Saturday, November 21, 2009

Travel: Witches in the Woodwork - 1

"Standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, I've got seven women on my mind...", so goes the song from the 1972 by the Eagles.

About the same time this song was gaining airplay, I took a few road-trips. Along the way I met some interesting people.

I'm a talker. I like people. I find them interesting, so it's not unusual for me to engage in conversations with strangers during my travels. I've been doing it for years.

A week or so ago I watched a BBC production called Dr. Who. My wife spent some time in her youth in Scotland, and the Dr. Who series is part of her personal culture. I was just tagging along. In one particular episode, The Shakespeare Code, three unique extraterrestrials play key roles in the unfolding drama. Two of the three look very much like our Halloween witches. The third is a pretty, but conniving, blond. The third was more typical of the witches I've met.

The story line suggests that maybe these women were the prototypes for the witches that appear in some of Shakespeare's works. The story suggested to me that there are witches in the woodwork: real life practitioners of wicca who lurk at the edges of our awareness.

I've met a few.

Wika-pedia defines wicca as a neopagan, nature-based religion. If political correctness applied to witches, then we'd call them Wiccans.

Wiki-pedia informed me that Wiccans "typically worship a Goddess (traditionally a Triple Goddess) and a God... Other characteristics of Wicca includes the ritual use of magic, a basic code of morality, and the celebration of eight seasonally based festivals."

The Wiccans I met seemed nice: misunderstood nature lovers perhaps?

The first two appeared on my radar while I was on a month long motor trek up the West Coast. Starting out from my hometown of Anaheim, the home of Disneyland, Nick and I headed north. Mostly we camped out along the way. Mostly we stayed in state parks. It was beautiful.

We weren't great planners, so we had no reservations. That was only a problem the first night when our targeted state park was full. For a slightly higher fee we were able to camp out in an adjacent privately owned campground.

An LA Times writer provides a description of the area, "Waves splash over the tide pools at Carpinteria State Beach, a popular coastal camping spot southeast of Santa Barbara. When day trippers leave, campers can enjoy empty stretches of sand and the sounds of crashing surf. There are hiking and biking trails with beautiful views of the Santa Ynez Mountains on one side and the Channel Islands on the other."

We camped next to that. One of the features of our campground was an open recreational pasture-like area. Nick and I enjoyed a game of Frisbee until a youth group from a local Baptist church set up a volleyball net. They invited us to play. I joined them, and Nick retreated to our campsite to relax.

When I returned an hour or so later to the campsite, Nick was not alone. He had attracted the attention of two slightly "older" ladies. Nick was probably 19; I was 18. The girls appeared to be in the mid-20's. Go Nick.

In the course of the ensuing conversation, I discovered that our guests were Wiccans. They too were enjoying the beauty of the beach. They had moved to Santa Barbara, drawn in part by the Wiccan community that lived in the area. They were saving up their money to buy some land. They wanted to plant a grove. (Add eerie music here.)

I left Nick to the converse with the witches while I meandered over to the youth group's campfire. They had invited us for dessert and some singing. I opted for the fire, Nick opted for the shadows. (Truth be told, the girls were more interested in Nick anyway. Had the positions been reversed, I might have stayed in the shadows as well.)

For me the night was a bit of a fork in the road. At the campfire, I heard for the first time the stirring lyrics of "For Those Tears I Died." I was left pondering the question, "What if God really is real? What if Jesus is really alive and cares about my tears?"

Nick and I were pilgrims of sort. Like the title of the Cat Stevens' song of that era, we were "On The Road to Find Out."

Little did I know the reality of the lyrics of another Christian hymn that says, "I sought the Lord, and afterward I knew he moved my soul to seek him, seeking me;it was not I that found, O Savior true; no, I was found of thee."

Regardless of that watershed night of Wiccans and Christians, Nick and I continued our journey up the Coast.

It was several years later, on another road-trip that I met my next pair of Wiccans.

More on that... next time!

Here's Cat Steven's singing the anthem of my heart at that time: On The Road To Find Out.

Here's the compare/contrast to the song I heard at the youth group's campfire:

Was it the 70's or was it just the time of early adulthood? Or maybe both?


  1. Epiphany!

    Fleeting and fantastic.
    Transforming and transitory.
    Ephemeral yet enduring.

    Watershed moments.
    Not wasted.
    Not forgotten.
    Not insignificant.


  2. Bravo on your "Epiphany" Don! Love how you see you and Nick as pilgrims. These stories of your adventures make me want to break free from my "usual" and jump into the unfamiliar and exotic. Tons of learn outside my world of laundry and cooking. For now, I'll live vicariously through the stories of adventurous bloggers like you.

    How are the twins?? And your daughter?

  3. Don!
    Great, great poem!
    Loved Cat Stevens and the Children of the Day: had their records.
    About witches: about twenty years ago someone was trying to put a death curse on me over the telephone: strange phone call.
    The best respose I could think of was to tell them about the love of Jesus. We were involved in two one-way conversations, unless the Holy Spirit also took part, which I am sure was the case somehow.

  4. Sounds interesting! Nice Epiphany!
    I've yet to have one...
    Road trips are great, and I wish wish wish that I was allowed to do a camping one, not a hotel one up the coast. But hotels are nice too...
    Carpinteria IS beautiful. Played softball there a couple times. Heard there was a field with an ocean view. Wish we could've played at that one, but then again, that might have been a tad distracting...

  5. Oh the 70s was a very special time... But then of course I too was in my late teens/early adulthood back then ;) This post brought back memories ;)

    Thanks for sharing and thanks for visiting my Picture Book.

  6. Don, I really like that poem. It really expresses in its form what it is about; a flash of movement from Epiphany to Providential. Was the poem an epiphany?

  7. @september: Glad you enjoyed the post and poem. Vicarious living has its perks. Glad I could afford you some. I'm also reminded though of the French Christian mystic, Fenelon, who learned much washing dishes in a monastery. (Let Go -- is one of his works.) Often, it's not where you are, but who you are, that makes the difference. (But travel is nice!)

    @Dennis: Glad you liked the poem. (Yes, there is a spiritual warfare out there... and sometimes two one-sided conversations occur. Way too often I'm afraid, even in normal conversation.)

    The poem was inspired by a post by Saphron:

    Recounting her days as a practicing musician.

    @we_the_pieces: Hope you're feeling better. Ahhhh. Epiphanies? You'll have a few. Why? Because you'll stop to ponder! (There is a baseball field at Point Loma College -- google it -- it is on a bluff overlooking the Pacific! Gorgeous. I think Pepperdine in Malibu has one too.) I chauffered a female friend on a road-trip once. My mom was furious. Her mom was glad. Burly body-guard. Camping is fun. So are hotels. I've done both. Now, I stay in timeshares, but I'm going to buy a year-pass (day use) to the state parks: best of both worlds?

    @Dawn_Treader: Sounds like we're in a similar time-sequence (age). ;-) We're both still exporing: this time... in the world of blogging. (Love your pics of your native Sweden.) My pics are of Southern California. Same beautiful world: different locales.