Guest Post From Vonnie Winslow Crist: The Wisewoman Archetype

20 May

Today my guest is Vonnie Winslow Crist, the author of a YA fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, 2 speculative story collections, The Greener Forest and Owl Light, and other books. A firm believer that the world around us is filled with mystery, miracles, and magic, Vonnie celebrates the power of myth in her writing.

The wisewoman archetype character has its roots in the myths, legends, and folklore of many societies. She’s attuned to nature, knowledgeable about animals and plants, and a healer. She’s both midwife and dark angel who opens the doors of birth and death. Usually, she’s been apprenticed to an older wisewoman or is a member of a loosely aligned society of wisewomen. She’s also the owner of a diary, journal, or book of recipes given to her by a now-deceased mentor.

In my fiction, the wisewoman archetype is a respected member of the community. Loved by some, feared by many, she seems to possess supernatural knowledge. My wisewomen are observant, intelligent, intuitive, and empathetic. Using the same information available to the other characters plus her experience and special book, she’s able to find a solution to the problems facing her or another. Does she use magic? Maybe. I usually leave that up to the reader to decide.

In my eshort, For the Good of the Settlement, Auntie Rue and her pet squirrels must decide whether or not to commit murder. They’re basically “good,” but will they choose a dark solution to their problem? In my collection of speculative stories, The Greener Forest, the wisewoman character appears in several of the selections. One of my favorites, Rona, sits beside her niece as they await the arrival of a draugr (a type of zombie). She’s used traditional folklore methods of preventing zombification, but knows there’s still a chance that Gunnar will return.

In my new YA fantasy novel, The Enchanted Skean, there are several wisewomen who interact with Beck (the main character) as he journeys from his hometown of Queen’s Weather to Ulfwood and back. All of them are healers, have special books, a favored animal, and words of advice for my hero. These women, along with an ancient wisewoman we meet later in the book, belong to the Alywyn Sisterhood – but I was careful to make each of them an individual. They differ in appearance, speech, animal companion, and abilities. All of the wisewomen he has dealings with seem to help Beck – the question is, do they assist him out of kindness, for money, or for some ulterior motive?

The longest tale in my next collection of short fiction, Owl Light, features a diviner and her assistant. In this story, the reader witnesses the transferal of power and position as an older wisewoman fulfills her pledge to protect the people of her village and is killed in the process. Her assistant then steps into the role of diviner.

Since I use this archetype frequently in my fiction, I’ve been asked: “Are your wisewomen witches?” My response is: no and yes. If you mean devil-worshipers, the answer is: no. If you mean broom-riding hags out to do evil, again the answer is: no. But if you’re asking if my wisewomen might’ve been accused of witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts 250 years ago ago because they were different from most of the New England villagers, the answer is: yes.

Many of the women accused over the centuries of being witches were nothing more than healers. Their power over disease was viewed as magical. If a woman was able to cure an illness, some people suspected she might be able to cause illnesses. So a wisewoman healer was often called a hedge witch, and though a part of a community was set apart from that same community because of her oneness with nature.

Wisewoman, village elder, healer, diviner, or hedge witch – I like nothing more than to toss into my fiction a powerful, mysterious female character. The question is, do readers like to read about such characters?

Here are links to read a 3-chapter excerpt of The Enchanted Skean: and to take a look at The Enchanted Skean’s book trailer:

To learn more about Vonnie and her books, visit her website: , blog: , Facebook page: , Goodreads page: , or follow her on Twitter:

And to purchase her books:


2 Responses to “Guest Post From Vonnie Winslow Crist: The Wisewoman Archetype”

  1. vonniewinslowcrist May 21, 2013 at 5:44 am #

    Thanks, Sandy, for asking me to visit. I hope your readers enjoy the post. – Vonnie


  1. Balticon 2013 | Whimsical Words - May 23, 2013

    […] and The Wisewoman Archetype:… I hope you enjoy the guest […]

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