Before I get to Wicca, I have to talk about witches. Born on Halloween, I like to believe that I was destined to be a freak, a weirdo, an outsider, someone who loves to dress up and pretend to be someone else (and not just on Halloween). (Also, I’ve really got a sweet tooth, so free candy on my birthday is a dream come true. Or free candy on my birthdays helped develop my sweet tooth...) So, is it really any wonder that as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in and inspired by witches?
Aside from a inborn kinship to the mention of witches, my first exposure to a witch character was probably Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. As much fun as Sabrina had pointing her finger at stuff, it wasn’t until I saw The Craft that I found my idea of witches. The girls in The Craft, particularly their leader, Nancy, were rebels, outcasts at their school. They weren’t on their own; they formed a group (“circle” or “coven”) to add support and structure to their witch-ness. And, my god, did they look bad ass in their black-and-white school uniforms and outfits.
It was these 90’s witches (also including the Owens sisters of Practical Magic and Halliwell sisters of Charmed) that inspired my childhood desire to be a witch myself. What would draw a young girl to this witch life (other than her own birthday)? I believe it was the idea of power and control in a world that largely ignored me and gave me none. I was a quiet, shy, timid, introverted kid. It’s hard to make friends when you can’t bring yourself to speak to anyone and no one notices you sitting quietly by yourself. I did have a few friends, though, and I decided that we were to be witches. I had a ring with 4 gems stuck on it that I told them represented the four directions (North, South, East, West) and their corresponding elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water). I, naturally, was the Nancy Downs of the group. No, I didn’t turn evil and crazy, but I was the leader with all the knowledge, bringing my friends along with me, instructing them how to be a witch. I’m sad to report that the only time I remember us attempting to work any magic was to do something mean to a girl we didn’t like. Perhaps our fourth member that had left the group. I do remember that our little coven was broken up due to lack of commitment from the other girls, and perhaps my own Nancy Downs-ing (just a bit overbearing).
I mostly let go of that witchy phase of my childhood, writing it off as a kid playing pretend, as silly as if I’d told my friends we were actually fairies and I knew how to transport us into the fairy realm (Damn, that would have been cool), until I was around 13 years old and decided to look up a word that my favorite witchy show, Charmed, used occasionally; Wicca. I did some Googling and Wikipedia-ing, and learned all I could about the relatively new religion, Wicca, and it’s connection to witchcraft. I learned that the magical world in Charmed had very little to do with the real religion of Wicca, or real life witches, other than some mentions of Sabbats and the vague ideas and tools used for spells.
This is the part of my article where I encourage you to do your own quick Googling and Wikipedia-ing of Wicca and Witchcraft, if you are interested in learning what I learned back then. If you’re not interested in learning about Wicca for yourself, well, keep reading to learn about how it played a part in my life.
It was quite a revelation in my life to discover that this magical thing, that I thought I could only imagine ever being a part of, was a real thing that real people did. I could be a real witch(Wiccan)! I learned as much as I could on Wikipedia articles, Charmed fan sites, and Wicca websites. In that research, I found out that someone named Scott Cunningham was basically like the Wicca expert, and that I should get his book. Well, lucky for me my little town’s little bookstore (and not even the used bookstore run by the old British man who smoked a pipe on its steps, but the legitimate new bookstore in the strip mall) had quite a robust “New Age” section. I bought many books in that section over the next year or so. Some, like Scott Cunningham’s book, Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, were written by Wicca experts and practitioners, while some were a little less reliable in their sources with names like “Spells for Teens”. I soaked up every bit of knowledge I could find. I learned the beliefs, the rituals, the Wiccan rede, the rule of threefold, the sabbats, the spells, the elements, the meanings behind every color, rock, feather, number, and candle. I knew it all. I had collected what I needed to create an alter honoring the God, Goddess, and each of the elements, and changed it seasonally to reflect the Sabbat. I was such a good little Wiccan. Except… as much as I knew exactly how to do rituals, or spells, the right phase of the moon, the right candles to burn, the right words to say, that was the part I couldn’t really get into. Sure, I knew all about it, agreed with most of the beliefs, and loved all the stuff that came with it, but I just wasn’t devout enough to really focus to perform a ritual and really mean it.
Perhaps I should have mentioned this before, but it doesn’t become relavent to my Wiccan journey until around this time. I was raised Christian. Presbyterian, to be more precise. My father was a Presbyterian minister. My brother and I were raised Christian and went to church every Sunday. I mention this all now, because just as I found I couldn’t truly “get into” a completely devout Wiccan way of life, I had never been a devout Christian. Going to church and Sunday school every week did not convince me to be a “good” Christian, or believe anything, or want to worship anything, or devote my life to anything. I just went because I had to. Before you think I was actively rebelling by not being totally down with Christianity, let me say that my “Christian household” was not as overwhelmingly religious as you are probably thinking. The most religion in my house, aside from Christian paraphernalia and books in my dad’s study and sheet music for hymns sitting on my mom’s piano, was saying Grace before dinner. Of course, church was a big part of our household. It was my dad’s job, one that he did mainly from home, and my mom was always involved in the choir, Sunday school, and other parts of church life. But we didn’t discuss Christianity around the dinner table, or say our prayers before bed. My dad would talk about Christianity more like a theologian than a Bible-thumper. And my mom seemed more concerned with maintaining a reputation of a perfect Christian family than actually enforcing Christian beliefs or practices on us.
You needed to know that part of my childhood and family before this next part of my Wiccan journey. Throughout this time of discovery and accumulating many books and candles and crystals, I had never discussed my new interest with my parents. We didn't talk much about, well, anything. I didn’t exactly hide my growing collection from my parents, but I certainly did not show my mom the new book I just bought full of spells. My small bookshelf now read “Wicca” or “Witchcraft” on most of the spines, and I had an alter set up on my dresser, but still, the topic was never discussed. Until The Incident. Okay, it was not as ominous or dramatic as that title makes it sound. This was when my parents officially found out what I was into and we had to talk about it. I had lent a friend some of my books on Wicca, Witchcraft, and divination, at her request. She was curious to learn more about this thing I was into. Well, the next day her dad drove over to drop off the books saying that my friend wasn’t allowed to have them. (Or something to that effect, it was my brother who answered the door.) My brother was absolutely delighted to have something to laud over me and get me in trouble once our parents got home in a few hours. My mother’s reaction boiled down to the statement “As long as you live in our house you won’t practice any other religion [than Christianity].” My Dad was more understanding about my curiousity in other religions and responded by bringing me up an old World Religions calendar which had the holy days of many relgions marked on its days as well as information about the many religions. I was much happier with my Dad’s understanding and, to an extent, encouragement in my seeking knowledge of the world around me.
I call this The Incident, as it is one of few family drama “big” conversations that we had in my house, and I don’t remember my interest in Wicca lasting much longer after that. It wasn’t because of what my mother said (She didn’t confiscate any books, so I figured I could still believe whatever I wanted to believe as long as I kept going to church) but I think at this point it had been over a year, and I was losing interest. I don’t remember an exact end to my time with Wicca, but I think by the time I started high school, I no longer had an alter, was no longer buying up all the Wicca and Witchcraft books from the bookstore, and was no longer considering myself a Wiccan. My connection to Wicca didn’t suddenly end, however. Throughout high school, I used my knowledge and interest in it for more than one school assignment. They say write what you know, right?
Aside from the memories of that time in my life, my instinctual connection to any witch characters, and my ingrained knowledge of Wicca, there are a few parts of the religion that I still keep with me today.
The Wiccan Rede
"An it harm none, do what ye will." Sound familiar? Ya, it’s basically “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Just about every religion has as similar saying. Because all religions boil down to; “Don’t be dick", right? This rede is what I still use as a sort of morality test, should I find myself conflicted. How do I feel about religion, polictics, beliefs, sexuality, lifestyle choices? Well, as long as you’re not hurting anyone (emotionally, mentally, physically), then I can’t see why people shouldn’t do that!
God and Goddess
While I consider myself to be mostly atheist at this point, I did, and still do, like that Wicca specified two deities; one male, one female. These days I interperet that more like the yin and yang theory; that we all have masculine and feminine inside of us. It seems silly to gender anything these days, when even people don’t feel the need to be gendered, but I still believe there is a place for masculine and feminine, however you interpret each, in ourselves and everything we do.
The Rule of Threefold
You may have already heard of this one if you’re a fan of The Craft. That movie did have some legitimate Wiccan practices within it. The Rule of Threefold is also seen throughout religions and spirital beliefs. Ever heard of The Secret aka The Law of Attraction.? What you put out into the world comes back to you. Wicca specifies this as coming back to you threefold, but the premise is the same. If you put out positive energy (from an optimisitic outlook on life to performing acts of service) then you wil receive positive energy back into your life. And the same for negative energy, as they learn in The Craft. I like the idea of attracting the things you need in life because you are putting it out into the universe. Even if you don’t want to get spiritual about it, I think you can agree on something like a happy, positive person is more likely to bring happy, positive people into their life than an unhappy, negative person is.
A Connection with Nature
The respect and connection with nature and the four elements is an integral part of Wicca. Even though I know a tree doesn’t really have “feelings” like humans do, I still have the respect that my time with Wicca ingrained in me that stops me from, say, breaking a branch off a tree for no reason. Or if I have a reason, to mentally say a little “Sorry/thanks” to the tree. Spirituality aside, we’re all just trying to live on the same big rock flying through space, so let’s all work together and get along, right?
My love of an “occult” home decor style is everlasting. Candles everywhere, skulls, crystals, bits of nature, figurines of various religious figures… It makes me heart-eye-emoji. I’ve also always been quite a materialistic person. Not that I value material goods over the important things in life, but I get attached to physical objects when they have meaning and memories. So, while I don’t believe my rose quartz will bring me love, I do believe it holds memories and looks cool sitting on my shelf with my other crystals and rocks.
While the Wiccan time of my life is long past, it will remain a part of my life as memories of my early teen years, knowledge of Wiccan practices, and where I picked up some beliefs that I still hold today. And I will never be able to help myself from being interested in witches in any TV show or movie, even if I end up just shaking my head at the misuse of Wiccan practices.