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Going to a Witch Dance on Halloween — OK Whatever

Going to a Witch Dance on Halloween — OK Whatever
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Remembering the dead and honoring one’s ancestors are huge parts of the witches’ New Year.

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“Heaviness and grief were very close this year,” Starhawk told me after the event. “This one had an especially serious undertone because of the times that we’re in and because we’ve had these horrible fires.”

Of all Reclaiming’s yearly holidays, Samhain is the biggest deal.

“It’s probably our most high church ritual of the year,” Starhawk said.

A four-hour event, it included theatrical and ecstatic dance performances, sing-a-longs to songs with names like “We Are a Circle” and the “Elemental Incantation,” and at least two guided, seated meditations.

During speeches, audience members were asked to think hard about the kinds of futures they wanted to help create as Samhain is the time of year when Reclaimers look forward and set intentions. There was also a lot of emphasis on turning to the past and getting in touch with the dead during times of need.

“We believe it is the ancestors’ jobs to help us and look after us,” Starhawk said at one point during the night. “And I think we need their help. We need so much help from this tangled nest of threads and lies and deception and meanness.”

Except during songs, when the whole group recited lyrics projected onto a screen near the stage, it was a startlingly quiet event. During the guided meditations, you could hear the kids playing games in the lobby as their parents visualized riding a barge across a slow-moving river.

It livened up in its last half-hour, when everyone stood up from the ground to join in the Spiral Dance, a “powerful energy configuring spell” and an annual tradition for Reclaimers.

A woman in a white gown and crown corralled us into two interlocking circles that spiraled in and out of each other. Hands clasped, the dancers belted out the chorus to Starhawk’s 1989 hit, “Let It Begin Now”:

Let it begin with each step we take,

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And let it begin with each change we make.

And let it begin with each chain we break,

And let it begin every time we awake.

I was grasping the hands of two older men — one of whom was a dead ringer for Larry David — and it wasn’t long before I realized how chaotic a Spiral Dance can get.

The tail was lagging, so I was stretched in two directions by my partners, all while trying to side-step gracefully and not stomp on the feet of others.

People were belting out different parts of the song because there was not one predominant voice to follow, and Larry David’s doppelgänger kept screaming, “We are alive!” for some reason.

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Because the spirals turn in on each other, it was also an eye contact-heavy experience, involving a lot of staring into the faces of smiling, happy strangers.



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