The Ginger Root

Sophia Hembeck

I knew I had to do it. It felt a little ridiculous, a little bit like I was fourteen again, hiding in my  childhood bedroom, afraid of getting caught. But after all that’s where I actually was: In my old bedroom at my parents house, on my knees, my hands clenching a piece of ginger. 

A large piece I had cut from the root downstairs in the kitchen that my mom specifically had bought to make “fresh” lemon and ginger tea because that was what her “cool” mid-twenties daughter drank now all the time. It was the Christmas holidays and I had come to visit for a week.

I had unsuccessfully been in love for six months now: I had cried (a lot), deleted their number (five or six times), blocked and unblocked them from seeing my Instagram stories (every other day depending on the content). I had tried and failed and texted again. 

Still, there I was longing and thinking and hoping (I’m apparently quite an optimistic person I found out during the whole process), hoping  so much that eventually they would fall in love with me, too. 

They did not. In fact I had to admit to myself that they were just polite and friendly because that’s what we were: FRIENDS. Which made it hard to be distant because they did care. Just not in that way.  

I need rituals to deal with life.
We all do.

I do know that now, I said to myself over and over again, telling it to the ginger root so it would understand and suck this stupid love out of me. Take it, I said. Take it away from me. 

The website where I had found the ritual said I would have to visualise all the pain, love, thoughts, memories I have had with that person and imagine it to flow into the root. “How to get over someone and invite new love into your life” had sounded promising, great. I was all in for it. All it required was a piece of ginger, a spell, a black thread and black cloth. The cloth I ignored, because it’s the thought that counts, right? 

I also had written a letter meant to be spoken out loud and then burned. So the ashes and the ginger could quite poetically be laid into the ground afterwards and, like my feelings, be put to rest.

As I looked into the flames, cautious not to start a fire on the carpet my parents had put down after I had moved out, I wondered if they could smell the smoke downstairs. 

Vivid memories of my Mother came to mind; her appearing out of nowhere asking me if I had, sniff, sniff, burned some candles in my room? Somehow she always knew when something was going on. 

“Do you really believe in that?” she would ask occasionally when I showed an interest in tarot cards or other esoteric shenanigans, always recalling her own teenage years when she was also interested in witchcraft, but making sure to stress the point that it was something to grow out of. Anyone beyond sixteen still believing or practicing spells was doomed to eventually go insane and/or spend all their money on crystals. 

I guess in that sense me and my parents are still very much alike. We’re very practical about things. My Mom likes to go to church on Christmas Eve because she likes to meet the people, sing out of tune to the way too high-pitched Christmas songs and bring home a candle lit by the light from Bethlehem. It’s tradition. It’s something to do between sitting in front of the TV all day and getting up to the dinner table. It separates the before and after. Without it there’s no coming home to my dad who always stays having prepared the food, the table, the lights on the Christmas tree. 

I’m not the first to realise how a
practice founded by women has been
frowned upon, or worse. 

But I do wonder as I walk away from the family the next day on our traditional Christmas walk in the forest: Why do I need to hide the fact that I – in some way – have my own kind of religion? A religion that I would not even call that. More like: Things I like to do, that seem a bit more interesting and beautiful to me than listening to an old dude in a funky toga reciting passages from a book that is not that interesting and also mostly misogynist to begin with. Things like burying a ginger root in the forest. 

Or holding a funeral ceremony for a relationship like I did after I broke up with my boyfriend some years ago. Me and a friend dressed up all in black. I bought red grave lights, black veil: The whole thing was very goth. I loved it. We drank vodka cranberry for looks and taste. I read a letter that I burned and we roasted marshmallows. I need rituals to deal with life. We all do. We all have them. We might not necessarily call them so. 

There is a distinction between the morning coffee (good) and drawing a tarot card to predict the day (bad). And there’s especially a distinction between people creating their own belief and patriarchal christianity. I know this. It’s not news. I’m not the first to realise how a practice founded by women has been frowned upon, or worse. 

It’s not news at all. But somehow I never connected this with my own life with my own mother. It didn’t occur to me that by forbidding certain beliefs or practices she actually was just an instrument of the patriarchy. After all what was so wrong about spending money on things like crystals and believing that it will help finding love or inner strength or happiness? If she thought they wouldn’t work anyway, why did it matter? What was she so afraid of? 

“I actually had to swear off the devil” my old friend from school tells me as we walk down the main street in our small town one night after Christmas. Catholics. They were at least quite imaginitive. “Can you believe that?” and we’re both laughing at the sheer paradox of our upbringing. “I mean, THE DEVIL!”

In the end it’s not about certainty it’s not about knowing, I think as I’m sitting on the train returning home for Hogmanay. What you believe in and who is right. It’s about having the choice to believe without my mother rolling her eyes at me. It’s about being open to the possibility that there might be something out there helping you. I’m not sure what that exactly might be.  But it’s more fun for me to sit on a train looking out the window, thinking of that ginger root withering away deep down in the soil of the forest, dissolving. 

So that soon one morning I’ll wake up and like magic my love will be gone.

Sophia Hembeck lives in Edinburgh and is the founder of the Edinburgh Storynight. She studied playwriting at the University of Arts in Berlin and has published two graphic novels.  Find her on instagram @sophiahembeck or visit