The Bad Witch on The High Seas

Originally written on 7/19. Now that I’m back on U.S. soil with the internets, I will show you what I’ve been doing.

I watched the bayous slip behind me for several hours today. I kept thinking, “I have the sun (fire) and I have the water and I have the wind (air). Will I miss the earth?”

As an aging Sagittarius with mouths to feed and mortgages and tuitions to pay (and an airy spouse to keep on some kind of beneficent tether), I have had to learn to temper the blazing fire in me and become more practical, more pragmatic, more pedantic. My moon is in Gemini and the air likes to fuel my Sagittarian fire. However, as I work toward equilibrium with all elements, earth seems to win out more and more these days – which may not, in the end, be a very good thing at all.

I have the intuition and generosity of water, the bookish rationale and wit of air, the passion and inspiration and gregariousness of fire, but more than all of those things I am all about longevity. I tend to be tolerant of bullshit (to my own frustration). And I tend toward physicality in my expression of affection, in aesthetics, in emotional outlets, and in my sense of humor – which tends toward the lower stratum. (Like many folks of Scottish descent, TBW loves a good poop joke – but it has to be a *good* poop joke.) I can be very bull-headed indeed. But I am also very well-grounded. Fortunately, I don’t have any of the scarier earth problems like stagnation or agoraphobia. That would never do on a ship like this.

So, as I sit with the sun above me, the wind in my hair, and the uncustomary roll of water beneath me, I want to look at earth. More particularly my relationship with earth.

A fire/air native, you can imagine what a ball of intensity I was at twenty. Fiery red hair to boot. I had already lived through more commotion than most adults ever meet, and I seemed to burn the brighter for it.[1] I had become accustomed to the audible gasp folks made when I walked in the room. I perceived it a normalcy that traffic and attentions and great bodies of water parted when I walked past. Not because I was particularly more attractive than anyone else in the room, nor because there was anything especially charismatic about my demeanor: just because I was a living blaze of dynamism.

Eventually, I grew to realize that I couldn’t just pour out my energies unreservedly lest I deplete myself. I’m not sure when that happened. I was sincerely wild, rebellious, idealistic, imaginative, and entirely emotional. But unlike many fire/air natives, I was able to channel all of those qualities toward results.

Despite a family of origin where a high school diploma is rare, I had already had (and abandoned) a career in finance,[2] had already had (and abandoned) a military fiancé, had married a man I fell in love with (literally) at first sight and had three children with him and together we owned a home in a major metropolitan area. I had earned a double-major BA and an MA (without financial assistance of any sort aside from scholarships and fellowships), was teaching at a fairly-competitive private university, and was a published poet. I had also completed three of five arduous levels of magical training at the knee of my exacting mentor and had (momentarily) converted to Anglicanism and had become a postulant.[3] All before my thirtieth-birthday.

In my mid-thirties, I had moved a thousand miles from home, had earned a PhD, had published a number of academic articles, had resolutely returned to my Pagan roots, was elevated to the fourth of five arduous levels of magical training at the knee of my exacting mentor, and had climbed well into middle-class-dom.

At thirty-seven, I got tired.

Damned tired.

In my exhausted folly, I recklessly mistook age for wisdom and followed the bad counsel of an older friend to let the fire inside me erupt. Inside four months I was left with nothing but smoking ashes – even the bad counselor had deserted me. As a reaction, I used all the earth I could find to smother the flames I had brashly ignited. Terrified of backdraft, I built walls of earth to brace against the wind that swirled around me.

This is a fairly understandable reaction, no?

But the long-term consequences of burying my innate disposition in earth and stone have been a little more unkind than self-immolation would ever have been. About two years after the initial explosion and subsequent um . . . snuffing . . . we’ll go with “snuffing,” the residual effects of that short-term burst continued to decompose the landscape around me. So I threw waddle and daub at the problem.

For two more years I remained fearful of a sudden flashover, so I built my temple of earth, earth, earth. Then, not too abruptly, I realized that in meditation, I would “get stuck” in my third chakra. Know what I mean? If you do, then you do. If you don’t, then I can’t really explain it. Everything was quiet on the southern-front: too quiet. I had sacrificed my nature in the name of balance.

Eventually, I realized that pyrolysis was inevitable, even the earthiest edifice would eventually crumble. I was honest with myself. I knew what I was: unadulterated fire with an abundant oxygen supply. I realized that if I put enough earth on a volcano, it would blow sky-high at its inescapable ignition. So I spent two more years working toward digging at the embers of my being while maintaining a safe perimeter.

  • Silly as it may sound, I dressed as a phoenix for Halloween.
  • Silly as it may sound, I wept openly when Danerys Targaryen survived her own death-pyre and brought dragons back to The Seven Kingdoms.
  • Silly as it may sound, I asked for a Kindle Fire for Yule and got it – with a red case.

As most of you know, I had a shite week-from-Hades about a month or so ago. The unrelenting emotionalism of that particular roller-coaster-ride left a crack in my edifice.

Just enough for the smoke to rise and make the whole dadgum neighborhood smell like barbecue.

Just enough for the heat to make ripples in the air around me and flat-out-frighten the idiots who had been carelessly pouring gasoline around me for the past four years.

Just enough to make a whole group of cold and hungry folks (knowing the warmth and nourishment found in flames) come out of the woodwork saying: “Ooooohh” and “Ahhhhhh” and “Ohhhhhhh.”

Just enough to make me sit up and say, “Enough dirt, dammit.”

Just enough to land my ass on a cruise ship with no earth to be found.

This is the art that was just outside The Bad Stateroom.

So, as I sit with the sun above me, the wind in my hair, and the uncustomary roll of water beneath me, I want to look at earth. More particularly, at sloughing (some of) it off.

I think y’all might just be in for viewing a metamorphosis.

Imma toast this unfamiliar fruity little drink that my waiter, Fernando, just brought to me to the phoenix as she rises from the ashes. Join me?


[1] I grew up in Latin Kings’ territory on the South Side of Chicago but ran with a number of Satan’s Disciples just before the big war between SDs and Two-Six; TBW could whip a Two-Six-Folk gang sign like no other white-girl. We met in Brother Preacherman’s church and hung out in the church parking-lot; many of my other “brothers” became Evangelical preachers. This makes me giggle.

[2] For which I had a real estate license, a securities agent license (Series 63 and Series 7), and state and federal insurance licenses.

[3] That lasted about two years. Considering what I learned in those years, I don’t regret a minute of it.

The Bad Witch at The Watering Hole

Image from Travelers Insurance commercial, "At the Watering Hole" (2010).

Have you seen the Travelers Insurance commercial, “At the Watering Hole,” where all of the creatures of the Savannah “get along”? It’s supposed to be cute and, I suppose, comforting; but it’s actually unnatural and a little creepy. Imagine The Grasslands overflowing with meerkats, gazelle, and water buffalo. Imagine what the world would be like without any predators.

Imagine what day would be like without night. Sure, there are places like Northern Alaska, “The Land of the Midnight Sun,” where the sun shines from May to August. But this light is balanced by an equal amount of darkness on the other half of the year’s wheel.

Imagine what biology would be like without cell death.

Imagine what magic would be like without destruction. Imagine if all the energy we cast out was “good” or if all light was “white.”

But I am remiss.

Please allow me to introduce myself.

I am The Bad Witch.

By “bad,” I do not mean poor or ineffectual. Oh, no. I am very effectual. Sometimes to my own dumbfounding. Neither do I mean “evil.” I have a moral compass, however broken it may seem. I have a clear set of criteria for spell-work and I rarely cast intoxicated. That I can recall.

What I do mean by “bad” is that I may walk a little to the left-hand path. While I’m no Lovecraftian or Satanist, I do appreciate the dark as it so beautifully compliments the light. I am not afraid to cast a binding on a neighborhood creeper; I have no qualms about asking for justice; and I have been know to conjure a boogyman to make someone mindful of dangerous behavior. Especially when it’s me and mine who are in danger. So, while I stay in the middle of the road for the most part and I try to keep my work on the up-an-up, if a raging sense of protectiveness overwhelms me, I will get down and dirty. And I have no problem allowing a willing “dark” entity to help me out. I’m no bigot when it comes to help offered. In the end, I do not consider witchcraft appropriate for the “nice.” There are other branches of Pagainism for that.

So, yes, I am a bad witch. I’m no Glinda. But if I make an oath to you, unless you break it first (and then woe unto you every Tuesday for a year), I’m bound to you for life. I take it very seriously.

I say this because many of the witches I know are oath breakers. Some by word, some by deed, most by breaking silence. I don’t believe that you, reader, are an oath breaker. But, then again, I do not know you. Do I? You could be the Valmont of your coven, for all I know.

I don’t intend to give instruction on oath breaking; that is to say, I don’t intend for this to be a “how-to” for the treacherous. I figure you’ve got that covered without my help. The point of this blog is to provide, by example, instruction concerning the “why not to” of oath-breaking. Especially if you, like so many, have no teacher or mentor. When you are going it alone, the trouble comes when you don’t have someone to tell you what *not* to do. I figure that there are plenty of books out there to show you how to cast, how to write spells, how to fire sigles, how to call the quarters, and how to celebrate Beltane (with your clothes both on and off). But aside from the obligatory, “harm none,” there seems to be no one willing to record the flipside of magic. And if, as witches, we believe in balance, we must believe in the ever-present-staring-you-in-the-face-the-moment-you-realize-you-should-have-thought-that-through-a-little-better flipside.

This may be because we have, up until now, been trying to propagate the Craft. We have been trying to instruct and we do not want to frighten our would-be pupils away. This may be that we do not want to fuel the fires of anti-Pagan sentiment in the U.S. We do not want to provide any ammunition to those already armed to the teeth against us. It may even be that to tell how a spell went wrong, you might have to tell how the spell was composed and would therefore break silence. Because this is not really a spellbook, I will not be recording whole spells. I will give enough information for you to comprehend the situation without telling you everything. If you are versed in the mysteries, you’ll know exactly what happened without my telling you. If you are not yet initiated, it is not my place to fill you in.

I have sat on the sidelines of many a magical FUBAR (and have, admittedly, been embroiled in a few) and I hope to regal you with a few hours of horrific, if not entertaining, stories about what can go wrong when you are reckless with witchcraft. I’ve known witches who cast carelessly and flagrantly (I call this “driveby casting”), those who betray coven members, those who lie – even in ritual – even to themselves, and those with whom no secret is safe. Sounds like any society, right?  I’ll tell you all of these stories in good time, mind you, but you must realize upfront that an oath-breaking witch is not the same as a snarky eleventh-grader. There are universal penalties to oath breaking. Not that I’m being judgmental. I’ve cast and had stuff backfire all over me like pea soup on Linda Blair’s bedsheets. But I try to own up to it. I try to understand what I did and how to prevent it from happening again. (Sometimes successfully!)  I am, after all, the “Bad Witch” indicated in the title of this blog. Which brings me to a point of semantics.

I do not consider the recording and publication of this blog a broken oath. For two reasons. First, I tell only what is mine tell, I will reveal nothing which is an oath-bound mystery. Much of what I will include has already been scavenged by popular media; T.V. and movies like “Charmed,” “The Witches of Waverly Place,” The Craft and Practical Magic (not to mention Anne Rice) have given the world a glimpse into our world, even if it is a strangely eschewed one. These are, of course, fictions. Second, I reserve the right to a spot near, if not on, the fiction shelf myself. Oh, all I’m about to tell you is true enough. But some stories can only be told by poioumena, metaphor, or allegory. In the words of Ken Kesey, “It’s the truth even if it didn’t happen.” We say that the mysteries are “that which cannot be told” don’t we?

Pleased to meet you.