I don’t know exactly how the idea formulated. Part of me thinks it was a long time coming, after having all of those profound spiritual conversations with my roommates. Maybe I just wanted to find some spirituality that was more my style. Maybe I was just feeling Witchcraft one day.
“I’m so embarassed.” Ryley shyley giggled after her professor handed her a book titled “The Spiral Dance” at a faculty dinner.
“We’ve been reading a lot of feminist literature in my independent study, and one of the authors we’ve been studying is Wiccan.”
Ryley didn’t know that the week before I had dedicated an even more embarassing amount of time I should have been doing homework or catching up on Sherlock to googling how the heck to find a Wicca church in Orange County. These things are harder to find than the holy grail. I searched online for hours until I could find one that didn’t require an application or looked like a place animal sacrifices were socially acceptable.
We decided that we were going to meet up on Sunday and attend service at Temple Goddess. Because YOLO. Unless you’re a witch. How many lives do they live? I had actually done zero research on the topic, and that became incredibly apparent that Sunday morning as we were getting ready.
“What are you wearing?” My friend Hannah frantically texted me.
The website said, ‘Wear casual clothes to honor yourself.’ Honor yourself. How do you ‘honor’ yourself with clothes? I pulled a bra out of my dirty laundry pile and realized I was out of my element.
My shoes were filled with sand and my dress was wrinkly, but it was the best I could do after neglecting laundry for about two weeks. Hannah jumped in the car in leggings and a nice white shirt. We had both decided to throw on denim jackets. It adds a level of causalness that says you don’t take things to seriously but also implys you might be a witch.
When we picked up Ryley, she was dressed in all black.
“I thought I’d go for the literal Witch approach.” Probably the worst thing you could do going into a situation youre not familiar with is to try and imitated the stereotype society has laid out for them. We had never been to a place like this before and we didn’t know what they were capeable of. What if they casted spells on us?! What if they harvested our organs for power?! That’s why I chose the “Church as if it were casual friday” look. Because that’s not a thing, anywhere.
We arrived for 11am services to a room filled with women ranging from ‘sunday service’ to ‘Pagan Voodoo queen’. The spectrum was incredible. Some women looked like they were going to go pick up their kids from a soccer game right after this, and others wore long kimonos with bright floral patterns. The three of us waited in the lobby and nibbled on refreshments while a few of the women entered the main temple through a curtained door and started singing a song that went something like, “My body is the living temple of love, my body is the body of a goddess.” I could definitely vibe with that. I’m all about body image and self empowerment. My fears of forced organ donation slowly melted into excitement for some feminine empowerment. Everyone in the lobby lined up single file from oldest to youngest (Men in the back, awesome), and entered one by one into the room of loud chanting. I was last, and pretty afraid. What was behind that curtain? I pictured a dark room with a cauldron in the middle and a bunch of grey haired women throwing parts of animals into it. The altar would just be a giant spray painted mural of satan and at some point we would all have to burn pentacosts into our skin. Then I realized I was probably being racist and the woman in charge of ushering the women in opened the curtain and urged me forward.
As the curtain opened around me I saw that the room was actually set up like a church would be. There were chairs in a circle and at one end there was a gian altar with no satan, but instead a giant cat looking thing surrounded by candles. In each corner there were smaller altars, each decorated with a different element. Upon entering I had my hands washed by a woman in a giant purple tunic, and then I had to reach in and grab a percussive instrument from a basket. My inner high school percussionist beckoned me to take a tambourine.
A drum circle ensued for about a minute and then crescendoed into everyone beating their drums faster and faster until we exploded in a giant ‘thank you’ to mother earth. Then we all went around the circle and introduced ourselves according to who our mothers were. We all had to take a moment and say thank you to the mother that bore us, no matter our relationship to her, which I really appreciated. When it came to the woman next to me, she didn’t say anything. Instead, the woman leading the ceremony, Ava, introduced her as ‘Ravenseye’. I turned around to watch this woman maybe say something but my anticipation was just met with an icy glance. She was definitely a witch. The way she looked at me I imagined sucked out part of my soul and replaced it with that ghost from Paranormal Activity. I quickly turned my head back to the main altar and for a second considered saying a Christian prayer. As if that would help me. I could practically feel Jesus building me my own section of hell just for being in this place.
There was a small table in the middle of the circle, and next we were allowed to then place an item on that table to ‘charge’. What that means, I’ll never know, but I placed my mother’s mother’s ring on the table for the rest of the ceremony.
The first woman to walk up to the microphone was the leader of todays Ceremony, Ava, and she was a total fireball. She cracked jokes nearly the whole time, and whenever she agreed with something, she would snap and cheer.
Then there was the candle lighting ceremony. One by one, the priestess Amina picked up a colored candle and asked someone to talk about what the candle represented in their life. One woman spoke about boyfriend troubles, another about focusing inward instead of outward. These were normal women with normal problems. Amina held up a pink candle. The compassion candle. She asked if anyone had a story to share about compassion for themselves or others. No one stood up. Classic Witches, not having any compassion for anyone. I stifened a giggle as I heard rustling from next to me and proceeded to watch Raveneye walk up to the microphone and hold the candle in her very tiny hands.
“As I walked in today someone told me I’m not the smiling type. I nearly cried because I already know that…”
Well, I suck. Not only was this woman probably not a bloodthirsty witch, but she probably wasn’t a bad person either. She went on to describe a biker club she visited that had only one female dancer.
“I just feel so much compassion for this woman. She’s so brave to stand up there in front of a room of big, scary biker guys. I just hope that more dancers are hired to keep her company and help her feel more comfortable.”
She lit the candle and sat back down. The other women shook their instruments and some even howled. This was a room of women that were genuinely interested in the well being of other women, no matter what circumstance they’re in, and I really was beginning to respect that. The ceremony began with a chant honoring your body, and since then everything we had discussed was about respecting yourself and your ‘inner goddess’.
My moment of reverence only lasted a few moments, because just then a mousy woman in a leopard print jacket went up to the mic. She introduced herself as Dr. Miluna, an ‘intuitive’ physician. Miluna went on to tell a story about how this past week she went to her regular OBGYN visit and refused to take all of the tests her doctor had recommended. Instead, she had wished the Doctor had asked her about her intuition and explained that if you ever have a negative feeling or negative energy, just look up to the sky and say ‘lift me up Goddess’.
Now, I’m not a trained medical physician, but I would like to take this time to say I don’t really think reciting any phrase is a good substitute for a mamogram unless that phrase is ‘yes I’d like a mamogram’. I checked out Miluna’s website after the service and discovered that she had a brain tumor that she claims was cured with her intuition and extensive surgery. For only $200, you will get a half an hour session where Dr. Miluna will explain to you the source of your malady, tell you to refuse any necessary testing, and then probably recommend very extreme medical care.
The next woman to go up and speak was an animal communicator by the name of Suzan. Suzan was probably about 60 years old and had dried out, bleached long blonde hair. She wore a robe of all different bright colors, and when she wasn’t up speaking she had the luxury of sitting on the temple throne. Her speech began with a story about a ferral cat by the name of ‘Big Head’ that she helped rescue. Big Head had been kidnapped by a neighbor and slashed with a razor blade. He was frightened by humans, but a woman in the neighborhood desperately wanted to capture him and get him medical attention so she called upon Suzan for guidane. Apparently, Suzan arrived and asked Big Head what happened and let him know she was going to help him get medical attention. Big Head had a few questions. How would the go to the vet? Was the vet nice? What was the vet going to do? She explained to Big Head the nature of the visit and Big Head agreed to go.
During her story, I just had to look over at Hannah and Ryley and gauge their reactions. They both had very inquisitive looks on but all of the women around were completely captivated. This woman couldn’t possibly be serious. I tried to picture in my head Suzane silently staring at a giant ferral cat, and the cat just being like ‘fuck this’ and running away because it’s a cat and has no thoughts. But Suzan stood by her story and shared that her gift has helped countless people reconnect with their bad animals. I bet she also charged a heinous amount of money.
We had to cut the rest of the ceremony short because it was the fourth Sunday of the month which meant it was the spirit faire. We all exited the room oldest to youngest just as we had been invited in, and were ushered into the lobby where we could sign up for a reading. I put my name down for Tarot cards with Amina at 2, and was immediately washed over with fear. What if she was going to tell me I would die the next day? Or go to prison??? I couldn’t live with that kind of knowledge. Hannah and Ryley also signed up for Tarot cards and Oracle Tatoos, and then we walked outside to watch the live demonstrations. About 10 different ‘gifted’ people from all over the country were waiting outside to tell us about all of the spirit demons that were going to posses our bodies that evening. Or at least I thought. What actually happened was you could ask any one of them a question about your life, and they would channel spirits or angels to help answer your questions. On a serious note, I think every single one of them read Cosmo’s horoscopes that morning and twisted them around to sound less abhorrently sexist. Each answer to every question was unsurprisingly vague and could be molded to match any situation in ones life. “You need to exhibit patience with your sister.” Um, THANKS MOM. It’s not like every single sibling has been told that every day about their sibling.
The bell ringer came out notifying me that it was time to go in and discover my fate. Again, I walked into the room passed the curtain, but now the lights were almost off and instead of chairs set in a circle, there were 10 different tables set up with the readers behind them.
I walked over to Amina and sat down. She could tell how afraid I was. “Relax child, and cut the cards as you wish.” Geez, no pressure. Just cut the cards as you see fit, but don’t do it wrong because then you’ll find out your going to die of feline AIDS.
After I cut and shuffled, Amina layed out the cards.
“Oh my” she whispered in some sort of demonic bewilderment.
Fuck, this is it, I thought to myself. Just lay it on me. Tell me about the man that’s going to break into my house and murder me. I asked for this.
“Your compassion for animals shows you have a great potential to be a Animal Communicator. Have you ever tried to speak to animals?”
If I ever write a memior, there would have to be a chapter in it titled “Kaelyn does not give a shit about animals.” I’ve tried really hard to care about animals, and I think I do to an extent, atleast enough to not have people worry I’m a serial killer. But to answer your question miss, no I have never fucking tried to speak to animals.
I tried to politely explain to her how wrong she was, but she swore she had never seen anything like this. Somehow, I was born with an innate ability to look frogs in the eye and understand the way they think. As if animals speak in english! I pictured myself speaking to my cat.
“Why are you such a bad cat, cat?” (my cat doesn’t have a name. Probably a testament to my families concern for animals.)
I left the table with a list of recommended readings, and $20 less.
Am I glad I went to a Wiccan church? Aboslutely. I have an open mind and I genuinely want a glimpse into how people other than me think. Do I want my $20 back? Definitely. Don’t look at cards that CLEARLY HAVE PICTURES OF HUMANS ON THEM and tell me I can now understand squirrels. I’m now reading Starhawks “The Spiral Dance” to gain better knowledge about this taboo religion. For what it’s worth, I think it definitely has a lot of good messages for women, young girls in particular. I’ll never judge anything that encourages women to achieve their full potential and love themselves unconditionally. I would just encourage them to do so in a way that leaves time for yearly mammograms.