Evolutionary Spirituality

Introduction to PaGaian Cosmology[]

Another perspective on Evolutionary Paganism has come from the Southern Hemisphere, under the name of "PaGaian Cosmology". The term “PaGaian” requires some explanation: it expresses a reclaiming of the term "Pagan" as meaning a person who dwells in "country", yet with "Gaian" spliced in, it expresses a renewed and contemporary understanding of that "country". "Gaia" is a name for humanity's Habitat, an ancient yet new name, which I understand to include whole Earth and Cosmos – there is no seam separating Earth from Her context. And Pagan religious tradition offers a spiritual practice of celebrating Earth-Sun Creativity manifest in this Habitat. The cosmology described in this book makes a start on bringing all of this together. It is written from a Southern Hemisphere perspective which may enable a freeing of the Earth-Sun cycle and experience from the Gregorian calendar year: placing it more clearly for a moment in its Cosmic country.

Reference: Glenys Livingstone, "PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion", NE:iUniverse 2005, p.xi. See pagaiancosmology.com

The word "Cosmology" is used decidedly because what is being spoken about as Sacred is our Place - the Cosmos. It is a reccognition that we are this Place. The Sacred is not outside of us nor any being. PaGaian Cosmology then recognises three layers to this sacred self that we are: each particular self, deep communion with the web of life - other, and direct participation in the Creative Cosmos - the sentient all. This triple dynamic may be identified with a triplicity perceived to permeate the Cosmos, and represented in many ancient cultures as a Triple Goddess or in the lunar cycle or in the Triple Spiral motif as it is found in Newgrange in Ireland. PaGaian Cosmology also identifies this triple dynamic with three qualities of Cosmogenesis (articulated by Thomas Berry and Brian Swimme in The Universe Story) - differentiation, communion and autopoeisis. It is essentially a dynamic expressed in the waxing, peaking and waning of all being and may be celebrated in the Pagan Wheel of the Year which celebrates the Creativity manifest in Earth's annual sacred journey around the Sun. There is a recognition that this Creativity is once again the result of a threefold dynamic interplay - of Earth, Sun and Moon: without the Moon's gravitational pull there would be no life as we know it. PaGaian Cosmology recognises that we really are the Moon, the Sun, the Earth - this triple identity - within an obviously Creative Cosmos.

The Wheel of the Year for the Southern Hemisphere[]


Reference: PaGaian Cosmology Chapter 5

The direction of the Southern Wheel is opposite the Northern Wheel. The Sun's direction across the sky appears as counterclockwise in the Southern Hemisphere. In Summary – the Wheel of the Year may be a contemplation of how Creativity proceeds:

Virgin/Young One/Differentiation[]


There are two celebrations of the Virgin/Young One/Differentiation. These are the meridian points of the waxing light phase. At Imbolc, the first in the light phase, we identify with the new one, the particular self - as we take form and manifest; at Beltane, we celebrate our participation in the process of the Dance of Life. This light part of the cycle is about coming into Being – nurturing it (the midwifing of Imbolc), stepping into the power of it (the return of Eostar), the fertility (of Beltane), the peaking of it (at Summer).

Old One/Crone/Autopoiesis[]


There are two celebrations of the Old One/Crone/Autopoiesis. These two are the meridian points of the waxing dark phase. At Lammas, the first in the dark phase, we identify with the ancient one – that we dissolve back into, and that is our source; at Samhain, we celebrate our participation in the process of the Transformation of Death. This dark part of the cycle is about dissolving/dying/letting go – nurturing it (the midwifing of Lammas), stepping into the power of it (the departure of Mabon), the fertility (of Samhain), the peaking of it (at Winter).

Mother/Communion - the Solstices[]


There are two celebrations of the Mother/Communion - the Solstices. If one images the light part of the cycle as a celebration of the Productions of Time, and the dark part of the cycle as a celebration of Eternity, the Solstices then are meeting points, and are celebrations of the communion/relational field of Eternity with the Productions of Time. This is a relationship which does happen in this Place, in this Web. This Place, this Web, is a Communion - it is the Mother; the Solstices mark Her Birthings.

There are two celebrations wherein the balance of all three Faces are celebrated - the Equinoxes, that may be occasions of special celebrations of Demeter and Persephone – who have represented for millennia the Mystery and Awesomeness of the continuity of life, a creative Thread/Seed that enables life to continue. Both Equinoxes are celebrations and contemplations of empowerment through deep Wisdom – one contemplation during the dark phase and one during the light phase. The Autumn Equinox is a descent to it, the Spring Equinox is an emergence with it. I like to think of the Equinoxes, and of the ancient icons of Demeter and Persephone, as celebrations of the delicate “curvature of space-time”, the fertile balance of tensions which enables it all.

The 8 Sabbats[]

Reference: A Deep Time Overview of the Sabbats

Details on each of the 8 Sabbats (Seasonal Moments):

reference: Glenys Livingstone PaGaian Cosmology: Re-inventing Earth-based Goddess Religion Chapter 5



Samhain is a celebration of the Crone’s process of the transformation of Death. She is the Old One who remembers, and from whose Sentient Depths the new is drawn forth. The imagined conceptions will continue to gestate in the Fertility of the Old One’s growing Dark. At Samhain, Her face has begun to move into Mother – the Womb of Winter Solstice.

A billion years after the birth of the universe, when the galaxies have just emerged, great regions of hydrogen and helium drift about the centre of the Milky Way. In the collapse of our galactic cloud, the spinning of the matter flattens out, disclike, as the angular rotation carries the clouds into the gentle movement of the twirling spiral galaxy. After another hundred million years the invisible density arm sweeps through the cloud and shocks it into collapsing upon itself. No further energy from the galaxy is now required. The cloud that has drifted undisturbed for eons suddenly undergoes a profound transformation that destroys its basic form but gives birth to a cluster of ten thousand diamond lights in a sea of dark night (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry The Universe Story p.47).

General Evolutionary Pagan Samhain – (the Fall Equitherm, October 31)



Winter Solstice is a celebration of the Mother aspect of Creativity, the ripening of Her Darkness into the awesome act of creation of form, the Web of Life, the Field of Being. It is a celebration of Communion, a point of interchange from the “manifesting” into the “manifest”; it is a time for feasting, and experiencing this essence of existence. At this point in the Wheel She is the Alpha, and at the Summer Solstice She will be the Omega – both Gateways, points of interchange, when dark and light turn. At this Winter Gateway, the Crone’s face passes through the Mother to the Virgin. The process of the three Sabbats of Samhain, Winter Solstice and Imbolc, as a group, may be felt as the three faces of Cosmogenesis in the movement towards form.

... the first living cell …. emerged from the cybernetic storms of the primeval oceans… . Life here was born in a lightning flash. ...(the first cells – prokaryotes) were the most fragile autopoietic structures yet to appear … and yet they were essential for the next advance… . For four billion years the prokaryotic organisms have been remembering the composition from the beginning. ... Though fragile, though liable to destruction and change in an infinity of ways, they could nevertheless perform an aboriginal magic that would enable them to pervade the world: they could swallow a drop of seawater and spit out a living version of themselves. ... Besides these new powers of autopoiesis, cells exhibited a new depth of differentiation as well. Once every million births, a cell was created that was new. (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry The Universe Story p.86-88)

General Evolutionary Pagan Yule – (the Winter Solstice, ≈ December 21)



The lighting of candles and a central flame is again a big part of this Sabbat as it was at Winter Solstice, this time recognizing that each self is a Promise of Life. Each individual Promise is identified with Gaia Herself, with “the beauty of the green earth and the white moon among the stars and the mystery of the waters37”. It is a time for purification, that is, for recognizing what it is in you that inhibits the Spark, the growth, the Power to Be, and what enhances it; then for making a commitment to the tending of this Self. This Earth holy day celebrates differentiation, diversity, the multiform beauty of Gaia, all of which is indeed brought to us through the many challenges that Gaia Herself has encountered as She has developed – our individual lives are no different. The challenges we have encountered and midwifed ourselves through, may add to our complexity, strength and beauty. The Virgin is that aspect that finds the “yes” to being – beyond the complete awesomeness of it both personally and collectively. This aspect finds the “yes” to loving the self/Self beyond all failings, and is able to step into the Power of Life – so She moves into the balance of Eostar/Spring Equinox.

A cloud of elements hovered, floated … far from the centre of the Milky Way galaxy. ...In our universe, the originating powers permeating every drop of existence drew forth ten thousand stars from this quiescent cloud. To varying degrees, these stellar beings manifested the universe's urge toward differentiation, autopoiesis, and communion. And at least one of these, the Sun, managed to enter the deeper reaches of the universe creativity, a realm where the complexity, self-manifestation, and reciprocity at the very heart of the universe revealed themselves in a way transcending anything that had occurred for ten billion years – as an extravagant, magical, and living Earth burst into a new epoch of the universe story. (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry The Universe Story p.78-79.)

General Evolutionary Pagan Imbolc – (the Winter Thermstice, February 2)



I story this celebration as a “Stepping into Power”, identifying ourselves as Heras, rejoicing in how we have made it through, having faced our fears, the chthonic, and our demise (in its various forms). It is a time to welcome back that which was lost, and step forward into the light, to fly. Eostar is the time for enjoying the fruits of the descent, of the journey taken into the darkness. It is a point of balance of the three faces of Goddess – Persephone representing both the Wise One from the depths and the newly Emerged, being embraced by the Mother, rejoicing and affirming the harmony of All. It is the three aspects of Cosmogenesis in “a fecund balance of tensions” (Swimme and Berry p.54).

Earth is perfectly poised in this balance for a moment, before She tips into the increasing fertility of Spring. The freedom of empowerment, the exhilaration of the full flight of Being, brings with it increasing passion for Life. Allurement awakens, desire reaches for “More” (promised at Samhain), for fullness; it is the wild, untamed nature of the Virgin who would give Herself to the ecstatic Dance of Life. This is the energy of Beltane.

Love begins as allurement – as attraction. Think of the entire cosmos, all one hundred billion galaxies rushing through space: At this cosmic scale the basic dynamism of the universe is the attraction each galaxy has for every other galaxy. ... Gravity is the word used by scientists and the rest of us in the modern era to point to this primary attraction. ...(but) the mystery remains no matter how intelligently we theorize. ... The attracting activity is a stupendous and mysterious fact of existence. Primal. ... this alluring activity permeates the cosmos on all levels of being. ... By pursuing your allurements, you help bind the universe together. The unity of the world rests on the pursuit of passion. (Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry The Universe Story p.43-48.)

General Evolutionary Pagan Ostara – (the Spring Equinox, ≈ March 20)



One of the shaping powers of life is a wild energy, that Swimme and Berry associate with the causal factor of genetic mutation; and “Genetic mutation refers to spontaneous differentiations taking place at life’s root” (p.125). Wild energy is also associated with Artemis in Her Virgin aspect; She and many other Goddesses were named as “Lady of the Beasts”. Swimme and Berry describe wildness as “a face ultimacy wears”, “a primal act within the life process”. (p.125) They say:

A wild animal, ... alert and free, moves with a beauty … far beyond the lock-step process of a rationally derived conclusion. The wild is a great beauty that seethes with intelligence, that is ever surprising and refreshing … The discovery of mutations is the discovery of an untamed and untameable energy at the organic centre of life. ... For without this wild energy, life’s journey would have ended long ago. ( The Universe Story p.127)

At Beltane the Virgin’s Passion moves Her more deeply into engagement with the Other – Her face is noticeably changing into the Mother. Her desire for complete fullness continues to wax. Her movement, Her Lust, is to open completely into the Omega of Summer Solstice.

In the primeval fireball, which quickly billowed in every direction, we see a metaphor for the infinite striving of the sentient being. An unbridled playing out of this cosmic tendency would lead to ultimate dispersion. But the fireball discovered a basic obstacle to its movements, the gravitational attraction. Only because expansion met the obstacle of gravitation did the galaxies come forth. In a similar way the wings of birds and the musculature of the elephants arose out of the careful embrace of the negative or obstructing aspects of the gravitational attraction. Any life forms that might awake in a world without gravity’s hindrances to motion would be incapable of inventing the anatomy of the cheetah. (Swimme and Berry The Universe Story p.55)

General Evolutionary Pagan Beltane (unwritten)


Free image of a black hole found at nasa.gov

Summer Solstice is a celebration of the Fullness of the Mother – in ourselves, in Earth, in the Cosmos. It is the ripening of Her Manifestation, which fulfills itself in the awesome act of dissolution. It is a celebration of Communion, the Feast of Life – which is for the enjoying, not for the holding onto. I represent this Sabbat on my Wheel of the Year with a horseshoe, because its yonic shape is symbolic of Goddess’ “Great Gate”: “Greeks assigned the yonic shape to the last letter of their sacred alphabet, Omega, literally, ‘Great Om’, the Word of Creation, beginning the next cycle of becoming.” (Barbara Walker The Woman's Encyclopaedia p.414). Summer Solstice is such a Gateway. At this interchange, the Virgin’s face has passed through the Mother into the Crone. The process of the three Sabbats of Beltane, Summer Solstice and Lammas, as a group, may be felt as the three faces of Cosmogenesis in the movement towards entropy.

Eventually, in a million years or in several billion years, a star’s resources against the collapse are all used up. If the mass of a star at this point is large enough, its gravitational pressures will destroy the star. The remaining materials will rush toward each other. Nothing in the universe can now stop them. ... This stellar being that burned brightly for billions of years, that may have showered sentient creatures with radiant energy that they transformed into their living bodies and into cathedrals that rose in wheat fields, has gone, only a black cinder left. (Swimme and Berry The Universe Story p.48)

General Evolutionary Pagan Litha – (the Summer Solstice, ≈ June 21)


Free image from nasa.gov

Lammas is the seasonal moment for recognizing that we dissolve into the “night” of the Larger Organism that we are part of – Gaia. It is She who is immortal, from whom we arise, and into whom we dissolve. This celebration is a development of what was born in the transition of Summer Solstice; the Dark Sentient Source of Creativity is honoured. The autopoietic space in us recognizes Her, is comforted by Her, desires Her self-transcendence and self-dissolution; Lammas is an opportunity to be with our organism’s love of Larger Self – this Native Place. We have been taught to fear Her, but at this Sabbat, we may remember that She is the Compassionate One, deeply committed to Transformation, which is actually innate to us.

Whereas at Imbolc, we shone forth as individual, multiforms of Her; at Lammas, we small individual selves remember that we are She and dissolve back into Her. We are the Promise of Life as we affirmed at Imbolc, but we are the Promise of Her – it is not ours to hold. We become the Harvest at Lammas; our individual harvest is Her Harvest. We are the process itself – we are Gaia’s Process. We do not breathe (though of course we do), we borrow the breath, for a while. It is like a relay: we pick the breath up, create what we do during our time with it, and pass it on. The harvest we reap in our individual lives is important, and it is for us only short term; it belongs to the Cosmos in the long term. Lammas is a time for “making sacred” – as “sacrifice” may be understood; we may “make sacred” ourselves. As Imbolc was a time for dedication, so is Lammas. This is the Wisdom of the phase of the Old One. She is the aspect that finds the “yes” to letting go, to loving the Larger Self, beyond all knowledge, and steps into the Power of the Abyss, encouraged and nourished by the harvest – so She moves into the balance of Mabon/Autumn Equinox.

If the atoms in the prestellar cloud had been given language and the power to reflect upon inner experience, so that they could ponder the significance of the density waves sweeping through them and the rush of atoms ramming up against them, they would even then not have been able to speak in clear terms about the star they were destined to become. ... The beauty of the star gripped the atoms in some primordial manner; the beauty of the new flowering of Earth’s realities likewise grips us and is in many ways the central significance of all our experiences of obstacle, disappointment, dismay, and despair. ... We cannot know with certainty … what is required of us now. We will find our way only with a deep and prolonged process of groping – considering with care a great variety of interpretations, weighing evidence from a spectrum of perspectives, attending with great patience to the inchoate, barely discernable glimmers that visit us in our more contemplative moments. (Swimme and Berry The Universe Story p.58)

General Evolutionary Pagan Lammas – (the Summer Thermstice, August 1)


Image from nasa.gov

All at once, the three faces of Cosmogenesis are present. As Seed, She is Queen of the Underworld – Old Wise One, and the irrepressible Urge to Be; and She is the Mother, Source of Life. This is a blessed Moment of Harmony/Balance that streams through the grief and the ecstasy of Life.

This point of balance tips further into the dark, as Earth’s tilt and Sun continue their relational dynamic. The dark of night keeps growing, the seed is in the Earth, the grub is in the chrysalis, the Abyss is accepted – the metamorphosis of the dark Sentience is awaited, the fertile Emptiness of the Crone is the moment of Samhain.

... after billions of years of striving … Tiamat found herself pressed to the wall, exhausted by the effort, helpless to do anything more to balance the titanic powers in which she had found her way. When her core had been transformed into iron, she sighed a last time as collapse became inevitable. In a cosmological twinkling, her gravitational potential energy was transformed into a searing explosion, ... But when the brilliance was over, when Tiamat’s journey was finished, the deeper meaning of her existence was just beginning to show through. (Swimme and Berry The Universe Story p.60-61)

With Samhain, the annual cycle – the Wheel of the Year – is complete. It is the time of Death, and the beginning of the New Year.

General Evolutionary Pagan Mabon – (the Fall Equinox, ≈ September 22)


Reference: Glenys Livingstone PaGaian Cosmology Chapter 6

Woven throughout the Seasonal ritual celebrations, may be the conscious celebration of Cosmogenesis, the Creative Unfolding of Gaia-Universe-Earth. These ritual celebrations begin with Earth-Sun relationship – that is the reason for their existence since the earliest of human times. The resulting Creativity of the play of Light and Dark in this Earth-Sun relationship has translated into food, and into human psyches. The creative telling of our personal and collective stories, and how we wish them to unfold, may be folded into the seasonal moment because that is where we may each interface intimately with Gaia. Then also, as participants in the Larger Story of Gaia – knowing this is our full story – there is always this Deeper layer to be expressed, and it may be drawn specifically into the Seasonal Moments.

On the surface of it, the dark Crone phase particularly celebrates Autopoeisis – sentience, subjectivity, interiority, the creative centre; the light Virgin phase particularly celebrates Differentiation – diversity, complexity, multiform nature, articulation. Communion – the Mother phase, reciprocity, deep relatedness, interconnectivity, mutuality – is celebrated throughout, though particularly at the Solstices, and in balance with other two at the Equinoxes.

There may be many ways of folding in aspects of Gaia’s story, of languaging in moments of her Story that one wants to celebrate, but I have been conscious of some as follows, and written them in to the ritual scripts and the pre-ritual teachings.

At Winter Solstice, it is the Original Flaring Forth, the Primaeval Fireball, the Great Origin, that is echoed in the Sun’s “return” and the movement out of darkness. Also echoed is the birth of our Solar System, from the Grandmother Supernova Tiamat ( a term Thomas Berry uses to speak of our supernova) – this is our particular Cosmic lineage whom we may remember at this time. It is the time to recall and proclaim any birth, and the births in our psyches, imaginations, and minds.

At Imbolc, it is the continued birthing – the rushing away of the Fireball, the continued rippling forth of Creation, the early Universe. It is understanding the difficulties, the resistances that even Gaia-Universe has encountered, and how this has served the Unfolding of the Story as we know it. Imbolc celebrates Gaia’s rush to diversity, differentiation; we commit ourselves to this, beginning with ourselves. The ritual process of “purification and strengthening” may be understood as a feeling for where it is in us that the Universe is acting now – where each one feels the excitement of Creativity calling to them in their lives (Brian Swimme speaks of such a feeling in his DVD series "Canticle to the Cosmos" #10).

At Eostar, when the Light reaches a new level of power, and “Persephone” returns with Wisdom gained, Her emergence may be understood as a collective experience of emergence into a new era – the Ecozoic Era that Berry and Swimme speak of (The Universe Story p.253-254). As I say in the teaching that prefaces the ritual:

We may contemplate not only our own individual ‘lost’ wanderings, but also that of the human species. We are part of a much Bigger ReTurn that is happening. The Beloved One is ReTurning (inspired by Jennifer Berezan's "ReTURNING" CD and Joanna Macy's "great Turning" expression) on a collective level as well. We affirm that tonight – we are part of making it happen.

At Beltane, the essential primordial power of Allurement is celebrated. It is this power of attraction, in particular as gravitational bonding, that holds the universe together, as Brian Swimme describes it (Powers of the Universe lecture 2). “This primal dynamism awakens the communities of atoms, galaxies, stars, families, nations, persons, ecosystems, oceans, and stellar systems.” (Swimme The Universe is a Green Dragon p.49). In the experience of the ritual, individuals may sense and express their participation in this Allurement, in its many valencies – feel and affirm how this Desire is at the core of their Being, and all that they do. Beltane is also a good time to celebrate the advent of meiotic sex, a step in Gaia’s Story some one billion years ago, that was an evolutionary leap for all three aspects of Cosmogenesis (Swimme and Berry p.107-109, also Elisabet Sahtouris Earthdance p.126-131.). This evolutionary move may be understood as the advent of gender, as a particular manifestation of Creativity. This moment in the Story of the Universe is also connected to the advent of death (An explanation of this by Elisabet Sahtouris can be found at [1] or by Ursula Goodenough at [2], which is poetically resonant with the polar symmetry of Beltane and Samhain.

At Summer Solstice, it is Gaia’s Teeming Abundant Creativity that is celebrated – how “She gives it away, She pours it forth” as we say in the ritual. We recall that this is what Mother Sun does, this is what Earth does, and this is what we may do with the abundant Creativity that ripens in us. This cosmology assents to, and nurtures a concentration of Being that innately demands to be poured forth – it creates a generosity within since abundance is its very nature. We celebrate the innate Generosity of the Universe, for which Sun may be our model. As Swimme reminds, “There is not a single solitary thought or action in the history of humanity that is not a Solar event” ( Canticle to the Cosmos #2). It is a time for remembering our Source, and the ongoing Event that we are part of, that even the Sun is part of.

Lammas celebrates the beginning of dismantling, de-structuring, cutting the harvest, after the peaking and ripening of Summer Solstice. There are many such moments in the evolutionary story which could be specifically remembered, including our present ending of the Cenozoic Era, as Swimme and Berry describe the present extinctions and planetary destruction ( The Universe Story p.241-250). Gaia has done a lot of this de-structuring, it is in Her nature to Return all to the Sentient “Soup”. In the Lammas celebration, as I have languaged it, we recall the Dark Sentience at the base of Being, to which each is returned. I also use Swimme’s term, the “All-Nourishing Abyss”, expressing as it does, that this Mystery at the base of being, is both generative and infinitely absorbing – a Power out of which particles simply emerge and into which they are absorbed (Swimme The Hidden Heart of the Cosmosp.100). We image this “Power” as the Great Receiver, the Old Compassionate One, complete forgiveness, the Transformer, a Depth of Love – She is all of That.

At Mabon when Dark reaches a new level of power, and it is storied as the departure of “Persephone”, the Beloved One, there is opportunity to recall and express all the grief of the losses involved in Gaia’s penchant for Change and “dis-mantling”. In the long evolutionary story, there have been many told and untold losses – species of flora and fauna that will never arise again, cultural losses, genocides, individual tragedies. Mabon is a time for remembering both the rich harvest gained and apparent, and also this deep loss and pain. Another layer to this recognition of Loss at Mabon, is the Loss of every moment of Existence – the fact that every moment dissolves, and is never repeated: the Story of Gaia-Universe is irreversible and nonrepeatable. It is also then true that every moment is totally new. We may grieve the Loss, and celebrate the Moment. Mabon is also then the time to celebrate the Delicate Balance, the Creative Curvature of Space-Time, that Creative Edge upon which all Life proceeds. The red thread with which the wheat is tied for this ritual has come to represent that to me. Also the seed, the “Persephone” that is planted ritually represents that very perdurable balance and fecundity that has enabled the entire evolutionary story. Six months later, at Eostar, the flowered seed is held up, as evidence of Her never-ending Presence and Generativity.

At Samhain, the theme is one of journeying yet further into darkness – the Transformation of Death, and therein the conception of the new. It is a time for celebrating the Becomings, the unimaginable More that Gaia has become, and will still yet become. It is a time for remembering the ancestors – creatures, plant and human – out of whom we and the present have arisen, that we are the ancestors of the future, and that we are completely free to imagine/conceive Much More.

Resources -[]

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from sxc.hu

General Evolutionary Paganism[]

Evolutionary Paganism

Metareligious Essay[]

Beltane/Samhain @ EarthGaia[]

The Triple Spiral - a PaGaian Heritage for Our Times[]

PaGaian Cosmology Witch's Voice Essay[]