This is not what I had planned when I went into law school. But life is a journey; life is a highway, if you will. And I am hydroplaning violently into the cement divider.” –Reb Masel
So I didn’t take home any Witchie Awards, which I promise is cool, on account of I’m stoked for the people who did win. And because I’m really coming into my own as the Susan Lucci of occult media. But I’m also pleased to report that according to atheists, I’m a real witch.
And that feels like a win.
One of my newer employees is an atheist with occasional agnostic leanings, and recently, an old roommate of his resurfaced to cause annoyances in his life. So he was venting to me (I encourage open and honest communication in the workplace), reciting a laundry list of this person’s
character flaws personality quirks, and towards the end of his rant, he was like, “… And he says he’s a witch.”
I flinched a little at that, like, “Oy, I don’t think I want to know where this goes.” But then he was all, “I don’t mean to gatekeep, but you are a real witch. He is not.”
And I was like, “Okay… I’m going to need some clarification here.”
My employee was happy to elaborate: “Every time I come in, you’re either throwing rocks on the ground to see the future, or you’re on your way out the door to go dance in a graveyard, or you’re jumpstarting a car from thirty feet away.”
“Be that as it may, ” I said, “You can’t really hold up his practice to my practice and say that one is ‘real,’ and the other is not.”
But he was like, “I lived with him for years. He doesn’t have a practice. All he does is wear Halloween-themed pants and tell everyone what a big witch he is. You’re the real witch. Not him.”
Way back when I first stuck my neck out into the greater Pagan community, I was surprised by the number of people I encountered who identified as witches, and who held very strong opinions on what did or did not make one a witch, but who didn’t actually practice witchcraft. Like, they had the look down, and they were quick to pass judgement on anything that didn’t meet their witchy standards, but when it came to casting spells or participating in rituals, they were nowhere to be found.
For instance, several years ago, my friends Sphinx and Khi and I decided to check out a Pagan meetup thing, where we ended up chatting with this girl who was sort of waxing philosophic on the trials and tribulations of being a witch. Attempting solidarity, Sphinx was like, “I know, right?” and told a story about the time we got hilariously drenched by a thunderstorm after aggressively experimenting with weather magic. And then Khi started talking about the challenges he’d encountered while taking trance journeys with native plant spirits, and the girl was like, “Wait. You guys are actually doing stuff.”
And we looked at each other and shrugged and were like, “Well, yeah. We’re witches.” And she just stared at us like we’d suddenly sprouted hooves.
To be fair, I’m not against the witchcore aesthetic — in fact, I quite enjoy it (as anyone who has seen my apartment can attest). And I do not believe that one should be required to practice witchcraft in order to dress the part. But I also believe that the opposite holds true: If one is going to promote oneself as a witch — much less a generational witch who learned the dark arts from one’s great-grandmama (pronounced muh-MAH), as my employee alleges his ex-roommate claims — one should be actively engaging in some kind of practice that lands on the witchcraft spectrum.
Having never met this dude myself, I hit my employee up for more details, thinking that there might be a chance he was some kind of folk practitioner whose magic wouldn’t necessarily read as witchcraft to a layperson. But apparently, there isn’t any magic, nor any particular interest in exploring it. There is, however, a vested interest in presenting as a great and terrible wielder of magic, with an equally strong commitment to surrounding himself with people who would never expect him to ever prove it.
Conversely, the people around me don’t expect me to prove I’m a witch for the same reason they don’t expect me to prove I’m queer or left-handed: It’s just an aspect of my identity. And because they are my friends, they accept all of me without question. They do occasionally ask for readings, in the same way that they sometimes ask if I can notarize things for them. And they’re comfortable asking in these cases, because I’ve made it clear how much I enjoy it when I get to share those parts of my life with them.
Frankly, if I were using any part of life — witchcraft, notarizations, or otherwise — to position myself as more important or special than anyone else, I don’t think I would be a very good friend. At least, I wouldn’t want to be my friend.
Now, when someone outside of my immediate circle finds out I’m a witch, I usually assume that they’re going to think I am crazy or silly or both. And I’m fine with that, because, as I’ve said any number of times, what other people think of me is none of my business. But to have someone who resolutely does not believe in witchcraft look at my witchcraft practice and pronounce it “real”… that was oddly complimentary.
And it is also not my place to compare my witchcraft approach to anyone else’s — regardless of how superficial theirs may strike me — and announce that mine is somehow more valid. But I do have to say this:
I really want Halloween-themed pants.