This morning I read this post from Mat Auryn, discussing the idea of “witch blood” – that witches are different from other people; the same way I can identify other queer people with my spidey senses, witches know their own. Tucked into that idea is the suggestion that witchcraft comes naturally to some people, down some genetic or energetic or spiritual line. Mat describes a panel discussion with a number of respected Pagan writers and leaders. (It is an interesting, thought-provoking read: go, read, come back. I’ll wait.)
While I can sometimes tell when I’m meeting another magically-inclined person, it’s sometimes because of a piece of jewelry or a subtly-dropped hint in conversation. But then, a pentacle necklace does not make a witch; nor does a collection of books or the possession of the trappings of magic (the incense, candles, crystals, or other purchasable items.) You can buy or collect all of the outward signs of being a witch, but without doing the work of learning to use them, it’s just a bunch of stuff.
I’d never thought of myself as particularly special in the community of people who practice magic or worship the old Gods, but when I look back over my history, I can find evidence of a natural proclivity for this way of life: a childhood obsession with nature; my Catholic upbringing, which I ultimately rejected because there were too many rules and women were excluded from clergy, but which instilled the sense that all of life is plugged in to the Divine; a general mistrust of authority and majority opinions; a feeling that there was more to life than what I’d been taught. And so when I read that copy of “Living Wicca” by Scott Cunningham that had been accidentally left on my parents’ coffee table by a friend of my sister, it was like coming home. Finally, I had a name for what I actually was. That’s what it felt like – not something I wanted to be, or some set of beliefs I wanted to adopt, it was something I felt that was already part of who I am, part of what makes me, me.
And, what is this way of life, anyway? Is it Hollywood-style magic, lighting candles with my fingertips, flinging enemies across the room with a flick of my wrist, writing symbols in blood on parchment paper and murmuring incantations as my eyeballs turn black and wings sprout from between my shoulder blades? As far as I know, that magic only exists in the special effects lab.
What this life does involve is knowing yourself. It involves a willing, thoughtful, intimate participation in the creation of a life, connection to nature and an understanding of natural processes, and an exploration of the mysteries. Sure, sometimes it can involve tarot cards, candles and incense and fancy tools. But mostly, it involves time and effort, forming connections, learning and unlearning. It’s an ongoing process, not an achievement.
Maybe that’s what this witch blood idea is about – the identity as seeker, worker, creator. I don’t connect with it as a means of exclusion. So much of witchcraft is work, practice, and relationship that I have to believe that someone who consistently, diligently and earnestly puts in the work would benefit from it.
In the end, I don’t think it really matters whether witch blood is real or an invention. People are flocking to Paganism and Witchcraft because these practices have meaning for them. As far as I’m concerned, that is a good thing: Mother Earth can use as many people working with her, and on her behalf, as she can get.