Well darn it all, I went and missed it and I was so looking forward to it. Yesterday the Globe and Mail was featuring an online interview with someone claiming to be a Wicca priestess and I was dying to hear what kind of stuff they're saying this year about October 31st and how they explain what they believe in.
Judging by the fact that she's a self proclaimed priestess, I'd have to believe she is an adherent of one of the late 19th century-early 20th century occultists who called themselves Wicca and laid claim to the usual run of mystical talents. You know, communing with the dead via séances, foretelling the future via palm reading, other arcane methods, and of course the ability to cast spells.
In the 1950's Gerald Gardner published Witchcraft Today which was followed by his 1960 release The Meaning Of Witchcraft, upon which most of modern Wicca practice and worship is based. He claimed that Wicca was an old religion that predated Christianity and had been eradicated over the years.
He claimed to have learned everything from one solitary source that had initiated him into a coven in the 1920's, but many people have pointed out the similarities between the rituals described by Gardner and those that followers of Victorian occultists like Alistair Crowley. In the late Victoria era, as part of the Romantic movement, there was a great upsurge in belief in all things occult including a neo-druidic movement, an interest in spiritualism, and an upsurge in sightings of fairies and other wee creatures of myth.
The majority of today's followers of Wicca proscribe to these teachings and adhere to a mixture of beliefs and rituals co-opted from a variety of pre-Christian sources, but especially from the British Isles. In the United States and Britain, the Wiccan Church has achieved official recognition as a religion and all the rights and freedoms that this entails.
I suppose the newspaper felt that with Halloween upon us they should make a genuine witch available to its readership so they could ask her about the relationship of witchcraft and the holiday. According to their system of holidays, Wiccans have co-opted four of the old Celtic festivals of part of their eight major celebrations of the year. One of those is Samhain (sow-en or sow-ain), which coincides with our October 31st.