Ceri (Condescending) Radford an article called I Spent a Week Becoming a Witch and the Results Were Worrying appeared on the blogosphere yesterday, this is how it should have been written.
She set out to do a “New Year, New Me” challenge. If you read the article, it seems they didn’t put much seriousness nor effort into the task they set out to do. It kind of irritated me as well as a lot of people online.
So I’m rewriting the article as I feel it should’ve been written and as a skeptic who takes the practice seriously. I try to look for the true sources of folk-beliefs rather than chalking it up to silly superstition, and through all of that, I still have had honest-to-goodness mystical experiences.
I became a witch in 1996, and I started learning how to be a druid in 1999, however, I wasn’t a theist until 2015.
Another way to say this is that I was a home healer, seer, and magician long before I became the acting village priest I am today (permission granted to say ‘village idiot’ in your head).
So this article is a retro-account of that early moment, it also highlights moments from several boring weeks combined for illustration: here goes.
Monday – My first meditation
Ok, I’m in woodshop class. Mr. Walcot is bitching at the kid who can’t ever listen, threatening to lower his grade to 95% for the day, which he says is pitiful for shop class.
In the fray of class, saws buzzing and drills spinning, I notice another maybe 17-year-old kid holler out the word ‘cubits’.
“Cubits?!” I exclaim, “What are you making, a miniature Noah’s Ark?!”
He was making an altar for qabalistic practice. He had the book Modern Magick, which I went out and stole after school at a Book Stop in Humble, TX.
I tried the meditations and energy exercises and despite skepticism, they really worked. They were frisson inducing and I eventually could isolate those sensations to just part of my body like my legs, my right arm, or my index finger. Interesting enough, today I feel frisson in places that have to hairs or visible goose-bumps.
As an adult with ADHD I get around focus problems in meditation by chanting, but this was about energy work and it really did seem like there is a tangible energetic substance I can work with.
Tuesday – My First Spell
Being 17, of course, I wanted everything that a boy that age wanted in the late 90s: the ability to get around and have some agency via the ownership of a car. What better way to try out this thing that people call magic? Since this is not a literal week: I had ditched Modern Magick because I was interested in what I then considered paganism and witchcraft. So by this time, I had picked up Bucky’s Blue Book and a few of Scott Cunningham’s books.
It was always an experiment, I was not serious about obtaining the car. But I decided to use the list method. I made a list in the context of a ritualized ceremony within an altered state of consciousness.
The list had specifics. I wanted a blue manual transmission 1994 Toyota Camry with a custom stereo put in already. What I really wanted was for my Grandfather to give me his car, and so I simply specified all the attributes of his car, with harm to none of course. I didn’t want to inherit the car because of his death, in the case that this unbelievable practice actually worked and had merit.
Two days later…
The exact car I specified was sitting for sale across the street from my high school. I never specified anything about where it was coming from in the list, so when I was faced with what I asked for from an unexpected source, I was amazed and impressed.
Since then, I rarely have a spell that doesn’t seem to work. If it’s just coincidence, no harm done, I feel enriched, and wow what an astronomically consistent rate of coinciding. Nothing else in my life but the sun and moon have a high success rate of predictability. Sure prayers, spells, and charms work, but only while in a different state of consciousness.
Wednesday – First Vision
This experience happened after having made habitual devotional offerings to the Morrigan off and on for seven years.
I had woken up, sat up in the bed, looked around and began to think about my daily activities. I then felt teleported to a dark landscape. It could have been a room or hall, I have no concept of the dimensions of the place I was in, only that it was echoey, like a literal echo chamber. I looked around for a few seconds and could only see blackness.
Then I saw a raven statue in the distance within a beam of light and it was cocked to the side so I could only see one eye of the bird. The stone in the statue began to crack and it burst and fell away to reveal a real raven behind it, which cawed loudly and seemed to echo off into the distance. The raven kind of lunged its eye at me.
Suddenly I was returned to sitting up in my bed. I’m so convinced it wasn’t a dream and was some kind of waking vision. Still, I retained my skepticism while having experiences with the deities. For me, this is the only valid path into belief.
If you arrive at belief because of a romantic(read literary) love for it, you’re believing for the wrong reason. My belief is founded on doubt and then personal experiments, carried by the faith in a few sane mystics who approach this stuff with the same doubt have seen the same things as I have.
Thursday – My First Fairy
I was wandering around the Veteran’s Cemetary in Houston off of Veteran’s Memorial with my then-friend-now-wife Amanda around midnight. In the fog, I saw a German kitchen-witch stirring a 9ft cauldron. I ran off to go get Amanda and told her that I saw something weird in the mists and could she please come and tell me what she sees.
Step by step, one foot after another, clinging to one another’s hoodie, trembling in fear of what this encounter might mean for our sense of self and worldview, knowing all the stories but needing to find meaning in our worthless lives so we faced the consequences. I mean we could see steam and fire and every fine detail.
But when we approached the fairy hag stirring the pot, the pot turned into a 9ft grave-stone, and her big billowing sleeves and her spoon and arms, head and all turned into a foil style American flag balloon. For many years I used this story to reinforce and prove that my skepticism was valid, and that people’s beliefs who didn’t implore it was credulously invalid in their beliefs.
That is until I 2015 when I did end up sitting down for a while with fairies, who helped me understand that the original gravestone and flag combined with the fog was simply a mesmerizing moment, a screen upon which I can project and step into the real spirit world.
Friday – Urban Nature
In Ceri Radford’s article, she shows sarcastic contempt for connecting with nature. She describes it in an abhorrent way. The reason is clear to me that she tokenizes nature while exhibiting the symptoms of someone desperatley needing the connection she criticizes.
When I first became a pagan, I lived in Houston. When I got serious about my practice in 2003, I lived in the heart of the city. Through all the dirt, grime, trash, and everything, I have a love for the city. Like cities are described in Songs kind of love.
Unless you find ways to develop this kind of love for your urban area, you’re not going to do well trying to connect to its nature. Consequently, these kind of people are in the middle, they can’t stand the ugly elements of the city, but they can’t stand things like bugs either. They seem to not know how to become comfortable within their discomfort, something every country person does when they’re a kid, something I did during summers going back to the swamps of Lousiana we call Mudville in Grant Parish.
But there are a plethora of things to love about the city, and it is all a part of nature and you can connect with it in surprising ways. Develop a relationship with the Lord of Crossroads. I’ve done spells and meditations on the hum of motors and mowers, you can divine by the birds on a wire or if the pigeon flies to your right or left.
Masses of birds swirling around the parking lot at Walmart? Super epic.
That guy on singing blues on the harmonica in the subway, he’s a bard: a holy man.
And oh the spirits of the wind love to run their course through downtown.
Saturday – My First Altar
I had many altars but the first one that was a bunch of crap I could get at mall stores and the few things I could afford from the occult shop. It was a place for peace and recuperation, a sanctuary for myself.
I had a three-tiered shelf, each shelf progressively deeper. I placed statues of the gods on the top, working stuff like tarot, ogham, and tools on the bottom. This is the alter at which I did daily rites that lead to my vision with the Raven.
I would leave apples to the Morrigan and worship her every day. The apples on the counter rotted biweekly, but the apples I gave six months prior on the altar, never did. They just dried up and shriveled. Today I regularly leave my iron torc on my altar. When I do, it doesn’t rust, but otherwise, I have to oil it or wear it enough for my skin oil to preserve it.
Sunday – My First Meetup
Connecting with other witches is hard. I first went to a PNO and I was in love. They performed a ritual and it was my first and I felt it. I felt the energy from the beginning of my practice coursing through other people in that first rite.
It was at a Chinese buffet and the Hispanic employees were looking at us crazily. Nevertheless, my first situation around people was positive. I was glad to meet like-minded people who could really help me find direction.
I wanted to go deep but I didn’t know what I wanted to get deep into, that’s what groups are for. Groups like meetups and Pagan Nights Out are not practiced groups, they’re non-committal, you can stop going if you want, but really, without other people you may never find your way to what you might call ‘home’ without at least getting into discussion groups online. When I started out there wasn’t anything like FB groups and Yahoo groups was terrible and discouraged discourse.
I was born on the eve of what is called a Witch day, which is May 11th/12th. Witch days are the old date of Bealtaine or Samhain. Before their current dating, we used to use the Julian calendar, which had allowed the dates of Bealtaine and Samhain to shift about 12 days over the centuries away from their original holidays. We’ve since moved it all back with the Gregorian calendar but the Julian dates still remain in folklore as Witch days, one of which is Martinmas.
Maybe if Ceri was born on a witching day, she’d have better luck than she did, but what I’ve hoped to illustrate is that to get anywhere in this, you have to spend more than a week and take it a little more serious than she did.
And ultimately, spiritual experience is for everyone, even non-believers, you just have to set your cynicism aside.