The Witch in the Sanctuary


So, our family currently goes to a small Anglican church. I’m there these days mostly because of the community and not so much because of the church’s doctrines. Beowulf usually sings in the choir (typically the loudest voice), so I end up chasing Eowyn all over the building because she hates sitting still. Last week I actually got to spend part of the time in the service. There was a reading from Isaiah that pissed me off, one of those “worshiping other gods is an abomination and also so is drinking pork broth” passages. Then the priest talked about the Gospel reading, which was the one where Jesus casts out a legion of demons from a demon-possessed man (and then tosses them into a herd of pigs, which go nuts and stampede over a cliff, thereby destroying someone’s livelihood). She talked about magic, and Harry Potter, and mental disorders. She calmly informed us that yes, ghosts were real. So were demons. That the otherworld, so to speak, is very much real, but as Christians “we” shouldn’t try to tinker with it because it can be dangerous. That people are fascinated with the spiritual precisely because we have odd experiences that we can’t quite explain, but we should be careful about how we explore them. She later told me she felt kind of fuzzy about the homily, that it wandered a bit, so I was able to be less irritated by it, but then I started thinking.

I mused on what she said (well, on what I heard until Eowyn decided Beowulf wasn’t cutting the mustard anymore and it was my turn to be dragged hither and yon). It was nice to hear someone frankly stating that yes, that stuff exists. I get where the attitude about not tinkering with the otherworld comes from: it’s all over the Bible and there’s a lot of suspicion regarding other spiritual practices deeply ground in to Christian practice, even in a church that is as inclusive as this one is.

But I was sitting there with my travel altar in my purse and a Mjolnir pendent around my neck, thinking about what I’d like to do for Litha the next day, and not singing along with the hymns that just didn’t work for me and feeling a little glad that I wasn’t in the sanctuary during the creed bit.

Witchcraft is very much about this world, from what I’ve gathered as I’ve read and started to practice. We ground ourselves in matter when we work spells, through our tools, through our spell ingredients. We are of this world, the one we can see and touch and hear, the one we experience in concrete terms.

And yet we are also concerned with the otherworld, the spiritual matters, the things not seen, the things that go unfelt because we cannot touch them with our hands. Our spells unite the spiritual and physical together. These are separate things, separate planes, and yet they are still one, for they are still part of the universe and they are not independent from each other.

I do believe caution should be exercised in meddling with things of the otherworld, if only because we’re human and this world is where we typically live and I get the impression that the otherworld’s not quite the same and we may not always be aware of its potential perils. Interestingly, I heard the “exercise caution around things of other realms” twice in a week, albeit from sources that aren’t pagan and who don’t know about my current practice. But I don’t think the kind of caution they advocate is quite what I was thinking. I’m not about to try opening a portal or anything along those lines, but I’m not going to stop exploring possibilities (with my eyes open and with all due caution) just because of prejudice against that kind of exploration.

I’m starting to wonder what I can offer to this religious community that I’m a part of, when I’m continually moving further and further away from their beliefs, when I find myself thinking of the Eucharist as magick, and when I’d rather go read the Eddas than the Bible. But maybe that’s it: I can offer a different perspective. They’re open to other traditions’ views, but that’s mostly concerned the other Abrahamic religions so far. So maybe they need what I offer, which is both an inside and outside view.

For now, I’ll keep going, if only for the magickal ritual of the Eucharist and the encounter with deity I experience there.


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