SALEM — The veil between this universe and the next is thin on Halloween, say the city's witches and warlocks, and that makes Oct. 31 the perfect time to cast ritual magic circles.
For years, Salem witches have done so on Gallows Hill, marching in robes to the site just as tens of thousands of tourists converge on the city. This year, for the second time, two magic circles will be convened — one on Salem Common and the other at Gallows Hill Park.
"What happens for us is that we gather to receive energy that is very transformative," said Gypsy Ravish, high priestess of the Temple of Nine Wells, who has been making the 1.5-mile trek from her Pickering Wharf shop to Gallows Hill for 19 years. She estimates 500 participants join in.
"We honor the goddesses and gods, the ancestors, our loved ones," she said.
Her husband, Richard Ravish, said the holiday is considered one of the greatest sabbats — a holy day or festival — on the witches' wheel of the year.
"It's the new year," said Richard Ravish, a high priest grand master of the temple.
He said those interested in witches in Salem seek the authentic, not something "ersatz."
Christian Day, a Salem warlock and owner of shops Hex and Omen, is organizing a second magic circle on the Common as a way to share the magic of Halloween with tourists and visitors.
"It's designed to be extremely accessible," he said. "Our method is not to convert people."
The ceremony is to remember the beloved dead in the spirit world, he said.
At the same time, he said, the goal is not so much to show people witchcraft.
"It's bigger than that," he said. "It's to show the impact of what's on the other side."
High Priestess Lori Bruno said participants will form a large circle, and a smaller circle will be created inside it. Those in the inner circle will face out toward the larger circle.
"All the people that are there, we want them to know they are a part of it, not just spectators," Day said.
Over the hour, Bruno will guide participants, not lead them. She will begin by raising a sword to cut away anything negative and proceed to consecrate earth with salt, air with incense and fire with a candle, then finish with water as a blessing.
"Witches are not leaders; we are guides," Day said. "People follow a leader. People walk with guides."
The Gallows Hill group conducts a similar ceremony, lasting two hours, casting a circle, and blessing and consecrating the elements of earth, air, fire and water. By doing so, they also bless the spirits, Gypsy Ravish said, and the process binds all things together.
"We basically call on the four directions, the guardians of the craft," she said.
Participants pass through what Ravish calls a portal of transformation in which they are blessed with herbs, incense and then consecrated water. They can also commemorate their loved ones as part of the ceremony, she said.
"This is a time to call out in love and remembrance to those who have passed beyond the veil," Ravish said. "You don't forget who you loved even though they died 20 years ago. There is no time on the other side."
The public is welcome to both circles.
If You go
Gallows Hill Magick Circle
Where: Starts at Nu Aeon on Pickering Wharf, at 88 Wharf St., and ends at Gallows Hill Park
When: Sunday, Oct. 31. Procession leaves at 4:30 p.m., ceremony 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Cost: $5 optional donation
More information: 978-745-8668
SALEM Common Magic Circle
Where: Salem Common, ends at Hex, 246 Essex St.
When: Sunday, Oct. 31, 5 to 7 p.m.
More information: 978-666-0765