Year of the Witch: Connecting with Nature’s Seasons through Intuitive Magick, by Temperance Alden
Weiser Books, 9781633411876, 224 pages, 2020
Year of the Witch: Connecting with Nature’s Seasons through Intuitive Magick by Temperance Alden is a charming yet quirky little book. I say little because the book itself is a comfortable, hand-held size with wide pages and margins roomy for note-taking. It makes the experience of reading it more pleasurable. I selected it thinking it would be a guide to practicing with the pagan sabbat days, like Beltane and Yule. It is, but it takes a meandrous journey getting there. The author’s thesis is that a witch can customize their experience of “the witch’s year” to be an authentic communion with the Earth and not limited to a conceptual celebration of holidays reflecting seasons that do not align with lived experience in one’s locale.
For example, the author resides in South Florida, and moved there after living in Montana – so her experience of autumn has varied widely. She wants witches and people exploring a witchcraft practice to feel empowered to claim their own sacred Earth holidays. Therefore, her personal annual celebration of seasons includes “Shark Season” and “Avocado Harvest.”. 1
Alden makes it clear from the get-go that her aim is for fledgling witches to develop a connection to the Earth and an appreciation for local nature spirits. She goes into great detail towards what this practice entails, beginning with what I found to be the very best explanation of what intuition is that I’ve ever come by (and a message I very much needed to hear):
“The most common questions asked by those beginning their paths of witchcraft usually boil down to a variation on ‘Am I doing this right?’…. These questions often indicate that someone is going too fast down the path…and trying to run before they learn to walk’…. It is necessary to first learn how to distinguish between the voices of anxiety, ego and intuition…. Intuition is the literal gaining of knowledge without any conscious thinking or reasoning. Intuition hardly ever comes in the form of an impulse. More often it feels like a lazy afternoon breeze flowing through our lives without any effort.”2
In Chapter 2, “Cycles, Seasons, Death and Rebirth,” she talks about hormonal cycles, the cycle of the seasons, cycles in climate, and astrological cycles as well. Here, the book takes a sharp and unexpected twist when [TRIGGER WARNING] Alden reveals that she does not believe in climate change and cites some academic sources to back up her point of view!!! This is not what most readers seeking guidance on how to work with earth-based witchcraft are going to expect, and frankly I don’t know what to say about this. We are all entitled to our opinion on whether the science supporting the actuality of climate change is accurate, but in this book, her opinion stands out like a big yellow caution sign. Everything else in this book is wonderful (if not a bit divergent at times), but throwing climate change denial at an unsuspecting reader bites a bit.
From there in Chapter 3, “Elemental Magick,” Alden goes on to explain the elements — earth, air, fire, water and spirit — and their role in magic work. In Chapter 4, “Sheparding the Land,” she comes across as a true eco-activist, insisting that students of her magical-methods make it part of their spiritual work to create ways of reducing their footprint on the earth, such as not using single-use plastic water bottles, and buying seasonal produce from farmers instead of shopping big box grocery stores. 3
My only other criticism of Year of the Witch, is that in Chapter 5, “At the Gates of Witchcraft,” Alden deep dives into a rant about being called a “plastic witch.” She accuses witches who use this term insultingly as spiritually bypassing their privilege.
“I believe the term plastic witchcraft is twofold in its meaning. First ‘being plastic’ refers to being superficial and fake. Second, [it] refers to using plastic products. However, the term itself is very condescending and shows an aggressive amount of spiritual bypassing. [It] allows for more privileged witches to ridicule and scorn less fortunate witches.” 4
For a moment, I forgot I am a 46-year-old woman reading a spiritual book of my chosen belief-system from the comfort of my favorite armchair, and I was transported into my 16-year-old-self up in my bedroom flipping through the latest issue of Sassy Magazine and reading an essay written by the staff intern who just passed Psych 101 with a B+. All I have to say about that is I think this book aims at a younger audience….
Finally! After all that drama, and through some delightful ideas about creating altars and building spiritual gardens outside, we get to the end of the book where Alden presents the traditional “year of the witch” and explains the eight sacred sabbaths: Samhain, Yule, Imbolc, Ostara, Beltane, Litha, Lughnasadh, and Mabon. For each holiday she goes into traditional lore and a suggested practice for celebrating. The chapters are brief, but they are well referenced and offer some fun ideas, such as bread-baking recipes to celebrate the harvest feast at Lughnasadh (also called Lammas).
Alden’s ending conclusion in Year of the Witch is that if you are a witch living in a region with a climate differing from the classical four-season year, you can make your own holidays and create your own personalized “year of the witch” to follow. Adding to the overall charm, she put in a recipe to make your own Florida Water and also for cascarilla powder in the appendix, along with a calendar of all pagan holidays celebrated in different countries around the world. Overall, this is a fun book!
Carter is a professional Astrologer and founder of Success in the Stars Astrology. She has her Master of Divinity (MDiv) degree from Emory University with certificates in Women in Theology and Ministry, Clinical Pastoral Counseling, Motivational Interviewing, and Compassionate Communication. Carter received the Zen Buddhist Jukai ordination from Roshi Joan Halifax at Upaya Zen Center and is a 2nd Degree Reiki practitioner.