Photograph by Ellen Tyn

Wake up, wake up! say the first snowdrops. Their green stems poke through the snow, and their delicate hanging bells quiver in the cold air. All winter, you have been curled into yourself, like a fox in its den. You have drunk teas or tisanes, wrapped blankets around yourself, written in your journal—because winter is all about inner journeys, about dreams and imagination and that mysterious central core of ourselves that we call the soul. You have been curled up around that core, doing the work of being. But now it’s spring, and it’s time to wake up again.

The world is just outside your kitchen door, waiting for you. The first step is simply to walk outside and breathe deeply. It is cold, and your exhalation is a cloud of visible vapor, like ectoplasm. But the sunlight is warm on your face, and look— suddenly the crocuses are blooming, purple and yellow and blue. The sky is blue as well, rather than the gray of winter, and you feel a surge of energy as though spring itself is rushing through you, like electricity through a wire. It’s time to turn on, light up, start going about your witchy business and changing the world.

First on the agenda is spring cleaning. You can’t start sweeping the sky before you sweep out your own house. Rouse your broom, which has been hibernating all winter. What do brooms dream about? Perhaps the same thing as the trees, whose buds are just starting to blossom. Of course you could ask—talking to inanimate objects is Witchcraft 101, and listening to them, really listening, is 102. It’s easier than communicating with animals, which means learning to convey meaning through scent, sight, and gesture as well as sound. Bee language, for example, is mostly dancing, somewhere between ballet and modern. Witches are multilingual—you have to be, to speak with the universe.

Sweep out the house—brooms, even witches’ brooms, are as useful for that as for flying. Sweep out all the dust, all the failures and disappointments of the last year. (Inevitably there will be some.) Wash the windows and mirrors so you can see clearly. For witches, mirrors are also windows—who knows what you will see through them? Make sure your workshop is tidy for the new year. Do you have enough tail of newt (ethically sourced from the newts themselves)? Is your jar of liquid moonlight running low? What about the crystalized violet petals you use to scent your lotions? Are there any cracks in the globe of rose quartz you consult to foretell the future (well, the possible future)? Alternatively, if you use a silver basin and fountain-pen ink, do you need to buy a new jar of Midnight Blue or Viridian Green (your favorite colors)? If you need to, order supplies from the catalog: lovers’ tears, dragon breath, aniseed (although that’s for making cookies). While you’re at it, order a new charger cable for your laptop, because you need to be ready for Zoom meetings with your fellow witches. Of course it’s nice to meet in person, but your friends are scattered all over the world, from Singapore to Sydney to St. Louis. Wash out your cauldron—or if you don’t have one, your pots and pans. They’re really just as useful.

Don’t be surprised when your familiar suddenly pops in.
“Oh, there you are,” you’ll say to Tobias, or Cordelia, or whatever it has chosen to call itself. Familiars, as you know, get to choose their own names and shapes. Yours could be a cat (so traditional), an owl, an iguana—or if you’re adventurous, maybe even a snake. The one thing familiars always have in common, as witches know, is that they’re helpful and annoying in equal measure. Tobias the beagle won’t help you with spells unless he gets walked twice a day, and he has a habit of reciting favorite bits from Shakespeare in the middle of the night. Cordelia the tortoiseshell tabby claims the most comfortable armchair for her own and refuses to eat generic cat food even though you tell her you’re not made of money. How much does she think witches make, anyway?

Once your house is in order, with the clean white sheets of the resident ghosts hanging on the line, smelling of lavender fabric softener, it’s time to tend to your garden. By now the crab apples are blooming—their small, sour fruit will be perfect for jam and crab apple dolls, just in case you need to curse anyone in autumn. The irises are poking their pointed spears out of the ground. “Bonjour,” you say to some of them, “Konnichiwa” to others. (Irises always speak either French or Japanese.) Check on the herb garden to make sure it’s doing well, that the thyme has survived under the snow. You’ll need it for any spells involving time because, as you know, the universe appreciates puns and metaphors. Make sure calendula and valerian haven’t taken over your garden, although they’re so useful for making tinctures, especially for inflammation or insomnia. Cut back any dead canes on the wild roses that are so good for face creams or tonics for when your customers have an uncomfortable cough. Make sure to sow basil seeds—you’ll need the basil later for your famous pasta sauce.

And what about the larger garden out there? Check on Mother Nature’s garden—the forest and fields, the rivers and even the ocean. How are they doing? After all, being a witch isn’t just about knowing how to find significance in a deck of illustrated cards or how to heal a broken heart with a magical potion (alternatively, a cup of coffee and a good, long talk), or how to weave a spell out of spiderwebs and morning dew. It involves being in conversation with the whole of creation. So when you have time, ask the frogs in the pond how many flies they’re catching this year. Ask the migrating ducks how their journey went, where they came from and where they’re going. Ask the mountains to sing you their favorite songs. Wave to the clouds, and watch as they wave back with puffy white hands. As you walk, pick up trash by the side of the path, recycle—that’s a kind of magic as well, a transformation. There you are, the witch in spring, walking through the woods with Archimedes or Jellylorum or Bob the Iguana on your shoulder.

All winter, you traveled on an inner journey, but it’s time to make some outer journeys now, whether to Paris or the post office. It’s time to say hello to your neighbors, whether they are the bats that come chittering around your attic at night, the elderly couple (a retired school teacher and an army veteran) next door, or the barista at your local coffee shop, who also makes magical potions. It’s time to start the work of doing.

Wake up, wake up. It’s a big world out there. Let’s start making some magic.


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Theodora Goss
Author of several anthologies of poetry and short fiction as well as The Thorn and the Blossom, a novella in two-sided accordion format. She teaches classes on reading and writing fairy tales. “I love fairy tales,” she says, “because they are so realistic: we all face wolves and want to go to the ball. Their realism is on another level, a symbolic level. But they are fundamentally about what we fear and desire. That is why they have lasted so long and are continually rewritten. They are about the deepest, most fundamental parts of ourselves.” The poems here will be collected in Songs for Ophelia, forthcoming from Papaveria Press. Visit