Personal Labels, and The Community.
My first flirting forays with witchcraft were in my early youth. Over time this developed, as you can see here. However, one stopping point, and an area with which I still have difficulties is the area of "compartmentalizing" one's nature.
During the first couple of years of my interest in the occult, I experienced several strange phenomenon. Firstly, a malefic entity tormenting the everloving hell out of me, and secondly - a strange sort of drain. Once the beastie was gone, I expected the drain to stop, but it didn't. And, in experiments, I realized that the only way to maintain a healthy level of whatever "oomph" is in me, was to derive it from other sources. Like a diabetic, my body was not making something it was supposed to, and once in a great while needed an injection.
The phenomena of "Psychic Vampirism", and it's parallels with the wounded shaman answered a lot of questions for me. The concept of someone who has gone out, who has undergone a death and rebirth (died and risen from the grave) and because of this is something else sealed an open wound for me. It helped me to cope with and control a problem, and turn it into an asset.
Unfortunately, there was always a problem: Pagans don't take kindly to anyone who identifies as a "Vampire"- And who can blame them? With Dion Fortune around, conflating an energetic need with energetic predation as pretty much the gold standard, anyone who self-identified in that way would understandably be seen as a monster. I wasn't that monster, though. I didn't fling the evil-eye at people, or attack with malice for pure pleasure. I tended the world around me so that it overflowed with life, and took from that spilling cup only what I needed.
So, in order to interact with the Pagan community, I had to hide and compartmentalize. If ever the hand were tipped, the cry went up, and the forums (or chats, or study groups) would conduct their own little idiotic witch-hunt against the wielder of the imagined malefica. Honesty won no friends, in fact, it won a lot of nosy good-for-nothings who weaseled into my business as often as possible. I denied. I shied away. I walled off and compartmentalized.
Oh, but it's never that easy.In my mid-to-late teens I began to experience another aspect of myself - a huge part of my forming path. In my dreams I would go out of myself, and travel. Invariably in these dreams were real people and real places, or real people in -unreal- places. And in these places were things that needed doing. Sometimes I went in my own shape, and sometimes in other shapes - running, galloping, flying, crawling - sometimes everything all at once. I refused to discuss it with anyone, or if I did I changed details to throw them off the trail - if "Vampire" were grounds for exclusion from the community, you can bet your ass that the suspicion of "Therianthropy" would've ended my association with pagans for good. Never did I speak about the "fang" to the "pointed hats". Never did I mention the "fur" to the "fangs" and so on. I also crippled my own practices, taking out half of what made me so damned effective at what I did - just so that it would be "correct".
Extract thy skull from the sand, o' Pagani Ostrich.
It took me years to realize there didn't need to be those walls and distinctions in my head. It took me slightly less time to realize I didn't give a good god-damn what others thought of me. Witches were always seen as doing all of these things, it was their modern compartmentalization and specialization that said one couldn't be the other - Not mine, and not the distinction of the Witch-gods.
Go google! You'll find tales of the Benandanti riding out as wolves, calling themselves the hounds of God. You will find the Strigoi listed as being shape-shifters and drawing blood/life from people to sustain themselves. These skills are our skills, we are a unified whole, not scattered pieces. To throw them out discards very valuable babies with the "it makes me embarrassed!" bathwater.
We're the ones that carved the wild from the witch.
We're dealing with weird shit, here. Take away all the window-dressing, all the theology and philosophy. We're talking about people who, through some undocumented interaction of the subtle reality, make things happen without any apparent cause. We're talking about communion with the gods, the ancestors, the spirit-world. Do we really need to thumb our noses at some words, while smiling and patting others on the back?
Why is "Witch" - a toothless hag, supernatural to the core, who eats babies and flies around on terrible beasts - now reclaimed and utterly sanitized, but "werewolf" or "vampire" are as good as Cain's mark on your ass to the local pagans?
I Shall go Into a Hare,
With Sorrow Sigh and Mickle Care.
With Sorrow Sigh and Mickle Care.
I am laying in the grass. I roll over, propping myself onto my hands and knees. I arch my back like a cat, stretching my sinew. My body ripples, and changes. With a heave I leap, and I run. Oh, GOD how I run. Over furrow and fen, jumping over rivers, bounding through woods. Every human care I have falls away and what I experience is unbridled JOY. I gallop over the whole world, stopping to Coven with those who would have me - we work magic to find a lost girl, to stop a rapist, to make the land strong, to curse the shit out of a disease-spreading ex-lover. We circle in the presence of Good Imps and Bad, and in the presence of Witchmother and Father.
I fly on, banishing malevolent spirits from the home of a friend, journeying into the gray world of Elfhame to entreat with who go there, before rounding back to my flesh, laughing and panting like a dog. Is it wicked of me? Am I somehow undesirable in the Pagan community because I do this? Because I am, in that sense, a "Werewolf" (er... well - Were-Gorgonopsid)? Does this somehow make me an evil person? Or am I one of you, same as any other, with skills strange and subtle?
I Don't Drink... Wine.
But there is also hunger, sometimes. I cannot spend and spend and never draw anything in. And a good night's rest and a hearty meal aren't always going to accomplish what I need. Sometimes I spend too much of myself doing what needs to be done, and I become the undead, the living-death, hungry, whiny, tired and cranky.
Nothing I do, not even days and days of bed rest will help - if anything it gets worse. I can, with effort and care, draw from the world around me. I can, sometimes, breathe in the cloying gray mists of the Wood and walk as a man again. But sometimes I can't, and there are those who are the polar opposite, hyper-active, bouncing off the walls, trapped in their own caul of wound up energy with no source of relief - and I can take that off of their hands with their permission.
With proper "diet" and "exercise" I can keep it almost perfectly controlled. My "blood glucose" stays right where I want it, doesn't dip or spike. But life isn't always perfect. Sometimes I overwork, or underwork, or don't sleep, or sleep too much. Sometimes people who lack my ethics (and don't even have the courtesy of calling themselves 'vampire') drain the precious vitality from me with their insatiable psychological hungers. And honestly? Some Witches have caused me far more trouble with their draining ways than any vampire, or even any vacuously-natured entity.
Is -this- wicked of me? Am I a threat to a circle in which I have no interest simply because I have the dis/ability? Is a "Psychic Vampire" any more of a threat than another witch who, to heal, must also be able to curse? Can the sometimes-company of the vamp be so corrosive that it strikes fear into the strong strega/wicca of these circles? Are you so fragile, am I so terrible? I honestly doubt it.
Working Together, Being United. Yeah, all that stuff.
Recent news frenzies do not show the "occult" community as neatly divided and indisputably sectarian. CNN does not distinguish between the "Wicca murder" of a crazed woman stabbing someone to death on a date that happened to line up with a sabbat, or the "Vampire Cults" that didn't take Shelby Ellis.
To the news, we're all the same thing. We are the freaks, the reeking masses. And if you think the Witch is not tarred with the same brush as Vampires and "Lycans", you are deluded beyond all help. The "Wica" of the Gards and their down-line will be painted with the same shame and discredit as the "Wicca" of the cut-n-paste deities who go bug-nutty. The shame of the reckless pricks who stab the homeless to death will soak into the clean vestments of the Vampiric orders and Unitarian Pagan groups alike.
To them, we are no different. Why do we care about each-other? We know better, but in some cases, we know jack shit. Am I a Therian? Otherkin? Vamp? Witch? Does it matter anymore? Are they the same thing, just different shades of "Witch"?
If we show our WORTH, does it matter what little subcategory of "woo woo shit" we tag under the main header? Does "Energy Worker (oh, and psychic vampire)" mean anything more or less than "Love-and-light Wiccan (who happens to be the biggest dick you know)"? Why is one welcomed with open arms, despite transgression upon transgression, while the other is ousted at the raising of the colors?
The "Hidden Children", Being "Closeted" and "Coming Out".
As I recall, back in the day the Witches used to call themselves "The Hidden Children of the Goddess" and that's what we still are. I may loath spiders with a seething passion and a can of Raid, but somewhere (distantly, soooo distantly) we're related. We're from the same genetic source, and the same spiritual one. Some Pagans may loath vampires, but we're all cut from the same spiritual cloth.
There is still a lot of talk on forums about "Coming out of the broom closet" and how they fear retribution from the community around them. Fear losing jobs, fear losing children. The Pagan community rallies behind them, assuring that Witches do no evil, and so good will out! Just show you're a good member of the community, that you aren't (LOL!) "Cursing" anyone, and you'll be fine. Religion is protected, ya know.
Imagine it from the standpoint of a "Vampire"; They've been a part of the community for years, they've worked with groups, pride-events, patronized local shops since they were a wee one. They've been working in and with the community, doing tarot readings, casting spells, doing energy work and healing. They're actually rather well-regarded. They think "This is no different than Becky coming out of the broom closet. I'm not hurting anyone, I'd NEVER hurt anyone like that. People know me, this will be just as easy, and just as hard. I'll have support!" And then the bomb drops.
Take some time to think about how different we aren't. Take some time to consider that we all need to stick together, because to "them", we're all the same anyway.