As a kid I was terrified of -and obsessed with- witches. I don’t know where the obsessive fear came from. But I was convinced witches were laying in wait under my bed, lurking in the attic, hiding in the tool cabinet in the garage, and worst of all, behind the shower curtain in my bathroom. I have vivid memories of my bathroom ritual: reaching my hand around the corner to turn the light on from the safety of the hallway, then running in quickly and throwing the shower curtain back, expecting each and every time to find an evil, green woman with a big nose waiting for me. I’m not real clear on what she would have done with me she got me, but I sure didn’t want to find out.
Fictional witches were just as scary. To this day I’ve never watched The Wizard of Or made it through the dreadful ride at Walt Disney World. I close my eyes -a lot- in Harry Potter movies. I couldn’t watch The Lord of the Rings. I’m sensitive to occult themes in movies that seem to me to sneak elements in, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or the Princess and the Frog. Weird, I know, but my intuition just goes crazy if I feel like there’s dark spiritual overtones and wasn’t suspecting them.
When I was around 10 I started to realize I was highly intuitive. I would think of someone, then they’d call. I was a great test-taker, but only if I stuck with my gut instinct and didn’t second-guess myself. I’d have a song randomly in my head, walk into a store, and it would be on the radio. I became convinced I had ESP. I thought I was a witch.
I asked my dad about it, and he told me, joking I’m sure, that witchcraft ran in the family. “That starburst pattern on your eyes? It’s called a witches star. Our ancestors were kicked out of Ireland for being witches.” Talk about your worst nightmare.
When I became a Christian I grew deeply convicted about my intuition. I felt like the passages in Bible about sorcery and witchcraft were aimed right at me. I prayed often and fervently to be delivered of the spirit of witchcraft. It never happened.
When I went to summer camp at an uber-Charismatic “Jesus-Camp”esque residential camp in North Carolina. There I was introduced to the gift of prophecy in the form of “words of knowledge” and “words of wisdom.” The way it was explained to me, “words of wisdom” were prophetic words given when a believer had a sudden burst of insight or knowledge in a situation, often regarding what to do, how to act, or what “God” would want in that particular situation. “Words of knowledge” were prophetic words given to a person that would reveal insight about a particular person, for instance, that someone was sick, had a check on the way, would soon conceive a child, etc. My penchant towards witchcraft suddenly had a God-spin on it. I had the gift of prophecy.
I was so relieved.
More than just relieved, though, I was emboldened to proclaim and declare all manner of things I intuitively sensed – in Jesus’ name, of course. Most often, “God” gave me knowledge about what people were struggling with, what they were trying most desperately to hide, what kept them up at night. I quickly learned this is a pretty handy skill when you are in youth ministry.
What started as a good intentioned “spiritual gift” eventually took a turn for the sinister. I would meet people and harden my heart about them based on what “God” showed me prophetically. I would intuitively know if men were struggling with lust, if women were struggling with self-esteem, and use this “prophecy” to “speak into their lives” what I thought “God” was telling me to say. Most of the time it was standard issue Charismatic prophecy, but occasionally things got downright spooky, like when “God” would tell me to lay hands on someone and cast out demons. Yes, this really happened. Multiple times. (At least I thought it did.)
The night that turned all of this around for me was one night when I was in college, and back at my hometown youth church as a guest minister. I was at the front of the room, mic in hand, encouraging a room full of high school kids to follow God’s will for their lives, while no less than 24 hours previously I had engaged in all sorts of craziness. There was a young girl “God” told me to speak to about the fact that she was having pre-marital sex. I laid hands and prophesied over her, all the while knowing I was guilty of the same exact sin.
After that, like Zechariah, God silenced me.
I didn’t have a prophetic word of knowledge for years.
The intuition, though, continued. Disgusted with the immaturity and, let’s be honest, abusive way I had “used” prophecy, I became hesitant to invoke God’s name about ANY proclivities or inclinations. I began to dive into a little bit of research about intuition and Wisdom, which led me to connecting more to the earth, which led me to herbalism, which led me to Susun Weed. A self-proclaimed Wise Woman. Well, I saw through that B.S.: She was a witch!
Still just this side of a fundamentalist, I now had a big dilemma. I had a very conservative Christian worldview. Yet my soul was now full with a desire to connect to God’s creation, to bodies, to the wisdom and knowledge our bodies know intuitively. And while Susun Weed is the extreme example, it seemed like everywhere I turned on the path to natural medicine, there were witches behind the shower curtain.
I began to believe that there wasn’t room for my passion for herbs and natural healing within the tradition of Christianity (much like many conservatives still believe there isn’t room for environmental concerns). I felt like I was walking a fine line between following my intuition and obeying God. And then, God spoke.
From the Essential Book of Herbal Medicine:
“The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth; and he that is wise will not abhor them.” Ecclesiasticus 38:4
Sure, it is from an apocryphal book, but I decided if it was good enough for the Catholics it was good enough for me. And I felt God – really God – tell me that natural health and healing was a gift. A gift for me, a gift for others. I began to see my intuition in this way, too. Not as a tool to judge others and harden my heart, but a way to connect, to love.
Its taken a few years since then for me to ease into thinking of myself as a Wise Woman, which for me is not about what I “know,” but exploring and looking for life and wisdom where God leads me. While I’ve grown accustomed to my intuition, and at 34 now trust it almost implicitly, I am reluctant to call this prophecy and reluctant to share my knowledge with others, preferring the way of Mary, a wise woman who hid things in her heart. I’m still learning about God’s earth and the medicine God has given us in sunshine, water, air, dirt, leaves, berries, and seeds. I’m learning what it means to be a woman, especially a woman without kids. And I’m definitely still learning about the ways of God, the source of all true wisdom.
Angela is partner to Matt, foster mom to O and J, Truth-chaser, and education addict. She loves to play with words, workflow rules, herbs, and dirt. Angela lives in rural Illinois, where her family is part of an intentional Christian community. When she gets up the gumption, Angela blogs over at Leaping Greenly and hatch*.