| Your banner could be here!
Find out how!
|Reader's login | Writer's login|
To hear her shriek you’d have thought they were cutting off her head and not just her hair. But to Isabella her hair was so much a part of her, its loss was a painful thing. Isabella was a healer, a wizard with roots and herbs. Some people called her a witch which in those days meant anyone who didn’t fit in, who didn’t belong or acted strange. Isabella fit that description to a tee. She lived by herself way out in the swamp and was seldom seen in town. She belonged to no church.
People called on Isabella when they were desperate for a cure and she always responded. Sometimes showing up at their door before they even asked. Her cures often worked miracles though sometimes they failed. Even if she wasn’t loved, she was grudgingly respected and her clients were generally grateful. But not everyone thought that Isabella was good. There were those who did not believe in her and thought the worst of her healing powers. One of the non-believers was the local Baptist preacher. Reverend Davies was a prim and proper man. The sort of man who was quick to label anything beyond his limited understanding as “a work of the Devil.” The other non-believer was the local doctor, an old worn out quack who viewed Isabella as competition, someone stealing business that should rightfully be his.
It was Reverend Davies who began the campaign to brand Isabella a witch. Dr. Hascomb was more than willing to encourage him. Together they slandered and maligned Isabella’s name throughout the county attributing the diseases to her and not the cures. Reverend Davies used his bully pulpit to speak out against Isabella’s Devil’s work extolling his congregation weekly in his Sunday sermon.
The people were not easy to convince. Isabella had been healing them long before Reverend Davies took his position as spiritual leader. Doctor Hascomb did his part emphasizing Isabella’s failures and questioning her lack of training in the healing arts. “My medicines are based on science. You won’t find me dispensing fake potions and bogus mumbo jumbo.” Now, while discrediting Isabella might have been enough for the good doctor, Reverend Davies wanted much more than that. Filled with an old testament hatred of witches, he wanted nothing less than to see Isabella destroyed. Burning her at the stake might have been too much to hope for but that is how his mind worked.
Little by little the congregation came around to Davies’ ideas. His repeated warnings and exhortations about witches were gaining traction among several of his congregants. Isabella may very well have been a witch if the definition of a witch is someone in touch with powers greater than her own, the power of nature itself. But to think an uneducated black woman could possibly know things beyond his narrow understanding was, according to Reverend Davies, an affront to god.
Isabella was, in her way, a Godly woman. Although not a member of any church, she took her instructions from the plants themselves and was therefore closer to God than Reverend Davies would ever be. Isabella’s connection to the natural world was through her hair. Like Sampson of old, nature revealed its secrets through her long hair. Her hair had never been cut. Her braid stretched down her back almost touching the ground. It was like an antenna picking up signals from another world.
No one knew the secret of Isabella’s hair but, as in our world, there were spirits jealous of her power. Denizens of nether realms whose goals were discomfort, misery and disease. And it was these creatures who invaded the reverend’s dreams, entered his mind and revealed Isabella’s secret—the secret of her hair.
It was shortly after this revelation, which the good reverend attributed to God, that Reverend Davies rounded up his most fervent followers. They put on their masks and rode to Isabella’s cabin. They seized her and bound her and cut off her long braid and left it on the ground while the poor frightened woman cried for mercy.
The next day Isabella was gone. Some say she went to New Orleans and became a voodoo queen. Others claim to have seen her in the big cities of the East where she practiced medicine as a licensed physician. The truth is that no one knew what became of her. But upon one thing everyone agreed, it was that strands of Isabella’s hair were picked up by millions of tiny birds and scattered over branches from Louisiana to Virginia. Today we know of Isabella’s hair as Spanish Moss and it drapes trees all over the swampy South. It reminds us of the promise of nature and to the good things this world provides.
Did you enjoy this story? Show your appreciation by tipping the author!
Do you like this site?
Recommend it to a friend by pushing the button below!