Issue 5: Occult | 973 words
With Witch-in-Residence, we at Speculative City imagine a co-created speculative world based on real questions that we place in speculative spaces. Our Witch-in-Residence, through her working knowledge of the world and the magic within it, answers questions from beings who seek advice when they find themselves confronting difficult or confusing situations. Think of Dear Abby with a much more interesting fantasy twist.
Questions or letters for next month’s column are welcome! Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will map your question to our speculative world.
My girlfriend is a kitchen witch and wants to put a blood charm on me so that she can know where I am at all times. She says part of it is about reassurance; the blood charm would also let her know if I were in physical danger or had been harmed and needed her help—but mostly, it’s about convenience. She cooks a delicious and sometimes-elaborate dinner most nights (the benefits of dating a kitchen witch!) and wants to know when I’m on my way home from work so she can time dinner accordingly.
I believe there’s nothing nefarious about the blood charm; I really do think it’s for convenience, but it’s become a point of contention between us. Even though I’m not doing anything wrong and don’t have any intentions of doing anything wrong, it feels invasive. It feels like a weird thing to do. Who’s right here? Do I just need to give in?
Never Bitten, Still Hemomageίa-shy
I love letters like this.
I love them because I believe the issues at play are almost never what you think they’re about or present them as; at least, they’re not completely clear until you’ve done a lot of work on yourself and gotten reeaaallllyyy familiar with the stories you tell yourself and the things you want. (We’ll tackle whether the thing you want will make you happy in the next letter.)
The most important thing to tell you is that this is all very normal. Totally normal. It’s normal for her to want to know where you are, for both emotional and logistical reasons; and it’s normal for you to feel a little squigged out by being tracked by a blood charm. What you both want is totally reasonable and understandable, which is good news: You both get to be right. But you’re writing me, so let’s pull apart what’s happening for you.
There’s the inherent ickiness of “being tracked” (although, I’ll bet you give your location to multiple technological devices and corporations—more on that later). There’s also the extent to which this is an increase in intimacy and availability and, therefore, a change in the level of commitment in the relationship. Since you’re dating a kitchen witch, you probably have a healthy sense of how serious blood magic is! So, those are all understandable reasons for your hesitation. It’s okay that she has asked you for something, and it’s okay that you’re not sure you want to give it to her.
But like I said before, what you’re writing me about is not the thing it seems like it’s about. What this letter actually seems to be about is how you and your girlfriend should move forward with making decisions on deepening your commitment to each other and how you resolve conflict together. I deliberately use the word conflict not because this is a fight or a problem, but because all relationships have conflict in them, and good relationships have skillful ways to move through that conflict toward resolution. You have the ability to build this relationship in that direction! That’s actually kind of a gift.
So, what you need to do is talk to your girlfriend. The point of talking is not to convince her that you’re right and she’s wrong, or vice versa. Share your understandable concerns and hesitations with her and tell her that you want to work on a solution together so you can both get what you need. And here’s where I bring back technology: Take a test run of being tracked; use those tech gadgets you already have to more openly track you like a blood charm. Are you willing to text your girlfriend every evening when you leave work? Do you think you’re likely to follow through on that? (No judgment—I wouldn’t be able to. I’m terrible at texting.) Is she willing to try that for a week and reconvene?
When you talk to your girlfriend, you can say that you don’t know for sure where your discomfort is coming from and also that you want very much to find a resolution. Try to avoid falling into the trap of thinking you need to explain or articulate your feeling to your girlfriend for it to count. You get to have a feeling you can’t identify or explain. That feeling gets to be taken into account alongside any of your girlfriend’s feelings.
Have you thought about just using a GPS-based tracker app? That’s not blood magic, if that’s the line for you (again, no judgment—a LOT of people embrace fire magic and can’t stomach blood magic, and a lot of wielders of blood magic balk at chaos magic). Tell her you may need to take it slowly, which is a reasonable ask, and then offer possible solutions. Either way, schedule a follow up talk in a few days or a week. Practice using the muscle that is asking yourself and her if what you’re doing is working for you both. If not, adjust and check in again. The issue you’ve written me about is not just about magic—it’s a relationship issue and a communication issue. Ain’t life grand?
I’ll be cheering for you. You both seem thoughtful and caring. Plus, I’m a sucker for a kitchen witchy woman. Good luck!
Hilary Berwick is a writer, coder, researcher, and meditation practitioner from Brooklyn, Oakland, Texas, and some points in-between. When she’s not growing plants, reading books about Pagan rituals, or playing RPGs, she writes queer radical speculative fiction and loves on her bigheaded dog.