Am I a Witch?

A Personal Journey

It’s almost a prerequisite when you meet someone new in the Pagan Community. Almost always, the first question asked by the other person is, how did you become a Witch. Almost always, the answer to that question includes the phrase, I’ve always felt this way, I just didn’t know what to call it.

Witchcraft is something that calls to you. If you are a Witch, you know exactly what I mean. You don’t have to try to be a Witch. You don’t have to change what you believe to be a Witch. You start to read, or you talk to other Witches, and you find that the information you get seems to describe almost exactly what you’ve always felt. You find that there is a name for what you already believe. It’s called Witchcraft.

In my own case, the journey to becoming a Witch took many years. Around the age of ten, my mother stopped taking us to church. We had been going to the church she and her family had been going to for years. It was an old church. We purchased and laid a new corner stone for the church on its one hundredth anniversary when I was about eight. I don’t know the exact reason we stopped going to church. My mother once told me that she felt that some of the people in the church didn’t want or need the help of people from the suburbs.

I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I know my mother felt very hurt by the experience. She looked for a church closer to home, but never found anything that suited her. Since there really were no kids at the church we had been at, except my brother and two cousins, I certainly wasn’t upset about no longer needing to get up early to spend several very boring hours in a very old building, with what seemed to me at the time as equally old people.

My formal religious education stopped then. I could, and most definitely did ask religious questions of my parents. I remember when a neighbor got divorced, and then a few months later had his new girlfriend move in. My mom liked the girlfriend but was somewhat scandalized, and I asked her why it was against the law to live with someone before being married. She told me that God’s Law said that a man and a woman should be married before living as a man and a wife, but that it was not illegal. I thought that was a good thing, since the neighbor was a Denver cop.

My dad had been raised Catholic, but because of personal tragedy, had fallen away from the church some ten years before I was born. My aunt, who I never knew, married a man, had two boys with him, and he killed her, then himself in a jealous rage. The funeral Mass was for both of them. Both were given Last Rights, and laid together at the cemetery. Everything was done equally for the two of them, the only sign that he had done anything wrong in the eyes of the church, was that his casket was at the back of the church, hers was at the front.

My dad was very close to his sister. They were the best of friends. When he asked the Priest why after committing not one, but two Mortal Sins, his brother-in-law was being given the same treatment as his victim, the Priest said that God forgives all Sin. Having grown up in an Italian family, and the Roman Catholic Church, my dad had been taught that Mortal Sin was unforgivable. The answer had caused my dad to question a God whom he believed was being hypocritical, or at the very least, question the hypocrisy of the Church where its stance on Mortal Sin lay.

Because of that, when asked questions of a religious nature, my dad tended to put answers in the third person. He would say that some people believe this or that, he never came out and said what he believed. I think a lot of it was that he really wasn’t sure what he believed. His fundamental beliefs were formed within the Catholic church, but he could not reconcile them with what had happened all those years ago at his sister’s funeral.

As a teenager, I started to question what I had been taught as a child in church. My parents taught my brother and I to be independent thinkers, to make our own choices, and not follow the crowd. It was that basic parental question, “If everyone else jumped off a bridge, would you jump too?” Silly as the question is, it really does have deep meaning. I see people following others off the metaphorical bridge every day.

People base political stances not on what they’ve found out themselves, but on what others tell them. They say they believe something, but when someone questions them why, they are stuck. They can’t tell you because they don’t know. They let others decide for them. I was always taught that I should get the facts myself, and know who I wanted to vote for, not to fall in line because everyone else seemed to. My dad always made sure I knew that same philosophy works for everything else in life too.

So why am I a Witch? A lot of people, especially the younger ones, come to Witchcraft as a form of rebellion, or because it would be cool to be able to cast spells. I admit that the Magickal aspects were what first attracted me, but the more I read, the more I learned from others, the Spiritual side just fit what I already had decided was right for me.

Let me give you an example. After puberty, but before I became sexually active, I started to question the moral issues I had been taught about sex. My mom had always told me that sex was the ultimate expression of love between two people. She also said that while sex wasn’t the most important part of a marriage, it was a large part of it. I never understood exactly what that meant until I fell in love the first time.

So here I am a teenager, pondering the morality of sex. The church had always put rules and regulations on sex. Society had said that sex was dirty, and somehow wrong, yet I was noticing that everyone was obsessed with it. I was smart enough to realize that society got its values from the dominant religious framework, and that caused my first Spiritual crisis.

Here was my dilemma…

I have always been a very logical thinker. Mom taught me that sex is the ultimate expression of love. Society and the church seemed to say that sex is dirty, and absolutely wrong outside of marriage. If sex is dirty no matter what, how does getting married change something wrong, into something right? If something dirty is the ultimate expression of love, doesn’t that also make love dirty and wrong?

I struggled with this question for quite some time, until I finally decided that I needed my own code of ethics. I realized that only I can decide what is right or wrong for me. I wasn’t going to jump off the bridge just because everyone else was. I realized that as long as the people involved wanted it, that sex was perfectly fine. It didn’t matter if they were married or not, gay or straight, two people or twenty two, if they wanted to have sex, why shouldn’t they?

That was the start. It dawned on me soon after, that if I could decide what was right or wrong for me for sex, I could do the same for any other issue. I never wrote down, or made a formal code of ethics for myself. I figured that if it felt right, it probably was right. I decided to trust myself, to know right from wrong. Society can do whatever it wants. I am the only one who determines what is right for me.

Years later I found Witchcraft. I had always been interested in the idea. As a teen, I used to get a mail order catalog for books. I was a ravenous reader, and my parents encouraged me to read as much as possible. My dad never understood why I read Sci-Fi and Fantasy. He thought reading should be to gain knowledge. My mom on the other hand enjoyed reading the books after I had finished them, and we would talk about them. I will say that my choice of reading material gave me one of the best vocabularies of any high school student.

I can remember looking through the book catalogs and seeing Raymond Buckland’s Complete Book Of Witchcraft there. It always seemed that when the book was in the catalog, I never had the money to buy it, and when I had the money, it wasn’t there. I realized later that had I gotten it at that age, I wouldn’t have been interested in what it was really about.

Everything happens for a reason.

When I did finally get my hands on that book, it opened a whole new world to me. I had reached an age where I knew how to be an independent thinker, but had been struggling with my thoughts on religion. At the time, all I knew was the Judeo-Christian form of religion. I had heard about Eastern forms, but they didn’t really interest me. I had been calling myself an agnostic for years, because I really didn’t know what I believed, and I knew it.

Enter the first books I read on Witchcraft, borrowed from a housemate, and first teacher. Suddenly I found that just about everything I had come up with on my own, was reflected in these books. I found a name to put to what I had been for years. I was a Witch. It seemed only natural that there should be a God and a Goddess. The views I read on social issues including sex all paralleled what I had already decided, and on top of it all, this Spiritual Path didn’t just encourage independent thinking, it pretty well demanded it.

I had found my Path, but in doing so, I discovered my second Spiritual crisis. What if everything I had been taught as a child, really was the Truth? What if after committing myself to this Path, I died and found myself in front of the all-powerful God of my childhood, trying to explain why I had strayed from the True Path? Would this be damning myself to Hell?

I had never been really religious in my life, but this idea scared the crap out of me. I had found something that called to me. It resonated within every part of who I was, but I was afraid that following this Path could cause me to forever be barred from Heaven. The Bible is full of stories of a vengeful god. He smote entire cities that displeased Him. He caused a flood that killed all but one family. He threw man out of Paradise because man did the one thing he was told not to.

This was serious. I could be putting my Immortal Soul at risk here. I had never been religious, but all of a sudden I was scared that this one choice could cause irreparable harm. I think…no, I know that this had come about because my mom had died of cancer only a couple of years earlier, when I was 21. I hadn’t thought much about death and the afterlife until that happened.

My mom’s sickness and death had shown me in a way nothing else could, that I was mortal. I would die. The loss of a parent has a way of doing that. The two people that have always been there for you, and now one of them is gone. I will never see her again in this life, and this choice I was making could keep me from ever seeing her again. It’s been over 20 years now since she died, and I still miss my mom. I think of her almost daily. The hurt and pain faded years ago, but the memory is still there.

My dad fell in love and married a wonderful woman after mom died. Terry is now my mom, but she can never replace my mother, and the wonderful thing is, she never tried. It took me a while to come to terms with the idea that by following my heart and embracing Witchcraft, I might be barring myself from Heaven. In the end I decided that as long as I was a good person, and God could find no fault with how I lived my life, that is all that matters.

The point of exposing my life to you, the reader, is that on this Path, you are going to face many decisions. My choices are my own, you will probably not face the same things I did, but then I will probably not face the choices you will. There will be times when you question if this is the right Path for you. There may be times when you question every choice you’ve ever made.

Questioning is a good thing. You only find answers when you question. Unlike other Spiritual Paths, Witchcraft encourages the questioner, and the questions. I cannot tell you if you belong on this Path or not, only you can answer that question. Even if you decide to return to the religion you were born into, at least you questioned enough to look around. Having looked around, you can return to your original Path should you choose to, secure in what you’ve found. Everyone should be secure enough in their beliefs to know why they hold them. That is the first step to true Enlightenment.

I became a Witch and it has made my life rich with knowledge, experience, and friends. I never looked back at my choice until the idea of writing this hit me. I do not, and never will regret my choice to become a Witch. It is what I am, and have always been. Years later I read something on a church marquee and smiled at the confirmation I no longer needed. It said simply; all Gods are One.

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