“I sit in the subway sometimes, on buses, or the movies, and I look at the people next to me and I think… ‘What would you say if I told you I was a witch?’ I know they’d never believe it. They just wouldn’t believe it.” –Queenie Holroyd
My dad came to town last week (he keeps a condo in Houston, in case he decides that he doesn’t like New England after all), and the day before his flight back to Boston, he called me at work and asked me to print his boarding pass.
I was right in the middle of juggling crises, but I assured him I would take care of it and then completely forgot about it. So I went over to his place for dinner that night, happily oblivious in the assumption that neither one of us was about to have a grande mal anxiety attack.
Here’s what happened next, rendered in the present tense for dramatic effect.
Halfway through dinner, my dad says something about his flight, and I realize that I’ve forgotten to bring his boarding pass with me. He asks me where the boarding pass is, and I say that it’s on my desk at the office.
I am absolutely lying — I didn’t print it. But I figure I’d rather be the Terrible Child Who Printed the Boarding Pass and Forgot to Bring It than the Terrible Terrible Child Who Didn’t Remember to Print It in the First Place and Is No Longer in The Will.
This is a fatal miscalculation on my part. My dad believes that boarding passes can only be printed once, period, and that now he won’t be able to get on the plane. I explain that everything is fine — in fact, he’ll be able to print a copy of his boarding pass at the airport.
“How am I supposed to do that?” he asks.
“There will be kiosks, and you can print your boarding pass at any one of them,” I say.
“Kiosks? You mean where you print luggage tags?”
“Yes. You can also use them to print boarding passes.”
“How can they do both?”
I quickly realize that kiosks are not a solution and encourage him to go to the counter instead. “The agent there will print your boarding pass when they check your bags.”
“But how will they be able to check my bags if I don’t have a boarding pass?”
“Just give the agent your confirmation number, and they will print your boarding pass.”
“I don’t have my confirmation number.”
“You texted it to me.”
“I don’t have that text anymore.”
“I will forward it to you.”
“Oh, wait. I wrote it down. It’s in my luggage somewhere. I’ll go unpack.”
I remind him that he received an email from the airline with his confirmation number. He opens his phone and finds the email. Before he can accidentally delete it, I point out that all of the information he needs to survive his trip is right there at his fingertips.
“Except I don’t have a boarding pass,” he adds.
I excuse myself to the bathroom and bang my head against the wall for 20 minutes.
When I return, he asks, “Are you absolutely sure I can print my boarding pass at the airport?” I do my best to convince him that he’s not about to be condemned to live there like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, but I also accept that further debates over this and other stress-inducing subjects are going to require Witchcraft.
My dad has an anxiety disorder about as severe as my own, the difference being that mine is (mostly) managed through long-term medication and cognitive behavioral therapy, whereas he didn’t seek treatment for his until he moved to Boston and has been through three different meds in the past year. Whenever his doctor puts him on a new one, he goes through the following steps:
- Takes the medication.
- Looks up all the possible side effects of the medication.
- Decides he is now afflicted with all of them.
- Throws the rest of the medication away.
- Experiences anxiety.
- Calls his doctor to get on a different medication.
His current prescription seems to be doing its job, and his doctor managed to get him to understand that the rash he recently found on his arm was just a patch of dry skin, not a reaction to the happy pills. Which is a huge relief all around, although there are still Boarding Pass Moments that trigger anxiety attacks, and his anxiety triggers my anxiety. And I’m at a point where I’m just going to have to do something about that.
There’s an old Hoodoo formula called Cast Off Evil that’s used to mitigate bad habits and addictions, but with a little tweaking (no pun intended), it can help with mental health issues. I’m going to Boston in mid-November, and the current plan is to bring a small sachet — stuffed with lavender and dressed with homebrewed Cast Off Evil oil — which I’m going to hide somewhere in his apartment.
The working will have a binding aspect to it, in that I’ll be surrendering some of my anxiety in order to subdue his. (It won’t be missed: I’ll make more.) The challenge is going to be a) finding a place to stash the charm where he won’t find it, and b) having a plausible explanation locked and loaded in case he does find it.
I mean, I could always just hand it to him and tell him what it is, but my dad does not believe in Witchcraft and is not fully aware of how far down that rabbit hole I reside. Brutal honesty, in this situation, would cause more problems than it would alleviate, so the best answer is just doing the spellwork and keeping my yap shut about it.
Long story short: He doesn’t need to know I’m a Witch, even if I’m about to pour a bucket of Witchcraft all over him. As far as he’s concerned, I’m just sitting in the subway, or on buses, or the movies. Like you do.
There’s this idea in the Pagan community that magic can only be performed for someone if they’ve requested it or given permission, but the universe doesn’t always allow for that. The true ethics of Witchcraft aren’t any different from the guidelines we use to navigate daily life. What matters more are the motivations behind our actions.
Am I casting a spell on my dad’s anxiety because I expect some kind of credit? Of course not. I just know what it’s like to suffer from untreated anxiety, and I know how badly he wants to be rid of it. Would the ethical considerations be different if I was doing work to, say, chase off his new girlfriend to protect my inheritance? Undeniably. But my personal ethics prevent me from doing that, just as they prevent me from gaslighting him, or hacking into his bank account, or stealing his car.
He did make it back to Boston in one piece, by the way — they let him on the plane and everything. And okay, sure, I never want to have that conversation about boarding passes again, but that’s not the goal of any work I do around his anxiety. It’ll just be a fringe benefit.
And in a few months, when he tells me how surprisingly well his medication is working, and how much better he’s feeling, I’ll tell him how proud I am of him for sticking with the meds, and I’ll enthusiastically encourage him to keep taking them. And maybe he actually will this time. And that will really be the only reward I’ll ever need.