“I stood staring at the bath, then she told me to get naked and get in it, so I did.”
If I hadn’t already wondered if this meetup I chose to attend was a bit on the weird side, this guy’s story convinced me.
What meetup? Well, let me tell you!
When I first moved to Victoria, I knew one person who lived in the vicinity and had just made some new friends with my coworkers at my new job. I have a pretty diverse range of interests (who doesn’t?), and I wanted to build a larger social network around them, so I could have touchpoints everywhere. My solution? I joined meetup.com, a resource that lets you find local groups based on your interests to meet like-minded people.
I was off to see the wizard
The closest upcoming meeting that piqued my interest was for a witchcraft group. I had an idea in mind about how this group would look; I imagined people my own age who were maybe dressed like Stevie Nicks, or like Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire, so I signed up. I’m always full of realistic expectations.
The meetup was going to be held at a fairly public coffee shop, and I made the decision to, at the very least, walk by and see what the group looked like. If everything looked okay, I’d go in. I’m not sure what wouldn’t be okay, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination.
Peeking through the window a few minutes before the event was set to start, I saw a group of four people whose ages ranged from 45 to 90 years old. They seemed harmless, so I took a deep breath and went inside.
I wandered in and acted like I owned the place (a new tactic I’ve taken to pull myself out of any social anxiety I might feel – act like you’re way more comfortable than you are and then others assume you are fine and don’t feel additional pressure to try to include you), smiled at everyone and asked if they were part of the witchcraft meet up. They all smiled, welcomed me and invited me to sit down and join them. I grabbed a tea and settled in to make some new friends.
The facilitator of the group was a woman in her early 40s, curly brown hair, warm smile, the type of person you immediately feel comfortable around. She started the conversation by asking us what drew us to the group and what our experience was with witchcraft.
We went around the room, beginning with a woman beside me who reminded me a lot of Katey Sagal as Gemma in Sons of Anarchy (I was immediately inclined to like her), and then to a white-haired woman whose age I couldn’t guess. Both of them had standard answers (as standard as you can get for discussions around magic), describing how they got involved, and created rituals for themselves that included meditation and interests in energy practices like Reiki. Next, the facilitator moved to a man who looked to be in his late 80s or early 90s.
Let the good times roll
He shared his story about discovering witchcraft in England, in the late 50s, at a time when it was still considered underground and people didn’t really talk about it. It was difficult to find any covens, and then harder still to be involved with them. He managed to do so, meeting a man around his same age at the time who said he would help him get connected.
It started with an initiation, which involved being picked up in the dead of night by a car full of men. They drove him to a house in an unfamiliar part of town and dropped him off, telling him to go to the door. He was left alone there, so he went up to the house and knocked on the door, which was answered by a woman wearing an ankle-length robe. She led him towards a bathroom where she directed him to take off his clothes and get in the bath.
As an aside, he mentioned that a bath in the 50s, with the way plumbing was behind the times in England, were usually a “fill up the tub once” type of affair, and that other people had already bathed in this particular bath during the course of the day.
After the bath, he was given a robe to put on, then was blindfolded and led into the basement.
At this point in the story, the woman facilitating the group stopped him and continued to ask the group why they were interested in joining. The only person who hadn’t responded yet, was me.
After this story, the reason why I was there seemed quite…lame in comparison. I responded, “I’ve always been interested in tarot, crystals, divination and magic and am new to town. I thought it would be good to connect with others with similar interests.”
No blindfolded, shared bathtub experiences for me.
I stayed for a bit longer, enough to hear the Katey Sagal lookalike next to me say in annoyance, “Men are stupid. If they weren’t, they would be here to meet women like us.”
Not willing to go into some weird male-bashing conversation, I chose this moment to say goodbye.
Although it was interesting tale-telling fodder at work the next week, I chose to not go to any more meetups with that group.