I was ushered into witch-hood when I was eleven. It was an unforgettable ceremony. Auntie Beatriz was routinely tidying up the rooms when she stops on her tracks, suspiciously looks under my bed, inhales deeply, and explodes in a kàme-hàme-wave fashion:
“Jiiiiingggg?!? What IS this!?! Didn’t I tell you to throw away all these rubbish? And OH, you have a BAG now? FULL of more trash?”
“What are you, a witch?!?“
So help me, if you don’t throw all these things away, you are definitely a sorceress! At least our neighbors will think so! Do tell, a voodoo-doll-and-needle is in there somewhere, yeah? Blah. Blah. Blah. Nostrils smoking, hair curling, she may well be talking to a mirror and telling herself off. I thought she was the real witch if you ask me. (I’d keep loving her if she was, anyway.)
And just like that, one dusty Saturday morning, I was officially declared a witch.
Truth is, my compulsive urge to collect “trash” started way earlier than carrying this newfound label. At age two I was playing with found objects (like any child): candy wrappers and bottle caps and aluminum cans (WARNING: toddler hazards — don’t try this at home!). Anything and everything that was lying around and did not have a place was a toy. And what joy!
Don’t get me wrong, I had real toys, too — a collection in fact. My friend Jo and I hung out at our favorite vacant lots, where there used to be homes and stores and one other thing for sure: former garbage pits. Back in the day you either burned your garbage, or dug up a pit and when full, simply cover up with dirt from digging a new one. After a while these became fertile soils, but they also were now rich mines for plastic toys and other valuable ‘finds’. We were archaeologists excavating for treasures which, after some washing and TLC, ended up in our bags of collections. Toy soldiers, action figures, fancy perfume bottles, make-up cases. A real coin money would be a bonus — we would then buy cherry-flavored gum balls and everything was right with the world!
By age twelve I was going pro at being a witch — one look at any item and I’d think of at least 2 ways to reuse it: I made pop-up cards from pretzel cardboards and ‘Snoopy and the Gang’ embossed art on styro lunch box and gave them away as gifts. (Not sure if the recipients were happy, but I was!) I would hold on to very nice paper and plastic bags for a looooong time until I could find use for them again. Old dolls (or parts thereof) and cloths and pins and buttons and hardware and tools and kitchenware — as long as they take my fancy and have the potential for something nice, they go to my bag … er … by the time I was a teen it might have been a box.
Thinking back, I realize my brand of witchcraft had nothing to do with cleaning the environment nor saving mother earth (at least not intentionally!). For the younger me it was probably just out of curiosity and adventure and challenge to find things, turn them into something new, beautiful, crazy, useful or fun. Then growing up, practical need would naturally serve to reinforce witch-ery. Hence, used papers for notebooks, upcycled hand-me-downs for everything else.
Curiosity + dire need were further flavored with frugality — a virtue caught from being raised by people who are content with living simple (and I use that word in a good way). Maybe, just maybe that was how I cultivated the love for upcycling — it’s because my folks never prevented me from hoarding throwaway objects and experimenting with said items. They were no fans (honestly), but neither were they villains, except of course for the one superstitious aunt (whom I should thank by the way, for taming my tendencies to overcollect).
So it happened, that in our tiny home I was free to flourish and to live out the Wicked life. It was always energizing, mind you. Every single day, whatever lack you had to make up with resourcefulness. How cool was that? Necessity is the mother of invention, so the English proverb says. I dare paraphrase in witch terms: “Necessity gives birth to so(u)rcery.”
Today witches come in the form of cool bad*ss chicks and dudes who fight the system of consumerism and pollution and ugliness. They are called different names and come in many kinds — environmentalists, conservationists, greenies, tree-huggers, vegans, eagle-freaks, naturalists, hippy, AlGores, all the way from the simple minimalist to the überparanoid. Somewhere along that spectrum there are those like me, under the category of recyclers and upcyclers.
Whatever I am called, however ordinary or ignoble my initial motivations were, I’ve flown enough brooms to know now that I resonate with purposes that are inspirational: beauty, function, health, welfare, legacy, fulfillment, sustainability, stewardship.
For these causes I remain a witch. They are worth burning for if you ask me.