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Becoming a grown-up Witch

Michelle Gruben groups opinion pagan

Black kitten

When did you come of age as a Witch? Some people can point to the exact day. Maybe it was in front of witnesses, when you took an important degree or initiation. Maybe you were all alone with the gods, when a vision or epiphany changed your life forever.

As I look back on my own path, I’m sure that I have stepped over that threshold, from novice to Real Grown-Up Witch. I’m just not sure when, exactly, it happened. I don’t have any certificates or ceremonial cords to show for it. I can’t name the precise moment, though my heart tells me it was within the last few years. It seems that I became a Witch the day or week or month that I stopped looking around for someone to teach me how to be one.

I have had teachers, for sure. Family and friends, gods and spirits, animals, authors, Fae beings, organizations both formal and informal. Many of my teachers have been extraordinary. (Every single one has also disappointed me at one time or another—but that’s a topic for another day.) I will never stop paying attention to my teachers, or accepting their gifts of knowledge. But I will never again trust one of them over my own inner knowing.

I guess I believed, without really admitting I believed it, that there were Witches out there who were way cooler than I was. Some hidden cabal of levitating yogis, Llewellyn authors, and hot babes with alchemical tattoos. I wanted to learn everything they knew and get invited to their secret parties, where unmistakably spooky stuff would happen before my eager eyes.

As I’ve gotten to know more of these small-time superstars, some of the illusions have fallen away. I’m slower to be impressed by Witch Queens and High Priests. (But hopefully, quicker to love them anyway.) I’m noticing vulnerability in my Witch brothers and sisters that was never obvious before. I’ve accepted that they can’t really teach me, but we can learn together.

I’ve learned that we’re—all of us—fumbling around with forces we can’t completely understand. We’re all borrowing power from something much greater. We all struggle with the limitations of our human hearts.

The road to witchly independence has been sweet, and it has been bitter. It’s sweet to realize that you can do some bit of magick that you’ve never read about in any book, or stand up to a trusted authority (and be right). It’s bitter to see a famous author yammer for an hour about his book tour instead of teaching his workshop, or watch an ordained priestess blow up over some minor slight. But the hardest part of independence is dealing with my urge to write about magick, and to teach others. I don’t want to stumble over hypocrisy along the road to adepthood.

Wiccans sometimes speak of the transition from Maiden to Mother. The Maiden lives freely, and for herself. Tthe Mother must embrace the paradox of living for another. Since I have no children of my own, I’m experiencing this life change in a different way. I’m evolving from a person who strenuously avoids counsel to a person who dishes it out.

How do you become an Elder without turning into a blowhard? How do you instruct others without limiting their own growth? How do you teach something that cannot truly be taught? I struggle with these questions every day. I have to resist ending every piece of advice I give with, “But really…don’t take my word for it.”

It’s no accident, I believe, that we are magickal people living in a time and place where we can speak of our experiences openly. But there are so many voices out there. The biggest task is training your ears to shut out the noise, while blending the rest into a harmonious whole. There’s no apparent benefit to adding my few notes to the chorus—but I kind of like the way it sounds.

So maybe you’re not a Witch the day you stop listening to other people. You’re a Witch the day you start recognizing the timbre of your own voice.

Read more by Michelle in the archive.

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