One of the lesser-known stories about my life is how magic and witchcraft seemed to have had a fascination with me. This is not something I have told many people about and it is anything but trivial. If you ask folks these days if they believe in magic, they will point you to popular culture and shows like Harry Potter or the Lord of the Rings. They might see it as a little bit of fun, or entertainment. For me, the experience thereof has been a little different.
Like a lot of people, I was introduced to the concept of magic in books. Authors like Enid Blyton, Roald Dahl, and J. R. R. Tolkien were the earliest writers of the fantasy genre I was exposed to. And yes, it was just a bit of fun. Things like sorcery and demons were vehicles to tell a story of fantastic beings, supernatural characters, and magical abilities. You may ask, how is this different from Marvel comic books and the like? The short answer would be, not very.
When I was 10 years old, I received a package in the mail. To this day, I do not know who sent it to me. It contained an illustrated book on witches and wizards as well as a pack of tarot cards. I was advised to get rid of the cards by someone who was a bit more familiar with all things spiritual, saying that they would lead to manifestations. I didn't fully understand this back then, but I complied as I had no reason to doubt their intentions. As a curious young boy, I paged through the book eagerly, trying to find out what exactly it was all about. And, so it began. Witchcraft is seductive. It prickles your interest. Why wouldn't it? Especially at an age where you are impressionable, and the idea that you can do things others can't would be irresistible.
My first experience of coming face-to-face with real-life witchcraft happened when I was 13 years old. At that point, I decided to spend a holiday in KwaZulu-Natal on a missionary station in the foothills of the area around Wartburg. A friend at the time had invited me to go and, seeing as I loved visiting new places and experiencing new things, I agreed. As one might expect, life on a missionary station involved a lot of prayer time, teaching from the Bible, and making new friends. However, one thing stood out for me: an incessant thumping noise emanating from the surrounding hills that started at sundown and would carry on until sunrise the next morning. For the two weeks that we spent at KwaSizabanthu, it was something that never ended, not even for one night. When I asked what this noise was, I was told that it was the drumbeats of local witch doctors casting spells against the people at the mission station. It was witchcraft in practice.
There is real evil in this world. For someone to deny this is not only ignorant, it is dangerous. After that experience, I set about learning as much as I could about this thing that I thought was purely from the pages of fiction. Palmistry. Divination. White magic. And, of course, black magic. They exist in virtually every culture on earth. From southern Africa to the Caribbean, from West Africa to Asia, you will find versions in them all. They are not just the figments of people's imaginations. I discovered this in a very tangible way in my first year at Stellenbosch University. It was then that I was invited to join a Wicca coven.
Of course, I declined this witches invitation, but yet again, I was made starkly aware of how common the practice of witchcraft is in our society. We may no longer burn witches at the stake at the behest of an overzealous church, but now, due to an all-inclusive constitution in South Africa, we have, perhaps unknowingly, encouraged these practices as something which is now protected, even celebrated. Any mention of witchcraft in a negative way is called "being in a moral crisis", as if, somehow, being aware of the wolf at the door is now, somehow, a figment of one's collective imagination as a society.
Yes, the church is very much to blame for this as they have, in the past, used witchcraft as a tool to stoke fear and as a vehicle for political manoeuvring, but this is by no means a reason to believe that it is made up or that the spiritual realm is any less real. Witchcraft exists in a very real way, and in our day and age, it is practiced by very real people.
You might point to the writing of Arthur Miller as he writes his indictment about the Salem witch trials in his book, the Crucible. You might say that it is exactly because of the mania surrounding aspersions of witchcraft in history that we should somehow turn a blind eye for the sake of not repeating the mistakes that came before. And yes, there are many examples. Between the 15th – 18th centuries, there were many "witchhunts" across Europe and North America which saw almost 400,000 people, predominantly women, executed. We will probably never know how many of these actually practiced witchcraft and how many of these were politically motivated purges of people deemed inconvenient.
Without going into too much detail here (no, I did not write this to be a "how-to") I will say this: if you were to Google the word "Thelema" or research the life of Aleister Crowley, you will realize that not only have there been those who dedicated their lives to the practice of witchcraft, but that those people also recognized the power behind it, that is to say, the power of Satan.
Let me be clear. I love reading fantasy novels. I love watching fantasy movies. But, I am well aware that for those without a certain level of maturity, a certain level of awareness, to do so would be asking for trouble. People often ask me how it is that I have such a fierce faith in God, how I believe in Him so completely. The truth is, I have seen the other side of the coin. I am well aware that He is all that stands between me and a very real Devil. For that reason alone I would turn to him in all things. I have many reasons to love my creator, but Him being my protector is a good place to start.