In honor of Halloween, here’s a look at eight destinations around the world for those who are passionate about witchcraft and the occult.
The fascination that the occult and the dark arts hold for many of us is undeniable. Some people dismiss anything connected with witchcraft as mere superstition, but on Halloween, even the most skeptical won’t say no to dressing up in a costume, sipping a pumpkin spice latte and watching a movie about witches. Whether you’re a practitioner of the dark arts or not, we wish you a frighteningly fun Halloween, and we have a gift for you: a list of places where witchcraft and esotericism play (or have played) a prominent role.
1. Salem, Massachusetts
This charming and typical Massachusetts village went down in history because of the witch hunts that took place in 1692, during which 20 people were imprisoned and executed. Salem is well known in pop culture thanks to quite a few movies, including the true classic, Hocus Pocus, in which Bette Midler gives a magical performance.
2. Triora, Liguria
This village is often called “the Italian Salem”. Perched on the hills of the Argentina Valley, its eerie narrow streets are its defining trait. From 1587 to 1589, a number of local women were accused of causing continuous plagues, killing livestock and even cannibalism. Today, you can come here and relive this piece of history thanks to the local festivals (such as Strigora, the feast of the witches, which takes place right after August 15), the museums devoted to witchcraft and the souvenir shops selling talismans and tarot cards.
3. Turin, Piedmont
Beautiful Turin, joined by Lyon and Prague, is one of the three cities on the “white magic axis” as well as one of the three on the “black magic axis”, along with London and San Francisco. If you take a night tour of Turin, one of the world’s most esoteric cities, you will experience the intrigue firsthand. During the day, the Piemontese capital is beautiful and elegant while at night, the crowds empty out of the squares, replaced by ghostly apparitions. Silhouettes of devils appear at the windows and the fountains become mystical gateways for those who want to follow the call of the Freemasons and surpass superficial knowledge to reach true reality.
4. Holmavik, Iceland
In Iceland’s Holmavik, pagan culture and Christianity coexisted until at least 1000 AD, giving rise to rituals and beliefs that mixed spells with Christian symbols. The Museum of Magic and Witchcraft in Strandagaldur houses artifacts that include reproductions of talismans, instruments for practicing magic, magical pieces of wood that can help you summon the dead or make someone fall in love with you, transcripts of the most important Icelandic spells and a wealth of documentation on the witch trials.
5. Togoville, Togo
In Togoville in West Africa, voodoo and the magical arts are part of everyday life. The loa, spirits of the voodoo religion, have mixed with the Catholic tradition, resulting in a ritual practice involving candles, bells, crosses, tribal dances and spells from the animist African tradition. Fetishes also watch over the different neighborhoods of the city, each with a different role—fertility, healing, bring rain, etc. The boko, local sorcerers, practice their rites in the courtyards to cause temporarily possess people, all voluntary of course. The ritual’s main portion remains a secret, but the ceremony that takes place before includes offerings of shells and jewelry, animal sacrifices and dancing to the beat of the shekere, a musical instrument made from pumpkins.
6. New Orleans, Louisiana
Since we’re on the subject of voodoo, this practice was brought to New Orleans by the black slaves that the French transported to the New World. Owners were forcing their slaves to convert to Christianity—fortunately, however, that didn’t go quite as they planned. One of the most prominent practitioners of the Louisiana Voodoo tradition, Marie Laveau, was a quasi-legendary figure. While there’s not much evidence about her life, we do know, that she lived in New Orleans in the 19th century and gathered an incredible number of followers–in 1874, about 12,000 spectators attended her celebration of the rituals on the eve of June 24, St. John’s Day. The grave believed to be hers in St. Louis Cemetery still attracts many visitors today. Even more, New Orleans is not just famous for its voodoo, but also for its vampires. Local legend says the city, the setting for Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire, was first inhabited by a vampire in 1900, who went by the name of Jacque Saint Germain. He would hold wild parties at his home at 1039 Royal Street, but no one ever saw him eating, except for his constant habit of drinking “red wine.” He fled one night and vanished after a prostitute reported him to the police for biting her on the neck. Today, a community of real-life vampires, all of whom drink human blood as part of their diet.
7. The Hook Peninsula, Ireland
In Ireland, one can find very many places that have local legends with deep magical and esoterical meaning. Out of all of these, the one tied to the Hook Peninsula seems to be perfectly suited for Halloween, as it’s about a haunted mansion: Loftus Hall. It is said that one stormy night, the Devil himself came to the door of Sir Charles Tottenham in disguise. The man, who was playing cards with friends at his house, let the stranger in so he could rest and get dry, but one of the other guests bent down to pick up a piece of paper and noticed that the traveler had bloody hooves instead of feet, which naturally raised some suspicions. The Devil was unmasked, became enraged and flew away from the house, but his presence is said to still haunt Loftus Hall to this day.
8. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
If you think you might be suffering from the effects of the evil eye, you can try to cure it by going to the sanctuary located on top of Penh hill, where, according to legend, a woman with the same name carried four sacred statues of Buddha up from the river. In exchange for a small payment, the sorcerers you’ll find in front of the steps leading up to the temple of Wat Phnom will cure you of the evil eye by putting pieces of meat and fruit in the mouths of the dragon statues as offerings.