Colin Bewes, flickr
Halloween and WitchesHalloween celebrations -- here are a few trip ideas. They might not get you all the way to the underworld, but they will get you a lot closer than those costumed kids who come knocking at your door on All Hallows Eve. So hop on your broom and check out these witchy festivals.
Festival of the Dead. The festival explores death’s macabre customs, heretical histories and strange rituals. The 2011 festival is open daily from Oct. 1- 31 at sites around Salem. The festival’s big events, including the Salem Witches Halloween Ball, the Salem Witches Magic Circle and an authentic séance are held the last 2 weekends in October. At the Festival of the Dead you can learn to hunt ghosts, communicate with spirits and see into the future. The Salem Witches’ most sacred event, the Dumb Supper: Dinner with the Dead , gives everyone a chance to honor loved ones who have “crossed over.”
New York Witch Festival has become part of NYC’s annual Halloween scene. This year’s festival, which bills itself as a “Wiccan good time,” includes merchants who sell oils and incense (in case you need to stock up for your next séance), handcrafted altars and ritual tools (wands, chalices, etc.) Hosted by third-degree Alexandrian high priestess Bonnie Marchione, the New York Witch Festival won’t teach you how to brew a magic potion or cast an evil spell, but you will find workshops on energy healing, spirit communications and even a witchy diet to help you stay connected to Mother Earth. "We honor the gods and goddesses of ancient mythology,” says Marchione. “We honor the sun, the moon, the Earth. There is nothing evil about it."
Fete des Sorcieres (Sorcerers’ Festival) is held each year in the town of Chalindrey, site of a historic 16th century witch hunt in northeast France. “Rather than buying into the commercial side of Halloween, this festival seeks to evoke its Celtic roots -- while still scaring you witless,” says French travel writer Christine Cantera. The witch festival has been held for nearly a century, and culminates each year with the election of Miss Sorcière. The festival runs throughout October, and don’t miss the haunting Celtic dance every Saturday night!
Witchfest International is held in London each year. While much of the festival is deadly serious (pun intended) with academics and historians discussing paganism and witchcraft, the festival does have a lighter side. There is a workshop where you can learn to make your own magic wand. This year’s keynote speaker is British historian Ronald Hutton of Bristol University in England who’s one of the world’s foremost experts on witchcraft and Wicca. There is a day-long introduction to Wiccan course and a celebration to patron goddess Artimes.
Jeff Thoreson is a travel writer based in Washington, DC.