Arundel Witch gets ready for 'one of our big holidays'


October 27, 1992|By Meredith Schlow | Meredith Schlow,Staff Writer

On Halloween night, when children don costumes and hit the streets for trick-or-treating, Diotima will join in a celebration of her own.

She's a Witch.

But the 40-year old Anne Arundel County bookstore owner, who adopted her Witchcraft name from a Greek priestess, won't be riding a broom, casting evil spells or wearing a pointy hat Saturday night. She'll do the same things many do on Halloween -- wear a mask, carve a jack-o'-lantern and get together with her friends.

Diotima practices Witchcraft -- a belief rooted in the pagan religions of Western Europe. It's based on the sacredness of earth and the cycle, or wheel, of the year. Unlike many modern religions, it has no central authority, no official body of liturgy, and no intermediary, such as a priest, between a Witch and his or her deity.

Diotima, who has a bachelor's degree and did two years' graduate work at the University of Maryland in agronomy, runs the Turning Wheel Bookstore in Pasadena.

QUESTION: Do people ever think you're kidding when you tell them you're a Witch?

ANSWER: Actually, I don't get that very often. Witchcraft is a religion.

Q.: Halloween has long been associated with Witches and spirits. Is it really an important holiday for a Witch?

A.: Yes. It's one of our big holidays. Halloween, or Samhain, as we call it [pronounced Sow-an] is a harvest festival. But it has a death orientation, because this is the time when all of the vegetation on the Earth is seen as dying, and winter is coming.

The key here is that the physical world is not the only world in which consciousness exists. We're seeing death as sort of a flow of consciousness out of the physical world more into non-physical realities.

So we say the veil between the worlds is thin at Samhain. It's when we feel we can contact those who have gone before us, our ancestors.

Q.: What about the mainstream symbols of Halloween, like jack-o'-lanterns and costumes? Is there any relationship between those and Witches?

A.: The jack-o'-lantern with a face carved in it and a mask are used to symbolize the mask of the physical body that we take on for this lifetime.

It essentially symbolizes that death in its own way is an illusion, because physical reality is simply a mask that our consciousness takes on . . . and, yes, although there's death all around you, remember, the spirit lives always -- that's what the light within the jack-o'-lantern symbolizes, too.

There are other reasons for the costumes.

A lot of people felt that there could be negative entities that come through because the veil between the worlds was thin -- the other world is not all sweetness and light -- and these other entities could possibly come through and bother physical beings during this time.

The costumes were used to confuse any of the negative entities that could come over.

Q.: So how did trick-or-treating start?

A.: Essentially, there's this idea of leaving gifts for the dead -- or the Dumb Supper, as it's also called.

You leave food out with a candle for the dead, who were actually seen as being able to pass through the veil at this time . . . and again there's this feeling that some of these negative entities are coming through, too, and you're sort of bribing them off.

That could be how it started.

Q.: There are lots of other symbols tied to Witches -- caldrons, pointy hats, brooms, and strange items they used in brews -- eye of newt and dragon's blood.

A.: Almost all of these things have some basis in fact -- if you understand what the fact is.

First, you have to understand that when we work with magick [the "k" differentiates Witch magick from stage magic], we work with a type of energy that we feel permeates all of existence, and yet has not been discovered or quantified yet by science.

When we use it, we often see it as going up in a cone shape with the base of the cone facing down, spiraling upward if we're trying to send magickal energy out into the universe.

We call it raising a cone of power. The cone-shaped hat is symbolic of that. It's not a real thing. No one wears one, except for Halloween, maybe, as a joke.

Q.: And the broom?

A.: The broom is also a magickal tool, and again it has a certain sexual symbology, which I think is fairly obvious if you look at it.

You have to understand that this is a fertility religion in many ways.

A broom that's used for ritual is not your basic kitchen broom. It's a broom that's used only for ritual and is used to actually clear a space psychically of any negative energy before a ceremony is performed.

Q.: And what about the caldron?

A.: A caldron is one of our sacred symbols. It's a symbol of the womb of the Goddess, from which all creation comes.

And we do use a caldron often, as a symbolic thing in the middle of the altar, to burn incense in -- it could also be part of magickal spells and things like that.

Q.: Now for the eye of newt.

A.: Those are folk names for herbs. Dragon's blood is the resifrom a tree.

Q.: Why are Witches thought to be evil?

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