How do you know she is a witch?
A friend called me a witch. And I liked it. She told me her meaning came, in part, from a book titled “The Twelve Wild Swans” by Hillary Valentine and Starhawk.
She referenced a passage that said, “...poets and storytellers all had their roles to play in keeping the balance...When something slipped out of alignment, it had to be bent and woven back into the flow and harmony of nature...Wicca, Witchcraft, Witch. These words come from the same roots as wicker...willow twigs woven and bent into a pattern.”
Weaving words, weaving my community of artists together, I call myself a writer and a producer. Those are the words I have had to work with, even if they aren’t a tailored fit. For example, the word “writer” can’t help but feel masculine to me. I see a white button-down shirt, untucked, a mustache, an ashtray, a half-empty bottle of whiskey. I feel a sense of purpose, romantic in its melancholy, spring from the struggle of the work.
A part of me has always felt drawn to that mystique, likely because I saw a cultural reverence for it, and I wanted some of that admiration to shine on me. But I was only ever drawn as close as the edge. Now I have this new word: witch. For me, “witch” conjures an image of a woman with creative powers, a woman who exercises those powers even at personal risk. Though she is so different from my image of “writer,” I feel drawn to her as well, and the sensation is not a drawing outward, but a drawing inward, a rooting.
In June, I came home and my new roommate was giving herself a tarot reading with a deck titled “The Wild Unknown,” by Portland artist Kim Krans. I’d never had a tarot reading or thought much about it. But, I was curious to test my powers. We sat for more than an hour letting the cards help us get to know one another in a way we had not yet managed. I learned about her aspirations, strengths, desires, fears. Nothing felt ominous or predictive. Instead, the cards helped affirm our human experiences and name our challenges aloud so that we might face them better.
Since that day, her deck has lived on our kitchen table and I’ve given myself and others many readings. Last week, I decided to model my reading in self-portraiture. I drew a three-card spread that Krans’ book labels “past, present, future.”
First, I drew the ten of cups. According to Krans’ interpretation, this card “overflows with positivity. Your goals are being realized and the excitement surrounding you is magnetic to others...Do not doubt this power.”
Then, I drew the “hanged man,” which Krans interprets as “there’s a sacrifice or difficult or painful situation...find stillness, open your eyes, and use this new perspective to learn something.”
Finally, I drew the eight of cups: “There is no hope of rekindling what’s been lost. You must start anew...Lift your eyes to the horizon.”
I saw this reading reflect the excitement and complications of changing, which I’ve done a lot of this year. As I’ve healed some old wounds and taken leaps toward new dreams, I’ve found that not everyone is going to come along for the ride. The hanged man is a reminder to learn from the pain of the loss of what was. The eight of cups is a reminder to not live in that loss, but to use who I am now to comfort my past self, and, in doing so, recall her energy to support the growth I have yet to achieve.
I will likely never write “witch” on my business card but I may cast a spell to conjure a different association for the word “writer,” one that fits me better.
Self portraits by Bonnie Obremski, with creative assistance from Kendall Mahoney.