What I mean by witch and why you should drink beer while reading this post

There is so much misunderstanding about witchcraft. Like, it’s a cartoon, and not an ancient and sacred tradition. Last week, I was in the coffeeshop where my writers group has been meeting for many years, and a man –not one of the writers – said to me “You are much too beautiful to be a witch.” Okay. Thanks for that. I mean it. But, I have to ask: would he have said “You are much too beautiful to be a Lutheran?”  Or “a Jew?”

I wish I had thought to say that in the moment. Don’t you just hate that?

But I understand, I do. The Vatican’s Mad Men have been running an ad campaign against witches for about 1,000 years. That’s some serious branding, people. But let me just break it down for you. When I say I am a witch, I am saying that I am part of a tradition of finding the divine in nature that predates Christianity, Judaism… that is as old as the wonder of the night sky and the shelter of trees. When I say “I am a witch,” I mean that…

1.     I believe in a feminine divine (Goddess) and a masculine divine (God) and all the genders in between. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but I think of the goddesses and gods as the living faces of an unknowable mystery and I have a small crowd of them that I work with.

2.     I experience the seasons as a cycle of life and death that is a guide to living in balance and I celebrate the eight holidays accordingly. (When I remember to stop on the way home to pick up a small animal for sacrifice. Totally. Kidding. See note about Vatican’s Mad Men, above.)

3.     I believe the divine is present in all things, including me. I believe that the earth is a living being, as are the stars and the whole of existence.

4.     I believe in science and mystery.

5.     I believe that singing to Goddess and God with others in full-throated joy and devotion is one of the great pleasures in life.

6.     I believe that pleasure is good, not a sin. I believe that the enjoyment of consensual sex between adults (of all genders) is a basic human right and the suppression of that joy has caused a lot of fucked-up-ed-ness. (Would a mention of the Vatican again here be overkill?)

7.     I believe that I have the power to change the visible world by working with the invisible one through spells, magic and what have you.

8.     I believe that calling my tradition “Woo-woo” and “hippy-dippy” in tones of contempt is a way to silence the voice of women and the earth, that this is how religious intolerance is expressed, and that I will not let it silence me any more.

I think it’s the idea that witches do spells that gives rise to the most concern and also the most Starz TV shows. I don’t know why it’s such a big deal. You know what a spell is? It’s a prayer to the gods/ mystery/power inside yourself. With props, because mystery, like voters, is unmoved by mere words. It’s just focused intention, sent out to the universe. People used to talk about it on Oprah all the time: the “Law of Attraction,” The Secret, the power of positive thinking… But throw in a pointy hat or a cauldron and all of a sudden people are grabbing pitchforks.

*A note on the pointy hat and cauldron: if you are a beer brewer – and I hail from the Pacific Northwest, so you can’t swing a cat without hitting a brewer – if you are a beer maker, then you, my friend, are of the lineage of witches. Who invented the pointy hats? Lady herbal healers (some of whom were undoubtedly witches) who used their knowledge of herbs to make tasty brews. They wanted to be seen at the farmer’s market, so they created tall pointy hats. Add in a wort kettle – cauldron!– and the only thing you are missing is a broom, right? Right. And, in those illiterate times, a broom hung over the door was a sign that meant “beer for sale”. Can you say abracada-brew?  check out http://www.stylist.co.uk/life/recipes/women-and-beer-a-snap-shot-history for more on witches and beer.)

By the way, I would never swing a cat.