I want to preface this week’s Tending the Hedge feature by saying that I find Mother’s Day to be an extremely problematic “holiday.” While I know plenty of folks who find mothering to be a deeply fulfilling experience, and I absolutely love my friends bébés, I agree with writer Anne Lamott in that “Mother’s Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women.” As someone who has made the conscious decision to remain childfree, I have frequently had to defend my choice. I’ve endured years of the eye-roll-inspiring “you’ll change your mind, wait until you’re older,” and now that I’ve reached my mid-30’s, my decision to remain childfree often seems to inspire equal parts pity and suspicion. Moreover, I have seen the pain that this “holiday” inspires in many folks I love who had toxic mothers or who have experienced infertility, an annual reopening of a personal wound.
All of this is to say that, for those who are celebrating today, hooray! And for those who just aren’t feeling it today, I see you, and I honor your lived experience.
My own personal experience of having a mother, though, has been pretty darn good. With a background in psychology, an incredible knowledge of botany, and 20+ years as a small business owner in her own right, my mother Susan Castle is truly an inspiring force to be reckoned with. The OG hedge witch, she has been deeply supportive of all of my ventures, consistently offering her wisdom, sharp humor, and boundless love throughout. I joke that she is the unpaid intern of HWB, but really, her magic has touched so many parts of this business, and I couldn’t do it without her.
This week, I am proud and excited to share her thoughts on how we might engage in the magic of ritual, tending the hedges of our own lives.
What are your pronouns and what is your sign?
She/Her and Libra sun, Leo moon, and Aquarius rising.
Are you a witch? If so, what does that word mean to you?
Yes, I definitely identify with the archetype of the witch. As a child, I sensed that there were few roles being offered to girls, the primary two being the princess or the witch (the good girl or the naughty one, the superficial or the deep), and the role of princess seemed so limited and stifled, while the role of witch seemed full of magic and mystery. This persona has been, at various times in my life, more or less a part of who I am, depending on the circumstances of my life. To me, being a witch means being aware of and engaged with the magic that I sense and see all around us. It is political, personal, spiritual, and also completely rooted in my day to day existence. I experience magic in my love for others (human and otherwise), in the natural world (my garden), in creating art, in the social activism that I practice, and in many other ways.
What drew you to your work? Why is it important?
The work that I engage in is much more than my chosen profession or the paid work I have done. I began my professional career in psychology, and went on to being a business owner and artist, but these are only small parts of the overall work of life. I have a strong love for science, which has never been separate from my belief in magic, in fact it has only strengthened and informed it. My real work, that which has been the most meaningful to me, has been rooted in my role as a mother to my very witchy and magical daughter. This is completely intertwined with my other roles- as woman, friend, feminist, citizen of the world, steward of nature, partner, business owner, and artist. They each inform the other parts of my life. I practice my craft by engaging with those I love, by actively caring for the world around me, respectfully being part of the natural world, and expressing creativity.
How can others engage with this work and tend the hedge in their own communities?
We can each engage with our own craft by giving time and attention to what matters to us. Living intentionally, taking time to live with all of our senses (not just the standard senses of taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell, but those of intuition, sense of time and belonging, the sense of interplay with the natural world), and especially through ritual. Ritual can be anything from the specific actions of spell work to the smallest acts of choosing how to set a table, or what ornamentation we choose to wear. I believe ritual exists at every level, whether we are aware of it as ritual or not. Practicing art is ritual, gardening, cooking, how we process information- it’s all wrapped in ritual. Conscious ritual is full of respect, and it seems to me that applying that respect to the world is what is at the heart of being a witch. Actively engaging with the world, trying to live in a way that allows space for magic to rise up through the layers of dense cover that our culture lays on it, trying to reconnect with our deep selves- these are all part of magic. We can engage by simply starting at a place of awareness- how we feel, what we think, what we are sensing, what is around us, and then engaging with that awareness in the form of love and action.
Did you enjoy this feature? Check out other magic-makers in the Tending the Hedge series!