“Witch!” Justin hissed at me. He intended it as an insult, a way to malign me in a Bible-thumping middle school in which my witchery would be a social death sentence.
It worked, but I also realized something as I glared at him across the lunchroom table.
I was a witch.
For my entire childhood, churchgoing children pitted their religion, however insincerely adopted, against “witchcraft.” Using a ouija board was considered to be a foolish flirtation with the Devil, and dressing as anything besides a Disney princess or superhero was an invite to his corruption.
After abuse in a religious cult, I’d reevaluated my faith. And after a bit of wrestling with my socialization, I came to a realization.
I was a witch.
Witchery, to me, wasn’t about cursing anyone or doing work against God. It was an affirmation of the power that I knew I had but had nearly lost as Justin gaslighted me with the accouterment of his Pentecostal cult. It was a strong belief in my place in the world, rather than in a potentially uncaring deity who would have obliterated me in a flood.
With witchcraft, I had power — through my own belief in the world’s natural order. I didn’t have to adhere to arbitrary rules to gain some elusive promise of heaven. I simply had to live well, and the rewards would be great.
The Wiccan Rede says,
“Harm none, do what you will. Your good deeds will come back threefold.”
The Pentecostal Church says,
“Wear skirts and long hair, submit to your husband, never curse, speak in tongues, and vote Republican, and you’ll maybe get into heaven.”
Which one would you choose?
As a young witch, I wrestled with the idea of spells. On the one hand, being a witch seemed like a political stance, one in which I was uniquely positioned to empower people less privileged than I. My power was symbolic, not actual, but greater than you might imagine. And yet as I aged, I started to feel like my thoughts and energy were actually manifesting results — but not only the ones I wanted.
I tried to find focus in my craft. I knew that I didn’t have Harry Potter-levels of magic…but…