Rusalkas: A Memory of Auntie Irene

Before the Rusalka was just another character in The Witcher, she was a story my Auntie Irene passed on to me.

First let me begin by explaining my Auntie Irene. She was my great-grandmother’s sister. A spinster living on a hill at the bottom of a mountain. Living just outside a tiny town, she made a living by reading palms and speaking to spirits. The townspeople always joked that at least she was less expensive than a therapist.

My grandmother would drop me at Auntie Irene’s when errands needed running. She would always say, “now, remember, only believe half of what she tells you.” She never told me which half.

One particular afternoon she had no clients lined up, so she decided to pass a story on to me. She had collected many stories and traditions from her elders and now, the eldest alive, she passed them on to my young ears. She was sure to tell me that as the eldest of my generation it would one day be my job to pass them on.

“The old willow outside… do you see her? Do you see how happy she is? How green. Think about the crops here. Ye, ever seen a bad year?

That’s all thanks to our Rusalkas. The Rusalkas help us with what we need. They are the children of Mother Earth. When it comes time to plant our crops, they come from the streams and climb up the trees, just like the old willow. They keep away drought.

If you look for them, maybe you’ll be able to see them. I hear they are beautiful. You have to trust your heart and search with your mind’s eye. The peepers on your face won’t do. Just look to the trees and sing. They love a good song.”

It was then that a man came to have his fortune told. She usually let me listen, but this time I was shooed outside.

I spent the afternoon climbing trees and singing. I fell asleep in the willow.

Later in life I learned that the Rusalka were said to be the spirits of women who committed suicide by drowning or were drowned violently. They were then born into the afterlife and destined to spend eternity in the veil as water bound spirits. They use their maternal instincts to bring life-giving moisture to crops. They love the singing of children and will stay in a place that welcomes them.

When the Tiny Human climbs trees to play, I tell her to sing. 

Our crops are always strong.

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