Our resident spiritual adviser Lorraine gave us this deepdive into the experience of being a witch AND a student.
Religion and politics are two areas that are not often discussed in polite society… or so they say.
However, in these days of remote working it’s much harder to understand the religious, cultural and spiritual beliefs of our colleagues. To see how these beliefs are celebrated and how they may shape day to day actions and shape them as a person. So I decided to write this little piece to share with you.
When I was at university I found it really hard to get support from the student services that were offered to support me on my spiritual journey.
Just a bit of background about me: I am a practising witch, although not wiccan, and have been for many years and when I was at university I found it really hard to get support from the student services that were offered to support me on my spiritual journey. More often than not, I found I was directed to a more Christian orientated resource who would then try to discourage me from exploring the paths I had an interest in.
The internet was quite new then, so it wasn’t as easy to do a quick google search and end up with the level of information and detail you can now, nor was it a popular subject. In fact, in the last 20 years there's been an explosion in books, shops, websites and other resources. Although paganism, witchcraft and Wicca may sometimes be seen as cool, these beliefs can still cause an individual a lot of issues with different levels of discrimination and downright offensive behaviour, especially from certain factions.
One weekend, whilst in my local new age shop I picked up a copy of Pagan Dawn. The Pagan Dawn was and is written by the Pagan Federation UK and it helped me find the support I needed.
I was encouraged to change my wicked ways and go a mainstream route.
At uni, I found once my interests became known that I was pushed to the sidelines and didn't have people I could reach out to, talk to or who could support me. Often I was encouraged to change my wicked ways and go a mainstream route. The student services didn’t know how to support me and I was misunderstood, as were my beliefs.
There is still a misunderstanding that magic must involve “black” magic or may be connected to devil worshipping. This is not the case, though these paths may be chosen. I won’t go into magic and it’s many shades of grey, but again I’d encourage you to read and to research all paths and question your sources.
A lot of fear and emotion can be generated by the word witch and it can provoke strong responses even in people you wouldn’t expect such a response from. It’s not an easy choice to live your life as a witch, pagan or wiccan publicly and I’d suggest you prepare yourself mentally before coming out of the broom closet. I’m not saying you shouldn’t do this, just suggesting you have support in place when you do this.
It not only helped me gain knowledge and confidence, but it also gave us all a much needed support network.
I was able to find my voice at my university and bring my whole self to the university. I was able to reach out to student services and get their help to set up a group of my own and so I set up a monthly moot. This was where like minded students could discuss different topics such as wicca, paganism etc. It not only helped me gain knowledge and confidence, but it also gave us all a much needed support network.
My key takeaway would be if, as a student, you can’t directly connect to the support you need, then use the support services offered to you to form your own peer to peer group and support each other.
Do I do spells?
Do I worship the devil?
Do I turn people into frogs?
“No, but I do coach a well known productivity tool called Eat the Frog!”
Do I have a wand and a broom?
Do people fear me and treat me oddly?
“Yes, sometimes and that makes me sad as fear is often due to misunderstanding and sometimes it means people are cruel. You see the word witch has so many negative connotations and bias it can be hard to live publicly as a witch. There are so many negative stereotypes about witches in almost every folk and fairy tale the witches are wicked, bad and ugly except for maybe Glinda in the Wizard of Oz.
“When the word witch is used People may also think of black magic, devil worship, dancing outside naked (trust me it’s too cold especially in the UK as well as too much wildlife and nettles for that to really work!), wild orgies at midnight and animal sacrifice? Nope, never have I seen or done these things. I use dating apps like anyone else and the only animal sacrifice occurs if I fancy a roast at the pub on a sunday and even then it’s cooked and served on a plate for me.
“People are curious and think they know what it means to be a witch and what they do… it’s like those memes: what my family think I do, what my friends think I do, what I think I do and what I actually do… you know what I mean? Everyone has a view, concept or image and the reality is not the same.”
So why have I opened the broom closet?
“For someone interested in this path it’s very daunting and these days there’s so much info it’s hard to sort the wood from the forest it can be hard to find like minded people or find support... those who are vaguely curious may not know where to get reliable info and my intent is to support and help as I have always done. Some groups or people may try to take advantage of you, it's important to know the legit places to get help. But one key thing I’d say is if it feels wrong don’t do it and don’t be pressured to do it.
“Personally I have to say that many people I have met have been supportive and there are some great communities around the country. I have lived in many places and managed to find, with some digging to find the local new age shop and from there, groups and meetups to meet and talk to like minded people. In this world of apps it is even easier and there are many online groups on facebook and alike but beware as some of these groups also attract the crowd that think magic means sex.
“I had some amazing support from some nationally renowned witches and many authors based in the UK are approachable and willing to discuss more of their ideas and may even hold their own circles and support groups. Many of this I then shared at my moots and we built up quite a community and support network.
“It’s not always easy to get the time off you need or for people to understand about different holidays and it’s not always easy to express your feelings about these holidays as this means coming out of the broom closet and this is not an easy thing to do. Many people may feel asking for a specific non secular day off is tricky. I have often booked Halloween off wherever I work and have some really snarky comments and inappropriate jokes and that was without even saying why I wanted the time off.
“There are many risks and benefits about coming out of the broom closet and in some countries it can even involve a risk to personal safety. You have to choose your battles and sometimes who you tell, sometimes its cool, sometimes you lose friends and sometimes you are abused so if you come out of the broom closet bare this in mind and think carefully why you are doing this, no one should live in fear but unfortunately there is still a lot of fear and misunderstanding about witches and everyone will have an opinion on what a witch is, what they do and what it means.”
As a practising witch for more than 30 years I know that one of the hardest things to do is to come out the broom closet, dust off your broom and wear your pointy hat with pride and occasionally cackle aka laugh a lot (when the urge takes you).
Oh and if you’ve read this far, happy midsummer!
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