By: Meg Crawford
How do we say it, for a start?
Good question! The standard pronunciation is “sow-in”, enunciating the “ow” as in “cow”, but
dialects differ (for example, in some places it’s pronounced “sow-een”). Don’t worry if you’ve been
mispronouncing it – they even got it wrong on the otherwise excellent Halloween episode of The
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
Otherwise known as?
Hallowmas, All Hallow’s Eve, Halloween, Samhuin and the Witches’ Magickal New Year.
What is Samhain?
Gaelic for “summer’s end”, Samhain marks the end of summer and the beginning of winter. The
festival is celebrated in the northern hemisphere from October 31 to 1 November, but here in the
southern hemisphere we mark the occasion from 30 April to 1 May.
In the pagan calendar, Samhain holds an important place, marking the beginning of the year and
the consequent cycle of seasons.
Estimated to be the second oldest unbroken European holiday, Samhain has been celebrated for
over 6000 years. Traditionally it was known as the time where the veil between this mortal coil and
the spirit world is at its thinnest. It also coincides with the end of summer and the beginning of
winter. Accordingly, the festival is a time to honour the dead as well as commemorating the
beginning and end of all things. It’s also a good time to focus on transformation, divination and
preparation for winter.
How can I honour Samhain?
Try some of these ideas:
spend some reflective time acknowledging and remembering your ancestors;
decorate your alter with a carved pumpkin, skulls and other items associated with the dead. Other
correspondences for Samhain include apple, ferns, mint and sage, which could also be used to
adorn your seasonal alter;
green witches need to start guarding their gardens against frost;
practice your mediumship skills;
cast a spell to rekindle your connection with your ancestors. This is also a good time to cast a spell
to find a mentor, tapping into the wiser energies at play during this period;
hold a “dumb supper”. Note that this is conducted in absolute silence, so you need to be well
prepared! Set the table with black settings (tablecloth, napkins, cutlery, plates and candles, if
possible) and leave a space at the head of the table, designated as the “spirit chair”. Shroud the
spirit chair in black cloth. If you have space, light a tea-light candle to mark for each person you are
honouring. Ask each guest to bring a note to the deceased they’re commemorating, but keep their
contents private. Cast a circle or smudge the space and have guests turn off their mobile phones.
The host should sit opposite the spirit sitting and serve guests from oldest to youngest. Commence
dining only after all guests are guests can read and then burn their notes using the relevant tea-
light candles. Everyone leaves the room in silence, saying farewell to the spirit chair on the way
out. You may wish for everyone to join hands at the start and end of the meal and offer a silent
prayer to the dead.
try a recipe like Soul Cakes , which were traditionally baked as gifts for the dead;
research your family history;
visit the cemetery and place flowers;
build a shrine to your ancestors;
incorporate divinatory practices into your ritual.
How do we celebrate the festival at Muses?
As always, we’ll discuss the intricacies of the festival, including it’s history and associations, enjoy
some group ritual work and meditation, and roll our sleeves up to craft something Samhain
appropriate for you to keep (don't fret if you’re not crafty – we’ll guide you.)
Then, we eat! A light refreshment will be served, but we’d love it if you would bring along a snack
or something tasty to share (vegan or vegetarian – no meat please). Feel free to whip something
up yourself, but that’s by no means compulsory.
Book online here or pop in store to secure your place and find out more.
Saturday 27 April; 11am- 2pm; $35
By Meg Crawford
Tucked away in a tiny house on an quarter-acre property surrounded by her extensive fur and feather family, Tanya is literally living our dream green-witch life. Ahead of her eminently practical workshops (she can rehabilitate a life-long black thumb), Tanya talks us through the journey to her green witch idyll.
I understand that the die was cast early in terms of some of your practices – can you talk us through the first inklings that you may have been a green witch?
I wouldn’t say that at a young age I went, “oh, I must be a witch”, but I did always heavily identify with the witches in fairy tales as a kid. Like the story of Hansel and Gretel – I just used to think, “oh, those awful children”. Plus, I knew I was very different as a kid – I always had pets and amazing connections with all my animals and they always seemed to do whatever I wanted them to.
I also vividly remember when I was in grade one or two having arguments with both my teachers and parents, saying that I didn’t need to learn maths and all this bullshit at school. I told them I just needed to learn how to grow my own food and be self sufficient. I wanted to know how take care of myself, instead of learning skills that I didn’t want to use and would never use to get a job.
I guess that I was never going to enjoy buying food from other people – it didn’t make sense to me, even as a kid. All I ever wanted to do was learn how to grow food and farm animals.
How did your path continue to unfold as an adult?
I studied permaculture as a single subject at Woodley, majoring in whole-farm planning. That gave me more knowledge about connecting back to the earth and taught me all of the things I wanted to learn when I was a kid.
Since that time, it’s always been in the back of my mind. If I was ever in an op shop and I saw a good book on home gardening or self sufficiency, I’d nab it. I’ve now got a huge collection of books on gardening, herbalism, self sufficiency, tiny homes and how to leave modern culture, go bush and disconnect from society, basically.
The next big leap was when mum and I found my tiny home and we bought it together. That allowed me to put into practice everything I’d learned. From a permaculture perspective, you look at the whole of the land and you work with the soil and the way the sun travels over it and the amount of rainfall you get – you really work with what you’ve got. It doesn’t happen over night though. I’ve got notebook drawings from when I first moved in of how I wanted to lay everything out, and I’ve finally gotten it to that point. It’s taken me nearly 20 years.
What does being a green witch mean to you?
I’m a green witch because I literally live it as my daily life. To me, it means that if I was put in the situation where I needed herbal tea, or to make a tincture for say a mild headache or cough, I have the knowledge at hand and can go into the garden and pluck a bit of this and that and mix things together. It’s both the know-how and the ability to walk out the door and do it. There’s no point having the knowledge without having the access to the garden and there’s no point having the garden if you don’t use it.
To what extent are green witchcraft and sustainability linked for you?
For me, that’s truly the “green” in green witchcraft. I think every witch should have “green” tucked away in her identification, because we are of the earth – we’re not separate from it. We walk on her skin and we need to do that with as little impact as possible.
At the same time, we’re human and we have to function in this massive society we’ve created and in which we’ve made mistakes, but I think as a society where recognising it and we’re trying to change.
To me, there’s no point in saying you’re a green witch when all you’re doing is throwing plastic in the waste so that it goes to landfill and you’re not recycling properly. You need to be as green as you possibly can, although within what’s functional for you. It’s not going to be financially viable for everybody to just go out and spend hundred of dollars buying beeswax wraps, for instance. You’ve got to do what you can do within reason.
Tanya will be a guest teacher at Muses of Mystery and leading the following workshops..
Note: Green Witch Grimoire workshop is currently sold out. Tickets are still available for Green Witch – Get Growing ! for this Saturday. This workshop is highly recommended!
Written By: Meg Crawford
Academic and long-time Muses pal Dr Caroline Tully has delivered a popular array of juicy in-house workshops spanning everything from an introduction to Thelema through to ancient Mediterranean witchcraft, the latter of which stems from her niche area of study.
In February, Dr Tully’s dropping in again to run another compelling workshop, this time exploring the Minoan Snake Goddess. In the lead up to her workshop, Dr Tully gives us an insight into her magical origins and fascination with the Minoans.
When did you first discovered magic and what made it so appealing?
It was in the holidays after year 12. I won’t say what year, because you don’t need to know how old I am, but let’s just say it was in the eighties. I ended up at this person’s house, looking in their bookshelf and saw all these books on magic and just thought, “what is this?”.
What was interesting to me was that magic seemed to promise amazing results. I wanted to follow up and see where it led. I’d never heard about it prior to that, and up to that point I wasn’t particularly interested in spirituality. I’d had a friend year 12 who was really into spiritualism and ouija boards – I didn’t know anything about either, but I did think her interest was ridiculous. I remember once we were doing a ouija board and she got a particular message and freaked out. I just rolled my eyes and was bored, so I thought I wasn’t interested in spiritual matters, but in fact I was.
But the thing is with magic is that it’s not just a spiritual thing. To be honest, it promises empowerment and effectiveness. Those were tempting things, although I didn’t consciously register that at the time. I just registered magic as an interesting system of knowledge that seemed really intriguing and about which I needed to know more.
Who were the ancient Minoans and what do we know about them?
“Minoan” is a term that came from the archeologist Arthur Evans who discovered the Palace of Knossos on what’s now called the Greek island of Crete in about 1899/1900. The name refers to the Greek myths about King Minos, the labyrinth and the Minotaur. While a lot about the Minoans is unknown, we do know that their civilisation became increasingly sophisticated. For instance, starting from around 1800 BCE, the Minoans had already built huge palaces, although there was an earthquake in which they were knocked down. The rebuilding started around 1750 BCE. The first palace period is called the Protopalatial period and the second the Neopalatial period. The snake goddesses date from the first period where they were preserved in deep, rectangular containers found later in the second palace.
What can we look forward to in the workshop?
I’m going to introduce the Snake Goddess, we’ll do some snake exercises, examine the historical evidence and look at the Snake Goddess forgeries, as well as go into evidence for other types of Minoan religion, some of which also involves snake iconography. We’ll also talk about the postures represented in Minoan artwork, and do some exercises with them – the point of the postures was to stimulate certain visions.
Why is it valuable for modern pagans to investigate ancient practices and religions?
It’s a cliche, but we’re really quite divorced from nature. Even saying “nature” sounds like a romantic cliche, but it’s really not. Right now, the ecosystems of the world are threatened, and extinctions are going on and on. The people in charge of the planet scoff at that, not thinking that they’re part of the environment.
The Minoan relationship with the environment was wildly different – the elites in Minoan art are often depicted in intimate religious relationships with aspects of the natural world. The idea is that they’re communicating with it because the natural world was considered to be prestigious. I just think it can never hurt for us to be more in tune with the real world beyond buildings, beyond phones, beyond the Internet, beyond the TV. The thing about the Minoans is that they were a bit more earthly compared to something like Thelema, which is a bit more starry. The Minoans were unashamedly green.
Tickets to this workshop are selling fast with only a few spots left.
Get your ticket online www.musesofmystery.com or in store now.
Minoan Snake Goddess Workshop, Saturday 23 February 2019, 11-1.30pm, $70.-
CRAFT: HOW TO BE A MODERN WITCH
By Gabriela Herstik
Review by Monique O’Meara
‘We’re waking up. And with our eyes to the moon we recall the eternal truth. You are a
Witch. You are made of Magick. It’s time to remember.’
For many of us, entering into Witchcraft for the first time can be an experience of self-
discovery. It’s a beautiful and spiritual mark on the path to a new awakening, and regardless
if you call it your religion or simply just your practice, it all means something greater than
just spells and potions in the end. For many of us, our craft becomes our identity. This is the
message Gabriela Herstik is voicing in her very first book, ‘CRAFT How To Be A Modern
Herstik has written down the very basic understanding for newcomers of witchcraft and has
done so in a well-constructed tone. Her voice is both informative and enlightening. However,
I personally don’t affiliate with the title of her book ‘how to be a modern witch’.
I suppose Herstik’s take on the word ‘modern’ is referring more to the numbers of young
woman who are joining and following witchcraft today. Those who are discovering
witchcraft within the ‘modern age’, as we see it. But really, no matter what year or century
you were born into, the time when we connected to our craft was modern to us all then as it is
now, the only difference being time changes. That doesn’t mean witchcraft or being a witch
suddenly becomes a ‘modern’ thing. While I agree, this is no doubt an age of technology and
new-age mechanisms, which can sometimes have an influence over our practice, the terms
Witch and Witchcraft are far from modern and should always be recognised as such.
Strangely enough, Herstik uses the word ‘modern’ and then retreats to quotations about our
traditional roots of witchcraft and leading back to our ancestors. Which is it?
Granted- Herstik is insightful and well detailed in her teachings throughout CRAFT, showing
a wide range of knowledge on divination practices such as tarot and palmistry, to working
with crystals, astrology, herbs and even your own clothing for witchy aesthetic and spell
work. You can guarantee an easy read of the topics she covers with the use of charts,
diagrams and pictures displayed. As to do with spell work and rituals, she covers the basics
of some easy moon Magick, glamour spells, alter cleansing and preparation, day to day
blessings, enchantments and more.
I can ultimately say I was pleasantly surprised by Gabriela’s voice in this book- despite her
‘modern’ approach. Looking at it, first glance, I would not have picked it up personally had I
been in my local bookstore. I still wouldn’t say I’d own a copy of this book myself and I
don’t believe many experienced witches would either, nothing will come as a surprise to
them in CRAFT. But for the newcomers of witchcraft, listen and learn from this book. It will
help greatly for those of you who are unsure where to begin and how it all works. If she had
written this book when I was thirteen and just coming into witchcraft myself, I would have a
lot to thank her for, and I hope for the new witches of today, they will too.
‘Magick doesn’t look the same for everyone’. – Gabriela Herstik.
Enjoy Herstik’s – Inner Witch book. Both are available at Muses of Mystery. Online and in store now.
Written By: Meg Crawford
Ahead of her sold out Hoodoo For Beginners workshop on Saturday 12th January, 2019, we quiz Gaby – tarot reader, reiki healer and guest workshop facilitator – about her magical path to the practice.
Where did your interest in magic start?
I actually have a bloodline of French Gypsies who were performers and horse trainers. “Gypsy” has been a dirty word all over the world, but I wear it with pride. Also, I practiced what I can now identify as Reiki as a child, without even knowing what it was. It was only when I studied Reiki as an adult that I found out it was actually a “thing”, not just something that I did.
On one side of the family there was also a lot of herbalism – gypsies were like the first chemists – and my grandmother was very superstitious, which we all absorbed. Plus, as a child I had a lot of visions, which were later validated. It’d be things like telling my mother that my sister was crying and it turned out that she’d just had an operation in another country and was crying, calling out mum’s name.
How did you come to the practice of Hoodoo?
For me, Gypsy notions and Hoodoo come together beautifully, because they’re very similar. There are many aspects of gypsy lore in Hoodoo and vice versa. Even before I started, I just liked the word – I always saw it differently from most people, who are freaked out by it. I was always very curious.
What can we expect in the workshop?
I’ll be going through Hoodoo from the ground up, starting with its history. Amongst other things, we’ll be doing candle magic with oils and talking about scrying with candle wax. At the end, we’ll be making sugar dolls, which involves writing a petition on paper and then sugaring it. It’s quite literally for relationships that you need sweetening. The rest is a surprise, but one of the most important things I want people to walk away with is the idea that they can go out and feel liberated to do it themselves.
Do you have any books that you’d suggest for Hoodoo newbies?
Yes! Try these as introductory texts. These titles can be found at Muses Of Mystery.
- Sticks, Stones, Roots and Bones (2004) by Stephanie Rose Bird.
- Everyday Voodoo (2010) Beth Dolgner
- The Voodoo Hoodoo Spellbook (2011) Denise Alvarado
- Working Conjure: A Guide to Hoodoo Folk Magic (2018) Hoodoo Sen Moise
- Old Style Conjure: Hoodoo Rootwork and Folk Magic (2017) Star Casis
Gaby also stocks her own brand of Hoodoo products, Blue Moon Healing at Muses of Mystery.
Book a tarot reading or reiki healing with Gaby at Muses of Mystery on Mondays and Fridays. Contact Muses of Mystery to make a booking.
Exploring the hidden shops, quirky studios and art galleries inside The Nicholas Building. Muses of Mystery.
Go behind the scenes with some of Melbourne’s favourite makers, artists and designers as part of the Festival of Independents this Thursday.