by Erica Sittler
They call it “the crooked path” for good reason, and my journey into witchcraft has been as simultaneously mundane and extraordinary as many folks. Like many of us, I was born into a Christian construct. Mine was the early versions of what is now alt-right religious extremism. Televangelists were our heroes. Beatings on an almost daily basis with rods and straps were proof that my parents were godly and “containing the wild ungodliness” of their offspring. Swimming in a caustic stew of religious and toxic emotional fervor alongside Bible-verse thumping zealots was my horrific “normal”.
…and yet, nature saved me in those years between then and now when my primal thought was to survive.
… nature saved me in the form of goose grass fairy mounds, where I spent hours crafting little homes that even as a young girl, I intuited were portals to another world far beyond mine. In birdsong and clouds where my eyes and ears would always perk up and pay attention, listening for stories and also looking for them in the clouds. I was transported. Gone. Alone with the earth holding me and the sky alight and in full motion, learning the language of birds.
… nature saved me in the form of the oak and magnolia trees and overgrown shrubbery where I would hide and climb and disappear for lifetimes on end.
…nature saved me in the form of a wild horse, I was charged “to break,” yet I could not tame that creature. Instead I rode her like the Wind she was, and subsequently was thrown off her more times than I can count. Through it, I learned to become one with an animal and become a part of that animal’s essence. Together the pair of us would ride full gallop for endless hours, panting and sweating, thrilled to be free. We would reach the edge of Perdido Bay (Lost Bay) and plunge in, swimming with sea creatures in the brackish waters, bronzed by the sun, dozing, blissful and mutually content.
…nature saved me: in the form of my children. And many herbs, chickens, and the growing things I tended. And even those pesky geese who refused to leave and poop everywhere! They too became my friends and teachers. Through more oak and cedar trees who refused to move when they “blocked my view” and I maliciously tried to salt and poison them. For simply existing. I get to bear the shame of that unnatural behavior as a reminder scar of my great folly every day when I go out and bless those self same trees. For those oaks I now see as a holy grove. As such, they are treated with great reverence. As a necessary means of passage to the liminal realm of the water’s edge beyond them.
…nature saved me through astrology, for there the stars became more than scientific observations with my grandfather’s telescope, but instead immortal ones with whom I could build a relationship: and in so doing better understand myself.
… nature saved me when my tidy little world exploded yet again. Teaching me that “normal” is relative and “broken” is too often a weaponized word and that to be broken is a needful thing.
Nature brought me here, to the Temple of Witchcraft, and to the Mystery School where even the commonest of rocks are revealed to hold power of such intensity that my hands now tremble in the mere holding of them.
Nature, through this course, saved me by bursting me wide open, heart, mind and soul and saying, “Yes, I will open your eyes to my mysteries, come and learn of me.” In that sundering of myself, a deeper melding with all the animate forces in this universe occurred. I am humbled, awestruck, and deliriously in love with: Nature.
Be I just a dust mote, or the atom inside an egg … I soar and bound through the heavens, for this is what this level one Mystery School has taught me: I am one with this beauty, this terror, this living, pulsing, vibrant force that fills everything, even the mailboxes with their clanking mouths. I and we are of this same visceral, living essence.
Perhaps, a therapist would say, I used nature to disassociate myself for the actual trauma of my day-to-day life. They could say that, I suppose. I choose to believe that when I look back on my life from childhood onwards, it was nature that kept me alive. Nature that would not let that spark of the “wild one” extinguish. That gave me the inner strength at age 14 to put up an aural shield of iron around myself that in the spirit realm broke my father’s hand and made it impossible for him to strike me again. Defiantly, I rose from my parent’s bed and went out the side door and went out into my true home: into Nature.
And so, here I am wrapping up level 1 of the Mystery School: the art, science, and religion of magick. The threshold. It is in the everyday mundane aspects of life that Nature saves me and I learned that here.