The craft the Orchiere witches practice, the one they refer to as the “old ways”, is invented, based on an ancient and inherited system, deeply rooted in a matrilineal tradition. I’ve borrowed from Wicca, the neo-pagan practice developed in the mid-twentieth century, but the Orchiere witches are not Wiccan, nor are the witches of the Glamis line, who appear in the Book of Veronica.


The Wheel of the Year is so lovely, though, and so evocative, that with the license granted to me as a creator of fiction, I’ve allowed my witches to use it. It also emphasizes the ancient history of their craft, and its connection with nature, which Wicca also celebrates.


The rites of the Orchieres also borrow from Wicca and from other neo-pagan traditions. The circle of salted water for protection is one such element, as is the use of a newly-poured candle and a consecrated altar. The herbs they use in their rites and potions and philters are based in real herbology. In fact, many so-called witches of medieval times were innocent herbalists, useful in times of illness, but all too easily blamed when their remedies were unsuccessful.


The witches of A SECRET HISTORY are neither the wicked hags of medieval times or the wacky suburbanites cooking up potions in their twentieth-century kitchens. They are women–grandmothers, mothers, granddaughters–with power. They are at risk because society has always feared women with power. Scripture provided an excuse to persecute them, and western culture has persisted in viewing them as dangerous, because they threaten the traditional balance of society. They endanger the fixed assignment of roles to women, and that frightens people.


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