It’s finally October, and this month I am taking a unique look through the eyes of those who understand one of our most beloved celebrations: Halloween.
In this piece, we will visit a family who works and lives with the natural and magickal world of energy everyday. These lovely women helped to start my exploration, education and the the nurturing of my passion for everything intuitive and psychic.
In a tiny town tucked away in Sharon, Ontario, there is a little curiosity shop. Quaint, quirky and old-timey in its appearance with wooden rafters, walls and floors, some say “you won’t find it until you are ready”. It’s a wonderful, eclectic little store called The Hedge Witch
Aptly named, here you will find candles, incense, books of spells, dried herbs packed individually by the proprietors, crystals, statues…all your needful things.
Owner Diane King and her daughter Megan “help people along their paths”
Not a new age store, it’s been listed as one of the 9 witchiest shops in Ontario. It’s a stop you don’t want to miss.
For years I watched clients and customers bend the ear of these two wonderful women. Always willing to share knowledge and experience, they sat with me one lovely evening in their beautifully cultivated yard and spoke about some of the myths, lore and origins of what we know as Halloween.
The Silent Dinner
We started with the Dumb supper , a completely silent event where no one, including the host, is allowed to speak.
Years ago, as a Halloween homeschool assignment, with my then young son, we tried this. It was tricky, but everyone was on board. Giggles were allowed at our table as those we called over were of the lively sort 🙂
Diane and her daughter Megan spoke of how the dumb supper celebrates the ancestors that have passed before us. Originally November first, townsfolk would gather and feast, inviting those who have died within the year to join them. A place was set for them at the table and spirit plates filled with their favourite foods were offered.
Each person brought a “treat”, an offering of food for the table. Those who didn’t donate would have a “trick” played on them. Hence the origins of the beloved children’s tome of “trick or treat!”
After supper, spirits were escorted to the outskirts of town and sent back to the nether world. To make sure the ghosts of loved ones did not follow them back, townsfolk would put on costumes so they could not be recognized. Here began the custom of wearing a costume on All Hallows’ eve night.
Origin of the Witches mask
When I was young I happened on an interesting piece of information. In the time of witch burnings, mostly women were brutally treated and kept in dungeon-like settings, Unwashed and in darkness until their trial and eventual execution. When they were paraded through the streets, the sunlight revealed green bruises, broken crooked noses and unkempt straw-like hair. Children would wear masks similar to what they saw. Hence the tradition of todays witches mask.
Talking to these ladies transported me to a time of thatched roofs and hearthstones. “(Witchcraft) is hard to define,” Diane explains, sitting comfortably, surrounded by the lush garden filled with herbs and plants reflective of the store’s name. “… They would collect this, that, the whatever, throw it into the pot, the cauldron, brew it up…that’s where the whole witch doing the brew came from. Where you get dogs tooth and bats wing…(these) were common names for different plants…they didn’t know the Latin names. They only knew that plant looked like ‘this’ and that’s what they were going to call it….bloody finger is foxglove, hawks eye is also known as devils or Indian paintbrush (for example).”
She went on to tell me, “Witch, originally was a title of respect so was hag, so was crone….it was given to the healer, the herbalist…They lived in woods or in the hedges, that’s where the term hedge witch came from. They weren’t always called witch, sometimes they were called the cunning folk, the wise one, or the teller (Cornish tradition).
But do they actually exist?
When asked what it meant to be a real witch Diane defined it as “How you live your life and how you interact with the world”.
I take that to mean with the world in general, but uniquely the natural world. The way one worships, respects and integrates with nature in order to manifest and live happily through it.
Many witches are pagan, their practices can combine with virtually any culture or walk of life. Megan pointed out there are many variations and labels today’s witch may come with, and the practice has changed considerably.
Being of the younger generation Megan has been raised with a belief that is encompassing. “I embrace all paths and take what I need from where it comes from, then give back and honour it from the path I choose”.
The animals of Halloween
When a black cat crosses your path it is a bad omen is one of many cultural mythologies. no one really knows where how the poor kitty got its bad rap, in fact, some cultures find them to be quite lucky (good thing as I have 4)
One day I proudly walked into the hedge witch announcing that I had rescued a little calico residing under my deck, “Oh, so you got a real witch’s cat did you?” Said Diane. “I did?” I stood Confused. I always thought it was the black cat that was the familiar of these wise women. “Yeah, they are the real witches cat,” she said as she casually went back to her business leaving me, as she did many times, in shock at the new revelation placed in front of me.
The medieval crow’s cage could be one of the origins of the Raven and crow of Halloween as well as the fact that they are carrion and have a macabre history with writers like Edgar Allan Poe.
Rats are obvious with their plague connection and constant creeping of dirt floor houses in days of old.
Whatever the tales and origins of Halloween it’s a night of inhibited fun momentarily touching magick. Playing as a child again and watching our children grow up with the stories of our neighbourhood strolls and the costumes we made and wore. A time when we can touch a seemingly untouchable realm of reality that keeps us asking…is there more.
And if you are a seeker, adept or simply curious…the Hedge Witch is a stop you won’t want to miss. It is a place where the owners say, “We are here to help people along their path”.
Samhain (sa-win), a celtic tradition, is celebrated by many as the pagan new year. It’s a time of introspection, connection to
our ancestors, and when the walls of the two worlds grow thin.
Stay In Tune….and Stay Blogged In.
Contact: The Hedge witch
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