“So, you are a Witch. That’s cool. I used to be one too. Now I’m (insert the path of your choice.)”
Cue the blank stare, jaw drop, and the inevitable, “Why? Why did you leave Witchcraft? How?”
I have had several conversations along these lines. Every single time it has left me flabbergasted. How do you stop being a Witch? How does one make the decision to just stop? Why? Just why?
I realize that Witchcraft is not for everyone. We all have our own paths to follow and sometimes that path takes us places we never thought it would go. Where I have concerns during these conversations is how casually those I talked to had claimed, then abandoned, the title “Witch”. Did they truly understand what it means to be a witch? Was it the notoriety, the cool clothes, or the shock factor that got them interested in the first place. Did they not have the proper training or were they even trained at all? Let me share with you some of the answers I’ve received when I’ve inquired as to why someone has left Witchcraft.
“Witchcraft is hard work so I stopped doing it.” –Yes, Witchcraft is work. You study, train, practice. There are correspondences to memorize, rituals to write, books to study. We spend hours tapping into energies, meditating to open our minds, stirring the cauldron of our souls. We create on our own and with other witches. We network with like-minded people through festivals, workshops and classes. We experience, immerse ourselves in and practice our craft daily. Witchcraft is not easy. But the rewards are immense.
“My spells didn’t look (work, make fireworks) like you see on TV or in the movies”- If I had a dime for every time I heard this one I’d be one rich witch. While I’ve been a part of some pretty spectacular spells and rituals I have yet to see a big shiny spinning portal open up, sparkly stars shoot out of my cauldron, or someone “blink” from one spot to another. But if that is what you were expecting Witchcraft to be you really need to put down the remote and get a reality check.
“I found out I couldn’t actually ride on a broom.” –Yes, really. No words. None.
“I didn’t know that Witchcraft had rules. If I’d wanted rules I’d have stayed (insert mainstream path here). – Witchcraft does not have rules. Certain traditions may have their own rules and regulations but Witchcraft does not. If you came to Witchcraft through Wicca then yes, you may have been taught the Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law, but these are guidelines, not rules.
My family and friends did not understand my path and ridiculed me. – I am always devastated to hear that, but it is common. Being a Witch is out of the norm. Many were taught that it is evil and an abomination. This can be a difficult mindset to overcome and one many do not. It takes guts, courage, and fortitude to throw aside the expectations and beliefs that have been drilled into us from birth to spring forth into a new reality. Its often easier to give in. Much easier.
I waited and waited for a Goddess (or God) to choose me but they never did. –This one is more difficult to address. Did they try to communicate or did the just expect one of the Gods to just jump in front of them and say “Hey, I pick you for my priest(ess).” Were they of the “instantaneous, I want it now” mindset? Or did they not really understand the relationships between a Witch and the Gods? Many work for years without hearing the call of a Patron but have the privilege of working with many Deities. Many Witches don’t work with the Gods at all. For everyone it is different. This is one of the things that makes Witchcraft so exciting. We strive for connection with our Deities (or nature, the Universe, the All) through meditation and ritual. They answer us in many different ways, we have but to listen. Carefully and patiently.
These examples are just a few of the most common (yes, most common) answers I get to my inquiry as to why an individual has left Witchcraft, why someone may feel that the Craft has forsaken them. While I can logically understand their positions (with the exception of that broom thing) these answers still leave me hollow, bereft. I can’t imagine it, tremble at the thoughts that race through my head. How can one just leave Witchcraft? What is the reasoning behind the rending of the witch’s mantle? Why do some leave the Craft even after many, many years? I’ve thought long and hard on the causes, the reasoning behind those who think the craft has forsaken them and I would like to address these issues.
What I have discoverd is that so many who leave the Craft seem to do so because of a lack of training, of guidance. It can be scary when you are a newbie Witch to reach out and connect with others. Finding an experienced teacher/mentor is even tougher. Witches usually don’t advertise. Students are brought to us by word of mouth. If you are not connecting with other Witches and Pagans then it would be nearly impossible to hear about a good teacher. Instead the fledgling Witch turns to books, hopefully the excellent ones. Why this is a wonderful way to learn the basics of Witchcraft for many it just doesn’t work. Not everyone learns the same way. Some need face to face explanations and hands-on practice with a more experienced individual to feel confident in their skills. When they can’t find that person, they try to muddle through with what they have and eventually just give up. This is tragic. There are many sincere, talented people out there who would be a great asset to the community but we never connect and their talents are lost.
The second reason is clearly based on unrealistic expectations. One cannot gauge a spirituality, a craft, based on the fantasies shown in movies and television. Yes, many of us have used these shows as a catalyst in finding our callings and the Craft, but we truly did not expect that everything would be as fantastical and theatrical as we’ve seen on the big screen. It would be awesome if it did work like that all the time, but we understand that it is Hollywood, not true magick. Those who leave because of reality of the Craft vs. Hollywood should probably reassess why they wanted to be a Witch in the first place.
And last, the pressure to conform is real. Good thing Witches do not give a rat’s ass about conforming. We are an open minded, rebellious, strong-willed, non-conformist bunch. Yes, we have been pressured by friends and family, laughed at for our beliefs and ridiculed for being out of touch and in a fantasy world. We don’t care. We know who we are, what reality is and dare you to try and change our mind.
It is not easy being a Witch. Anything worth while is not easy. I for one shall never leave my chosen calling. I will, however, always support those who do leave, whether I understand why they choose to do so or not. I will stand by their decisions regardless of how it personally makes me feel. Your life is yours. I will never tell you that you are wrong in your choices. I just ask that you show me the same consideration and understanding when it comes to mine.
May we all find our true paths, and be healthy and happy on them. Blessings!