by J. Allen Cross / @oregon_wood_witch
Of one thing I’m absolutely certain, I never chose to be a witch. As far as I can remember, choice was never a part of it. I do remember trying to run from it though. I remember choosing to ignore the voices of spirits that would call my name as I walked down the street, or tried to focus on my job bussing tables through high school. I have vivid memories of sitting awkwardly across from any potential boyfriend on our first date, and wishing desperately to be normal for a day or two while they got to know me. I remember nervously trying to find the words to adequately explain my peculiarity while simultaneously reassuring them that I was not in fact, absolutely batshit crazy. They’d be telling me about their family, their perfectly wonderful, normal family. Meanwhile I would be compulsively fussing with my napkin under the table, trying not to sweat, wondering how to tell them that sometimes when I get sad the bathroom floods, or when I get angry a lightbulb may burst overhead. I’d wonder, how do I explain to them that sometimes while they are telling me about their day, my eyes may fix on something over their shoulder, but don’t worry, it’s just a ghost. Nothing to be concerned about. Not to mention the fact that every now and then I received the odd phone call from my mother, letting me know that she had “the feeling” that meant someone we knew was going to die. How was I supposed to explain that? I was always acutely aware of how odd it must sound to them, yet at the same time felt it was my responsibility to both of us to be up front. No, I never chose to be a witch, and I certainly never became one. I simply am one. But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start from the beginning, the very beginning…
Before me, there was my mother, and before her there was my Grandmother (God rest). Surprising as it may seem, my grandmother was not a witch. No, My Grami Fran was peculiar in many ways, but she was not a witch. At least, not in the way we know the word today. She was like the rest of us. She was different. One thing that stood out for certain was the fact that she had The Sight. This is something that everyone in our family has. It manifests in unique ways in each of us, my mother for instance can speak to animals and gets what she calls “The Death Tingle” about a week before someone we know kicks the bucket. My sister and I sense all kinds of things on the other side, and communicate with the dead. I’m predominantly what you call post-cognitive, and see the past or things that have happened. My Grami Fran? She heard the voice of God. Or as she called Him, “The Heavenly Father”. Most people think that when you grow up in a magical family, everyone is pagan. This couldn’t be further from the truth. My Grami Fran was devoutly Mormon, and there was no one she loved more than Jesus, and “The Heavenly Father”. According to her, He spoke to her regularly, and told her all kinds of things. He gave her insight into her problems, and when she’d pray He’d answer. She’d be driving somewhere with my cousins and I in the back seat and suddenly announce that The Heavenly Father was telling her to take an abrupt left. We all assumed (as we were tilted sideways from the inertia of her Tokyo drifting at His command) she was just a little batty, but sure enough, every time she listened to the voice in her head it never steered her wrong. That left turn ended up saving us from a car accident.
My mother was adopted, and we didn’t meet my Grami Fran until I was nine or ten years old. My mother had long been open minded, and though she had no idea of our magical lineage and we were brought up Catholic, my childhood was full of magical moments. I remember blue candles full of black glass to banish an unsavory coworker, and her reading tarot cards by candle light at our dining room table for her friends. Though it was “just for fun” we all could feel there was more beneath it. Even my Grami Fran felt that way. She was the first one to put a stick of blue desert sage in my hand and show me how to bless people and places with it. She told me it was what “our people” did, and would do this to every new person who would come through her door as a “blessing” (not to mention keep their nasty vibes out of her home).
When we found my mother’s birth family we got to confirm a few things. First, we did in fact belong to a large Indigenous Mexican family as we had long suspected. Second, we were not alone in being, well, odd. After the dust settled and we started to get to know the family (“Are you double jointed too?” and “Do you have the family ears? Yup! Just like mine!”) they began to come forward one at a time. They’d keep their voices hushed, or look around before saying things like “does anything… strange ever happen with you guys?” Some wouldn’t even speak about it to our face but send us an odd Facebook message. Only a couple of them outright said, “We’re witches!” As it turns out, the whole family is weird. Everyone had “The Sight” and would feel and know things they shouldn’t. We all had a story or two (or six, or ten) about making impossible things happen when we were angry or emotional. It wasn’t our fault, these things just happened. It was like magic.
We aren’t sure where it all started, the only thing we really know is that it’s a family thing. You see, our family history is shady at best. Secrets are buried deep and everyone seems to know a different thread of the story. One night an aunt sent me an odd Facebook message and told me the story of a great great great something or other grandmother who had a sister. They both practiced powerful magic and one of them was a responsible benevolent worker, and the other was prone to using her magic for all kinds of dark deeds. Though the details are lost, according to her one day they had a falling out and the dark sister cursed all the women in the Gonzales line with man troubles. I wasn’t sure what to say. I know we drink a little, but even with that the story seemed on brand for our family situation. These things happen when you’re Latino, and though the story seems corny, and like something ripped from a children’s story, you can’t deny that the women in our family have had a hell of a time in the love department. My Grami Fran for instance, had been married somewhere between five and a dozen times (depending on who you asked, and depending on how you count the men she married multiple times). All my female family members on that side are nearly equally as troubled. Only on rare occasions do happy marriages come (and last) for the ladies in my family. Whether they believe in it or not, “The Curse” is often a topic of hushed conversation between my female cousins. Cue the theme from Practical Magic.
Meeting my mother’s birth family was like coming up for air for me. Though my sister had the gifts, she didn’t like to talk about them or even acknowledge they were real. I on the other hand was clearly and overtly magical. I remember carrying around our family bible and saying it was a “Spell book”. Flash forward twenty years and I’m still using the bible as a spell book. One summer while other kids were putting up flyers offering up lawn mowing service, or lemonade stands, I was asking my father how to spell “exorcist” so I could offer my own services to the community. He told me not to put them up. Flash forward to present day, where I actually specialize in clearing negative entities out of homes. In fifth grade we had to do a report on what we wanted to be when we grew up. I wrote mine on wanting to be a person that accompanies archeologists digging up spiritual sights and breaking curses on Mummy’s Tombs so that they were safe to be studied. She didn’t think I was taking the assignment seriously so she made me write it again. I wrote it about being a writer.
It’s hard to say when I first began using magic. My earliest memory of intentionally using magic was when my parents signed me up for baseball. I hated it, I was gay and unathletic, not a good combination for a little boy in sports. So, I would make it rain so that the games would get cancelled. It was easy. I just had to want it, and say the magic words “rain rain, come from Spain, and never ever go back again.” Clearly I was not a poet, and yes you have to say “again” like you’re British or it doesn’t rhyme. But I digress. This was normal for me. I didn’t get an actual book of witchcraft until I was old enough to buy one myself from the internet. I gave my mother eleven bucks and used her debit card. The book still sits on my shelf as a treasured memory that I will pass to my kids one day. Through middle and high school I battled with my secrets, and read all the books I could find. I found outlets like getting certified as a Reiki Master at the age of sixteen, and spelling my tests when I hadn’t studied to make up a few points. I forgot to erase a spell once and had a real weird talk with my teacher later, but that’s a story for another time. I also spent much of high school doing solo paranormal work.
You see, all witches are psychic. It just goes with the territory. I received my “download” around the age of seven. I don’t remember much but I do remember a string of pretty serious migraines that happened every night for about a week. I remember lying on the floor crying while clutching my head because it hurt so bad. Then they stopped, and the dreams started. I began to dream about places and things that I would see weeks, or months later. About a year later I told my mom that I thought I might be psychic. She wasn’t sure what to say, but came home from work the next day with an article she had cut out of a magazine. It was about Allison DuBois, a dreaming psychic who worked for the police helping them solve crimes, and the new show “Medium” that was coming out about her. She gave it to me and said she wanted to let me know that there were others like me out there (she wouldn’t discover her talents or family for another year or so), and that if I wanted to I could help people with it.
Even as a child I always felt a great sense of duty and responsibility stemming from my peculiarities. It wasn’t an accident that I was like this. There had to be a reason. I wasn’t given these abilities so that I could just sit and do nothing with them. So, I started doing work to help others early on. I would attempt spells for the few friends that knew my secret all through middle school and high school. I would make protective charms for folks I felt might be in danger, and love potions for my BFF who needed a date to prom. I was about fifteen when I went on my first paranormal “case”. A local business had something in the basement, and some of the employees had felt something with them after closing. So, I rolled up armed with some basic supplies, as much wisdom as I could scrape up from Paranormal Reality Television, and my innate capabilities. I had been seeing and hearing from dead folks for a while at that point, so I figured this would be routine procedure. I had learned how to open The Light and assumed I’d just be dealing with some tricky humans who needed to move on. Instead I was met by an inhuman entity that had taken up residence in a storage closet. I was alone and untrained. Luckily I was also young and stupid so I went in anyway. With sheer force of will (and a lot of luck) I was able to get the entity out. This inadvertently began a string of similar cases and has sense become something I specialize in. Like most things in my life, it seemed to happen by accident.
From there it was more paranormal cases, more spells, and more books to read and study. I made my way through college, and attempted to learn the ins and outs of dating as a supernatural being. I joined a stellar paranormal investigation team out of Portland Oregon about six years ago now, and have been serving as Psychic-Medium/Occult Specialist for them ever since. Now, I’m a full time writer, witch, and paranormal handyman. My cousins grew up too, and are now healers, psychics, witches, and channelers. My sister is coming to grasp her potential, so I don’t feel alone anymore. I got married to a muggle who understands me, and as far as my peculiarities are concerned, things are as they’ve always been. People ask me frequently when I “became” a witch but I never did become one. I never did choose. In many ways, my experiences of being a witch and being gay are nearly identical. Some say it’s genetic, but who knows? It’s who I am, and who I will always be.