Own Your Shit, or How I Became a Witch
Shit’s been getting real. I don’t know if it’s the solar flares, the spring equinox, the dark moon, and retrogrades of Mars, Mercury, and Saturn all happening this week or if it’s my Saturn return really starting to kick in. Welcome to the crossroad folks. I’ve spent the past half-year in a dark night of the soul (albeit a rather cheerful, social one) trying to accept everything the Fates throw at me with the grace and balls of a Lady. I like to think I’ve been doing quite well at it, but some things have suffered a bit while I was figuring out who I am, who I want to be, what I want to do, and what direction to take my art and businesses (you know, the light stuff). My blogging and writing have definitely suffered. I’ve been so introspective and some of my spiritual practices have felt so private that I’ve had a hard time wanting to write for public consumption. But… Saturn and I have been chatting (it’s much easier to go along with the Old Man than to resist) and he somehow crushed all my fears so that I was left wondering why I let them stop me in the first place.
Saturn says own your shit: I am a bone collector and scavenger of the dead. I am a poisoner and a ritual user of entheogens. I am a healer and cleanser of the soul. I am a seer who sees the future in dreams, visions, cards, tea leaves, and omens in nature. I am a dream walker and shaper. I am a shapeshifter of the flesh and the spirit. I am a witch who consorts with the spirits of animals, plants, and the dead – in this world, in the otherworld, and in the underworld. I am a priestess of Light, Intoxication, Fate, Death, and Sex. This is who I am now.
This is how I became a witch…
I was baptized Catholic so you know I’m definitely going to Hel. I had grown up in Sunday school from when I was born until the age of fifteen – Catholic, Anglican, United… they ran together after a while. In my early teens I had the best Sunday school teacher ever – he taught us all to think for ourselves, to question everything, and to do the right thing instead of what we were told or expected to do. When I was fifteen we were going to a Baptist church (who pretended the Old Testament was a figment of their imagination) and I realized I wasn’t feeling full of God’s love like the others, I had no patience for guilt or shame, and I believed in sex before marriage with anyone you chose. So I left. At the time I thought witches were mythological creatures, cool, but not real.
After that it started innocently enough with my early love of dreams, fairy tales, and folklore escalating into a passion for herbs, astrology, and palmistry. I started lighting candles on the full moon for prayers of blessing upon my family and friends. I started doing bits of sympathetic magic like writing problems on a piece of paper and burning it, wishing things to sort themselves, and then having it work. I found a book of Druidry at my grandmother’s and copied out the symbols into notebooks and as protection runes over the doors and windows of my first dorm room at college. It was then that my roommate admitted to me she was Wiccan. She was a gorgeous sexy Scorpio with dark eyes, skin, and hair. She told me she was a witch, worshipped the moon, and performed rituals. “Wait, witches exist? I must investigate this further.” A successive roommate was also Wiccan and she used to read tarot cards for me. The naughty Libra I was seeing at the time was an energy worker and told me he’d started to practice as a Wiccan. I figured all these Wiccans couldn’t be coincidence and finally researched what it was all about for a few months. I read, I went to local Pagan pub moots, I chatted up the Wiccans, I went to covens’ rituals…
Nope, not my cup of tea. I wanted to be like Malcolm Bird‘s witches and Baba Yaga instead. I wanted the darker more folkloric witches of my favourite childhood fairy tales. It took me a while to find them. In between I found occultism, chaos Magic, energy work, and grimoire magic. I was very good at chaos magic – especially glamouring, curses, energy manipulation, and calling spirits. Sigil magic and Osman Spare turn me on. I consorted with shapeshifters, energy vampires, necromancers, chaos magicians, and a sexy wild witch who’d never read a book on magic or heard of Wicca, but could do things beyond most adepts. She and I were sirens and maenads together in the streets of Toronto; finding magic and making mischief wherever we went. I was a line cook on Bloor St. back then. If you were there at the time, maybe you would’ve seen 20-year-old me in the shady Green Room after a night shift talking about magic with the other cooks over a pint of beer and then sneaking into the alley after to smoke a joint. I read tarot and palms in cafés and did rituals in parks at midnight under the full moon with the crack heads looking on in amusement.
And then I found Traditional Witchcraft. Bells went off, Demons sang, fiddles played… It was dirty and practical – based in the folklore and fairy tales I loved so well. It was folk magic and I fell completely in love. It was pretty much everything I believed and practiced up to that point. I loved that darker, more secretive, devil at the crossroad, dirty blood and bones style of witchcraft. It really turned me on in a way I hadn’t experienced before with magic. It was sexy to me and more alluring than the subversiveness of chaos magic and the dangers of energy work. As you can see I never really went the Goddess-loving route. When I found my “inner goddess” she was Pompa Gira, Lilith, siren and succubus, chthonic devourer of sexual energies… I thought it best my inner goddess should remain inner (unless behind consenting closed doors). Some occultists ritually cut ties with the Church by saying the Lord’s Prayer backwards – I had sex with a girl in front of a church during Sunday service – potayto potahto (did I not mention I’m bisexual?). Now my background and associates may be darker than your average Pagan woman, but I assure you I am a good, honest, sweet, moral person… just more hedonistic and foul-mouthed than most (I did say I was once a line cook). As one of my favourite local singers once said: “one man’s evil is another man’s amusement park.”
We just lost some of the men for a minute so I’ll speak of my less titillating adventures in the Pagan community. Cooks travel. A lot. After working in restaurants and practicing magic in Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto I moved back home to British Columbia – to the Pacific Ocean and the mountains upon mountains of my childhood. After a horrible experience with a teacher who taught me nothing, but from whom I learned much, I joined local Pagan groups and I went to the rituals and parties of local covens. I attended the local Pagan festivals and Pagan Pride Day. I dated Wiccans. I hung out with more Wiccans, Druids, Heathens, Thelemites, Heremeticists, Hellenic reconstructionists… I started hosting rituals for 20-50 people in my ritual group. It was really good practice and experience – kills stage fright and teaches you how to be practical, entertaining, and facilitate the spiritual experiences of others. I was invited to join a few covens but I turned them down because, as much as I loved the people, I knew Wicca wasn’t for me.
I met my witchcraft teacher by accident (there are no real accidents with Fate, however). We bonded as friends over our love of reading and snarking occult books. We shared our spiritual beliefs and practices almost exactly. I didn’t know who he was. I just thought he was a very cool, wickedly intelligent, and darkly sarcastic man and witch. Our quick minds, sharp tongues, and darker leanings matched perfectly. It was uncanny and wonderful – like being the only philosopher in a small village and suddenly another philosopher comes to visit and you speak for hours upon hours on all manner of things you never could with anyone else around you. We would talk so much and so long sometimes we would forget to eat or sleep. I’m sure his husband thought we were a bit mad. At the time he wasn’t accepting students and I wasn’t looking for a teacher. Some things are just meant to be. He initiated me and trained me. Those rare non-Wiccan witchcraft lineages do exist in North America my friends – they’re just quiet and keep to themselves so as not to draw attention. Most of the great magics going on right now are by those who quietly go about their business consorting with spirits.
My teacher believes in studying paths and beliefs outside of your own and out of your comfort zone. He is wise. I studied Haitian Vodou, hoodoo/rootwork, and shamanism. They seemed so foreign when I first approached them, but after passionate research doors opened, spirits sang, drums sounded… The elements I loved in Traditional Witchcraft were there too. The common elements that screamed at me were spirit work, sympathetic magic, folk magic, and ancestor worship – the working with blood, bones, plants, and dirt. I am not a practitioner of Vodou or Hoodoo, but I know them well and still talk to and feed some of the Lwa. It was at this time I realized and accepted I was an animist and spirit worker, not a god-worker like most modern Witches and Pagans I knew. Learning outside my comfort zone allowed me to return to my craft with missing puzzle pieces and a better understanding of my own path. I found balance in working with the animal and plant spirits of our world, the spirits of the upperworld, and the spirits of the dead in the underworld. I found the World Tree. I learned how to navigate the other worlds. I returned to witchcraft with a cosmology of my own understanding.
Suddenly every fairy tale, folk tale, myth, and ancient symbol I read made sense on a deeper level. Something clicked and I understood the symbolism locked away in some primeval ancestral part of my brain. My abilities as a mystic, seer, and dream walker evolved and strengthened. I suspended disbelief and decided to just go with my visionary experiences and interactions with spirit. Shit got real – fast. I am glad I worked through my fears and went with it. I am grateful I had someone to tell me I wasn’t crazy and what I was going through was normal (for a mystic-witch-seer). And so here I am now; a sane, adept, ever-learning, ever-seeking witch.
I still consort with chaos magicians, energy workers, necromancers, and shapeshifters, but now I’ve added seers, shamans, traditional witches, and rootworkers to the pot. We run wild in forests under the moon and stars beating our drums and calling on spirits. We pass bottles of our home-brewed meads around the bonfires in reverential offering. We ingest leaf and mushroom to open doors to the other world. We whisper to each other of futures seen and deeds not yet done. We live magic.