A look at what it was like to be raised by a witch.
by D. H. Torkavian
My grandmother was a wild and a fiercely protective woman. She would tell you what she thought of you when she thought it and she never apologized. Still, she had her secrets. Secrets she didn’t want to die with her, and for some reason or the other, secrets she only shared with me. My grandmother was a witch, and her mother before her, and hers before that and so on. My grandmother didn’t share this with any of her five children or grandchildren – except for me.
I don’t normally share the story of how I become a witch, how and why my grandmother began teaching me when I was four years old in the old ways. I don’t normally share this story simply because it sounds crazy, and made up, and like most people I have a hard time not caring what people think of me, but these are my favorite memories of my grandmother. Also, a friend at The Geek Initiative was interested, so this felt right.
My grandmother, who we all called Mumum, had me all to her self all day until I was five. My mother worked whatever job she happened to be working at the time, and Mumum’s second husband worked on his computer. He worked from home, and to this day I have no idea what he did to make money. Everyone just said he worked with computers.
Anyway my grandmother had me all day, and no one paid attention to what we were doing. My grandmother came from Norway to America when she was thirteen; she was very traditional. She spent most days teaching my how to cook, make my own cheese, bread, and butter. Not to mention saw, knit, and everything thing else to do with being the perfect housewife.
I loved this time. Everything was perfect, during the day anyway. At night I suffered from shadow people. If you’re not familiar with shadow people you should look them up. You’ll find that they are super duper nice, and they just love small children.
Everyone was growing tired of the screams my “night terrors” induced. My mother took to having me sleep in her room, and that helped. That too began to create tension in our household. I was often the subject of agreements between my mother, Mumum, and Mumum’s husband. Then we tried my mother sleeping in my room with me, but again the shadow people came, and I screamed. Which meant that my mother couldn’t sleep, and that made work harder for her.
Finally I was told I had to sleep in my own room by my self, and that no one would come to me if I screamed, which I did.
After what felt like half the night my grandmother burst in my room. A hand full of salt in one hand, a broom in the other, and lots of swear words. After that night I slept in my grandmothers bed with her, and she stopped teaching me how to cook, and clean, and make cheese. These were replaced with lessons on herbs, spirits, and phases of the moon. I liked these much better.
My day would start as thus: I would wake up in my grandmother’s bed. She would be already downstairs in the kitchen. I would go down there and helped her make breakfast. Then my mother would come down, kiss me goodbye for the day, and go to work. Then I would eat with my grandmother and we would “talk.” She would tell me about different herbs and how to use them…what grows where in your garden and why, and most importantly, and what I latched onto the most: how to incorporate magick into food.
The best part was that my grandmother told me I was to tell no one, and if anyone ever asked what we were doing I was to tell them we were making cupcakes, or bread, or we were going to “church functions” on days we would go out to the wild to learn about plants. This was my life for about a year until my grandmother moved back to New Jersey. My mother and I stayed in California.
Mumum visited often though, and on days we had to our selves we continued our talks. Then when I was ten my mother and I moved back in with my grandmother in New Jersey when she got sick. I wound up being the person who took care of her during the days after school. Our talks had changed. They were hurried, and rushed. We both new she was at the end of her life. I remember everyone else living in denial, and we would laugh about it behind their backs.
The very last time I saw my grandmother alive she was cheery. She was on her deathbed in hospital. I sat next to her on a char, and held her hand. She asked my mother to get her a “God damn cup of coffee for Christ sakes!” Though now that I think about it that isn’t really asking. We had our last talk. We both knew this was going to be the last time we would see each other. Her last words are engraved In my brain. They were “see you soon.”
That night she told me she had died in my dream, and in them morning when I woke everyone was crying. My mother told me she and I were going to the Wildwood boardwalk for the day. I spent the day looking in the crowds for her. I was twelve. Sixteen years later, and I have been on my own in the world of witchcraft. I have learned more then Mumum ever would have thought me, but I never forgot our talks.
My upbringing was not the norm, and I am very grateful that my grandmother had the courage it must have taken her to teach me a little of what she knew. I have guarded her secrets well, but in writing this I can’t help but feel motivated to teach.