Wednesday, August 17, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

Summer solstice with a witch


The witch sits across from me at the table, smiling. No pointed hat. No flying broom. Not a single cackle is recorded during our long conversation. She is smart, open, answers each question carefully, and is aware of “being made a fool” by others. She does suggest that I don’t eat elves’ food at the time of summer solstice — “when you eat their food, you are their servant forever” — but then she also speaks of kindness and love and the disheartening sadness of all the violence in the world. It is not easy to clearly label this woman.

Why am I sitting with a witch?

Well, in small increments, in small ticks of the clock, the longest day of the year is approaching. Summer solstice occurs on June 21. This year, there will never be another day with this much light. Heck, why even go to bed when the sun certainly doesn’t?

Celebrations and feasting will occur on this day. Stonehenge, the place in England that has the strange stones set on end, is a destination for many. For about $24, you can get a timed slot to visit on June 21. There will be modern druids, pagans, Wicca and even astronomers, all there to see the stones in a long-forgotten farmer’s field line up with the sun.

Margreet David-den Adel, the Dutch witch with whom I am sitting, is friendly, polite and caring. She asks about my family. She is curious about my time in Holland. She wants to know of my wife’s work. She is a model of a socially gifted person. But a witch?

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“Wicca is a religion of nature,” she says. “Nature is the driving force behind all life. Nature is god. There is an unbelievably intellectual force behind nature. And he wants the best for us all. He wants that we live in the heart, not in the mind. When you treat somebody not so well, there is a force from the universe that you will get it back 10 times harder. It is a universal law. That’s how it works.”

Margreet knew that she was tied to nature from when she was a very young girl. However, it was not until she read her first Wicca book at 27 that she discovered, “Wow, that’s me.” It explained her extreme sensitivity, her healing hands, her need to be next to animals and plants and trees, her “old spirit” that at one time was an Inca shaman, the protection offered by Archangel Michael, and why even strangers on the train come to her for help. It just made sense.

joes1 And now we sit together in this coffee shop in The Hague.

“The Wicca celebrate the changing seasons. The solstice is the celebration of Litha.”

On solstice, Margreet will prepare a meal and a special Wicca tart for her husband, her children, and her friends. It will be served on a blue tablecloth. Everyone will have sunflowers for their hair. And sunflowers will be on the table. She will speak some words about the solstice, and then all the guests will write wishes on small pieces of paper. These wishes are then put in a fire.

“The wish goes into the air and everyone leaves with a sunflower,” she says. “It is a lot of fun. It is not so important how you do this ceremony, it is the right intention. Why you do it? You do it with love.”

Of course.

joes2This evening, shortly before the solstice, the sun sets slowly over the North Sea, dragging its feet reluctantly, refusing to go to bed. But things are closing down. Out on the arms of the harbor walk only lovers, using the shadows and early night wind as an excuse to meld even closer. Storm clouds rest low on the horizon.

And hidden in the kernel of summer solstice is a small darkness. For on the very next day, summer is dying and the shades of winter are getting ready to blow down from out of the north, relentlessly and without remorse. “A time to be born and a time to die.”

And so there you are. You get one wish on one sheet of paper. With love. What is your wish going to be? And don’t forget the blue tablecloth. CV

Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, his wife is assisting in the prosecution of war criminals in the Netherlands for several months. He’s along for the ride and writes about being an Iowan in Europe on his blog at Joe can be reached by email at

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