Rhianna Galvin Hughes, a Jersey woman who learned witchcraft as a child from her mother and grandmother, says that Wicca and witchcraft are the UK’s fastest growing religions, and estimates the number of believers in Jersey to be ‘in the hundreds’.
While the majority of Jersey residents will be gearing up for 25 December, Ms Galvin Hughes and her fellow witches are focusing their celebrations on today, which marks the longest night and shortest day of the year.
‘We make a yule-log centrepiece every year. We light the fire with that and we keep a piece of it back every year, so we can use it to light the fire at Beltane [the May Day celebration]. We also decorate it with holly because greenery is a symbol of life and rebirth. The holly king rules now, but when the sun comes back tomorrow, the oak king will rule.’
Explaining the traditions of the winter solstice, Ms Galvin Hughes said that some of their celebrations today would not be that different to those of an ordinary Christmas.
‘We have a meal, like you do at Christmas, and we get together and give presents. We will also make crescent cookies shaped in the various phases of the moon, marzipan cakes and things like that.
‘Then we will perform our ritual.
‘You have to be outside for that because it is about acknowledging the dark, as well as the excitement of bringing the sun back.
‘We need the dark in order to acknowledge that the light comes, and so we need to embrace that.
‘We also write down wishes on bay leaves and we throw them in the fire, in order for that to be released to the gods for the coming year.’
When asked whether she would be conducting her ritual at the Faldouet dolmen, she said that others probably would but she has a preferred site of her own.
‘Somewhere in St Ouen’ was as specific as she was prepared to be.