By Amber C. Snider
Standing at the aged counter of New York’s oldest pagan store on a recent cold night in December, I found myself suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. A kind of nostalgia poured over me as I silently flipped through the pages of the new children’s book Wee Witches. A bright-eyed, curly haired girl stared back from the cover and I couldn’t help but ask myself: What if I had this book when I was growing up?
I’d been on the hunt for age-appropriate witchy books ever since we started this site earlier this year. It’s hard to find (and recommend) magic books for young people: books that teach a reverence for Mother Earth and the mystical world around us; books that honor our Spirit, our ancestors, and the elements – and do it with a sense of play, without all the serious spells.
So when the owner of the Enchantments excitedly handed me this book (“You’re gonna love it,” she remarked), I was hopeful. But I wasn’t expecting to find such wonder hidden in its pages – that hard-to-articulate something that so rarely occurs in our busy, dollar-driven lives. Was it joy? Innocence? A remembering?
As the employees smudged, cleansed, and closed up the shop for the night, I stood fixated – transfixed – on this book. Too often, as a practicing witch and journalist, I can get caught up in the “representation” of things. I’m here to share ideas, tell stories, help others. But what about the singular joyful rapture that got me interested in magic in the first place? That sense of curiosity? The sense that – aside from the rent bills, the NY hustle, Insta-mania, and Trumpisms – the world is really, truly magical.
Folks, this book threw me. It threw me across the counter and into the seat of the soul and back to a memory of the little girl I once was. To the girl who would talk to trees and carry stones in her “magic pouch” and felt the spirit of the Old Crone everywhere. The tiny girl with a growing psychic ability but without the language to understand it; the girl who heard music in the wind and sometimes felt a little different for being "sensitive". Maybe this book would’ve helped me acknowledge my pagan-witchy side a lot sooner had I had it read as a child. I mean, the closest thing I had on my shelves in the '90s was The Witch Has An Itch – and I wouldn’t exactly call that a spiritually-woke text.
I knew I had to meet the creators in-person. And lucky for me, they were down to indulge my curiosity – and they carried a big sense of magic, too.
Illustrator Ted Enik (known for the wildly successful Fancy Nancy series) and author Beth Roth have been friends for nearly 50 years. They met as theater kids in college and continued their friendship over the years, marking the holidays with pagan rituals and communal plays, exploring cross-pantheon gods and goddesses along the way. After noticing their unusual creative spark, they began a nine year journey to write Wee Witches together.
Wee Witches depicts various young witches (one with tadpole eggs clinging to her red locks and another with glittering fairy-like charm in her gaze) in various seasonal scenes surrounded by witchy accoutrements (wooden pentacles, charms, brooms, bubbling cauldrons, fireflies, crescent moons, Goddess statues). The book uses the ABCs as an anchor for earth-based teachings, with the four elements loosely represented on the corner of each page (a nod to the work of one of America’s leading feminist Neopagans Starhawk).
It’s a playful series of poems about nature that beautifully explains the symbolism behind the Craft. There’s even a secret message to uncover: the secret name all witches are given. The co-creators described writing the book as “a golden 9 years...like a kaleidoscope. A joyous process.”
“The book is a celebration of the earth,” Beth says. Donning a black turtleneck, her soft blue eyes (not unlike the bright-eyed cover girl) convey a nurturing, yet sprightly energy. And that sense of playfulness really heats up when she and Ted (witty and humorous in his vintage button up and a cardigan complete with witch buttons) get to talking about the past together. Their bantering ease makes it clear how this book was born: through a dynamic give and take, constant play and revision, and an intuitive, trusting collaborative effort.
“For me personally, [the book] is about connecting to something that is innate –– you feel it within you. It doesn't come from an outside source, but a ‘knowing’ inside that life is full of magic....if we allow ourselves to open, captivated by the simplest beauty of life,” Beth says.
The creative choice of also including a little girl of color in the book also felt refreshing – especially when so much of modern witch imagery (including tarot cards and iconography) often only depicts the white body. We’re at a unique place in society (and within the magical community) where inclusivity not only possible, but necessary. Children especially should be able to see themselves depicted not only in literary characters, but within the magical landscape, too.
To me, it seems this book couldn’t have come at a better time. A time to reawaken and rekindle our innate magic: “Magic is everywhere if we choose to embrace it. Unfortunately we live in a culture that teaches us to turn away from our sixth sense which is our inner knowing. I want young girls to trust what they know to be true,” Beth continued.
We all carry our little old “self” inside us, whether we let them shine or not. And sometimes we forget them entirely. But they’re still there, waiting for us to remember. Over this past year, countless pagan families and little witches have asked for book suggestions, but only one has stopped me in my own tracks and made me remember the magical girl I was and always will be.
Scroll through slide show below for never-before-published, original sketches of the book by illustrator Ted Enik
Limited edition signed copies available at Enchantments. For more magical children's book, check out our roundup here.