A Witch in the Family

Tanya Miller

[Tanya Miller is my 16-year-old niece, and wrote this paper for a college-level English class. She is not a witch, and knew little about the Craft before interviewing me. I'm posting it because I think it shows that young people, even those outside the Craft, can see us much more clearly and impartially than can their elders. There's hope for the future...--vw]

When one thinks of a Witch, most would probably picture an ugly old lady with clammy tinted green skin, an atrocious wart on her nose, dressed in all black with a pointed hat, riding a broom. Then there is Valerie Walker. A woman who is considered a senior citizen, one of the rare ones that sports a nose ring and an almost buzz cut of ever-changing colors. Strangely enough her look beautifully suits her, and what stands out is a rather large silver pentacle dangling around her neck. It is a symbol of her religion that she holds very dear to her. She has one of the most intriguing life stories that one will ever come by. She has studied the Wiccan craft since the 1950s, and since 1975 when she was initiated into her first coven she has considered herself a Witch.

Valerie's path to the craft started in the 1950's when she found the book The White Goddess by Robert Graves. She stumbled upon it one day when she was in a library, and it has forever changed her life. Up until that point she had been bouncing around different religions, starting out her life as a Christian1 and later becoming a Quaker. The White Goddess is all about the Wiccan religion and Valerie read and studied that book for at least twenty years before she was presented with her next opportunity on her path to becoming a Witch. In 1975 Valerie got wind of a class being taught on The White Goddess, she immediately signed up. For years she had been asking questions and trying to find a Witch to become an apprentice to, but it was practically impossible back then. It turned out that the class was not merely about the book but about the entire religion. The teacher was named Starhawk and took Valerie under her wing. After being an apprentice to Starhawk, in 1975, Valerie was initiated into her first coven and officially became a Witch.

As anyone can imagine, she receives a wide array of reactions to her religion. When asked what people say to her she responded with "I used to come out as a Witch and people would ask me, are you a good witch or a bad witch? ThatŐs the same as asking are you a good person or a bad person?" People have the stereotypical Wizard of Oz witch imprinted in their mind. They don't realize thatŐs not what the Wicca craft is. The modern Witch doesn't run around either trying to ruin people's lives or save the world from evil. Valerie tries to educate people on the subject by stating "No matter what in magick or in life, if you do bad things they will come back to you." Valerie would never curse a person, because she knows it will come back to haunt her. People fear "bad" witches because they fear the unknown; if people realized what the Wiccan religion was all about, they would see they have nothing to fear.

The Wiccan religion centers around the Goddess and the earth's biosphere. Witches realize they are part of the earth and can't escape it. "Earth is mother and we must take care of her." No matter what division of the craft a Witch belongs to, they all hold that basic concept. The rest of us could learn a lot from Witches about that aspect. Some covens are even very political and will hold environmentalist demonstrations. A Witch realizes that we are connected to everything, everything below us, everything around us and everything above us. A Witch is connected to all five elements: air, fire, water, earth and spirit. A Witch realizes that they are the center of all four directions: north, east, south, and west. An amazing sense of belonging is derived by Witches from these concepts, as Valerie states, " It made me feel I was the center of it all."

The Wiccan religion is both very spiritual and physical. There are many different ways that witches practice magick (when referring to Witches' magick it is spelt with a k so not to be confused with the illusion that magicians practice) Every Witch has a specialty; Valerie's is making mojos and reading tarot cards. Mojos are basically magick bags that can be created for a variety of reasons. They can be made as love potions; these mojos don't have the power to make someone love a person but they can make someone more loveable. They can be made for luck, or to aid you in any other wish someone might have. Valerie has also been reading tarot cards since the 1970s. She believes that everyone has all of their subconscious feelings floating out there-- it is just a matter of if we are in tune enough to pick them up. Tarot cards are Valerie's way of tuning into other people. Valerie realizes "If you are doing magick you have to do it on the mundane level too." Other witches' specialties could be things like crystal gazing or being able to make spells with herbs, or dream work. No matter what the specialty. all witches derive some unique power from their religion. Valerie is still very active in witchcraft and her current coven is called the Circle of Winged Toads. They meet every other week and practice a variety of spells. Some times they will do a spell called raising a cone of power. It is when everyone in the coven gets in a circle and starts to chant, they will start to create a positive energy force; once they have created this energy and know its purpose they will send it out to someone or something. Valerie deeply believes in this power and states, "I've been in rooms when you actually feel the energy all around you and you can feel it rushing past you as you send it out." They will also do incantations, they will call on someone from the past to help with a certain purpose. When they call on someone they call from within themselves and from all around them. Valerie's coven is very important to her: "It is not merely someplace we go and worship, itŐs a method of making yourself a more self aware and balanced person." Whether or not a person believes in the power of magick they can't deny the psychological help it can provide to people.

The Craft has been a huge part of Valerie for the majority of her life. She is one of the lucky people who was able to find the religion that suits them. The Wiccan religion has worked its way into the heart of her family. Valerie's only daughter was recently initiated2... and Valerie is currently training her husband to become a Witch. When asked about him she said smiling "I feel so lucky to have a partner that I can not only connect with on a physical level but also on an elevated spiritual level."

The Craft has been misconceived for centuries; it is not about black magick-- it is there to provide guidance and help to many. It gives Valerie an elevated sense of connection to the earth, her family and everyone around her. To her it is "perfect love and perfect trust."

1. Actually, I was born Jewish.
2. Not so recently...Diana has been a card-carrying Witch since she was 18.