Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Witch of Whidbey Island

The following morning Ethan and Brian were enjoying breakfast in their newly blessed home. Even Brian could feel that the energy in the house had shifted leaving him with a sense of peace since Ethan’s ritual. As Brian was pouring his second cup of coffee that morning, there was a knock at the door. Ethan leaves the table to answer the door and Brian swipes an extra piece of bacon from Ethan’s plate.

“Yes.” Ethan says opening the door to see a sandy-haired young man carrying a grocery bag in one hand and a clipboard in the other.  “Can I help you?”

“Albertson’s, delivery.” the young man says matter-of-factly.

“There must be some mistake,” Ethan replied “I didn’t order anything.”

Confused, the boy simply looks at the address on his invoice again and then checks the street numbers attached to the house. “Nope” the young man replies after a  pause “this is the right address.”  

“I’m sorry” Ethan explains “but as I’ve already told you, we didn’t order anything.”

“Hmmmm.” the young man offers looking at his invoice again “It says here that it was ordered last night for early morning delivery by….” the young man pauses and all the color seems to drain from his face and he slowly reads “Ernestine Rutenganger.”

“Ernestine Rutenganger?” Ethan asks

“I believe” the young man replied “that’s your neighbor, sir. This is a gift delivery. See here’s a card.”

The young man hands the grocery bag and an envelope over to Ethan, who notices that the delivery boy has grown much more anxious in the last few moments.

“Could…could you sign here, please?” the young man asks nervously pointing to a line on his invoice “to accept delivery.”

Ethan sets the bag down inside his door and signs the invoice. “If you could just wait here a second longer, I’ll get you a tip.”  Ethan says as he notices the young man now shifting his weight from side to side growing more and more agitated with each passing second.

“No,” the young man replies inching away from the door, “No tip needed mister.”

“Have a good day.” Ethan offers as the boy quickly makes his way back to his car.

“Who was that?” Brian asks coming into the living room putting on his coat before leaving for work.

“We got a gift-delivery from our neighbor.” Ethan says pointing towards the bag on the floor with his nose and he opens the envelope that came with it.

“A delivery?” Brian asks opening the bag.

“Welcome to the neighborhood.” Ethan reads aloud off the card so Brian can hear “Sincerely, Ernestine Rutenganger”.

“Hmmmm” Brian murmurs.

“What’s in the bag?” Ethan asks.

“A gift bag” Brian explains “but the funny thing is it only has two things in it.”


“Bread and some salt.”

“Interesting” Ethan replies.

“Does that mean something to you?” Brian asks

“It’s an old Jewish custom.” Ethan replies “to give a gift of bread and salt to new home-owners. The bread is supposed to ensure that there is always enough food in the house, and the salt is for prosperity.”

“Well, we can certainly use a bit of both” Brian says as he gives Ethan a peck on the cheek “I have to get to work.”

“Don’t remind me.” Ethan says following Brian to the door.

“Oh yeah” Brian replies, “How is your job search coming?”

“Not much work for writers right now.” Ethan says “I’ve sent out some inquiries for some freelance stuff and I’m going to see whose hiring around town today.”  

Later that morning, Ethan had filled out several online applications at his computer and was eager to stretch his legs. Noticing the bread and salt still by the front door where he had left it, Ethan decided to be neighborly and walk next door to thank Ms. Rutenganger for her gift. Throwing on a coat and walking out into the chilly morning, Ethan walks down his steps, out to the sidewalk, and over to his neighbors walkway.

“Hey, mister” a little girl cries out as she runs up to him dragging a jump rope behind her.  

“Yes.” Ethan replies looking around to make sure the girl is talking to him.

“You’re not going in there, are you?” she asks pointing to his neighbor’s house.

“Yes, I am” Ethan replies.

“But, don’t you know who lives there?” the wide-eyed girl asks.

“Well” Ethan begins patiently, “I know her name is Ernestine Rutenganger and she’s my neighbor. She sent me a very nice gift this morning and I want to thank her.”

“But…” the little girl begins but doesn’t finish her sentence

“What’s your name?” Ethan asks


“Well, Lisa” Ethan replies “Is there something you want to tell me?”

The girl simply looks at him but doesn’t respond.

“Something about Ms. Rutenganger?” Ethan prods the girl along

The girl nods

“What is it?”

“She’s a witch!” Lisa blurts out quickly as if saying it faster would make it more believable.

“A Witch?” Ethan asks surprised “What makes you say something like that?”

“Everybody says so Lisa explains “And besides, I heard our neighbor Mrs. Taylor telling my mom she went to Ms. Rutenganger and got her fortune told.”


“Yes, and you know what” Lisa replies “She told Mrs. Taylor that her husband was cheating with a woman in his office and the witch told her how to bring him back.”

“And did he come back?” Ethan asks

“Yes, and that’s not all” Lisa explains “Everyday she goes down to the beach to feed the seagulls bread with blood baked in it. They say that the seagulls are her familiars that they help her cast her spells and that if you tell lies they’ll swoop down and peck out your eyes….”

“That’s a really interesting story” Ethan says cutting off the girl.

“Lisa Stein” an approaching mailman asks “What are you doing down here, I just saw your mother looking for you.”

“Ooops I gotta go, mister” Lisa says as she begins skipping rope back towards her house “Don’t forget what I said.”

“I wont, Lisa” Ethan replies.

“Hi” the mailman greets Ethan with a practiced smile.

“Hi” Ethan replies as he turns to go up to Ms. Rutenganger’s door.

““You can’t go up there just now, son” the mailman says placing some envelops in Ms. Rutenganger’s box and closing the door.

“I’m sorry?” Ethan asks

“The blinds are closed.” says the mailman pointing up towards the large bay window at the front of the old lady’s house.

Ethan gives a confused look.

“You must be new around here?” the mailman asks grinning to himself as if he’d revealed some great mystery.  
 “Yes.” Ethan replies “ I just moved in next door.”

“I thought so.” The mailman explains

“Why can’t I go up there just now?” Ethan asks

“You see,” The mailman begins “Ms. Rutenganger is something of a local legend around here. They call her the Witch of Whidbey Island.  She has a reputation for being a fortune-teller.”

“Oh” Ethan replies.

“Don't get me wrong, she's a nice old lady," he continues “but I think its a bunch of marlaky. Old woman gets lonely with no family....she convinces people she can tell fortunes or cast spells so she can get some company. That's all it is.”

“I see” Ethan replies

“Anyway, whenever those blinds are closed,” the mailman explains “it means she’s with someone. Doing her thing…whatever that is... doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“Oh, well I wouldn’t want to disturb her when she’s working.”

“Ok” the mailman nods in reply having educated this newcomer “I better get back to my route, you have a good day now.”

“You too.”

As a writer, Ethan understood that inspiration could come at any time and so he had become accustomed to keeping a small notebook and pen on him at all times which he now takes out of his pocket and jots down a quick note.

“Dear Ms. Rutenganger,

Thanks for the lovely gift. I stopped by to see you but was given to understand not to call on you when your blinds are closed. If you’d accept an invitation for dinner soon, my husband and I would love to have you over.”


Ethan Knox-Lewis

Walking up his neighbors steps, Ethan folds the note in half and then gently opens the front door to wedge the note in the jam. For a moment he could hear two muffled voices. Then one clearly drowns out the other

“I’ve told you for the last time. I will not help you bewitch that man. He doesn’t share your…well your tastes…it would be WRONG. Now get!

Not wanting to get caught eavesdropping by Ms. Rutenganger’s client, Ethan hurried down the steps and back to his own home. 

Carolina Dean 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Home Again


Chapter One: Home Again 

“I still can’t believe we’re here!” Ethan slowly exhales sitting at a table in the kitchen of his new home. Before him on the table are several eggs, a sage-stick, and a large bell, among other items.

“Yeah” says Brian, his bleary-eyed husband. As he leans over to give Ethan a kiss on the cheek from behind, he notices an old book on the table that he recognizes as Ethan’s Book of Shadows. It is opened to a page which reads How to Make a House a Home. “You’ve said that before.”

“I’m sorry” Ethan says picking up an egg and writing on it with a pen “It’s just that I never dreamed of ever leaving South Carolina and now here we’re in Oak Harbor, Washington!”

“You’ve come a long way, baby” Brian smiles pouring himself a cup of coffee “What are you doing to those eggs there? I hope that’s not my breakfast”

“No,” Ethan begins “There’s a plate of grits and eggs warming in the stove for you.” pointing towards the stove.  “Now that we’ve got all our furniture just where we want it, I decided it’s time to bless the house.”

“But I thought you blessed the house the first day we arrived, before we moved all the furniture in?”

“No, I just cleaned it.” Ethan explained “You know this house was empty for a long time before we bought it. There was dust everywhere and the previous owners left trash here and there. The energy was all mucky.”

Brian looked at Ethan over his breakfast but didn’t respond.

“You see,” Ethan continued, “before you bless a house, you have to clean it physically and remove all the clutter so that energy can flow freely.”

“Oh” Brian offered, taking a sip of coffee. Though not a practitioner himself he’d seen enough of Ethan’s witchcraft to know that there is defiantly something to it even if he didn’t quite understand all the rules.

“So today,” Ethan continued “I’m going to clean the house spiritually with this sage-stick and holy-water and then setting up some wards.”

“Wards?” Brian asked glancing at his watch.

“Yeah, wards” Ethan answered. “They’re to protect the house and...”

“That’s really interesting, babe” Brian interrupted “and I’d really like to hear more about it, but if I don’t leave now I’m gonna be late for my first day of work.”

Glancing at the clock above the stove Ethan jumps up and helps Brian on with his coat and follows him to the front door and out on the front porch.

“I shouldn’t be home too late.” Brian says moving towards the steps that lead down from the house and toward the street to his car. “My shift ends at 5 pm.”

“Brian” Ethan moans curtly.


“Haven’t you forgotten something, darling?”

“I don’t know, have I?” Brian asks distractedly and he checks his pockets for his wallet and keys.

Ethan gives an exaggerated look of hurt and then coyly points to his own cheek.

“Oh Sorry” Brian apologizes “How could I forget?”

Brian climbs back up the steps and gives Ethan a peck on the cheek.

“I think we can do better than that.” Ethan says placing his arms around Brian’s shoulders.   

With that Brian grabs Ethan firmly dips him backwards and kisses him passionately for what seems like an hour.

“That ought’a hold ya till I get home” Brian jokes.  


“Uh oh,” Brian exclaims looking in the direction of the street “Looks like we’re giving the neighbors a show”

Ethan looks in the same direction as Brian and sees an old woman next door looking back at them and leaning on a broom that looks like, Ethan thought, it could have been owned by Mary Ingleman herself. For a few moments the three individuals simply stare at one another as if frozen in time.

“I’ll…. I’ll see you tonight” interjects Ethan breaking the spell between the three watchers and Brian heads towards his car as the old woman returns to sweeping her walkway. 

“I love you” Brian gives over his shoulder.

“You too” Ethan responds.

Later that morning, after Ethan had washed the breakfast dishes, put away the laundry and given the house another once over to ensure that everything was in its proper place, he was ready to perform his house-blessing ceremony.

At his refrigerator, Ethan removes a bottle of sea-water he had personally collected at the beach the previous day and pours it into a crystal bowl. He carries the bowl of water to his living room and sets it on the raised platform before his hearth, inside of which he has kindled a small fire. Nearby there is a sage-stick, and a dish of coarse salt.  

Kneeling before the hearth, Ethan grounds and centers himself, then says:

Holy art thou, Lord of the Universe,
Holy art thou, which nature hath not formed;
Holy are thou, Vast and Mighty One,
Lord of Light, and Darkness!

Finally, he crosses himself saying at the four points: Atah (at the forhead) Malkuth (at the solar plexus) Vegeburah (at the right shoulder) Vegedulah (at the left shoulder) Layolam (hands together as in prayer).

After a brief pause, Ethan tosses a handful of salt in the fireplace and for a few moments the fire rises up and turns bright blue and he lights the sage-stick from it's flame.  Ethan then carries the smoking sage through every room in his home as he chants:

Averte Malorum Spiritis, Averte.
Averte, in nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

When he has smudged every room in his house, Ethan returns to the hearth where he tosses the remaining sage-stick in the fire. He then picks up the bowl of water and carries it to the front door. There he dips his finger in the water and then draws a pentagram on the door incanting Maximum Praesidium” several times as he visualizes the star glowing with pure-white energy. In his mind’s eye, Ethan could see the star vibrating with power on both sides of the door.  When he is satisfied he repeats: In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti.

He then moves clockwise about his home performing the same action at every window and at every door leading to the outside world. For a way out, Ethan knows, is also a way in. When he is done, he returns to the hearth and tosses the remainder of the salted-water into the fire without extinguishing it.

Next, Ethan goes to his refrigerator and removes the eggs that he had prepared earlier that morning. Outside he walks to the Northern Corner of his home where he digs a small hole. He takes the egg out of the bowl on which is written the name Uriel and places the egg in the hole.

Ethan crosses himself once more and then says, “Uriel, Archangel of the North. I call upon you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to protect this home and all therein from all positive and negative energies and forces that may approach from the North to do us harm.”

Ethan covers up the egg and then draws a cross in the dirt saying “Amen.”

At the Eastern corner of his home, Ethan removes the egg labeled Raphael and performs the same action saying, “Raphael, Archangel of the East. I call upon you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to protect this home and all therein from all positive and negative energies and forces that may approach from the East to do us harm.”

And at the South, “Michael, Archangel of the South. I call upon you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to protect this home and all therein from all positive and negative energies and forces that may approach from the South to do us harm.”

And finally, at the West “Gabriel, Archangel of the West. I call upon you in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to protect this home and all therein from all positive and negative energies and forces that may approach from the West to do us harm.”

He then takes some salt and draws a large circle around his house connecting the four tiny graves as he chants, Averte Malorum Spiritis over and over. When he is done he stand with his legs a few feet apart and grounds and centers himself again. Connecting with the universal flow of energy, Ethan visualizes his home surrounded by circles of light through which no evil can cross and four archangels standing guard at the four directions.  Finally, he affirms "Maximum Praesidium. Averte Malorum Spiritus. In nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti! Amen."

Completing his ritual, Ethan stands satisfied with his work when he notices his elderly neighbor standing in her own backyard where she had been working in her garden and is now staring intently at him. It is then that he realizes that the old lady has witnessed his bit of witchcraft. When their eyes meet, the old lady simply waves at Ethan with a smile and then enters her own house through her backdoor with a basket full of freshly harvested herbs in one hand and a silver knife in the other. 

Carolina Dean