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.

Friends in Low Places

Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots.” – Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places”

Ever have a song tweedle around in your brain so long that it seems like a message from God? I mean, not really, but everything that happens seems to have relevance to that song after a while?

One time everything in my life came back to a Billy Ray Cyrus reference – for, like, a week. Now it’s Garth Brooks. And I don’t even listen to County Music. Except Johnny Cash, but let’s face it, The Man in Black transcends genre.

At first I thought, “Aha! I will write a post about Garth Brooks and Goetia. Friends in Low Places, indeed!”

Then the (admittedly precariously placed) Midori fell from the part-of-the-liquor-cabinate-that-I-don’t-drink-but-keep-stocked-for-guests. I rekon the Kim Kardashian demons didn’t like that idea. So rather than being quippy, I thought better of it and decided to jot down all the places where Garth has already interjected himself into my young week.

Something made me look up the lyrics to “Friends in Low Places.” But I don’t remember what. I had made a joke and said, “Well, I do have friends in low places.” That’s how it seems to have started. It turns out that the song isn’t as apt as I originally thought.

You see, in our house, “friends in low places” has nothing to do with poor “social graces”; it means: “friends who will metaphorically shank a bitch for you, metaphorically dispose of the body, and never ask any questions.” That’s pretty absolute. You see, The Bad Husband and I are from a rough neighborhood.[1] The way it was back then, alliances required unconditional loyalty with no trepidations whatsoever. Or somebody got killed. Not metaphorically. Folks from The Neighborhood understood being protected by other’s loyalty. Back in The Neighborhood, everyone knew that loyalty must be unequivocally reciprocal.

Unless they turn out to be Fish from Barney Miller.[2] Or if they take a swing at a made-man. Then it’s just business. If you are lucky, you “spend the rest of [your] life like a schnook” in the Witness Protection Program.[3] If you’re careless, you end up in a toll plaza.

And nobody invited the forfeiture of such protection. My mother retells a story of death-threats against me when I was an infant. Even babies can be marks. It’s like that. Good thing my Daddy had friends in low places. You see, The Bad Daddy was a Teamster from the late 50s until the late 80s. That’s a whole post in and of itself, if I were allowed to discuss it.[4] Yea, yea. The man who spits chaw and says things like, “Well, I rekon you might not oughta done’at,” once had a fine pension plan. Once.

This is just to say that I know a thing or two about the line of fire and offers that cannot be refused. I understand loyalty in terms of non-fiction mafia, not in terms of a pop-culture-based concoction, or otiose solipsistic metaphor for venal allegiances. This isn’t the movies for me. And loyalty is ironclad or it’s nothing at all. I don’t trust easily, but when and if I do, it’s a pretty big deal.

The morning after this protracted conversation with The Bad Husband, I had an old Witchy friend contact me. It seemed out of the blue to me but for her it was a long time coming. She reminded me of a joke we used to have about Moe Green from The Godfather – which, in conversation, connected back to the Brooks song. This wouldn’t be so odd if The Bad Hubby and I had not been discussing both Brooks and the ethics of Wiseguy-friendship just the night before.

Anyway, I must have been line-dancing in my sleep because I woke up with “Friends in Low Places” still tumbling around in my brain. And something my old friend, Dora, said to me hit home delayed but hard: “Ehsha, when you have to dig for the good in people, you are digging, not rising.”

A different case of friends in low places. Well, feck me. 

Ever read Gavin DeBecker’s The Gift of Fear? He wrote that about cases like me. Not in physical encounters, mind you; I react pretty defensively when I feel bad juju from someone’s physical proximity. I’m talking about interpersonal encounters. I am a great judge of character; the instant I meet folks, I know if they are groovy or bunkum. Know what I do? I proceed to ignore my instincts. I may not trust ’em, but I give everybody the benefit of the doubt. I give everybody the chance to suck me dry and toss me overboard. All while I’m looking for the “good” in them.

This is not me trash-talking. This is me admitting that I effed-up in a big way. A marathon eff-up. The good news is, the Olympics are over. The torch is out. But not until after I willfully spent a good long time “digging” for the good in people. I never found it, by the way. And in the meantime I dug myself into a hole instead of rising to my (dare I say it) Higher Self.

Isn’t that the definition of insanity? Digging the same damn hole and expecting to find treasure?

During my morning ritual, I acted on this revelation. There’s more to it then that, of course. But I don’t kiss and tell when it comes to Magic. you know that. I practically heard something I can only describe as the prolonged riiiiiiip of a zip-lock bag being opened. When I came back to the banal world I found that I had seven – yes seven – separate social and spiritual engagements, all with folks who don’t require digging, all within a week, all within five miles from home. There are two more with dates TBD. This flood of instantaneous blessings immediately following my acquiescence to True Will seems to have happened before (See “Kith and Kin”).[5] Will I learn my lesson this time?

If I just stand out of my own best interest’s way . . .

And, as counterintuitive as it seems, quit digging for the good in folks.

Have a shot of Absolut Peppar on The Bad Witch, eh?

B, Q, 93,


P.S. I know I waxed on about the people I love last month; but can I take another minute and thank Aubs, Cin, Pixiecraft, Camylleon, Amy, SB, and Freeman for not making me dig? Ever. At all.

[1] He and I grew up two blocks from each other and went to the same grammar school – but, I moved before high school, so we didn’t meet until we were 18 and 24.

[2] The Bad Husband and one of our pals have an ongoing Facebook joke. The Hubby has a knack for “calling” celebrity deaths. We call him The FB Reaper. She tells him, “You’ll never get Vigoda!”

[3] Henry Hill’s parting thoughts. Goodfellas. Dir. Martin Scorsese. Perfs. Ray Liotta, Robert DiNero, Joe Pesci. 1990.

[4] You thought the O.T.O. was secretive? The O.T.O. never made a family “stay below the windows.”

[5] And, aside from my giving in, there seems to be another common denominator. If it’s been instigated by the same thing as before, this illuminates the “inexplicable” breaking of my fire talisman yesterday.