October 30, 2017
Every year for the past few, I’ve been a witch on Samhain. Why? Because witches are badass. Witches wear tall hats and grow hair on their chins. They chew on roots, and dose you with elixirs of faded herbs and rot. They do their work and then grow old, like the seasons. Every year, some of them die.
The lunar cycle that recently began with the new moon in Libra includes Samhain (or Halloween), which is a Wiccan “cross quarter day” marking the halfway point between the Autumn Equinox and the Winter Solstice. A time when many of us first feel the grip of the growing darkness, it’s also Dia de los Muertos, or “Day of the Dead.” Witches don’t fear death (or don’t fear it excessively), in part because, you may be shocked to learn, many witch’s bodies have a squishy hidden center that can miraculously grow human replacements. They also commune with spirits who’ve crossed over, remembering the wisdom of their ancestors, the legacies stretching back and back.
Witches are scary, and Samhain puts you at the mercy of their tricks and treats. You ask for magic, and hard-headed witches only give you magick. They dole out carrots and common sense when you clearly crave miracle cures and false promises. They’re no fairy-godmothers: You ask them for luck and they only give you lunch. Eek!
I can’t resist Samhain, the Witches’ New Year. When the cold sets in, the dark overwhelms and nothing grows, what do witches do? They light candles and make fire-cider and syrup of elderberries to protect themselves (and you) from environmental stress. They clean and order so that everything is easy to find when warm spaces are small and light scarce. They remember where they hid the apples and jam.
When the summer that bloomed back on the first of May is finally dead, a witch remembers that every death is an opportunity for renewal. She turns inward, remembering her power, and honoring the thinness of the veil between what has been and what might be. She slips into the dark, turning to everything that’s possible, untried, everything she doesn’t yet know, releasing used-up, rotting idea-corpses that are only taking up precious space. She dwells in the void before rebirth and renewal, the holiest of places, when contemplation alone envisions the world to come, like the blank page before the first word forms, or the mind untethered by ego. She enters the non-physical realm of symbols and archetypes, allowing the dark to swallow all she can see in order to claim all she cannot see.
She’ll get as far as she can, and then do the whole thing over, every November 1st, improving on what she’s learned, letting go of what does not serve her. When in doubt, she’ll remember all the astonishing things a person can do with garlic.
Witches have few fucks to give and rarely tire. They will find that broken piece and turn it out. They will multiply until their magick is unstoppable, until senselessness flies like a bat out the window, and gone are the days when madmen dictated dress, dogmas and diets, when warped logic prevailed and theirs hid in closets. They’ll brew, and work, and continue to work, in silence if you’re not paying attention, until they’re suddenly everywhere, when justice and common decency proliferate and the patriarchy dissolves. So burn them up or lock them up, but they’ll always be one more, around the next corner, setting a cauldron of nourishing soup on the fire.
So yes, I’ll be a witch again this year for Samhain, and Goddess bless me, maybe I’ll just stay a witch, or give it my best shot. Don’t be afraid! There’s still so much work to do. Hand me my broomstick and be blessed!
The words above are my own highly personal and romantic ideas, and I'm not a practicing Wiccan, so I apologize for anything unintentionally misrepresented about Samhain or witches. Please don't hesitate to educate me in the comments. Samhain-eve dinner this year: Sausage and Cabbage, pierogies and mustard, Pumpkin Sourdough Bread, Chocolate Pear Pudding, Ginger Beer