[Happy Independence Day! Sharing a post from three years ago. Frankly, My Dear, it’s a little scary to admit you’re a (Shhh..don’t say the “W” word!)] ~
“Do you really want to include this in the beginning of your book?” asked Linda.
“Why do you ask?” I replied.
“I just thought you might want to consider whether it might affect your sales. I mean, some people who read that right off the bat may be offended by it. Of course, it’s up to you.”
Linda felt that she should focus keenly on grammar, spelling, and clarity, but dance lightly when it came to questioning my ideas and language. As a memoirist, she thought I should tell my story in my words, not hers, nor any other editor’s. When she did question something, I took notice!
I re-read the excerpt from “Author Notes,” which prefaced my memoir: “I have opted to capitalize the words Witchcraft and Pagan as I feel they have been in lower case for far too long.”*
I thought about my reluctance to publicly declare myself a ‘Witch,’ in spite of being called one since my first Halloween birthday, when my parents thought it was cute to put a black and orange cone-shaped hat on my head. Strapped into a high chair, and bribed with an all-you-can-eat buffet of cake and ice cream, I allowed them their joke. By the time I was in my teens, I even thought being called a Witch was kinda cool, and wondered if it had anything to do with my obsessions with Rod Serling, Barnabas Collins, and trying to control candle flames with my mind.
Flash forward to my thirtieth year, and I did indeed find myself immersed in a world of mysticism, magic, and meaningful spiritual connection. I went to Pagan events, explored a Wiccan path by joining a coven, and set up an altar in my home. Yet, when asked if I was a ‘Witch,’ which was often, my pat answer was to reply with the challenge, “Define Witch.”
“I..er..uh..duh..umm..I dunno. Do you know what it means?” has been the most common reaction. I wish I could show you the widened eyes, dropped jaws, and backward steps people took as they stumbled into their own boobytrap.
That’s where I’d jump in with, “Well, I have an idea of what I think a Witch is. But first, I’d like to address the irony of you asking me to say whether I am, or am not, something that you don’t even know what it means to be!” Usually this would be met with a downward-cast face, slight sidewards grin, and a shuffling of the feet: common body language for, ‘You got me!’
In spite of the myriad of pentagrams adorning my house, I have preferred to call myself ‘a spiritual seeker.’ I was selective about where and when I wore a pentacle around my neck, lest someone have a noose left over from The Inquisition. There was a strange combination of fear (of offending someone, or of meeting their fear head-on) and a reluctance to paint myself into a spiritual corner, to be defined as part of one group to the exclusion of others. On the top of my list of pet peeves is all the blood spilled in the name of religion, and I didn’t want to add to the polarity. I have long been interested in finding the thread that connects all religions, rather than arguing about whose god or goddess is top dog, or if deity exists at all.
Among many of the things that drew me to a Pagan path, is its lack of dogma and restriction. The atmosphere of this path has been one that encourages expansion and study in any area that you are drawn to. I see this happening today not only in the Wiccan/Pagan community, but as reflected by recent polls that show many people defining themselves as ‘spiritual, but not religious.’
Despite my obvious Pagan leanings, I tucked my pentacle into my shirt and kept a low profile about my spiritual preferences. Then, a couple of years ago, while discussing a web-weaving ritual with a New Age ‘Minister,’ I got a jolt. He was nodding with great interest, until I told him I had learned about it at a Witch gathering. He cast his eyes around the room, lowered his voice, and said, “It sounds like a lovely idea, but we don’t mention the “W” word around here.”
REALLY? My mind screamed inside but I was too shocked to make a sound. Here, in the midst of a room full of crystals, incense, Tarot cards, books on Ascension; Here, among Reiki healers, intuitive readers, herbalists, and people burning pieces of paper to send their intentions of love and light into the Cosmos; HERE, in the middle of this regurgitated mishmash of ancient mystical magical new age mumbo-jumbo, you are telling me that “Witch” is not a word we say OUT LOUD? Really?”
I guess that, and centuries of people accused of practicing Witchcraft being systematically tortured and murdered, finally did it. It wasn’t an isolated incident. I had noticed a tendency to marginalize Wiccans and Pagans within the New Age and alternative spirituality communities before. I even recall a man I dated briefly explaining why Wicca was an inferior path to Buddhism. (Damn, I didn’t think Buddhists were spiritual snobs! I still don’t think they are, if they’re doing it right.) When I asked him why, if he felt that way, he was at a Pagan gathering instead of a Buddhist retreat, he told me it was easier to pick up women at Pagan gatherings. (Need I explain why we only dated briefly?)
Ultimately, what I’ve come to believe is that this energy which is the source of all creation is so beyond our comprehension that we need to distill it to a simpler form to begin to wrap our minds around it. And this omnipotent, infinite, unimaginable force is experiencing itself in every way that its unbounded imagination can fathom. In this view, I begin to comprehend what is meant by “We are all One.” I can look at a fellow human, like my friend Rebecca and think, You are God, experiencing yourself as an Author, a Teacher, and a Roller Derby jammer. I can look at the guy who just cut me off on Route 41 and think, You are The Great Spirit, experiencing yourself as an idiot.” And I can look in the mirror and say to myself, You are Divinity, experiencing yourself, among other things, as a Modern Witch/Pagan/Spiritual Seeker.
This is America, in the year of our Lord and Lady 2013. If there has ever been a time or a place when I SHOULD feel safe to stand up and state my spiritual beliefs, without fear of being tarred and feathered, it’s here, and it’s now. In the land of the free, and home of the brave, knowing that in a time past I may have been slain at birth for coming into the world on All Hallows Eve, I rejoice in being alive, and in being able to say, “I am a Witch. Yes, I am an American Witch.” It’s a very American thing to be able to stand up and say that.
Happy Independence Day, Namaste, and Blessed Be to my fellow Americans!
With Love from Eve,
an American Witch
*”Author’s Notes” excerpt from CELESTIAL BODIES IN ORBIT: Memoirs of The Unknown Stripper by Eve Littlepage