Our father, who art in heaven, I am a witch
artista: Amber Joy
por: Alice Kyteler
Mexico is a strange country, we presume we are deeply Catholic and we demonstrate it every December 12th; however we also like to cleanse ourselves with “limpias” or an egg cleansing to avoid “evil eye”... better safe than dead! We have altars in our houses, crosses over our beds, but we can never miss the daily horoscope. Our aunts recite whole litanies, but at the beach, a gypsy reads their hands and they truly believe that dictates their luck.
It’s not fair to say that we are unidirectional beings; we human beings are multifaceted, but… to combine magic and religion? That’s too much even for a strange country like Mexico.
Being born into a Catholic family did not exempt me from magic. Praying to God every Sunday morning was as common as placing my mother’s quartz in the window during a full moon. My father’s teachings and readings on the Bible were combined with his stories of mysterious creatures hiding our things in the house. My aunt Celina, who by the way never missed or skipped mass, knew how to read the tarot cards and heal the “fright” (susto), everyone knew her as a witch…
Witch? Back then I didn’t know much about history, but I always wondered, weren’t all of them burned at the stake? How could my aunt Celina be a witch then? I buried that question for years… Yet, the idea that witches were still alive caused me a rare excitement, and I started to grow interest in the subject.
As years passed, my liking for witches increased. I started looking for them more and more, I feared less and less and recognized them as (greatly) misunderstood women. My concept of witches was fueled by stories about fireballs and missing children, then I started seeing witches without hats, cats or cauldrons… well, sometimes cauldrons; I met many women who proclaimed their herbal work or the preparation of magic drinks as witchcraft. I began to attend festivals in which a small community recognized itself as a coven and they said it with great pride.
The experience of the unknown became dangerous for my Catholic part. When I dared to cast a spell or two, I felt that I should expect God's grudge. Was I fiddling with my “evil part”? Is it wrong to be a witch in the 21st century? Am I a witch? There were many questions whose answers terrified me in an exhilarating way.
Little by little I was more seduced by magic, self-knowledge and the "forbidden". And so I introduced myself to courses and meetings of modern witches, Facebook groups where they shared magical art or something related to witchcraft, you know, to feed the curiosity of the soul. In one of those groups I met the artistic work of Amber Joy.
Her photographs evoked much of what I perceived as witchcraft. I was mortally smitten by how powerful they looked, the lugubrious tones that had problems with the traditional view of the witch enthralled me to the point of believing that what was forbidden. I wanted to become one of those she photographed, I wanted to feel the independence that comes with being a witch.
The scenarios were carefully made so that you could feel, smell, and almost taste witchcraft: tarot cards, crystal balls, nudity, candles, and mysticism. Although, looking at the pictures of Amber Joy along with the many statues of saints in my house scared me, it also made me feel protected by a power that emanated from me.
Suddenly, the hands holding the candle started to look like mine, the eyes looking at the crystal ball changed to mine, I almost felt the power to control the climate just by wishing it. Now the condemned witches became my ancestors too.
Even so I felt, out of habit or imposition, that I had to cross myself after the sudden connection I had with her work. I don't know if that would save me from the many sins I had already committed, but it will surely keep my conscience clean ... for now.