There are few things worth climbing up 20 flights of stairs. For a main witch’s 22nd birthday, however, we’d climb 100.
The birthday séance was also a much-needed celebration of finishing fourth-year exams, so we decided to go all out. We met on campus dressed in dark clothes, long skirts, and dripping with jewels.
Huddled together in the gusty wind, we smoked cigarettes while waiting for all our witches to arrive. There were yawning students leaving exams when we went inside a lecture hall bathroom to coat ourselves in glitter and rhinestones. A coven is not a common sight at Carleton University. Judging by some of the looks we got, we’re sure people were questioning whether we were real or if a combination of exhaustion and study drugs had caused them to hallucinate. Our backpacks were stocked with all the necessities—red wine, silk flowers, chalk, and candles (which were never lit, for fear of setting off a fire alarm and having to explain to campus security why we were holding a séance inside).
After a loud and public discussion of the best place to cast the circle, we decided the top of the observatory was the only option. It was a long climb up, but that also guaranteed no one else would be around. The tower also gave us the best possible view of campus—perfect for what would be our last night there.
After casting a circle with pink chalk and filling it with rhinestones, we guzzled our wine out of paper bags, took a few pictures and enjoyed each other’s company. Our ridiculous outfits and love for each other created a cloud of feminine energy that not even Ottawa’s winter wind could blow away (there was still fucking snow on the fucking ground in fucking April).
Eventually, our nicotine cravings trumped the serenity of the scene and we started the descent down (much easier than the journey up). We kept chatting and laughing the whole way as we walked through Carleton’s blessed tunnel system to go home. The looks on people’s faces as our posse passed ranged from confused to nervous to downright terrified. That’s when we realized there was something magically different about us that night. For the first time ever, men were dodging our path. We weren’t trying to intimidate, but a second of eye contact with us seemed to make guys nervous. For the most part, the men we passed stared at their shoes and hurried away. What a nice change, considering Ottawa’s rampant street harassment problem. It was a feeling none of us had experienced before.
By the time we reached our next destination, there was an unspoken consciousness that together, we were a force to be reckoned with. That tighten-up, hold-your-breath, clutch-your-keys feeling we get when men walk by at night was gone. If anything, we were the threatening ones. Scaring people shouldn’t be a thrill, but for women who are anxious every night, this was a whole new world. It’s truly amazing what some rhinestones, dark lipstick, and a maxi dress can accomplish.
That night was when we realized just how empowering fashion could be for women.
Welcome to the future, witches!