“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 I noticed that my clumsy, and occasionally devious, wishes occasionally brought me to a conflicted place. Was I responsible for my enemies’ misfortune?
I started to imagine my life as a series of chemical reactions: If I prepared the formula correctly, I’d achieve success. If not, devastating failure. If I harmed others, the effects would be worse. If I benefitted others, I would see results.
Throughout my development as a witch, I heard countless people wonder how anyone behaved morally without religion. To me, it was quite simple. Treating people well wasn’t something I needed to do to attain a place in heaven. It was simply what you did. The Wiccan Rede affirmed it.
The Rede asked us to make a choice: Did we dare to curse someone? So many religious people are willing to declare a stranger as “going to hell” based on their beliefs or behavior. As a witch, I was much more discerning. I paid sole attention to abuse as a marker of “true evil.” I didn’t believe in hell in the afterlife — only on Earth. To me, abusers were much more likely to warrant a horrible life. And to be honest, I wanted their bad deeds to direct their punishment, and I was willing to be an arbiter of their fate.
And yet, while I’m willing to “curse” my enemies, I’m much more inclined to be a “good witch.” I believe that good words and good deeds are more powerful than adherence to arbitrary rules, and that “curses” are less effective than the karma that will inevitably strike evildoers.
That said, I’m unfortunately used to being told that I hate God and am evil for being a witch. But being a witch has given me a sense of control, however, small, over a chaotic life. I want to acknowledge my place in the universe without feeling like I need to prove my worth. I want to be able to wish good things for my loved ones without having to pray to an elusive deity. I want to be able to harness my own power as a member of the human race for good, without having to pass the credit to someone else.
My middle school classmate wanted me to feel ashamed of trying to get things done without the Christian god. He never imagined that people could be good without that god. He never thanked me for anything good I did. He wanted me to suffer for the simple fact of being a nonbeliever.
As a witch, I believe in the power of people’s goodness — if they have it. I want us all to find that place where we can manifest good things for ourselves. And I believe that that power comes from a place of self-respect that witchery encourages. For me, being a witch is about acknowledging my power. I am the purveyor of my own destiny. That’s the power of being a teenage witch.
Beliefs vs. Science
Our necks craned as we peered up at the tiny television mounted from the classroom ceiling. The social studies teacher…
The Witch in the Mirror: Living with OCD in Middle School
“Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Ooh, I know it!”
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