daughter of wands: witch origin stories

what are my origins as a witch? its a question that others ask me, and that i ask myself. as a child, i remember running through the overgrown lots behind my parents house, collecting flowers. queen annes lace, in handfuls. why do you collect those weeds? my mom would ask. but they seemed so elegant- like doilies on my grandmothers tea table. later, i'd learn that they were also called wild carrot, and that their seeds could be taken in teaspoon fulls to prevent conception. 

riding my bike around the subdivision, and telling stories to myself the whole time. i was the kid that talked to myself. there was just too much going on in there. 

socialization is a tool of capitalism that we are taught in public schools. socialization, they say, is a good thing, it teaches youth to interact with one another, to learn how to behave. what it really did was teach children to behave a certain way to be invisible or visible within a system, depending on what their identity was. the kids who could not behave were always put into the lower levels. were put with coloring book pages in the principals office. were given ritalin. 

being from a rural place meant a lot of my childhood was spent alone, on my bicycle, in fields and backyards, pulling plants from the earth. in teen years, as the mental illness and structural misogyny set in, trauma was forming and addictions were being built. but i'd go to this old broken factory, and sit on its concrete graffitied slabs, and try to hear the ocean. 

so how did you go on this journey, where you could believe in your creativity and your intuition, in a world that never taught you that your empathy was a gift, the brightest, heaviest wand. without the ability to use her power, you are at the risk of self destruction. no one tells you this. no one tells you what a gift and curse it is to feel the pain of the world. 

are you an empath? if you think you are, you could be. one of the biggest myths about us- we are not always the kindest and most delicate of flowers. we are often depressed, angry, volatile, anti social, even abusive. we are vulnerable to addiction, to mental illness, and to being abused. to be an empath in a capitalist society means that we are not acknowledged or respected. our powers are looked at as weaknesses. if we don't learn how to harness our powers than they can easily be used against us, or we can use them against others. 


the saturn return- a period in a persons life, around the years of 27.5 - 30, depending, when saturn returns to the place of your birth. it is my belief that us empaths discover who we are during this time. it is a shame that we couldn't have discovered before, but our system is not set up in a way which allows us to find this in ourselves until we have unlearned that system. for me- my journey as an empath and a witch and a vulnerable tender being began at 27.5 - a little early to be a saturn return, many say, but for me that was it. my life had been taken over by an eating disorder, which had formed in many ways as a protection and avoidance of all forms of intimacy, due to unresolved sexual trauma. a year and a half before, a sexual assault at a party in portland, by a friend of many of my best friends, set my life long disordered eating habits skyrocketing into a serious, full blown eating disorder. no one knew, and to keep people from knowing, i became completely removed from all emotions and attachments, except for anger and bitterness. i moved somewhere i knew few people, and i isolated myself with my addictions. anyone who tried to get close to me got burned by my anger and resentment. To many, I was a toxic, abusive friend. To think some of those people are still my friends, and were able to see that I was a good loving person who was suffering, and was transmitting her pain, is a true gift, but I know that many of us are not capable of feeling love for someone who is deep in their own shit, so i don't blame anyone who chose to shut me out of their life. 

At 27.5, a two year job ended, a job which i had won awards and acclaim, becuase I had poured all of my energy into it while giving myself no love at all. I was spending 10 hours a day on average trying to save at-risk teens from their own trauma, while taking bathroom breaks every hour to purge all of my food. With all due respect to the very serious issue of the prison industrial complex and the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies, having an eating disorder is a prison of our own making. 

when my job ended, i suddenly had no direction, but a decent amount of money saved, and suddenly having time to contemplate my life was unbearable. The drinking and abusing pain medication started, and came to a head when i missed an award ceremony the kids had prepared for me because I had slept though the day from abusing booze and pain pills. i had hit rock bottom. 

i had collections of herbs in my cabinets, plants long neglected whose seeds i had sown in brighter days. at the herb store in Arcata, moonrise herbs, still detoxing and dizzy from the booze and the pills, i bought the Rider Waite deck. it cost 22.95, i think. i still have it today. 

still lacking awareness of my empathy, mental illness, trauma, only dealing with the immediate threat of what was masking it all- my bulimia- i did some work on weed farms to finance a year of backpacking with the cards. I volunteered on organic farms in Ireland, lived on a permaculture institute in Spain, studied Spanish in Nicaragua, learned more about plant medicine in Costa Rica, took a boat from Panama to Colombia, had a spiritual awakening on a commune in Ecuador, and adventured all over Peru with a punk anarchofeminist from Finland. this whole time, i still did not know why my body was always so tired, that all the exposure to people and a new language, was exhausting my mind. i tied it back to the cards. i saw the impacts of globalization, the exploitation of indigenous groups, how tourism is the new colonialism. every story i was given by everyone i met became a reason for me to move on. to be an ally and support to immigrants in my own country, to understand the intense painful histories of colonialism and how they led to modern injustices of NAFTA and immigrant exploitation. and this whole time i was sitting with the cards every day. i was looking at my ego. i was looking at my pain. i was learning to understand my empathy, but also my privilege as a white woman from the United States. that i had felt so disenfranchised and yet in so many ways, i was the one who structurally could still function within the status quo. it was painful, beautiful and transformative. 

Everyone I met I offered to read their cards. Sometimes that was in a language I was just starting to learn. The people I met and the cards taught me about their stories. At 28, it was the first time in my life I could really emotionally understand that I wasn't the only human suffering. That I existed within a long historical system of privilege that benefited me due to the violence and pillaging of my european ancestors, and now i had the opportunity to go 'find myself' in the new world - a land colonized by my ancestors. it was humbling. this isn't to say i didn't know about globalization, inequality and colonialism before these travels, but this deep emotional attachment to the lands in which i traveled, and the stories that I was told by people who stood in front of me, pulled me into a deeper understanding of oppression that you could not know from reading a book or watching a movie. 

so my saturn return was all about making me the person i am, about 8 years later. the person i still build on to and improve. the person who has experienced so much more trauma and pain, but is so much wiser and stronger and more resilient. i owe part of that to the cards, and their ability to awaken me to my empathy. to understand that i am not alone in my pain. pain is universal, it is institutional, it is in poverty and disconnection, it is in appropriation, pain is in racism and patriarchy. pain is political, so healing is revolutionary. 

this is one part of my origin story as a witch, a witch who believes in decolonizing magic and showing up for the people who have been most effected by toxic global capitalism, globalization and structural violence. i believe that the tarot found me, but i needed to accept it when i chose to fight against my own self destructive. that is the cross that us empaths need to bare. 

Corinna Rosella