[An excerpt from a conversation in a Pagan social media group, edited for grammar and clarity. Guess which one is me.]
Pagan 1: “I know I really shouldn’t, but what are some love spells to bring back an ex?”
Pagan 2: “He’s your ex for a reason.”
Pagan 3: “A spell to let go might be more helpful than a love spell.”
Pagan 4: “Nope.”
Pagan 5: “Just don’t.”
Pagan 6: “Do a spell for self-love instead.”
Pagan 7: “On a Friday, during the waxing moon, stick seven pins down the side of a pink taper candle, and place two lodestones in front of it, seven inches apart. Name one of the lodestones for you, and the other for your ex. Light the candle, move each lodestone half an inch toward the other, and recite the Song of Solomon until the candle burns down to the first pin. Repeat every day for seven days: On the seventh day, make sure the lodestones are touching and magnetized together. Once the last pin has fallen, let the candle burn itself out, then place the lodestones in a small, red bag along with some Balm of Gilead. Tie the bag shut with pink string, keep it with you during the day, and sleep with it under your pillow at night.”
Pagan 8: “I did a love spell for someone once. He regretted it and had to get a restraining order.”
My participation in the discussion fit my usual M.O., in that I was going, “Dooooo iiiiit,” while everyone else was going, “Tabitha, no! Mustn’t twitch.” Alas, the thread quickly simmered down once Pagan 9 swept in to Set Things Right.
Let’s call her Samantha.
Samantha explained that she was very experienced in these matters, and while she had never cast a love spell herself, she had in the past performed [thunderclap] manipulative magic, the kickback of which wasn’t pretty. “I see so many want to resort to magick to fix or attract things,” she opined with a virtual sigh, “but never do anything to further their soul.” She also added that spellwork to control things was a recipe for disaster, which honestly made me giggle, since spellwork by its very definition is an attempt to control things.
When asked (by Pagan 3, I think?) why she wanted her ex back, Pagan 1 said that she’d been having dreams about him, which made me realize what the actual root of the situation was: She missed him, and she wanted to process that. The challenge here, though, is that Paganism doesn’t count among its adherents too many pastoral counselors: A lot of us call ourselves ministers, and we have the credentials to back that up, but we don’t have the training or education to do more than lead rituals.
Not that leading rituals is an irrelevant thing, mind you. But the skillset doesn’t really translate over to situations where someone is trying to work through grief, or needing spiritual guidance, or presenting a problem that would best be solved with therapy. In these cases, all we can do is wait for them to start waving a magic wand in a threatening manner, then tell them that being a witch is all about not practicing witchcraft. Apparently.
This is a big part of why I’m thinking about going to seminary — as much as I piss and moan about the Pagan community, I really do want to be of service, and there’s a niche that I think I could at least somewhat competently fill. But I’m not gonna lie: At the moment, another part of me wants to go to seminary, because Samantha once yelled at me during a psychic fair, and I kind of want to lord it over her.
The fair was held at a now-defunct occult shop, and after things had wrapped up, a group of us were hanging around, chatting companionably, when Samantha (in a kaffeeklatch with some of the local “elders”) jabbed a finger in my direction and said, “Hey, who’s he?”
“Hi. I’m [Thumper],” I said, hoping my tone conveyed the sheer delight I felt at being addressed in third-person.
“I don’t know you,” she said. Then, to the manager of the shop, “I don’t know him. He’s…”
And I swear I’m not making this up.
“He’s not one of us.”
“I’m sure you know Thumper,” the manager replied, ignoring the “one of us” comment but shooting me a wide-eyed “The fuck?” look that could’ve shattered glass. “He’s on all the Yahoo! groups.”
Samantha paused for a second, scrutinizing me. “Oh, wait, I do know you!”
“Yes, you do!” I agreed.
“You’re one of those troublemakers.”
And with that pronouncement, she turned away and went back to holding court with less worrisome Pagans, while I tried my best not to burst out laughing, and the manager grinned and shot me another look that read, “high five.”
I should say that I came by the title “troublemaker” honestly, as Samantha and I had butted heads several times, usually over what it truly meant to be a part of the Pagan community: She defined the community by those who attended the correct events, supported the correct organizations, and acknowledged the correct people as undisputed monarchs, whereas I defined the community by those who were welcoming to the newbies, and who weren’t dickheads to the rest of us.
Same planet, different worlds, I guess, but I’ll happily take “troublemaker” over “sycophant.” And in the long run, I’ll take being true to myself, and being known as “that annoying AF Unitarian minister who doesn’t know when to stop helping” over anything else.