This afternoon I was quite surprised (pleasantly so) by an unexpected conversation about my Druid-Witch beliefs with a nice Jehovah’s Witness lady.
My nearly-3-yrs-old son and I were enjoying mucking about in the little park opposite the Playhouse in the city and a woman in her late 30s/early 40s came into the playground with her daughter in a buggy and a little boy a bit younger than my son. As her son and mine started to play together we got chatting about our children (as you do).
Then from out of the blue, the lady asks me, “Do you know about Halloween?”
I can’t help but grin like the big kid I am: “Yeah, I love Halloween! What about it?”
(Of course at this point I’m an equal mix of curious and cautious to see where this conversation is going…)
The lady then rummages through her buggy and produces a small magazine, flipping open to the middle section and comes to show me it; there’s what looks like a few pages of article content and a few small pictures. Before I can take anything in, the lady flips to the front to show me the magazine cover. I recognise it as The Watchtower– a Jehovah’s Witness magazine that a local lady in my area religiously pops through my letterbox every month.
“I get this from a nice lady in my area, I haven’t seen this month’s yet,” I explain.
“Oh this month has a great section about Halloween in it. It’s quite interesting,” she flips back to the article page. “What do you know about it?”
I point to a picture in the article- a classic cartoon deep red sunset with a black silhouetted witch riding a broomstick above a skeletal forest. “I’m a witch,” I say, without pride or shame.
Well, she certainly wasn’t expecting that.
“A witch? Are you really?” she asks, taking a look at me through new eyes.
I didn’t sense any malice or prejudice from her, so I smiled and laughed. I reach into my hoodie and t-shirt to pull out my talisman necklace- it’s a quartz crystal wand and a clay sigil of my zodiac sign and a tiny silver pentacle on a the leather cord. “Yes, I am. Definitely.”
She spots the little pentacle and I can feel the cogs in her head stop for a moment from the bombshell I had just dropped. A moment later her mind is a hive of activity, full of innocent and genuine curiosity.
“How long have you been a witch?” she asks.
“Errr….I don’t know exactly, ” I shrug, “Ever since I was a kid.”
“Ah, are your parents witches too?”
“No,” I shake my head, smiling. “I was Christened as a baby.”
That really puzzles her. “So how did you decide that this path was for you?”
“I don’t really know….it just always made sense to me- I love Nature!”
“Is your partner a witch too?” she asks.
“Kind of, he’s from a Shaman perceptive. I follow a more of a Druid path.”
“Do you do things together?” (I think she meant spells or rituals!)
“Sometimes we celebrate the seasons together, but that’s about it. He’s takes a more passive approach with his spirituality. But he understands about things and I can talk to him about stuff.”
“Do you celebrate with others?”
“Not really,” I confess, “I prefer to keep it with my family and friends.”
She points to a couple of lines of the article- “…’people may not realise it but they are celebrating our holiday with us…'”; the quote from the article is by a “self proclaimed” Pagan woman in America. The lady also points to a timeline at the bottom of the page; “It says that Halloween can be traced back to 5 BC with the Celts.”
“Yeah, probably since before records began,” I nod. “It’s certainly been around for a while.”
“Do you follow a book?” she wants to know.
“No, not really. There’s plenty of books of information out there, but not one specific book to follow. There’s what’s called a “Book of Shadows”- its like a personal journal book you write things in, like poems and stories and myths or rituals or reflections, dreams- whatever interests or matters to you. It’s nice to have notes all in one place and fun to look back through to see what you’ve learnt,” I explain.
“Oh, I see,” she has another question, “Do you have formal studies available?”
“There are different groups around that study different paths together or perform workings in a coven,” I nod, “But there are some who like to study or practise alone, like me- Solitary Witches. I was lucky enough to attend a coven Samhain ritual a few years ago, and it was very nice, but it affirmed to me that I personally prefer to work alone. Although now and then I do socialise with other pagans and its nice to exchange ideas and I enjoy hearing about others’ approaches to their paths.”
“Is there a place you can go to worship?”
“Not really, although I think the Octagon Chapel is like a spiritualist church that does different things. But I don’t really need a building. My place of worship is all around, especially being close to Nature outdoors, ” I say gesturing up to the sky and autumn trees. “And I don’t feel that I have to ask someone to talk to the Gods for me or go to a specific place to feel connected- the energy is everywhere, in everything, always present.”
The lady rummages into her buggy and pulls out her little black book- a Bible. I smile as she flicks through the thin printed pages, searching for a passage.
“So what does Halloween mean to you?” she asks thumbing through the text.
“To me it is a special time to remember and honour our ancestors and loved ones that have passed.”
She nods empathetically, “Do you remember someone special?”
“Yes, there’s my father who passed away about 10 years ago and we also have my partner’s baby daughter who he lost unexpectedly though misdiagnosis and illness. We think of them and thank them for what they have taught us and shown us and send our love to them.”
The lady quotes something from the Bible….I can’t recall it exactly now, but its something about Judgement Day or having a chance to be reunited with our loved ones.
“What are your thoughts about that?” she asks after reading the passage.
“I don’t know much about Judgement Day itself, but I believe our loved ones are always with us in spirit, watching over us and always in our hearts. The Realm of Spirit is close to the Land of the Living, although its sometimes hard to recognise the signs. But I think that we won’t have to wait for a day in the future to feel close to those we have lost- all we need to do is think of them in the present and they will be with us, in our memories, in our morals, in our traditions.”
By now my son was hanging on the playground gate, wanting to go home and have his lunch. The lady could see I needed to go, and she thanked me for sharing so openly, to which I thanked her for listening. We exchanged pleasant good-byes and then I headed home with my tired little boy.
I thought of how nice it was to have a conversation with someone who also has strong beliefs, where it didn’t erupt into a heated debate, or a right-or-wrong scenario, or a preaching session…had I felt the lady asking out of spite or seeking to “show me a better way” I wouldn’t have even had a conversation with her, but because she had asked so genuinely and frankly, I thought she deserved answers just as honest, so I hoped that what I shared with her gave her something to mull over, and helped break down any preconceived thoughts or negative ideas she may have had about witches and paganism.