Ever so often Halloween, Samhain, falls within the boundaries of Shabbat. I make pumpkin challah and light candles in witchy colors. My decorations, a copious amount, take on an extra glimmer. These two spiritual practices glide over the letters and books of each tradition like water over stones. They shine with the connection reflecting their light to one another. They wind around each other as they swirl around like braids of challah and the ribbons tied to my hat.
I polish my wand and candlesticks and feel the women from these beloved paths standing with me. My soul hears their whispers, and my heart is warmed by the love in their spirit eyes. I feel their hands on my hands. We caress our tools to reveal their beauty.
I have wondered if there is ever any other-realm consternation between my two tribes. The tribe that has sands of the desert under their feet and the tribe that has the forest wrapped around them. Of course, this is imagery that comes from my imaginings. Is this really about religious tradition or is it about my deep link to woman-centered energy and nature.
My first awareness of my wider connection to the world outside of my house was when I was barely 4. My hands found solace in the coolness of soil. Its loamy softness seeped through my skin. It coated my nervous system and energy bodies with a silent language. This nonverbal conversation opened me to my first best friend. It was the pussy willow tree next to the swing set.
My growing community of Nature beings; those who had roots and those who flew, slithered and rolled lit the halls of my Jewish experience of the holidays and education. The earth and religious ceremony were joined by a web of consciousness that surrounded me like a shawl made by the flowers and ancestors’ breath.
I was a natural alter builder and a voracious learner. I was also acutely in touch with the spirit of the energetic realms. The ease and natural inclination that my body knew when I reached toward, when I experienced, and learned of something spiritual informed my mind and opened my heart to the truth that it held for me. I followed that truth. It was a home space for me to enter.
I walked the path of Nature, later to become the Wiccan world, and the Jewish path. Judaism is steeped in reverence for the earth and for women. It is not just a patriarchal stronghold of power. That I do not embrace although there is much there I do when it is stripped of its fortress built to keep us out. As I grew into being able to practice the art of discernment, I culled the archives of my spiritual heritage and followed where my soul reached.
Celebrating the moon’s cycle, lighting and praying and spelling with candles, working the directions of the lulav and etrog, making amulets with the holy sigils and letters, being embraced by the Goddess of Beltane are all connected for me.
And now Samhain approaches just as the High Holidays have ended. For me, this time when the veils are thin is richly witchy. Perhaps this is because ‘Halloween’ is, commercialization aside, a day where this path is celebrated and embraced by the wider culture. The ethics of falling under this spell has been the subject of many conversation, and I get both sides of it. However, as the night draws long so does my spirit. I reach the stars and beyond, I reach within and deep toward the earth.
But as Samhain is a day also for introspection and looking froward to a renewed time; the energy of Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkot has a quiet presence. I told a rabbi years ago, that I worked harder than he did with all this tshuvah and self-examination. For him it ends on Sukkot, but I continue through Samhain. He smiled and agreed. And then we went to decorate the succha where I sneaked in Samhain decoration.
So am I a Jewish Witch or a Wiccan Jew? Does it matter or is it just semantics?