Something has returned to me in the last few days.
Every year, I forget just how much more potent and joyful I feel in the autumn months. Especially when we’re blessed with some glorious sunny weather in the summer, as we were this June, I can forget that a greater joy awaits. I bask in that summer sun and feel the joy at revelling in the garden in all its glory. The sunshine lifts me, and I start to believe that is the pinnacle of my emotional being. But then… as soon as August arrives, something else quietly slips into being with it.
I feel it as a small flame deep within. And I’m not quite sure what it is that coaxes it back into life. Perhaps it’s the later dawn, and being out for my morning walk closer to sunrise. Perhaps it’s the lower position of the sun in the sky, nowhere near reaching overhead anymore. Perhaps there is something hopeful in the wilting ready bounty of the vegetation – burst past ripeness, starting to golden at the edges.
Whatever it is, it tends to arrive sometime in early August. My heart flutters. And I remember again what it is to be me, fully me; joyful and content.
I was taking a different morning walk to my usual when I felt it again. It was the fourth of August, about the time of the cross-quarter, or the “real” Lughnasadh. It was a beautiful sunny morning, and the quiet hillside path I was walking on was deserted of its usual dog-walkers.
As I turned away from the sea, cresting a small hill between two larger ones, I moved out into a space that I have been walking through since I was a very small child, with a small wood to my right and a grassy area to my left.
The morning sun was streaming through the pine trees, making contrasted patterns on the pine needle floor. And all of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming sense of awe, of connection, of the pure joy of being a part of this moment. It was a feeling that brought me back in time to other Augusts and Septembers, the time of year when my spirituality most often shifts and solidifies and strengthens.
As I walked, in the back of my mind I was searching for a word to sum up this feeling, this sensation, this way of being. And what I landed on was: witchy.
Generally speaking, I don’t think of myself as a witch, and I have very infrequently referred to myself as one. And yet, the word holds a lot of resonance for me.
Being “witchy” to me is about self-transcendence and feeling attuned to nature. It is about blurring the boundaries of I and it, blurring the boundaries between skin and air. It is about feeling the wind in the leaves as a wind shaking parts of yourself. It is about deeply experiencing the present moment, the glorious spontaneous creativity of the natural world. It is about seeing those patterns that the sunlight casts on the forest floor and experiencing them, feeling them, embodying them, and being changed by them.
A magician works magic; and of course, a witch is generally understood to do so, too. But a witch draws her power from the earth, from her connection to cosmos and to all things. Who says this empowerment needs to be channeled into supernatural magic? Can the modern witch not simply be someone who taps into that truth and harnesses it a multitude of non-magical ways?
While the word Pagan conjures a lot of this for me, too, for some reason I find it to be a less evocative word or label. Through all its transgressive glory, witch is a term that can liberate and empower. It will probably never be a word that I use to describe myself to others. But it is one that I carry in my heart. And on days like these, it lights a fire of hope and joy within me.