Saturday, 6 March 2010

Weird Science


If Hogwarts existed, and I'd been plucked from my muggle-born world and sent there to study, I think I would have enjoyed Potions most of all. (As a child I'd have gone in mortal terror of Professor Snape, though by my teen years I would have been regularly costing my House points for snarking back at him.) I love experimenting with things, making messes, making potions, making magick--the magick of scent, that most evocative of sensations. I love settling in to my witch's cottage (yes, I have one) and setting out my ingredients, setting up the atmosphere for crafting something wonderful. I work by candlelight, of course, and utilize things like cauldrons and stone mortars and pestles, wooden bowls, wooden and pewter and silver spoons, glass jars and stoneware jars. I like music for background and inspiration, but since it's impossible to play the harp and do handwork at the same time, I use recorded music instead; Blackmore's Night, typically, though it might as easily be something else in a similar vein.


When I was blogging on the Temperance card the other day, I completely forgot the version to be found in one of my all-time favorite decks, Kipling West's Halloween Tarot. I got that deck out this morning and when I turned her up, I couldn't believe I'd forgotten. That's me, the me I have in mind when I'm doing my thing with my herbs and oils; the witchiest me, not the High Priestess of the Wica or anything ceremonial or outwardly imposed. That's the me that I held in my heart and my imagination from the time I was just a child, and to me that's what Witchcraft will always look like: cauldrons and cats and owls and hats, something bubbling away over a fire, shelves of obscure tomes and jars filled with you-don't-even-want-to-know-what. Steady hands, good instincts, curiosity, a willingness to experiment, those are the characteristics of Witchcraft to me. The religious aspects, and all the other trappings, they have their place but are wholly secondary to me in my practice. The craft, the Craft, the work of the hands and the imagination and the senses, that is Witchcraft, and that is magick. It's my own weird science, and it fulfills me.


(Yes, I was one of those kids who had a chemistry set, and a backyard meteorology set, and I made messes and set things on fire and drove my parents nuts. I used to stake out plots in the yard and conduct archaeological digs. I even had a job working in a laboratory once; I loved it, wearing a lab coat and gloves and messing around with beakers and centrifuges and such. If you were wondering.)


I remember being quite young and finding paperback books on Witchcraft, all of them the kinds of little books by folks like Hans Holzer that were so popular in the early 1970s, and I read those books and sort of glossed over the descriptions of "skyclad" ceremonies and ritual sex and such. I was culturally aware enough to dismiss those as being hippie free-love stuff, not actual, you know, witchcraft, which certainly involved the necessary ingredients of cauldrons and cats and owls and hats and potions and candlelight and...you get the idea. I'm considerably older now, and I'd like to think better educated and more experienced, but that early image of Witchcraft has never left me, and I guess it never will. No matter what my age or experience level, I'll always be that little witch in her cottage, mixing up something arcane by candlelight, overseen by cats and owls and the quiet stars above.


(Bonus: I also own boots like that. Stockings, too.)

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