'Memento Moris' from Hecate


It should’ve worked, Hestia. We should’ve worked. Two witch-goddesses that, while on opposite ends of the magical spectrum, were in perfect balance. You were attuned to nature, I to necromancy. Your domain was the home, while I ventured to crossroads. The sun to my moon. Sacred fire to wild flames. Life and death.

Back to the island of Asteria, back to my mother’s arms, and yet I can’t be in the same room as Circe when she makes dinner because I see your face in the cauldron’s kindle. The hot tails of the blaze cradle the pot, reminding me of your tangerine and cherry colored hair.

Still, I can’t escape you. There are still nights where I sleepwalk, drifting back to the hearth. My foggy memory only remembers the hidden embers glowing beneath the smoky ashes and my hands reaching for them. Before any damage could be done, Circe found me and grabbed my wrists.

“Leave her be. Do you want to be hurt again?” she asked, the moonlight only revealing half of her face.

I had no answer.


//


When we first met, you sat in the shade under the awning of Demeter’s house, sipping your ptisane. Your hands gingerly held the cup, and as you drank, your brown-orange eyes drifted towards me. I travelled with Hades and Persephone from the Underworld to the Mortal Realm since Demeter wanted to meet me. Yet, the three of them wandered off into the gardens, leaving me alone.

You didn’t say anything, letting the birds’ singing and cool breeze fill the silence. All you did was a simple gesture to the chair next to you, and as if I were in a trance, sat down. I didn’t know much about you. The only knowledge I held was that you were an aunt figure to Persephone during her younger years and that you harnessed the power of fire – something that would engulf and smolder the both of us soon.

In the couple rays of sunlight that cut through the shade, I saw that your olive skin had a golden tinge to it, just like your incandescent hair. The fire in the Underworld exclusively emits a vibrant green, so I barely saw its natural hue. Because of this, I couldn’t help but admire your long, summery tresses.

We sat in comfortable quietness. You poured more ptisane into your cup. The aroma of barley, mint, and honey wafted in the air. After you removed your mouth from the lip, a grimace spread on your face – too cold.

Focusing on the ptisane, your eyes and hair glimmered, and tiny boiling bubbles appeared. I have seen the destruction Zeus’ lightning bolts can cause, how Poseidon can move the entire sea with a wave of his hand, and the immense strength Athena can wield, but it was your handheld magic that intrigued me.

You saw my surprise and smiled warmly. You didn’t smile much, but when you did, it was always genuine.

What shocked me even more was when I heard your voice. “Hecate, correct?” Every time you said the first half of my name, it sounded like the warm crackle of a campfire.

“Yes,” I answered. “And you must be Hestia?”

You smiled again, making my heart flutter like the butterflies that danced among Demeter’s flowers. “The one and only.”


//


I heard that you returned to Olympus after I left, wanting to get as far away as possible from the Underworld. I understand if you’re still mad at me for not saying good-bye. In all honesty, I didn’t know how to phrase it, how to approach you. During one of the last times we were together, I opened my mouth to speak. But then, my eyes would meet yours. What was it that I saw? Anger? Distrust? Fear? How could I talk when you didn’t want to speak about it?

So, the words would get stuck in my throat, my stomach would sink, and we would return to our painfully silent dinner.


//


Circe informed me that Dionysus left his council chair but did not know if you were given back your seat.

In other words, you had abandoned your lovely cottage because of me, a realization that crushed me like Sisyphus’s boulder. Your cottage was simple but homey, surrounded by willows, blooming bushes, and various flowers. Ivy grew on your door, waving hello as the wind blew. A wall of wood was stacked behind your home since you always needed to have a fire going on in your giant hearth.

In your small bedroom, I was confused when it was discovered that you slept with no blankets. How does one find comfort in a bare bed? My questions were quickly answered when I stayed overnight for the first time; you radiated a soothing warmth that washed over and protected me.

You weren’t interested in physical intimacy, but that never bothered me. Your delicate kisses or your head resting on my chest was enough. When you were nervous, you didn’t say anything but held my hand and rubbed your thumb over my rings. As you held me, you would bury your face into my raven hair, softly murmuring how cooling it was. How badly I wanted to stay in your arms. Now, I’m not so sure if I want to return to your stifling embrace if given the chance.


//


We were most connected through our magic.

All your powers emerged from your fireplace. A cauldron stained with rust and burn marks erupted into a fantastical visionary – stories, spells, past, present, future, anything of spoken word or thought was conducted and unraveled here.

Herbs, twigs, spices, flowers, among other things, were gathered and carefully mixed together. What caught my attention the most was when you burned leaves. When they caught fire, their edges and veins would curl up, cupped like a nymph’s hand. Your house would be filled with beautiful scents and blessings, lulling me to sleep. I was accustomed to decay and darkness, but my dreams were filled with your glowing gold. You showed me the beauty of Life, how it is like a lover to Death for it cannot exist without the other.

You morphed fire with the graceful waves of your hands. The flames would change color and transform into different shapes and images. How it breaks my heart to remember that you always created us dancing. Your fiery miniature was a soft apricot hue, while mine was a sharp emerald green.

Then there were our trips traveling through the night. Our bare feet would barely make any sounds as we spirited across the Mortal Realm, your gasps echoing quietly as I bent moonlight, shadows, and reality itself to my will. Along these paths, I would collect animal bones, fungi, forgotten coins, and moths. I couldn’t help but smile as you studied each object carefully, trying to unlock its secrets. When reaching the center of the crossroads, we would examine the offerings given to me and decide if the mortal who left them deserved fortune.

I was quite surprised you wanted to join me since your domain was the inside: safe, secure, cozy. But, here you were, watching me boil bones, reading moth wings to tell the future, and dancing in the rain to deliver blessings.

It was the lost souls that scared you. When we came across one, you hid under your cloak hood, and held still as a statue. I would have to guide the poor ghost to the Underworld or call for Hermes. Either way, you silently waited until they were gone.

I thought you would get used to it. You saw me perform necromancy on dead birds, their half decomposed bodies fluttering with life, their souls entangled with rotting feathers and entrails as I tried to separate the two. Sometimes you even helped me. During one conjuring, you gently pulled a crow’s ribs apart so I could extract the soul away from its rotting heart. Tears welled in your eyes, but you did not shed any.

“You can leave if you want. I understand,” I whispered, focusing on the poor creature in front of me.

“No, no, let me help. This bird has suffered enough.” The crow let out a strained caw and you sadly sighed. “I admire your skill. I could never.”

I know you listened to my conversations with the souls, despite being hidden. How your eyes gleamed with intrigue, but how you flinched when a ghost glanced in your direction. You knew who I was, and you still told me you loved me.

Was it truly Death that you were terrified of? Or was it me?

Now I understand why Hades can’t help but laugh at the irony of how the Olympus-bound deities are terrified of Death, of us. To them, we who walk the line between immortality and mortality are dangerous outcasts.


//


“Must you always wear so many rings?” you asked, curious. The silver that adorned my ten fingers glittered in your eyes.

I took a ring off the third finger on my left hand and slid it onto yours. “Is that better?” I asked, smirking as you blushed.


//


It wasn’t your fault that you lost control of your fire from time to time. It’s fire, it was born to be untamed.

On those sweltering summer nights when it was hard to stay cool, your hair would flourish and flare, like lava erupting from a volcano. How your locks would become an iridescent inferno; beauty and rage all at once. How your eyes glowed white-hot; the brightness of them seared into my mind. The only way to restrain the wildfire was by braiding it tight and submerging it in freezing water.

It was a battle for you to manage it, so I took it upon myself to braid despite you begging me not to. I knew the risk, that while I could heal quickly from any burns, the pain was still there.

As I would wrangle your tresses, the flames would scale up my arms, wrapping around them like ropes. I bit down hard on my necklaces. I was not going to scream when you were the one suffering.

Finally, I would be able to dunk your hair and my arms into the water-filled ceramic pot by the bedside. We would both collapse from exhaustion and relief. You kissed my forehead, your tears running down my cheeks. Even those were warm.


//


I remember the night, when summer was gradually transitioning to autumn, and my hands were healing much slower than usual. You panicked and called Apollo for his medical services.

He walked in, aura glowing like his sun. Instantly, he understood the situation and gave us a stiff greeting. Upon examining my raw hands, we both discovered that my rings had welded together. My fingers were stuck. I winced every time Apollo touched me, as he tried to clean up the blue blood that dripped down my aching palms. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw you flinch when I yelped in pain.

Apollo sat with me for the rest of that long night. His incredible patience, carefully prying off my beloved jewelry. His fingertips became red since the rings were still emitting heat from the fire. You remained in the corner of the room, face buried in your hands.

After I was bandaged and sent to bed, I couldn’t help but hear your hushed conversation.

Apollo’s whispers hissed like hot coals. “Hestia, what did I tell you? You know we can’t get close to anyone. If we do – ”

“I know, I know. We burn them,” you whispered, choking back sobs. I wondered if your tears made holes in your dress.


//


You were apprehensive about visiting the Underworld. Making excuses, never having enough time, wanting me to move into your cottage. I felt it unfair that you had opened your door to me ten-fold, yet I had not done the same for you.

While you eventually said yes, it was quite obvious you weren’t happy. When we made our descent, you clutched my arm with an iron grip. The green fire made you uneasy, and you closed your eyes and covered your ears as we crossed the River Styx. You didn’t want to see the trapped souls in the water trying to latch onto the side of the boat with their gnarly, phantom hands. You got lost in my palace, the spiral staircases and narrow corridors causing confusion. I tried to help, but you did not dare show me trepidation, but an unforgiving stubbornness.

When we went to bed, you couldn’t fall asleep. The whispers of the dead, something that stopped bothering me long ago, haunted you. Your silhouette thrashed about next to me, your hair extinguished from the total absence of light, of life.

You gave up on sleeping and turned to me crying. “I want to go home, Hecate.”

Home. Your home.

The problem wasn’t that you feared the darkness and Death. It was that you didn’t give me a chance. The Underworld was my home since I was a little girl. My mother could no longer raise or protect me, for she was at risk of being captured. She brought me to the Underworld, and I grew up with lonely souls, built my castle, and witnessed Hades be crowned ruler. If Persephone could do it, why couldn’t you?

Maybe that’s why I find myself half asleep at the hearth, to find an answer. Why give your heart to me when you rejected mine? These scars on my hands, do they mean nothing to you? No longer were Life and Death eternal partners, but bitter rivals. So, I casted one final spell and made myself disappear.

You can keep the ring, by the way.
















Dariene Seifert is a writer, journalist, and amateur witch. She is a 2021 graduate of Ithaca College, NY with a BFA in Writing for Film, TV, and Emerging Media, and a minor in Women's and Gender Studies. Her hometown is Grand Island, NY, but now resides in Los Angeles in hopes of having a career in TV and film. Her work has also been published in The Buffalo News, The Ithacan, Buzzsaw Magazine, and Stillwater Magazine. You can follow her on Instagram @darieneseifert. 

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