She Wants to be a Witch! And Here’s Why That is Good

“She’s studying to be a witch,” Mom lamented. And I have to give it to her, she certainly had the look. The first thing I noticed about 16 year old Christie Anna was her height. She was easily over six feet tall. And her hair, surely it was the blackest black that could be found in a box, and there was a ton of it. It hung down her back, and over her shoulders, and in front of her face. Like anyone who doesn’t want to be seen, she tilted her head forward slightly so the hair in her face could really do its job. (I found myself pushing my own out of my eyes.) In keeping with the black theme was the black dress that ended unevenly in the middle of her calves, just in time to expose her black tights and pointy black shoes. Did I mention her black fingernails? If you’ve ever known anyone who is experimenting with “the dark side” you know the fingernails can be blue, or purple or even blood red, but hers were black. Yes, she looked just like someone who would be studying to be a witch.

“Fascinating,” I remarked, and we continued to talk about what aspects of witchcraft were attracting her, and how she became interested in the first place, but her hidden, sullen attitude didn’t change until I mentioned that I thought Paradise Valley Community College had a class on witchcraft. That got her attention, one, because I was taking her seriously, and two, because I had something interesting to offer. “Yup, I think it’s called, Magic, Witchcraft and Healing.” And then we were friends.

It may interest you to know that Christie Anna is doing exactly what someone her age should be doing. She is trying on different hats to see which ones might fit her. And this is a very important job; she is trying to figure out who she is. If she’s lucky, she will have an opportunity to experiment in a healthy way with such value laden concepts as academic achievement, academic underachievement, clothing styles, hairstyles, music, social activism, social isolation, food, religion, selflessness, selfishness, work, politics, drugs, sex, aggression and pacifism. You get the picture. She is clarifying her values and forming an identity.

Hopefully, she will manage this stage of development successfully while she has the support and resources of her home and family to help guide her. If she is unlucky, an identity will be foisted upon her by someone in her life more powerful than she, and then she will wander in to my office during her thirties or forties and proclaim, “I just don’t know who I am.”

I could almost read Christie Anna’s mother’s mind, “What are you doing encouraging this? Tell her this is crazy, don’t tell her about a class! Tell her she has to come back to church, and not wearing that outfit either!”

What I tried to tell mom is that if she could tolerate some exploration and not get too freaked-out, it would probably pass. If she overreacted, this phase might just turn in to a full-blown war, and no one has the time for combat like an obsessed teen. It’s important to pick your battles carefully so you will have the physical and emotional resources available to fight over things that are dangerous or life threatening. In addition, supporting investigations into identity can allow the real world to teach its lessons. “I’m sorry your teacher won’t let you wear those shoes to play volleyball. I think they look cute on you.” Clearly, dangerous explorations need to be stopped immediately, but carefully. Demeaning, or trying to control an identity formation can lead to a missing 16 year old hitchhiking to a Wicca ceremony in Canada.

So Mom made Christie Anna do the research for the class at PVCC, but she paid the tuition, and although the class was interesting, when she graduated from high school, Christie Anna studied Elementary Education. I happen to know that she visited vegetarianism, Buddhism, marijuana and The Peace Corps. Today she is happily teaching Kindergarten. The path through witchcraft was an important element in helping create the identity of the woman she is today.

Like Michael Bradley said in his book, Yes, Your Teen is Crazy (A must read for all parents),

“Knowing who you are is the key to all else that is good in life.”