s leaves. The relic of a woman had a tear in her eyes, because of the eloquence of young Purslane.

“Yes!” Purslane said.

The animals, insects, birds, and plants all let out a mighty cheer. The flowers around Purslane began to apologize because Purslane had proven to be mightier and more useful than all of them combined. Purslane was not entirely sacrificed. Oma Apfel used her mighty magick to preserve Purslane and her seeds so that she could come with Oma to the sacred grove of Deeply Rooted and be honored as a healing herb. The townspeople also received the knowledge of how to recognize weeds and their medicinal uses so that in the future this precious medicine and understanding could be passed on. The End.

 

Do not let others define you.  You may have more worth than you realize. Only you can define for yourself who and what you are. There are no limits except your imagination and your will. Blessed Be.

 

 

 

 

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