Guest Post: Sister Ehsha

Just after going back to Chicago last Christmas, I had the great fortune of reconnecting with some folks from my past. Dora is one of those people. She asked me if she could “snitch on The Bad Witch” in a way that only a little sister can do. I told her she could as long as I could interject in a way that only a big sister can do. The body of the blog is all Dora, no editorial privilege taken. The footnotes are all Bad.[1] The title was a compromise. 

She wrote this back in August (swear to gods—every word of it—like she’s some sort of soothsayer or something 🙂 ); but I never posted it. It seemed ill-timed considering some of the flack I was taking from a fellow-Pagan-blogger. It is precisely because of that flack that Dora insisted I post it now. Here’s how the IM exchange went down on Thursday:

TBW: It just seems defensive and I have nothing to defend.

Dora: Then let me do the defending.

TBW: I don’t need that.

Dora: I know. I need it.

I am truly flattered by every word here. I’m afraid you are going to ruin my reputation, Dora. People might go thinking I’m a softie.

When I saw that The Bad Witch let her student write a guest blog, I thought she might let me do the same. I knew Ehsha was blogging here, but I never read “The Files” until about six months ago. It’s not that I wasn’t interested. It’s every time I would read it, I would hear her voice and miss her. I go by Halldóra and I went to college with Ehsha. We studied under the same mentor in our twenties. I consider it my privilege to call Ehsha my sister. There have been a few jabs about the “Truth” concerning Ehsha’s integrity. As a sister, I cannot sit by and let it go unchallenged.

I was a (non-traditional aged) junior and she was a masters student the day we met. It seems that Ehsha whirlwinded into the religious studies classroom. She was wrapped in a green wool cape. This made the auburn curls that flooded from her crown to her waist look like a fountain of copper and fire.[2] When I saw her, my breath caught a little. She was beautiful, yes, but that’s not what I mean.

Worst picture ever, but it’s the one Dora wanted.

There was something about her, all around her. I was afraid of her at first. But the second we were face to face, I saw that she was tiny, not more than five-two, one-ten,[3] and her eyes were gentle. She was kind to me and made me feel comfortable in a very unnerving place. Later she told me that I looked terrified and that she wanted me to feel safe and relaxed. Even later she told me that it wasn’t out of altruism that she took me by the hand. She says that she wouldn’t have gotten anything out of the class if I was “being weird.” She contends that it was a totally self-serving act. I don’t believe that for a second.

As long as I’ve known her, Ehsha has felt the need to hide her niceness. This makes sense given the number of people I saw take advantage of her generosity. In school, people were always begrudging Ehsha her grades, her luck, her charm and her tenacity. She’d say, “Oh, I can be a real bitch, trust me.”

This is the woman who opted to add elective ministerial rotations to her graduate class schedule each and every semester. The woman who volunteered at Misericordia Home, giving physical tenderness to severely disabled children who were hardly ever touched by human hands except for during medical treatments,[4] and at nursing homes, reading to lonely elderly people who lay, forgotten by their own children,[5] and at child protective services where she rocked fitful drug-exposed infants for hours on end. The rest of us worked at food banks, animal shelters, or on building-upkeep projects. She took whatever volunteer slot no one else wanted. Her class folder had Matthew 25:40 on it.[6] This is the woman who referred to herself as a “bitch.”

It was a wall. We all knew it. And we all let her do it. After all, she was doing our dirty work.[7] I’m a little ashamed of myself for not supporting her more back then. I was not a bit surprised when I learned that my old school-mate had started calling herself “The Bad Witch.” My first thought was, “Wonder who made her need that wall.” I assume someone begrudged her something and she hide behind badness. Am I right, sis?[8]

I know that my feelings about Ehsha have more to do with my idealization of her than anything else. But she could have left me sitting alone and terrified in the class room, couldn’t she? She could have taken the relatively easy, “cleaner”, volunteer slots, after all, she was a grad student and had first pick. Couldn’t she? She could have said, “To hell with this, I have my own babies to rock”, couldn’t she? She says she couldn’t. And I understand that. Ehsha seems to be propelled by a force beyond her. This makes her simultaneously endearing and terrifying. If you have ever met her in person you know what I mean when I say that she’s magnetic.[9]

Want to hear another story? I want to get these in. Ehsha might not let me snitch on her again.

Bertie gave us an assignment to “find our inner sovereign”. To illustrate what she meant, she told us a story about Ehsha. She was always telling us stories about Ehsha.[10] There were a few girls in Ehsha’s cohort that were very New-Agey and they were coming up with names like “Mother of Virtue” and “Queen of Strength” and “Lady of Power” and such. When Bertie got to Ehsha, Ehsha looked at the other girls like they had painted their faces green as Ehsha would say. She said, “I don’t want to be the ‘Mother of’ or ‘Queen of’ or ‘Lady of’ anything. I want to be the thing itself. Not it’s wife.”

That lesson was good but what’s even better is what follows. Here’s the pure Ehsha moment. One of my cohort asked what Ehsha finally settled on to represent her “inner sovereign” and Bertie laughed. She told us that the other girls had extravagant, showy  names and Ehsha had come up with “something magically nonmagical.” Like when Bertie was trying to teach sigils and lamens and Ehsha’s point of reference was gang tags.[11] Or the time she compared blocked energy to inner-city parking. Or when she told us that her pneumonic device for the directions of the elements in the northern hemisphere involved a Beastie Boys song.[12] I could go on. This time when Bertie insisted that Ehsha give the example, she muttered that she always imagined herself as The Godfather when she needed to feel powerful.[13] Magically nonmagical.

I’ve gone too long, so I’ll just end by saying that I have always been crazy about my sister. First I had a crush on her. Then I respected her as a senior student. Then I had a crush on her again. Then loved and admired her as a sister. Now I remember her fondly and miss her company. But I’m content to have her in the disguise of The Bad Witch and I’m delighted to share her with you.

[1] And I apologize ahead of time. There are lots of them. Mostly just snarky comments and conversational asides.

[2] Not anymore. Now think mid-back with a long grey streak right down the left side and the remnants of five years of poor bang choices.

[3] Had to be more than that. I think I was pregnant with The Boy Child. Oh, no wait, maybe I was just pregnant and didn’t know yet. As soon as I found out, I sort-of shaved my head, remember?

[4] These children were pure love. It was easy to find joy with them.

[5] This was a little more difficult. I think I was permanently scarred by my rotation in the dementia ward.

[6] Only on one side; the other said, “That which does not kill us makes us crotchety and prematurely grey.”

[7] It just wasn’t yours to do, honey.

[8] *crickets*

[9] Magnets repel if they have the same polarity.

[10] “Ehsha, Ehsha, Ehsha” = “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha.”

Now that’s a scary thought. I will never, never, never let Bertie write an exposé about me. The only thing more terrifying than having your magical sister tattle on you is have your magical momma tattle. Oh, lords, the metaphorical potty training stories alone. It’s bad enough that Dora told a (substantially cleaned up) second-hand Bertie story.

[11] You can take the Witch out of the ghetto but you can’t take the ghetto out of the Witch?

[12] It was when we had to go widdershins and I kept skipping Earth. And it was The Ramones, Acid Eaters album. It was the 90s, what can I say?

[13] I had it all worked out with consiglieres, Moe Green, Luca Brasi, and canoli. My spiritual system is the Sicilian mafia.

Guest Post: The Karate-Kid Witch

Here is the little ditty one of my trainees wrote and asked me to blog for her.

It took me a full day to quit slobbering all over myself and get it posted.


My name is Selene and I am a very lucky girl.

I really never thought I would (type) say those words and mean it.

My mother walked out on my father and me when I was two. My dad did the best he could, which wasn’t great. He died when I was fifteen which left me in the care of evangelical relatives who rejected my sexual identity and made me feel shame and self-loathing.

This is surprising to those who meet me; I am more likely to wear an argyle sweater and Mary Janes than I am to have body-mods or short hair. If I had a dime for every person who told me that I “don’t look like a lesbian,” I’d have enough money for therapy.

When I graduated from high school, I moved out and back to the town where I had lived with my dad. I worked as a waitress to earn enough money to get a little community college under my belt. My big dream was always to go to “real” college. No one in my family had ever gone and I imagined myself collegiate. But there was never an opportunity for me.

That’s one side of the story. I am happy to report that I am on the other side of that story.

Last year I met The Bad Witch. Funny thing is I didn’t know she was “The Bad Witch” until about three months ago. I called her teacher, mentor, mother-figure. Ehsha keeps her private life private.

Anyone who has the opportunity to study with Ehsha should grab the opportunity with both hands and hang on tight. It will change your life. (She’s a huge pain in the ass. The best teachers always are.) One thing she’s best at is teaching you a lesson you didn’t even know you’d signed up for. Mr. Miyagi style – wax on, wax off.

When I first latched on to Ehsha, I thought I was going to be spoonfed. I thought she would hand me some answers and I would become a Karate-Kid Witch with no difficulty whatsoever. I thought the process involved little more than touchy-feely lessons about candles and moon phases, ancestors and goddesses, wands and familiars. I thought the hardest thing I’d learn was ritual processes and maybe some “energy work.” The woman I have become laughs at the girl I was.

Of course, I cannot reveal the details of everything I learned; The Bad Witch scolds us, “Tace!” and makes the sign of Harpocrates, ordering us to make an offering to the enigmatic pantheon of “STFU.” This is our little joke. But I can tell you that I have learned the most important thing I know. Magic comes from inside, is directed inward, and can only affect the internal. The most fabulous part of this lesson is that the internal is everything. As I learn to master my insides, and I’m still learning by the way, I learn to control everything. All of those terrifying things that I thought were out of my control are now my daily lessons in altering myself and achieving my True Will. Sounds simple, right? But those of you who have done real magical work know that learning this lesson – I mean really learning this lesson, in all its measured progressions – is a painful process. Applying the knowledge that comes after this lesson is learned is a whole different can of worms.

And I don’t like worms. I too was a huge pain in the ass. I was not a good student. I must have quit three times. Ehsha must have let me quit three times. She said that if I was unwilling to proceed, I was unfit for initiation. This pissed me off. I ranted and raved and made a damn fool of myself one weekend. Then I realized that I wanted her to know it for me. I wanted her to want it for me. I wanted her to do it for me. Once I settled down and stopped kicking and whining, I fell into line. That was the best thing I ever did. It might sound like “submission” to you. And maybe it is. But I was not submitting to Ehsha’s will. I was learning to submit to my own Will. And let me tell you, my Will beat the crap out of me. And The Bad Witch cheered it on.

That ever happen to you? You want something but you want someone else to tow the line for you? Then you realize that the line that needs towing is the line to “your own getting-rightness,” as Ehsha will call it. Once you learn that submitting to your own self (your True Self, not your ego-self) is the only way to avoid submitting to the Will of others, you’ll know what I mean. Wax the floor.

Like I said, I’m still learning.

One of the first things my cohort and I learned with Ehsha, after STFU, was, “Learn, and obey; success will be your proof.” Giving over that much trust to someone is hard for a girl who has been browbeaten for twenty years. Just do what I say and you’ll see? Well we did. Mostly. We screwed around and dropped some balls and picked our noses and some old wounds. But at the end of it all, success is our proof. Paint the fence.

At the beginning of the course, we were asked to write out, in detail, one goal. As we went along, we were periodically asked to revise, to more precision, the goal. I wanted to go to college. One of my cohort wanted to live in South America with his daughter and her mother. A third wanted to own his own business. Teak got his act together pretty quickly and ended up inheriting his uncle’s small business in Texas. Ryan is currently in the process of moving to a resort town (where he was given his dream-job) in Brazil with his baby girl and brand new fiancé.

This guest blog, which my mentor has graciously allowed me to share with all of you, is my way of announcing to The Bad Witch that I have been accepted to University of Florida and am moving to Gainesville this weekend. I have a full ride, Mama, and a lovely apartment off campus. Success. Wash the car. I’m scared to death. But I am going to strike a strong crane pose and kick college’s behind.

The Bad Witch may not have everyone’s respect, then again, not everyone really knows The Bad Witch – the real woman behind the provocations. As for me, success is my proof that she deserves my respect. Proof that she knows what she’s talking about. Proof that she cares for me deeply. Proof that I did well to submit to my own best interests. Proof that it was the divine that led our paths to cross last October. Proof that keeping silent is key. Proof that when The Bad Witch is in her role as teacher, all is right with the world (an allusion to Browing’s “Pippa Passes”).

I have a lot more to go on this road. But I can’t begin to tell you how glad I am to know how to put one foot in front of the other in the right direction

Thank you for everything, Ehsha. My heart bursts with admiration for you.

Guest Post: 7 Spirit Rules (Or, How Not To Accidentally Sell Your First Born in the Otherworlds)

Kristin is a girl after my own heart: smart, snarky (this is a complement), and willing to call it like it is. I was lucky enough to cross her Dusken Path while playing on the Pagan Blog Project.

Thanks for joining me here!

7 Spirit Rules (Or, How Not To Accidentally Sell Your First Born in the Otherworlds)

Grandma? Is that you? (Twilight Zone, Long Distance Call)

Let me level with you here, gentle readers. I die, you die, and I can wager you’re probably not the most honest of folk all of the time. I’m not either. You think that should change when we die?

You think a trickster deity is going to tell you the truth when you ask an outright answer (without handing you a deal you forgot you agreed to first?) Really. Think that one through. I’ll give you a minute.

Spirits are not automatically trustworthy. Repeat that with me a few times, because it’s very important.

Sure, saintly people die. But con-artists die too. And as far as I know some of those con-artists go on to become Deities or Guides or whathaveyou. I feel like this post is a long time coming because nobody seems to write in depth about the pitfalls and the nitty gritty of Spirit interaction, so I wrote up a handy list for those learning the ropes. These are the essential rules you need to know when you begin Spirit/Deity/Other interaction or you go traipsing around the Otherworlds.

Rule #1: Never Trust Anything (The Paranoia Defense)

No, I don’t care you think you’re contacting your Great Auntie Marge via your ouija board. I can bet you most of the money I don’t have you’re probably not actually talking to Auntie Marge. Never believe what a spirit tells you at first, especially if it seems too good to be true or extraordinarily fishy. This is the important part. I can die tomorrow and go around parading as a Deity, or a spirit, or the Christian ‘devil’ himself–and many DO, and that’s important–but that doesn’t make it true, and you need to always consider the possibility you’re being lied to. When you deal with the spirit world paranoia is almost your best defense. And yes, especially when something tells you it’s a Deity and then asks for a blood contract in exchange for lottery numbers.  This brings me to Rule #2.

Rule #2: Have Common Sense (“You wanna buy a sun dial?”)

The common sense you use to get around everyday on this plane is going to be your best defense when dealing with spirits. If a shady guy comes up to you offering you a new house, car, and ipad, what’s your first reaction? Hopefully it’s “Yeah right.” and then proceeds into “What’s the catch?”. In this reality we’re well aware nobody gets something for nothing. The same thing applies on the astral. Never assume a Spirit is giving you a giftbasket for free, especially if you had to sign a paper to get it.

Rule #3: Never Tell the Truth (But Never Lie)

This is the one thing I hope you take away from the list. It’s extremely bad manners to lie in the Otherworlds or to Otherbeings; but it’s much worse for you if you tell the truth. If something asks you for your name, DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GIVE IT. Names are undoubtedly powerful. Your name is often kept so secret in the Otherworlds you purposefully forget it yourself. Don’t screw around with names. The only Spirits that will ask for a name are usually those out to harm you or use it for their own means. Your guardian Spirits/Deities already know your name, so they will have no need to ask. This is probably the fastest way to weed out Beings with harmful intent, because they often lead with the name question.

However, when posed with a question from Spirit, don’t lie. Don’t give your name out, but don’t refuse either. A nickname that has nothing to do with your real name, but isn’t your name, is what I mean by not telling a lie but not telling a truth. (For instance, Ka-Chan is a nonsense nickname I gained in high school, and while not my name, it’s still something people use to refer to me. Make sense?) Telling a lie sometimes has worse consequences than the truth. If something asks you where you’re going, saying “To this specific place” is a lot more dangerous on your part then saying “To the land of sea and sand”. Spirit talking has its own kind of half-truth language that you must pick up before you can get anywhere without being bitten a few times.

By the same token, it’s generally bad manners to ask a name if you don’t know the Being. When I’ve asked Deities I know to be so, they often give me a title or a metaphor and not a name. That’s extremely common. Spirits are using the same tactics with you that you are with them, because before they know you, you could easily be Spiritual an axe-murderer. These rules tend to go both ways.

Rule #4: Confirmation (The Pancake Defense)

Once you’ve mastered the previous rules, you may say, okay, I’m now paranoid, extremely skeptical/suspicious and have learned the language of the con-artist, (not a truth and not a lie) but how do I proceed from here?

This is the point at which you need to ascertain who, exactly, you’re talking to.

To use the Great Aunt Marge example, did you two ever have a special song or a special place when she was alive that you used to go to? Did you go out for pancakes every Sunday precisely at 6? Ask her to describe one of those things in detail. If possible, ask her to recreate the place. Don’t volunteer any information and try not to lend any imagery by accident. If she’s really Marge, she’ll do so easily, and probably happily.

If the Being hesitates or refuses to do so, you’re probably not dealing with Marge.

The other fast way to weed out ‘fakers’ is asking intention. Marge probably has a purpose in visiting you, and she’ll probably volunteer what that is. A lot of times harmful beings or fakers are actually tripped up when you ask them what, exactly, they want in your house. Many of them just leave in a fuss without revealing the intention because you caught them in the act.

If a Being volunteers a name too easily, that might be a warning sign as well.

If you have confirmed guides around you, ask for them to confirm the legitimacy of the Spirit/Being/Deity. They are more likely to pick up on energy things than you are, especially in the Otherworlds. If they seem at ease with the Spirit, you’re probably just fine.

Rule # 5: The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Sometimes (rarely) you get Spirits that are Very Good Mimics. I’ve had Spirits actually try and masquerade as my main Spirit guide (who I will refer to as K so as not to reveal his name) to try and get me to volunteer information. The thing is, they usually give themselves away. When Beings try to mimic my guide (who is very much a one of a kind Being) 9 times out of 10 they forget he has freckles, or they get his eyes wrong. It’s very hard to copy minute details. Just as you do if you attempt Lucid dreaming, look for the thing that’s off.

If you know Aunt Marge always had a mole on her left cheek and it’s gone, you might have a problem. It’s true Spirits can change appearance at will, but a lot of the time they adopt a common form to allow you to know them better in that form. It gives you stability. A sudden change is probably indicative of a Mimic problem.

Rule # 6: Many Spirits Want to Look Badass (Just Like You and Me)

This rule is specifically to address the hauntings we all hear of in which the spirit starts telling everyone it’s the Christian devil or some demon name.

Just like human people who smoke, some Spirits want to look cool too. So often they jack their image up in order to inspire fear in humans. Many Spirits (‘Demons’) feed on human fear or anger, and the fastest way to do that is go around telling the world you’re possibly the most feared Being humanity can conjure up, because many of us have an involuntary fearful reaction to certain things. It’s actually very intelligent.

The important part of this is: Chances are, they’re not who they say they are.

As I stated before, Spirits can claim whatever they please. They can swear up and down they’re the Spirit of George Washington speaking to you from beyond the grave, but that doesn’t make it true. Those hauntings/possessions a lot of times are minor Spirits using names they know make us fear them because it’s good eats. (And trust me, poor Lucifer just wants to be left the fuck alone already because he’s old so just let him be alright?)

Rule # 7: Respect (Not EVERY Spirit is Out to Get You, Really)

Contrary to my list of rules, most Spirits are actually NOT out to get you, feed on your fear, steal your name or mimic your guides. But, even for those who do, you need to exercise this rule.

Respect. Even if a spirit is really skeevy, show them the proper respect. Send them on their way to sell sundials to some other unsuspecting human, but do it nicely and without giving up your name. Until a Spirit proves itself guilty or does something against you, treat it as you would anyone else.

If a Spirit legitimately in need requires your assistance (and many do) do what you can to help them. There are many legitimate Spirits out there that need help from people like us. If you can’t, direct them to someone who can, or ask them politely to return later when you can help them. A Spirit legitimately in need will wait, will probably be confused or scared, and likely won’t ask you your name. Make them comfortable and handle it with respect, as well.

And from one Spiritwalker to another, present yourself as you would anywhere else. Even the Otherworlds have little patience for assholes. Our worlds are more similar than you think.

Kristin is a Spiritwalker studying non-core Shamanism with serious Chaos magick leanings. She spends her time making herself angry on the internet, reading blogs, attempting to graduate Art School in one piece, and traipsing around the Otherworlds messing things up. Read more at her blog, Adventures on the Dusken Path (