Ask the Witch: An Interview

1.You call yourself a witch. Do you ever worry about the negative connotations behind the term?

I identify completely, specifically, and thoroughly with the word “Witch”.  It is who I am, it is what I’m made of.  It envelops me genetically through familial connections, through spiritual connections, ancestral connections, through universal esoteric connections.  I revel in the word.  I worship the word and the idea of the creature behind the word.  It is one of the most positive connotations in the world.  It is the wise-woman, the healer, the mid-wife, the herbalist…it is the ultimate image of the perfect woman.

Here I should note that in modern times many males who embrace the pagan path refer to themselves as ‘male witches’, and they are, by all means, free to call themselves whatever they wish.  But for me, within my world, within my practice, within my experience, within my coven…”Witch” is “Woman”. 

[*note:  scroll to the bottom of this post for further info]

Do witches have a creed of some sort?

Some do.  Those who follow specific paths and formal traditions, those who consider themselves Wiccan, those who practice what they call White Magick, those who stand at the edge of the cauldron and only dip one toe daintily, cautiously, carefully within the bubbling depths, they will have a creed.  The Wiccan creed is, “Harm none, do what ye will.”…this isn’t a bad creed.   It actually makes a lot of sense.  Those of us who follow this pagan path did not choose to do so in order to harm anyone.  Harming anyone or anything is not our intention, it is not what magick is for.  But there are exceptions.  Within the world of the Gray Witch, there are boundaries that, under certain circumstances, can be crossed.  The one thing that breaks the Wiccan Rede for me is the need for protection, the need for self-defense, the need to keep safe myself, my family, my home, and anything else connected to my world which would directly affect my standard of living, or my sense of well-being…Harm me or mine, and you will experience the wrath of the dark angels, the animosity of those spirits called upon for protection, for retribution, for justice.

What are today’s witch’s like?

Today’s witches are a diverse panorama of women from a varied melting pot of humanity.  They are immersed in our culture and within our communities so completely that they have become part of the tapestry of our modern world, rather than some medieval myth.

As I state at my website, The Witch’s Corner:

Who is the Witch?

She’s a teacher, a librarian, a nurse, a doctor, a lawyer, a shop keeper, a writer, a mother, a student. She’s a blue collar woman, she’s a professional woman, she runs a business, runs for office, runs a household. She’s a companion to her spouse, a grandmother, a partner to her same-sex mate. She could be any woman you’ve ever met and any woman that you interact with everyday.

What makes her different from other women? She sees things that other women don’t. Nature speaks to her in an ancient tongue that has been forgotten by most. Her body responds to the waning and waxing of the moon, to the powers of the planets, the changing of the seasons, the behavior of wild animals, the energies of the plants, the energies of the stones.

The Universe speaks to her with the colorful images on cards, by the crystal images of a glass ball, by the movement of the pendulum, by the visions only she is shown.

Who is the Witch?…She is the Sorceress, the Mother, the Healer, the Wise Woman, the Priestess. She is part of a dim and distant past, and she is the shining light of our future.

Witches celebrate the earth and the seasons. What specifically do you do?

We most certainly do celebrate the earth, the turning of the seasons, called “Wheel of the Year”.  The progression of the Goddess’s story is highlighted throughout the year; it’s connected to the natural world, through the cycles of birth, death, and rebirth.  And it’s interesting that you ask me this question, as this very topic is part of my next book.  As I try to explain about the significance of the Pagan holidays in our modern world:

“…I think, for one thing, we have some innate deep-seated unspoken need to have our lives punctuated by milestones; whether personal milestones like weddings, graduations, and births; or societal, communal, and spiritual milestones. There’s a strange reassurance that the universe works in an ordered and predictable manner and time table. And maybe this is comforting to us because so much of life is unexpected, unpredictable, played without a script, and undeniably finite.

Long after we are but a memory, there will still be people celebrating these pagan holidays, punctuating the end of summer, welcoming with open arms the predictable end to the season of light and warmth, retreating into the dark and comforting confines of winter and the still peace that it will bring, only to return to a new season of light with spring.”

What specifically do I do to celebrate these holidays?

Some of these holidays might pass quietly, barely noticed by the rest of the household, significant only to me, celebrated with somber reflection in the flame of a candle upon my personal altar.  Other holidays are more all inclusive; like Samhain, when we get all giddy and excited, decorating the house and grounds for the evening, opening our doors to friends and family, reconnecting with our ancestors; but also reconnecting with each other.  As the bonfire burns late into the night on Samhain Eve, and the air gets cooler, we huddle together, punctuating another year, reminiscing about the past and looking toward the future.

Is a coven supposed to be 13 women?

A coven can be anything you want it to be.  As far as I know there are no written rules and laws to be followed, there are no Pagan Police who will break down your door and serve you with a warrant if your coven is all female or all male, whether it has 13 members or a hundred. A coven is a very personalized group of people, like-minded people, gathering to celebrate their pagan spirituality, gathering to support each other in the day to day humdrum of daily life.  Coven members provide a shoulder to cry upon, an ear for listening, a field board for new ideas.  Your coven consists of people you can laugh with, be totally yourself with, and they are a group of individuals within this great big wide world with whom you can depend upon for loyalty.  Your coven should be a safe haven.

My personal preferences?…My coven (The Coven of Bristolwicks) is an all female coven consisting of 13 members.  I prefer the all female energy, the hen-party aspect if you will; I prefer a small group; I like the number 13- it’s significant to me and it ‘feels good’. I want Coven Sisters for all the reasons I just stated in the first paragraph.

Reality check– when you put any group of people together, it might take some time, some experimenting, some failures, before you create a group of individuals who will work well together, who will successfully support each other, who will get along, and who will ‘click’.  But when it works, you know it; and when it works, it is an amazing experience.

Is there a prescribed form to your rituals?

Yes and no.  I’ve performed formal rituals; I’ve written formal rituals.  I’ve done so in the past, and I probably will do so again in the future.  But this is not the only way I connect with the Divine; this is not the only way I celebrate my spiritual path; this is not the only way I create magick.  My favorite form of witchery lay in the world of the Kitchen Witch, the Green Witch, the natural witch.  Spells put together by the seat of your pants, on a wing and prayer, have been some of the most powerful– and successful–magickal endeavors of my life.  When Spirit hits you, when you make this connection, you want to grasp it when and where you find it.  My special connection with the Goddess does not rely upon getting all dressed up in formal robes and wielding a ceremonial sword to cast a formal circle.

How does being a witch help you in your everyday life?

Being connected to your spirituality, no matter what path you take, is reassuring in the idea that there is more to ‘the big picture’.  There’s something larger than ourselves, there is a higher power, there is a rhyme and reason to the Universe and how it works; and thus, there is a rhyme and reason for existence within this realm.

Witchcraft is a very unique spiritual path, in that the power to create change, the power to shape our lives, the power to overcome obstacles, all lay within us.  Divinity is part of us, not some intangible stereotype hovering in the heavens above watching as we screw up and drop to our knees.  I embrace the Goddess– I am the Goddess– and the Goddess is me.  All of life’s infinite possibilities lay in the knowledge of my own being and within the energies and entities that I have aligned my life with.

If you approach your spirituality in this way, everyday is a celebration of the miraculous.

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*Note:  This blog and my experiences are related to the world through my eyes, through my world; it is a Woman’s Point of View.  My focus is on the feminine aspects of my spirituality, my beliefs, my practices, my experiences.  I could not, and would not, try to explain or write about the male pagan experience.

Questions & Answers

I receive a considerable number of questions from people, and I’ve answered a handful of them here.  I’ll be re-posting on this particular blog from time to time, when I get the opportunity.  This just seemed like an easier solution rather than trying to answer individual emails, as more than one person often asks the same question.  It just seemed logical to gather the answers all in one place.  Remember that these are my opinions, this is about my path– and you asked.

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Is there a difference between a Witch, a Wiccan, and a Pagan?
What do you feel are some of the major differences?

 Yes, there is a difference, and still, most people tend to lump these categories together indiscriminately.

 “Pagan” is a broad term that covers a variety of beliefs and practices. It’s an umbrella term that includes witches; Wiccans- every tradition, clan, or solitary path you can think of; Druids; and a garden variety of spiritual practices that stray from the mainstream religions, primarily Christianity.

 “Witch” implies someone who is knowledgeable in the ‘Olde Ways’, someone who casts spells, practices divination, herbology, etc. A witch is steeped in earth-based shamanic methods in free-form, not tying her/himself to any particular creed, to any particular set of rules or regulations, group or clan. The witch tends to be a free spirit and often treads where others fear to go when it comes to practicing the occult.

 “Wicca” is a religion which encompasses organized and ordered membership, regulations, and practices. It is also an earth-based and nature religion which has grown to include a wide variety of paths, traditions, clans, and covens. Most Wiccans abide by the Wiccan Reed, and seek membership that comes with required study and initiation.

 When did you first realize you were a Witch?

 I always knew that I was different and that I often perplexed people, though as a child I wasn’t sure how or why. The earliest memory I have of a ‘realization’ probably came when I was about five years old, crouched alone on a terraced hillside. It was a hot summer day, though I was in a dark cool place, as the hillside was full of trees. I looked to my right, past the wire fence that separated the yard from pasture, and watched a herd of cattle grazing in the hot sun, only a few feet away from my cool dark world. I reached to the low branch of a young locust tree, wrapped my fingers around a small green stem and gently slid the leaves off, into my palm. I stayed there for quite some time, crouched beneath the tree, closing my eyes to listen to the wind in the trees, believing that they were speaking to me.

 I don’t remember what I did with the leaves, though I do remember that I wanted them for a reason.

 Is it important for a Witch to have a code of Honor?

 It depends upon how you look at it. If by a ‘code of honor’, you mean that she must abide by someone else’s rules, someone else’s measurement of what is right or wrong, then I would have to say no.

 Each individual, witch or not, who is an intelligent human being knows when they are doing right and when they are doing something questionable. And ‘questionable’ in this instance doesn’t necessarily mean something you shouldn’t do, it can mean something that isn’t always done but needs doing, it can mean something gritty and serious that must be done.

 The Witch, a real witch, moves in a landscape that is neither white nor black, it’s filled with shadows that are shades of gray; and to the witch these shadows are not off limits. Balance is required in all things, including the practice of Witchcraft; and once in a while boundaries have to be broken to maintain this balance.

 How would you define “Mojo”?

 I would describe ‘mojo’ as ‘magick’…magick that incorporates natural elements to produce physical manifestation: herbs, stones, bones, personal items, bodily secretions, potions, powders, images, symbols, etc. Mojo also relies on intention and will, but not at the same level or intensity as Wiccan magick. With mojo, the magick resides in the molecules of the items used. The traditional voodoo priestess does not consecrate or empower her mojo bags; she believes that the power is already there.

 How do spells work?

 Spells work by using the energy of our will and intentions, along with strong visualization, coupled with natural objects such as candles, fire, water, herbs, stones, photos, images, etc.; to produce physical manifestation into the real world. You must be able to see the objective of your spell as though it already exists. If you cannot visualize what you desire as though it already exists, you will not be able to manifest into the physical realm.

 Why do you practice so many different
forms of witchcraft on your path?

 I am an eclectic Witch.

 There’s incredible knowledge and magick to be found on a number of occult paths. It’s like a magickal buffet of rich and varied practices that all work in different ways and on different levels. To me, it’s there for the taking, there for my use. We just have to be open-minded enough not to be afraid to explore other religions, other forms of spirituality. Human beings have a terrible habit of pigeon-holing everything, thinking that everything must fit into specific boxes and that you can’t mix and match or you’ll mess things up.

 I don’t eat the same thing for breakfast every morning, I don’t wear the same kind of clothes everyday. And as much as I love chocolate, if that were the only thing I was allowed to eat, it would get monotonous.