IT HAPPENED TO ME: I Was Raised an Ultra-Conservative Fundamentalist and Now I'm a Liberal Witch

I don't live or practice my spirituality by anyone's rules but my own. And it's AWESOME.
Publish date:
January 26, 2015
feminism, spirituality, witch, The Craft, Witchcraft, Occult

I choose to practice witchcraft. And I can say without a doubt that it's among the best decisions I've ever made.

To me, the intentional practice of "the craft" has been about embracing the trope of the disobedient woman. It's been about gaining tons and tons of confidence, and choosing the idea that I largely control my own destiny.

Since I practice in a coven setting, I've gained some really meaningful and transformative relationships with a diverse group of women. Being a witch means taking a fluid approach to spirituality and belief, which honors both the divine feminine and humanism. Too long; didn't read? Witchcraft is awesome. A+ recommend.

This isn't a story about oppression. It's experiential, not expository or inspiring. I'm not including anything too personal, or content about things like my experiences with the fourth dimension. Why? Well, this is the Internet, and I'm not here to prove anything or change anyone's mind.

As a white, educated woman I am immensely privileged to choose how I express my spirituality. I'm not a scholar, and I can't speak with any sort of academic authority on the history of disobedient women or witches. I think this story would be a great deal more interesting if someone else told it, but it's the only story I have. And here we go.

Why I Became a Witch

I had a really, REALLY weird upbringing. I was raised in poverty as a fundamentalist Conservative Christian, which involved lots of talk about things like submission.

Like others in this sort of culture, I was taught that a woman's place was in the home, not working, not pursuing education, and definitely NOT taking birth control. I wore head coverings and didn't go to public school. It was a very abnormal childhood, and it probably won't surprise anyone at all that I rebelled really, really hard as soon as I could. I lost my virginity, went to a liberal arts college out of state, and never looked back.

After leaving my childhood culture, I toyed with Paganism, Catholicism, Atheism, Agnosticism, Humanism, and tons of other isms. In the last few years though, I realized a few things. Like many other 20-something professional workaholics, I was lonely. I had friends for sure, but I lacked the kind of relationships that are often formed in spiritual communities, which I'd experienced as a child.

More importantly, my friends were all demographically and culturally about the same as me. I wanted closeness with older and younger women, and the kind of closeness that we just don't tend to form in many urban, non-religious settings.

Also, despite my occasional attempts at things like meditation and mindfulness, I felt like my spiritual life was totally being neglected. I worked, read, occasionally ran, and that was it. It sucked.

I'll confess that I'm no mythology nut, and I don't believe in deities in any real or literal sense. I think there is a divine source of energy in the world, and deities are a reflection of how various cultures interpret this energy.

Most importantly, I believe that many of us have the power to make choices. I think the expression of intent is a meaningful, and yes, magical thing. I've heard witchcraft described as "symbolic action with intent." To me, that's absolutely accurate, and something I very much want to do on a regular basis.

The Trope of the Disobedient Woman

Like many other IT nerds, I'm pathologically shy. I've always been somewhere between thick and plus-sized, and body confidence has been a real thing I've struggled with.

For that reason, embracing the concept of the disobedient woman has been a core concept in my spirituality, and something that's been super duper valuable. Disobedient women wear what they want. They're not submissive. They're loud-mouthed, and demand their space. They've been vilified, harassed, assaulted, and burned at the stake throughout history.

It's acknowledged that many witches burned weren't even witches. Some may have practiced folk craft, but many others had the gall to be loud, provocative dressers, single, widowed, or self-sufficient. Or just in the wrong place at the wrong time. I'm privileged as fuck to live in a region, culture, and era where portraying myself as a disobedient woman has done nothing but accelerate my self-esteem, happiness, and career.

I meditate on this archetypal energy constantly. It's a driving force in how I choose to live my life. Because of it, I've become confident. I feel attractive, and that my ideas and input are pretty damn valid. I literally don't give a fuck what others think about me (case in point: publishing something that's highly personal on a very public website).

This theme has led to massive and tiny changes in my life. I don't apologize for things that aren't my fault. I'm more confident about presenting my ideas in male-dominated professional settings. I spend less time shopping for clothes that hide my body's apple shape, and more time shopping for things that are pleasing to me. I don't play by the rules anyone else makes for me (well, except the law and the IRS and my super chill employer) and it is literally THE.BEST.THING.EVER.

All that said, my choice to embrace this archetype in my own public and private life is totally a choice. I constantly think about the women who've died or suffered for their choice to be anything other than submissive. I wish I could write a spell that would make the world a just place, but that's well outside my capabilities.

Coven Magic

Deliberate communities of disobedient women are better than sex or code that compiles (nerd joke). There's something magical and super empowering about choosing to form bonds with a whole lot of women, all driven by the goal of changing their lives for the better. I'm close friends with women I'd never have met otherwise, including individuals from a broad strata of ethnic and cultural heritages, socioeconomic statuses, and general belief systems. My coven sisters may look nothing like me, but they are my sisters by choice.

While we're being honest here, I want you to know that there are some massively unhealthy covens in the world. I've been a member of one very unhealthy situation, and I chose to leave. Any religious structure has the potential to become corrupt, because they're steered by humans. Corrupt groups can take on cult-like characteristics, which is downright dangerous. As my dear friend and High Priestess always says, "If you're not free to dissent, you're not free."

The Ethics of Witchcraft

There are literally thousands of words on the Internet about what's ethical and unethical for witches to do. Probably millions of words, in fact. The topic is important, but not really what I'm here to discuss.

Here's where I come down on it. Ultimately, it's your choice. But in case you're wondering, I don't choose to curse others. I'd never do a love spell. I don't do anything that is intended to take away someone's happiness, health, or free choice. While I don't believe in the three-fold law, I think the law of cause and effect is well-observed in nature.

Additionally, I know that witches, like many others, can be wildly guilty of cultural appropriation. Pagan retreats and gatherings are rife with appropriated traditions, and things like white people choosing spirit animals makes me feel gross inside.

My personal practice tends toward some pretty unstructured, experiential shit. I do what feels right, which may or may not be based on any sort of historical tradition. I honor the divine feminine, my ancestors, and nature. I doubt I'm free of any guilt in this arena, but I honestly do my best to practice my religion based on what feels right to me, balanced with respect for cultures that just don't belong to me.

No, Really. What Does a Witch Do?

Twice a month, I go do spell work with my coven. On an as-needed basis I perform spells at home. I leave offerings for my ancestors and meditate daily.

The best part about all of this? It's my own damn practice and my own choice. I define what my spiritual life entails, and I do what I need. If I wake up tomorrow and decide that I want to go for a super long hike for a spiritual experience, I do it. I give myself meaningful experiences.

I don't know how this story ends, other than to say I realize I'm one lucky girl. I dream of starting a scholarship program or a subsidized counseling network for other women who make the choice to leave fundamentalist environments and seek support. It's not easy, and no one knows better than me that it can take years to unravel the cultural belief that women should submit. If any of these girls find themselves interested in joining my coven and becoming one saucy bitch alongside me, I'll applaud the hell out of them.