The period of time from the fourteenth to the eighteenth centuries was the most difficult for any practitioner of magic in the western hemisphere. Those years are considered to be the peak years of witch-hunts that resulted in more than a hundred thousand executions.
Witches during those harrowing times had different approaches towards the threat to their kind. While some resorted to surrender and repentance, others opted for direct confrontation. Still, there are others who considered escape to be their best option.
Among the many witches known to have continued the study of the dark arts in pursuit of refuge, Catharina Walden's name remains arguably the most-surrounded by mystery. Legend has it that she came from a line of magic practitioners who have dedicated their lives to the research of rituals and spells that allowed travel to the world of spirits. The most-enduring of the many stories about Catharina is the story about The Dance of the Knife.
According to several accounts, The Dance of the Knife was the last ritual that Catharina performed. Designed for teleportation, the ritual involved a ceremonial blade that only their clan is said to have possessed, and a familiar spirit in the form of a vulture. The dance included in the ritual was not a choreographed kind. The movements of the body, particularly the hand that held the ceremonial blade, were guided by the movements of the performer's familiar. Landing on the knife hand was the familiar's way of signifying the end of the ritual where the performer must stab herself in the chest. The Walden clan is said to have claimed that by doing this, the performer is able to conquer all limitations imposed by the physical plane.
What happened to Catharina Walden after performing the ritual is unknown for her body was never found, nor the knife that she used. Pieces of jewelry, amulets, and the fossilized vulture at the site where she allegedly performed the ritual are the only artifacts suggesting that she did exist. This remains the subject of debate among scholars today.
This is my entry for ImagineFX Weekly Art Challenge #244 - The Witch's Familiar. As for the story, I couldn't think of a better way to show the idea that came into my head while I was painting this so I decided to make another piece of fiction out of it. If you have the time, please check out the art challenge.
Wish me luck!
Around 5 hours with many breaks in between.