Confession: Why I'm Not a Witch Anymore
A little over six years ago, I wrote an article called How to Become a Witch and Practice Witchcraft. To my complete and utter shock, that article would be read by well over half a million people and receive hundreds of comments from people all over the world. Since then, a lot has changed, and I feel the need to come clean about a few things.
We'll get the most obvious out of the way first. Like the title says, I'm no longer a witch and I no longer practice witchcraft. Why? The short answer is that I converted to Christianity. Specifically, to Anglo-Catholicism. I know some of you are probably going to stop reading right there, if you weren't deterred by the title, and that's okay. A year ago--honestly, even a few months ago, while I was still identifying as a Christian witch--I would have done the same. I know this message is going to upset a lot of people and my fear that it will end up hurting others the way I was so often hurt in the past is what kept me from making this post for a while. But as hard as it is, and as unpopular as I'm sure it's going to be, I know I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't write my truth. The full truth, even the parts that are hard to admit.
If you're still here, whether you're a witch, a Christian, both, or something else entirely, I want to say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I need you to know I appreciate your openness to hear my experience, as that's something too few people in this world, regardless of faith, are able to do. I certainly wasn't for a long time. Please read this for what it is--my own experience--not a judgment or a condemnation of anyone else's. And wow, what a rollercoaster ride it's been!
How I Went from a Protestant Upbringing to Becoming a Witch
In order to explain why I left witchcraft and how I ended up converting to Christianity, I need to go into a little bit of background. I was born to a single mother who was raised as a mainline Protestant, but it was cultural Christianity. The kind you're just expected to fall into because you live in the midwest and, well, that's just what "nice midwestern families" do. When she was a bit older, she had the experience of being "born again" in a Pentecostal church. My mother also has untreated Borderline Personality Disorder, and what might have begun as a legitimate attempt to grasp faith eventually became twisted into a form of control and a mentality of fear, hatred and bitterness. My father was a thrice-married philanderer with nearly a dozen children between his scorned lovers, and while being married to a Protestant minister, he sexually abused me and at least one of his other daughters that I know of. When I was 12 years old, he died insisting that the people around him owed him an apology, rather than the other way around. That's the Christianity I was born into. That's the Christianity I was raised with. That's the Christianity I escaped.
It took twenty long years, but while attending a Christian college, I finally broke the last cord tethering me to an empty and broken faith that was never really my own. I was baptized young, and to this day, I credit that with being the spiritual shield that protected me through every dark and winding corridor I ventured down in the search for truth, control and acceptance. Something happened when I finally came to admit that I didn't know what to believe, I just knew I didn't believe in the religion I had been raised with. I could only admit it to myself at first, and to the childhood friend who would one day become my amazing and patient husband.
In college, I had the privilege of studying under some of the most renowned New and Old Testament scholars in the country. The more I learned, however, the more I realized just how flawed the theology I'd been raised with was. In fact, while my teachers came from a variety of denominations, the one common denominator was that they actually knew theology that was based on Scripture rather than the opinions of the loud fire and brimstone preachers I had grown up with. Or, on the other extreme, the years I spent at a flaky "non-denominational" church with a pastor whose only real theological convictions were really just racism and homophobia masquerading as doctrine.
College was a breath of fresh air because it allowed me to explore the wealth of Christian scholars and realized that there was an entire Christianity beneath the peeling layers of the decrepit shell of a religion I knew. Kierkegaard! Wesley! Calvinism vs. Armenianism! There were so many scholarly resources at my fingertips, and away from my toxic home environment, I was free to explore them all without censure. While the students and professors around me had a firmer grasp of theology than I'd ever seen before, the more I learned about the history of the church and the splintering of all the different denominations created as cults of personality around specific church leaders, I saw just how many holes there still were. I'd grown up on cheesecloth, but this material, while more substantive in comparison, was still wearing thin.
The further back in time I went through church history, the stronger the fabric became. This course of exploration led me past the confines my Baptist and Methodist mentors were comfortable with, and I began peeking through the stained glass windows of Catholicism. At the time, I mistakenly believed that Roman Catholicism was the only option. As a child, I had always been drawn to Catholicism, which embodied all the mysticism I had been raised with minus the chaos and disorder, but while I knew some perfectly lovely Roman Catholics, none of them seemed to be truly engaged in their faith. For most, it was just another version of the same cultural Christianity I had been raised with. Same product, different label, and I had been hurt by too many Christians to risk venturing down another road that was only going to let me down.
Then, along came witchcraft.
How I Became a Witch and Started Practicing Witchcraft
I remember the first time I really started considering paganism as a belief system, and witchcraft as a practice. At the time, I thought they were both interchangeable terms, and the only window into the world of the occult that I knew of was Wicca. In fact, I remember vividly the first time I stumbled upon the Wiccan Rede on an old Geocities website with eye-straining purple font and glittering GIFs. I felt something I had never experienced before, and certainly not in the context of Christianity. I felt a connection to something greater than myself.
Down the rabbit hole I went. I've never been someone to do things halfway, and the moment I discovered witchcraft as a topic of interest, I unraveled it with the same zealous intent with which I'd unraveled my Christianity. (Notice I say my Christianity, because that's exactly what it was.)
Like I said, I've never been one to do things halfway, so I explored every possible avenue of belief that had once been forbidden to me. I was fascinated with the similarities as much as the differences, and the only areas under the umbrella of paganism that I wasn't comfortable exploring were those that bore any tangential connection to the religion of my upbringing.
I started keeping the holidays and practicing my craft according to the phases of the moon, and even the planetary stations by the hour. I cast spells of protection on my pets and loved ones, and yes, I cursed my enemies. (When I realized Wicca required a year and a day for proper initiation, I moved on quickly. Patience has never been my virtue.) My skeptical, analytical mind remained hesitant to chalk my supernatural experiences up to anything more than the ideomotor phenomenon and wishful thinking.
Until those experiences became too numerous and powerful to ignore. The spells I cast were working. And I mean really working! One of the first I cast was a protection spell to keep a toxic relative from harassing me. It was a simple freezer spell, meant to "freeze" the harmful behavior in its tracks, and it worked for a full year until I received a phone call from said relative one day while I was out (collecting candles for my Samhain ritual, as it just so happened). I was bewildered and upset, both by the unwanted contact and the fact that my spell had failed.
Or so I thought. When I returned home, I discovered that the power had gone out in my absence and--you guessed it--my freezer spell had melted.
That was the first time I realized, without a doubt, magick was real. And if magick was real, and actual events and circumstances could be bent to my will, that meant I finally had the one thing I'd been craving desperately throughout a youth filled with spiritual abuse and manipulation: control.
Needless to say, I was hooked. I've always been one of those people who learns best by teaching. Something about synthesizing new information and reiterating it in a way that others can grasp has always cemented that knowledge in my mind, and I got the same thrill from teaching and writing that I imagine a lot of people get from drugs and alcohol. After a lifetime of being intellectually, emotionally and spiritually stifled, being part of a community that explored openminded exploration was intoxicating!
This is where I feel the need to say thank you to the pagan community, and to all the other witches I encountered during this time. I mean it! It was the first time I'd experienced a sense of spiritual community free of toxic control, and it gave me the space to begin to heal from my many spiritual wounds. For that, I will always be grateful. And I mean it when I say that so many of the kindest, most sincere, and intelligent people I've known have been and are still a part of the pagan community. Most of them identify as witches.
I'm not here to tell you that I think witches are evil or that anyone who reads tarot or checks their horoscope is going to hell. There's enough of that crap all over the Internet, and if there is one sin that's done more damage than any other, it has to be people who masquerade as Christians while living as hypocrites who condemn everyone else's perceived wickedness without seeing their own. Like Scripture says in Matthew 7:3, "Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?"
This is where my testimony is going to offend a good number of Christians, and that's okay with me. My single greatest fear in life is being a force that pushes anyone away from God, but I'm okay with my testimony being offensive to the legalists who will probably look at this headline, nod approvingly, and expect that I'm going to start bashing "those new agers" and talking about how holy I am now that I'm no longer one of them. Like Jesus says in Luke 10:16, "He that despiseth you despiseth me," and in 2 Corinthians 2:16, "To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume."
I'd dare to say there are more people who call themselves Christian who are repulsed by the truth than any other group. Our current cultural landscape is proof enough of that.
The truth is that unlike so many others who've found Jesus and left witchcraft, I didn't leave because I had any spooky, negative experiences. In fact, the overwhelming majority of experiences I had, both interpersonal and in my private spiritual journey were positive. I didn't so much run from the occult as I went through it, and I'll tell you what that means.
The Convergence: The Beginning of My Conversion
Like a lot of occultists, I started to notice patterns after I'd been practicing for a while. Similarities between all the different beliefs and pantheons, religions and practices. I started out studying "low magick," and casting spells I found on the Internet, and eventually progressed more to the study of the underlying concepts of these belief systems themselves. Everything from Jung's collective consciousness to the surprisingly modern theories of the earliest alchemists (hence my username).
It had been years since I'd cut the cord binding me to a toxic religion and its more bigoted adherents, and I had finally healed enough to begin to explore the rich history of Western mysticism and all its trappings. John Dee, Agrippa, Crowley, nothing was off-limits anymore. I found myself less of a practitioner and more of a theologian, ironically enough, and that was fine with me. My life was and is in a great place. I was happy, healthy and living a life I'd never imagined possible in the fractured pieces of my youth. I had control over my life and no longer needed to search for it in the haze of ritual smoke or the glossy black surface of my scrying mirror. Like most of the occultists I was studying, I had come to realize that the search for truth always led within.
The problem was, there wasn't much to find once I finally arrived. For all my hours spent in meditation and all the care and energy I'd put into my spiritual development, from pricey coursework to even pricier tarot cards and crystals I accumulated hungrily while telling others they weren't necessary, I was empty. I was closer to the truth, whatever it was, than I had ever been in my life. I could feel it. I could see the tapestry of spiritual knowledge weaving itself together from the threads of all the belief systems I'd dabbled in and all the pagan deities I'd courted. And yet, the closer I drew, the more familiar that elusive truth seemed to become.
It all pointed back to one source. One central "myth" from which all others originated. One true source of power that was greater than any I'd ever been able to graze in my years of spellcasting and crystal gazing. I started to realize that not only had I been "sheltered" from church history, which began long before the Puritans set sail for the new world in a quest to "liberate" themselves from orthodoxy, but from the true origins of so many of the occult ideas that I had come to think of as exotic and novel. The deeper I went into the study of the occult, the more Christian mystics popped up. The more I studied the writings of Dee and Albertus Magnus, the more I realized that every thread of truth I found in the occult (and there were many!) that was strong enough to bear the weight of scrutiny ultimately led back to Judaism and Christianity.
Many of these so-called ancient practices I'd been involved in and told were appropriated by Christianity turned out to be a product of it. Imagine my surprise when I learned that many of the traditions I'd come to practice in Norse paganism were actually contemporary or predated to Christian customs! The more obsessed I became with the history of the occult, the more I realized the truth about its origins. That the ceremonial magick I found to be more effective and well-recorded than many others was absolutely inextricable from its Christian origins. And prior to those, from mystical systems that stemmed from Judaism.
To say I was confused would be an understatement, but I'd set out in search of the truth, and I was determined to follow it wherever it led. It just so happened to lead to the Archangel Michael.
Alchemy, Angels and Anglicans. Or, How the Search for Occult Knowledge Led Me to Jesus
While I had dabbled in relationships with various deities, nothing ever truly stuck. And there was still the problem that while I believed (and still do) that spiritual beings of some nature or another did exist and were called by those names, none of them were God. The truth was, no matter how far I ventured from my Protestant roots, I never actually stopped believing in the existence of an all-powerful supreme Creator. I grew to think of Him as a distant, apathetic force rather than a conscious entity with whom I could have a relationship, and I was more comfortable with the labels Universe and Source than the one that had been so misrepresented to me, but I still believed. And if I had turned my back on the idea of worshipping Him, I certainly wasn't going to worship anyone or anything else!
That's how I wound up "working with" the Archangel Michael, as so many practitioners of all walks do. And I instructed others to do the same. To call on him for protection in magical workings, because he was both familiar to the one "pantheon" I had never truly been able to shake, and seemed to be "neutral" enough that I didn't feel like I was taking part in a religion I had left behind. Months passed, and I had more of a connection to the Archangel Michael than I'd ever felt to any deity I'd attempted to call upon in the past. I felt the same sense of belonging I had always felt on the skirts of Catholicism, even though the Roman Catholic Church itself had never felt quite right.
My practice became less about spell casting and more about angels. Doreen Virtue cards and saint candles. I even had decks of cards with Jesus and scripture verses on them! And through Saint Michael, I found the Virgin Mary. In her, I found the loving, patient, gentle mother I'd never had. I kept Jesus at arm's length, of course, but before long, I would have looked more like a new age Christian than a witch to any outsider.
And it felt...good. It felt so different from the "Christianity" I had been indoctrinated with. It wasn't patriarchal and stifling and cruel. The more I researched the angels, the closer I drew to their origin stories and that, ironically, led me to "dabble in" Scripture and Catholicism the way I had once been drawn into the occult.
At no point in this early phase of my journey did I see the need to stop consulting my horoscope or observing pagan holidays. The Saints became another pantheon in my eyes.
And then, it happened. The exact moment I can point to where I took an irreversible step on the conversion journey I'd been on for the better part of a year, without even realizing it. Without getting into too much detail, a person I loved very much was in a bad situation, and prayer, which I had begun to turn to so much more often than divination and spells, seemed like the only thing I could do. In exchange for this loved one's protection, I was going to pledge to stop dallying around outside those stained glass windows I'd gazed up at from early childhood and actually become Catholic. And I pretty much was one already, right? (LOL! And they say all Virgos are smart.) I was still afraid to pray to God, of course, but I was inching ever closer each time I bowed my head and asked the Blessed Virgin or Archangel Michael to intercede on my behalf. I could approach them both in a way I was convinced I couldn't approach God, and certainly not Jesus, and there was even a precedent for doing so in the Catholic faith!
Needless to say, that prayer was answered. And for the record, I wouldn't endorse making "deals" with God or His holy representatives in exchange for conversion like He's some kind of cosmic loan shark, but that was where my head was at. It was the only way I knew to approach Him, and you know what? He answered.
I'm not just talking about the person I prayed for, either. When I took that first step to make good on my "deal," I started to realize I was walking a path that had already been carved out for me, one step at a time. As I began to study Christian theology from the sound doctrine of the early Church fathers, the holes my curiosity had poked in the false Christianity of my youth began to seal up and I finally had the answers I'd been in search of for years.
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you(...) Matthew 7:7
I didn't know it then, but God had made a promise to me long before I'd made that naive vow to Him. Without my even realizing it, that verse became the mantra that had characterized my life and the journey I had begun without knowing it. The journey that was meant to lead me to one place from the very beginning.
Getting into the theological arguments and doctrines that slowly but surely answered my doubts could be a small book on its own, and maybe I will someday, if I feel the same gentle prodding that led me to write this article. Endless questioning, "parish hopping" and exploring all the surprisingly numerous branches of Catholicism ultimately led me to Anglo-Catholicism, but more importantly and first of all, they led me to the Cross. For all the denominational and theological differences there are between us, the Cross is always the gateway to truth. And as hard as it was for me to swallow, God's truth is so much better than mine.
For now, what I want you to know--what I need you to know--is that if God could find me and reach me as a self-identified eclectic Norse pagan-turned-Luciferian witch who despised anything and everything that had the mere whiff of Christianity, He can reach you. I don't know where you are in your spiritual journey, but I do know this: you are on a journey, and no matter what you've been told about people who look like you, talk like you, believe like you, or love like you, you do not have to make that journey alone.
I spent my childhood convinced I was going to burn in hell because I liked girls and boys. Because I was too inquisitive to just believe whatever I heard on Sunday because the angry man who screamed it had a Bible college degree. Because no matter how many times I prayed the "sinner's prayer" while sobbing on my hands and knees in the quiet of my room, it never "worked," not because I was beyond redemption, or because I failed to utter those "magic words" just right. A whole different kind of ritual, far more toxic than any I ever performed under a waxing moon and candlelight.
That prayer didn't "work," no matter how many times I said it, because I failed to understand back then that the work was already done for me. Jesus did the work when he hung on a cross for my sins, and no amount of praying or studying or bowing my head would ever make me worthy of that. Fortunately, God doesn't ask us to do any of that to start our journey with Him.
All we have to do is take that first step toward Home.