I found witchcraft and the occult, or it found me, in the mid eighties. I was a rebellious teen with big hair, an obnoxious amount of make up, a rocky home life, some pretty shady friends, and some really dangerous habits. It was then, I unexpectedly discovered that the things I had felt and believed my entire life, and had been vaguely alluded to by some of my family members, had names and were real things actually learned, taught, and practiced by others.

Late one night at the house of an acquaintance I barely knew, with some friends whom I had sneaked out with, I was shown a stack of books on witchcraft. The guy who lived there and I had got to talking about the kind of stuff I always ended up talking about, and he revealed that he practiced. For my other friends, that night was no big deal and I doubt they even remember it, but for me, it changed my life. I’ll never forget how I felt looking through those books. It was like the curtain being pulled back in the Emerald City of Oz to reveal that the Wizard was indeed real. I was strange, and creepy, and I saw and experienced the world in a way that my friends and most of my family didn’t and, for the first time, I had proof that there were others out there like me.

I spent much of the next couple of years skipping school and hanging out at my local library. I was a T.A.G. student, but the subjects I most wanted to learn about were never taught in school. My thinking was, if those books existed, maybe our local library would have some of them … and have them, they did! I was lucky enough to find Huson’s Mastering Witchcraft, LaVey’s Satanic Bible and Satanic Witch, and Crowley’s Book of the Law and The Book of Lies. For me, it was just enough information to be dangerous.

From then on, I brought up magick and witchcraft to anyone who would listen and practiced with anyone and everyone who would oblige me. Most teens are surprisingly open to occult experimentation, regardless of their or their family’s belief system. I practiced with everybody, Catholics, agnostics, atheists, Christians, Satanists, kids I met at parties and parks, everyone. My practice was feral, organic, and completely without boundaries. Because I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t know I was breaking them. I studied, and me and my friends cast spells, played with Ouija boards, went into trances, tried to hypnotize each other, played with candles and tried to mentally make the flames grow, split, or go out, we held séances, did rituals, and all number of other things. Meanwhile though, I quickly got a reputation around town for being a Satanist. Although that wasn’t entirely true, I let the presumption stand and friends were often banned by their parents from hanging out with me because I was deemed a bad influence, though to be honest, that had also happened quite often before I discovered witchcraft, so it may just be me. I had never heard much about paganism, or the pagan community. My Dad had a couple of friends who said they were Wiccan, but honestly back then, I thought that was just some cool occult name for witch.

Not surprisingly, I eventually got in way over my head and ran into some things I didn’t have a hope in hell at putting back into the box. I was thrown out of a mother’s house for conducting a séance in her son’s room. I and a Catholic friend of a friend went full possession in the middle of a ritual and I had no clue how to handle it, or how to make it stop. Things at my house got weird. Haunted didn’t begin to cover it, more like full-blown poltergeist activity. Things began to follow my friends home, and suddenly everyone I knew had strange presences showing up in their houses and lives. At the same time, my life continued to become more unbalanced and out of control. Now, I’ve always been a bit of a freak magnet, but all of this turned that tendency up to eleven and I had all manner of people in need of professional help clinging to me and or popping in and out of my life. I got overwhelmed. I got scared. And I quit. Everything. Magick, witchcraft, smoking, drugs, thrill seeking. Everything. I dropped out of school. I was perfectly capable of doing the work, but by then I had missed so many credits, I probably would have ended up a super senior, twice, in order to graduate. I got my G.E.D, went to work, married my junior high school sweetheart, started college, and tried to be a normal human. Normal, is overrated.

After my daughter was born, and she reminded me so much of the child I used to be, I found myself missing and being drawn back to magick. I was still nervous though, and knew that I definitely wanted to approach things in a more cautious and balanced way. A couple of years later, in the late nineties, we got on the internet, and my head basically exploded. I discovered the pagan community, and everything it had to offer, warts and all. Things I’d been looking for and missing. Magick, but with structure, boundaries, respect and a focus on nature. Nature, plants, the Earth, and animals had been such a big part of life for me as a child and the addition of this into magickal practice really made it feel so much more whole that it had been. So, I studied and practiced everything I could get my hands on starting with the quite fluffy. I was still afraid I would allow myself or my life to become unbalanced again, and since I was a parent now, I couldn’t afford to let that happen.

Eventually though, I got frustrated and bored. I got sick of the white light, sick of the new ageyness, sick of 101 books and classes, sick of being told what was allowed and what wasn’t, sick of the presumption that if I chose not to play by the rules decided by someone else, I must just be new to witchcraft or completely ignorant about magick. I missed when practicing witchcraft had been a dark secret, and I started to wonder where the creepy, forbidden side of it had gone. So I worked my way into studying ceremonial magick, grimoires, chaos, Kabbalah, some more left hand path, and a few other styles of spirituality and magick. After many years of experimentation and failed attempts at being part of my local pagan community, I finally came full circle and got fed up with overly structured, complicated practices, rules I never agreed to, and pagan groups that functioned more like high school social clubs than actual occult practitioners, and having my value assessed by how willing I was to work toward their goals or conform my ethics and personal practice to their leader’s authority.

I started to be drawn to the practices in regions where I have ancestral roots, and began delving into hoodoo and folk magick. I started actively working with the guides, spirits, and gods who had always spoken to me. It was then that I finally started to find balance. I was able to incorporate everything I’d learned and practiced while acknowledging my respect and reverence for nature, other beings, and my own conscience, while still allowing for the feral darkness with which my shadow needs to work and play.

My path today takes influence from so many places and I draw from both the right and left hand in my practice. I hold no belief in absolute Truth and place my faith solely in experience and perspectives. I do only what my conscience will allow and I don’t subscribe to rules or belief systems that don’t make sense to me, no matter how popular or accepted they may be. It’s taken me far more time and many more detours than I would have imagined to get here, but I feel like after all these years, I am finally in a place where I fit and am able to fully be, as an adult, the person my weird, creepy, little child self, always hoped I’d be.