The Henwife is a figure from the folklore of the British isles and old Europe, a once well known figure of the community now fallen into obscurity. Her humble appearance as a keeper of domestic poultry was something of a disguise for her role as herbalist, counselor and witch. She straddled two worlds, the tame and the wild, and held intimate knowledge of both. 

The Henwife is a figure from the folklore of the British isles and old Europe, a once well known figure of the community now fallen into obscurity. Her humble appearance as a keeper of domestic poultry was something of a disguise for her role as herbalist, counselor and witch. She straddled two worlds, the tame and the wild, and held intimate knowledge of both. 

“It’s eggs you’ve come for is it? Sit down dear, I’ll fetch a half dozen for you. Cup of tea while you’re waiting? Sure you will. You’ll do me a favor by finishing up the morning’s biscuits too, there you are. You’ll pour some of that elder syrup over the tops if you know what’s good for you. Now I see the furrow in your brow, you’ve got a worrying mind and a restless heart. Tell me what the trouble is…. 

Top off your tea for you? Let’s add some of these infused spirits. Wood Betony dear, you saw her purple flowers by the door. Now what about those eggs. You put your feet up by the fire and rub some of this urgent on your chest after I’ve stepped out. Yes it does smell nice, and it’ll take away the chill on your soul from all your fretting. 

All right love, here’s your eggs. And just wait a moment while I bottle up some of this elixir for ye. It was buried in the garden for a fort night and it called out it was ready while I was gathering eggs. You take a spoonful of that now, and you won’t be getting sick this month like the rest of the village.

Of course love, you’re always welcome at my door. The moon will guide your feet home. Oh wait, before you go, slip this into your pocket. A little feather charm from me an’ the hens. Bundle it with your St. John’s wort at midsummer and hang it over your door. Hwyl fawr, fy ffrind." *

 

 

* Northern Welsh is a strong part of my ancestry and Hwyl fawr, fy ffrind means “Goodbye, my friend”.