Ever drink herbal tea or use a natural remedy to bring down the swelling of a bug bite or bruise? Most of us have probably bought candles and lit them. Have you used incense? Do you have a lucky charm or a favorite stone or crystal that you feel brings you good luck? As a child, did you dress up and go trick-or-treating on Halloween, or did you celebrate the coming of the Easter Bunny? One more question: did you ever whisper words under your breath before you gambled or did something daring for good luck?
What do all of these things have in common? Well, separately, it’s hard to make a connection. These items, actions, and events seem normal, if not boring. However, together, these herbs, candles, charms, holidays, and whispered “spells” actually make up part of a practice known as Wicca. Even Wiccans themselves can’t agree on what is and isn’t a part of their religion, so there’s no way that the statements I make here will be all inclusive or acceptable to practitioners either.
I am not Wiccan. I am not Pagan. I do believe in God. However, I have adopted certain practices, as I have mentioned above, into my daily life from time to time, which, alone are looked upon as “normal”. But if you start reading about who real “witches” (if you will) are, and what they do, and how their beliefs stem from nature and they celebrate certain holidays that revolve around the earth’s seasons, you can’t help but notice how some Wiccan and Pagan beliefs have become immersed, and accepted into our society.
Just because you celebrate Halloween, does that mean you are Wiccan or Pagan? No. No more than if I celebrate Christmas does that mean I am automatically a member of a Christian church.
Oestara is the Pagan name for what most Americans know as Easter. Samhain is what Pagans know as Halloween. If I say to friends and family that we’re looking forward the Easter Bunny coming, they don’t bat an eye. If I walk around town talking about celebrating Halloween, it’s not big news. But if I were to say that Oestara is coming up, or we’re getting dressed up in costumes for Samhain, I bet I’d get some strange looks and even questions asking “What is that?” (My spell-checker has even highlighted these terms as something it does not recognize either!) And upon learning that those are the Pagan names for those holidays, I would probably be branded with an invisible Scarlett Letter in the minds of those who have preconceived notions about what seems witchy to them, even in the twenty-first century.
I’ll give you another example. If I go to a grocery store and buy herbal tea, no one would think that is a big deal. But if I order my tea from The Magical Blend, a website which also sells spell books, tarot cards, crystal balls and other “magical” items that you probably won’t find in Target, many would jump to the incorrect conclusion that I ride a broomstick around town rather than a car.
What would you think if I told you I have been shopping at a store in New Hope, PA called Gypsy Haven: The Witch Shop? And, I actually walked out with gifts for people! And some for my daughter! Now what if I told you they have some of the most unique fairy-related jewelry, journals, books, bells, and more, which many little girls love as much as princesses and mermaids, and that made up the majority of my purchases? Ah, it puts a little bit of a different spin on things then, doesn’t it?
I think these examples I have mentioned are just like anything else. It depends how far you take something, and how you embrace these things into your own life – or if you choose to do so at all. Items such as candles, incense, aromatic oils, herbs, and teas only become significant if you use them with specific intent.
Tangentially, I even have a book at home called Hex and the City. I bought it because I thought the author was extremely clever with her play on words in the title. It’s a spell book; and I find it interesting to read through some of them. I’m sure some people may take the methods outlined and chants very seriously. When I take a step back though, and read between the lines, what I see are mantras, when repeated instill confidence in the individual reciting them, or charms that represent love, luck, or a desired outcome.
For example, there’s a spell called “Animal Magnetism” in the book, which when conducted according to the instructions, is supposed to result in increasing your seductive powers and become more alluring to a man you desire. The words that one is supposed to recite sound to me like a positive affirmation, which in of itself, I think can boost self-confidence. Self-confidence is a quality that may result in attracting others to you. In summary, the short poem is spoken to yourself declaring that you are beautiful and others will feel attracted to you. The spell also instructs the reciter of these words to do so while sitting in front of a mirror, as if to get the person to believe what she sees is truly pretty in the form of self-reflection.
I think it’s all a matter of interpretation – is it a spell? Or is it a self-help ritual? Is one term more acceptable than another? This is a book that I don’t think can be judged by its cover.
So if you see me lighting a candle and drinking some herbal tea on Halloween, have no fear – I’m not going to cast a spell on you – unless I’m wearing my witch costume of course!