Merry Métier is the second publication as part of These Essays, a series selected by editors-in-residence Suzanne Doogan and E. Saffronia Downing.
“Rahne, are you a witch?!?!” G yelled, slapping the steering wheel. I writhed, silent. “I knew it! You’re a witch!!!”
I just stared out the windshield. We had to get to rehearsal. G was a bit much for me. There’s this kind of physical privilege that some people possess, where they can be free with their bodies to do whatever, and that includes their mouths. G was responsible for maybe the most humiliating thing that’s ever happened to me in my life, but that hadn’t happened yet. We were still on our way to rehearsal.
When you don’t have a driving license you make a lot of concessions. You have to put up with the driver’s ideas, whatever they are. You have to listen to their music and smell their smells, and trust that they know what they’re doing behind the wheel.
I wish I remember what I said that tipped my hand. I wasn’t out about my witchcraft. I was barely even out to myself. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: it was easier for me to come out as a transsexual lesbian than it was for me to come out as a witch.
I mumbled some half-assed thing to G to get her to drop the subject. My ploy worked; soon she was talking about another one of her interests instead and I was happy to hear it. My time had not yet come. I still had to get through rehearsal, and then the show. And maybe some time after that I would allow myself to come out into the light just a little bit more.
* * *
We’re in this moment in which it seems like witchcraft as an idea has never been so popular, and of course, you know, the more the merry-meet-ier. I’ve been through enough generations of temporary radicals to develop a certain skepticism of vagaries.
But you know what’s different about this current moment? There’s a lot of us who been waiting a long long time to come out and now we are. This reminds me a lot of the time when I was wandering around looking for someone, anyone like me at all. And it wasn’t until the internet became a thing for me that I began to find trans people I could communicate with.
I had discovered I was trans years before the internet shined its light on me. I discovered that I was a witch in childhood as well. I didn’t really have words for these things at the time. But I knew. And I knew the words by the time I was able to walk to school on my own.
I’ve always been a walker, you know. It’s my most long-held earth practice.
I cannot stress how funny it is to me that it took longer to come to terms with being a witch than anything of my other challenges, even though I can pinpoint an awareness of this in me as early as third grade. I learned the names of my goddesses. They began to reach me. Thus began my night journeys; I began to need to look at the stars. And then the moon found me. The Feminine Divine would manifest in many ways in the ensuing years, usually without subtlety. For years I would find myself emotionally devastated by roadkill, every single time I passed a fresh corpse on the way to somewhere else.
Denying, filtering my witch nature has been the most hurtful thing I’ve done to myself. I tried to mask it with atheism, and through the can’t-beat-em-join-em kinds of Christianity and Buddhism.
it took me a long time to find witches I trust. I found some, and it turns out there are a lot more of us than I imagined.
* * *
The first time I met John Waters in person was the night before my familiar died. He had just released his Christmas album and my old confidante Denise bought me a copy and took me to the signing at Sound Garden in Baltimore. We stood in a long line, braving the wintery winds blasting off the harbor. I had no idea my familiar was going to die the next morning. I knew she was nearing her last days, but it wasn’t clear when.
Denise and I stood in that long line. She’s a lawyer and a mom of an amazing young person now but in those those days she was just one of those risk-taking college friends I could trade Foucault puns with. Finally we got to the table and met John and he signed my CD. He smiled asked me my name. He signed and asked me if my parents were hippies. I didn’t really hear him so I asked him to repeat the question, which he did, and then I got goofy and bashful and replied “Oh, no, more like hippie me.”
We walked away and suddenly I felt such shame. “I can’t believe I told John Waters I was a hippie,” I said, suddenly feeling like I had never left junior high in spite of being a thirtysomething GenXer.
Speaking of which, you all have NO IDEA how popular Thirtysomething was at my college. Like a whole dorm would get together and watch it. WTF, it was nuts.
Early the next morning, my first familiar, Colette, my cat for 13 of her 18 years, died in my arms.
It took nearly 15 years for my esprit d’escalier to arrive: what I should have said to John Waters about the origin of name was, “More like witch me.”
* * *
Coming to terms with my epistemology — or maybe you’d call it my spirituality, my religion, my faith — has been immensely liberating. I don’t want to convince anyone to think like I do; I am convinced that it’s impossible to do so. You either understand me or you don’t; you either allow my place in this world or you don’t.
What we are witnessing is that many of us who have been working with similar epistemologies are connecting in ways we never have before. This means we are more powerful than we have ever been.
What’s more is that even if we are collectively hurrying onwards to some exciting knowledge whose attainment is destruction, even if something happens to make it so that our fragile networks are never restored and we permanently lose touch with loved ones due to distance and disease, THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WITCHES.
We will always float among you. We are born as well as made.
If I had had this strength of knowledge when I was riding with G, I might have been able to meet her on her own terms, and talk freely. Instead I felt shame and fear, and we discussed something else. She may have rubbed me the wrong way with her enthusiasm, but this was an overall loss for me, because it added to my delay.
From where I sit now, it all seems so clear. This is why I love the feeling of my bare foot on earth. The spiritual calling was coming from outside the house I grew up in. My motion through the world was going to inevitably cause harm, and this feeling was devastating.
And now, we have arrived. We are awake, and we are aware. Now what are we to do?
These Essays is a periodical mini-series of non-fiction writing curated for the promotion of joy and inquiry by E. Saffronia Downing and Suzanne Doogan. For the duration of the project, one essay will be posted each Sunday here on Post-Office Arts Journal. Writing is not restricted by theme, and ranges from pop culture criticism to personal essay and material analysis. For more information or to contribute an original piece, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.