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.