blackbird house alice hoffman

Witches take their names from places, for places are what give them their strength. The place need not be beautiful, or habitable, or even green. Sand and salt, so much the better. Scrub pine, plum berry and brambles, better still. From every bitter thing, after all, something hardy will surely grow. From every difficulty, the seed that’s sewn is that much stronger. Ruin is the milk all witches must drink; it’s the lesson they learn and the diet they’re fed upon.
Ruth Declan lived on a bluff that was called Blackbird’s Hill, and so she was called Ruth Blackbird Hill, a fitting name, as her hair was black and she was so light-footed she could disappear right past a man and he wouldn’t see anything, he’d just feel a rush of wind and pick up the scent of something reminiscent of orchards and the faint green odor of milk. Ruth kept cows, half a dozen, but they gave so much into their buckets she might have had twenty. She took her cows for walks, as though they were pets, along the sand-rutted King’s Highway, down to the bay, where they grazed on marsh grass. Ruth Blackbird Hill called her cows her babies and hugged them to her breast; she patted their heads and fed them sugar from the palm of her hand, and that may have been why their milk was so sweet. People said Ruth Blackbird Hill sang to her cows at night, and that whoever bought milk from her would surely be bewitched. Not that anyone believed in such things anymore. All the same, when Ruth came into town, the old women tied bits of hemp into witch knots on their sleeves for protection. The old men looked to see if she was wearing red shoes, always the mark of a witch.
—  Alice Hoffman, Blackbird House
He started to look at me in a manner I recognized: it was the way I looked at a new book, one I had never read before, one that surprised me with all it had to say.
—  Alice Hoffman, Blackbird House