The wisewoman is a character I often use in my fiction. She’s attuned to nature, knowledgeable about animals and plants, and a healer. She’s both midwife and dark angel who opens the doors of birth and death. Usually, she’s been apprenticed to an older wisewoman or is a member of a loosely aligned society of wisewomen. She’s also the owner of a diary, journal, or book of recipes given to her by a now-deceased mentor.
My wisewoman is always a respected member of the community. Loved by some, feared by many, she seems to possess supernatural knowledge. In my stories, the wisewoman is observant, intelligent, intuitive, and empathetic. Using the same information available to the other characters plus her experience and special book, she’s able to find a solution to the problem facing her or another character. Does she do magic? Maybe. I usually leave that up to the reader to decide.
In my eshort, For the Good of the Settlement, the wisewoman and her pet squirrels must decide whether or not to commit murder http:tinyurl.com/vonnie-settlement They’re basically “good,” but will they choose a dark solution to their problem? In my as-yet unpublished novel, The Enchanted Skean, there’s a number of wisewomen who interact with Beck (the main character) as he journeys across the land of Dobran. All of these wisewomen are healers, have special books, a favorite animal, and words of advice for my hero. All of the wisewomen seem to help Beck – but do they assist him out of kindness, for money, or for some ulterior motive?
I’ve been asked: “Are your wisewomen actually witches?” My response is: no and yes. If you mean “devil-worshipers,” the answer is: no. If you mean “broom-riding hags out to do evil,” again the answer is: no. But if you’re asking if my wisewoman characters might have been accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts because they were a little “different,” the answer is: yes.
Many of the women accused over the centuries of being witches were nothing more than healers. Their power over disease was viewed as magical. If a woman was able to cure an illness, some people suspected she might be able to cause illnesses. So a wisewoman healer was often called a hedge witch, and though a part of a community was set apart from that same community because of her oneness with nature.
Wisewoman, village elder, healer, or hedge witch – I like nothing more than to toss into my fiction a powerful, mysterious female character. The question is, do readers like to read about such characters?