catholic. witch. roots. {a coming out}

 

I bend down. She is short, shorter than ever.   I hug her close. She smells like Nina Ricci perfume and her eyes are a milky hazel, the lightest brown with flecks of forest green. She backs away and lifts a scapular from around her neck and hands it to me, closes her hand around mine. “Wear this, Mary”.

When I was little, my aunt, this childless sister of my mother would go on and on telling me fantastical stories about her meet-ups with the Blessed Mother. She’d describe vividly the lady’s appearance; the smells and the sounds, the time there was an inflow of the scent of roses on an all white winter day when she opened her back door.  Another time Our Lady was draped in gold and silver and appeared as she was driving down the street to the bakery for early morning pastries.  

She’s no joke. I’d catch her whispering and I’d ask her who she was talking to.  She’d tell me straight up, “I’m talking with Our Lady.”

Her home was and still is filled with little statues of The Mother and Son in all their forms and origins.  She had tiny vessels filled with earth from holy places.  Rosaries strung everywhere, all with their own story.  And candles. Candles in every corner. In every room. Each one lit with intention and purpose. People thought she was crazy.  Not me.  I thought she was magical. A wise woman who just happened to be my aunt.  She was my aunt who talked with the Other World. She taught me that I could, too. I was too little to care about whatever name it was called. It didn’t matter. Not one bit.

She is old now.  Her skin is drawn with blue veins and her hearing is barely there and she has survived cancer and her body aches and her nerves are in bundles, tangled.

 “Chant the Hail Mary every day. We can meet each other there.” She tells me. “We can always meet each other there, talking to Our Lady.”

I nod.

She stuffs $40 dollars in my hand.  I know better than to refuse.  She’s 83.  Stubborn.  I take it.  And then my daughter and I get in the car to head to the airport. We get on a plane, the scapular around my neck, we fly 2500 miles away back to our home.

 

* * *

These are my roots. It’s not the taproot, but somewhere in my endless underground tangle, the Catholic root found me at birth.  Or I chose it.  Catholic was the name magic was called.  It’s what my grandmothers chose to call their folk, old country ways. I spent my childhood lighting candles under St. Teresa of Avila and Our Lady of Lourdes.  I was anointed with holy water when I was sick. I said yes in my Confirmation of Faith.

 

And always yes to temptation. I was always looking for the apple, for where to drape the snake and where the next rule was to bend, the next boundary to push.  I wasn’t a great Catholic by any means. The Church would not recognize me I’m sure because I was {and still am} more interested in the questions than any answer they can give me. As a matter of fact, I never believed they had any answers. I was more interested in the rituals than any dogma. I wanted the Magic. The Alchemy.  I was born a wild woman, a seeker, a provocateur. And that’s that.   My practice has always been a balance of surrender and magic, edge-walking and center-stillness.  And I believe the only Savior is Love. Call that whatever you want.  The root of that is the same.


* * *

I’ve been keeping a morning roots ritual. A remembering that my grandmother’s and great grandmother’s, and great great grandmother’s hands are always wrapped around my own.  And creating space to meet up with my mystical Aunt.

I light a candle next to a white porcelain statue of the Blessed Mother each morning.  I have been doing this for 16 days now.  I say {my own special version of } Hail Mary, out loud, for my children to absorb.  This statue is the image I carried of the Mother since I was a very little girl.  It’s the same image that appeared during all those random Salvia Divinium evenings out in my backyard in the hills in L.A.  She’d appear on my right side after I’d inhale the sacred sage and then move through me, and out, to my left side.  And finally come face to face.  It was the same woman of the statue.  White. Compassion. A gorgeous Mother.

I received this statue on my wedding day.  My mother brought it for me to place on my altar in the middle of moss field in upstate new york where we wed in a very non-dogmatic {or maybe multi-dogmatic} style.  She said it had been stuffed away in our basement from before I was born and she thought I might like it.

Each morning she stands there, on a handmade shelf of reclaimed wood, against the lattice of the yurt window. Her palms are pressed together palms in Anjali Mudra.  She holds space for smudge sticks, rough crystals, and owl feathers. She holds company with Durga, Shiva, Ostara {handmade by my daughter from clay} and my dead dogs’ skulls.

“Chant the Hail Mary every day, and we can meet each other there”. 

We can all meet each other anywhere.  Right where we are. Right now.

 

 

* * *

I am a witch.  I guess this is a coming out of sorts.  To the part of me that is embarrassed or scared to utter or claim Catholic.  To the part of me that fears using the word Witch.  But here I am. 

Being a Catholic Witch might sound odd, but to me it works perfectly.

Catholic means Universal.  Witch, when traced back to its original roots, breaks down to Wys, which means Wise.   Universal Wisdom. 

Neither “witch” nor “catholic” are religions to me.  They are paths that conjure Home, in all states of place and mind.  Places I can surrender in all situations.  They are grounding points to know I am cared for, by earth and beyond earth, through the sky and deep into the center of the Universe.   I do not advocate the way the Vatican holds space for women’s bodies or their judgments around lifestyle.  Nor do I connect or hold much interest for any style of Wiccan formalities.

Claiming these two names is claiming my own individual path.  My Rite. My love for this Earth and all the medicine She offers.  My love for mysticism and ceremony. My trust in magic.  The power of intention, practice and prayer {invocation}.  My adoration for the Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, and the tribe of saints and mystics and sages who spread the true message of the Christ Consciousness.

I was born into old roots. Have found new ones. And re-claimed my ancient taproots.  I was born of dust.  I was born of water.  I was born of fire.  Of heaven and hell. Of friction and sweat. From flesh.  Bones. And sex. All kinds of fantastic, holy, blasphemous sex.

Universal Wisdom.  This is what I believe has lived inside the nucleus of the original cell.  Since forever.  And ever. Always.

I claim both Catholicism and Witchery.  Just as I claim a thousand other things.

I claim both of these because I can.  I can conjure up my days as I wish and wear the holy scapular.  I can worship Gaia and Mary and all her children, including the holiest of holiest ones. I can cast beloved spells and draw down the moon.  I can find my bloodflow as the greatest mystery to bless and bestow.  I can say the Hail Mary without the word sin.  I can walk into Mass and belong there.

And if you tell me I cannot.  I will say to you: I love you.  But the hell with you.

These are my roots.  I no longer run from them. I make them my own.  I no longer hide them from others.  They are beautiful and grounded and true and expansive and worthy. They are wild and free and there are no rules or roles. It’s dirty and erotic and pure and kind and unapologetically pagan.

They are a tangled mess of sacraments. They aren’t always clean.  They are natty and gnarly and covered in little hairs.  They are Saint Francis and Hecate and Persephone and St Bernadette.  They are Eve and all her bastard children. They are cauldrons and burning herbs and holy water and golden vessels of frankincense.  They are prayer and spell.  Underworld and crucifixion. The first sprout of the season and risen from the dead. The birth of the Sun and the Son. Dark Goddess and Mother Mary.  Annunciation and the spark conception. They are my history.  My future.  My now. They are my daughters. They are me.

I honor my roots.  All of them.

 


 

How to Create Ritual Around Your Roots::

*Tell a new story about your roots.  Who, how, where and why you chose them to be born into.

*Gather symbols of your childhood spirit path that can be reinvented as a talisman for now.

*Gather the deep intuitive symbols that have always called to you that may not have been part of your roots but have always been part of your soul.

*Gather the symbols you just simply chose as your talismans and amulets.

*Know they all work flawlessly together to guide you and inspire you. That they are not separate or contradicting.  That is only an illusion.

*Create a roots hour:

:: Dig your toes deep into your earth.  Feel the soil between your toes.  Let the smell of the earth travel up your spine to your nose.

:: Breath in roots and dirt and earth and life.  Breath it all back out.  Ask your roots to nourish and send your body what you need.  Know it’s all in fertile ground.

:: Create a roots altar with your symbols and candles.

:: Learn about the roots that grew in the land you come from. Put them on your altar.

:: Make ginger root tea. Or root tea from your native land.  Root tea that reminds you of your path.  Roots are healing parts of plants.  Roots are powerful parts of plants.  Roots contain great medicine.

:: Tell stories about your roots. 

::Tell stories about your Future Roots.

:: Make sure you know there are no rules.

:: There is only love.

:: Remember from the beginning of the first root ever: There is only Love.

:: Distribute the Love. Like a Root.

 

(deep gratitdue to Courtney for her always immaculate heart + eyes and her encouragment to proclaim catholic witchery. big love, sister}.