Are you a witch?
Maybe, how can I tell?
Do you have the witch-blood?
How do I know?
Well, are you a witch?
But how do I know if I am?!
Does the Cunning Flame burn within you?
How can I tell if it does?
Well, are you a witch?
And so on…
Let me start with this:
I have never had my skull cracked open and re-wired by the Spirits.
I have never died and come back to the world, carrying with me the signature of The Country to Whom All Must Travel.
I have never sunk under the waves of the Shaman’s fever and resurfaced with new eyes to see, and with voices whispering at the edges of hearing.
And yet –
From the time I was a little girl, I have assumed that the world we can see is but a small part of the whole. That there is are worlds upon worlds unseen, just out of the corner of the eye, overlaid like a double film exposure upon the realm of the everyday and visible perhaps in certain times or certain places, or if one knows the right way to look.
My small, rural high school library had a series of ‘Mysteries of the Unknown” hardcover reference books. This was in the late 1980’s, when the Satanic Panic was still in the news – and yet, here they were. When I read, among other things, about Kirlian photography, saw the strange sinuous drawings of British artist Austin Osmand Spare, something stirred in my imagination. I read excerpts from Crowley’s Book of the Law, his strange poetry “…goat of thy flock, I am god – and I tear and I rip and I rend… ” and I was fascinated. Not only because the small window into this world revealed something dark and forbidden, but that it revealed something true.
I found my way eventually, through books and a few like minded individuals over the years, a slow realization that this Listening, this speaking to the world, this burning longing in my heart at the sight of a green wood massed upon a distant hilltop, at the smell of loam; this piercing need to pledge my fluttering heart to Them – Them – who even were They? The sun on a buck’s time, the hollow cry of an owl beneath a starless sky – did it even matter?
And so I figured out that I was Pagan.
I found my way through fumbling rituals, and offerings, and tarot and talk of occultism, and learning about energy work, and that my imagination was a tool with which I could bend the world. Standing in a meadow at dusk, reaching out with my mind. Drawing breath, whistling just so, and smiling as a wind raced over the grass… Had I called it? Had I found the right key? Act as if you have. Listen. Have you?
And so I came to believe myself a witch.
I found my way through learning about trance work and Spa, speaking the answers to others questions, the words rushing into my mind faster than thought. Drawing up power from the earth, from air, visualizing a scene so firmly in my mind that it seemed as if I was there… and forgetting for a moment that there was anywhere else.
Direct experience. Walking alone in woods. Speaking to plants, to creatures, as if they could hear my whispered call and understand. Learning the feeling of dreams where I had been Elsewhere, and wanting to learn to do it on purpose.
Years, and years, and even now I must remind myself not to fall into the trap of waiting to find the Right way to do… whatever it is I want to do, and instead just do it.
The path through the wood is crooked, with many turns and places where one must go by feel, where one must tread carefully, where one must have faith anyway, and leap. Years and years.
I am a witch.
A hedge witch, I suppose, since the witchcraft I am interested in lies mostly in the other-than-human world, in the cracks between stones and in dirt under the fingernails. A green sorceress, working beneath Saturn’s sickle.
A pagan witch, who still calls out to Them with awe in my heart, to the Horned King, to the Serpent in the Land, to the Smith, to the Lady of the Huldrefolk – and to They whose names I have not learned. To the Wights beneath soil, to the Pale People Below, to the Sun upon her rising and the Moon in her slumber – I call out, and I offer, and sometimes even I am heard.
There is so much more to do and to learn. I must weave little spells even though they seem trivial, as a musician practices simple patterns so that the fingers remember. I must whisper to stones and birds as though they could whisper back – for they can and do. I must learn to fly out at night and ride, to slip my skin, to brew inks and forge keys for unseen doors into green hills.
I could no more stop seeking these things than I could stop creating art, or stop seeing beauty in the world. I must. I must follow this twinge of my heart – this quickening – this burning of the cunning flame.
I am a witch.