[Written by Emil Marty]
[Image Credit: ‘A witch at her cauldron surrounded by beasts.’ Etching by J. van de Velde II, 1626//Wellcome Collection]
With Halloween hot on our tail, the usual spooky signs are showing. It’s that time of year where supermarkets go supernatural, and every dark corner is littered with cobwebs. Plastic skeletons lurk behind the fruit and veg aisle, and we run home to go over the entire back-catalogue of American horror movies. But come November 1st, the cobwebs have been wiped away to make room for the Christmas tree, the skeletons have been replaced with Santa Claus, and Nightmare on Elm Street swapped out for Miracle on 34th Street. For many, Halloween is a quick holiday that breaks up summer and Christmas with a freak excuse to get drunk and dress up. But for some, Halloween has roots that rest deeper than that, and continue beyond October 31st. In witchcraft, Halloween or Samhain marks the last harvest festival of the year. To find out more, I caught up with a friend of mine to talk about their practice. Brynn Alred, 20, tells me all I need to know about tea, tarot and how to hex a Tory.
- Firstly, how did you get into witchcraft? Was it a gradual or overnight decision?
It happened over a long time. It’s always been there from my mam and family friends, but as I got older I started to want to find out more for myself. That’s when I properly started calling it witchcraft. Before then, it was just something I did with the family and it didn’t really have a name.
- Could you expand on what it is you do? What does it entail on a daily basis?
Well today I woke up and made a pot of tea. Herbs are one of the very few things that I really believe are everyone’s birthright, just as we are theirs. We are of the same land, so we should look after them and they will look after us.
Another thing I do day-to-day is my tarot, which I find very useful for sorting my head out. Sometimes everything is just a bit too much and I get really stressed not knowing where I’m going, so I just draw a card or two for the day or week and it can help me sort my feelings out a bit.
Some people are really into getting into nature, which I do from time to time but it’s not where I live. My home is in a city and it’s where I spend most of my time. Sometimes, I go for a walk in the valley just down from my house and shake my head out, but everyone does that I think, they just don’t talk about it.
- What about across the year?
We have a full moon cycle, so I’ll do something for the full moon and the new [moon], normally. Sometimes I forget or am too busy, but normally I find that whatever it was that I was doing instead was the right thing to do. For instance, last full moon I planned on charging myself up with the energy, but then ended up going out with my friends and dancing until it was light. At first I was pissed off with myself, but then I realised I was happier and more motivated than I had been in weeks, and that’s because the moon was still with me. She was still watching over me, over all of us having fun and making our own energy.
We have just gone past some of the big harvest festivals of the year and are working our way to Samhain (Halloween). For some people, Samhain means a new year when the earth goes to sleep to wake up next spring; when spring is conceived I suppose you could say. I plan on spending it with my family, eating a big meal made up of produce from the allotment and a big bonfire with all my friends and family.
- Is there anything more modernized about your personal practice?
I suppose the more modern stuff that I do is hexing. It doesn’t seem like my parents’ generation are very into it, because they think it’s bad manners and will bring badness back to you. I, however, don’t have a problem with sending a little bad luck in certain politicians’ ways, or maybe a particular company. I normally get a jam jar and fill it with a whole bunch of nasty stuff like iron nails and slimy, rotting things, then I add a bit of the person I’m wanting to hex. A bit of hair or a signature are both pretty good, but it’s hard to get a bit of Theresa May’s hair, so I normally go for some Tory propaganda that I’ve been sent through the post. Then I put it all in the jar and level it somewhere to rot. Graveyards are good, but if you leave it there you have to make sure to pay back with something nice. Maybe a cup of tea or some whisky, everyone has a different thing they like to pay with.
It’s not all hexing though; I look after people as well. I can’t normally go on demos because I use a walking stick, which just makes you a target (especially at anti-fascist stuff). So instead on the day, I’ll go down before it starts and lay out a few crystals for the people who are on the street fighting for our freedom. I think of them, and I’ll lay everything out for them to be safe and not get hurt or arrested.
[Image Description: a 17th century etching of a witch casting spells at her cauldron whilst surrounded by various creatures]