A well-meaning friend suggested that I might want to be a little less witchy here in lower Alabama. I can understand why she would give that advice. I certainly don’t wish to be a target for people who will probably never try to understand other points of view, let alone something as controversial and misunderstood as witchcraft. There is always the pressure to blend in, conform, and adopt the “when in Rome” mentality. That goes double for a tiny military town like this one.
In my current stage of life, though, I’m politely but firmly ignoring that pressure. I’m too far out of the broom closet to get shoved back in, and I refuse to make myself smaller and more digestible for others. Either they can handle all that I am, or they can choke on me. While my spiritual path is not the first thing I lead with upon being introduced to someone new, it’s also not something I’ll hide or tiptoe around if I’m asked about it directly. Anyone who wants to do a diligent search can find me easily enough on this blog and on Instagram—I identify as a witch in both places. I understand there is value in speaking to someone at his/her level, which I try to do as much as I’m able, but not to the extent that I feel compromised or lessened in any way.
I’ve watched people bristle over the word witch for the last 15 years, when I first started rolling it around on my tongue and applying it to myself. It felt like a new black dress that I hadn’t quite grown into yet, but I wore it anyway, trusting that it would fit perfectly someday. Now the sleeves drape gracefully, the hem falls where it should, and the bodice hugs me tenderly in all the right places. Witch I am. Witch I shall always be, even when I don’t feel like witching (see previous post). My path is strange, winding, and quite lonely at times, but at least it is my own.
I know it’s a bit more socially acceptable for most if I just talk about the Goddess or the Divine Feminine and avoid the “w” word. I’ve done that in person and on this blog for years. The waters are always calmer if I talk about energy and holistic healing without mentioning things like spells and rituals. It’s disappointing, and it feels like watered down whiskey every single time. If you have ever stood in a cast circle and felt the currents of energy running around and through you, if you have ever invoked the Goddess under a full moon, if you have ever summoned the elements and felt the wild, infinite power of each one…well, then you understand.
I’ve been around the New Age community enough to know that witch can send ripples through a room and silence it faster than you can blink. I’ve made the mistake too many times of thinking that acceptance would be automatic, only to find myself shunned by people who hoard crystals, play with oracle cards, carry on conversations with dead people…and still show up for church on Sunday. It was all rather confusing, or maybe they were confused about their own path. It all served to teach me that (a) I can never assume anything about the tolerance level of any group, and (b) I don’t ever have to stay in a situation where I’m not welcomed for who and what I am.
When you can’t find community, sometimes you have to create one. I lead a small study group for solitary or eclectic witches, meaning those who are not affiliated with a particular coven or system. We draw from many sources. We do our own thing, but we also enjoy having an online forum where we can read books together, discuss them, and share our questions and observations. We’re currently reading The Inner Temple of Witchcraft by Christopher Penczak, which offers plenty of meaty material for witches old and new. In Chapter 4, he leads with a paragraph that reaffirms what it means to wear the mantle of the wise:
The witch’s path is not an easy road to walk. Through the roots of our history, we have seen the persecution of those who practice the art of magick and the mysteries of the Goddess and God. Though death is not the result in this day and age, witches are still discriminated against. If you can handle the difficulties, the life of the witch is very joyous, filled with never-ending study and exploration. Witches learn many disciplines to ply their craft. One must be a dedicated student, but also have the passion, the fire, necessary to live life as a witch. Witchcraft is constantly adapting and evolving, calling creative, daring people to it. (59)
I heard that call, as I’m sure many of you did as well. We are writing our own history as we go. Future generations will base their opinions and ideas on what “witch” means by how we present ourselves and what we leave behind. It is my hope that we leave them with a definition of kindness, healing, love, strength, and reverence for the world around us.
Copyright © 2017 Jennifer R. Miller. All rights reserved.
Penczak, Christopher. The Inner Temple of Witchcraft: Magick, Meditation, and Psychic Development. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2002. Print.