Which Witch?

October 27, 2013

On a jaunt to a community festival, goddessdaughter #1 turned to me and said, “I feel comfortable with you.” She’s 10. A warm sensation started in my stomach and moved outward. “Mama’s always online buying shoes and Papa’s always busy,” she continued. I know this is not the case but I understood what she meant: When I’m with her, I’m with her, 100%. She is part of an extraordinarily close-knit family but somehow I’ve made my way into her heart. In the midst of the heartache surrounding one of my nieces, I feel like at least in this one small way I must be doing something right.

I take my girls every Friday to Banneker or a park or my house and we spend about two hours together. Mostly they play together, but if we’re at the park goddessdaughter #1 will talk to me for half an hour while I push her on the swings while goddessdaughter #2 (age 7) makes “salads” of weeds and mulch and flowers. I’ve been teaching them baseball with a wiffleball bat and a large plastic ball and they are improving. We just started running bases and they are thrilled with that.

When A and J asked me to stand goddessmother the first time, I told them I would be there for their daughter 100%—as long as they let me. We had a blessing for each of the girls at the Unitarian Universalist church where I swore to “teach her to love the ways of justice.” I think of that often, such as when I encourage them to share or when I demand that they stop fighting.

I have always been completely open as a Witch with the girls, and we have a small altar for them in my temple. Goddessdaughter #2 has recently become fascinated with my path and wants to know how to be a wizard. I gave her some gemstones for her birthday, listing the magical property of each. Both girls have gone through phases of telling their friends that I am a Witch, with the usual wide variety of responses. Neither one quite understands the concept of religion yet but they know I am a “good Witch.”

Friday was awful. When I entered their house, goddessdaughter #1 was wearing a T-shirt that said, “Don’t be a witch.” It had a green background and a black silhouette of a caricatured witch that was clearly meant to look like the Wicked Witch of the West. I understood at once that it was the equivalent of “Don’t be a bitch,” but it still took my breath away. I was overcome. I was so offended.

I pointed at her shirt and asked, “What’s this?” She could tell by my expression that I was upset and she crossed her arms over her chest and looked away guiltily. A stepped in with her best “soothing” voice and said she had bought it and thought it was cute. It didn’t mean anything. By this time my goddessdaughter had fled the kitchen for her room. I turned to A and said, “You wouldn’t have a T-shirt saying, ‘Don’t be a Christian.'” She was still in soothe mode and just said, “Okay.” My goddessdaughter shortly re-entered with a shirt saying, “Witch way to the candy?” I laughed and gave her a hug, but I was still in turmoil. In fact, I’m still in turmoil.

In one of the Dune books, Frank Herbert wrote, “He knows me so well, but I despair of his ever understanding me.” That’s how I feel about A. She has known me for over 20 years, all that time as a Witch, and she has even self-identified as Pagan. She knows that I founded a national non-profit for educating the public about Paganism and ran it for almost 10 years. She knows me. Doesn’t she?

What could she possibly have been thinking when she bought that shirt? She says she thinks of me as a sister but it seems she doesn’t think of me at all. I was deeply offended by the shirt, not only for myself, but for my people. Do I really need to explain to her that Witchcraft is a religion?

A and J are ambivalent about my path. They were adamant that I not teach the girls anything along the lines of natural magic several years ago. Recently A told me she didn’t want me to teach them how to cast a Circle. But she’s fine with their learning “metaphysical” properties. I don’t know how to interpret that. I feel like they want all the good things I can bring to their children, just without the feminism and the Witchcraft. But there is no me without feminism and especially the Craft. When I follow down the strands of my identity, the things that make me me, I find at my core singing and the Craft, twisting together in a beautiful DNA strand. They can’t be separated from who I am. That’s terribly inconvenient for parents with middle class values. But it’s who I am. It’s who they asked to be goddessmother—twice.

They love that I’m involved with the girls’ lives, that the girls love me, that they get alone time when I take the girls on our jaunts. They invite me for Thanksgiving and Christmas. But, even though the girls’ grandmother takes them to church on Christmas Eve, I am not allowed to take them to the local synagogue or mosque to expose them to different faiths. And I’m their goddessmother. If not I, then who?

The whole reason we have an altar for the girls at my house is because A lost the gift I gave to goddessdaughter #1 at her blessingway. She lost it. But she was able to hang onto the Buddhist prayer flags given by my goddessdaughter’s godfather. I knew that if I wanted to maintain any kind of spiritual relationship with the girls, I would have to safeguard it myself.

I have always walked Between the Worlds. Even when I was a good Catholic girl playing Maria in The Sound of Music, I was set apart a little from others. It is a constant tension in my life. It is a spiritual truth which I have meditated deeply on for years and which I hope to come to peace with before I die. But it’s just so hard to be who I am, to be admired for who I am, and yet to have my identity denied. Like when my family says a Christian prayer at every mealtime and ignores the fact that I am not of their faith. We’re an alcoholic family, so it’s easy to ignore the elephant in the living room, but it still hurts. I’ve been on this path for nearly 25 years and these people who are so involved in my life refuse to acknowledge it. They don’t want me to be fully myself because it makes them uncomfortable. And I feel wedged into an ill-fitting place because I can’t be what they want and what I want at the same time.

“I feel comfortable with you.” Which me?


August 6, 2010

Had the blessing of seeing Ardas tonight, if only for half an hour or so. She has really come into her own. She is so solid in her own skin, strong and bright and beaming. She has always been beautiful.

She donated her eggs to her cousin last year and will be meeting the results next week! Two baby girls. She can’t wait to “smell their heads.” It sounds weird, but I know what she means.

She told me about the  process. First took birth control pills without the placebo for a week (?) or so. Then 10 days of hormone injections to build up egg production. She didn’t experience any mood swings, but she did have trouble in the GI area due to the fact that her ovaries were the size a VW bus!

The doctor folks extracted the eggs while she was anesthetized, taking them into the next room and determining their health immediately. From around twenty eggs they ended up with 8 or so healthy ones. Two made it past the blastula stage and were embedded in her cousin. The others went on ice, donated to Science (“Science!” c’mon, sing it with me).

The procedure was great for Ardas but her cousin had a very difficult time with the babies. The doctor folks had to remove her uterus because the placenta of one of the babies grew into the uterine wall. “So it’s bittersweet,” says Ardas.

As she told me the story, I felt these sharp pluckings of my skin, all around my uterine area. Small pains as something was taken away. Memories and wants and deep-seated desires.

When I was in England in ’92 I decided to come back to the States because I wanted to have a baby. I made a pact with a friend that if we were both still single by the time we were 30, we’d have a go at it. He wasn’t single at 30, and I’d passed through a life-changing relationship with my no-longer-fiancée. I struck on the idea of donating my eggs later. When I was finally able to ring the clinic, I was three weeks too late. The cut-off was age 35, and I’d just had my birthday.

There is something in me that snapped that day, something that’s never been healed. Hearing Ardas’ story, as thrilled as I am for her, reminded me painfully of my long journey on this path. There is no loneliness like that of being a spinster aunt with no possibility of contributing to the gene pool in any way. No child of mine would be a good risk anyway, not with my genes. There is a bitter wind that howls around me when I realize how cut off I am from the majority of the human race.

What would a child of mine be like? What potential would I pass along that would come to fruition? And what dread legacy? I imagine a smile just for me or the slack trust of a child completely asleep in my arms or the screaming tantrums of a two-year-old or the hardest of all: a teenager screaming, “I hate you!!” in the living room some night.

More than anything, I miss the ability to pass on my religion. I so carefully collected Pagan customs from countless books in English libraries over the years. I have them still but never touch them. I am irritated that my goddessdaughters already believe in a god and are being taught the Bible but have no grounding in the tenets of a Pagan faith. My fault. Maybe instead of taking them to Chocolate Moose I should have invested a little more time in their spiritual development.

Not that being Pagan is the only path. But I so wanted to give them a broad basis of belief rather than the narrow path of the status quo. I don’t know how to be a goddessmother, mostly because they aren’t mine. I feel like I’m walking on eggshells when I think of how to handle it all. There are too many people involved, and blood is thicker than Spirit. If they were mine, there’d be no question. And my own spirituality would deepen in response to their questions and growth. The act of teaching would make me grow. And oh, how I want to grow.

Little plucking pains. Pinching me. Reminding me of what was taken. Of what can never be born. No one wants my eggs. I pray someday to be at peace with it.