"In a grove near you, pagans are gathering to celebrate Samhein, the night when the veil between the living and the dead, between this world and others, is thin. We will wear cloaks and have ritual daggers, called athemes at our waists. The prerequisite silver jewelry will gleam in the firelight. Natural fabrics flow as freely as the mead. There will be an unfortunate excess of tie-dyed material. In other words, we will look most like your picture of witches.
"This picture leaves out an important detail, and I don't mean the whole human-sacrifice-and-stealing-Christian-babies thing. Planning a ritual, whether it's for Halloween or any other holiday, is a conflict-filled battle. It's like trying to herd jack rabbits on horseback. Those who practice witchcraft tend to be strident nonconformists, and the very nature of paganism, which has no unifying body or text, means that we have no obligation to believe the same thing or listen to anything beyond the dictates of our own consciences to unite in perfect accord. Often we flow together, achieving unity in which we are transported beyond ourselves, connected with the earth we love and the energy we feel from it."
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Illustration by Charlie Powell