Before I regale you with tales of being a scary, sexy halloween witch I have to do my usual prologue of afterthoughts from the previous Adventure.
I told myself I could only write about my spiritual adventures if I could do it respectfully. I don’t know how successful I’ve been with that. Obviously my feelings about organized religion are at a low ebb. I don’t have much good to say about it right now, but I will say this—I’m all for what brings people comfort in their lives. And clearly Xtianity has brought much comfort to many people, otherwise it wouldn’t be so popular.
In my last post I mentioned my older friend who talked me into going to Catholic church with him. He was someone I met at work—a major retailer where no human soul should ever have to spend the bulk of its days—and I’m not sure why we gravitated to each other. He was a 43-yr-old Vietnam vet with severe bi-polar & PTSD and I was a 19-yr-old whose *wisdom* was quickly being erased by *knowledge of the world.*
I made him laugh and he made me feel important. As with school, it was hard for me to get along with co-workers my own age. And I think he felt the same way about the older guys he worked with in the stockroom. There was nothing *inappropriate* about our relationship, but everyone assumed there was, even his family.
If they’d known what we really talked about they’d have been sorely disappointed—books, depression, Vietnam and spiritual beliefs. His description of how the Holy Spirit helped him when he was battling the worst of his mental illness inspired me enough to give RELIGION another try. And though it did not work for me as it had for him, I could never begrudge someone their spiritual medicine.
Of course, when I opted out of going to church with him our friendship also fizzled out. I had to do what was right for me and it was a hard lesson in how spiritual bonds can be stronger than human ones.
*********NOW WHAT YOU’VE BEEN WAITING FOR***********
Adventures in Spirituality: WICCA aka Witchcraft
If you really are expecting tales of sexy, scary halloween witches, Spoiler Alert: there are none.
Wicca the religion is not like the witchcraft you see in movies or TV shows. No maniacal CGI-type special FX. Real magick is much more subtle and hard to detect. It doesn’t insult your intelligence, it defies it.
I was first introduced to “Witchcraft as a religion” by another friend with whom my bond was brief but had lasting impact. When I was still in high school I chose to walk everywhere instead of drive. Crazy, i know. All the other kids couldn’t wait to drive and I just wanted to walk & walk.
On one of my long walks this car pulled up next to me and the driver offered me a ride home. It was a guy who’d already graduated but I remembered him from school. I rode with him and we had a decent rapport so we ended up hanging out regularly after that.
On one of our hangs he introduced me to the big blue book of witchcraft which was probably the only book of its kind in print in the ‘80s. I took the book home and looked it over. I thought it was neat, intriguing, novel. But I didn’t take it very seriously. There was lots of how to do spells (for LOVE or MONEY); it was all about rituals and the use of props like candles & knives & bowls.
I didn’t see how any of this arcane stuff could be of practical use in the modern world I inhabited. But I liked reading about how magick was used by the pre-Xtian societies in Europe, and how Wiccans worshipped the goddess aspects of nature. And since a lot of people at my school already thought I was a witch, I thought it would be cool to turn them into frogs or slugs…
…but the main credo in the big blue book of witchcraft was The Threefold Karmic Law:
The pre-Xtian version of Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, with the added stipulation that whatever you do comes back to you threefold.
Seeing this repeated throughout the book gave it more plausibility but I still couldn’t embrace Wicca as a “true religion” like my friend did. He was pretty serious about it and would let me in on the spells he did — I remember one money spell he did that involved catching the reflection of the full moon in a bowl of water. It was lovely, and I think he even got the money he’d “cast” for, but I still wasn’t convinced this was a sound practice. The things I wanted in life were far less tangible than money or love.
My friend & I had a pretty sad falling out (not over Wicca though). In hindsight I realize he was probably a trans female and I found out he committed suicide in 2010. But I’ll always remember him as hugely instrumental in my own quest for knowledge.
Like I said, the years between 18–22 were a pretty reluctant transition from kid to adult. I had my own suicide attempt, a stay in the hospital & it was recommended that I move back home with my family instead of remaining in vagabondage.
Luckily at that time a friend from ballet school had moved back home for similar reasons. She told me the only thing keeping her going was studying Wicca with a group (coven) in Tampa. I told her I knew a little bit about Wicca and I started going to the Tampa group with her.
It was a legit group—I was expecting a bunch of goth kids with black lips & droopy attitudes. But it was a husband & wife in their 40s, and a few more people of varying ages and genders. The woman in charge (I’ll call her Esmeralda ‘cause why not) was “maternal” and eager to teach us all aspects of Wicca as a philosophy, a religion and a practice in the real world. And she didn’t charge money for it, which reassured me that it wasn’t some kind of scam.
We learned about spells, circles, tools and all the goddesses from different cultures and which aspect of nature each represented, and of course the threefold law was applied to everything we did. One thing Esmeralda specialized in was natural healing.
We made healthy potions to drink and grew herbs to put in food & incense (this was before all that kind of stuff got heavily commodified by the New Age Industrial Complex, which I’ll definitely mention in a later post).
Witch Craft is all about healing. It was ancient pre-Xtian medicine. When the Celts or Gauls or Native American or ancient Egyptian peoples were sick or injured, they went to the “witches.” The wise women & men who knew which herbs, flowers, barks, or other natural materials healed which wounds.
I was initiated into the coven in a detailed ceremony on the Summer solstice. (1990 I think). After that I became more of a “solitary practitioner.” I was busy with work, school and social life but still found time to commune with nature regularly, and to channel my intentions for a better life through the 4 elements.
I would say Wicca as a religion was far more effective at lifting me out of a bad place and putting me back onto a more positive track than Xtianity was. It felt more real to me than praying to a big Daddy-o who thought I was a shitty little sinner, but loved me anyway.
Wiccan philosophy advocates meditations before any performance of spells or circles. Meditating was really difficult considering how stressed out I was back then, but with effort I was able to do it, and even able to reclaim some of the clairvoyant tendencies I had as a young teen. Wiccan meditations are short & direct, unlike the endless meditations practiced in Zen Buddhism (later post).
So the 20s snowballed along crazily, and I disengaged from the active practice of Wicca, but I still held all the teachings & philosophies close to my heart and tried to live by them. When I finally did go to college and had to take a lot of organic science courses, all the things I learned in my Wiccan studies helped me out. And actually Chemistry deepened my understanding of the scientific properties of witchcraft.
I guess all along I had this need to believe that spirit & science were not exclusive of each other; I didn’t need to understand every detail of their synthesis, but I needed to know it was there. It was too much to ask of me to “just have faith in the man upstairs.”
My step father had jokingly called Tante Venice a witch, and though she never mentioned Wicca explicitly when I visited her, part of witchcraft is developing a divine sense. Tante Venice was a gifted diviner; her method of divining was one that we also learned at Esmeralda’s.
[SPOILER ALERT: we all have the potential to get in touch with our own divine senses. It’s not a “gift” that only a few are “blessed” with. (have I ever said how much I hate the word “blessed”? I don’t know why, it’s just one of those moist, slacksy words that gets my goat) Anyway…we are all capable of being clairvoyant, psychic, intuitive at the very least. It takes some understanding and effort though.]
Wow, this is LONG. Sorry it’s not a How To Manual for using your magic powers to do neon telekinetic tricks for your friends. If you want to learn more about Wicca the religion see if you can find the big blue book, I’m sure it’s still out there. Or you can message me if you have valid questions. Just, please, disregard all the Hollywood B.S. you’ve been programmed with.
NEXT TIME, in The Octopus Diary, more exploratory Esoterica, including meeting Moonchild & how much we had in common spiritually, my attempts at anger management through Zen Buddhist meditation, and a psychic safari. Stay with me, y’all.