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On My Teenaged Obsession With The Occult, Hanson & Having Crazy Parents

Alison Scarpulla

Alison Scarpulla

When I was very, very young—maybe 14—my best friend Lilian* and I did magic spells in her basement.


We were shopping at the mall when I came across a copy of either Drawing Down The Moon or Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch: Wicca For  A New Generation (lol).  I had grown up watching horror movies and felt intrinsically separated from most kids, so I was also drawn to fringe interests, like magic, while other girls my age were playing in the pool.  Note: I’m depicting the very cliched version of myself on purpose.


Thank the 90s: Silver Ravenwolf's Teen Witch guide for wannabe witches

Thank the 90s: Silver Ravenwolf’s Teen Witch guide for wannabe witches

My friend and I had often played games like Bloody Mary and Light As A Feather, Stiff As A Board and we’d both owned Ouija Boards. In general, we preferred spooks to boys and spent late nights summoning ghosts, our hair in long braids accented with dandelions.  One summer, we made a few short horror films on VHS tapes—hour-long nightmares documenting our unhealthy, twisted and obviously unsupervised teenaged lives.

In one I played a possessed, lingerie-clad Russian ghost hunter named Anastasia. In another, we’d parodied The Blaire Witch Project and called it The Laundry Witch (it was fucking retarded about haunted clothing ). In another, we were alien-researching scientists going through some sort of horrific battle–complete with Rammstein’s Dildos-and-Nuns-on-Fire music on in the background.

When not making cinema we went to the local library and sat in the aisles reading all about the occult. We had no real understanding of what separated Wiccans from Druids, for example, but we knew we had some interest in trying to be part of the magic.

I had fallen in love with the idea of casting my will out into the universe, even though I grew up Atheist. I also rented massive, hard-cover picture books about Satanism and relished in the photos of nude, 1970’s worshipers. Despite its major differences to the Wiccan magic I’d been reading about, I even felt some sort of misunderstood pull to the gluttony and sexuality.  I found it glamorous and foreign.

Lilian and I took to the 99 cent store for colored candles (green for money, pink for love), brought leaves in from outside and cast a sacred circle with all of the elements: table salt, pebbles, a fancy crystal bowl of water and flame. We made laurels and took purification baths. We captured the moon as it fell into pond water and bottled it with perfume. We divined secrets and wisdom from tea leaves and we picked new friends according to their astrological signs. We had devised our own eclectic, obsessive magical organization. It was secret and ours and powerful.

All of this seemed exhilarating and natural, even though I had attended Catholic school as a young child. My parents had me pulled me out of the public system—probably due to money, but perhaps because I had proclaimed that if Jesus couldn’t be seen, well, then how can we know he’s there at all? And are you sure God’s not a girl? I didn’t know it then but I was a tiny feminist who had adopted the scientific method.

Looking back, my interest in the occult coincided with my earliest era of real (non-romantic) heartbreak. Lilian and I both came from seriously dysfunctional families, and I think that is what drove us to find some sort of alternate power. We just needed something to help me get through.

My parents were, for all intents and purposes, broken entities. My mother had become addicted to drugs, and my father was long gone, stolen by drug abuse and selfishness and a listless, lost-ness that I now can understand because he is my blood, and I am like him at my worst. To this day I make exceptions for him and my mother; it is a sign of codependency that made its early appearances in the Sacred Circle.

My thoughts: If people don’t love me like I love them, there’s a spell for that.

 

I would stay awake at night, wondering where my parents had gone. I watched for my mother out the window. was abandoned in a real way. Young girls can’t help but wonder what happened: What have we done to make you disappear? Why isn’t the world as beautiful we see it in our heads?
Alison Scapulla

Alison Scapulla

Many teenage girls lives in a dreamland all their own. When young girls are born with some sort of artistic ability or ethereal nature or a void in the shape of parent or a mentor, these alternative worlds become all that they know and all that they are.

I spent years (and still do) running away to a place in my head that is all white linen and horses and things that can never hurt you and people that will always love you.

So when we needed to escape the reality, we would cast spells. I was always a little bossy during spell-casting sessions: I wanted to be very much so in charge of it. No giggling. No getting up. No talking. I wanted to really focus. Look into the flame. Sprinkle salt. Be fucking serious. Intention. Will. I didn’t understand the true nature of magic then, but what I did derive from it was that it could give me the power to visualize and call out for what I needed the most in those years.
It was unhealthy and strange; I sat there like an old Shaman, quiet and intent as if I had ages of wisdom behind my stare.  I felt much older than I really was, but my heart and its desires were as childish as my body.

One night we did a love spell. I had been missing my father—he was in and out of jail, and I was just fascinated with him—the vanishing act of him, the quiet absence, the grief.  My father was an insanely gifted musician—and I had known that and always admired it, and so I began to see my father in the boys I liked.

I was in love with the band Hanson (obviously not something that I am proud of). I loved their long blonde hair and their musical ability and the fact that every other girl on earth was screaming for them. I wanted them. I wanted them badly. I wanted a boy just like those boys. It wasn’t sexual; rather, it was something much more fluid and surreal. They were aesthetic representatives; they were teenage Kings. And I was blossoming into the hungry thing I am today, only I didn’t know that yet. I just wanted to be loved. I wanted to find what was missing.

Alison Scapulla

Alison Scapulla

The truth its that when you leave a child home alone enough, they will derive a sense of love from fantasy.

I wish I hadn’t cast spells for boys; I wish I hadn’t trained my brain to see boys as problem solvers, someone who would patch up the bloodied spot where my family once was.

Many teenage girls linger in the state that exists between imagination and reality, but some of us have stayed there as adults, siphoning off the acceptance and warmth that our mental projections offer.There they were: our dreamscape creatures, sitting on a thrown singing, “summon me and I will make you whole.”The problem is that, as teenage dreamers, we fantasize about perfect realities and we exert so much energy into creating the ideal of whatever we want. Some of us have made it so that wanting what is not good for us has made it into our muscle memory and we’re left pining and projecting and willing things and people that aren’t real and won’t make us whole.

For me, I summoned my powers of imagination; I made my losses into spells for silly boy bands like Hanson. It was an early, broken and more theatrical incarnation of creative visualization. What I really needed was to take a purification bath and say, “I don’t need anyone to fill my voids,” but who learns that lesson easily? Who can turn heartbreak into self-love?
Here’s where it gets absurd. I told the universe that I wanted a long haired, blonde musician boy. Taylor preferably. Even “the ugly one,” Isaac. I focused so much of my energy on that band, and where normal teenage girls had a giddy crush, my feelings morphed into some sort of Scorpionic obsession:
Not a year later I met Julian, my boyfriend—an older guy who played in a band and had long blonde hair. That did it! I knew it! I had willed him into existence! I had earned some sort of Universal Power!Um….No.

It took me years to realize that what I had really done was follow ideas and aesthetics that seemed to comfort me. He had loved me deeply, but I had used him.
Perhaps the only magic here was that, for some years, someone had cared for me. The Universe was kind in that way, surely. He had been there while I moved from home to home, attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings and watching my mother unravel. Instead of bringing me just a dude in a band, it gave me the hope that Good existed. The only power we really need is the power to believe that if we are good, we will attract it too—and that’s a ritual on its own, isn’t it?I realized that being young and lonely was a terrible state, but that it had given me my imagination and my ability to dream potently. It also gave me a resiliency that left me stronger.

LOL: My Teenage Self

LOL: My Teenage Self

To this day I still love ritual and I still want things terribly and I still cannot control my wild visions, but I know it is all rooted in science and fact and logic.

The brain is an organ that learns its sorrows and comforts.

As a teenage girl you think, Why do you have to break my heart, mother? Why do you have to leave me, father? Why does it hurt so much just to be alive? 

These questions are grandiose and epic and, at times, melodramatic, but these are the questions that meld us—for, without which, how could we attain a state of enlightenment?
And more so, without ritual, be it real or imagined or simply fun, how do we allow ourselves to go to the place inside our heads where reality can’t get in? You can smoke cigarettes. You can drink. You can get married and have babies and get raises.
Or you can just dream. Sometimes that’s OK. Sometimes we learn from our strong feelings things we hadn’t expected to learn at all.
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11 thoughts on “On My Teenaged Obsession With The Occult, Hanson & Having Crazy Parents

  1. Pingback: A LETTER: SupportLUNA LUNA: We’re Fundraising, Friends |

  2. Can I just say how much I LOVED the movie Teen Witch? Not exactly the same thing, but better than Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

  3. I absolutely love this, LMB. More for the message, than the spells and pictures, though I obviously love those as well. Also, the picture of you as a teen-goth…is amazing.

  4. Beautiful. “I spent years (and still do) running away to a place in my head that is all white linen and horses and things that can never hurt you and people that will always love you.”

  5. Lisa, i love this article, definitely remember that period of my life. It’s interesting – I think a lot of girls have a similar experience of fascination with the occult. I wonder if its more deeply tied to the experience of puberty and finding oneself (physically) in tune with the cycles of the moon. And if that creates some of that longing for connection with nature and ritual, and therefore that draw to the occult where we can move forces of nature through our will. And that boy obsession I also wonder if it is something about the oppression of the feminine, which we learn from such a young age causes those feelings of brokenness or a sense of not being whole and hoping that some ideal male can liberate us from this, can complete us and validate us via the mail gaze.

  6. This may make me seem crazy but this makes complete sense. I don’t know you all that well in your adult life but this Lisa, this is the one that I knew. It definitely gives me a better understanding of you and the friendship that we had way back when.

    • It’s super validating to here you say that for some reason. I was a strange kid, but there were reasons. I feel way happier about it than one would think, though. I am so glad we’re in touch!

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