Modern Magic: A Crone’s Take on the Witchcraft Fad
The practice of the Old Ways has become big business, and it’s kind of breaking my heart. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for practitioners making an honest living with their skills and experience and talents, but our ancient, sacred way of life has become bastardized and turned into something crass and smarmy.
In the coming months, I’ll write about the history of witchcraft — universal and my own. Let’s open the conversation about how the craft has become something “the cool kids do” and if that will help or hinder our Ways. I welcome your insight and hope you will point out my blindspots and prejudices as we explore the New Wave of Witchcraft.
I Was Born This Way: Hereditary Witchcraft
It was 1970ish and witchcraft was afoot — although the women in my family didn’t call it that back then. We didn’t have a name for it — at least we didn’t utter it aloud. It was a shadowy universe of secret sayings (spells & incantations) and superstitious behaviors (rituals) that were just part of our lives. Somehow, without being explicitly told, I knew not to reveal this magic to the kids at school, and most certainly not to my father.
It was summer, and my aunt was very pregnant with her first child. I was about six years old, and had enjoyed a long run as the first and only of my generation. First grandchild, first niece — spoiled, pampered, and adored. My reign was coming to an end, but I had more interesting things to consider. Three of us had gathered to do the secret, sacred thing that we didn’t talk about to the outside world.
I had no idea how the baby had gotten into my favorite aunt’s belly, but I was completely dialed into the scene that was playing out in the living room of my century-old Minneapolis home. Candles were lit. Incense smoldered. The deliciously scratchy playback of Janis Joplin’s whiskey-soaked voice oozed from the Hi-Fi.
Divination: An Early Introduction
My mother — a tiny dark-haired, olive-skinned enigma — tilted her head to one side, then the other, and let her huge, brown-black eyes scan her younger sister’s midsection. “Let’s see what we’ve got,” she said with quiet, confident surety that made me believe that we’d walk away from this ceremony with a clear answer.
My aunt, all five-feet-nothing of her, eased her way down to the deep shag carpet, with the help of my mother and me, and stretched out on her back — a sofa pillow under her head. I noted the… fear?… in her eyes. She was clearly unsure, but turned over her trust. This kind of hoodoo was her big sister’s purview.
Despite the dimmed lights and witchy scents and sounds, I wasn’t afraid. Indeed, I felt powerful. This all seemed so familiar — not like a bedtime story that had been read night after night — but the kind of familiar feeling that tugged at the cellular level.
Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves
Now this aunt, like my mother’s other three siblings, had fair skin and light eyes. She looked nothing like my mom. In fact, four-fifths of the children in my mother’s family loved to claim that “Mabel Ann (my exotic-looking mama) was left on the doorstep by gypsies.” Of course, this isn’t true — at least I’m 90% sure it’s just family legend — but it fostered in my mother the kind of childhood angst that creates artists and dreamers… and fuels the magic of witches.
The Pregnancy Pendulum: Doulas Among Us
My mother knelt on the left side of my aunt. I knelt on the other. Mom unspooled a length of white butcher’s string and broke it off with her teeth. She dropped her gaze to my aunt’s left hand and nodded. My aunt wiggled the wedding band from her puffy finger and dropped it into my mother’s upturned palm. Mom looped the string into the gold circle and tied off the loose ends.
She held the makeshift pendulum over my aunt’s belly and waited. Looking back now — nearly half a century later — I clearly remember feeling the thrilling sense of anticipation. My mother wasn’t doing anything with the pendulum. Her face was expressionless. Her body was relaxed, yet motionless. She was simply waiting for the magical tool to tell her something.
The ring began to move — to sway and circle. True talk — it’s been so many years, and I was so very young, that I can’t remember if its final trajectory was back-and-forth, side-to-side, or in a circle. What I do remember is that my mother’s hand appeared completely still — like she was a statue chiseled of marble — but that ring on a string moved wildly, frantically… magically; enough so that I had to lean backward, to avoid being hit by it, until I was sitting on my heels.
My eyes darted between the swinging pendulum and my mother’s still face. She took a breath… nothing dramatic, just an intake of air… then said very matter-of-factly, “It’s a girl.”
Sacred Ways: Tapping Into the Ancient
It was, in fact, a girl. A few years later, there would be a boy, which the ring spell would also accurately predict. So what? Right? I mean, even in the days before sonograms, this witchy little test had a 50/50 chance at success. Pretty good odds if a person wanted to pretend in magic.
This was — as every person who’s experienced something similar will attest — something different. Not a trick. Not a guess. Not even a bit of blind faith. It was about tapping into something ancient and sacred and very, very real.
Modern Magic — For Better or Worse
Fast forward about fifty years. We’re in the age of Instagram and Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat. Witchcraft has come out of the shadows and into the light — for better, and my dear coven — for much, much worse.
The Old Ways, Witchcraft, has become the new, hot thing — a meaningless, vacuous fad… like duck-lip selfies, and making photo journals of our meals, and self-indulgent “tests” that tell us what Disney princess we most resemble.
If you are here, I am confident that you believe in something deeper, and bigger, more sacred and more beautiful than a PhotoShopped meme of a “sexy witch” in thigh-high lace-up boots, wielding a mass-produced wand and making some irreverent quip about the craft.
Please share with us how you got here and where you hope our Way will lead you and others.
Blessed Be ♥