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Closing News for 2023


Welcome to this edition of The Curated Witch – your go-to source for all things mystical and magical!  Join our journey as we explore a diverse array of topics that span ancient and contemporary Paganism.


Whether you're a seasoned practitioner or just starting your journey, The Curated Witch is your trusted companion for inspiration, knowledge, and community. Embrace the magic and let the enchantment begin!


Celebrating the Solstice Around the World

Solstice Photos from Around the World




The 2023 winter solstice arrives on Thursday, Dec. 21, with the Northern Hemisphere marking the shortest day of the year, in which most people in the U.S. will get only about 9 or 10 hours of sunlight, and in parts of Europe even less.

Known also as the "longest night," the solstice this year is at 10:27 p.m. Eastern Time, according to the National Weather Service.

While the solstice typically occurs on Dec. 21 or 22, it can be as early as Dec. 20 or as late as Dec. 23, the Weather Channel explains. This happens because our calendars aren't an exact match for the solar year.



Hundreds of people, including drummers and dancers, gather at Co Meath neolithic passage tomb at sunrise


Shortly after 9.15am, the sun finally came out from behind the clouds to cheers and drumbeats, as if it was willed by the hundreds of people gathered at Newgrange to mark the winter solstice.


Alan O’Neill, a schoolteacher from Santry, was one of a handful of people selected at random to stand inside the burial chamber of the 5,000-year-old neolithic passage tomb in Co Meath on solstice morning.


“We’ll never forget that,” he said. “We got a sliver of light, it came through. That’s all we wanted.”



Practitioners of the old ways and some sightseers celebrate the fewest daylight hours in the northern hemisphere. . .


Druids and hippies, families and tourists walked past Fargo Wood to the ancient stone circle where people first gathered 4,000 years ago to worship the returning sun. “Feels like one of the larger gatherings,” said Arthur Pendragon, a former soldier and biker turned once and future king. Some 6,000 were clocked on the gate, with 98,500 watching the sun rise online via a livestream.


Miscellaneous

A stuffed animal at Cabinet of Curiosities.

Lyla Miklos


With more than a dozen retailers catering to pagan practitioners, Hamilton is experiencing a witchcraft boom.


We remember when the only pagan retailer in Hamilton was the now-defunct Ways to Wisdom on Barton Street East.

After attending Hamilton’s Pagan Pride Festival at Gage Park this September, we were delighted to discover just how many new businesses have opened up throughout the city that cater to the pagans, witches, new agers or occultists on your gift-giving list.





Credit: Andy Lidstone/Shutter


Many of the holiday traditions we hold today stem from celebrations our ancestors held. And some traditions have all been lost.


Black Friday used to be an important, one-day shopping ritual. People lined up before dawn outside of stores and eagerly waited for the doors to open. The sale prices were only valid for that day, and quantities were limited. Some shoppers burst into the store as soon as it opened.


Online shopping forever altered the decades-long ritual. Sale prices are available at different times throughout the season, and there's really no need to shiver outside a store and then battle like a Gladiator over a Furby.


The ancients also had traditions surrounding their celebrations. Many of these traditions were far longer-lasting than Black Friday and persisted for hundreds if not thousands of years. But eventually, many of them came to an end.


The White Spring – Glastonbury (Image by Annwyn)


Exactly a year ago, I began my first shift as a Keeper in training at the White Spring. It has been both amazing and really tough. It has tested me, transformed me, left me crying on my knees, exhausted me, and shown me some of the most amazing magic of my life. It has both shaken and strengthened me.


A Keeper is what the volunteers at the White Spring are called. I really like this term. It is humble, it implies that we are there to be of service and to keep the place safe and clean. Our duties include things like opening and closing the spring. Lighting all the candles. Cleaning the altars. Emptying the rubbish bins and sweeping the floors.


Entrance to the Pirunkirkko [via Open Archeology]


A mysterious cave in Finland called Pirunkirkko has been used by shamans as a sacred space allowing them to connect to the spirit world. Now, scientists have started to look at the cave’s properties to better understand how it supports mystical experiences.

Pirunkirkko translates roughly as the “Devil’s Church.” The cave stands as an impressive rapakivi granite rock formation in the Paistjärvi Area of Heinola in the Koli mountain range . . . Historical records indicate that the Devil’s Church served as a meeting spot for mystics and shamans where they used the energies of the cave during drumming sessions to heal the community and restore balance.


Tarot & Numerology



Again this year, The Wild Hunt offers a 12-month spiritual perspective for the year ahead that might provide some helpful signposts for guidance as we move into and through the new year. As with the past two years, a different deck was chosen for each month, with one card being selected to provide an overview or basic theme for that month, similar to our Tarot of the Week but more broadly applied.








I’m drawn to the occult like a moth to a street light. Witchy stuff is kind of my jam, and reading tarot is one of my favorite ways to dive into that aspect of myself. So, when I had the opportunity to do an article about pulling tarot cards for a month, I couldn’t pass it up. . .


But could I actually stay consistent with it? I often struggle with keeping up routines. Variety is the spice of life, right? Doing the same thing every day isn’t exactly my cup of tea. But I figured if it’s something I already like doing, it was worth trying.

Although it’s been a while since I’ve done any sort of reading for myself, this seemed like a low-risk experiment. So, every morning for 30 days, I started my day with a tarot pull. This is my process and what I learned about myself along the way.



It’s that time of the year! As we get ready to welcome 2024, we turn to ancient practices like astrology, tarot and numerology to receive guidance for what’s to come. Interestingly, they always seem to align in terms of the energetics of their message — and 2024 isn’t an exception.


According to numerology — a mystical science that operates on the belief that each single digit number carries a specific vibration — 2024 will be an incredibly powerful year. Numerology is a very simple system with profound meaning: To get the numerology of 2024, which is something we also refer to as the Universal Year number, we add up the four digits of the year to one single digit. In the case of 2024 (2+0+2+4), we end up with an eight, which is, thankfully, great news for us all.



In the intricate world of Tarot, each card whispers a unique story, a fragment of wisdom waiting to be unveiled. The art of tarot reading, especially in the digital realm, is a journey of connecting these narratives to forge a path of insight and understanding. This article delves into the nuances of online tarot card reading, offering a comprehensive guide to mastering this ancient practice in the modern world.


Beyond the mere interpretation of cards, online tarot reading invites us to interact dynamically with symbols and archetypes, bridging the gap between ancient mysticism and modern technology. It's a practice that not only predicts outcomes but also illuminates paths, helping individuals navigate the complexities of life with a more profound sense of awareness.



The end of the year is an auspicious time for psychics readings and divination of all kinds. As always there are a multitude of new tarot and oracle decks on the market and this is a great time to check them out. Some people believe you only need one tarot deck, madness I say.


Paganism



Mother’s Night, or Mōdraniht in Old English, is sacred to Frigg, Freya, and the Disir in Norse Paganism. The disir are our holy ancestral mothers, both those people we knew in life as well as older ancestors long before our time. Mother’s Night is typically celebrated on December 20, or the night before the Winter Solstice/Yule, and kicks off the 12 Days of Yule. I consider December 20 (last night) to be Mother’s Night since today is the Winter Solstice. But there are many people who celebrate tonight as Mother’s Night.



Saturnalia was an ancient and revived Roman festival that takes place in December from the 17th to the 23rd. The festival celebrates the agricultural god Saturn.

In ancient Rome, the festival was characterized by feasting, gift-giving, and a temporary suspension of social norms and hierarchies. It was a time of revelry, merriment, and indulgence, with activities such as feasting, gambling, and the exchange of small gifts.


Hilmarsson with other members of Ásatrú gathering at Iceland’s Thingvellir National Park. Image: Gunnar Freyr Steinsson / Alamy


Despite attempts by white supremacists to co-opt it, the Ásatrú Fellowship is based on openness and respect for the environment, argues Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson

On a hill surrounded by woods, just north of the Raven’s Cliffs and west of the Rock of the Hanging One, Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson is building a temple.


Hilmarsson, 65, has been high priest of Iceland’s Ásatrú Fellowship for the past two decades. The pagan religion was practised in the country during the Viking era, disappearing with the island’s conversion to Christianity in 1000 CE. It was formally re-established in the 1970s and is growing in popularity. The number of followers in Iceland has more than quadrupled in the last 15 years, to 7,000 people, according to Hilmarsson. Although this is less than 2 per cent of the population, it’s enough to make it the country’s largest non-Christian faith. It also has offshoots around the world, including a small branch in the UK.



It was not so long ago that the Pagan community was bragging about being the fastest growing religion in the United States. We talked about public temples and paid clergy, and we put some work into building theological and philosophical foundations for what our Pagan and polytheist religions would become.


And now? Some of that work is still going on. But even where it is, it’s being done in an environment where organized religion as a whole is shrinking at rates that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago.


My expectation (though it was more of a hope than either a data-driven projection or a divinatory prediction) was that as people left Christianity, many of them would make their way into one form of Paganism or another. I expected people to congregate in three main areas: polytheism, witchcraft, and non-theistic Nature worship.


That hasn’t happened.


Reactions to The Atlantic Article on Paganism

The Return of the Pagans in The Atlantic has engendered strong reactions.



Happy post-Christmas, post-Boxing Day, eleventy-seventh day of Christmas and ongoing Yuletide festival of wearing comfy pants and eating leftovers! Maybe you saw this horrendous editorial published by The Atlantic this week, on Christmas Day, in fact, “The Return of the Pagans.” The author, a rabbi and scholar of Judaism named David Wolpe, begins with this smug subtitle: “Hug a tree or a dollar bill, and the pagan in you shines through.”


Jacob van Oost Mercury and Jupiter in the House of Philemon and Baucis. From WikiMedia.


In Ovid’s Metamorphoses we find the story of Baucis and Philemon, an older married couple living in what is now modern-day Turkey. Ovid tells us that the couple were old and poor, but kind, and that when they were visited by two peasants, Baucis and Philemon welcomed the two strangers into their home and shared with those peasants all they had to offer. In the middle of dinner Baucis noticed that the pitcher she was pouring wine from seemed to magically refill on its own. Knowing that only the gods were capable of such a miracle, Baucis and her husband then fell to their knees in supplication and offered all they had to the deities seated before them.


Witches



As a goddess of magic and witchcraft, Hecate is closely connected to the mystical art of alchemy and the pursuit of a philosopher’s stone.


The mystical practice of alchemy surrounds the transformation and creation of matter. Alchemists were most concerned with learning how to convert base metals into gold and achieving immortality with an elixir of life. It was also considered the predecessor of scientific chemistry and has long captivated the human imagination. Hecate, as the Greek goddess of magic and witchcraft, has a unique and ancient relationship with the study of alchemy. Although the connection is mostly symbolic, as a goddess closely related to sorcery and potion making, she is a deity that many alchemists would have been drawn to while practicing this mysterious subject.


A flying sorceress stuffs presents and pocket money in to children’s stockings at Epiphany (Photo: Emily Ake)


Every year on 6 January, I find myself drawn to the Renaissance town of Urbania. . .

barely 6,000 residents live inside Urbania’s medieval walls. Yet tens of thousands more are drawn to its winding stone alleys, elegant loggias, majolica workshops and monumental Ducal Palace at the start of each year.

Yet it is not the well-preserved architecture that lures us to this offbeat town – it is the Befana festival.


Italians are not generally into witchcraft, but la Befana is different. She is a benevolent, gift-bearing flying sorceress with a wart on her nose, a hunched back, long chin, headscarf and torn shoes, who brings children toys and sweets on the Feast of the Epiphany – Italy’s female version of Father Christmas.



As Witches and spiritual folk, we believe that we’re all connected, and that everything has a spirit. . . Winter was a time of lack, and death, to our ancestors.

It still can be today.

In some parts of the world right now, that’s all there is.

Perhaps we feel the mourning and the fear of our ancestors in the Winter months, remembering how they felt in lack.


Books and Movies

Stories are magical.


A good story can transport you to places and times in the far past, in the distant future, or in an alternate universe. It can help you see things in the ordinary world that were previously invisible to you. It can inform you, inspire you, and encourage you to try new things and branch out in new directions.


If you want to change hearts and minds, you don’t need facts. You need stories. . . I can’t do the kind of magic fictional witches can do, but reading fictional magic encourages me to go deeper into the real magic I can do.


Flying Witch, Kiki's Delivery Service, and The Ancient Magus' Bride (Image via Wit Studio, Studio Ghibli, and J.C.Staff)


Anime featuring magical girls and powerful witches cast enchanting spells on viewers. Witch anime combines fantasy, magic, and coming-of-age stories to create binge-worthy tales. They feature outcasts unlocking their power, students mastering the arcane arts, and covens protecting the public from harm.


This list includes 10 of the most enchanting witch anime. From classics like Little Witch Academia to recent hits like The Witch's Diner, these shows feature sorcery, spirits, talking cats, and everything in between.



Witch hunts, whether literal or figurative, are based on generally fear. Fear of the other, of the non-Christian, fear of anything that's too different or strange. And, historically, whether we're talking about 14th century Europe or 17th century America, they're almost always about women. And whether it's about punishing women deemed too different for society's liking, stripping them of their property (it's not an accident so many widows have been accused of occult activity), blaming them for inexplicable acts of God like bad crops or sick livestock, or settling scores with neighbors, witch hunts have never really gone out of style. (Just look at any woman with a long enough political career.)


But what if we lived in a world where that wasn't the case? Such is the question at the heart of Sundance Now's upcoming series Sanctuary: A Witch's Tale, which imagines a world where witchcraft specifically, and the idea of female power more generally isn't just something that's accepted. It's celebrated, and those who possess it are venerated members of their communities. At least, until they aren't.



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