I was newly pregnant and my days working at a newspaper were dragging. First-trimester nausea and exhaustion meant that sitting in the office was challenging, to say the least.
So when the editor asked for someone to take a quick story that would involve going out for an interview, I jumped at the chance. Then, I looked at the assignment: interviewing a local witch.
Her husband was a well-known volunteer in town, and her child was on sports teams at the high school, so in many ways, she was like a lot of the soccer moms in town. However, she also did Reiki healing sessions and practiced her spirituality through connections to nature. She was eager to shed light on this other, lesser know aspect of her life.
It was nearly Halloween, and my assignment was to cut through the misconceptions to learn what a witch was really like. Little did I know that the visit to the witch would become one of the most important events of my pregnancy.
Here's what I learned from visiting a witch while I was pregnant.
1. We all have magic within us.
"A spell is just a very clear intention," the witch told me.
There was no special magic or voodoo involved — nothing spooky or eerie. Instead, a spell was just setting your mind to something and letting the universe, or God, or even yourself, know what you intend to have happened.
The witch pointed out that the power of positive thought — made popular by books like The Secret — has become well accepted in our society, but the idea of a spell still seemed like something from a fairy tale. However, by reframing the idea of a spell as accessing the magic and power within us, the whole concept seemed much easier to understand.
2. The real magic is believing in yourself.
When my interview was complete, just before I was about to leave, the witch asked if I would like to cast a spell. I hesitated, and then thought, "Why not?"
With her instruction, I picked up herbs and a rock and tucked them into a silk satchel. I held it in my hand and thought clearly of a healthy pregnancy and easy transition to motherhood. I thanked the witch and left.
However, over the rest of the pregnancy, that satchel became magical to me. I had to touch it every day, lest I lose the magic. I knew when I ran my fingers over the soft silk that it was just a bag, and some dried herbs and a rock, but it came to represent the power that was within me.
Growing a baby is at once an everyday occurrence and a once-in-a-lifetime event. Millions of women have done it, and millions more will but when you're doing it, it seems so life-changing that you doubt that anyone else has ever felt the way that you do.
Just like pregnancy, that satchel was at once magical and mundane, which is how the small purple bag came to represent so much for me throughout my pregnancy.
3. Women are powerful.
During my pregnancy, I was hungry for stories of powerful women. I read everything I could about midwifery and natural birth. I needed to be reassured that everything that was happening to me was normal and that the changes to mind and body were something that millions of other women have experienced.
The witch talked about witchcraft as wisdom passed through generations of women. Spells and potions weren't magic as much as they were secrets passed from one generation of women to the next. The prosecution against witches, she said, was really a fight against women tapping into the power and wisdom that they had cultivated for a millennium.
My pregnancy made me feel connected to the generations of women who have come before me in a way that I had never felt before. The witch's talk of secret wisdom and internal strength built up by the fellowship of women who have been through similar experiences really struck me.
I didn't have to feel isolated or unsure. I could trust in my body and my intuition, just like thousands of women had done before me.
4. The experience of motherhood is universal.
One of my first questions for the witch was how she first became involved with the belief system. I was surprised that her first exposure to witchcraft came from the loneliness of early motherhood.
Seeking to connect with other women, she had reached out to a local mother's group and met other women who practiced witchcraft. Over time, she learned more about the belief system and became more involved.
This woman was a generation older than me and from a very different background. However, when my daughter was born I realized that across time and circumstances the loneliness and intensity of early motherhood — and the desire to connect with other women who understood — prevailed.
After my daughter's birth, I was surprised by the intensity of these feelings, but my experience with the witch reminded me that they were, and always had been, normal.
5. Sometimes, it's fun to believe.
"There's a strong feminine energy watching over you," the witch said. "A grandmother, or maybe an aunt."
After she mentioned that, I spent days wondering which ancestor's spirit was watching me. I asked my parents questions about their grandmothers and aunts and learned more about the women in my family than I had ever known.
Whether or not I believe in ghosts or spirits or guardian angels, letting my imagination run wild with what the witch had said was fun and helped me learn about my family in a way I would have never done otherwise.
6. It's OK to ask about others' belief systems.
When I went to visit the witch, I didn't know anything about witchcraft or Wicca (I learned that day that they are two different belief systems). Other than the Halloween stereotypes of cauldrons and black cats, I had no idea what to expect.
However, the witch was happy to explain her beliefs to me, showing me how they were the same and different from mainstream religions and even common cultural practices.
As I learned more about the root of her beliefs, it became clear that her practice — which many think of as inherently different from most religions — is really quite similar, with a focus on the tenants of love, respect, and giving.
Asking questions gave me a chance to learn, and gave her a chance to share a belief system that's important to her. We had interesting conversations that left a lasting impact on me, and will ensure that next time I meet someone who is different, I will take time to learn about their beliefs.
Today, my daughter is a healthy and happy two-year-old. The purple satchel from the visit still sits on a shelf in her room, and the witch and I are still connected in the most 21st-century way: we're Facebook friends.
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