Never Again the Burning Times
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Never Again the Burning Times


It is always the morning of my execution...
...I know they will come for me today. Last night the jailer, pulling up his trousers, sneered “Perhaps you’ll fancy the pole they give you in the morning more than mine, stubborn bitch”. I think he liked it better when I had strength and spirit enough to fight him. He is too stupid to lie just to torment me.
I will welcome death, though the dying scares me.... I was a healer—how long ago? Oh, Gods, I cannot think straight anymore! And I know that their gross insults to my body will never mend and the pain is constant, and they have sworn to me that I will go to the fire conscious and aware.
My Goddess, I am sick to my very soul with shame: at the last, I gave them screaming what they wanted, mouthed any obscenity they asked, told them what they told me to say. My sanity remains only because Your names go with me to the pyre, and the grave beyond, and only there.
Oh, Beloved, if I could only see you one last time, that your cleans spirit’s fire could rid me of this filth and fear--
The crowd gathers now. I hear them outside, laughing, festive—Gods grant I will be entertaining enough—I wonder if those pious souls who in the past have asked my help will mourn me?
Well, I shall be glad to quit this stinking cell—The rats grow bolder as I decline—Oh, Mother, give me strength! I hear the guards outside. “What” I taunt, “three of you all for one small half-starved wench? Indeed, terrible I must be!”
They have the grace to look ashamed, the youngest one grown pale and horrified at the sight of me; I delivered his wife of a fine strong son not many weeks ago. But now I dare not ask how the child fares.
”Nay, you must carry me or drag me, my fine Bravos—these ruined feet will never bear my weight again. I fear I danced too long with your good priest and his fine Spanish Boots.”
They haul me to my feet and the pain—I will not scream again for their amusement! I must go naked, then, to my death before these fools? I would not have them see me so, who danced naked for the Goddess, graceful and free, on winged feet without a trace of shame.
Their avaricious eyes defile me, as their twisted priests defiled my soul’s temple...There are many strangers here in the square. Churchmen and villagers from all the country round—I am to be a marvelous, far-felt lesson, I see. They bind me to their stake, too tight, more agony--
The splintered pole claws my raw back, my shoulders wenched and cramping, the rough rope burning my wrists. My legs will not support me, and I sag in my bonds, and I fill with terror, as a pitcher with muddy water. A priest approaches--
Oh, Goddess, must I suffer them even now? The crowd protests the cup in his hands. He exhorts them, gently; his sect bears mercy towards all, malice towards none, and might not even such as I be saved at the bitter end? I don’t know this one. I fight to raise my head, to spit in his face, for one last shred of defiance--
Mother of all, NO! Not you—here!! How have you come, Beloved, to trade your green robes for their black, your antlered crown for their cross?
Surely I dream, I dream—but now I smell your clean scent, and your dear presence cloaks me in peace. Rage fires in your eyes, but your pure love sustains me, strengthens me and warms me.
You brush the hair back from my face—the cup you hold against my bruised lips I gave you at our handfasting—softly you whisper, “Drink deep of salvation, my dear love,” and your voice, harsh with unshed tears, rips at my soul and my own tears begin, and fully do I drink of your deep eyes and the chalice, and the taste of flying herbs bursts upon my tongue; Belladonna, Acamite, dark sweet dreams...
They are coming now with the fire. Almost you linger too long, haunted eyes on mine. But as sleep steals over me I see you melt safely into the throng.
I am drifting now; I hear my mother’s voice, far away—strange, she has been dead these many years—the pain is gone. I am a little girl again. I am safe. My mother is calling me and I run gladly into her arms...but in the room I have left behind, someone has been careless with the supper. “Mother, they must turn the spit faster, for I can smell the roasting meat burning, and the dinner guests are shouting...”
I wake in a cold sweat and cannot drink from the glass you bring me.



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