Once a Witch, Always a Witch
I’ve heard it said “Once a Witch, always a Witch, ” meaning that if we were a Witch in a previous life, we are more or less destined to be a Witch in this one. I don’t know if that’s specifically true in my case, but it might explain some things in the story of my journey to the Craft.
As with many of my generation (and other generations, of course!), my first introduction to the concept of a Witch was the infamous Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz. Oddly enough, when most of my friends and relatives were rooting for Dorothy and her crew, I was on the side of the Witch. After all, she wasn’t that horrid to me – Margaret Hamilton looked better in green and black than she did in plain black-and-white, and she had a better personality than many of my friends’ mothers! And most importantly, all she wanted were her late sister’s shoes. More than anything, it was the matter of the Witch of the East’s death and the dispute over the slippers that really set my young mind in turmoil. Why shouldn’t the Witch be mad at Dorothy? The little brat had killed her sister and stolen her slippers. Wasn’t that wrong? It seemed perfectly logical to me that the Witch should be irate. Even after my parents and friend tried to “explain” things to me, I still had my doubts.
Then came Bewitched. I don’t think I missed an episode in the first run. Aside from the madcap comedy, I was attracted by the underlying story of Samantha – a Witch just trying to live an everyday life. Little did I know that that admittedly exaggerated and fictionalized story line would become my own life story decades later! But despite the enthusiasm I had for the show, I also realized intuitively that Witchcraft was much more that waving your hands, reciting rhymes and twitching your nose. On some level, I knew that although they might have some things right, they were still way off the mark.
So much for the media influence on my childhood – what about religion and spirituality? My parents are devout Methodists in their own right, and raised us as such. That is to say, they believed that your religion (synonymous, to them, with spirituality) was something that you lived and breathed every day, not just in the confines of the church or congregation. To the point, in fact, where going to church became less and less of a priority for my parents as their children matured. Eventually, we would all drift away from the “fold” to find our own ways. There came a time when my parents no longer insisted that I accompany them to church. This was about the time I “came of age” and began to search for my own independence. I stopped going to church, not because I was particularly anti-Christianity, but because I found no spiritual fulfillment in our church. It was the early ’70s, and the church was heavily involved in “political” issues – the War in Viet Nam, women’s rights, racial equality and so on. All very worthy endeavors – but to me, they were just newspaper headlines, and did not address the yearning that was beginning to awaken within me. So I left the church but not in anger, and I bear it no particular animosity to this day. I know many people for whom it has become a spiritual anchor, a source of strength and beauty in their lives, and who can decry that?
Thus began my journey, though I didn’t think of it as such at the time. Over the next few years, into my early 20s, I would develop my own understanding of the Divine that, oddly enough, would dovetail very neatly with the Paganism that I would encounter years later. Principally, I came to see that Deity was immanent in the world, not separate from it, and that Deity could as easily be Her as Him. In fact, I clearly remember one of the most insightful moments of my young life, when I saw the bumper sticker that read “God Is Coming, And Boy Is She Pissed!” – and I thought “Of course! Why shouldn’t God be female? He/She/Them/It can be anything They want!”
Interestingly, during this period, I was heavily involved in school theatre, and played the Rev. Hale in The Crucible, and John the Witch-Boy in Dark of the Moon. It was the latter experience that really fueled my nascent interest in Witchcraft as a viable and living Tradition, as well as a mystical Path, and would stay with me through the dark and tumultuous years that were to come. It was also through Dark of the Moon that I made a connection with my Appalachian roots, and the long, deep tradition of Witchcraft that runs through the hollows.
Unfortunately, shortly after my graduation from high school, my life ran aground on the shoals of alcoholism, and remained marooned there for the next decade and a half. That’s not to say that I didn’t try to find my way, but spirituality and addiction are mutually exclusive. As much as I sought, and read and tried to practice, I never could make any headway. Duh! Zen meditation doesn’t really work if you’re getting up every five minutes to get a cold beer.
I ran the gamut from Taoism to Zen to Shinto to Western Occultism and even into Satanism, and nothing seemed to “work.” Eventually, I just gave up and drifted, empty and in pain.
When I’d had enough of that, I finally got sober. It’s interesting that it was through the gateway of AA, a spiritual program with decidedly Christian origins, that I finally came to the Craft. For years, I had assumed that the concept of Deity I had evolved in my late teens was somehow “wrong” because it wasn’t like “everyone else’s.” Then I got into AA, and one of the first things I really heard was “God as we understand Him.” That went through me like a lightening bolt, and suddenly everything that I used to think I believed in was supported, validated and encouraged. Suddenly, I was back on the Path, back to my journey of discovery.
It would take another two years, involve a side-journey through the realms of shamanism, and finally an introduction to the Internet, but at last I came “home” to the Craft. Even that was a near thing – my Teacher and I met on the Internet, began a correspondence that became a friendship and eventually led to my Dedication and Initiation. But how easily we could have missed each other! Surely the Gods were working that day to make sure we got together.
Since then, my journey has continued through many trials, including lapses in my sobriety. And I am even more convinced than ever that my sobriety must come first, for without it, I am totally cut off from the Gods. But when I am sober, and in tune with my Deities, my life is sweet beyond any ability of mine to describe. Not always easy, mind you – not always gentle. But always sweet, even if there is a little tartness or bitterness to set off the sweetness.
I began as a lone wanderer, became a Wiccan Priest, and now find myself something of a wanderer again. I must confess I am more at home in the role of Solitary – what some call a Hedge Witch – than I am as part of a coven or even less formal group. The Tradition into which I am Initiated is descended from Gardnerian Wicca, but would surely be considered Eclectic by hard-core Traditionalists. And I am a bit eclectic even for my Tradition!
And so it goes. Each day, I find a new aspect to my Craft. Some of them fit into my practice of Wicca, some fit into my practice of hedgecraft. I’ve come to realize lately that when I thing of myself as Wiccan, I think in terms of the religion and the group. When I think of myself as a Witch, I think in terms of my individual spiritual life and practice. There is, to me, a wildness and freedom about being a Witch that doesn’t always fit well into even the most liberal of Wiccan frameworks. And yet I derive strength and awen – a Druid term – from each.
This is my tale. These are my thoughts and opinions. May they be of amusement or use to someone out there.