[Please welcome our newest international columnist, Jaime Gironés. Joining us from Mexico City, Gironés’ column will appear every three months and will explore the practice and experience of Paganism, Heathenry, and polytheism within Mexico. His columns will be published first in Spanish and then English. To learn more about Gironés, go to his bio page.]
Nice to meet you. Mucho gusto.
Pagans of the east, Pagans of the west, Pagans of the south, Pagans of the north, whoever hears our call, I greet you.
Although we have not been properly introduced, we already know each other. We honor the same nature, and she blesses us all. We float with the same air; we jump over the same fire; we flow in the same water, and we walk on the same earth.
Pagans practicing in Mexico know a lot about those outside our immediate community. We have read about your practices; we have learned from you; you have inspired us many times. And now I offer a little bit about our community and practices.
The Mexican Pagan community doesn’t know exactly how our existence developed. As you well understand, we are a diverse community where some consider themselves Wiccans, others prefer to call themselves Witches. Some call themselves Pagans, and many practice without naming their practices at all. We don’t know how many we are. I believe we are more than we thin, because many practice in the shadows, in silence, secrecy, and anonymity.
Some say the boom of the internet brought Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism into our lands; others say it helped us to remember, to create structure, and to connect with each other. Some say they were taught by teachers who were taught by famous international witches, while others prefer to say they learned from books and websites. Still others say they inherited their family traditions.
Nevertheless, the Mexican Pagan community has a story to tell; words and experiences to share. Allow me to make introductions. Take a seat and gather around; I will start with my own story.
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center report, 90% of Mexican adults say they were raised Catholic; I’m no exception. But I am lucky to have open-minded parents who have always respected and encouraged me to investigate other practices and beliefs. During my childhood, I explored a few paths until I came across with Gerina Dunwich’s book Exploring Spellcraft: How To Create and Cast Effective Spells. That purchase was the start of my witchy path.
Later on, I discovered other wonderful books, such as Starhawk’s Spiral Dance, and amazing websites, like Witch School, that taught me more about the “Old Religion.”
When I was 14 years old I finally found a teacher and coven, and was initiated. .
That coven eventually dissolved. You might find this situation familiar: covens emerging and covens breaking up. No matter where in the world a seed is planted — the American seed, the English seed, the Australian seed or the Mexican seed — the tree grows tall but sooner or later ends dying.
After leaving the coven, sadness and heartbreak led me into a ten-year solitary phase until I was able to leave the Hermit card behind. Thirty-nine moons ago, I was able to open up and socialize again within the Pagan community.
Since coming out again, I met Tarwe Hrossdottir, the National Coordinator for Pagan Federation International – Mexico. Hrossdottir’s first formal encounter with Paganism was through the internet, she told me.
When she found the English-written websites with information about Paganism, she felt love at first sight, finally being able to name what she had felt all her life. Then she started practicing until she performed a self-initiation. A while later, she started giving Paganism and spiritual classes, and has done so for 16 years now.
I asked Hrossdottir if she sees any differences between the people who start classes with her today and the people who studied with her 16 years ago. She says that she has seen lots of change. “People arrive with more information now. They usually have already studied holistic therapy, or they practice a divination method. In general, the people who take interest are much more mature, with a more serious idea of what Paganism is and that means we are doing things right, that we are not passing on a Hollywoodish-magical idea of fantasy.”
Hrossdottir also thinks we have a very balanced situation: “On one hand, there are veteran groups who started many years ago, and we already have a more professional infrastructure, with better materials, with a more solid profile. There also groups that arose as a result of these veteran groups and are now in a maturity process, living what that entails.
“There are two types of recent groups: some without much maturity and others that have appeared in a more serious environment, doing a great job, and we surely will soon see them leading,” she explains.
“On the other hand, most practitioners already know the basics, that helps when they are looking for better information and more serious groups, and to be more committed and really see this as a spiritual tradition and not a style.”
Hrossdottir also believes Paganism in Mexico is on the right track: “Egos have been calming down and many of us are ready to pass into a next phase.”
She adds that we have done great work that deserves to be heard and published by the international Pagan community: “Most of the English-speaking media are closed to publish in Spanish or even in English about Latin-American Paganism. In Latin America, and specially in Mexico, we have a very peculiar vision of Paganism, because we have a living indigenous reference, which somehow lets us feel differently [about] the wheel of the year, herbology and traditional magick.
“Today, the Mexican Pagan community has a great variety of active traditions that cover an array of lines like the Hermetic, the Shamanic, the Nordic, the Celtic, and many others.”
Unlike myself and Hrossdottir, Mina To-Tai inherited Witchcraft. To-Tai is a 39-year-old tattoo artist and Witch from the state of Chihuahua. When she was a girl, she spent much time with her great-grandmother and remembers choosing and smelling oils and herbs while staring into a tall goddess statue.
To-Tai said that she used to be told, “Ask her everything you need, because if you really wish it, she will give it to you.” When she was older and her great-grandmother had already passed away, she wanted to know more about her ancestor’s practices. To-Tai searched for answers in books and online, and soon found out her grandma’s beliefs had a name: Witchcraft.
Many years later, To-Tai had two children and, with her partner, began raising her children observing both of their parents beliefs: Catholicism and Witchcraft. When she walked on the streets, people used to stare at her many tattoos and sometimes even crossed themselves when they saw the tattooed crescent moon on her forehead. However those reactions were nothing compared to what was coming.
In 2014, after years of physical and psychological abuse, To-Tai ended her relationship. After the break up, To-Tai said that her family supported her partner and that they put her in a rehab center against her will, because she wasn’t the obedient, good wife they expected. They alleged that she consumed drugs and was a Witch, and was a poor example for her children.
As she recalls, she was there for 91 days, until the center’s personnel realized she was healthy and not crazy at all. Once out, she was without a home and without her belongings. Shortly after, she found out that she was being sued for the custody of her children. In one of the hearings, the judge asked her to prove she was a Witch. To-Tai answered she couldn’t give any proof. “Deny you are a Witch, and you could have your children with you today,” the judge insisted, but To-Tai refused to deny what she is.
Months later, To-Tai recanted that she met Cesar Ramsay, who had studied Wicca in the early 00s from a woman called Brida, who claimed to have studied with Sybil Leek. In 2003, Ramsay created the Sociedad Wicca Mexico organization with the goal to integrate, unite, link, and join forces between Wiccan and Pagan followers, solitary practitioners, study circles and covens in order to create an inclusive community.
The organization also gives legal advice and support, and that is how To-Tai was able to finally prove that she is a Witch. She gave the court a document signed by Ramsay explaining her beliefs and practices. The judge was surprised and said, “Oh! So you were telling the truth, you really are a Witch!”
Personally speaking, I’m not surprised by the judge’s reaction. Although we have the constitutional right to pursue the religious belief that best suits us, most of the people still don´t believe or don’t understand Witchcraft is a religion. Whenever there is mention of Wicca or Witchcraft in the media, which almost never happens, it is related to spells, divination or the Devil.
We live in a country where many people are scared of Witches. In some areas, specifically in the north, superstitions still exist such. Some believe that owls are Witches and, as a result, owls have been tortured, interrogated, and set into fire, in an attempt to get them to reveal their names and shift back into their human forms.
Of course, this doesn’t happen everywhere. In the central neighborhoods of Mexico City, for example, there is a different reaction to Witchcraft and Paganism. Isaura Avalos, aka Walkirya La Bruja, owns a Witchcraft-themed coffee shop in the La Roma neighborhood. She tells me that she has had little bad or unfriendly experiences: “Our neighbors are very kind people, and had been so since we arrived to La Roma to put our business.
“The only thing that has happened is that, in the beginning, the nuns that live nearby used to walk on the other side of the street, in order to avoid walking by the coffee shop. But now we even greet each other, and its been like this for a while.”
Avalos also says non-Pagan visitors are friendly too: “ [They] enter and want to know it all, they are thirsty of magic and answers about energy and about God. And we always take very seriously to welcome them into our world and letting them know we are normal people living extraordinary lives… With the passage of time what has changed is my perception, because little by little I’ve been losing the fear of being seen different or being pointed at. These five years of showing my face as a witch to the public have made me feel comfortable in society.”
We are not always feared or misunderstood, but we still have a lot of work to do fighting against ignorance and misunderstandings of our practices and beliefs with the light of wisdom and information. In addition to these challenges, we often don´t all get along with each other within our national Pagan community. I don’t expect us do so, but I do believe in a more united and friendly Mexican Pagan community, where people like Mina To-Tai do not feel alone and that their religious community supports them.
I also believe in a more united international Pagan community. During these hard times, when Mexicans have been called rapists and criminals, and with the unstable political climate full of racism and violence, it is a great time to open up and get to know each other better. Because we have more similarities than differences, because we share our struggles and worries, because we share our practices and beliefs.
Pagans of the east, Pagans of the west, Pagans of the south, Pagans of the north: whoever is reading or call, I greet you. Mexican Pagans may have a different history, but that story is related to yours.. Our books may be written in a different language, but the sounds read out loud from its words resonate the same frequencies. Just like you, we remember. Just like you, we believe. Just like you, we create.