The Activist Witch Next Door
I came to witchcraft to get sober. I stayed for a different reason.
“Hallelujah! Hosanna! Give thanks for this blessing I eat!” When I was in detox I envied the Christians who prayed over each plate of cafeteria glop. Deep inside. I felt if I had anything at all to believe in. I could get sober. After twenty years of alcoholism.
Queer feminism gave me an aversion to Christianity. Shoved down my throat in those subsequent AA meetings. I turned to Wicca. Five years ago. I had no coven. I am a self-taught eclectic solitary practitioner. I learned everything I know about the craft from books. The Internet. Tarot booklets. Pinterest, especially for sacred geometry. Google translate for the Latin incantations. American Horror Story: Coven as a cautionary tale.
I add my own vaginal fluids to early rituals. Instinctually. Research. Learn the power of parts which the body gives freely: “personal effects,” as they’re called in some African traditions. I begin to incorporate only ever my own body into witchcraft. A ball of grey hair from my head. A baby tooth my parents saved and brought to me forty years later. Acrylic nails that fell off. Nail clippings. Menstrual blood.
These objects feel sacred like none other do. Blood of my womb. Hair of my head. Tooth of my mouth. I offer you these, ancient Gods and ghosts. I give you my body that I may grow strong. I must be strong as a Disabled woman. In a Brave New World where many believe in Nazi eugenics. Euthanasia. Would shoot me dead as a public service.
Blood magic is the most powerful sort of magic. Only recently added to my repertoire. I never cut to use my own blood or anyone else’s. Once I saved and dried my menstrual blood to make a powder. I burn it in ritual. According to some traditions, to put this blood in a man’s drink would make him love me. According to science it would just give him my herpes. Given that whole pesky bodily fluids and transmittable diseases thing. I don’t ever put the blood herpes powder in a man’s coffee. That sounds unethical. If not illegal. I have no use for love. I have other plans for my most prized ingredient.
Early on, the intensity to which I take to Wicca is seen as a sign of mental illness. I live with Schizoaffective Disorder, PTSD, and anxiety. I have been in psychiatric and therapeutic treatment for my entire life. Including childhood. Years ago when I was declared “Totally and Permanently Disabled,” the psychiatrist wrote, “She does witchcraft with bodily fluids,” on the paperwork. I was in the midst of a massive delusional psychosis at the time. I told that psychiatrist all sorts of other batshit things she could have written on that line. But my fringe spirituality was what she chose to weaponize to prove I was irredeemably insane.
I really am mentally ill. I take six pills three times a day. Rotate between mania, depression, psychosis, PTSD, and anxiety. Sleep odd hours. Even when well medicated, I’m usually miserable despite having a nice life. Haven’t worked in ten years on SSDI.
I do witchcraft to receive the same blessings as that woman praying over her detox pudding. To give me something to believe in. To keep me sober. To connect me to the spirits of my ancestors. To empower. When in reality I am powerless. Wicca brings strength when my physical body is an emaciated reed.
Being a housebound recluse? I mostly am powerless. Except against alcohol. AA was wrong on that count. Yet I am powerless in activism. The need to take medications three times a day prevents me from going to protests. If I was arrested at a protest? It only takes one anarchist-thrown rock to turn a protest into a riot. I’ve seen it go down. I don’t know how I survived all that teargas. If I had to go without medication for even a few hours beyond my dosage time? I would be writing on the walls in my own shit like Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers. Convinced I was channeling his spirit. They’d never let me out. In these troubled times I must miss so many vital protests to stay safe.
Five years of study and a room of my house dedicated to the practice later. I still do not know if witchcraft actually works. I haven’t drank alcohol in five years, however. That’s what’s important. I just found something else more exciting to do at night.
I scroll Twitter learning about the Patriot Prayer/Proud Boy protests in Portland, my hometown. Antifa’s counter protests. Police teargas. Feel I can no longer sit by watching American Horror Story: Hotel.
“What will you tell your grandchildren you were doing at this crucial time in history?” Scream the memes. I’ll turn on Bedknobs and Broomsticks. My Disney blueprint for a witch fighting Nazis.
I go to the spooky room at the end of the hall. Put on a corset. Sigil of Baphomet earrings. Witch hat. Smear on red lipstick. Sweep the room with my broomstick in preparation. I have no idea if what I am about to do will do anything at all. To affect the outcome of events hundreds of miles away. In a town I once loved. But I have to do something. I cannot passively watch my beloved Portland burn. At this point in history where was I? Wearing a Halloween witch hat invoking the spirits of my ancestors, for what it’s worth.
I sit at my altar. Light incense. A white candle. Hold the candle at the four points of the circle. Invoke the spirits of the East and Air. West and Water. South and Fire. North and Earth. Carve “Victory antifa” into a black candle. Dip it into my vagina to anoint it. Light it. Chant invocations to the Triple Lunar Goddess of the Moon and the Horned God of the Sun. Call upon them to protect the protesters. Give them power. I scroll Twitter for video feeds of the protest. Press my baby tooth and ball of hair to the videos. Pray Latin incantations of “Defendat protestantium.”
This is a spell I have used before. When Jeff Sessions spoke in Reno. Protesters blocked a major road. No one was arrested. It could be just good old small town chill. I saw on the livestream the Reno 911 were on bicycles. it could be magic. My magic. Thus I use this spell again. Knowing how many people out there. Who are doing real things towards the resistance. That actually matter.
I tweet, “Witches, you know what to do. Portland riot backup witchcraft. If I can’t be there, I can send spells their way. That’s today’s agenda. Sure, I may be cosplaying as a witch reciting Latin I got off the Internet but there are dudes in body armor & teargas, I can’t just chill.” My tweet goes viral. Over the next few hours what happens is an interplay of how leftist politics, Christianity, The Trump regime, and ableism intersect.
I am met with immediate pushback from both the left and the right. A Portland leftist thinks I’m trolling given the self-depreciating humor. I explain that I am a serious witch in a rural area. He suggests better ways to help the movement. None of those are accessible to me. Trapped in my house without much money or a car. The conversation ends amicably.
Christians are alarmed by witchcraft. The whole Satan thing. I see Satan as the pagan Horned God. Given evil PR as when appropriated by Byzantine Romans in an effort to Christianize Europe. To pre-Christian pagans the Horned God was simply the deer-like God of the sun and fields they tilled. Or angel Lumiel who allegorically gave knowledge to women so that they could see the clarity of their oppression.
Some Christians call Satan the force of evil in their holy war. This struggle places a target on my back. I’m just trying not to drink alcohol. In destroying one nightmare did I create another? Not if I am left alone to do as I please. All bets are off, these days, as to what the government is going to do next.
I run a finger along my own menstrual blood pentagram on the altar stone. Chant “Protectio.” Tweet, “Wow, that escalated quickly. Just had a Russian troll bot report my occult activities to the president’s Twitter w/a hashtag maga. Clearly they’re concerned bc the Christians believe in witchcraft more than some witches do.” It is actually possible that a frail, deranged woman in the middle of nowhere? Sincere in her delusional belief? Is having an effect? Simply in the amplification of her intention? Manifesting it? That tweet made it to the president.
I mean this rite not to center myself. But to empower the frontline ground troop protesters. The ghosts of my grandfathers who fought Nazis in WWII fight beside them. The black candle burns down. My kitten familiar sleeps in my lap. My feet are asleep in lotus position. I tweet “The ritual is ended. Good luck out there.”
I begin to worry if I have placed myself in grave danger with my loud mouth. Knowing that we are, even now, within a kind of undeclared second civil war. A shadow war with periodic street brawls. Fought by Russian bot trolls and activists. Both online and off. I chose my side. Defended others who were fighting bloody street brawls with full force of my well-intentioned delusions. Now to rest.
I scroll for news. See a tweet that reads, “Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer gonna have some serious towing and impound fees when they get back to the Fred Meyer parking lot in Vancouver.” Even if all my weak sauce witchcraft might have done was give some fascist a $1,000 impound fee it was not a total wash. I begin to feel better. Yet conflicted.
I pressed teeth of my child mouth, hair from my old lady head to video screens of riot cops. Prayed my heart out in translation. Burned my own fingernail clippings in the black candle’s flame. Was met only with hostility and mockery from both left and right. Were these the acts of a madwoman? Perhaps. Or a real deal witch with real power? I don’t need an ally cookie. Or a gold star. I just don’t want to feel as if the entire afternoon was an elongated psychotic delusion. I suppose I’ll never know.
I could call those who sought to repress my occult activities ableist. For mocking my insane sincerity and devotion. If indeed I believed witchcraft was a manifestation of mental illness. Which I don’t, normally. I think it’s abnormal to take Wicca to the extent that I do. It’s at least indicative of someone very non-squeamish, who has a lot of time on her hands and a lot of energy.
My spirit rises. Later that evening I tweet, “Witch self-care is when you give yourself that mani-pedi in front of evening soaps you save those toenail clippings for future rituals knowing the power of what the body gives.” I save those clippings in my grandfather’s box I keep under my altar.
I know soon I will be called once again for political witchcraft. Protest-support witchcraft. We do what we can. The Disabled can do less. So focus on specialized areas. Whether I am simply batshit enough? To devote this much time and energy into witchcraft? To finally get it right? Or just scare Christians silly with it? I don’t know. I may never know.
I spend the following night in a rigid catatonia of terror that Trump’s recently formed “Religious Liberty Task Force” is going to beat down my door with jackboots. I am too terrified to sleep. Is it my anxiety disorder? My hypervigilant PTSD? Or the simple fact that I publicly did something all the President’s men have declared a holy war task force against? Of course I’m scared.
As dawn nears, burning at the stake does not sound that unlikely. No matter how campy. They’d probably start with a few rounds of electroshock therapy. Then gay conversion therapy. Then the stake. Or the chair. The Crusades were cruel. So are these times.
“All I did was pray, in my way,” I whisper to the velvet silent of the night. There is no answer.
To support DISABILITY ACTS, a new magazine for disabled writers to write about disability experiences, leave us a tip. Even one dollar helps. All money goes to paying our writers.