I randomly came across a book for the Wiccan collegiate. It described a fictional character, perhaps focusing a little too much on her attire, on her “coming out” day–the day she decided to “come out of the broom closet” as they say, wearing her pentagram necklace openly in public. (The pentagram represents the four elements–earth, air, fire, and water, with a fifth element–spirit–on top.) The character wore dark make-up and had black nail polish, along with dark attire, and was a little too cliche for me. At least the author didn’t say anything about “perfectly arched brows.” It made me think about real Wiccans–not to say the young, attractive, slightly goth Wiccan doesn’t exist or shouldn’t be represented (and celebrated!) But she gets all too much attention, and in the mean time, the many quiet, less out-going Wiccans go unnoticed. So here is my response, an introduction to a pretty typical Witch:
Genie looks out her dorm room window. It’s a Friday night, which means the noise of crowds and music waft through her window. She watches as students coalesce; some chatting casually, others laughing raucously, and all eventually dispersing and heading to respective parties. Many Greek houses have their front doors open with music and the reflections of flashing lights pouring out onto their front porch.
A warm breeze caresses her face, but Genie feels a strange chill around her shoulders, which is why she is wearing a cashmere sweater over her T-shirt. It’s out of place with her baggy jean shorts and sandals, but it’s warm and soft, and smells like her mother. Her short, blondish, light-brown hair sits in a shapeless blob on top of her round face. (She discovered, just recently, that her hair doesn’t cooperate well with a short, edgy cut.) Small earrings, which she made from shells found on a beach trip, dangle from her ears. Peering out onto the Campus lawn, she sips lavender tea.
The noises of a warm Campus weekend night are comforting and jarring at the same time. The old familiar conflict begins to bubble up in Genie’s head: to go out, or not to go out–that is the question. On one hand, she feels connected to all those people. Other than students she sees on a daily basis, just being at university together makes her feel a sense of belonging–as though they are all bound on the same journey. Even kids with whom she shares zero interests face similar struggles: classes, social drama, stress from family. But then, she also feels incredibly isolated. She could put on a face and go have a decently nice time at a party. Many kids could be inviting–the artsy kids especially respond well to Genie’s strange collection of clothing, obscure interests, and laid-back attitude. But there is some part of the Genie that has always longed to be embraced, one which she has kept hidden away. Watching the crowds thin as students are drawn indoors by the sound of music and promise of beer, she feels an old pang and deep loneliness. Suddenly, the camaraderie fades and everyone seems a million miles away–on a different planet, living a totally different life.
Genie isn’t the only pagan on campus, of course, and she had met and hung out with a few others. But there is still this disconnect between her and everyone else, even her family and childhood friends. She loves the Craft, and it has brought her not only joy, but a sense of self and peace of mind. It’s the reason she came this far–the thing that, in recent years, helped her navigate mixed messages from society, her family, her various desires and doubts, and the turmoil of teenage emotion. When she’s stressed about her schedule, she can meditate. If she’s worried about a certain decision, she can divine the future–at least to some extent. And when she really needs to make something happen, she does magic. Mainly this entails putting her intention into the Universe. It’s as though her intent creates a vortex in space and time that will lead her to the desired result. Sometimes it’s like climbing uphill, and other times everything falls so easily into place. This is done in lots of little ways, and is only grand or dramatic when the situation calls for it (which is very rare. In fact, there are only a couple times she can remember taking urgent magical measures with dramatic results.) The thing that kills Genie about hiding magic, though, is that magic is everywhere.
Even when she was sitting in the Administration office waiting to sign up for orientation, a task usually tedious and entirely boring, Genie saw magic in the codes, laws, and processes. Someone had created all this, she thought; a working system which keeps things running smoothly and perpetuates tradition. Because someone, or a group of people, decided something and put it to paper, they made it real. And even though she didn’t like sports, when dragged to a soccer game with her friend, she saw a microcosm representing a macrocosm: a small group of people playing a game representing the glory of battle and victories of nations. That was magic to her; a ritual in its own right.
All these things are awe-inspiring to Genie, but she can’t share them with anyone. Even the other pagans she has met–two, to be exact–call her optimistic (as an insult, though Genie doesn’t see it that way) and wishy-washy. She sighs, pushing negative thoughts out of her mind. Closing her eyes, she takes a long, slow sip of tea. She decides it’s time for some solitary magic–and something more caffeinated.
In just a few minutes, the kettle is whistling. Genie was able to get her own apartment on campus, for which she is very thankful. She has her own kitchenette, living room, and small bedroom. The limited counter space in the kitchenette has much standard bachelor fare: a small wooden stand holding stone-wear mugs, a note pad, and various small appliances. Less common is her stack of wooden boxes with hand-written labels, her porcelain tea pot, and jars of herbs. Despite the wooden boxes labelled things such as “psychic tea” and “bedtime tea” she opens the cupboard and pulls out a store-bought bag of jasmine.
Across from the kitchen area is a rather useless space, not quite large enough for a table, but awkwardly between the kitchen and living room. Here stands a narrow dresser, usually out of place in a kitchen. The drawers hold smaller containers with various supplies: candles, trinkets, silk cords, pieces of paper, among other things. Stooping slightly, she removes a long white cord, a white candle, and a little purple bag. She closes the door and, with tea and supplies in hand, moves into the living room.
Other than a small entertainment center, she has an antique coffee table, a cow-print rug (which was a miraculous thrift store find,) and a cerulean blue couch. She sets her supplies and tea on the table, figuring the gods will forgive her for bringing a drink to the ritual space–especially if she shares.
She gets up and goes back into the kitchen, retrieving some dried fruit and nuts, putting them on a saucer, and adding a tiny cup meant for espresso. After setting these things on the coffee table as well, she clears the area, cleaning up clutter, and pulls the table away from the couch. Sitting on the floor facing the table, she takes a moment to meditate. A calm focus descends upon her. It is quieter outside now, with only a few lingering souls, and the warm breeze continues to grace the room. The students, once again, all feel miles away, but this time in a comforting way. Genie has her own space–her magic space.
Moving slowly, she stands and walks around the table with the cord, creating a visible circle on the floor. She feels a shiver run down her spine–the circle is complete. She lights the candle and opens the bag. It carries seven stones of various color: blue, green, yellow, orange, black, purple, and clear. She makes a circle with these stones around the candle and once again sits back to meditate. She hums lightly–one long note, similar to “ohm” but in different pitches. Starting at a low pitch, she raises it a note every minute or so. These notes correlate with the chakras. When she is finished, she takes the espresso glass and dips it into her own tea, setting it on the saucer with the dried fruit. This is her offering.
“God and Goddess–” she starts. Genie doesn’t feel extremely connected to the idea of an actual God or Goddess. However, she imagines the feminine and masculine forces of the universe; the infinite vacuum of space, the blazing suns exploding inside of it, and how, together, they created life. Many rituals call for some acknowledgement of a deity, and Genie finds her own ways to accommodate this. Besides, something about offering food makes her feel grounded. There is something humbling about it, and for all she knows, there could be some conscious being who has helped her all along. Who is she to deny them? She does feel like she has some sort of guide or higher self. It gives her messages, helps her realize truths, and is a comforting presence.
“God and Goddess, I present this offering to you. Thank you for all of your blessings. To my spirit guide, thank you for your continued guidance.” The tone changes now, and she speaks as if talking to a friend; “Classes are going well, a little stressful, but I am coping. There is this guy in Chem who harasses me a little. He picks on me, I guess? But I’m concerned it’ll get worse and I don’t know how to react to him. Please give me patience and understanding.” After casually discussing her current concerns, she sits back to meditate. After 15 minutes, she feels her mind change. Her focus increases, her senses sharpen, and there is a sense like a dull hum in her mind. Several things suddenly occur to her, as if they had been obvious all along: Tyler (the guy from Chemistry) might have a little crush on her, he may not have been taught how to handle delicate feelings, he may have many conflicting emotions, and he may not have had the most loving or supportive parents. Genie opens her eyes and stares for a long moment.
“Holy shit,” she whispers.
She sets about gathering up her supplies, putting the stones back into the bag, and raveling the rope up into a neat bundle. The only thing left is the candle, still lit, and the food offering.
“The circle is closed. Thank you for joining me in ritual today. Merry meet, merry leave, and merry meet again!” She throws her hands in the air, taking deep breath, and then moves them in wide circles–more to stretch out her muscles and get her blood flowing than for any symbolic reason. After putting the supplies away, she grabs a leather-bound journal and starts recording every detail of the ritual, including any thoughts or emotions she encountered.
Genie thinks back to feeling antisocial just an hour ago. She doesn’t always feel confident in public–it comes and goes. But here, in her home, in her circle, with the candle still burning gently and the dried fruit a reminder of her magic, she is perfectly content in herself; truly confident. The rest of the world, perhaps, would not understand her if they knew everything she thought and did. But Genie knows herself, and that is all that matters.