By the half-way point of fall we are surrounded by a ambient prescience of impending death. Death and decline. Death and disappearance. The sun seems to be dying as we approach the winter solstice six weeks away. Our world steeped in deep shadows, the light decreases daily, dimming toward the shortest, darkest day of the year. And the year, itself, is reaching the end; drawing to a close. Another cycle completing its course.
The autumn cross-quarter day, when all of nature seems to be dying, has long been observed as a Feast of the Dead in Northern cultures. The Celts and other Northern Europeans celebrated the Mid Autumn Day of the Dead as Samhain.
Folks everywhere have understood that this season exposes a crease in time. A fissure between summer and winter. Between the old year and the new. During this period the dead are thought to have easy access to the living and are likely to pay a visit.
It would certainly be nice to see Grandma again, but in addition to the benign and beloved ghosts wandering about now, there were also thought to be innumerable fairies and goblins, strange specters and black cats, witches on brooms and all sorts of evil spirits released into the dark.
But of course in real everyday life, the witches were the Grandmas! They possessed the secrets of life and living, simply by living life with conscious intention, with conscientious attention, with purity of purpose, with focused passion, and with the sovereignty of their hard-won Self-enfranchised power.
Their power was potent, so vital that they seemed scary in a patriarchal world. The fear and hatred of witches is obvious in portrayals of them as being old, bent, ugly, warty, cranky, nasty. Witches were nasty women!
Several years ago I was the ritual consultant to the writer of The Last Keepers, a film about three generations of women who are the direct descendants of witches who were burnt at the stake in medieval Europe. They are an artistic contemporary American family who practice the old Earth honoring religion of the Great Goddess. And they strive to keep that spirit alive.
The fabulous Olympia Dukakis plays the Grandma. She is perfection as the modern witch, priestess, shaman, matriarch, Queen, woman of power. Her rituals are recognizable. We know her. She is us!
She is a witch. She is not a bitch. But it is clear that she could be at any moment if she were called upon to stand in her power against all aggression, manipulation, domination, and in defense of all Life.
WHICH BITCH ARE YOU?