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The Season of the Witch

Posted by sirensays on October 25, 2009


WitchRidingBlackDogA witch riding a black dog from the 1926 book La Vie Execrable de Guillemette Babin by M.Carron. (FORTEAN PICTURE LIBRARY)

WitchonBroomThis time of year, the Season of the Witch, stands on its own. It’s an amplified view of both Halloween and Samhain, our imaginations, our histories and our desires – especially for women. Witches, be they old and ugly, young and lovely, dark or fair are always powerful, mysterious, often with a foot in this world and the otherworld or the underworld. I think that The High Priestess card from The Tarot of the Witches by Stuart R. Kaplan is a very evocative image:

The High Priestess, Tarot of the Witches

The High Priestess, Tarot of the Witches

She’s calm, confident, arrayed with mysterious symbols and a cat that might be her familiar.  This next image, showing the witch at her cauldron with her cat watching her back, is what first caught my attention as a child to the Gypsy Witch Fortune Telling Playing Cards:

Gypsy Witch Cards

These images arouse interest in us, a desire to know what the witch knows, to share her power and her confidence. And we live in an era where studying witchcraft is acceptable, as the history has been reclaimed. Many say its history has been revised inaccurately and I do agree that many, many errors were made in the recent retelling of the history of European witchcraft. It behooves women involved with Goddess worship and the study of witchcraft to update themselves with the more accurate knowledge, to lay to rest to modern myths about witchcraft, such as: 9 million died during The Burning Times, that all witches were good, that only Wiccans are witches, indeed, that the terms Wiccan and witch are synonymous, that one must be Pagan to be a witch.

OldWitch WitchGoestoSchoolAnd finally,  those of us who identify comfortably, even proudly, as witches, we need to acknowledge and accept that it is a term that is not a good one in many, many cultures, even in the U.S.  Instead of resisting this truth, or trying to change it, we must look at the wisdom in understanding and accepting that the term witch hasn’t been reclaimed or revised in many cultures, cultures which are older than our Pagan subculture, that have established spiritual traditions and that they are not wrong for the word witch having negative connotations. It just is what it is and I respect this.

When I am with other women who are healers and spellcasters, women who are ok with the word witch, I use the term. We have an unspoken agreement that the word is one of power and knowledge, of respect and wisdom. But when we use it with outsiders, counting on the shock value to teach them that the word is ok, that it’s been reclaimed to connote something powerful and good, the shock value may only be that, having lost its important meaning. This is because those who may not accept the word as something good, or want to associate themselves with it, even if they have practices and beliefs similar to ours, may come from a culture or tradition that uses the word witch to define a practitioner who works against what is good, which is likely to be taboo in their culture. Trying to insist that these folks are wrong and our definition is right is a mistake, in my opinion. I also think it is ethnocentric and smacks of entitlement that is disrespectful of others. We are what we are and we can call ourselves whatever we wish, but that also means being responsible for shocking or inciting others when we deliberately choose to use provocative words, then expect them to agree with that usage.

I prefer the freedom of using the term witch for myself and others like me who are comfortable with the word. I don’t need to force others to accept my point of view, or to use a term that makes them uncomfortable. I find this to be a very witchy, powerful and wise perspective because I respect the point of view of others without having to give up my own self-definition. This is where I think of these very potent words come in, attributed to The Four Powers of the Sphinx, an element of Thelemic instruction and symbolism:

To Know, To Dare, To Will, and To Be Silent

Ok, on with The Season of the Witch! It’s the title of a wonderful song and a wonderfully mysterious book by Natasha Mostert. Here’s the info about the book, from Publishers Weekly:
This spellbinding tale of magic and seduction from Mostert (Windwalker) shows that the unfettered pursuit of arcane enlightenment can sometimes come at too high a price. William Whittington, a terminally ill London investment banker, hires Gabriel Blackstone, a rakish information broker, to find Robert, his missing 21-year-old son. Whittington’s wife, who happens to be Blackstone’s ex-girlfriend, knows Blackstone once belonged to an organization, Eyestorm, that used psychic methods to find missing objects and persons. When Blackstone draws on his remote viewing powers (“slamming the ride”), he discovers that Robert was murdered by one of two sisters—raven-haired Morrighan or flame-haired Minnaloushe Monk, direct descendants of Elizabethan occultist John Dee, who dabble in alchemy and the “Art of Memory.” As Blackstone woos the suspects to discover which one is guilty, he falls desperately in love.” (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Check it out – I was completely enchanted and disturbed by it – feelings for me that are what this season is all about!

As for the song by Donovan, more than 40 years later, it can still enchant and charm. Numerous bands have recorded it, from Hole’s version, to Julie Driscoll’s 1968 one, both available on Youtube.com. Here are the fun lyrics:

Season of the Witch

When I looked out my window
Many sights to see
And when I looded in my window
So many different people to be
That is strange, so strange
You got to pick out every stitch
Must be the season of the witch

When I looked over my shoulder
What do you think I see
Summer cat looking over
It shoulder at me
Any strange, sure is strange
You got to pick out every stitch
Beat me its eye to make it rich oh no
Must be the season of the witch

You got to pick out every stitch
The rabbit’s running in the ditch
Beat me its eye to make it rich oh no
Must be the season of the witch
When I go

When I looked out my window
What do you think I see
And when I looked in my window
So many different people to be
It’s strange, sure is strange
You got to pick out every stitch
The rabbit’s running in the ditch oh no
Must be the season of the witch
When I go, when I go

by Donovan Leitch

It’s also the title of a film coming out next Spring, starring Nicolas Cage and Claire Foy, about a young woman in the 14th century accused of starting the black plague. The Church commands Cage and his sidekick to transport the accused witch to a remote abbey so that the monks there can perform a ritual in hopes of ending the pestilence.

There is also, of course, the cult classic “Hungry Wives” which is also called “Season of the Witch” by George Romero. It’s a 1971 film that I saw years ago as a re-release, and it’s not very good. It’s about a well-off suburban white housewife, bored out of her skull, who gets involved in witchcraft, with tragic results and no cure for her loneliness. I don’t fully recommend it, but if it’s easy to get your hands on a copy, you might want to check it out for it being a slice of occult life a la the early 70s, when witchcraft was a big trend.

If like me, you want to relish every stitch of The Season of the Witch, I suggest starting the first or second week of October and then shifting into Thanksgiving mode about a week after Halloween. That way, you can include Dia de los Muertos, All Souls’ and All Saints’ Days, costume parties, trick or treaters, solitary or group time for reflection, and many ways to honor your ancestors if you so choose. Please remember that while this time of the year is special to us who identify as witches, it’s also special to many who are of other faiths and traditions. That is a large part of why this time of year is so potent!

Wookey Hole Witch Icon

Wookey Hole Witch Icon


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