It’s that time of year, the most nunderful time of year, and I haven’t had a moment to sneak into my spy library until now because, to put it quite Frank(Sinatra)ly, I am up to my neck in nuns and Bing cherries. Indeed, you read that right; no need for a double bake. Or take. Bing cherries are more than a staple at the abbey around this time of year. Do we have to smuggle them in? Yes. Is Sistrrr Grim the one solely responsible for doing so? Yes. But no matter. The nuns need Bing cherries and I am here to serve them.
The Bing Bonanza and its related commotion is all connected to our annual Christmas Cherries in the Church Bake-Off, which is happening as I write this. This makes my mouth water, I will admit, because I am a sucker for cherries. Cherry pie has always made this little nun wanna-be swoon, and every year the nuns just get better and better at perfecting their cherry recipes. I’m their taster and their tester, so I know how the ins and outs of nuns’ cherries. Sp-oil-ed I am, but I am not rotten, Readrrr; I am sp-oil-ed ripen-ed! Just like the cherry I am going to pop into my reverent mouth tonight.
Under typical circumstances, the nuns at Anathema Abbey would be on their usual holiday diet of rock hard fruit cake. The Vat allows them to have fruit cake in December because they assume that everyone on God’s fruitcakey earth hates it and also they can get it cheap from congregational donations. In other words, the priests don’t want it so the nuns get it.
Ironic as it is, priests refuse to eat fruit cake. They worry it might plant in their congregations “funny ideas” about them. The nuns just graciously accept whatever comes down the line of authority and ends up getting to them: usually stale food that others throw away, but: the nuns are grateful! I, unlike the nuns, am outraged at this injustice but I came up with a solution.
Having brought my cauldron to this abbey and having my Hummus Claus accoutrements in tow, I have been able to work some miracles on the fruit cake, turning ordinary dried up, miserable, stuffed-in-the-pantry for centuries fruit cakes into out-on-the-counter moist, happy, heavenly, highly consumable fruit cakes. But only by way of witchcraft. The nuns at Anathema Abbey were not as hesitant about welcoming my craft into the abbey as have been the nuns at other abbeys in the past. I think we have at least three wicked little novitiates, here, and they are all helpful to me as I try to transform the ordinary into the holy hextraordinary. I thought it would be unfair to the nuns if I used my cauldron against them in their cherry competition, and the nuns were so touched by my compassionate act that they elected me to be The One and Only Taster (i.e., judge). What an honor!
It was a difficult decision that required days and nights of being stuffed with cherries but yesterday, after arduous contemplation, I gave my nunofficial benediction to Sistrrr Binghamton’s cherry pie, and named it the First Place Winner of the 2016 CCC Bake-Off.
Readrrr, the pie was divine. Not only did it rival one of Gustave Dore’s masterpieces in its aesthetic appearance but, when it entered the gates of my mouth, it was reminiscent of Dante’s Empyrean. There is no way to describe what happens to one’s mouth when into one’s mouth enters the abode most high! Tasting Sistrrr Binghamton’s cherry sphere took me nearly beyond the spheres of mortality, and the wheel of my senses was turned by the Love witch moves the nun and the other stars.
If that’s too abstract and beyond comprehension, just trust in my nunderstanding about this sky pie. The crust was three dimensional: stars were literally cut into it and bursting out of its blazing and supple arc. I felt as though I had died and gone to heaven in a fashion as sweet and starry as Juliet’s death-wish for Romeo. Bing went the strings of my heart.
But I found out later that one of the secrets to Sistrrr Binghamton’s cherry disposition and success is that she uses both fresh sweet and sepulcherized sour cherries.
By pairing prunus avium and prunus cerasus, Sistrrr Bing was able to create a nunheard of balance between the sweet/wild and red tart/tamed elements. Her recipe also calls for (h)agave nectar and a small parcel of old world spices, the specifics of witch I know but cannot disclose. The secret to her heavenly crust is how she works it with her cherry-stained hands.
After I gave her pie my highest blessing, I asked her to show me, privately, how she makes it taste so good. She started humming, Readrrr, and before I knew it, I was in front of her at, and practically bent over, the counter. These nuns are so full of surprises!
Have I mentioned that Sistrrr Binghamton is a school of a woman.
Her mouth is shaped like an old school bell and her tongue hangs out of it in such a way that makes one think she rings when she speaks. Well, Sistrrr Bing took me by the wrist into the kitchen, threw down some flowerdust and five golden rings, and, from behind me, she demonstrated the Olympic feat of pie-crust making. Making a pie crust is not easy for most; you have to have the right touch for it. Strong, but not overpowering. Firm, but not hard. Soft in the right places and at the right times. And it all has to come together in the hands and arms. Sistrrr Bing held mine in hers and we worked the dough together into one golden sphere. Then we worked it for an hour and flattened it with a smooth broom handle, before laying part of it in a glass manger and filling it with spiced cherry preserves.
We worked hard but the entire process was great fun, especially when she accidentally licked my buttery fingers and I purposely licked her butter fingers back! Yes, that was fun. You’re not supposed to do that in the kitchen, are you. Licking fingers, I mean. Oh well. Too late!
Before we were finished, she had me milk a cow to make some hextra butter to brush over the top to make it shine, witch made me moor than happy! By the end, we were hexhausted, and we collapsed in the rectory while our pie baked. At midnight, we shared our mean and churchy cherry pie and it danced with spiced plums on the tongues of the nuns. We shared a piece because we both like it hot in a bowl of cold cream. While I was helping to clean up Sistrrr Bing, afterward when her bell-shaped mouth was dripping with cream, I dubbed her the Cherry of My Deep Artment. Readrrr, I wonder if she got the joke. (Not everyone can be as clever as you!)
That was all last night, and tonight is even more hexciting. Tonight is what I call Hexmas. Hexmas is a holiday that I invented. It is combination of Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Saturnalia, and it is meant as a way of ringing and Binging and blinging and bringing in the winter solstice. Hexmas is a holiday and a howliday conjured by my cliterary imagination, but believe you-me: she exists.
I started celebrating Hexmas when Sistrrr Shakespeare and I were separated at (our savior’s) birth. Long ago we used to sit Sapphically together in front of the nativity of our mind, one-hand, one-heart, whispering about how we wished we could change our names to Frankincensica and Myrrhah, so that no one would recognize us and we could finally follow the star and lay in a manger together.
Didn’t work out that way. Sistrrr Grim was deported to the edifying Guantanamo Bayberry Detention Camp for Ex-Nuns and Sistrrr Shakespeare was forced by Father Roberto to sign a religious document stating that she believed that marriage was a sacrament only intended for one man and for one woman. You ever heard of this kind of thing? I haven’t. Who would create such a document? I know: a bunch of homosexual-obsessed homophobes who are afraid that their sham of an institution is going to crumble and melt like a Sapphic cookie in the mouth of a horny lesbian. Too damn(ed) bad. Too damn(ed) late. She ate. And she ate. And she ate the cookie of sexual confusion. And it’s too late now to save the institution.
In signing this document against same-sex marriage, Sistrrr Shakespeare ensured that she would be allowed to remain at the Friary Priory but I was a cast away. Don’t feel sorry for me, though, Readrrr. I drew on walls and talked to balls before being cast off and thrown away. Guantanamo Bayberry turned out to be a nice, educational place, and it was there that I learned to theorize and discovered the same-hex marriage loophole! It was in this loophole that I learned to spy my way back to Sistrrr Shakespeare and to cliterary theorize us a whole new world. It was also in this loophole that Hexmas came to be.
During my last year at Guantanamo Bayberry (known by then as just “The Bayberry,” after I reformed it from a detention camp into a nightclub), I was trying to celebrate Christmas with Sistrrr Shakespeare from a distance because we both love Jesus Christ, as do all nuns– even the Jewish ones. While I labored to give birth to the perfect Christmas gifts for Sistrrr Shakespeare, I hexperienced a vision. The vision was of Sistrrr Shakespeare, who was called “Josephina” and wore a jammy red J across her chest. This was the first time I had seen her with a full-out beard.
The Bearded Josephina came to me and sat on the edge of my bed and said, “I will raise the child.” Josephina was also wearing a white apron (but nothing else) and was holding a wooden spoon, which caused me to feel disoriented, and I said, “You mean Julia?” “I mean the child.” “Then what are you holding a wooden spoon for?” “I do not know; God put it in my hand.” “I hope that doesn’t mean you’re going to use that on the child, Josephina!” “Don’t worry; it’s probably for the celebration of the Epiphany!” “Huh?” “The king’s cake. I’m making a chocolate one with a bit of rum in the frosting this year.” The moment I reached out and laid my hand on the handle of Josephina’s spoon, Josephina’s beard turned to chocolate rum and drizzled all over her apron until all of it had soaked into the letter J, which was no longer jammy red but was instead scarlet brown, the exact color of Josephina’s eyes. I looked into one of her eyes, and from the blazing brown pupil, I saw take shape the form of three wise women, who looked as though they had been traveling so far. “What do you see,” asked Josephina. “I see… I see three nuns. Oh my, yes. There they are, three wee nuns of orient! And they are bearing something. They come bearing gifts! They’ve traversed field and fountain, moor and mountain, and they’re following something. Oh, what is it, what is it, Josephina?” Josephina replied dryly, “Yonder star?” “Yes, yes, that’s it.” It was at that moment that appeared before my not-wandering eye in the not-wandering eye of Josephina a star! “Yonder Star!” we hexclaimed in unison, gripping the wooden spoon and sighing deeply.
Then, from the depths of Josephina’s eye and from the depths of my mind was born a child, a child with three heads. The rest had made perfect sense, but this was truly strange, I thought. I wondered what it meant. The three wise-women-child sang of a gloomy tomb, a deity on high, and a never ceasing golden crown.
To be honest, I was a little confused, and I wouldn’t have had a chance at making a lick of sense of it if the night before I had not been visited by an angel who told me that I would give birth to a three-headed child and that My Heavenly Fathrrr was to plant the holy seed in me. Fortunately, I had already been warned and accepted the angel’s message, so my confusion was short-lived, and Josephina and I rejoiced by holding and kissing our three-headed child in our arms… until I came out of the vision.
Now make of this vision what you will, Readrrr, but Sistrrr Shakespeare and I nunderstand it completely. At the scene of the birth of our three headed baby vision, Sistrrr Shakespeare and I confessed to one another, via spy portal, that we were a witch. We wondered how we would celebrate Christmas as a German witch, how we would celebrate Christmas as a Jewish witch, how we would celebrate Christmas together-and-apart, and we came up with a plan. Using our cliterary theory of hexuality, we conjured our own tradition in order to combine and hybridize the complexities of our identities and the matrix of passages that constitutes our mind.
This year, like every year, Sistrrr Shakespeare and I both want the same thing for Christmas: family. We wish for each other and the three-headed child ren but we know that this is not something that Santa can deliver, as much as Santa might want it. It’s something that has to come from: inside us, from Love, from God (another form of the Holy Trinity!). So we pray and we wait for it to happen because we believe it will. In the meantime, I dress up like Cherry Hexmas and write a myth for us through my living body, and we make the most of the holiday apart-but-together.
Hexmas is the holiday on which Cherry Hexmas, The Christmas Witch, goes from abbey to abbey, leaving a festive foresty wreath (i.e., crown) and a cherry berry treat on every abbey doorstep and casting on every ‘porch of perpetual pining’ a spell laced with spice that will last throughout the year. (Below is the hex I recite:)
“Ye Old Abbey Porch / Set with furious frost
Shall be a place of welcome / Or to Hell will be tossed”
Cherry Hexmas is a celebration and spin on Befana, the Italian Christmas Witch, who, according to Italian folklore, welcomed into her house the Magi on their way to the holy babe.
On this frosty Hexmas Eve (not the eve before Hexmas but the eve of Hexmas), the green witch and the cherry witch will combine forces and horses to make Hexmas Magic. Whoopee! This year, I have sent out my little nun elves to help, and they are making the deliveries on their nun sleds while I work my hexes at home and try them all out using my holy spy portal.
We are hexpecting LAKE Effect snow (and show) tonight at Anathema Abbey and we have a FULL MOON— the ideal conditions for a Harpy Hexmas Eve. I have all of my essential supplies: our Yonder Star, our cherries, our Yule log, our citrus garland, our spiced rum and sweet cider to mull, our after-Hex snacks, our spellbooks, our cinnamon stick hexmas wands, our twinkling lights, our harpy hearth, our misty moisty moisturizers so we don’t dry out by the raging fire, our mistletoe, our aromatic upright tree, our decked halls, and our hay-making Sapphic trough.
Readrrr, whether or not you close your eyes, keep your vision on the Yonder Star tonight! Cherry Hexmas will be working with the full moon to please three-headed children across the globe! And Yule and I will be granting wishes together as sure as the Little Sure Shot will sure be shooting (say it hex times fast, Readrrr, I dare you).
Have yourself a Virgin Merry Little Hexmas, Dear Close (at Heart and Hearth) Readrrr.