Season of the Witch
“A Witch is born out of the true hungers of her time.”
- Ray Bradbury (Long After Midnight)
Welcome to the inaugural post of the WILD MAGIC blog. My name is Heather and this space is the manifestation of a dream I have had for some time now of both sharing my medicine with the world and of bringing together a wonderful community of artists, healers, and magic makers. Based on the title of this post, you may think that I am talking about the fact that is is OCTOBER. The one month of the year when witches are whole-heartedly embraced by popular culture. However I’d like to shine a light on what I feel is a recent stirring, a transmutation that has picked up in the last decade or so. The coming of the “season of the witch.”
I want to begin with a single word - METANOIA. This word has been a central synchronicity for me in the past few months. It just keeps popping up all over the place, in seemingly disconnected situations, and what are synchronicities but MAGIC. They are messages from our wider selves. Our subconscious selves that are tapped into the greater web of energy shared by all living things, the part of ourselves that is connected to the life-force, the divine. The word metanoia comes from the Greek “meta,” meaning beyond and “nous” meaning mind. In Christian literature the translation of the word metanoia has been debated for centuries. There is not an English word that perfectly corresponds to the concept of metanoia. Some scholars, when translating the words of Jesus or John the Baptist used the word “repent” or penance, but there is much disagreement about this interpretation because it has a negative connotation, a feeling that one must look back in sorrow and with contrition. In truth, the classical meaning of metanoia does not wear this shroud of negativity, instead it can be more aptly interpreted as “a transfiguration of your brain,” coming to a “great understanding,” or “changing your thought processes to go beyond your mind’s present state of limitations” (Wikipedia, 2018). What a beautiful concept. Carolyn Elliot describes metanoia as “reversing the flow,” as bringing about a fundamental change in one’s being by fully integrating your earthly, animal self (lower chakras) with your spiritual self (upper chakras) and thereby activating your heart chakra and making yourself, and your will, whole.
While there are many ways to speed up this process through individual work and study, I believe many people (and I can only speak from the perspective of someone living in the United States) are organically experiencing a metanoia of understanding without any deep or conscious effort. It is why we are seeing more and more people of all ages, genders, and cultural backgrounds exploring their spirituality, reclaiming their roots, seeking connection with nature and the divine, and self-identifying with the word “witch.” It is why we are seeing a reclamation of the divine feminine, an attempt to reintegrate and rebalance a power structure and an energy field that has been out of sync. It is why the hidden and forbidden arts, like alchemy and astrology, are experiencing a surge of renewed interest. In the United States organized religion is on the decline, but spirituality is on the rise (Shermer, 2018). A gradual shift is occurring whereby the rules and limitations placed on spirituality by man are being shed in preparation for a deeper and more universal understanding of divinity, of the energy that created us and binds us together. We are in a time of great discovery and we are moving towards a period of great understanding. I believe there was a time when the ancients possessed this understanding, but it was lost to us in the modern era, when western culture abandoned magic, in fact vilified it. Yet traces remain. We haven’t completely wiped out our ties to magic, we have just cloaked them. Witness any wedding ceremony, no matter what the cultural beliefs of the couple are, and you will witness magic. Let’s just examine a few of our common western marriage ceremony elements: Invocation of a divinity, CHECK. Magic words (vows), CHECK. Ritual lighting of candles, CHECK. Exchanging of symbolic items (rings), CHECK. Incorporation of rituals for good luck (throwing of rice, confetti, etc.) CHECK. Looks a lot like casting a spell to me. Just this past summer alone I observed a wedding in which the bride and groom were wrapped symbolically and ritually in a rope binding them together, another where the officiant had the wedding guests close there eyes and channel the energy of the word “yes” towards the bride and groom, another where a unity candle was lit and papers containing “wishes” for the bride and groom were symbolically burned and sent into the sky. These were not weddings of people I know personally, I am a photographer and so I get to experience and share in many different customs. Magic doesn’t have to be complicated. Natural magic is, in fact, very simple. Look around you and you will find that there are the remnants of the practice of magic everywhere. We leave milk and cookies out as an offering to a jolly, faerie-like spirit cloaked in red on December 24th - magic. As children we cast protection spells by chanting “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” - magic. We kiss our children’s scraped knees to make them better - magic. We blow dandelion fluff and make a wish - magic. We brew a cup of herbal tea for a friend in need - magic. We go to our local spa for a chakra aligning massage - HELLO?! Magic.
Speaking of chakra aligning massages, energy healing is on the rise and even modern science cannot deny the power of human touch (and intention) and its ability to heal. Significant positive results have been recorded in the reduction of pain in cancer patients who experience healing touch (Aghabati, Mohammadi, & Esmaiel, 2008) and doctor’s have witnessed miracles, such as a baby presumed to be stillborn that started breathing when placed skin to skin, heart to heart, with its mother (Dixon, 2010). I remember a study from waaaay back in my college psychology class in which baby monkeys were removed from their mothers and only given a cold, metal, robotic arm with a bottle of milk to interact with. They had everything they needed (according to science) to keep them alive, and yet they died from lack of love, from lack of physical touch. We know that the physical body is inescapably tied to the psyche and that the power of our thoughts, of our psyche, can cause the manifestation of physical symptoms or the lessening of them. That is exactly what the “placebo effect” is and it has been observed over and over in many different populations. We continue to grapple with the relationship between quantum mechanics and consciousness, the idea that our own thoughts have an affect on what we are observing or even considering observing; that as Hungarian physicist Eugene Wigner stated, we live in a “participatory universe.” And while scientists continue to explore what consciousness really is and whether the human mind, or a collective of minds, focused towards a goal can actually change a physical reality or outcome, every person around the world is familiar with the concept of miracles. They happen all the time. With or without its religious trappings most of us are aware of or have heard of an incredible miracle accomplished through the power of prayer. What is prayer or a “prayer chain” but a group of humans collectively tapping into the power of their minds and their connection to one another and to the life-force of the universe in order to bring about a change? Is this a fool-proof undertaking? No. In no way do we get everything we consciously wish or pray for, but we can all agree there is something to this power…something illogical, something inexplicable, something...magical. Perhaps we have not collectively evolved to the level of being able to harness this power. Perhaps the “dream of the world” as Don Miguel Ruiz calls it is overriding our intentions and creating a reality that we do not want because we hang onto our programming, because we have divided wills. But there have been people who have walked this Earth, who have figured out how to tap into that power. People who others have reported produced consistent and incredible miracles. They achieved metanoia. They succeeded in opening their minds to greater understanding. And from what I have experienced I have concluded that this greater understanding is not something that can be picked apart and studied by the logical mind. It has a great deal to do with the concept of faith. When you start skirting around the edges of this understanding your logical mind almost palpably resists it, it feels overwhelming, you cannot put it into words, you cannot accurately express it in order to pass it on to others, but those who are able to lean into it are washed over with a sudden knowing, a sudden one-ness with All.
Here’s the rub. On one hand, here in the US, we are living in a time where stress and anxiety are contributing to chronic illness in unprecedented levels, where our egos are constantly getting in the way of discovering who we truly are, where material possessions are valued above all else, and the news media would have us believe that the world is loud, violent, and full of hatred, bigotry and disaster. Where competition and aggressiveness are lauded as the tools to success and success is measured in dollar bills. Take a look in a Thesaurus at the term “rat race” and you will find the following synonyms: battle of life, daily grind, survival of the fittest, and vicious circle. Many people continue to live inside that vicious circle, but slowly and surely more of us are abandoning that self-imposed and artificial construct that we have been collectively dreaming into being, that we have been calling “reality.” Our current, societal “reality” is forcing a shift, a shift that is causing many, MANY people to turn away in droves because they know - something is missing. The disconnect, the duality of our selves, is finally causing us to dig deeper, to make drastic changes, to experience true existential shifts. “A Witch is born out of the true hungers of her time.” (Bradbury, 1976) When you consider the concept of a participatory universe, where we are affecting everything around us just by existing, by observing, through our thoughts, through our intentions - it begs the question, an incredible question, that I first heard from herbalist Asia Suler: “What if humans are here to bless this world?” And if we are indeed operating in a participatory universe, when we unite our will and activate our magic, just think of what we can do!
I am no expert in this subject. I am on a journey, like you. I have been making progress in this work since…well, most certainly since my birth but very possibly across many incarnations of my soul. As a child I believed in magic. I believed in it with complete faith. I talked to spirits and made wishes and unconsciously cast spells even though I had no idea what I was doing. I learned as a pre-teen how to do some basic meditation, grounding, and energy work. Then I forgot magic for awhile, as many of us do, because I “grew up,” and yet it kept pulling me back. When I started down the path of re-discovery I pretty quickly started experiencing strong synchronicities in my everyday life. What was it I wondered? God? Something else? I had always felt extremely tied to my ancestral home of Scotland. I started learning more about Celtic spirituality. I secretly bought books and started practicing some of the ancients beliefs and bringing them into my home. I realized that my spiritual journey was intersecting with my journey with plant medicine and midwifery in a way that seems so integrated to me now but was so surprising then. Finally, nine years ago I purchased a journal and wrote in it, “I have realized that I am a witch.” It felt like this thrilling paradigm shift, but I was still in the proverbial broomstick closet. That word, witch, still held so much taboo, especially in the culture I was living in at that time. So I’ve been sitting with this for awhile and I realize not everyone will understand my choice to align with that word, but I have decided that is fine, I don’t need everyone to understand or approve. I think Lena Waithe pretty much hit it on the nose when she said, “I think the way for women to tap into their power is to not be weighed down by someone else’s. Honestly, it may sound simple, but it’s true - you have to not give a fuck. And I think the issue with women is that we have so many fucks in our backpacks.” I love that. For me, the word witch means that I have a deep reverence for and wish to live in deep connection with the Earth, that I am a healer, that I strive to be open to connection with my wider self and the universe, that I honor and remember my ancestors, and that by aligning with that word I also honor the memory of the tens of thousands of women and girls who were labeled with that word and cruelly tortured and killed out of fear and hatred, in order to repress the power and knowledge held by women, and as we as humans have proven time and again - all hate arises out of fear.
So here I am. And I know I am not alone. And because of this magical plane of existence we call the internet, I am able to connect with YOU and learn from people who I may otherwise never have connected with. It doesn’t matter what labels you choose - what kind of witch you are (or whether you call yourself a witch at all!), or what your ancestral home is, or your cultural beliefs, or your religion (or lack there-of), or what your day job is, or your gender, or your sexuality, or what word(s) you use to describe the divine life-force. You are welcome here. Your creativity and perspective are honored here. The word coven is used to describe a “gathering of witches who meet regularly,” and as the very insightful witch Amanda Yates Garcia, stated, “When there are no leaders and there are no followers we all dance in a circle, and everyone knows dancing in a circle is what witches do best.”
Aghabati, Mohammadi, & Esmaiel. The Effect of Therapeutic Touch on Pain and Fatigue of Cancer Patients Undergoing Chemotherapy. US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, 20018, Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2887328/
Ball, Philip. “The Strange Link Between the Human Mins and Quantum Physics.” BBC Earth, 16 February 2017, Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20170215-the-strange-link-between-the-human-mind-and-quantum-physics
Bradbury, Ray. Long After Midnight. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, New York City, 1976.
Dixon, Sara. “Stillborn baby brought back to life by mother’s love and kisses.” The Daily and Sunday Express UK, 27 August, 2010, Retrieved from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/195761/Stillborn-baby-brought-back-to-life-by-mother-s-love-and-kisses
Ruiz, Don Miguel. The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom book. Amber-Allen Publishing, San Rafael, 2007.
Shermer, Michael. “The Number of Americans with No Religious Affiliation is Rising.” Scientific American Blog, Behavior & Society, 1 April 2018, Retrieved from: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-number-of-americans-with-no-religious-affiliation-is-rising/
Wikipedia. “Metanoia (Theology).” 27 September 2018, Retrieved from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metanoia_(theology)
Amanda Yates Garcia: www.oracleoflosangeles.com
Asia Suler: www.onewillowapothecaries.com
Carolyn Elliot: www.badwitch.es