I have always known I was a witch. For 364 days a year, however, I simply pretended I was not. Only on Halloween as I donned my black robe, black pointy boots and a black did I feel completely at home. For the remaining days of the year, I felt like a fake….sort of….for if there is one place where a witch is at home (until she is found out that is), it is in the Catholic Church.
Nowhere else, among all of the western religions, is magic as prevalent as it is within Catholicism. Where else can a man utter the phrase “hocus pocus” (hoc est corpus meum) and turn the simple elements of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, or through the imposition of hands release a person from “the devil’s” grip?
The smells, the bells, the little altars everywhere, the haunting strains of Latin chant, the saints to whom I could pray to remedy any struggle or ill, and the votive candles that I lit to solidify my intentions bring my dreams to fruition – all spoke to the witch inside of me who knew the world was magic and that magic could be brought forth in the world. Magic in its truest sense – the Divine working through us in support of the love within that is seeking its place in the world.
The Goddess knew what she was doing when I was born into a devout Catholic family – one that had been Catholic for many generations. She knew what she was doing when she planted me within the single western religion that honors the worship of both a male and a female God. (While Jesus’ mother, Mary, is not officially recognized as a goddess by the Catholic Church, people sure treat her as if she were. Wouldn’t one have to be a goddess to be the “Mother of God?”) She knew what she was doing when she placed me within the only western tradition that recognizes the use of amulets (saint medals, scapulars and rosaries), magical potions (holy water and anointing oils), incense and salt for keeping evil at bay.
Being a Catholic witch has not been easy, however, which is why I have hid my truth for all these fifty-one years. While I was drawn to everything that speaks magic within the Catholic Church, in being a witch, I also saw through the lies, the deception, and the subtle ways in which the Church manipulated people through fear. At a very early age, I became aware of the hypocrisy within the Church and was not afraid to call it out. As an adult, I have maintained this practice and there is a big file in our local Catholic diocese with my name on it to prove it. Apparently the Church is not interested in those who see through the mask of piety and the illusion of holiness.
It was ultimately this hypocrisy that caused me to leave the Church I once adored – all because I dared to study and practice Reiki. It is apparently ok for a priest to practice laying on of hands in support of a person’s desire for healing, but Goddess-forbid a lay person, OR WORSE, a woman should do the same. By a Church that claims it is not doing magic in turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, or in healing the sick through the imposition of hands, it was of witchcraft and sorcery I was accused and then condemned for doing “the work of the devil.” Me thinkest they protesteth too much!
Because I no longer feel welcome in the local Church which has effectively burned me at the stake, I have chosen for the past eight years to fast from the Eucharist. This does not mean, however, that I ever stopped being Catholic – more importantly, a Catholic witch. I heal the sick through the imposition of hands. I ordain women and men into their own giftedness (magic) and send them forth into the world where their magic can be shared. I baptize people into the love that they are and confirm them into being that love in the world. I hear people’s confessions – and absolve them of their “sin” by helping them to heal the deeper inner fears that cause their addictive and non-loving behaviors. I sit with people in the pain of grief and prepare them for their death. I preside over weddings and funerals. I provide spiritual nourishment through the Eucharist that is within each and every one of us when we allow ourselves to BE the Body and Blood of Christ.
For living out my call in this way, you could call me priest, or priestess, but as it was in the most ancient traditions, and in response to the accusations against me, I prefer to be called a witch.
Lauri Ann Lumby has been called many things: mother, daughter, sister, friend, wife, lover, writer, author, poet, teacher, counselor, healer, priest, shit-disturber, heretic and witch. It is “witch” which is her favorite. Lauri lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin with her two teenage children and is the owner of Authentic Freedom Academy where she helps her students and clients turn their world from fear into love. Learn more about Lauri at www.authenticfreedomacademy.com.