You Say “Witch” Like It‘s a Bad Thing

Photo by Mark Tegethoff on Unsplash

The answer to one question on my admission to a hospital raises eyebrows and sometimes there’s a pinched mouth (especially if the admissions intake person is an older woman). The question? What is your religion?

I answer truthfully: Wiccan…and usually have to add, “I’m a witch” for clarity.

That’s my religion, well, at least basically. In “I was once a member of a Coven,’ I gave a brief history of my spiritual quest. However something that important usually takes longer to explain because it took time to get to this belief system.

Religion usually follows Family Lines — -

My mother was Methodist and married my father whose own father was Catholic but my father wasn’t raised in the Catholic Church — his mother was Dunkard. The Dunkards (who believed in three “dunks” for Baptism — one for each of the Trinity, separated from the Anabaptist). About as far as one can get from Catholicism My Grandfather did not go to Mass; at least, I never knew him to go. I never saw my father go to Mass or if he just used Catholicism as an excuse not to go to church with my mother.. I don’t know if religion was important to him. He always said he talked to God whenever he was in the woods.

My mother was the one to initiate me and my sister to Sunday school and church services. Someone gave me a doll dressed as a nun when I was very young. I loved her and then fancifully, as children do, believed I could be a nun, gliding down a cathedral aisle in my long black habit, crucifix swinging from my waist. I started to look into becoming a Catholic and discovered it too constricting, even as a child. I would try again as a young teen. My mother stopped going to church when members would ask her every Sunday to bring her husband. Weren’t her daughters enough?

I was confirmed in the Methodist religion and went to church services and Sunday School. I read the Bible… er…religiously. I thought Jesus was the white, long-haired handsome man with blue eyes who could do magic.

Most of my friends went to church services, some to the Methodist Church on Main Street, a few blocks from our apartment over my father’s barbershop. I was chubby and didn’t have nice clothes or toys like my friends and going to church made me feel more like them and I wanted to be more like them. They went to the Jersey Shore for vacations, I went to my aunt’s. At eight, I had a vague notion of self-esteem. I knew I didn’t have it.

By the time I was in Junior High I was a voracious reader and a history nerd. I inhaled any books about English history, especially the Tudors. I loved the family intrigue and the beheadings. As I grew older and read more, I was beginning to realize that, other than greed there was one other main reason for war and the decimation of a land and its people, religion. One religion was, of course, the true religion, and no matter what any commandments might say, killing off the people of the other religions was the way to go.

My first husband didn’t believe in God so there was no push to go to church. I was the family breadwinner but got little respect so I moved on to books about female empowerment. And I learned that one of the greatest female power throughout history was the Wise Woman who helped with births and illnesses; however, when one came up against the patriarchy, she was declared a “witch.” The incorrect Biblical translation of “Don’t suffer a witch to live” would be taken literally and money and lands would be seized and the Wise Woman executed on the flimsiest of charges.

I took a class in witchcraft and learned that most of the spells are directed inward. I learned that nature and the wheel of the year were honored. We gathered in a group and when that was over, I became a “solitary” — practicing alone. We don’t believe in Satan. As Laurie Cabot (the witch of Salem) once said, “the Devil is a Christian god.” We don’t sacrifice animals or people; that’s the military/industrial complex.

Wicca is a Nature religion. I’ve also studied Native American beliefs and sometimes I feel I have one foot on the Green Path (Wicca) and one foot on the Red Path (Native). Both belief systems have helped me through life’s downs and helped rejoice life’s ups. Hedgewitchery, the use of nature, was probably in my Welsh/Cornish heritage many years ago. So it was a well-worn path.

And now it’s Samhain night. The time when the veil between the worlds has thinned. There are so many people I would like to see again (or, like John Lennon, for the first time). The coven would have each of us burn a small paper with the name of a loved one who’d passed — to send the name and our love to them in the Universe. If the sending was successful the loved one would visit us in our dreams.

And now I must write “John Lennon” on a small piece of paper and find my fireplace lighter..

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