It’s almost Halloween! I just love this time of year-- the brilliantly colorful trees, the earthy smell of dried leaves crunching underfoot. I love the fun and harmless spookiness of haunted front yards, black cats and bats, jack-o-lanterns, and kids in cute and clever costumes.
I look forward to seeing what the treat-or-treaters will be wearing this year, but my perennial favorite character has got to be the witch.
I think I’ve always been drawn to witch imagery and stories of witches, even as a young child. And why not? As far as I could see, witches had enviable, supernatural powers. Witches could fly through the sky, cast spells, do magic.
Witches were cool!
Growing up, witches were never really scary to me. As everyone learned from The Wizard of Oz, there were two kinds of witches: good and bad. But the bad witches were always defeated in the end of the story (like the easily-fooled blind witch in Hansel and Gretel). Or else they turned out to be fake, like the Swamp Witch in Scooby Doo.
In general, it seemed to me that good witches came in three varieties: the sweet little girl (Dorrie the Little Witch and Casper’s friend Wendy), the silly old aunty figure (Clara from Bewitched and The Witch Next Door), and the beautiful, powerful sorceress (Samantha from Bewitched, Gillian in Bell, Book, and Candle).
Whatever the style or genre, witchery meant mystery, excitement, and loads of fun. Remember Escape to Witch Mountain where the brother and sister discovered they had mysterious, witchly powers? How I envied them! Or the fabulous Witch Hazel in Bugs Bunny, who could transform herself and others into any animal, creature, or thing?
When I was a teenager, I would create treasure hunts for my younger brothers and sisters and neighborhood kids, leaving clues to a pirate’s treasure. And, somehow, I managed to incorporate a witch's curse in the back story. Naturally.
Then I grew up... But, I didn’t lose my fondness for witches. Pop culture started producing terrific witchy entertainment like Practical Magic and Charmed (hooray for Charmed!), and several other shows, movies, and books since then.
Somewhere along the way, I learned about real Witches. Being a bit of a treehugger, I found myself curious about Earth-based religions. These are the religions that view the Earth and all her inhabitants as sacred and interconnected. So, one day I started reading about modern Paganism and Wicca—also known, in some circles, as “Witchcraft.”
Contemporary Paganism, as I learned, is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of Earth-centered spiritual practices, Wicca being one of them. And Wicca itself covers many different traditions. Some Wiccans call themselves Witches, and they practice "witchcraft"...which means they practice magic. In other words, they work with energy to bring about change. I see it kind of like praying or setting an intention or affirmation, but with props (such as candles, herbs, or crystals).
Talk about fascinating reading!
Later, when I started writing a mystery series, I had the idea to make my main character Wiccan. I find Wicca to be a lovely, life-affirming, self-empowering religion, but I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about it. As a result, many Wiccans don’t feel comfortable being open about their beliefs.
So, I thought it would be interesting to portray Wicca in a realistic light and create a character with these sincere beliefs, who feels she has to hide this aspect of her life. It's my intention to be respectful of the religion, while incorporating the magical and mysterious elements.
Halloween coincides with Samhain, an important holiday for Wiccans. But, I think most Witches are fun-loving, good-humored folks, so they enjoy the playful aspects of the secular Halloween too.
So, to all you Witches, non-witches, Wiccans, wizards, and friends,
A nature-loving, mystery-reading, magic-seeking, daydreaming kinda gal, Jennifer is the author of the Wiccan Wheel Mysteries.