Alex Mar is the author of Witches of America, published last year by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Her work has most recently appeard in the New York Times Book Review, the Believer, and Elle. She is the director of the documentary American Mystic.
A self-mythologizing takes place when we assimilate the stories of our ancestors into our own—it’s automatic. We tell ourselves that their triumphs have somehow entered our bloodstream. We’re not descendants, we think; we’re heirs—heirs to intangible qualities (ambition, brilliance, endurance) through the fact of a thoroughly diluted blood tie.
I lay my fingertip there, just inside the socket, where some of the bone is chipped away: it was pecked out, by the beaks of vultures. These are the markings the huge black birds made when they consumed her eyes, with the permission of her family.