I Visited a Forest-Dwelling Witch to Cure My Crushing Existential Dread

I have been drinking Susun Weed's calming herbal tinctures for months in an attempt to stave off my impending mental breakdown. But I knew it was not enough; I needed to meet the wood witch to receive her blessings directly.
December 8, 2017, 4:48pm
Image: Harry James Hanson

On Edge is a series about stress in 2017.

It’s a dull, cold morning in mid-November when I arrive at Susun Weed’s house. The world around me feels desaturated, dutifully fading towards the most moribund point of the year. I’m here because I admire and slightly fear Susun, a renowned, forest-dwelling witch; like the thousands who have made this voyage before me, I hope she will be able to offer me some semblance of insight and inner peace.

I’ve been obsessed with Susun for several months now. I first found my way to her while I was researching motherwort, an herbaceous perennial plant believed to help with anxiety, which I was taking as a palliative cure for my sense of crushing existential dread. (“Freaked out? Upset? Take a dropperful of motherwort! Distressed about something that might happen? Or might have happened? Take motherwort!”Susun’s website urges brightly.)

As 2017 wore on, and more and more grotesque horrors emerged from the slack maw of our present reality—a constant stream of existential threats orchestrated by the buffoons in power, endless accounts of abuse and harassment, most of which had circulated for years without consequence—I found myself seized with the urge to meet Susun in the flesh. I kept mentally returning to an image of her I once came across, in which she’s laughing beatifically in front of a waterfall, her thick gray hair crowned with an earth-tone bandana. I am usually skeptical of New Age-y stuff, and I fastidiously maintain a roster of unhealthy habits, but I felt inexplicably drawn to her nonetheless. What does one have to do, I wondered, to become that deeply and fundamentally chill?

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