I’ve been studying witchcraft for a couple of years. I usually practice on my own or over at my friend’s place. I work corporate during the day and keep to myself outside of work. I think I am discrete in my practice and beliefs but I recently moved home with my mother. We get on very well but she is strict Catholic and since finding out about my witchcraft by accident she is angry because she says witchcraft is evil. She says I have to move out if I don’t stop practicing witchcraft. I can’t afford to live on my own and I don’t want to go back into a flatshare.
Courtney, 27, UK.
That you for writing in and sharing your story with us. Family conflict tends to be quite a complex and emotionally intense issue for most. As such, I will answer your letter as best I can with what information you have shared.
It sounds like you have been very mindful of boundaries and other people’s feelings and keeping your beliefs to yourself outside of your friendship group. This is how a majority of witches live—quietly and unobtrusively. Unlike many of the world’s religions, most witches don’t seek to convert others.
I’m sure I don’t need to assure you that witchcraft is not evil. However, many people still hold this belief around witchcraft, including your mother. Many witches have died and continue to die because of this incorrect perception and, as such, it is important to correct this misnomer where possible. But by the same token, if you are wanting to establish peace with your mother, it is important to understand her fear. In order to gain understanding, respect, and harmony, it is often prudent to treat others as you would like to be treated, and to give what you would like to receive and that is the gift of being heard. Sometimes simply being heard and empathized with is enough to quell fear and intolerance.
Despite what the news reports, in day-to-day life the majority of people are actually quite tolerant and understanding of other peoples’ beliefs. I always encourage communication around any disagreements when it comes to faith and practices. Sometimes by simply explaining the reality of witchcraft, and expressing what it means to you while addressing any concerns the other person may have, is often enough to restore social harmony.
However, there are times where no amount of explaining will do. This is often the case when it comes to some of the stricter religions. Interestingly, a large percentage of my clients are older, devout Catholics who report that they don’t believe in witchcraft and consider witches evil, yet they still come for regular readings. To put it simply, the area of religion and belief has always been messy and contentious among humans, particularly anything venturing near witchcraft. People can even be conflicted within themselves regarding what they believe and do. These older, Catholic clients of mine are more than happy to consult me for tarot but I imagine they would be reluctant to invite me to their home, let alone condone the practice of witchcraft under their roof. How is this relevant to you? It is just a reminder and preparation for the reality that sometimes logic and reason cannot overcome a person’s fear.
My first suggestion is to try and communicate with your mother and allay her fears. Remain as open and as composed as you can, let her know that she is heard and that you empathize with her fears. At the same time, express how her ultimatum makes you feel and how important your practices are for you. You both have the right to be heard and understood in this situation. If communication is possible, you may be able to reach a compromise.
If communication isn’t possible then you have two options: stay or go. I will explore both outcomes and hopefully that will give you the perspective that you need to make this decision.
If your mother is not tolerant of your beliefs, I would suggest you move out. This isn’t only so you’ll have the freedom to believe in and practice what you want, but also because living with your mother doesn’t sound like a very healthy place for you to be. If you have to hide parts of who you are in your own home it’s unlikely to feel very comfortable, safe, or homely. Hiding parts of yourself can also lead to feelings of shame, guilt, and resentment which may in turn sour your relationship with your mother. Regardless of race, gender, sexuality, beliefs, etc., we all have a right to feel safe in our own home and free to express ourselves. If the person you are sharing a house with doesn’t respect your beliefs and wants to control you, then it is not a supportive, safe, or sustainable environment for you. This is not to say your mother doesn’t love you, in fact in her mind she is probably attempting to save you from something she deems ‘evil’. But regardless of her motivations, she is rejecting and disrespecting parts of you and your life and unless you can communicate and reach a compromise, this situation is not nourishing or healthy.
I have known some witches who choose to stay inside the broom-closet and keep their witchcraft entirely to themselves. Their reasons for doing this span from safety to a simple desire for privacy. Throughout history, witches have had to hide who they were and what they did for their own sake and for the sake of their clients. The choice to come out of the broom-closet or stay in is a highly personal choice and there is no wrong or right. However, I don’t personally endorse the idea of ‘going back into the broom-closet’ to appease someone else’s fear except in cases where safety is a concern. This is because it usually takes a lot of courage to come out of the broom-closet and it can feel defeatist to go back in. Some witches are fine with the idea of hiding when necessary, but I know other witches for whom the idea of going into hiding again would be psychologically and emotionally unhealthy. This highlights why it is so important to know yourself and to be honest with yourself because only you can know what it means to be true to yourself and your beliefs.
Living an authentic life is important. Taking the time to think about and understand what an authentic life looks like to you may be one of the biggest tests you face as a witch. There is no need to rush this process. It takes time to reflect on your beliefs, how important they are and how they impact your life.
The language your mother has used is focused on rejecting your beliefs and not you. This may seem like a small difference, but it does give hope for communication and compromise over time. In my experience, when a loved one’s language focuses on rejecting your witchcraft beliefs rather than rejecting you outright as a person, there is often a greater chance for reconciliation in the long run. (Note, to be clear, if someone can’t accept you as you are, then they are rejecting you. We are whole, complete beings. People can’t just pick and choose which part of us to love. Love is an all or nothing deal.) What I am focusing on here is how language is being used. From what you have written, your mother appears to be using language in a way that suggests there may still be hope for a harmonious outcome given time and communication.
There is a third option and that is to stay quiet about your beliefs so you can keep living with your mother. As this will entail lying or at the very least, obfuscation, I would not encourage this as it may seriously damage your relationship with her and yourself.
However, if leaving your mother is going to put you in dire financial straits or risk your health in a significant way, then avoiding the topic of witchcraft and practicing at a friend’s house, for now, might be your best option. Yes, spiritual belief and expression is important, but if talking about and practicing them openly is going to put you at risk, then it is only wise to hide them. There are some things in life that are priorities over all else such as personal safety, shelter, food, warmth etc. Poverty is a very real risk to all of these things. If staying at home with your mother or not means the difference between being able to make ends meet or risking homelessness, there is no shame in going back into the broom-closet, for now, if that is something you feel you could handle psychologically and emotionally.
Only you know all the costs and benefits of staying or leaving your mother’s. I would urge you not to rush this decision, talk it through with your friends and, if you can, a counsellor. Perhaps if your mother is open to it, you could suggest attending counselling together.
If you do decide to stay, be mindful of her language and behaviour towards you. Is she trying to control any other areas of your life? Is she haranguing you about how evil witchcraft is? Is she over judgmental or critical of your life? Because this negative feedback can wear you down over time. If you decide to stay and yield to her request not to practice under her roof, be careful that she doesn’t try to control or judge other aspects of your life. It may not seem like much for now, but over an extended period of time, each unkind word can work like water on a stone to erode self-belief, sense of self, and general safety. In short, observe whether or not this ultimatum is a one off or, whether it is a part of a bigger problem of your mother trying to control you. If it is the latter, I would suggest you seek counselling and be extra mindful around boundaries.
There is no right or wrong choice in your situation, there is only the choice that is right for you. Take your time to reflect on your beliefs. Talk to people you trust and seek counselling if you are needing further guidance. Do what you can to open communication around witchcraft with your mother. But at the end of the day, the choice is yours and your psychological, emotional, physical and spiritual safety all have to come first. Trust that whatever deities you work with will understand your decision. Life is a constant process of reflection, communication, negotiation, and compromise. Living is a creative act, much like weaving your own life—your greatest artwork, out of a tangle of brilliant yarns. It spins between light and dark. And sometimes we have to unpick and start again. Know your worth, know yourself, and know you’re a witch. You will find the best way through this even if it is tough at times. Finally, don’t forget that at the heart of this issue, beyond the ignorance and intolerance, is the love; the love you share with your mother and the love you have for yourself. Don’t forget to draw on and work with that loving energy if you need.
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