Tag Archives: Beauty in Tears

Beauty In Tears

Here’s a little something from an f/f historical paranormal tale of mine. Jemima is sent to be ‘guardian’ of a young girl in a gothic country house. Her real job is to break the creature, but she does not yet know why.

The following morning found her ready for work and curious about the nameless girl she had been sent to break.
“Through here Miss,” Katie gestured, then turned back towards the kitchen. Jemima had the impression the servant did not want to look into the room.

In the meagre shelter behind the door, a small figure lay curled on the floor. It was filthy, naked, and rather barbaric in appearance as a consequence. However, on hearing her approach, it raised its head, exposing a pair of large, luminous eyes. Jemima studied the face before her. The expression was alert, watchful and confused. A lithe frame, long limbed, folded itself defensively in face of her observation. From the build she guessed the creature must be at least sixteen years of age, but very likely older. The eyes gazing up at her seemed impossibly knowing, and full of emotion. Jemima had no idea how to read what she saw there, but found no trace of insolence. Melerton wanted the girl biddable. That could be achieved in a number of ways, some crueller than others. Looking at her new charge, Jemima had the feeling this was no spoiled rich girl to be punished, but something rarer, finer. All inclination to ruin died within her. Melerton had said to break her spirit, but she saw little sign of pride or self determination in that grimy face. She turned to the door and summoned Katie back with a sharp word.

“Have hot water prepared. We will render the girl presentable. She is to learn how to behave herself, and if she is to be civilised, she must be clean. What clothes are there for her?”

“None Miss.”

“Nothing at all?” she barely managed to conceal her disgust at this.

“Then we must make arrangements. Take her to the bathroom and bring hot water up immediately.”

Jemima did not possess a large wardrobe. She returned to her room and selected a dress – a simple, dark affair with no adornment. It would suffice. As the girl had nothing, Jemima would have to loan her own hairbrushes and pins as well.

Once the bath was full and steaming, she sent the servant away. “Do you understand me?” she asked the filthy girl before her.

No native curiosity whatsoever. The handle rolled beneath her fingers, allowing the door to swing open onto a bare space. An odd smell wafted towards her, sweet, musky and evocative of sadness, although she couldn‟t quite think why. No bed. No furniture of any kind in fact. Is the mute already deranged? Is that one of your ‘complications’ Mr Melerton? She eyed the empty space carefully, deducing that her charge must have hidden behind the door. She wouldn‟t be the first child to try that particular trick! Ready to fend off an attack, Jemima stepped into the room.

A shy nod answered her question.
“Can you speak?”

A shake of the head confirmed Melerton‟s assessment.

“Take off your clothes. You will bathe.”

The silent creature complied, pulling off the tattered, shapeless garments she had worn and dropping them on the floor. She showed no signs of awkwardness about being naked.

Jemima rolled up her sleeves, and set about scrubbing layers of filth from the narrow body. As the dirt soaked into the water, it revealed exquisite white skin and silken hair that gleamed where the sunlight touched it. There were blue and purple bruises contrasting vividly with the white. Lifting the tangled hair to wash it, Jemima drew in a swift breath, startled by what lay beneath. The young woman‟s beauty was marred by two horrendous wounds running in parallel from her shoulder blades to the base of her ribs. Washing had opened the injuries and they both seeped blood. She couldn’t keep her fingers from them. The girl started at her touch, evidently pained but still silent. When Jemima looked at her face, she saw slow tears rolling over pale cheeks. Another mystery, into which she would not pry. Still, she had to wonder what it meant.

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Druid Life – Sex and the Occult

Following on with the exploring of sex magic in life and in fiction…

“Aiffe was chanting, the cold words whining out of her in the same rhythm with which Nicholas Bonner entered.” (Peter S Beagle, The Folk of the Air).

There’s a branch of sex magic that isn’t about the sex at all. The erotic content is a focus for a spell, or the means of raising energy for some other action. I own a book titled ‘The Art of Sexual Magic’ which offers techniques for just such things. I read it, I’ve never tried any of them. It’s all about using the energy of sex as a focus to send your intentions out into the world. Techniques mingle sex and visualisation. It didn’t inspire me in the slightest.

“It is in these moments of expanded consciousness that you can project a vision of your goal, your creation, into the harmonious fabric of the universe that surrounds you. In ecstasy, you come very close to the universal source. The creative womb out of which all things arise. What better moment to make magic?” (Margot Anand)

I recognise the connection and magic, but for me, the idea of using sex for something else is uncomfortable. The evidence would suggest I am not alone in this. The quote from Beagle above shows a couple undertaking sex magic, more excited by power than eroticism. Satanist villains in Phil Rickman’s fiction use sex for magic too. I can’t think of a single fictional example of people using sex magic in this way, when those people didn’t turn out to be the bad guys.

Sex is incredibly powerful and inherently magical. Taking that magic and subverting it for another purpose seems a betrayal of the essence of lovemaking. Most of the Druids I’ve encountered have expressed disinterest in this kind of magic. For Druids, magic is more usually transformation through experience and connection. Concepts of ‘harness’ or ‘use’ simply don’t fit in with how most of us choose to be. I don’t offer this as any particular judgement on people who do practise this way – each to their own – more as an explanation for why I wouldn’t. Other people may understand the subject in entirely different ways.

However, with all of the above in mind, the use of sex magic for other purposes is a very easy way of portraying characters as morally suspect. It’s something I first explored years ago when co-writing with Emy Naso. Since then I also used it in ‘Beauty in Tears’ – it’s the point in the story that defines certain characters as definitely unpleasant, and begins the redemption of another. Here’s the aftermath of some rather twisted sex magic…

“She located a lantern, and stood in the hallway for an hour, struggling to keep focused as exhaustion worked on her nerves. At last, one of the men came and unlocked the door for her. With faltering steps, Jemima descended into the darkness beneath the house. It smelled damp and unwholesome. After thirty or so stairs, she turned a corner into a large, underground space. The flickering light from her lantern barely reached the walls and thick shadows threatened to hide all kinds of evils. Stepping forward, she saw there were strange symbols painted onto the floor. Finding them ominous, she muttered a brief prayer. Religion had never played much part in her life, but the familiar words of childhood devotions offered some comfort. As she stepped over the sinister markings, her skin prickled and the hairs rose on the backs of her arms.

This is very wrong. Every instinct told her to turn and run, to seek cleaner air and sunlight. It seemed they had left Imogen down here all night, alone in absolute darkness, with only the cold and painted floor to lie on. Whatever the three men were about, she somehow doubted it had anything to do with money or inheritance. The scene struck her as being like something from a darker fairy tale – the bloodier kind that kept small children awake at night.

Taking small steps, she swung the lantern in slow arcs, illuminating as much of the room as she could. After a while, she found Imogen’s prone and naked form. Jemima dropped to her knees beside the girl, touching her shoulder. The skin was dreadfully cold, but the girl stirred. Releasing a breath she had not consciously held, Jemima brought the lantern nearer. It showed her dried blood in abundance.

I didn’t write the actual magic sequence in the end. It seemed better to imply. Sometimes things are more sinister for not being pinned down too closely.

Beauty in Tears available here.