I Was a Witch
But all my occult practices never brought me peace.
by Kimberly Shumate
Witchcraft, telepathy, levitation, spirit channeling, ESP, and a host of other
paranormal activities were all I knew from early childhood. While we attended
church every Sunday and called ourselves Christians, my parents started espousing
Hindu beliefs and New Age philosophies. Soon, choir camp was replaced with
psychic camp, and séances, Ouija boards, crystals, and pendulums became the
norm in our home. Every night around the dinner table, we discussed topics such
as ghosts, poltergeists, and contact from the beyond. Yet as strange as it sounds,
we still considered ourselves to be Christian.
Then, when I was 17, my mother's slow, agonizing battle with cancer ended. The
void within me was too great to fill, so I found solace in my anger. To anesthetize
my pain over my mom's death, I turned to black magic, voodoo, hexes, and
curses. Since my future seemed so uncertain, I began reading Tarot cards to tell
my fortune. I even took on a new appearance—I cut and dyed my light brown curls
jet black. I wore white makeup, black lipstick, and black clothes. Eight holes pierced
my ear—my new trademark.
My behavior changed as well. I quit high school and started hanging out downtown
with all the other misfits and vagabonds. One of my best friends was a warlock
named Stephen. Witchcraft became my haven, my identity, my lifestyle. Although
my dad and I were close, he was too caught up in his grief to seem to notice the
poor choices I was making. He later told me he was sorry he hadn't been more of
an emotional support for me during the time my life started taking its downward
I considered myself a spiritual person. While I believed God is the Creator of all
things and that Jesus Christ is his son, one important element was missing:
reverence. I had no fear of God, no sense of accountability or responsibility to him.
In my mind, hell didn't exist, which alleviated the consequences of evil.
As the years went by, I barely scraped out a living as a manicurist. I moved from
place to place—Atlanta, Seattle, and finally Hollywood when I was 26 years old.
With no money, no car, and no telephone, life was hard. The tiny room I rented on
the Boulevard was hot and cockroach-infested. I stepped over used syringes and
condoms each morning on my way to the bus stop. I didn't fill my father in on all
these details because I didn't want him to worry. I persisted in romanticizing this
colorful and sometimes dangerous lifestyle, but it was taking its toll.
Suffering from severe anorexia, my 93pound, 5-foot-5-inch frame had its share of
health issues. And with a weekly budget of fifty dollars, as the years passed, I
wondered why the Universe wasn't taking better care of me. Surely the answer lay
within the supernatural sphere of my mother's crystal ball, which my father gave
me right after she died. Though it was quite large and expensive, the thought of
selling it never crossed my mind, as it would inevitably become a family heirloom.
Still, whenever I gazed into it, I received no word from the beyond. I sank deeper
into poverty, and my health problems progressed.
A stark contrast to my growing misery was Joyce, a woman who frequented the
salon where I worked. Her deep, sincere joy baffled me. I was in turmoil
emotionally and physically, and unfulfilled spiritually. I wondered what Joyce had
found that I'd overlooked. She didn't shove her Christian beliefs down my throat,
but planted a seed by saying, "You need to come to my church."
I remember the first time I took her up on that offer. The service was held in the
auditorium of a junior high school. I'd never seen people like those in attendance
that morning—hands raised, singing, smiling. It was too much for me to take, so I
left and didn't return for several months.
In the interim, I tried everything I'd missed the prior 29 years of searching, until
there was nothing left to try. The Buddhists and the Hindus didn't offer the joy and
peace I glimpsed in the people at Joyce's church. I didn't find the answers I sought
in the psychic who "conversed" with angels, in the book A Course in Miracles, or with
the Christian Scientists. The only thing I hadn't given a real try was found in that
little church in the junior high. So, somewhat self-consciously and most
unenthusiastically, I went back to find out more.
As I sat down, I silently shot up a desperate prayer: God, please give me someone
in this crazy crowd I can relate to. If you don't give me someone, I'm walking out
of here. At that moment, the pastor told the congregation to stand up and shake a
few hands. I introduced myself to Lisa, whose dyed-red hair and nose ring
suggested we might be at a similar place. My black-and-white hair and spiked belt
told her the same. Lisa, a fellow spiritual seeker, and I became fast friends.
Looking back, I wonder how the church members stood having me in their midst
for so long. I was angry and exasperated as I sat listening to their "good news."
How could there be only one way to God? At the end of each message, I marched
down the aisle to the pastor and began firing off an onslaught of questions. After
three or four weeks of verbal sparing, he humbly offered the associate pastor's
ear. I made my rounds from one elder to another, finally ending up at a Friday
night Bible study looking for answers.
As I sat on the floor in the leader's living room, I felt a peace amidst this group of
people who seemed to care about each other. After the study, Lisa sat beside me
as Scott, the leader, patiently listened to my New-Age arguments. But one by one,
the Scriptures I'd carefully prepared to punch holes in the gospel came back at me
with hurricane force. Scott's words—but especially the Bible's words—confounded
my cosmic view. After we'd sat there for an hour debating, I was exhausted. My
hardened heart and argumentative nature finally had enough.
As Lisa drove me home, my mind ached as I replayed Scott's words. All the Old
Testament and New T