I remember the first time it occurred to me that, perhaps, I was a Witch. It was years ago, in conversation with my friend and teacher, Sean Donahue. Sean is a poet, an herbalist, and a voice for all that is good and sacred in this world and in others. The word sat, hopeful and still, somewhere behind my brow as it took shape, a faint glimmer, a sparkle in the darkness, growing brighter as I gave it space and nurtured its ember with my own belief and curiosity -- Witch. It felt at once comforting and foreign, to acknowledge for the first time, what I was -- who I was. On the road for the last three months, I have been leisurely making my way through Ursula K. Le Guin's Wizard of Earthsea series. In this woven world of written word magic, to know the true name of a thing is the greatest power one can have. And I am finding in my own life, that to call oneself by one's true name, is, perhaps, the greatest empowerment.
I recently attended the Heartbeat Retreat on Orcas Island. It was an intimate gathering, close to the Earth, full with the company of some of my favorite mothers and children, sisters and friends. We slept each night beneath the stars and woke to the soft sound of singing at dawn. We shared songs around the fire and within the womb Sauna late into the evening and each afternoon was spent within the warm embrace of the late Summer Sun. It was a celebration of nourishment and depth, of connection to the Earth and to one another, but most importantly, it was an invitation to remember our voices.
My voice, I learned, is a part of myself I have unknowingly silenced for most of my life. And it is an equivocally powerful tool; a direct channel to our most essential magic and the personal medicine we each carry within us. Through reflection and writing[and generally just watching my shit come up as I struggled to speak and to sing from a place of strength and vulnerability] -- I learned so much about the ways in which I have suppressed my own voice over the years, compensated for my quiet. Through things like writing instead of speaking aloud, creating beautiful spaces instead of allowing myself to be heard, remaining mysterious and distant instead of inviting others close in to witness me as the perfectly imperfect being that I am. For a long, long time all of these things kept me safe, but at a cost I can no longer afford -- that is the expense of remaining silent and remaining small.
For a long time, it has not been safe for us to have voices -- as Witches or as Women. And of course, it has not been and continues to be unsafe for many kinds people to heard or to be seen -- people of color, trans and queer folks, those with disabilities, neurodivergent persons, the list, heartbreakingly, goes on and on.
Something magic happens though, when we remember to use our voices, when we come together in conversation and in song to name and to claim who we are, and give power and potency to what it is we are doing, both alone and collectively. There is magic in the voice, in mine as well as in yours. I learned this, when I chose to share a song I had been carrying with me, one night around our evening fire at the Heartbeat Retreat. It is a song written and sung by one of my closest friends - Rachel, fellow herbalist and witch. Stop reading and listen to it here -- then return to these words.
I sang this haunting song beside the fire, and something welled up within the group of women whose voices joined mine in calling ourselves what we were -- many for the first time, I believe. Eyes widened and tears flowed as we remembered together. That night our dreams were vast, filled with medicine and story; remembering and releasing. Owl circled wide above our camp that night and sang her own song of deep healing to us as we slept upon the Earth.
We are a community of women and of witches, remembering who we are and where we came from -- finding one another again to pick up, once more, the threads of healing and song that we left off in other lifetimes, past. Let us not be afraid to do the good work that is being asked of us now -- to serve humbly as a voice for our Earth Mother when she needs us so deeply.
A witch is a someone who understands the language of the seasons and the skies, who cares deeply for the hearts and the hands of those who surround her. She is one who recognizes the sacredness and the essential nature of the cycles of both Life and Death, honors the fertility of the soil and the self, and sows seeds, not just for this season, but for the generations who will come forever after in the future, if only we can remember how to live well and walk lightly on this Earth today.
I am so deeply grateful for all of the Witches I have come to know and to love and to work with, whether or not they named themselves as such, and grateful also for those I have yet to meet. This Sacred Circle is growing still, as each of us remembers to remember. Each time you sit in solitude upon the forest floor, watching the seasons move slow through their days, each time you make an offerings of tea leaves to the Earth outside your home, each time you pray for good things for those whom you love -- remember that you are not alone. Remember that you are part of a profoundly beautiful and intricate web, more vast than any one of us can know. We are connected always and we are finding one another. Look closely at the women who surround you, seeing them now with new eyes, as the Witches they may not yet know themselves to be . . .