Parents give their newborn a secret, guardian name, only known to the three. For childhood, a young one’s name. On Naming Day, when a child comes of age, she announces her chosen life name. A weighty task, to be thought of with respect and seriousness. To choose a generations name, an honouring name, a promiseful name, a destiny name, a sacred name, a craft name. To mark that transition between fledgling and taking flight.
Amica sat under the boughs of her willow tree, chin in hands, sighing. She had yet to choose her life name. She had always been fey. A tiny child born with one eye a winter sky blue, flecked with gold; the other a vernal equinox green flecked with silver. Her feet seemed to belong to a different body. She might trip over a feather headlong into the brambles. Or stumble on a pebble, falling forward, face-down. Her knees were boney and squared off; tiny scars on her cheeks and forehead from prickles.
She never mastered the womanly arts. She was attentive to her mother but Amica’s bread fell flat – a disc of flour so hard, only a hammer could break. Guiding her daughter’s hand, Mother showed needle craft. Amica pricked her finger on the needle so often that the blood-stained rips in her dress grew even redder. Her wardrobe became a coverlet, smock-dress, apron. More comfortable, less confining of legs, easier to clean of the stains Amica always attracted.
Amica knew the field and forest best. At moist dawn, basket in hand, she foraged for food: spicy wild onions and mustard; spring-fresh fiddleheads and goose-tongue greens; delicate pink salmon berries; mushrooms in all shapes sizes and colours. Amica picked herbs for flavouring, healing draughts and salves. Flowers to weave into naming crowns, dry for sachet, arrange for display. The practical: soapwort; dying nuts, flowers and roots to colour wool, linen, and fancify a face. And the magical ones to make love knots, become with child, prosper harvest and other such secret uses. These she left alone; already seen as fey, she did not need be viewed as a witch as well. When the sun slid down the sky, tinting the woods, she skipped (and stumbled) home, basket full of natural bounty.
Amica was sure she was a benevolent changeling. Child of pixies, sprints, faeries, or dryads given so her mother might be rewarded with a daughter. A child of the woods, with black hair that stubbornly broke loose from braids and caps. One eye the colour of robin’s egg, the other of moss. Felt pleasure dancing in the glades, sun on her face. Bare feet in ice-trickle brooks, suck of mud wading in fens, her skirts held high. Recognizing the voice of each bird, observing camouflaged fauna in the dappled forest light.
Even without friends and playmates, she never felt alone or lonely. An unseen presence, as constant as sun shadow, slipped a hand into hers on walks, an arm around shoulders when needed love, held tight as spinning partner in spiral dances. Amica, in the drifting moment between wake and sleep, heard her companion whisper in her head. Sounds like sea on sand, whistling tree tops, butterfly wings a flutter. Her only could half smile as her mismatched eyes closed. Drift. Drift.
So, here she sat, hiding beneath the willow, dreading the celebrations to come. Happy to leave childhood, but she knew only today. She was afraid the context and concepts of a life-time escaped her. She did forward-dream, drifting in the evening zephyrs. But, not of the concrete, but of the wistful.
“Amica, you are much vexed and troubled,” her unseen companion spoke.
“Yes, much so.” Amica replied, lips moving but no words escaping.
“Tis the Naming, is it not?” Amica nodded, pricks of tears rivulets on her cheeks.
“I can wear the beautiful dress, the crown of flowers, torture my hair into a braid, but no suitors to cheer my name. No friends to gather, dance in the Naming Circle.”
“Have I ever let you feel alone? Have we not danced joyful in the meadows? If you stepped outside of the forest, a young man would bring you gifts of flowers and songs.”
“All feel the name slip into their cupped hands. Then spin a web as a cloak. I feel no such thing. I am so fey, so of the faery folk, that I am not meant to, not designed to . . . ,” Amica sighed.
As she lifted her chin, she felt small warm hands cupped over hers. “You are meant of two worlds, Amica. Knowing the forest, better than the kitchen. The spirit of a sprite, the soul of a healer.”
Amica was unsure; first she had clearly heard her companions words. “But a name . . .”
“My sister’s name was Zephyr. She is gone, and I give it to you gladly. Now, shall we pick the flowers for your crown. The wind flowers are at their most yellow.”
Woven for Tale Weaver 30: once upon a time . . .