“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” -L.M. Montgomery, “Anne of Green Gables”
The other day my social media doom scrolling came to a halt when an unexpected video caught my eye. Two little girls that my family knows were cosplaying at Winnie and Sarah Sanderson from the movie “Hocus Pocus.”
Very excited to show off their new Halloween costumes, a creative uncle directed recreations of the girls’ favorite moments from the cult film—tossing potion ingredients like “dead man’s toe” into a cauldron (actually a trick or treat bucket), “flying” around on brooms (their mom portraying Mary on the vacuum cleaner) and singing the song “Come, Little Children,” despite not really knowing the words.
Growing up, I was the kid who used to think up Halloween costume ideas year-round and would beg my mom to help me bring these concepts to life before the month of October even started. But beyond being able to dress up as whomever I wanted—ironically, the only time all year when I felt like I could truly be myself—there were lots of traditions that made The Season of the Witch feel especially magical. Now, even as a practicing witch in my 30s, October continues to take on special significance.
Watching the little girls’ video, I suddenly felt nostalgic and missed my own sister. I messaged her and suggested that we plan a visit. She could come to Southern California—or better yet, I could head back to Michigan and enjoy the fall weather. We could ALSO dress up as the Sanderson Sisters. My mind became aflutter with ideas—passing out candy to trick or treaters, making autumnal cocktails, watching spooky movies. I could invent my own colorful ancestral ceremonial ritual and invite her to be a part of it. Almost quickly as my heart began to soar, though, it came crashing back down with a thud.
For the first time in months, I had forgotten about the pandemic.
I live in Pasadena, California, where CoronaVirus is still having a huge impact on our daily lives with many of us remaining in quarantine and forced to work from home. During the past few weeks, politicians and health organizations have announced that Halloween events and trick or treating were canceled, but these comments have since then been walked back. It’s been determined that people can still celebrate, we’re just going to be creative with drive-thru haunts, zoom parties, and outdoor gatherings where we wear face masks and keep six feet of space between one another.
Not surprisingly, the plague also pulls the plug on a lot of the other kinds of Fall activities that bring me joy, most of which involve sharing food and time with friends and family.
This October, like pretty much everything else in 2020, will be unprecedented. (*SIGHS*)
I’ve realized that the best way to still enjoy my favorite time of year is to cling tightly to the personal traditions that make me feel comfortable and/or powerful. We've gotta double down on the things we love instead of canceling them. (Is this my new mantra for 2020?) I intend to give sone of my favorite personal October traditions a bit of a twist so that they can also have a bit of "witchy" spiritual significance.
Some things on my WITCHY SEASONAL TO DO LIST, beginning October 1st:
Decorate my space
I grew up in a house where we decorated for nearly every holiday. Our Halloween decorations included motion sensor-ed battery-operated ghost, doormats that startled whoever stepped on them with a shrill scream, pumpkin lights, some resilient crafts that my sister and I made in elementary school, and the costumed Chicken McNugget Happy Meal toys from McDonald's. (We still have these!)
I can’t think of a time when a string of lights isn’t a welcomed addition to a cozy interior space, especially ones that are purple or orange. Flick those on and light lots of apple cinnamon scented candles each night for relaxing ambiance.
Some decorations can have a more practical purpose, too. While you’re wandering around outside, look for a thick, sturdy, and aesthetically pleasing twig/branch. Connect each end with twine and then hang it on the wall. Use it as a hanger for drying out your favorite flowers and herbs.
Use smaller twigs and small branches you find lying on the ground to make some DIY wall art or embellishments for your altar. Use hot-glue to create pentagrams, sunbursts, animal and crescent moon shapes, or wreaths. Get extra creative and add painted details, lace, or even hang crystals. If you’re pleased with how they’ve turned out, these decorations can stay up in your home all year round.
Remember and pay homage to your ancestors by leaving them bountiful offerings—think flowers, seasonal fruits, and vegetables, and treats that you've made yourself. Let them know they are welcome in your space by adorning your altar with a piece of black cloth.
Make a moody playlist
I actually already got a jump start on this one! Music is an effective way to help create the atmosphere you’re looking for when taking a bath, cleansing your home, or getting yourself in the right mindset to do complicated spellwork. Check out this general ambient playlist I made to help get me into the perfect mindset for October.
Bake sweet treats
Soups, Mac & Cheese, and other comfort foods are great, but nothing makes me feel cozier in October than baked goods. One of my favorite Midwest autumnal traditions is enjoying cider and donuts. In the last few years, I’ve made Minimalist Baker’s vegan and gluten-free apple cider baked donuts. Or, if you don’t feel like dirtying your kitchen, you can always just pick up a half dozen or more at your local bakery or donut shop.
When you go to the grocery store, be on the lookout for apple cider – NOT apple juice. (Last year I asked someone working at the grocery store if they had Apple Cider. He looked at me confused and asked “you mean vinegar? O_o) Dip your donuts into cider (spiked or not spiked with spiced rum or cinnamon schnapps) for the ultimate Midwest experience.
When carving pumpkins, I like to hang onto the seeds and roast them. The best part? They’re super easy to make! After rinsing off all of the pumpkin guts, dry them off as best as you can. In a bowl mix together a tablespoon of coconut oil, two tablespoons of granulated sugar, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Add one pumpkin’s worth of seeds to the mix and stir until they're coated with the mixture. Evenly spread them on a greased cookie sheet in a single layer. Bake at 300 degrees for 45 minutes-1 hour. Give them a stir every 10 minutes or so. You’ll know they’re done when they’re golden brown!
Feel free to go nuts with the seasonings to make new flavors and add intention to your batch, if you choose. Some other combos that sound pretty good? Cinnamon and sugar, garlic and parmesan or smoky BBQ.
Just because traditional epic Halloween bashes are banned does NOT mean I'm condoning skipping out on costumes. In fact, why not embody a different look on multiple days? You don’t have to spend a lot of money, raid your closet and use what you have on hand. Watching scary movies, hosting a zoom hangout, having a fun Instagram photo-shoot, making a TikTok video—anything can be an excuse to wear a costume. Bonus: Dress up as someone you admire or a historical figure who fascinates you. (Pssst! Go with a badass female character!) Or, ya know, just put on some black and a witch hat. That always works. ;)
Remember, traditionally the reason we dress on October 31st is to both honor our ancestral spirits, and ward off the dangerous ones.
What are some of your favorite traditions for this time of year? What are your plans to get the most out of this Season Of The Witch? Adopting new traditions can often be as fun as honoring the old. Share how you celebrate in the comments below!