Disability, Witchcraft, and Siren Songs

Witchcraft is a siren song to the powerless.

I was a child, abused at home, bullied at school. I’d taken up karate class in an effort to get one up on my bullies, only to discover to my horror my bullies took the same class.

I was utterly powerless.

I’d already been interested in paganism; I’d spent time at the local witch shop, rarely buying anything, just soaking up the atmosphere. I would ride the skytrain from my father’s work to the shop and be back before he was done.

It was there I picked up my first witchcraft book, which promised me power in the face of my tormentors. I still have it; it is much-loved, the spine falling apart (just like mine).

The fact that the only spells I could seem to work were the weather ones didn’t matter. It made me feel like I had some small power again.

 

“Witches don’t make excuses; they accept the consequences of their actions.”

 

As I grew in my witchcraft I drank up all philosophy in the witch 101 books I read. Witches didn’t make excuses. Witchcraft would give me power, and in turn, it would make me healthier, more confident, more beautiful, more sure of myself…. Embarking on a life of witchcraft meant embarking on a more magical life, one where I could make my dreams come true.

I continued to believe all this even as all the evidence pointed otherwise.

 

“The strongest power in the world is desire.”

 

So much in witchcraft books is bootstraps. Your desire is your power. You can achieve these goals, but only if you work hard and pull yourself up by your bootstraps. There are no excuses. The only thing standing in your way is you. If you cannot achieve these things, you must not really want them.

They then proceed to lay out ways in which to practice the craft that are attainable by able-bodied, neurotypical people. If they’re attainable by the rest of us, well, that’s a lucky break.

 

“Get up just five minutes earlier to work on your daily practice. Soon you’ll find yourself getting up earlier and earlier, and it will become easier.”

 

I wake to pain all over my body. It radiates, pulses, reminds me how fragile I am. My thigh is aching; so are my hips. My CPAP isn’t sitting right anymore, and I cannot get it to reset to a comfortable position. It blows air all over my face and into my eyes. In frustration, I rip it off.

That’s it, then; time to get up, though I could easily sleep a few more hours. This house is so full of allergens I can’t sleep without the mask on, or I wake with a stuffy nose and pounding head.

I fumble for the light, check the clock, and see somehow my body woke me up 2 hours before my alarm was set, meaning I only got 6 hours of sleep, not 8. I will be a wreck in approximately 3 hours, but there is nothing I can do about it. I am *awake* now, and I need to get up.

I push myself to a sitting position and put my feet on the floor. I remain there, staring ahead, trying to quell the pain and nausea. Eventually I am able to get up by virtue of grabbing the section of wall that is right in front of me; I stumble and stagger out to the living room, which I must navigate through to make it to the bathroom.

The bathroom takes twice as long as it used to; spinal injuries can really mess up your plumbing, and mine already had its fair share of problems. I scroll through Twitter on my phone while I wait for my body to do its thing, and seeing the daily news makes me feel like crawling back into bed. What is the point of going on in such a world?

Finally I am done. After washing up, bent double over the sink because my back cannot support my standing and washing my hands, I stagger out to the kitchen. As I walk past the washer and dryer I smell the stench of poison gas from above — fabric softener, used by the people upstairs in such quantities I spend almost every day sick to my stomach and with headaches now.

I make it to the kitchen; start a pot of coffee in the hopes it will wake me up and maybe help stave off the impending migraine. Coffee set, I make my way back to the bathroom to stagger into the shower. Hot water should help ease the pain in my muscles at least.

This entire procedure takes too long; I have limited time before my lack of sleep hits me and I’m unable to function for the rest of the day. I sit down to do my work, because despite my disability, I get no assistance and rent needs to get made.

 

“Words have power. Learn to speak your power and you will find more success in all aspects of your life.”

 

I cannot say anything about the fabric softener, because the people who live upstairs are my landlords, and if it’s my landlady who’s using it then saying anything will get me another tongue-lashing.

Even if I could say something, it is the least of my concerns in our suite, which is an unholy mess because after three floods in three years necessitating the packing up of all our belongings several times over I’m not even sure there is a way to keep it clean (and the inability to have any real storage solutions doesn’t help).

Headaches and nausea from poison gas is only another thing on the list of things we need to deal with in this suite: mildew in the bedrooms; rats in the ceiling; a house spirit that has been blocking me from my spiritual life for three and a half years.

There is a malevolence in this house. Or perhaps it is only malevolent towards me — the witch in the basement. For three and a half years I have felt incredibly blocked, spiritually; reaching my gods has been like crawling up through dirt. I have felt buried alive, or swimming in psychic sewage.

Most of my magic has backfired. I’ve lost contact with all my spirit allies. I’ve started to doubt anything was real at all.

Because the spirit of this house wants me to be Christian. (I know this because I have had no troubles praying to the Virgin Mary, and have even been able to feel a response from Her. But attempt to reach any non-Christian entity, and there is an angry wall blocking me.) I am not powerful enough to break through.

And yet, despite all this, I keep trying.

*

On one of my work breaks this summer I look up uncrossing rituals. I figure I’m probably crossed, and have been for years, and even if I’m not, doing an uncrossing ritual can’t hurt.

Except physically. Almost all the info I find on uncrossing, or cleansing oneself of psychic crap, involves a full house cleaning as well, and several days of magical work.

This suite has literally never been clean in the past 3.5 years, and it won’t be again until after we move out. I have just enough energy to do some basic daily maintenance — if I’m lucky.

So I made up my own uncrossing ritual, which would happen in several parts.

I did part one in the middle of summer. In preparation for part two (an uncrossing ritual bath), I scrubbed my tub and made a sachet of uncrossing herbs, sewed up in blessed fabric with red thread.

The sachet is still sitting on my shelf and the tub needs another scrubbing. I haven’t been able to find a good time to take the bath in this toxic living situation. Also…I’m not actually sure I’d be able to get out of the tub again. I haven’t tried to take a bath since I broke my leg and permanently screwed up my knees.

*

If witchcraft is supposed to be for the powerless, how come so much of its instructions are written for the able-bodied or neurotypical? Even from writers who seem to be hip to what it means to be marginalized — disability is, once again, on the outskirts of social justice.

I got so angry this summer, realizing that all the uncrossing stuff I was finding was just not meant for me. I got so angry, and then I just got depressed, because anger is exhausting and I’m already low on energy.

I keep coming back to witchcraft, hoping those paradigms will still be true: that I can claim my power as a witch; that desire really IS the most powerful force in the world; that witchcraft can help me when the mundane world can’t.

I keep coming back to it, and every time I pick up a new book (or an old one) I get turned away again. So little is written for me — and even if I were able to do it, would it make a difference in the face of the malevolent house spirit that crouches over me?

This is the point in time when witchcraft book writers tell me it’s time to take my power and make changes in my life. I really believed that was possible when I was a teenager.

Now I’m an adult stuck renting a place we can barely afford, and all the other rentals around us are even more expensive. We’re trapped here, mosquitoes in amber, except no one will bring back dinosaurs with our blood. I work my ass off every month to make rent; I barely have enough energy to devote to my own passions — none of which pay the bills.

I’m trying to make changes — I’m going back to school, assuming I can find the money in the next few days to pay my tuition deposit — but none of the witchcraft books I cut my teeth on ever prepared me for this eventuality.

For an adulthood where you’re even more powerless than you were as a child.

For a life where your circumstances trap you, and sometimes no matter what you do, even if you do everything right — you’ll still fail, and life will still suck.

For a body that doesn’t cooperate, that fills your waking and sleeping hours with pain, that you cannot work with to do all the work those witchcraft books tell you is imperative to your life as a magical person.

They didn’t prepare me, and now that I’m here, they don’t have options for me. I have to, yet again, find my own way.

But I’m too godsdamned tired, and I know I’m just going to end up dashed against the jagged rocks, the siren song of “you could have had everything but you just weren’t able-bodied enough” singing me to my death.

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