Finally waking up and getting out of that broom closet once and for all!
“This above all; to your own self be true.” —William Shakespeare
It’s been a long road for me to say the word witch comfortably without wincing. Why? The connotation of the word witch has long suffered a curiously difficult journey. For me personally, I was well oriented with the negative connotations of that word. First, let me define the actual word and its origins. Merriam Webster gives us this standard explanation: a witch is someone who possesses supernatural powers, generally speaking, used for evil, and of course, female. However, to call someone bewitching has a more positive effect. Spell binding is another word with positive implications. Yet the word witch is associated with malevolence and fear. In researching Old English, simply put, a witch is someone who practices magic.
There are many indigenous cultures around the world where animism, shamanic practices, and rituals are commonplace. I’m familiar with this within my own background. In our modern day over the years, we have seen a rise in spirituality steeped in witchcraft. I myself took the first step at the age of eleven. Actually, let’s rewind. I knew I wanted to claim the title of the witch long before that–I felt it on a cellular level. I remember as a child that I could wander off somewhere and know exactly where I was going without ever feeling lost. I felt connected to those women who made concoctions, poultices, to those women who used mantras and fire rituals, and I knew I was one of them immediately.
I lived in India and America on and off for the first ten years of my life and was raised Hindu. There is certainly a lot of ritual within Hinduism. To me, it is a magical religion. But the term witch we grew up with was fraught with images of those who use their craft to harm others. The fear of the witch was real. Naturally, I didn’t use that term for myself. I just assumed that I was different, a freak of some kind. I didn’t feel like I belonged anywhere. When I moved to the US, the problem was further exacerbated by bullying. Ah, but then–I found a book at a local bookstore called Charms, Spells, and Formulas. It got my attention right away. The effect of that moment was instantaneous. It was as if it validated everything I was feeling. However, I still feared the word–and so I waited until I was a teenager to truly explore that side of myself.
I struggled with an identity crisis for a long time even after my initial awakening. I felt I was somehow betraying my culture because I was drawn to witchcraft. So I chose a culture outside but shunned my own in the process. The struggle only got worse when I encountered some trouble in a witch circle I was involved with; I really lost myself for a while and succumbed to the negativity around me. As a result, I began to fear the witch even more. I even shunned the witch part of me in favor of my own culture. But denying any part of myself meant I continued to keep one foot in the broom closet and the other one out. I know now that the fear lies in the potential stigmatization from friends and the community. However, as I learn more about my own religion, about the mystical sects within it, and from my own experiences in witchcraft, I have come to realize that practicing magick does not interfere with my ethnic or religious background. I slowly started to open up again like a lotus, bit by bit. I am finally free to put both feet out of the broom closet!
Stay tuned! My next post will be about my work in progress: a book and a plan for an apothecary. Thank you for joining me on my journey!