From Samhain Celebrations to Solstice! New Year before Christmas? Well yes if you're a Witch.
'Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn, and cauldron bubble' the infamous words of the Scottish Play conjuring up an image of conical hats, hooked noses and brooms: the Witch. Few expect to meet a 'real' Witch but recently I met with Ena* who considers herself just that, or rather the correct term is Hedgewitch.
She explained the significance of Samhain (Halloween) the Wiccan year end, and Yuletide, marked by today's solstice, to those who practice the Craft.
“Samhain origins lie within the pagan belief systems as far back as Palaeolithic times. It’s the biggest festival on the Wiccan Wheel of the Year."
As a practising Witch, this is an important celebration for those who are on 'the Path'.
Ena tells me, she is a modern day practising Hedgewitch: "This means I am a solitary practitioner. For me, the craft means focusing on working with all of nature and the energies around me to live a harmonious life.”
Ena has been practising Witchcraft for almost 20 years and considered herself Wiccan for 17 years. “You can practice the craft and be a Witch without following the Wiccan belief system in the Divine.
"When I first became aware of modern day Witches I was visiting friends in Antrim.They invited me to what I thought was an art fair.
"It turned out that by Craft fair it meant witchcraft”, Ena said, "I met an English lady and practising witch; Kate West, from whom I learned a lot about the Craft."
Balance, equality and peace within its’ spiritual teachings is what attracted Ena to Witchcraft.
"Samhain is the last of the harvest festivals. Traditionally it was a time to gather and store sustenance for the winter. It is considered the end of the year, 'The Dead Time' when the earth rests and the veil between worlds thin."
Ena added: "We celebrate the lives of those who have passed into the Summerland by leaving a place set at our feast for them to enjoy with us. I have small celebration with friends from all sorts of belief backgrounds."
Come the 21st of December the wheel turns again and the sun stops declining south. This is Yuletide celebrated by the Winter Solstice. "The Teutonic version lasted from the 20th through to the 31st, hence the twelve days of Christmas but the Sabbath celebration can be traced back as far as Egyptian times and the sun god Horus," Ena explained.
"For me though, it is the Holly King being supplanted by the Oak King representing death overcome by rebirth as the hours of light climb again. It is the end of the dead time."
She added: "I invite friends for a feast on the Solstice, burn a bayberry cable for wealth and happiness, light this years yule log with the end of last years and decorate with holly."
*This is her Wiccan name and she does not wish to use her real name.