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.
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.
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!