Witchers dancing in the ring,
Hang the fools by the string.

folk song



We are sitting under the walls of Mother of God Gorske in Zagorie, it’s late afternoon, stools are empty and the church is silent. Chilling out in the shadow of ancient wall is nice and no one knows how many more walls lie beneath us, although archaeologists diligently dig a new one out every other year. We are sitting with Steph, owner of the house by the church, the only house on this steep hill, drinking his wine, abysmal potion causing convulsions of throat and mouth, and stinking as if Steph’s cellar is situated somewhere in the mezzanine betwixt purgatory and hell. We are drinking, then, not out of pleasure, but out of courtesy.

My friend A. grills Steph about his land and his waning efforts of cultivating it. However, Steph “… is not complaining”. It’s, “… ya’ know, half as good as before … getting rusty … old age … and such.” A. says, it’s really a pity that, generally speaking, everything in this world goes downhill, but Steph only shrugs, like “what’s to do about it, that’s how it goes”. It all sounds logical and reasonable to me so I don’t say anything, only occasionally giving their conversation an ear and letting my gaze caress the hills sank in twilight down south towards the mountain. I think to myself how a little unkemptness cannot harm, ecologically speaking; give the soil some rest, let the weeds suck in the toxins. A. says it’s good for Steph to work less so he’ll be less exposed to ozone holes, and asks him for his opinion, does he think the climate really is changing, as they keep saying these last few years? He is a farmer, he should know. Steph just waves his hand, “why should it change? It’s all like …’same’-like.” That too sounds entirely logical and sober to me, although Steph’s tongue is already getting tied up by his unholy brew. But A. is obviously having a kick out of poking fun at old guy.
‘Hold it for just a minute, Steph, that’s what the scientists say, don’t you read newspapers? Watch TV?’
‘Who says?’
‘Scientists say.’
Steph gives him a half surprised, half patronizing look, the one usually given to halfwit.
‘Screw ‘em. Witchers.’
Naturally, this sounds logical and reasonable to me, although I am not even through “quarter of the cup” of Steph’s diabolic ale. Of course they are witchers. And both Steph and parish priest, and all those that speak like them are right, while we, the schooled and educated folk, we are being chewin’ on them stupid-pills! Enlightened by labours of working the land, I am so fortunate to know just how right the Steph is, and how much logic and reason he unwittingly employs, although permanently drunk, living as all of us in this Enchanted forest, although he should, by common standard, be backwards and uninformed on contemporary world events and consequently treated with a pinch o patronising pity.
Well, not at all, dear readers. Steph stands firmly on both his shaky feet. For him the world is the same for centuries, because it really is the same; it’s only because we got dizzy that we observe it as different. You could very well say: we’ve being bewitched by witchers.
Alright, I’ll concur with your natural remark: “Steph and his people live in Middle ages, while ‘we’ live in twenty-first century. However … we can count as much centuries as we like, but only witchers can say we really moved away from Middle ages, no one’s going to sell that crap to Steph and me, not even that old witcher Max Weber, whose witchcraft bewitched all those social sciences students, because he makes them believe like we de-witched something that was formerly be-witched. No way. It suffices to browse through media titles and skip the insignificant content under them:

The islander returned home after three months of captivity in the hands of pirates
Human trafficking is on the rise
Royal wedding of the century!
Holly Father blessed the Government officials
Cholera killed thousands in Haiti
Pestilence from Germany spreads throughout Europe
In Romania, witches threaten the Government with spells

Steph lives in the same day and age as we all, the Middle ages, but he knows it, while you don’t, or you know, but are engaged in witchcraft. You are casting spells ex cathedra at ignorant youth, witching from behind the TV screens, or singing mantra’s about the historical goals; you are professing to be engaged in healing prayers, while you are brewing poisons; you are invoking the spirits of market to bring us treasure, while you silently take our possessions from us; invoking the happiness while causing grief, blessing the trade while practicing usury. You are witching while lying, because no spell works while truth is being told, and you are lying while witching because the sorcery always must remain hidden. That’s how it is. And all of this came to me like a flash of lightning, as we drank Steph’s brew of death, no use in telling me anything to the contrary. The idea that Middle ages are something foul, ugly, smelly, backwards, heavy, pitiful, mean and gone forever, that’s your wizardry and make-believe devised to ensnare us in thinking that now days it’s all better, nicer, lighter, brighter, healthier and for all intents and purposes promising. To your misfortune, we’ve seen through you, Steph and me, as did many others, too. Nothing has changed, not only from Middle ages. Good and evil mix like wine and water in bevanda, it was always so, and it will always be so. By lying, you are merely increasing the quantity of evil in the mixture, you witcher! Why would anyone right in the head, while chilling out under the ancient wall in warm spring sunset, give you any credence? From every scientific proof, rational argument and obvious fact of yours, spells and wizardry are peeking out. For fifty years now we are promised with revolutionary discovery of cure for cancer, “till’ the end of the decade.” Health care? Wizardry. Big Pharma? Witchery; “before use, consult your physician or pharmacist.” Priest stuff. Agro-business? Witchery. GMO? Also. Bozons and particles not being particles? Do I really have to comment on that? Parliamentary democracy? Invoking the fog, like Merlin, so the king can screw his enemies’ wife …
If we are to continue, I would have to take a hefty sip from Steph’s cup of abomination. Well, sorry, I’m not gonna do that.
If we only abolished the obscure witchers’ practice for a moment, we would clearly see that you, witchers, never moved ahead from Middle ages, because you have nowhere to move to. We got nowhere to go, even if we really wanted to. Old Steph of the hill by the church knows it even when he is at his drunkest. Steph is a logician, you see. If I had any need to ask him for further clarifications – which i hadn’t because I finally finished the cup of his rotgut so everything fell to it’s place – he would tell me that there are three ages, old, which was, new, which is to come, and middle, which has nowhere else to be but between those two. And that’s now. Yes, it drags on, and it is not a being-in-the-world or whatever (Steph never read Heidegger, nor he had to, so if Steph doesn’t have to, nobody does), but it’s just that Steph thought about it all a bit, recalling the things his old man was telling him about what his grandpa used to say, and all those things said and spoken by men smarter than himself. The Ancient age was before our Lord – glory unto Him – was born. Then Jesus said it’s all over and done for with it, and that all that ancient stuff applies no more, so everything from then on must be different; not all at once, but in time. Well, that would obviously be a New age. And everything in between is … what else then Middle age.

Any pudding-heads not getting this?

Hence, dear witches and witchers all your lies and all of your act is in vain. Nothing is better and we never made any progress. As people say, you can’t rip out of your skin, as well as the whole wide world can’t rip out of it’s limits. Without the Judgment day there’s no New age. Then wouldn’t it be better to simply sit down with Steph and have a cup, if possible of some better wine instead of his poison, than to weave the spells in futile hope that therein lays our salvation?

Fine. But how’d we know all that? Eh, people, these are not Steph’s inventions! There are things you can’t make up. It is a notorious fact that there is something wrong with this world, and this fact is here not from only yesterday. It is probably dragging along from the very origins. It is likewise known that there is a simple and elegant remedy for it, although admittedly radical, and that Someone offered it to us. It’s no secret that it requires total turn around of the soul with painful, but liberating, consequences, both individually and collectively. Any evasion of this fact, delaying of it’s exercise in order to accomplish impossible, is nothing else but wizardry.
Besides, to affirm that one’s age differs from Middle ages despite pirates releasing the sailor from captivity in which they kept him all the time from royal wedding of the century, while witches threatened the Government with spells, and thousands have been dying of cholera – means either to be crazy, or bewitched.

But, truth be told, let us not forget: neither is old Steph the saint.
Yes, yes, Steph’s brew – the witchers potion.

Nenad Perković

In loving memory of Štef Coprnjak

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2 Responses

  1. Angelo says:

    I was there, too. Somehow I missed the Middle Ages tease-out – now is then, then is now. I may have got caught up in a pouch between purgatory and hell. Eclectic simile. Zap. I’m back. Aha! I see. Thanks.

  2. Angelo says:

    Electric not eclectic. Cell phone auto spell witchery

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