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Witches on the Water ?‍♀️?

November 02, 2021

By: Lee LeFever

I write books and run a company called Common Craft. I recently moved from Seattle to a rural island. Here, I write about online business, book publishing, modern home construction, and occasionally, dumb jokes.

The post below was sent as an issue of my newsletter, Ready for Rain.

When you live in a small place, it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of awareness. There can’t be that many secrets among a few thousand people on an island, right? After having lived on Orcas Island for a few years now, I’m realizing that the island is full of traditions that aren’t at all accessible, or obvious.

We share a chat app with a few groups of friends on the island and a couple of the women started to talk about finding paddleboards for Halloween. Paddleboards? What a weird thing to use as part of a costume, I thought.

After a bit of questioning, I found that there is an island tradition called “Witches on the Water” or “Witches Paddle” that takes place on Halloween day. Just like it sounds, women on the island dress as witches and paddle around a section of the island and back.

This was news to me and I didn’t want to miss it. There were no announcements or fliers. In fact, the only way we knew the location and timing was by asking friends. I believe this is by design. No one, I assume, wants it to be a big deal and I hope the witches forgive me for highlighting it here.

On an uncharacteristically sunny fall day, about 40 witches boarded their vessels and paddled out across the cold waters of the Salish Sea.

Photos

witches on paddleboards
witches crossing sign

All-in-all, not a bad way to spend a Halloween afternoon.

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