Green Frog Cafe

"Living in nature, listening to the rain, Green Frog Cafe, that's where I want to be. The hemlocks are green, the creek is tricklin, there's geese on the pond, the forest sighs. Green Frog Cafe that's where I want to be, home of my soul, spirit of the mountains." Ruminations of Rhona McMahan

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Crone Witch of the Blackthorne

For the past 5 weeks I have been assuming an identity as the “Crone Witch of the Blackthorne” at the Massacre Mansion in East Durham New York for about 16 hours per week. This has been an extraordinary experience. Massacre Mansion is a haunted house on the grounds of the Black Thorn Resort in the Catskills near Windham.

My role was to be the “guide” for the second floor of the old Victorian house which had belonged to the Fear brothers. These gentlemen had been eccentric gentlemen scientists who experimented with genetics and psychic phenomena. One of the brothers had disappeared under mysterious circumstances back in the 20’s, and the other (Angus) had been buried in the vicinity.

My partner Chelsea was the star of the second floor, reading tarot cards in her persona as “Dagobert II.” I would inroduce her to the tourists as a great black wizard from Europe who had been brought to the Black Thorn as the visiting psychic in the Séance Room of the House of Fear. My other friend Gina started out as a “come from the dead” screamer, and evolved into providing four singlehanded “scares” in the middle of the second floor tour. She reminded me of the Wizard of Oz as she worked the mist machine, buzzed the buzzer, shot off the air pistol, and grabbed people through the hidden window in the hallway in rapid sequence. Then she would scare me as I walked back through the house after sending a group on to the next attraction. Those scares worked every time, and made me laugh.

The people would go through the downstairs of the House of Fear, then climb some stairs on the outside of the house, stopping at a closed door at the top. They were told to knock three times to gain admittance. I opened the door after hearing three knocks and introduced myself as the Crone Witch. In the beginning I was stern and bossy, but over the weeks I evolved into a crone witch who was a happy and friendly good witch. I was not really surprised at how easily I could scare people. Some people touched me to see if I was real.

I took the people into the Séance Room and introduced Dagobert as a black magician, psychic, wizard, and/or card reader saying the she would “do some real magic for them.” Dagobert would read the cards of at least one person, and then I would take the people on through the rest of the second floor. (Sometimes I would say “Dagobert the second, from Metz, France.”)

Chelsea was amazing. She read the cards of hundreds of people coming through, and had an extremely high percentage of “right on” readings based on the somewhat awed reactions of the people in the groups. She really was doing “real magic”. By the end of our run up to Halloween people were coming to Massacre Mansion just to get the reading from Dagobert. Chelsea read the cards of a lot of children, but also mothers and fathers, girlfriends and boyfriends, grandparents and everyone else. Beligerent drunks would come into the room laughing, and would leave silenced and a bit apprehensive after seeing a reading.

Gina kept the mist in the house at a high level. It was so thick that sound transmission and perception was affected. It was a great assist to opening the mind to the possibility of Halloween magic.

The first day we went to the Black Thorn for Chelsea to audition Gina made the comment that “they never saw anyone really scary until they saw us.” The rest of the actors were friends of the family running the haunted house, or junior and senior high school kids for whom working in the haunted house was a traditional rite of passage in East Durham and environs. The three of us each have a sense of having tapped into some sort of psychic energy. I would consider Chelsea and Gina to be witches as I understand it in my limited experience in the pagan community. They joke that I am a witch, but I do not take this too seriously as I have no discipline in my sense of spirituality. If anything I am oriented in the way of Yeshua.

I was repelled by the lack of a sense of the deeper content of the haunted house on the part of the others involved in the project. They saw it as good fun, and enjoyed the experience of scaring people and playing roles such as “Little Dead Riding Hood”, “Werewolf,” and “Gorlag the Alien.” They told Chelsea that she could work the Séance Room by pretending to read palms and telling people that they were going to die.
No one dreamed that Chelsea would actually be able to read the Tarot cards and reveal thought provoking readings to the people filing past night after night.

I invented my name as the Crone Witch of the Blackthorne, and resolved to raise real spiritual issues in the course of the tour. I blush to admit that at times I really got into feeling myself as the Crone Witch of the Blackthourne, especially in the intense times from make-up at home in Ulster County, driving 38 miles to East Durham across the Schoharie Creek valley and down the face of East Windham. We would stroll into the
Entrance to the mansion just a few minutes after groups started through the lower floor. The grassy orchard before the house would be full of people. A ripple would run through the crowd as the three of us walked in.

Some children noticed the Pentacle dangling from my neck. It is beautiful, made by Gina. I asked the children if they knew what the Pentacle stood for, and one said “the devil.” I informed him that it represents the path Venus takes around the sun from the perspective of the earth on an eight year cycle. Venus represents many things, but I did not go into them.

Before the first night the director’s assistant had called me up to say that they had purchased a wig and witch costume for me to use. But when I got there that night they took one look at my own dress, hair, make-up, Royal Stewart plaid cape, black witches hat, with a little plaid Mexican bag and wearing black combat boots, and said “forget the costume, you look better in your street clothes”.

Dagobert wore leather trousers, a leather vest over a black turtleneck, a long black leather duster, and combat boots. Gina wore tight jeans, combat boots, and a black velvet top, with a choker made of bones.

The main effect of this experience as an actor playing a witch was to make me think about the magical traditions which have affected me in my life trip. Today I read a long article on Wikipedia about the Covenanters. These people were the community from which my oldest direct family knowledge comes. The Covenanters were a group in 16th and 17th Century Scotland which struggled to establish the Church of Scotland in a “Presbyterian” form, and at one point included the majority of Scots. By the 17th Century the seat of the Covenanters was in Ayrshire in the western Scottish lowlands. Many of these people emigrated to Ulster in Northern Ireland, and later to the US, where they are know as the Ulster-Scots or the Scotch-Irish. I am sure that some of my ancestors were still Covenanters after coming to the US because many McGeorges are buried in the “Reformed Presbyterian Cemetery” outside of New Galilee, Pennsylvania. My immediate relatives, however, had relaxed their discipline to a degree, and were simply United Presbyterians or simply Presbyterians by the time I came along.

My own life is not exactly one which would be acceptable to conservative Presbyterians. I feel often that I have betrayed my heritage in many ways, one of which is to forsake the Christian churches (although not Yeshua), and to embrace the view of Hermeticism. Lately I am even being vilified on at least one pagan website as a pagan “heretic”, which may seem like an oxymoron.

My quest now is to learn more about my spiritual roots from the time before Christianity. I suppose that this means learning more about Celtic and Norse spirituality. I have had dreams of my spirit in those earlier time.


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