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Witches of Seattle Tell Us About the Appeal of Magic



Surrounded by sage smoke and honking geese at the base of Mount Si, we spread our arms out like crosses as Aubrey Rachel Violet Bramble, a witch dressed in an elegant white dress, blesses us. “Let the sage do the work,” she says. Her good friend Kat Terran, a shaman, opens up the basket of corn muffins and rose tea prepared for tonight as an offering to the spirits—Mother Moon and Father Sky, the god and goddess, whatever you want to call it. In the world of magic, tradition is important, but ultimately, you create your own paradigm. Do what thou wilt.

An elaborate altar is laid out before us on a blanket surrounded by candles. A crystal ball, an antler, a feather, a shell, each object a stand in for an element or a goddess to be praised at tonight’s mixed shamanic/pagan ritual. “Needs more Earth,” Bramble mumbles, rearranging the menagerie of ornate objects she and Terran brought with them.

“OK, kids,” she says, satisfied with the elemental balance of the display. “I’m going to call the circle now.” An incantation begins: Perfect love, perfect trust. The circle is open but never undone. Terran and Bramble, each in their respective traditions, invoke and praise the four cardinal directions, the elements, the Great Mystery. The Earth, the water, the fire, the air: return, return, return. Gratitude prayers are offered, not only to the Earth, but to loved ones, to people in need, to ancestors. May all souls be nourished.

Tonight serves two purposes: It’s both a late Imbolc observation (the Pagan holiday honoring the midway between the winter solstice and spring equinox) and a new moon ceremony—great occasions for setting new “intentions.” As we later learn from the long list of Seattle-based witches and shamans I’ll meet, “intentionality” lies at the root of most modern conceptions of magic.

Photographer Allyce Andrew and I are here at this ceremony in Snoqualmie, not far from where Twin Peaks was filmed, because some time in the middle of last year, we realized every other person we met in the Seattle art scene—poets, musicians, event coordinators—was a professed witch or shaman. I met Bramble and Terran through their music. They’re both singers in popular Seattle bands (the gothic Golden Gardens and desert rock outfit Wind Burial, respectively.)

A certain level of nature worship is built into the culture of the Northwest. If you live out here and haven’t had your mind blown by the beauty of an ancient old-growth forest, you’re kind of missing the point. But in the “spiritual but not religious” Northwest, it seemed like many Seattleites were taking that casual reverence to the next logical level.

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