Celebrating a Celtic ceremony at an Islip New Age shop

Ritual participants gathered around the maypole at Cosmic Dreams Apothecary.
Ritual participants gathered around the maypole to fill sachets with deconstructed flowers and ribbons at Cosmic Dreams Apothecary in Islip April 29. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate

By Elisabeth Ford

In recent years, I have become increasingly exposed to witchcraft in my everyday life. I see women teaching “love spells” on TikTok, fliers posted on my hometown billboard about metaphysical shops in the area and New Moon celebrations among friends who hope to change the flow of their lives. In turn, I have become obsessed with the idea that witchcraft will be the New Age belief of the century. 

Leaders Cassidy and Jimi started the ceremony with a drum session at the Beltane ceremony, a Celtic ceremony that means “bright fire.” // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate

While Judeo-Christian beliefs dominate most religious practices in the United States, according to a 2017 study by the Pew Research Center, more than 60% of Americans believe in psychics, astrology, reincarnation and/or the presence of spiritual energy in inanimate objects like plants or rainwater. While witchcraft seems to be overtly prevalent in our society, it’s strange that we do not see more of it. 

In reality, the lack of representation of witches is not strange at all. It can all be traced back to the Salem witch trials. As a major part of American history, we are taught in our social studies classes that, in Judeo-Christian tradition, identifying as a witch will lead to various negative consequences. In anthropologist Kathryn Roundtree’s ethnographic book, “Embracing the Witch and the Goddess: Feminist Ritual-Makers in New Zealand,” she explains the stigma around Wicca and neo-Pagan practices, in which witches were seen as devil worshippers who were going to Hell. This interpretation of witches is far from the truth. 

Through my photo essay, I wanted to expose the lightness and beauty that comes with witchcraft. At Cosmic Dreams Apothecary, a metaphysical shop in Islip this April, I captured a Beltane ceremony, a Celtic ceremony that roughly translates to “bright fire,” or “fires of Bel.” Beltane celebrates the time of year in the middle of spring equinox and summer solstice, when the veil between the spiritual and physical worlds is at its thinnest, making it easy to connect with the spiritual realm through rituals, like dancing around a maypole. 

Participant writing a manifestation on her ribbon to place in her sachet. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate

I would like to thank Amanda and Gina of Cosmic Dreams Apothecary for letting me photograph their store and ceremony. I would also like to thank Cassidy and Jimi for allowing me to photograph their leadership in this ceremony. Blessed be!

Ritual leader Cassidy unweaving the ribbons to wrap the maypole. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate
Cassidy leading the group in a guided meditation before wrapping the maypole. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate
The group weaving through each other, laughing, as they decorated the maypole in vibrant colors. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate
A final moment of reflection after the ceremony honoring the Beltane holiday. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate
The welcome sign for Cosmic Dreams Apothecary in Islip. // Elisabeth Ford/Long Island Advocate