Back in the 1700’s people were flooding into the yet-to-be established United States of America. At that time, it was just colonies. People from many different walks of life were searching for a new start. Many of them were seeking religious freedom. The kings of their former countries had decreed a specific christian faith, to many that worked well, to a few it did not.
Among these people was a young girl, named Hazel. She came to these shores with her parents. Her father was a tobacco farmer, her mother was a seamstress. Both eager to start a new life in the new world. Father settled on a plot of land and wasted no time establishing crop. Mother began her duties mending and hemming for others. Meanwhile Hazel played in the nearby woods and fields.
In this area where they had settled, the native americans were still very friendly. The children of the local tribe adored Hazel. They played with her every day, and before long she had adapted so well you would think she was a native american herself! She wore her deer skins by day, dresses by night. She became so close to the tribe that the old medicine man began teaching her the ways of the tribe.
He showed her all of the plants and herbs of the forest and fields. How to cure pain, heal wounds, and relieve itching and burning from insect bites or from poisonous plants. Hazel enjoyed learning from this old man, she absorbed the knowledge like moss absorbs water. It didn’t take her long to master the medicine of the wild. She would practice her newfound skills every chance she could.
Whenever she came to town she would cure all sorts of ailments. Before long, people in the nearby town began to wonder and question how this young girl was able to perform such miracles. Some people became jealous of this talent, rumors began to spread. Like wildfire these rumors spread, turning from innocent stories to elaborate schemes. The good that Hazel brought to the town was poisoned by the ill of man. A dark evil rose, and began to pose a threat. The girl that shared kindness and wisdom was now being branded as a witch.
Rocks were thrown her way, and she never ventured into town anymore. The ones that she helped were now the ones that sought to hurt her. Yet the more she withdrew from the town, the more they sought her. This time not for her help, but to burn her at the stake for her alleged “witchcraft” and using “magic” from the devil. Hazel ran.
She ran long, hard, and fast. Her eyes filled with tears, her feet carried her deep into the woods, far away from those that would hurt her. The sounds of dogs, and men on horses were not far behind her. She had to get away. She couldn’t go back, never to the town, not home, and not even back to the tribe. For, if she were to return to either of those places, the town may hurt her tribe or family. She ran deeper yet.
She wasn’t watching where she was going, in such a hurry. She ran towards the river, not slowing down. Her feet that lead her so surely here were not familiar with this new terrain. Moss and slime covered the wet rocks near the river. Hazel, moving at such a speed slipped. Instantly she began to fall towards the river edge, where many large and dangerous rocks loomed. Surely to end Hazel soon.
Hazel didn’t fall though, she simply swayed forward and then back. Where she had slipped, her foot had rooted itself into the ground, beside the slippery rock. Hazel looked down, her foot had literally turned into a root, now firmly planted into the ground. She looked around and behind her frantically. There, coming out of from between the trees and mist was the old medicine man. How had he kept up? How did he know something was wrong with Hazel? Where did he come from? These thoughts raced through her head.
The old medicine man slowly walked towards her, calmly, smoothly. His calm presence somehow instantly calmed Hazel of all her worries. As he got closer he began to speak. Telling Hazel how he had talked with the forest, and had asked mother nature to protect her. That her rooted foot was a sign of this, and nothing to worry about. It was an enchantment from the trees that caught her, saving her from what surely would have been death.
The old man began chanting, and raised the walking staff he had above his head, shaking it vigorously. Her root-foot slowly began to turn back to normal… Suddenly through the woods a shot rang out! The men from the town had caught up! One of them had fired from a great distance and, horrifically, this shot hit the old man! Blood began to seep through his clothes as he dropped to his knees. Chanting stopped, his eyes filled up with tears. The old man whispered two more words, the first was an apology to Hazel, the second word she didn’t understand.
The old man dropped his staff, and as it hit the rocky ground beneath him, there was a bright flash and the deafening sound of a angry thunder! As the old man’s staff settled to the ground, his body became a cloud of white smoke and instantly a sparrow formed from this smoke and flew into Hazel’s open hands.
Her foot reverted back to root, and furthermore the plant transformation raced up her leg and across her body. Her fingers and hair to leaves. Her legs and waist to plant and wood. Her skin to bark. Just as quickly Hazel raced into the woods, her body now raced into being a shrub. Not but seconds later were both transformations complete. Where once was two people was now a sparrow in a tree.
The evil town and all of it’s evil men were never able to find Witch-Hazel. Yet forevermore Witch-Hazel is used by so many to continually cure all sorts of pain, wounds, and ailment. If you ever happen to spot a sparrow in the Witch-Hazel shrub, you will now know their story, and have new respect for the power of nature.