Halloween is for Witches by Jennifer David Hesse

Halloween is such a fun holiday for so many reasons. For me, one of the best parts is all the fantastic witch imagery.

(This is a poster I get out every October.)

I’ve always been drawn to witches. As a child, I adored books and TV shows with witches. Sometimes I even made up my own witch stories. After all, witches were as cool as any superheroes (if not more so). They could fly, wield magic… turn their enemies into toads!

Witches were multidimensional, too. As the Wizard of Oz taught us, there are good witches and bad witches. The “good” ones are beautiful and benevolent (obvs), while the “bad” are supposedly ugly, jealous, and vengeful. But, even as a child, I could see there was quite a variety among both the good and bad types. The “bad” might be misunderstood or fake. And the good seemed to fall into three categories: There was the friendly, little girl witch (like Casper’s friend Wendy and Dorrie the Little Witch, from Patricia Coombs’ books); the beautiful, mischievous, and sometimes seductive sorceress (like Samantha and Gillian); and the funny, silly old witch (like Aunt Clara from Bewitched and the kindly neighbor witch in Norman Bridwell’s The Witch Next Door).

(Of course! It’s the Maiden, Mother, and Crone… the “Triple Goddess” in many Wiccan traditions.)

(Gillian, from Bell, Book, and Candle)

Aside from specific characters, the witch as an archetype is a pretty compelling symbol. Sometimes she represents persecuted innocents, but more often I see her as the epitome of the strong, independent woman. Throughout history, powerful women have been feared and maligned—so much so that they were often demonized. At the least, they were called “hags” as a terrible insult. In recent years, it’s been amazing to see so many women turn the insult upside-down, proudly reclaiming the title witch as a signifier of feminine liberation and power.

(The Magic Circle, by John William Waterhouse)

Today many people, women and men, identify as witches. Some are Wiccans, practitioners of a nature-based religion (like Keli Milanni, heroine of the Wiccan Wheel Mysteries), while others practice the craft separate from any particular spiritual belief system. It’s all good.

Of course, these modern-day witches don’t usually wear pointy hats or fly on brooms. However, in my experience, most are good-natured about the pop-cultural portrayal of witches—which runs the gamut anyway, from Shakespeare’s Weird Sisters to the Charmed sisters to Hermione Granger. Some witches even embrace the stereotype. (Remember the ending of Practical Magic?)

At heart, though, witches are about creativity and connections—connecting with the sacred in nature and connecting with their own divine power. They’re about raising energy, sensing the magic here on earth, and creating transformation.

See? Witches really are cool!

There are also plenty of us who don’t necessarily call ourselves witches, per se, but who are definitely a little witchy…especially around Halloween.

Happy Halloween!

It’s that haunted time of year, when skeletons come out to play. But Edindale, Illinois, attorney Keli Milanni discovers it isn’t just restless spirits who walk the night…

After her recent promotion to junior partner, Keli is putting in overtime to juggle her professional career and private Wiccan spiritual practice. With Halloween fast approaching, her duties include appearing as a witch at a “haunted” barn and hand-holding a client who’s convinced her new house is really haunted. But it’s the disappearance of Josephine O’Malley that has Keli spooked.

The missing person is Keli’s aunt, an environmental activist and free spirit who always seemed to embody peace, love, and independence. When Josephine is found dead in the woods, Keli wonders if her aunt’s activities were as friendly as they seemed. As Keli comes to terms with her loss–while adjusting to having a live-in boyfriend and new demands at work–she must wield her one-of-a-kind magic to banish negative energy if she’s going to catch a killer this Samhain season. Because Keli isn’t ready to give up the ghost . . .

Praise for Yuletide Homicide

“A perfect read.” —Library Journal “Hesse easily balances murder and romance in this holiday tale that’s so cozy.” —Kirkus Reviews