Belief is a funny thing. To me, it’s different from faith. It’s, I think, more easily shattered. It’s a dream, rather than the sheer faith of one’s worship of gods. Belief is my bag. Faith? Not so much.
I spent my formative years locked in my room for hours at a time, half-on the bed and half-on the floor (but backwards and upside down, with my elbows on the floor). I read Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonriders of Pern trilogy, and I read them over and over and over. Soon as I was done with the last, right back to the first I’d go. I did the same with the Lord of the Rings series, with the Tales of Shannara series. And, because I always was an over-achiever, The Silmarillion and Untold Tales.
A brief aside for posterity, I’d like to note here that I was mainlining baggies full of sugar + red koolaid. My books were all red-finger-print-stained—my original murder scene.
But stained or no, I loved those books. I wanted to be in those books. I wanted a dragon! (To be a dragon? Mm, yeah, that too.) Magic! Villains and heroism and shapeshifting sorcerers, and, oh, yes, magic! Did I mention magic?
Except there may be something of my own undoing in this whole thing. Not to say that growing up reading is detrimental! (In fact, it’s fundamental! …I’ll see myself out…)
The magic I know today, I know because I grew up reading it: The Ancient One by T. A. Barron, all the Tamora Pierce novels, the Here There Be Dragons anthologies. Most stunningly worldchanging for me, Robin McKinley’s The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword. I could go on, too, past dragons and time-travel. Straight into breath-taking, gut-ripping, heart-squeezing Deerskin, also by Robin McKinley. I believed it.
But that belief? Easily challenged. When I looked for magic out here in the real world, I couldn’t find it. No matter how often I chased it, roaming off-path in dense forest or splashing in crystal creeks in search of… I dunno, mermaids or something? Magic talismans? Faerie rings (and freshwater clams)? Portals!
All things I thought belonged to made up kids in made up fantasy realms.
Imagine my surprise, and my fierce glee, at finding So You Want to Be a Wizard. Magic in the real world! Everyday kids!!! Exclamatory overload!!!!! (“Sure sign of a diseased mind.”)
Did anyone else take the Wizard’s Oath? I sure did! Crouching in a corner of the library, book open on the floor. I furtively looked around and then said, quiet and fast as I could before anybody caught me,
In Life’s name and for Life’s sake,
I assert that I will employ the Art which is its gift in Life’s service alone, rejecting all other usages.
I will guard growth and ease pain. I will fight to preserve what grows and lives well in its own way; and I will change no object or creature unless its growth and life, or that of the system of which it is part, are threatened.
To these ends, in the practice of my Art, I will put aside fear for courage, and death for life, when it is right to do so —
till Universe’s end.
Maybe magic came to me and maybe it didn’t. What was my framework to recognize it? What did it look like?
Turns out… nothing comes easy. Or immediately. Or even, maybe, at all.
Back to Reality (…Oops, There Goes Gravity…)I’m, as of this writing, 35 years old. I’ve been all kinds of things in my life—some good, some bad, and some really fucking unfortunate—but I have never managed to find a spiritual place where I was comfortable. I barely feel like I belong in this dimension, much less mired in the mundane. (Although, as it turns out, I am incredibly comfortable writing books! …and I have eased off on the sugar + koolaid concoctions. In exchange for coffee and gin.)
Coming full circle shouldn’t surprise me. Twenty-some-odd years makes for a long circle to be sure, but I look at where my feet are planted and laugh. Here I am, remembering all those books and dreams. And thinking again that magic only exists in stories and in other planes. Out here, I won’t find unicorns or Magic Wardrobes or Cloaks of Invisibility. Also, I think Turkish Delight is disgusting.
Instead, as I poke around and watch the witches I know from afar (and some that I don’t know, because the internet in itself is a magical thing), I am beginning to form a theory: that magick is something else entirely.
Thus, in my mind, the k.
Magic is that mystical dragon-fueled sorcery that lives in stories and myths. It is unicorns and bloody goblets of immortality, giants and beanstalks and portals into other worlds and Faerie Queens falling in love with donkey-headed assholes. …I mean, with Bottom.
Conversely, I think magick is the roots and earth of what we humble (ahem) humans work on our own plane. Magick is cauldrons and kitchen witchery. Tarot and divination, dreams and deja vu. Will and intent and words and action.
This definition won’t work for everybody. Fortunately, it only needs to work for me. (With the understanding that the term remains flexible, just like most things. Nuance, babies. It’s a thing. Maybe. One day. …I miss it.)
Kace’s Believe It or Not!
So where does that leave me?
Thoughtful. Looking back on those days where I asked, “What if I could be a witch?” and wondering why I didn’t. (I know why, but that’s for another day, another place.) Struggling to remember the belief I once had, and wondering where it got off to.
I’m skeptical. I’m not so confident in any talent of mine that doesn’t involve my writing. I’m a creature of data and of intuition—but I only trust one of them. Guess which.
I believe in the practice of others, but do I believe that I have the talent? The ability? …Why do I still think that “being a witch” is about finding magic amulets or a teacher or a haegtesse in the woods and being…I mean, cursed or blessed or kidnapped or faerie-napped or whatever.
Most of all? Unsure.
Could I learn? Could I practice?
Do I want to?
And that’s it. That’s the (hor)crux of it all. I hope that in Gone Witching, I can explore these thoughts and practices. To study the path and myself, and how it all fits—if it even does—in my life as an author, a non-binary individual, and as I jokingly call myself, an outer god. This is all about me: learning, feeling, trying and experiencing.
Oh, yes. And drinking.
So, let’s do this. Maybe we take this journey together, and you tell me what you find! Maybe along the way, we get some answers.
(But let’s face it… we’re gonna get way more questions, aren’t we?)
Next: Roots and Graves: Looking For Color Under All This White
K. C. Alexander is an SF/F author and very proud of smearing her bloody fingers all over the lines. She writes aggressive transhumanist sci-fi, co-wrote Mass Effect: Andromeda: Nexus Uprising, and may or may not be a witch. Like what she does? Consider checking out her tarot reads and behind the scenes glimpses of her work.