January 18, 2014

For the Witches

from a 1983 production of Macbeth

I do not talk much here about my worship of and work with Hekate. Do not take that to mean that she is not the first and foremost of the gods I worship, that her cult and her shadow are not my first home. If I keep my silence about much of what she is to me, about the paths I have walked and the choices I have made in her service, it is because they are very private. If I do not speak of what I have learned in her service, it is because I keep her secrets and my own.

But I am beginning to feel a need to hold a Festival of Witches. To celebrate Hekate as goddess of Witchcraft, and Circe as their Queen (a goddess herself, but one who lived long among mortals and ruled the mortal kingdom of Aeaea), and Medea as Circe’s heir. To celebrate the Baba Yaga, the blind witch in the gingerbread cottage, the wicked stepmother, Maleficent, Witchy-poo, the Witch of the Waste, any witch from folklore or fiction. To celebrate them all, as my Sisters and Ancestors in the Craft.

I am a Witch, too. I mutter over bubbling pots, I wind thread and stitch up poppets, I make amulets, I talk to the dead, I read cards and sigils and letters of ancient alphabets. Not, perhaps, so much now as I did once, but I do it still. There are arts I wish I could explore more, things that I cannot currently buy the supplies for. But I will, I will.

I’ve wanted for may years to learn what they call now The Poison Path. There was so little to find on it, when I was a young witch, and no one to ask for advice, and no way to know what was safe. I was still learning the ins and outs of my brain’s delicate balances, and could not risk too many chemical alterations. I learned safer herbs instead. Now there are more guides and more books available, and I wish to learn to grow mandrake and belladonna and henbane and learn their ways. Eventually, I may explore their effects on my body, but first I will learn them as plants, and come to speak to their spirits. Yes, I know, these plants are dangerous, and moreso to me, with my uncertain brain chemistry, than to most. But entheogens have always, as far as we can tell, been a part of ecstatic practices and of magic.

I have always dreamed of creating a poison garden, with a fence built of wooden bones, and a statue of a chicken-leg hut in the middle. A witch’s garden, to know and to cherish. I will, someday.

Now my yard is overgrown with blackberry brambles, too much for me to plant a garden this spring, unless somehow I get the money to hire help to cut it back. I don’t have the tools or the knowledge. But perhaps a witch can learn the magic of the invasive plant, learn the power of the killing outsider, the power of overrunning and strangling. I don’t know. It’s been a long time since I tried to learn a new plant, growing. Perhaps the blackberry is a good place to start.

But I want to have a Celebration of Witches. I’m almost tempted to hold what the Hellenic recons call an agon, a festival of art in celebration of a god or goddess or cult figure. Recons declare them, and spread the word around, and others write or draw or paint something for it. But most of the recons would hate it — many of them look down on magic, and indeed on the worship of Hekate (I’ve been told by several, dismissively, that she’s “a minor goddess” and not worthy of extensive worship) — and probably even few of those who didn’t would be interested, and the witches wouldn’t know what that is. I’m not well-connected to either community anyway, and couldn’t get word around to many people. But if you want to send me something, I’ll take it, and post it here when I do this festival, whenever that is. Send someone else’s work if you want — with credit and a link! — or your own. I’m planning on pop culture figures as well as old folklore. I don’t expect to get much. Send it to madgastronomer at gmail. Let’s call it February 28. If anyone wants to celebrate in tandem with me, wherever they are, you’re welcome.

I want a bit of time to revel in my witchiness, to let my magic run feral.