The short version of a long story is I was born with natural mediumship and empathic abilities, making several of my childhood priests reject me. I tried to be Catholic for much of my childhood because my grandmother was very concerned about appearances and hiding the things that were different about our family. Since she was good at pretending, I thought, as a little girl, that everyone else was good at pretending too. Asking the wrong questions in Sunday school cause self-worth problems as you might guess though. I got kicked out of Sunday school somewhere around age eleven or twelve because I was asking too many questions about seeing spirits and where Egyptian deities fit in since my mother has always kept tools for Egyptian Magick in the house. I really didn’t understand the divide between women in my family and the Church, yet I kept trying to fit in and be normal.
I don’t really remember how I started going into the natural way (my mother always used this phrase the natural way but I never knew it was different). My best recollection was feeling rejected by Christianity and naturally drifting into what my mother and grandmother already lived despite my grandmother confusing me with a public mask of a perfect churchgoing woman.
When I finally opened up about the things I could do around puberty (spirit encounters, feeling other people, etc.), I found out that every other woman in my family has different abilities too. Even some of the men have been naturally gifted. My mother is a medium, as is my grandmother, and so on and so forth. My grandmother can also see auras and she has precognitive sight. I started doing genealogy as a separate interest and soon found documents (letters) written by other maternal ancestors in which they spoke among themselves about communication with spirits, herbs, holistics, writing prayers as poetry (?), and other things that I’m still trying to understand. My maternal line is divided between Ireland, England, France, and Germany, but most of the “natural” people seem to have come from England and Ireland.
Nobody in my family ever used the word “witch”. My grandmother, at best, referred to herself as a healer sometimes and a sensitive at other times. Despite presenting herself as a churchgoing woman, there were always books about how to use herbs, plants, dream interpretation, astrology, and so forth. I learned the importance of the moon cycle and how to properly interact with it from both my grandmother and my great-grandmother, yet nobody ever used words like “witch” or “paranormal”. She always had strange cures for things that I used to roll my eyes at when I was little even though the things she did to me always worked. She said she learned a lot of it from the African-American sharecroppers on her Missouri farm in the 1950s as well as her own mother and grandmother during the Depression and skills acquired from much further back.
My best guess is that my maternal line is full of “witches” going back before America was a country. The way I grew up, following moon cycles to do or not do things in everyday life, knowing about plants, herbs, animals, knowing about the other world, knowing “god” was female as much as male, etc.–it was all the natural way. That’s what they called it. My mother in particular always looked at Christian church as unnatural and something to be avoided but she never stopped me from exploring it. She always told me to find my own way and, as it turns out, my own way is in the footsteps of my family members who came before me.
I’ve been in and out of dedicated learning and practice since I was about fourteen. I’m thirty-two now. I don’t really know what kind of witch I am yet but I’m learning that Wicca doesn’t exactly fit with what my family believed. There was never any mention of the threefold law or the rede, for example. All mentions of higher powers, deities, spirits, etc., always sound like they’re right here among us as opposed to a far off place in the sky. That’s what I know to be true as well from my own experiences. I don’t think what we’ve been doing is Wicca since that seems to be relatively new. My family history with this kind of thing goes back to rural people in France, England, Ireland that intermarried once they came to North America in the 1600s and 1700s. I’ve heard it called folk magick in some places and Celtic witchcraft in others and traditional UK witchcraft in still others. I’m not so sure labels matter all that much as personally carrying on traditions and skills that I’ve been learning my entire life.
Unfortunately, my granny has been suffering from dementia for about ten years. I have no one to teach me on a deeper level, so I’m learning on my own. That’s even harder down here living in the Bible belt.
(To view my blog specifically about being a witch, please follow The Witch in a Wheelchair.)