Cynthia: The North Carolina Witch Who Cursed My Family - Part 4 (How To Kill A Witch)
Photo by Peter Oslanec from Unsplash
Excerpt from Part 3
"Nope. Let her go," William said. "I'll deal with her tomorrow. Our family will never be safe from now on. I'm gonna pay the Conjure Man a visit in the morning. There's got to be a way to get rid of Cynthia the witch for good."
William had already left for town by the time Davis and Benjamen woke up to do their chores and leave for work. Their father had confided that he intended to go into the town of Mortimer and ask at the general store if anyone knew how to contact the Conjure Man.
William reached town about 9:30 in the morning and headed straight for the general store. Inside, to the right of the entrance, was a bit pot-bellied stove surrounded by a grouping of wood chairs. The chairs were all occupied by local men, three of whom looked sixty or older. William introduced himself, then asked if any of the older gentlemen happened to know how he could contact the Conjure Man. One of the men, Mr. Coffey, rose from his chair and motioned for William to follow him outside.
Once they were outside on the front porch, Mr. Coffey gave William directions to the cave where the Conjure Man lived and warned William not to go there empty handed, "He'll be wanting something he considers special, like fresh-baked food, or furniture - a stool, bench or chair. He flat out will not speak to you until you offer him something as payment. And one more thing - be careful what you ask him for. If he doesn't like your request for some reason, he'll throw you out of his cave faster than you can spit."
William thanked old Mr. Coffey. left the general store, and headed for home. He pondered over what he could bring along when he went to see the Conjure Man. Cora could cook something, and he could take along a small bench he'd made for the house. Maybe if he offered several nice things the Conjure Man would be more receptive to his request.
Early the following morning William set off for the Conjure Man's cave with both Davis and Benjamen in tow. It would be good to have their company, and he needed someone along to help him carry the gifts he was bringing. Cora was happy to make some fresh bread and apple pie - anything, she'd said, to rid themselves of Cynthia. In addition, she'd just finished knitting a warm scarf for Davis she thought the Conjure Man might like. When added to the bench, those items should make a nice offering.
He hoped his request to kill Cynthia would not displease the Conjure Man. His family had suffered enough at Cynthia's hands, and he believed they would never be safe as long as she was alive. Heck, for all he knew, she could be planning a new spell against his family right now.
The path to Conjure Man's cave was difficult. There were no markings of any kind in the woods, but thanks to old man Coffey's directions, William was able to count the number of steps from a giant oak tree to the cave. Before they knew it, they'd arrived at the entrance to Conjure Man's home.
William wasn't sure how to proceed. Should he call Conjure Man out? Was there some protocol to follow? But before he could decide what to do, a voice bellowed from inside the cave, "Who be out there? Why you seek Conjure Man?"
William held his forefinger up over his mouth so his sons wouldn't make any noise.
"My name's William Cook. I'm here to seek help from you about a problem of mine."
"Git on out, now. No talk wit'out a gift," Conjure Man said.
"I done brought gifts already. My sons are gonna place them to the front of ye right now." William said, motioning for Davis and Benjamen to set the bench, food and scarf at the entrance to the cave. Davis set the bench down, and Benjamen put the food and scarf on top of the bench.
A few seconds later, the Conjure Man appeared. He picked up the pie and bread and sniffed them, set them back on the bench, then took the scarf and wrapped it around his neck. He turned towards the front of the cave, facing William, Davis, and Benjamen. It was amazing how tall he was. At least 6'8" or more, if William was right.
"Speak now to Conjure Man. Gifts will do.:
William took a deep breath and began the speech he'd rehearsed in his head, "Thank you, Conjure Man. There is a witch in our midst named Cynthia. She has caused much harm to my family. I am here to find out how we can rid outselves of her. Permanently."
"Kill, you mean," said Conjurman.
"Yes. Kill her," William said.
"Only one good way kill witch," Conjurman said. "Only one time will Conjureman say. You listen."
"Make sharp peg from piece of Black Locust Tree. Big enough you can hold, long enough you can hammer into other tree. Find nearest Ash Tree to Cynthia house. Must do the following every night at midnight ... First, change clothes - wear inside out and backwards. Then, must walk backwards to Ash tree. Hammer Black Locust peg into base of Ash Tree. Must do every night, whether wind, rain, sleet, or snow. Miss even one night, spell not work. Hammer Black Locust peg into Ash Tree, one hammer every night until Ash Tree split in two. When done, Cynthia be dead."
The Conjure Man turned to leave. "Thank you, Conjure Man!" William said.
The Conjure Man turned back towards William, "You - no come back. Ever."
"I won't. Thank you."
William, Davis and Benjamen turned away from the cave and began their way back home. William made his sons promise not to tell what they had seen and heard. He made up his mind that they would begin the ritual to kill Cynthia the very next day.
It was 11:30 pm when they reached the Ash Tree near Cynthia's home. Davis helped his father change his clothes. Inside out wasn't so difficult, but buttoning up his father's shirt backwards was a bit challenging. He'd mention this later to William. It would be best to wear a pull-over shirt with no buttons next time. Once William had his clothes on iniside out and backwards, Davis handed him the Black Locust Peg he and Benjamen had made. They had sharpened one end of the peg so that it would be easier to hammer it into the Ash Tree.
After walking backwards to the foot of the Ash Tree, William struck the Locust peg hard into its base. He was surprised how easily the peg sunk into the tree and hoped the next time would be just as easy.
As it turned out, on some nights the peg went into the Ash Tree like butter. Other nights, when he hammered it into the wood it seemed to barely move. It had been over two months now, and his sons were discouraged, but William reminded them that the family's lives hung in the balance. Besides, he had heard from someone who lived in Mortimer Valley that Cynthia had taken ill. If that was true, he was making progress - no matter how slow it seemed.
Two weeks later it became obvious that the Ash Tree was about to split open. William was beside himself with excitement. Both Davis and Benjamen wanted to be there to see what happened, but William was reluctant to let them both accompany him at the same time. What if Cynthia figured out why she'd become ill? Would she try to do something else to his family? He just couldn't risk it.
As it turned out, town gossip had made its way to Cora. She told William she'd heard that Cynthia was extremely ill - so much so that she could no longer get out of bed.
The very next night was unusually foggy. There was no wind to speak of, and the only thing to hint that it was winter was the snow sleeping like a baby on the white ground. Benjamen was there with William that night. He was less impatient with the process - watching the peg go deeper into the Ash Tree - so William was happy he was there.
William walked backwards towards the Ash Tree. He'd become more comfortable walking that way and ending up right at its base. Carefully, he turned towards the tree, placed the Locust peg in the split, and came down as hard as he could with the big heavy mallet.
The sound of the Ash Tree splitting was almost like a lightning strike and had the same effect. The Locust peg had finally split the Ash tree in two. William felt a heaviness leave his heart as he stood beside the two pieces of what were once one Ash Tree.
He sent Benjamen ahead to see if there was any word about Cynthia. Benjamen met him halfway home to acknowledge what William had hoped. Cynthia was dead.
The Cooks were free from witchcraft and the little town of Mortimer was safe - at least for a while.