One of G/Son's first activities when he gets to Nonna's house is to check out the fairy door on the old maple tree in the back yard. He tries to open it, but it never opens. This weekend, he asked:
G/Son: Nonna, why the door doesn't open?
Nonna: It's a fairy door. Only fairies can go through; not people.
G/Son: Nonna, fairies aren't real in reality.
Nonna: Hmm. I'm not so sure. I think it depends upon what people mean by "fairy" and by "reality." Most folks agree there are no fairies, but I dissent.
G/Son: Are you a fairy?
Nonna: No, I'm human, like you. That's why I can't open the fairy door, either.
G/Son (asking): You're a Witch.
Nonna: Yes, I'm a Witch.
G/Son (a little concerned): Nonna, why?
Nonna: Well, because I honor the Earth.
G/Son: I honor the Earth, too, but I'm not a Witch.
And then we went inside for pizza and some "Go, Diego, Go!" videos. (Which bother me as a bit sexist, but, still.)
Witch. Words have power.
For my generation of Witches -- pre-internet, pre-Amazon.com, pre-easy-to-find-Pagan-events, pre-even-the-current-acceptance-of-Wicca -- the word mattered, mattered madly, and, to me, it still does and always will. Reclaiming (hmm, good name for a coven!) the word for feminists was important work and it still is.
Someday, when he's a little older, I can explain away the unspoken question in G/Son's uncertain statement: Nonna, how can you be a Witch (which most of the world tells me is a mean woman who hurts people) when I know you to be the kind old woman who lets me have Cheerios for breakfast, takes me to see deer in the forest, and buys me Silly Bandz? (Seriously, who knew how many Grandparent Points you can rack up just buying Silly Bandz for a 4-year-old? G/Son explained to me, "They're way cool. Only the older kids at my school have Silly Bandz. Grady (obviously v. cool kid in the older class) will not BELIEVE how many Silly Bandz I got!" (Nonna's inside, inside, inside her head voice: "Grady/Schmady! We can buy half a dozen bags of these things!" I may be a little competitive. It may be something I should work on.) I can explain to him about the deliberate disinformation campaign and the lies told about thousands and thousands of old women just like his Nonna, who takes her G/Son to the park, but fights like hell for her causes on conference calls, causing some to really dislike her.
I'm going to die a Witch, no matter what happens. Like Heloise in Stealing Heaven -- living for years as a nun but, on her deathbed, breaking open the crucifix into which she'd hid her mementos of Abelard (so that she'd been praying, all that time, secretly to them and not the xian god) -- it doesn't matter how "into the closet" I have to go; I'm going to live and die as a Witch. When I claimed the word "Witch" (or, more properly, when it claimed me), it was as if you could hear the gears locking, the edges clicking, the bearings falling into place, the connection becoming complete.
Lately, I've been thinking a lot about how quite a few of the Ways of the Witch have been working themselves into 21st Century culture w/o a specific admission or declaration that there's Witchcraft (and I've long liked Cora Anderson's explanation that Witches are people who "believe in trees and being sensible") involved. I read about what's planned for this year's Burning Man Festival (and, well, heck, there's the actual name of the thing, but it's an "art" festival), I watch the Edingurgh Fire Festival which, every year, grows more and more Pagan without explicitly (AFAIKT) requiring those who participate to BE Pagan. (I'm still trying to figure out whether I agree with Chas Clifton who says that ritual preceeds myth, not the other way around.) I listen to Son and DiL tell me that, while G/Son and I were pretending to be Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader (I always have to be Darth (I make a good one), and the game is a good deal like Calvin Ball: the rules always change to favor Luke), they wandered into a weekly drumming circle in the Silver Spring Civic Center. It's apparently not a "Pagan" event, but, as Son said, "Want to go with us next week? What could be better for the Full Moon than a drum circle?"
I'm cool with the notion of "Honoring the Earth" -- as both I, as a Witch, and G/Son, who says he is not a Witch, do -- becoming a leitmotif for this Century, as the atom bomb and destruction of the Earth was the leitmotif for the Twentieth Century, near the end of which, some of us began to reclaim the word "Witch." It doesn't matter too much whether or not what's going on is recognized as Witchcraft. In all honesty, we Witches often prefer to and do operate best in the shadows, near the edge of the woods, in secret. What matters is for Mamma Gaia to receive the honor which has so long been denied to her.
But if G/Son and his generational "cohorts" grow up simply accepting that, duh, everyone honors the Earth no matter what they call themselves, well, I'll die a happy Witch.
This morning, as we are packing up to go back to G/Son's house, he asks me,
G/Son: Nonna, what are you going to be for Halloween?
Nonna: Every Halloween, I wear my witch's hat and my black witch's dress.
G/Son: But not a bad witch?
Nonna: Right. A good witch who honors the Earth.
G/Son: Nonna, good people can't dress up like bad people for Halloween. You have to go to the store and get a costume like Batgirl or a Princess.
Nonna: I like to dress up like a good witch who honors the Earth so that people have to think about those things.
G/Son: I'm going to be Batman. Batman honors the Earth because he likes bats.
Then we talk about how months are 30 days long and how it will be almost 100 days until Halloween and how that's a lot, but how Nonna has zero ("that means none") Silly Bandz, so Halloween is a long way off, after even all the green leaves fall from the trees and it turns chilly enough for G/Son to start wearing some of the sweaters Nonna knitted for him and for all of us to start drinking warm soups.
I'm just going to keep on doing what I'm doing until they make me stop. I haven't figured out anything else to do.
I'm a woman, a Witch, a mother, a grandmother, an eco-feminist, a gardener, a reader, a writer, and a priestess of the Great Mother Earth. Hecate appears in the
Homeric Ode to Demeter, which tells of Hades who caught Persophone
"up reluctant on his golden car and bare her away lamenting. . . . But no one, either of the deathless gods or of mortal men, heard her voice, nor yet the olive-trees bearing rich fruit: only tenderhearted Hecate, bright-coiffed, the daughter of Persaeus, heard the girl from her cave . . . ."