The way of the witch
Darcy Campbell will celebrate Halloween today as a witch.She’ll wake up Tuesday as a witch as well. For some, being a witch is a Halloween diversion. For Campbell, it’s a year-round way of life.And unlike some who practice witchcraft, she’s not afraid to admit it. She’s not concerned about being subject to the prejudice that some of her fellow believers experience.”A lot of people I know are afraid to use the term ‘witch,'” she said. “I refuse to let people give it a bad connotation. I refuse to let people control me by use of the word.”I don’t care what people think. I have friends of all faiths.”To Campbell, perceptions about witches are far different from the reality, and were fostered by others seeking to persecute and take advantage of people engaged in an age-old tradition.Cloaks, cauldrons, brooms, spells – they all have their place in witchcraft. But the evil witch is not a part of that belief system. The No. 1 rule of witchcraft is to harm no one, Campbell said, but some people become interested in it out of hopes of exercising control over others.”Too many people are drawn to witchcraft for the wrong reasons,” she said.
For Campbell, who chose to be interviewed sitting beneath golden cottonwoods near the Colorado River south of Silt, her attraction is based in nature. She said there are many types of witchcraft, including green witchcraft, based on Celtic traditions tied into the importance of the earth, its plants and animals.Campbell has Celtic roots. Growing up in the Silt area, she was raised going to church, but also “close to the earth” on a ranch, with a mom who used natural remedies, she said.”I can remember being 4 and mixing plants and getting oils out of them and making lotions,” she said.Like witchcraft itself, its traditions are tied to the earth and its seasonal cycles. Halloween, which to Campbell marks the end of summer, is the ending and beginning of the year cycle and is the Witches New Year, she said. It is the time of descending into death to begin the process of rebirth.”It is also a night when the veils between the world of the dead and the living are the thinnest,” she believes.Witches also mark other times of year, such as full moons, the summer and winter solstices, the spring and fall equinoxes, and Beltane, a May Day-like celebration of rebirth.The themes of birth, death and rebirth are common in many religions, Campbell notes. And while she states that “those ugly green things with the big noses are hags, not witches,” she notes that witches see a triple aspect to the goddess: the maiden, the mother and the crone, or old woman.”Look at this leaf,” Campbell said, holding up a brown cottonwood castoff. “Everything has the same life cycle.”She said she sees death as a beginning, not an end.
There are a lot more witches in the area than people realize, Campbell said. Local gatherings often range in number from 15 to 50 people. Anyone is welcome to join in, and men and children participate as well, she said.While there is a neopagan movement that is more feminist-based, the Celtic view is that men and woman are equal, and there can’t be one without the other, Campbell said.The rituals of witches “depend on the day.””Sometimes they’re nothing more than getting in touch with nature,” she said.A cauldron is a common part of their rituals. It represents life, and the belly of woman from which all life comes. It also was an important part of the household in times past.The broom represents “all that is woman,” the cleaning of her home and space, newness, fresh beginnings, the sweeping of energy – “good in, negative out,” she said.The pentacle doesn’t represent evil, as some critics of witchcraft have maintained, but earth (body), air (intellect), water (emotions), fire (will) and spirit (being), Campbell said.In addition to owning The Dish restaurant in Silt, Campbell operates the Dry Hollow Cloak Co., which sells clothing, costumes, jewelry and other items, some witchcraft-related. Dressed for an interview in a long, black, comfortable-looking dress, she noted that cloak-like, flowing clothing is common in many religions. She said that’s because it’s less restrictive, to allow for the flow of energy.As Campbell spoke, a stray, brown-haired cat came by to visit. “Most of us like cats,” Campbell said of witches, but she said the reasons are too involved to get into for this story.
Spells also are a part of witchcraft, but it’s not about witches casting evil spells on others, Campbell said. She said spells are just incantations asking the powers that be to “be benevolent, shine on you,” and help with something. That which is asked for can’t be harmful to others, she said, and witches don’t always get what they want.In short, spells are like prayers, she said.”Why is one wrong and the other not?” she said.Campbell said the term witchcraft comes from wicce, which she said means wise, and craft. Because it predates Christianity, it is considered paganism. However, she said many witches believe in God and Jesus. And while Satanism can be confused with witchcraft, many witches, Campbell included, don’t believe in Satan.”How can you worship something you don’t even believe in?” she asked.She said persecution of witches by the church in Europe in medieval times was driven by a desire to take over their property, and to control others through fear.She sees some fanatics in all religions, but also says she can find good in every person.”My goal is just that people accept and be open to each other,” she said.If that were so, witches might feel more comfortable being themselves, not just on Halloween but every day of the year.
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