About three years ago, I went to a party that was held in a beautiful park-like setting in a rural area of North County San Diego. As I was strolling around the host’s immaculately landscaped property, I stroke a conversation with one of the guests. He noticed my accent and asked me where I was from. After I satisfied his curiosity, he admitted that another person at the party had gotten very offended by that very same question. I looked around, noticed my ex-husband mingling with the crowd, and I smiled. My ex would always get irritated if someone inquired about his background. Looking at my conversationalist, I casually mentioned that I knew who the man was, and that he was my ex. At this point I realized the man’s eyes were wide open. He was staring at me with an obvious disbelief and nervously admitted, “I never had a pleasure of talking to a witch.” As much as I was in shock, I also felt on the verge of bursting into laughter. I eventually prodded, “What makes you think I am a witch?”
Avoiding looking directly in my eyes, he replied, “A man you just called your ex told me so.” Still, unsure if that was meant to be a joke, I probed him, “A real witch?” He lowered his voice and whispered into my ear, “A real witch.” Flabbergasted, I continued to question him. Eventually, he admitted that he had heard from my ex that I was a witch who could cast spells, and make people miserable. I was completely taken aback and didn’t know whether I should laugh or be offended. Then the man refused to elaborate any more.
From the perspective of our culture, witches were the ambiguous beings who dwelled between the realms of magic and reality, and were believed to have mastered the art of love potions, casting spells and fortune telling. They were mostly depicted as the scary, hideous, old women with the hag-like features. Feared, despised, and at certain times in our history executed, they were associated with the dark, mysterious, occult practices and Satan. Nowadays, they are relegated to the world of fairy tales and mostly forgotten. To be called a witch is no compliment, no matter the circumstances. I was baffled. Absentmindedly gazing at a pond and the pepper trees framing it, I was trying to understand the rationale behind this strange exchange. I knew my ex wasn’t exactly enjoying the fact I divorced him but for him to entertain the strangers with the stories that I was a witch was out of character.
I sat alone thinking about it and realized that perhaps his definition of a witch was different from mine. Maybe, he thought that the fact I dared to build a new life without him made me a witch…Perhaps he despised that I had managed to escape his net of black-and-white-only-truths, and chose instead to hug trees, gaze at the moon, and see the world as multifaceted. Maybe it was because I accomplished a feat of taking our kids, in spite of the fact he had always threatened me he would never let me. I guess, following my own path and listening to my heart make me a witch. And if that is what defines a witch, then, heck, I was one!
I returned to the party and was feeling slightly mischievous, knowing that I had a super-power of sorts. At least two people, there, considered me a magical or even dangerous entity, never mind it carried a negative overtone. Suddenly, I saw myself in a brand new light, as a mystical being, who liked to walk barefoot and watch the stars. That’s when I stretched my somewhat narrow-minded concept of what it meant to be a witch, and saw that she could be a beautiful forty-something year old with a spark in her eyes, who loved herself and life. I smiled and accepted this new dimension of what the world thought of me.