That Old Black Magic

Because I let the “W” words fly in the last entry, I figure I ought to address that in case any of the folks over at the school who read this (or anyone else, for that matter), are worried.

First, you know from my Cast that I have cats, dogs and a baby, so you can safely surmise that the old stereotype of a witch eating babies and sacrificing small animals is probably not true. Just as a gingerbread house would never last in the woods (hello, humidity and rain are hell on cookies and icing!), and is therefore part of the fantasy of a fairy tale, so too is the fantasy of an old woman living in the woods, calling herself a witch and eating children unreal. I know you’re shocked.

Seriously, though, there is a lot of misinformation out there about my spiritual path and practices. There are two conclusions that are frequently reached, often without the benefit of a conversation with me, that I would particularly like to address. The first is that I don’t believe in God. The second is that I worship (am deceived by, whatever) Satan and/or practice “black” magic. I think I hit on some of these things in the course of my 125 things about me entry, but I would like to talk about them specifically. Of course, depending on your own beliefs, you may or may not choose to hear me. That’s fine. Just don’t accuse me of harming my children and for Pete’s sake, don’t try to scare Gabrielle into thinking we are going to burn in Hell. I’ve already been down that road with a neighbor and it was both ridiculous and heart-breaking. Of course you can think whatever you want, but I’m not interested in hearing about it if it comes from a place of assumed ignorance or proselytizing. I would, however, be interested in an open-minded exchange of ideas and thoughts.

On to the first misconception — that because I say I am Wiccan, or a Witch, or Pagan, I don’t believe in God. If I didn’t believe in God, I would be an atheist. I am not. I went to a lot of churches growing up, trying to find the right one, trying to find the place where I could feel a connection with a God I knew had to be out there somewhere. I heard a lot of things about God and morality, but I didn’t find my niche, you might say, in the Christian church. I think I asked too many questions and had a hard time buying the answer that went something like, “Even though the answer to that question flies completely in the face of reason and everything you learn in other places, you must have faith that what I’m about to tell you is true.” Uh, right. Not only that, but I just had a cold experience in the church. I never really felt a connection with God there, no matter how much I strained or tried to simply “have faith.” So somewhere in my late teens, after an interesting experience with a Mormon boyfriend that ended in a baptism that seriously pissed my dad off, I just took to saying I was agnostic, which to me meant I was seeking answers because I wasn’t sure about anything.

While all this searching was going on, I had many experiences in the outdoors when I was growing up. I went camping a lot when I was small and when we moved to the desert, I spent a lot of time riding my bike or taking walks in the desert. I felt at peace there. I felt a presence when I was outdoors that was very much like what I was looking for in church. I had no idea that when I left the small town I spent my middle and high school years in, I would find a spiritual path that recognized that kind of connection with God.

When I graduated from high school, I briefly lived in the Bay Area with my aunt. I worked at a bookstore, where I first came across a little book by Scott Cunningham called “The Truth About Witchcraft Today.” The woman on the front of the book did not fit my stereotypical image of a witch. She was a career woman, dressed in business attire, clutching a briefcase and hurrying to some unknown destination. She could have been on the cover of “Self” magazine. Really. Intrigued, I took the book home to read. I was shocked to find that there were other people who had that same connection to nature as me, and that they recognized that connection as a connection to the divine, which they called Goddess and God. The more I read, the more I knew that I had found my path.

Yeah, I believe in God. I believe in a divine force, neither male nor female, that is difficult for people to relate to. Some people relate to it as Allah, some people relate to it as Yahweh, some people relate to it as God the Father. I relate to it as Goddess and God, and I am a deep believer. Just as a Christian or Muslim’s belief in God guides their moral compass, so too does my belief. Joseph Campbell says we get the god we are capable of having. For me, that’s a very true statement.

The second misconception, that I am a Satan-worshipping practitioner of “black” magic. Sheesh. Hollywood and some other forces have really done a job on the image of witches everywhere. For me, Satan is a part of the Christian mythology that I just don’t buy. Too convenient. Too easy a scapegoat for bad behavior. In my path, we believe that any energy, or intent, you send out into the world, good or bad, comes right back at you. Sounds a lot like “do unto others,” right? Well, it is. I find that to be a pretty universal rule, actually. But it also means I don’t blame anyone else when I set a series of events into motion that may ultimately boomerang some nastiness back at me. In fact, I just try not to do it. My world isn’t really divided into dualistic black and white, whole good and whole evil. I don’t find that to be realistic. I see a lot of grey. Not much room for Satan.

And black magic? Please. First of all, like I said, Hollywood has really done a number on this. Second of all, what I would consider black magic is magic that is harmful or manipulative. Remember what I said about energy boomeranging back at me? Why would I want it to be harmful or manipulative? And what’s all this “magic” stuff about? In essence, in my practice, magick is a way of praying with props. It’s not at all unlike lighting candles in a church to send a prayer. Or using incense to send prayers up to God. Do I fly, turn people into toads or conjure up demons? Um, no. Emphatically not. And I don’t know anyone in my community who does. Or could, even if they wanted to.

What do I mean when I say my spiritual path is Wicca, and my spiritual practice is Witchcraft? This is an issue that means more to the Pagan community than it does to most others, I guess. But for me, the difference between Wicca and Witchcraft is that Wicca is a spiritual system. It includes a philosophy and a specific code of ethics. Witchcraft is a set of tools that could, I believe, be applied to many spiritual systems. That’s it in a nutshell, pretty much. At least as I see it.

All right. So. If you have questions, PLEASE direct them to me. And if you are at Gab’s school and would like to know more, I would be more than happy to meet with you. Just give me a call.

A later addendum. My husband reminded me about people who DO claim to be Satan-worshipping kitten killing witches. My path does have its… eccentric people. And unfortunately, sometimes they are louder than the rest of us. Some of them aren’t violent or scary, they’re just… vague or really “out there.” To me, this is no different than the array of people representing other faiths. I don’t judge all Christians by Jim Jones, or David Koresh, or the Heaven’s Gate people, or Dubya, or… you get my point. I really do start with a blank slate and let people fill in the image themselves — peaceful, tolerant follower of Christ or raving fundamentalist, or, more often, something in between. In a perfect world, Christians would do the same for people of my path.

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