Imagine A Woman
by Patricia Lynn Reilly, 1995

Imagine a woman who believes it is right and good she is a woman.
A woman who honors her experiences and tells her stories.
Who refuses to carry the sins of others within her body and life.
Imagine a woman who believes she is good.
A woman who trusts and respects herself.
Who listens to her needs and desires, and meets them
With tenderness and grace. Imagine a woman who has acknowledged the past's influence on the present.
A woman who has walked through her past.
Who has healed into the present.
Imagine a woman who authors her own life.
A woman who exerts, initiates, and moves on her own behalf.
Who refuses to surrender except to her truest self and to her wisest voice. Imagine a woman who names her own gods.
A woman who imagines the divine in her image and likeness.
Who designs her own spirituality and allows it to inform her daily life. Imagine a woman in love with her own body.
A woman who believes her body is enough, just as it is.
Who celebrates her body and its rhythms and cycles as an exquisite
resource. Imagine a woman who honors the face of the Goddess in her changing face.
A woman who celebrates the accumulation of her years and her wisdom. Who refuses to use precious energy disguising the changes in her body and life.
Imagine a woman who values the women in her life.
A woman who sits in circles of women.
Who is reminded of the truth about herself when she forgets. Imagine yourself as this woman.

Borrowed with permission from

Grace lived her entire life in the Pungo area of Virginia Beach (named for Indian chief Machiopungo), and married James Sherwood with whom she had three sons. She was said to be strikingly attractive, strong-willed, and a non-conformist by nature. These traits were resented by her neighbors, who began spreading rumors about her witch-like behavior. She was accused of blighting gardens, causing livestock to die, and influencing the weather.

James Sherwood died in 1701 and left Grace to oversee the family's farm and to raise the sons. It was hard work and Grace often wore men's clothing while tending to the day to day activities on the farm. She was a skilled herbalist and often advised her neighbors on which herbs to use to cure aliments.

After eight years of constant slander and bickering by her neighbors, Grace was formally charged with suspicions of witchcraft. These charges came after Grace Sherwood had brought action for assault and battery against two of her neighbors. Grace claims that one neighbor trespassed, attacked and caused great bodily harm to her. Grace won her case and according to court records, Grace received 20 shillings in damages.

It is not determined whether Grace filing that formal complaint was the reason behind her neighbors accusing her of being a witch. But since it was the same neighbor- that is my best guess. In 1706, A jury of women was ordered to search her body for suspicious or unusual markings, thought to be brands of the devil himself, and naturally the jury found, "marks not like theirs or like those of any other woman." However, neither the local court nor the Attorney General in Williamsburg, would pass judgment declaring her a witch. It was finally decided that Grace, "by her own consent, be tried in the water by Ducking, (dunking)." Water was considered to be the purest element and the theory was that it would reject anything of an evil nature. Based on this theory, the accused was tied up and thrown into the water. If the person drowned, he was declared innocent of witchcraft; if he could stay afloat until he could free himself, he or she was declared a witch.

On July 10, 1706, Grace was marched from the jail (which located near the present day site of Old Donation Church) down the dirt road (now Witch Duck Road) to the Lynnhaven River. This portion of the river has since been named Witch Duck Bay in memory of the occasion. This being a big event, hoards of people from all over the colony flocked to the scene as news of the Ducking had spread throughout the Commonwealth.

Site where the trial of Grace Sherwood was held in early 1706. Grace was jailed here for eight years after being found guilty of witchcraft. Current building on site has been renovated due to fire in 1836. (left)

Ferry Plantation House
4136 Cheswick Lane, Virginia Beach

The area where Grace Sherwood lived, as well as the spot on the riverbanks where she was ducked has become a very affluent residential area and has been named "Witch Duck Point" after the event. (right)
When Grace was released from jail, she took back control of her property, gathered her sons from her relative who had been looking after them, and she moved back to her Pungo home. She tended to her herbs and oversaw the farm activities until her death at the age of 80.

There are Rosemary plants available today during the various festivals held in the Pungo area of Virginia Beach that are rumored to be clippings from Grace Sherwood's own magnificent Rosemary trees.
Healer and Herbalist

By Grace Sherwood's own admission, she was a healer, midwife and herbalist. In 1700s this was a bold statement. By today's standards, she would be considered a kitchen witch. Here are 13 herbs that should be standard for any kitchen witch.

Borrowed with permission from

Here is a photo of my flower garden with two Rosemary plants that are rumored to be offspring of clipping from Grace Sherwood's Rosemary plant.
Healing, protection, money and safety during travel. Comfrey is associated with the feminine, Saturn, Capricorn and water.

luck, money, protection and health. Chamomile is associated with both the masculine and feminine and The Sun.

Love and protection.

Health, power (psychic, spiritual and worldly). It is associated with Leo.

Love, protection, health, money. It is associated with Gemini and the planet Mercury.

Business, money, wealth, power (psychic, spiritual and worldly) protection. It is associated with Aries and mars.

Known as the Girdle of St John because it is so powerful against evil. It is associated with Scorpio.

Luck, health and love. It is associated with Venus.

Since medieval times this has been chewed to make one fierce and vengeful in battle.

Power, health. Associated with The Moon and The Sun.

protection and exorcism.

Love and money.

Love, health and psychic powers.

Protection and Blessing Biscuits. The fresh rosemary in these biscuits invoke the magickal attributes of protection, health and blessings to your family. What better way to start the day than with an extra serving of protection and repelling negativity. And it is yummy too.

2 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 Tbsp. baking powder
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh or crushed dried rosemary
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg
Melted butter

First clean, purify and bless your kitchen. Then combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl. As you combine the ingredients visualize the protection being stirred into the mixture with each turn.
Cut 1/2 cup butter into flour mixture with a pastry blender until crumbly. As the butter is cut into the mixture, see the blessing coming into your home and pouring down onto your family.
Stir together buttermilk and egg. Add to flour mixture, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead 3 or 4 times. As you knead the dough, visualize your family growing healthy and free from illness.
Pat or roll dough to 1/2-inch thickness; cut with a 2-inch round cutter, and place on a baking sheet. As you cut the biscuits, imagine that you are cutting out the negativity in your life and the life of your family.
Bake at 425 degrees for 14 to 15 minutes or until golden. Brush with melted butter. Remember to offer the first biscuit back to the Goddess. I do this by crumbling up the biscuit and offering it to the birds.

Makes about 2 dozen biscuits

How researching Grace Sherwood's story has inspired me

Each time I read Grace Sherwood's story I am inspired by her ability to cope with the emotional and mental strain of facing trial for witchcraft. She had to send her sons away to live with relatives, she had to give up ownership of her property, and she was forced to endure the scrutiny of the community.

As if that was not enough, Grace Sherwood was tied up and tossed into the river. She had to rely on her physical strength and sheer determination in order to survive. All the while she knew that she would be found guilty when she was able to make it out of the river.

How does a woman go back to living in the community and continue on with day-to-day life once she has survived this ordeal? I stand in awe of how Grace Sherwood overcame this struggle and got on with the activities of living afterward. It seems that Grace Sherwood followed every goal listed below in Scott Cunningham's book.

Thirteen Goals of a Witch
From the book "Wicca" by Scott Cunningham

              1. Know yourself
              2. Know your craft
              3. Learn
              4. Apply knowledge with wisdom
              5. Achieve balance
              6. Keep your words in good order
              7. Keep your thoughts in good order
              8. Celebrate life
              9. Attune with the cycles of the Earth
              10. Breathe and eat correctly
              11. Exercise the body
              12. Meditate
              13. Honor the Goddess and God

Materials needed:
Tarot Card : Ten of Rods
Tarot Card : Strength
1 white candle
Goddess candle (or any big white candle will do)
fire proof dish
fresh rosemary sprigs

Light the Goddess candle. Write all of your fears and weaknesses and concerns with the situation on the Ten of Rods card. Use symbols or images if you cannot fit all the words on it. Start at the top and write in a downward spiral on the front and back. As you mark on the card visualize the pitiful you, the confused you and the weak you that this situation has created.

Take the 10 of card in both hands and starting at your feet glide the card up your body. You can move the card around to the front and back. Imagine the card pulling out all of these negative things writing on it from your psyche. When the card is full of negativity and you feel that you have let go of it all, say something like:

I've named all the sadness and fears in my soul
And I have let go feelings that keep me from being whole
These things I do I do of my own might
As I do, I make room for the light

Hold the card to the flame to ignite it. Take special care not to burn your self or any thing else. Place the card in the fireproof dish. As it burns, say something like:

Mother Goddess, whose strength and protection is every near
Take these burdens, sadness and fear
And when this card is but a glowing ember
The determination and fierceness of Grace Sherwood I will remember.

When the ashes have cooled, take the sprig of Rosemary and drag it through the ashes. Take the Strength card and mark each corned of this card with the ash covered sprig. Hold it in front of the candle and say something like:

The ashes of my burdens make me strong
To forget all that once bound me would be wrong
With the blessings of Sherwood and memory of her strive
I will invoke her power of fierceness in my life.

Place the strength card in the corner of your bathroom mirror or some place that you will see it each morning. Occasionally you can recharge this empowerment charm with fresh cut rosemary.
There is not a doubt in my mind that Grace Sherwood was a Goddess among us!

Many Blessing and much courage to you all,

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Sources :

Reilly, P. L. (1999). Imagine a woman. In B. Muten (Ed.), Her words: An anthology of poetry about the great goddess (p. 208). Boston: Shambhala.

Composite of what Grace might have looked liked Rylance Studios, Va.Beach

Story of The Witch of Virginia Beach located at

The Bandit Sisters, 13 herbs for a Witch's cupboard.
Located at

Cunningham, Scott (1988), Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, Llewellyn Publications