Tuesday, September 21, 2010

In Praise of Teen Witches

The year was 1973. I was a high school student in a small, very conservative factory town in central Indiana.

There were these two girls in our school. People said they were "witches". This wasn't one of the usual, boringly predictable (while at the same time always crude and salacious) rumors that were routinely spread around, seemingly at random. In fact, this rumor was very persistent and very specific -- completely unrandom. And these were the only two people I had ever heard of being literally accused of "witchcraft" in my whole life.

I knew both of them, but only slightly. Certainly not well enough to just haul off and ask, hey, like what is the deal with the rumor that you're, like, "witches"?

But then I started dating a close friend of one of the "witches". So I asked her about her friend: "hey, like, what's the deal with everyone saying she's, like, a witch?"

Now let me emphasize the time and place again. Time: almost 40 years ago. Not even a full 20 years after Gerald Gardner first published Witchcraft Today. And the place? This was the kind of town that gave the world Dan Quayle. The kind of place where someone like Christine O'Donnell floats to the top, instead of the bottom. The kind of place where public school officials exerted significant effort to thwart the attempts of the Supreme Court to enforce the Constitutional separation of Church and State.

OK, now that I've set the stage, here is what my girlfriend told me when I asked why people said that her friend was a witch: "Oh, you shouldn't say that. They don't use that word. They call it the Old Religion -- but they really don't like to talk about it. Basically it's the religion that the Celts had before the Christians came. It's like, well, Paganism, you know? Nature worship. But really, they really don't like to talk about it, and I shouldn't say anything else. Really -- don't ask her about it or tell anyone what I said."

The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up when I heard the phrase "Old Religion". But that was all I could find out from my girlfriend. I did try to find out more about "the Celts" in the local library -- but none of the books I found said anything about what kind of religion anyone had "before the Christians came."

It would be another 15 years before I happened upon Starhawk's book The Spiral Dance in a B Dalton's bookstore at a mall in Indianapolis (by then I had moved to The Big City). Aha! I thought, this is what she was talking about!

No giggling about "Satanic altars". No dabbling. Just some young people practicing the Old Religion -- and who didn't want anything from anyone else except to be left alone to worship nature in peace. I am getting sick of all the pointless babble about Christine O'Donnell. So I just wanted to tell this little true story about two brave (and very real) teen witches who made a real difference in my life. They let me know that the Old Religion was still alive. And that is some very powerful magic.


Anonymous said...

And a fine story it is, too. Thank you for sharing it.

Anonymous said...

You should enable share and Like buttons, because I Like this. ; )

molly said...

sweet:3 this is a great story, and it urges me to keep reading my wiccan books to learn more:) thank you!!!

Apuleius Platonicus said...

Hi tea:3! Definitely keep reading! Reading and thinking are our friends!