Our Dirty Little Secret: Real Witchcraft in the 21st Century

The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775. © National Portrait Gallery, London
The Three Witches from Shakespeares Macbeth by Daniel Gardner, 1775. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Scale of dragon; tooth of wolf;
Witches’ mummy; maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark;
Root of hemlock digg’d i the dark . . .
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

The first time it happened in front of my husband, I was terrified.  His face shifted from shock, to confusion, then fear as he pondered the broken wine glass that had lifted off the table and slammed itself into the wall.

We don’t talk about this much, do we?  As witches, it seems to be the last frontier–the admission of actualized magic, the kind that movies glorify and cartoon up for the general public.  Maybe we are afraid that someone will hunt us down.  Mayhap we worry that not all of us are capable, making those of us who are capable the weirdos.  Maybe we just don’t speak of those things.  I reckon I feel like cowboying up today.  Let’s talk about: it.

It just so happens that the Southern Fried Hubby had done pissed me off a bit, it was late, and obviously I had finished that particular glass of wine.  Twasn’t the first time a glass flew through the air sans a hand, nor the last.  On my anniversary, he wised up and bought two stainless steel glasses (I like to tease him: that could hurt a noggin).  A few months later, a student of mine was struggling through a lesson in the backyard, three feet from a nice hearth fire, and the lesson had stretched past my energy level and past my bed time.  The scene went something like:

Me: I’m tired, hon.  Let’s pick this back up tomorrow.
Him:  No, I want it now.
Me:  No.  Whooped.  Close the book.
Him:  Not until you tell me about xyz.

Pause.  And then?  His notebook burst into flames around the edges.  Just: poof.  After the hubbub of stomping and quenching, he sat back down.

Him:  Please?

POOF!  Up in flames.

Needless to say, he finally saw reason and let me retire to a nice cup of tea and Grandma’s afghan.

Then: there was the First Annual Pagans of the Deep South Gathering.  That evening, a priestess from another state announced in a group that she would be taking over my ritual that evening.  As a proper Southerner and Hostess, I “blessed her heart” and scooted over–just in time for the stav leaning against my altar to sling itself into the air, hurl itself five feet and bop her pretty little noggin with a nice, satisfying “donk.”  While my students ran for an ice pack, the hubby leaned over and whispered: well.  I reckon she earned that one.

Of course, I have no idea what he meant by that.  That stav must have been the unwitting victim of an imperceptible earthquake.  Ahem.

And there are other, more gritty, little moments in time that I shall keep to myself.  (A girl has to have her secrets, yes?)  When my witchling was younger, he used to beg me to do the fire ball thing for his friends at Halloween.  Not wanting to scare the parents (and not being sure about how to explain it as a harmless trick), I would often promise it later, then later . . . all the while shoving candied apples and popcorn towards their schmeared, painted faces until they moved on to exhaustion and minivans bound for home.  No need to freak out the muggles.

And so, it wasn’t until I reared my witchy head two years ago with this blog, a Faceplant page and a naiveté born of political pagan exile as a “family trad” that it occurred to me:  not all witches do this.

Oh, shit.

And that’s when the trouble began.  (I’ve since suggested a support group for those of us who do the thing.)  I’m a big fan of True Blood, but not a big fan of that simpering, over-dramatized Sookie Stackhouse–yet, I find myself occasionally thinking: shut up, nimnut.  They see you, they smell you . . . this ain’t gonna end well.  My whole life, there have been two kinds of folks hanging about: those who want to eat me alive and those who want to saddle up beside me and check out the scenery from a broom.  (Strange coincidence that the latter seem to also do the thing?  Right.)

Hang in there.  I haven’t caught the scent of what I’m writing about yet, either.

There’s this horrifyingly goofy eighties move, Love Potion Number 9, in which a nimnut drinks the potion and must run through the streets to escape the men (who want to consume her) and the women (who want to kill her).  Silly little film that it is, I remember thinking: it’s not fair.  (Of course, the potion was chemically compounded.  The point still was not lost on my twenty-something brain.)  I have heard all of my life: stay under the radar.   It was the mantra of my childhood, and one day I’m sure I will wrench myself from the public eye and retreat back into the solitude and freedom of anonymity.  I think, if I really dig, that I just wanted someone to run through the streets with me.  Or, maybe I wanted to reason with those who were chasing me.  Or . . .

I was lonely.  Yup.  That one makes me feel like I went to class without my britches on.

I think I’ve gotten lost in the labels.  There’s Political Paganism (work that needs to be done, but still: an “ism.”)  There’s Party Paganism (get yor’ freak on).  There’s Egotistical Paganism (why, I have my elevation from the High Priestess of York and the Duke of Dragonland).  And then there’s . . . witchcraft.  Not the “flashing purple screen, unicorn poop, Halloween” witchcraft.  Real, flesh and bone crafters with history, the stuff of legends and memory.  But then . . . these are not all the same, either, are they?  It occurs to me that those who need all the fluff, need all the ceremony, need all the public appearances are not always the real thing.  Some of the most powerful witches I have ever known would scoff at holding “court.”  Good luck getting them to do a reading in a public park, y’all.  Or taking an online class with them.  Or, and here’s the real juice: joining them over a family cauldron.  Oh, you’ll indeed know them by their fruits.  Have their students worked for years?  Struggled through shadow work?  Been honest about their lives?  Hold to an ethics of nonviolence?  Hold their secrets and oaths dear?  No?  Well, then.  What you have there is a party trick.  Insta witch, just add water.  (Or Koolaid.)  Dabbling witches chap my Southern ass.

Yes, yes.  I know that this is inflammatory.  Y’all know by now that SFW ain’t skeeterin’ away just because it’s scary out there on a limb.  In fact?  That’s where I feel most alive, the frogs croaking my return to the night, the crickets stringing out one last tune as I rise into the Witching Season, my rooster crowing in the dark against the smell of my fire smoldering in his yard.  Yes.  It is inflammatory to suggest that magic is real.   Come a little closer.  But are you sure you want to see?

Wait, I think I just caught the scent of my path here.  Smells like witch spirit?

Lean in close, Batchildren.  I want to share a secret with you:  real witches never do party tricks.  Real witches rarely will let you near their sacred family cauldron lessen you are family.  Real witches do it root up, not top down–because the moment we forget our beginnings, the magic is ripped from our athames.  And that’s only half the field plowed, y’all, because there are some really nasty witches out there. Unethical, mentally  unbalanced, egotistical, selfish, cackly things who enjoy inflicting pain and do not answer to the universe for their play.  Iffin that’s butter for yor’ biscuit, this is the wrong blog for you, honey.  Scat on out of here.  Now.

Before I set a notebook on fire.  🙂

Still here?  Then I’ll finish with a story.

Once upon a time there was a baby who had to sleep on its tummy, on account of her nurse had seen wings and had studied over it a spell.  When asked why she kept turning the babe onto its stomach, the nurse said, simply: “Dat baby float.  You crush its wings otherwise.”

I still sleep on my stomach.

May your witching season be magic, may your magic be real and may you always remember the joy of flying.


19 Comments on “Our Dirty Little Secret: Real Witchcraft in the 21st Century

  1. “It occurs to me that those who need all the fluff, need all the ceremony, need all the public appearances are not always the real thing. Some of the most powerful witches I have ever known would scoff at holding “court.” Good luck getting them to do a reading in a public park, y’all. Or taking an online class with them. Or, and here’s the real juice: joining them over a family cauldron.”

    That *SO* needs to be said a LOT more often, Seba. Another fabulous blog, as always. I’ve always been a naysayer when it comes to the “fluff”, the overdramatized ceremony, the showboating. That’s why I left the pagan “community” so long ago and just stayed by my lonesome in my solitary, happy, non-pretentious, real witchy world.

    • It’s happening more and more, regretfully. Or maybe, not so regretfully. We have so much more to protect, don’t we, sister? Thanks for the encouragement. And may the magic of the season dance in your solitary, real witchy world. 🙂

  2. Love coming home to find something from you in my email. Always a great read at the end of a long day. I like dirty little secrets 🙂 thank you for sharing with us.

  3. SFW~
    Great things to ponder here. I’m new to the blog scene and and from SC, so the title of your blog alone made me take notice. I think you’ve said a lot here about the amalgamation of Crafts out there and the myriad of practitioners who all seek very different things in very different ways. Because Witches and Pagans are a minority (arguably or otherwise), we tend to get thrust into one confining and just plain erroneous categorical grouping. We need more individuals, like yourself, who are willing to say strong words. It’s a Southern Thing…

    By the way, I would (and I’m willing to bet others would, too) love to read a post one day about how you’ve learned to harness and make use of the thing. Deliberateness is often evasive, at least for me. I would be eager to hear about how one can be more deliberate and more exact in manifesting energy.

    Great writing!

    • Very eloquently put! I wanted to reply but couldn’t figure out exactly what I wanted to say/ask. I don’t want to hold court at all. I do however want to be able to control my gifts to benefit those who need help. Any help would be appreciated.

  4. Wow! My good friend, Autumn, recommended your post and I am so happy she did. Finally! Someone who speaks it like it is. What a great post! Thank you.

  5. Great post! I think I might write something in support of this in the next week or two. I’ll post the link. Thanks for saying it!

  6. Came to read your latest wonderful and most wise words from stirring up a batch of chicken soup (lots of apple cider, ginger and garlic in the mix today) — an odd sort of co-incidence — but –then again — perhaps not! Many thanks for another great posting!

  7. well, that’s not exactly the thing I do, although my daughter always has. When she was brand new we would leave her in bed with her little hat and her pacifier. When we came back they’d be across the room or under the mattress. She didn’t like them. But I do my own….things. when I was little I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be able to. Now I laugh when “real” Witches get mad about the movie Practical Magic. “It doesn’t really work that way.” Well now let’s think about this. Why would we be told not to cast spells that wouldn’t really work? 🙂 Or “invoking the Dark Goddesses during the New Moon”, supposed to be psychological and symbolic. And I was thinking, let me know how that works out for you. Glad I’m not the only one!

  8. This Stuff Works. I say as I sit among all the stuff out of our kitchen (being remodeled) in our paid-off house on four acres of land. I give lots of gifts to our land-spirits, and especially the 30 foot saguaro cactus who lives on the property.

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