The Busy Witch: Hereditary Magic

The Busy Witch: Hereditary Magic June 11, 2013

When I was new to the Pagan path, I felt some jealousy toward people lucky enough to be born into a craft family. I’d hear about this or that grandmother’s spell, or a precious piece of herb lore preserved across generations, and then I’d look at my own trial and error practice and wonder if I were some kind of imposter. I know many people practice magic without the support of a hereditary craft culture, but that didn’t offer me a lot of comfort early on.

I kept on with my practice, broadening my horizons and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone, and it was only after more than a decade as a witch that I realized I have inherited magic from my matrilineal line. I just couldn’t see it before because I expected hereditary magic to be flashy and imbued with a sense of secrecy, and so I ignored something that had been out in the open all my life.

The women in my family sew their love.

There’s a photo sitting here on my desk; my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother watch me while I work, and four-year-old me is standing at their feet, playing with their skirts. All four of us are wearing handmade dresses. I don’t know which of the three women did the sewing (chances are they all played a part in one of the garments), but this single image captures close to a century of magic.

While I was growing up, the sound of a sewing machine was as familiar to me as the smell of cookies baking. It didn’t matter whose house we were at, ours or Grams; two things I could always count on were that baked goods would be fresh and someone would be sewing. The women in my family infused each stitch with love, sewing garments to cover each other and the rest of the clan, fashioning matching clothes for my dolls, and even helping me sew a baby blanket for my youngest sibling, my baby sister.

Grandma was determined to teach me to sew, although most of our projects ended up with her sewing while I read a book in the living room, but she helped me stick with it longer than usual for the baby blanket. I was a pre-teen, and the idea of making a quilt for my soon-to-be-born sibling came to me because of my obsession with reading The American Girl books; there are a few instances of cherished quilts being made by the different characters, and I thought it would be a good idea to follow suit. Gram helped me pick out the fabric and design a simple, triangular pattern, and she tried to teach me patience every time the thread got tangled or the machine got jammed. Eventually, though, I abandoned the project and she finished it for me, but she graciously allowed me to claim that I had made the quilt myself.

That same sister is graduating from high school now, and once again, I found myself before a sewing machine with a quilt in mind. A few years ago, my brother had also graduated, and I had spontaneously decided to send him off to college with a full-sized quilt. Never mind that I’d never really made one before; the idea of crafting something for him by hand that I could imbue with love and protective magic was important to me, so I tackled my first “real” quilt. It wasn’t entirely symmetrical, and I broke two sewing needles while making it, but I stitched so much good energy into that quilt that I almost didn’t mind its imperfections.

110_0779When the time came this spring to make a quilt for my sister, I found that the process had gotten easier. Without consciously remembering her baby quilt, I created a triangular design and sat down to sew. My sister is a creative soul, and she’s going to pursue her art in college and beyond, so the spells I wove into this quilt were more focused than the ones my brother got. I found myself chanting to Shakti, the divine embodiment of creative energy, and I sang as I sewed this quilt. Even when the machine jammed or the needle broke (only once this time, thank Goddess!), I enjoyed the process of crafting and the familiar whir of the sewing machine.

The end result is beautiful, but more than that, it’s a piece of powerful magic that my sister can take with her when she leaves home this fall. In that way, I’ve carried on the tradition of my family, and I am so glad I can recognize this hereditary craft as magical. It may not be flashy magic, and the women who came before me may not have even considered their work magical, but every stitch they sewed was imbued with love, and intention is what makes magic strong.

How does your family make magic?

The Busy Witch is published on alternate Tuesdays. Follow it via RSS or e-mail!

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