‘The Old Woman of the Sloes’ by Elan Clark

‘The Old Woman of the Sloes’ by Elan Clark

I first met the Old Woman of the Sloes

a long time ago,

down a green lane,

where she peered at me from the branches,

hidden at first by red Haws and Rosehips.

She was of the darker variety,

more mysterious;

it might even be said

a little edgier.

She was not afraid to show her thorns.

Her gift was a blue bruise of fruit on my palm,

but her lessons did not yellow to nothing.

Instead, what she gave me

darkened into aged wisdom,

intoxicating when added to life’s liquor.

Last week I met the Old Woman of the Sloes again,

as I walked the hedge

that separates October

from November,

the borderland between golden autumn

and the necessary dimming of November.

For we all must sit awhile in the darkness

before the light can return.

She reminded me that she can be both things at once,

and I know this to be true,

for I have seen her daughters dancing in spring,

white hair against black limbs,

full moon and dark moon cradled in one tree.

So, when the Old Woman offered me her fruit,

I took it knowingly,

ready for the dryness that would draw

my lips against my teeth,

life shrinking back to bone.

She watched and smiled

as I hit the stone

at the centre,

the bedrock of spring,

beyond the sharpness of winter.


Elan Clark, Priestess of Cerridwen
West Lothian, Scotland

Elan Clark - Priestess of Cerridwen

Instagram: @elan_and_the_hare

Elan is a scholar, writer and editor in the field of Celtic Studies. She has a PhD in Gaelic poetry and teaches university classes in Celtic culture and literature.

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