My first glimpses into the world of Wicca, Paganism, and Witchcraft came through a somewhat uncommon source: estate sales. As a child I went to estate sales every Saturday and Thursday morning with my Granny. Granny was creative, so she encouraged my creative fancies and was willing to get whatever reasonably price or well-bargained down thing I wanted. My tastes verged more on the flower-child, hippie end of things and by the age of 10 I had amassed a huge collection of vintage clothes, psychedelic floral linens, retro owl accessories, and any number of crewel work samplers. Mixed in with the “hippiedom” as my family called it was also a number of small brass censors, crystals, cauldrons, and old New Age books on reflexology, healing touch, positive thinking and tarot cards. One morning, I discovered a huge portion of Witches Almanacs from the early 1970s. Granny bargained down the price and we took the lot. As an adult I’m not sure if she knew what they were and didn’t care or if she simply assumed it was fine reading for a 10 or 11 year old girl. She generally didn’t provide a lot of censorship or judgement on my treasure hunting at estate sales. The vintage Witches Almanacs finally pulled all of my stylistic preferences, religious ideals, and appetite for the odd into one place: the world of the 1960’s and ’70s Occult Revival.
I think we all come to anything with a degree of fantasy. We want to join a group, get a certain job, become a certain “kind” of person. My Witch and Pagan fantasies were fed by Crowley and the Golden Dawn, 19th century bohemians, and the kind of pageantry LeVey and the Sanders. I longed to be one of those beautiful, doe-eyed, blonde, perfect bodied priestesses. I dreamed of white lace dresses, black robes, sheer veils, flower crowns, Maypoles, outdoor rituals in lush fields, perfect bonfires, and large covens full of welcoming, progressive people. I would make elaborate altars with flowers, candles, and well crafted tools. In my fantasy, I actually USE an athame (unlike in my real practice). In this fantasy I would be a priestess, I would conduct beautiful rituals, jump fires, draw down the moon, laugh with other beautiful women, flirt with lovely witch men, and there would be a tight-knit if secretive community of other skilled, magical people to talk and play with.
As for magick practices, outside of the spells and rituals found in the Almanacs, I suppose my biggest influence has been horror movies. As a child I read plenty of fairy tales and had the usual amounts of fantasy. I was in the age range for Harry Potter, and did consume the books but they were not my first “glimpse” of witchcraft – though I love them. I read Tolkein, because it was something I felt I “should” read – but the fantasy genre never became one of my favorite things. My fantasy was somewhat shaped by horror movies – especially The Wickerman (1973), but not about how I fantasized or expected magick to work. While I would love to fly and it might be nice if the reality of witchcraft could be like what was portrayed in The Craft; it’s not and I never expected such things. However, simple folk magick practices, and of course, lovely flower children ridden rituals celebrating the sacredness of life may have been just as unrealistic.
In this fantasy everyone is lovely, there are no dangerous sexual predators in the midst, and everything is just lovely. There are no tumblr fueled mental-mastubatory fights over theory, no sitting in rooms paying for conferences, and certainly no disappointing drama queen encounters. I did not envision rituals without threefold kisses or bringing fandoms into play. I never considered any number of lovely rituals and experiences I happily partake of now. I did not think about how much money I would spend over the years on yoga class or yoga accessories. Never once did I consider how many hours I might spend with my nose in books only to sigh at the end of it and declare the entire book a waste. While learning had been in my fantasy, it certainly wasn’t done solo with a Llewellyn publication!* Also note in this fantasy I am suddenly transformed into a Hitchcock blonde and given my body type have much more self-discipline than I was given in life. As for the captivating beautiful priestesses, I just don’t see myself as that kind of girl. I’m not sure what kind of girl I am; but I think perhaps not that kind. However, like my goddess-priestesses, I am kind, I try to make others comfortable in and outside of ritual, I believe in looking and doing my best, and I will be down for a flower crown or circlet on any occasion. Like all things, fantasy rarely perfectly matches with reality. Sometimes we have simply set the bar too high and other times, it’s a matter of adjusting to our own limitations given what may very well be a reasonable expectation for someone else.