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More Seasonally Appropriate Witch Articles and a Little Bit of Tarot

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Rue Gregory gives a blessing during the full moon ritual.

Heather Khalifa / Staff Photographer

“Boom, witches everywhere,” a third-generation witch declared.

The witches circled an altar in the shadow of Clark Park’s sycamores last month, orange street light illuminating their black hats and robes.

“By the anointing with this sacred oil, may your spirit come into attunement with the energies of the moon,” said Jim “Raven” Stefanowicz, high priest of the South Street Circle, a pagan ritual group, as he daubed a blend of jasmine, orris, and vanilla onto the wrists of those gathered. Nearby, an ice cream truck tinkled and a trolley rumbled past; live action role players whacked each other with foam weapons a few yards away.

No matter — these were city witches.

America’s obsession with witches is older than the country itself. At first, it was rooted in fear, fueling false accusations of witchcraft, including those that led to the Salem witch trials. Beyond the courtroom, witches have been a steady presence in American culture through folk legends and local lore, fairy tales, Halloween traditions, and eventually, television and films.

Over time, a singular witch archetype emerged in American popular culture—the pointy hat, broomstick, black cat, and so on—and hasn’t changed much since people began dressing up as witches for Halloween more than a century ago.

But where does this imagery come from? Like the characters themselves, the origins and history of the witch costume are complicated.

"A Sorcerer Comes to a Peasant Wedding," a 19th-century painting by Russian artist Vassily Maximov. TRETYAKOV GALLERY/WIKIMEDIA

Terrifying love spells and protective “spells to power” offered the chance for control in a fiercely hierarchical society.

THE WORD “WITCHES” MAKES MANY Americans think of women working in league with the devil. But that hasn’t always been the face of sorcery.

Most of Catholic and Protestant Europe embraced the idea of magic as a satanic craft practiced by women, and strong, independent women were kept in line through such accusations. In Orthodox Russia, however, accusers overwhelmingly blamed men for bewitching them and held different ideas of where the power of “magic” came from.

Photo: Courtesy of The Witch House

The history of the Salem Witch Trials draws millions of people to Salem every year. However, some of the most significant sites related to the 1692 witch hysteria extend beyond the "Witch City’s” borders.

When one thinks of witch history in the United States, it’s mostly Salem, Massachusetts, that comes to mind. After all, the 1692 namesake witch trials famously took place there. Curiously, though, only one visitable Salem structure exists with a direct connection to this hysteria: the “Witch House,” where Judge Jonathan Corwin, who presided over the trials, once lived.

But history-loving travelers who expand their wanderings beyond Salem’s city limits will find many more historically significant places waiting for them in Essex County, Massachusetts, including the homes, ruins, and museums listed below, which start north and work their way south for spooky yet streamlined sightseeing.

A degree in magic being offered in 2024 will be one of the first in the UK, the University of Exeter has said.

The "innovative" MA in Magic and Occult Science has been created following a "recent surge in interest in magic", the course leader said.

It would offering an opportunity to study the history and impact of witchcraft and magic around the world on society and science, bosses said.

The one-year programme starts in September 2024.

From ancient bonfires to modern-day gatherings, here are some of the top places in the US to celebrate Samhain, a traditional Celtic festival.

While everyone tucks into popular Halloween candy across the US, the veil between the spirit world and the living grows thin at a time when Samhain offers a liminal period to commune and honor those who've passed. It originated from ancient Celtic traditions, is considered one of the most important pagan holidays, and marks the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter.

Being Celtic, there are many spiritual places to celebrate Samhain in the United Kingdom; however, the tradition also remains alive and well in many American communities still celebrating the old ways. When the harvest has completed and the last crops stored away, travelers embark on pilgrimages seeking pathways to commune with spirits and embrace the changing seasons.

October is where I tend to see an uptick in the interest in witchcraft and spirit work from people in general, and where people in general tend to feel a little more witchy. With that in mind I thought I’d change the pace and share some simple and fun magic for the season!

  • Make Spirit Water – Oil – Candle

  • Oracle Contemplation

  • Wishing Spell (Acorns)

  • Peanut Butter Pumpkins

  • Enchant a Pie

  • Simple Séance

  • Self Poppet

  • Eclipse Magic!

Daniil Kotliar's '13th January’ sees the Paris-based photographer immortalise the vibrant cultural idiosyncrasies of his

Self-taught photographer Daniil Kotliar was born in a small town on the outskirts of Nikopol, an industrial city in south-central Ukraine, in 1999. Nestled on the right bank of the Dnieper River, “Nikopol is where everyone from my village would be commuting for work”, he explains. “Working in its factories was one of the few things people could do for a living as we didn’t have much there.” Having grown up as the youngest son in a family with many sisters and brothers, raised by a widowed mother, Daniil describes his upbringing as anything but easy. “Let’s put it this way,” the image-maker says, “my town and childhood embodied the kind of reality people would want to turn around not to see”. In spite of the difficulties, his home granted him many of the memories he carries with him and regularly reminisces about today. Of all of them, it’s Malanka, Ukraine’s Orthodox New Year celebration, that Daniil remembers most vividly – so clearly he dedicated his debut monograph to it, 13th January.

It is generally accepted that the standard deck of playing cards we use for everything from three-card monte to high-stakes Vegas poker evolved from the Tarot. “Like our modern cards,” writes Sallie Nichols, “the Tarot deck has four suits with ten ‘pip’ or numbered cards in each…. In the Tarot deck, each suit has four ‘court’ cards: King, Queen, Jack, and Knight.” The latter figure has “mysteriously disappeared from today’s playing cards,” though examples of Knight playing cards exist in the fossil record. The modern Jack is a survival of the Page cards in the Tarot. (See examples of Tarot court cards here from the 1910 Rider-Waite deck.) The similarities between the two types of decks are significant, yet no one but adepts seems to consider using their Gin Rummy cards to tell the future.

The eminent psychiatrist Carl Jung, however, might have done so.

Although in some circles tarot cards are divination tools for predicting the future, the tarot cards in the library’s collection are opening windows into the past.

For the past five years, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the library has collaborated internally and partnered internationally to study the world’s three earliest 15th-century Italian tarot (or tarocchi) decks. One of these decks is the Visconti di Modrone deck, held in the Cary Collection of Playing Cards at Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Dating from ca. 1440–45, it is one of the oldest of the three.

Appalachia is full of haunting stories and folktales. Now, a Pittsburgh artist is channeling some of those stories into a tarot deck.

Genevieve Barbee-Turner grew up on the Virginia coast but made a deliberate decision to move to Pittsburgh after high school. She started making tarot decks about Pittsburgh lore and issues in the city, such as harm reduction, homelessness and gentrification. Now, she’s expanded her scope with a new tarot deck, “Haunted: A Cursed Appalachian Tarot Deck.”

PARIS – Grab the black ensembles. Witch clothing is in vogue, according to fashionistas.

For the fourth year in a row, elements of stereotypical witches in popular culture have emerged on the runways. Ahead of Paris Fashion Week 2023 and the unveiling of the Dior presentation, the Creative Director of Dior Beauty, Peter Phillips, summed up the Spring/Summer 2024 runway show with two words: “witchy lips.”

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