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Chapter 15 - Witchcraft
Bianca had been avoiding Margery over the holiday period. She was just too much hard work. Then, towards the end of January, she noticed that Mohandas was no longer trying to find out how she'd gained access to the system. When she checked she discovered that he'd not yet returned to work. Her plan, hatched as she sat on the loo at Jackie O's place, to use Margery to divert him, was working better than she'd expected. Her guilt was rekindled. She'd just decided to see how he was enjoying his new relationship with Margery when Margery messaged her.
Margery suggested that they have lunch on Wednesday. As bait, Margery suggested that Bianca might be interested in The Craft and how she'd bewitched Mohandas.
"Bewitched?" wondered Bianca.
But many attractive women use that expression about their conquests. What is a 'Witch' anyway? New religions, and old ones revived, have experienced incredible growth since the economic recovery after the Great Famine.
Isis came up with this image by JW Waterhouse in The Cloud. The woman bears a remarkable resemblance to Margery who has both a crystal video ball and a skull in her office; and even a wand that she likes to use as a pointer; but no book.
Bianca had been about to suggest the same thing and accepted her invitation happily. They selected a quiet booth and sat opposite each other. It's a nice quiet restaurant decorated with dark polished wood and reddish brown leather. Dark table linen is chosen to set off the fine crystal and solid silver cutlery. Soft classical music and the smell of the dish of the day: 'Roast quail on a bed of truffle-mash with a side of legumes au caviar', provide ambiance. It's a cheap place.
As usual Margery chose the side in the spotlight, ordered a bottle of Beaujolais and took off her jacket. Bianca was startled. Was Margery deliberately trying to look like Isis? If so dressing up as someone else's VPA, their closest companion, would be unforgivably inappropriate. Bianca would be justified in leaving immediately.
But in this case the effect was just in the initial shock, as a result of the wide, azure inlayed, gold neck ornament Margery was wearing, in the ancient Egyptian style, extending halfway to her shoulders and scooped down over her collarbone in a semicircle. To have truly dressed as Isis she would have had to shed her 'token' camisole altogether; to have worn a corset below her breasts; Isis' distinctive strap-on arm wings; and the high forked crown.
There were no wings. Indeed, Margery's pale arms were unusually bare today. Her usual gold charm bracelet and other bangles were gone and in their place a gold and green asp wound around her right upper arm. Its intricately engraved cobra head, with little emerald eyes, open mouth and forked tongue, seemed almost to be alive, slithering from her armpit. With her fringe and her straight black hair lightly braided, she was the image, not of Isis, but of Cleopatra.
Not quite in keeping with the rest of her jewellery, Margery was also wearing some sort of pendant on a chain, hanging within the scoop of her loose camisole top. In this light Bianca could see the oddly out of place pendant occasionally falling forward and catching the light against the silk.
"She's quite stunning. No wonder she has such success as a seductress," Bianca was thinking, realising that the resemblance to Isis must be deliberate. She was finding it particularly disturbing in some subconscious way. Margery was up to something again.
Margery always had to have vintage wine. It amused Bianca that although all food and wine now came from factories there were still vintage differences modelled on, and identical to, famous pre-famine wines and prices varied accordingly. Yet the cost of production was identical. It was a nice example of an economic externality. When she mentioned this to Margery, Margery's eyes took in the room and she failed to respond, as if she hadn't heard. Another subject should be found.
"Where do you get your theories about women dominating men?" Bianca enquired, changing the subject from economics to sex, Margery's principal interest when they had lunch.
"They're not theories. Women have always had power over men. The ancient Greeks understood very well how dangerous women are to men. Think of the Amazons defeating them in battle; Sirens luring men to their deaths; or Circe turning them into pigs. The Maenads or Bacchae of the Cult of Dionysus were said to have torn animals and men apart with their bare hands and later to have supernatural powers. They left men terrified. Religions that give power to men are an attempt to reverse this imbalance. Think of Salome and Delilah in the Bible. There are dozens of examples of male writers fearing powerful women. Think of Lady Macbeth or Madam Bovary. Many women know this instinctively. Many men are completely controlled by a mistress, or sometimes even their wife, who manipulates them by offering or withholding sex. A lot of these are Sirens who will eventually lure him onto the rocks and ruin him or render him pathetic."
"Last time we met like this you were talking about The Craft. What's that?"
"It's a lot of things. You know, like: Double, double toil and trouble, Fire burn and cauldron bubble, plus of course the art of suggestion, engendering fear or respect, as well as Enchantment also called Mesmerism; or hypnosis if you like."
"Is that how you lure a man onto the rocks? You sing to him or do you just wiggle your nose or say some magic words you've imbedded in their subconscious?"
"It's very like that. The traditional way of enchanting someone is to chant a magical formula that captures their mind. But almost any words will do if delivered in the right circumstances, with the correct cadence. Once they've been enchanted the first time the subject's given a trigger phrase or gesture that returns them to their enchanted state. As I was telling you about my Bishop, when he was a priest he was enchanted each time I presented him my nipple. But my breast was unnecessary, it was the idea of my nipple that enchanted him. When he was hearing my confession in a booth next to me I just had to say the word: 'nip'. Then I would be hearing his confession. I also implanted a gesture, touching the tip of my nose, which made him agree with me in public. Some women have done this to their partner without resorting to hypnosis."
"So you could message him and use the word 'nip' in conversation and render him subservient to your will?"
"The conditions would need to be right or I would be risking it not working and becoming useless. Anyway triggers need to be renewed if not used regularly. I won't tell you his present triggers, they should always be kept a secret between the therapist and patient. Hypnosis is an evidence-based medical phenomenon. Medical hypnotherapists use suggestion to hypnotise their patients and it's how placebos and acupuncture and many 'alternative' medicines work. Yet there is nothing secret or alternative about it. If the effect is watched in a brain scanner, the subject's brain function actually changes as if they've been drugged. So by means of simple suggestion, they may no longer feel pain or their usual inhibitions and patterns of behaviour are changed or they become sexually aroused."
"Is this widely known? It sounds dangerous if one person can control another so easily."
"It's not magic or rocket science, stage hypnotists also do it for a living and there are a lot of professional hypnotherapists who do it medically every day. It's as old as the hills. But it is not always an instant solution to deeply imbedded habits or addictions like smoking or heroine. The patient needs to want the change or to like the suggestions made subconsciously, for example on stage, a subject wants to be entertaining. The hypnotist simply removes their subconscious inhibitions and suggests a method of entertainment. A hypnotherapist on the other hand might need multiple sessions to stop someone chewing their fingernails or stop smoking. Removing or embedding a phobia may require other therapies. The subject's sense of what is true and false, right and wrong and their previous physiological and psychological conditioning will also help determine the outcomes. Preconditioning of the subjects' world view, as religions do from childhood, is often necessary if extreme outcomes are sought. For example, in primitive societies witchdoctors once used these techniques and the secret knowledge was handed down mouth to mouth by tradition, along with the properties of psychoactive plants, insects and so on. With the right preconditioning people could be made to wither and die, just by the art of suggestion: like a curse or a bone pointing ceremony or a voodoo doll. Similarly, even today, a nocebo, Latin for 'I shall harm', is an inert substance or form of therapy that, generally inadvertently, creates harmful effects in a patient. An example might be hypochondria that causes actual pain the victim actually feels but is not there as a nerve signal."
Bianca had been inclined to believe that Margery was not a Grad and doubted that she could read at all well but relied, surreptitiously, on her VPA, Circe. Yet there was no doubting that she was highly knowledgeable and expert in those fields that interested her and that she called her Craft. It reminded her of Zaire's interest and expertise in old English literature. For probably the first time, Margery was telling her things of a technical nature that she didn't already know.
"You say that their brain actually changes. They are not just playing along with a stage hypnotist? And that acupuncture actually works by changing how the patient's brain receives the pain stimulus?"
"Yes, absolutely, but just as placebo, nocebo or acupuncture won't work unless the subject believes it will, the subject has to believe that the hypnotist can hypnotise them. Sometimes a briefly disorienting pharmaceutical will help to convince a doubter that they are falling under a spell."
"Then obviously, being able to change someone's brain state with simple gesture or word is a very powerful tool. You told me how you seduced your Bishop but how do you enchant someone you're not actually having sex with?"
"Haven't you seen a stage hypnotist? They aren't screwing everyone they hypnotise. It can be done by tone of voice or an understood gesture or, yes, even a magic word. This is implanted subconsciously after the subject has been made susceptible by being enchanted for the first time. It's amusing to use some traditional 'witching' term or gesture like forked fingers. Like any skill it requires learning and practice. I'm not going to give away all my secrets."
Here, Margery who had done almost all the talking, caught up with her lunch. They had both had the special, quail and truffled sweet potato with legumes on the side.
"Please go on," Bianca asked when the pretty, thin bone china, plates and sterling silver cutlery had gone and only their wine remained.
"Ok just a taste," said Margery, sipping her wine. "The environment is important: lighting; temperature; music; comfort; potential distractions. More important is one's presence in that environment: how you look, feel sound and smell to them; what you wear; how you carry yourself; your apparent authority. Most important is to capture their full attention: you or something you control such as a locket or a pretty bauble, like this one, must be the only thing they hold in their mind."
As she said that, she brought forward the gold amulet that had been dangling inside her camisole. It was on a separate gold chain hanging under her neck adornment. Bianca found it fascinating. This was Margery's secret amulet that she had caught a glimpse of midway between those breasts. Like Margery's arm-snake, it was engraved with an elaborately etched filigree pattern. It was probably 18 or 24 caret; an elongated egg shape; the length of her little finger. Margery smiled at Bianca's interest and held the chain out from her body to let Bianca see it better. As Bianca leant forward, to take it in her hand, a little mist of Margery's scent came towards her. What a clever idea, it was a handy scent spray. Margery was always rummaging for lost things in her big floppy handbag.
Leaning forward across the table to reach the cylinder, as Margery leant towards her, Bianca became almost uncomfortably aware of Margery's breasts, now fully visible as scooped neck of her camisole fell open; her elbows on the table; bear arms either side. The amulet was warm from Margery's body. Bianca could smell Margery's armpits; it was not unpleasant. That snake had come alive. The back of her hand brushed by soft silk; a hard nipple. Margery smiling at her touch. No! She let the bauble drop and retreated in alarm. Margery was just too inviting; and disorienting. Margery was coming around the table to let her see it better. She gave it a little twirl. It had an interesting swivel that allowed it to spin on several axes. And perhaps it had some kind of motor, because rather than slowing it seemed to be getting progressively faster and silvery arms seemed to have spun out from it, reflecting the lights in the restaurant. It began wobbling like an inverted top that has lost its stability. The visual effect was of several things spinning. The colours reflecting and changing shapes reminded her of a kaleidoscope. Bianca could distinctly see a face; a three dimensional image of Cleopatra; or was it Margery (?) coming and going; morphing into Isis and back to Margery within its blur. It was amazingly seductive. Margery was continuing to tell her something important about the Art of Suggestion in a sort of melodic voice and was sliding in beside her. Yet Bianca was not really hearing the words as Margery's body got closer.
"Then you can take over their mind by degrees. Their introduction to your control needs to be something comforting. Very very comforting," she was saying. The image in the spinning blur continued to come and go. "Stage hypnotists like to tell their subjects to relax," she drew the word out, "but in a sexual context, gently caressing; or caressing and stroking; or caressing with the lips, lightly kissing their face; or their hands; or their wrists; or simply moving close to them and caressing them with your skin; or the touch of your silky camisole can work even better."
She was distracted by the spinning locket. It was now right in front of her face. The moment its image morphed once more into Margery's it stopped. It dropped back to its secret place to be replaced by Margery's actual face, a hands breadth away. Her real eyes were glinting too as she continued to list her seductive ideas. She'd taken Bianca's left hand in her right and was gently holding it, palm upwards, in her lap, stroking Bianca's forearm down to her palm with the other. Bianca found that she liked this enormously. She was no longer feeling uncomfortable with this intimate contact. Margery suggested that her hand had become very light. It floated upwards to the level of Margery's breast. Then Margery suggested that it was very heavy and it dropped heavily back to her lap. Margery suggested that the only thing in the world was her voice.
All Bianca could hear was Margery's voice.
"Now you will listen to me and answer me yes or no. I've told you about some of my most erotic experiences haven't I. And some were really nasty weren't they?"
"Yes," Bianca confirmed.
"Now you want to tell me about some of your erotic experiences don't you? You have much better stories than I have don't you?"
"Yes," admitted Bianca.
"Think about the best one. One that makes you feel nicest. That would be very nice to tell me about wouldn't it? It would make me jealous. You could make it sound very sexy when you tell me couldn't you?"
"That's very arousing isn't it? It's lovely to feel so aroused isn't it?"
"It would be even more arousing and exciting if you added things that you've never done, yet wish you had. That would make me even more jealous wouldn't it? Think of those things now. We have lots of time."
Margery gave her some time to imagine carrying out her unresolved fantasies. Bianca was beginning to squirm against her in the most satisfactory way. It was going very well. She should stop the session soon and give her the trigger phrase, maybe 'Christmas Present'. Yes Christmas Present, to re-enchant her in future. Then she needed to wind-up this session by suggesting to Bianca that she remembers nothing about the amulet or anything that came later. It's a pity, because Bianca's really aroused now and 'a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush', as they say.
Margery was finding that she was quite aroused too. Maybe a bit longer and a bit more fun? This can be quite tricky. Suggestion requires the acquiescence of the subject. To make them do something against their nature needs a lot more work to break down their resistance. She decided to test Bianca's resistance to something new by suggesting a few more things.
"Listen carefully. I'm going to tell you some things and if they are true you will nod yes; and if they are not you will shake your head."
Bianca stopped imagining her secret fantasy.
"You like me sitting beside you like this." Nod.
"You like the feel of my body against yours." Nod.
"You think I'm sexy." Nod.
"Very good. Now I want something from you. I will find it very sexy and so will you. It may be something you've never done with a woman. Would you like that? Answer yes or no."
"Yes," Bianca said softly
"I think you know what it is. I want you to give me a Christmas present. You want to find out how it feels to seduce someone like that. Don't you?"
Bianca was still feeling amazingly aroused after her earlier fantasy. It had involved Margery. It was lovely to feel so aroused and Margery is very sexy today. Of course she would allow her the present she desired.
"Yes," confirmed Bianca and smiled in delight when Margery's left hand rested on her knee under the table. It was what she now desperately wanted to try, even while wearing her new French knickers. She grabbed Margery's wrist to start her seduction but Margery suggested that her hand had been glued there. So Bianca couldn't move it.
"You would like me to unglue my hand from your knee wouldn't you?"
"Yes!" Bianca was indignant.
"But fair's fair, if you give me a present I have to give you a present too."
Margery lifted Bianca's right hand to her knee and grabbed Bianca's wrist.
"O, feel that! My hand's come unstuck when you put your left hand on my wrist," Margery declared.
They exchanged Christmas Presents.
Eventually, when Margery was more than delighted with the outcomes, she pushed Bianca off and prepared to resume her old seat as if nothing had happened. As they separated and as Margery began to stand she was closing the session.
"Now, in future when you hear me say the words 'Christmas Present' you will..."