I have gone by many names: Lady, Mother, Nemesis, Daughter, Sister, Priestess, Friend, Lover, Rival, Teacher, Guardian. Most recently, I have been called Ehsha Apple and The Bad Witch (TBW, for short). But most of those old robes don’t fit–they never did, considering they were handed to me by another.
And I have an odd relationship with my name. Born in 1970, I have a bit of a “hippy” influence in a name that didn’t quite make it home with me. My birth certificate, my ordination papers, my marriage license, my various degrees, and my momma says my name is Angela, though she wanted to name me for her mother, whose name was finally given to a cousin’s child, thank goodness–someone should have it. (My daughter bears a different part of her name.) Ehsha is a derivation of Grandmother’s name. My daddy says my name is Farmer–my children share that name too.
I was raised “in church” but was always encouraged to think about spirituality for myself. I first discovered occult studies in middle-school when, while touring a relatives book collection, I stumbled across a giant red leather book with a golden seal; it was about the occult, necromancy, and sorcery. I’d love to say that I *know* it was Waite’s, but I can’t. I obviously didn’t understand what I was reading until much later, but the book didn’t talk about magic in terms of “Satan” and this alone was very appealing to me since I’d inexplicable experiences that The Church would define as “evil,” yet I knew were not. (I also found a copy of Richard Boulton’s A Compleat History of Witchcraft, Sorcery, and All Magical Performances &c. (1715). This was less generous.)
I had attended a parochial grammar school and would later attend a Jesuit university for my BA and MA; while there, I would also earn a degree in Religious Studies from the Pastoral Ministries Institute. It was high school, in the 1980s, however, that I hit my stride and started seriously studying Magic. One of the first books I ever purchased was this little silver book about Voodoo–though I have lost a good number of my oldest books, I still have this one. Living in Chicago, I had access to reading rooms and occult book stores–there was a favorite on Clark Street. I learned to talk to older Witches and learn from people as much as books.
I didn’t stumble onto Wicca until the early 1990s. (My first exposure was with Gardnerian Wicca, so when I hear folks talk about non-initiatory “Wicca,” I see it as an entirely different thing.) From 1991 until 2002, I studied the occult, world religions and spiritualities, Wicca (academically), Ceremonial Magic in various traditions, trance-oracular work, and various pantheistic traditions. This was a very practical training which took a scholarly form and yet was rooted in ritual, spiritual growth, just the right amount of pageantry and drama.
I was also part of a traditional coven in my last years in Chicago. This was far less academic and far more dramatic!
I had been given a firm foundation in a broad spectrum of Western traditions (and some Eastern and Middle-Eastern) as well as African diasporic traditions in terms of spirit contact before heading away from Chicago. It was in 2002 that I settled into a firmer understanding of Anglo-Saxon Heathenry when I began studying Old English as part of my doctoral studies in Alabama. Alone, without any Pagan associates, I picked up the books again and learned to blend my newfound appreciation for Heathen ethics with my old appreciation for Ceremonial Magic.
I focused on my secular studies for those six-years while squeaking out only the barest-of-essentials in a solitary’s practice: Sabbats and most Esbats. In 2008, I completed my doctoral degree and delved headlong back into serious near-daily practice. I dedicated myself to the work of a High Priestess and found that my world opened up. Not all of these openings were “good”–you can read about them in my old blog: The Bad Witch Files (2010-2012). After teaching Pagan studies informally for two years, I returned to Chicago, was elevated (formally) to High Priestess in the tradition in which I was trained, and started taking on (formal) students of my own.
The past four years have been the culmination of a life’s study. A long and tangled personal struggle lead to a complete familial loss and a profound spiritual awakening. It was when looking for a mentor of my own that I stumbled across a system of Teutonic Shamanism, so conversant with other cultures’ practices. In this, all of the pieces fit: my predilection for Heathen ethics, my penchant for Ceremonial Magic, and my aptitude for oracular work. Having spent the last year studying Seiðr and Völvaspæ, I am finally ready to take the next step of this journey.
Walk with me?
Angela Famer / Ehsha Apple