I have never been in a church. Well, it depends on how you define ‘church’ but I never knew who my parents were and so nobody has been influencing me to any kind of religion. Here in the orphanage, we can’t be forced to go to weekly mass or worship or whatever they call it these days. Stella, our stand in mother, insists that I’m just filling up with angst, being a teenager and all. I think otherwise. I lack enthusiasm in praying to the unknown because I just don’t feel it and I don’t believe in what their preachers are teaching. Stella’s like my mother, if I had the privilege of knowing her. She’s talkative, infinitely concerned but somehow distant from me. Its not that she doesn’t genuinely care, maybe it’s because she does not truly understand.One Sunday afternoon, Stella pleaded with me to accompany them to the Roman Catholic Church three blocks away from the orphanage (Ruth! Please be bearable today. I’m having a bad headache. Dress up and hurry!). By then, I was tired of her nagging me about church and god. Having nothing better to do, I collected my notebook and jumped from the bed to fall in line behind the other children Stella took care of.Having no prior encounters with a church, I found it pleasantly well-decorated. Aside from the vintage and almost tacky decorations of gold and lace, it had a very comfortable and inviting charm to it.During the mass, the people kept sitting up and sanding down, breathing deeply in between intervals of saying prayers and singing praise songs. I excused myself as quietly as I could and wandered around the building. A narrow corridor led me to a dimly lit room, mostly by some strong incense and burning red candles positioned in endless rows of iron. There was a donation box beside the pile of candles and scrambling for some change, I grabbed a candle and dropped the few coins I was able to bring.I love fire for some reason or another. I like the way it lights up a room, a face or even the dark starry night. I lit my candle and stared into the flame, almost forgetting that I should be arranging it to be beside the other candles. It was a hand that broke my concentration. He brushed my hand while reaching for the solidified wax, which were once candles, building up in the iron rows of the small room. He looked straight at me as he plucked the wax from the iron and stuffed it in a brown paper bag. I looked back. I think I was almost ogling him. He had mysterious eyes, I felt like I was being put under a spell. He smiled and I suddenly looked away.III saw him again while I was walking toward the convenience store. His face lit up like he knows me and took my hand so gently that I was wondering whether he was actually touching it. I knew it was dangerous to talk to strangers more so going somewhere with really strange strangers but my judgment was not keen or not working at all. There was something about him that was calming, familiar, and even family.He led me to a small store with a beautifully carved wooden door, simple but intricate. The store was, like at the church, lit up with incense and red candles. The lights of the fire danced eerily around the room; shadows playing on the bottles of plants and animal parts and gleaming against the hard covers of the tattered books scattered around the store’s shelves. The boy let go of my hand and whispered ‘You were brought here through serendipity’.A voice rang out from the back of the room near the counter. An old woman with soft features waved her hand as if to dismiss the boy and voiced out an apology for him (‘Neil’s weird but not usually that weird’). He was apparently, her son.She ushered me into the small room behind the counter and gently set down a cup of hot tea and some cinnamon biscuits. I became a bit flustered with what had just happened. I slowly munched on the biscuit as the old lady continued on talking. She paused her chattering for a while to introduce herself. She said she was Madame Mardible.After telling me about her herb garden and how it was so hard to be moving from one city to another, I noticed rows of books on the topic of Magick sitting in her shelves. I asked her about the extra ‘k’ after the word ‘magic’. She smiled and began to talk softly and more seriously unlike her giddy self a few moments ago. She started to tell me about the power of their goddess. Listening to her, I expected to be freaked out by all the unusual things she was discussing but my curiosity got the better of me.Madame Mardible explained that witchcraft has its spiritual roots in the tribal religions of Europe some 10,000 years ago. The old Europeans, she said, originally worshipped the “Great Goddess”, as divine giver of life and fertility. Their religion provided tools to establish bonds between individuals, the community and the earth. The religion was goddess-centered and so society developed as woman-centered and organized around the mother and her kin as a basic social principle.Neil sat down beside me, startling me since I did not hear him coming in. He said that ‘magic’ with a ‘c’ is for magicians, parlor tricks that amuse the simple minded, ‘magick’ with a ‘ck’ is the real deal. The way he looked at me as he said those words sent a shiver down my spine.I got my notebook and thanked them. My feet were aching to leave the store.IIISomehow, I kept on planning my daily route walking past Madame Mardible’s store. I still smelt the heady scent of incense and the freshly cooked cinnamon biscuits. I didn’t notice that I was standing in front of the door with my eyes close until I heard Neil whisper: ‘See, serendipity’. I opened my eyes and stared at the floor, embarrassed at how I must have appeared to him. He smiled and apologized. Neil said that he did not mean to scare me off a couple of days ago, it was just that, he said, he felt a strong connection and he was testing me if I felt it too.I admitted that I was enamored with the idea of ‘magick’. He led me inside the store and I leaned against the bookshelf. He started to explain to me that the goddess protected the animals as well as the humans. Every piece of nature was considered as something sacred and such, was respected immensely. Nowadays, he continues, his voice gaining a tinge of disappointment, the religions are focused on the afterlife and themselves. The people are focused on helping the poor, the sick, and the defenseless (both humans, animals and plants alike) through big projects without questioning their own lifestyle and their own set of values.I let him brood in his thoughts for a while.IVBy now, Stella was worried about my choice in friends. She heard that I was hanging out with people who did magic and she asked me if I was a follower of Satan. I laughed and told her that I still had no religion, yet. But I kept the last part to myself.I went to the store and looked for Neil. We sat down and started out usual debate of paganism in the current times. He insists that a lot of ‘posers’ wearing inappropriate gear such as inverted pentagrams ruin the image of pagans and thus ruining the small chance of having an accepted widespread lifestyle of Wicca. I countered him by saying that those ‘posers’ would eventually be the pioneers of the new age Wicca. It’s a learning process, I insisted. Pentagrams, he argued are signs of the devil for the people in the olden times and nowadays, that symbol reminds people of the devil as well. The ‘posers’ I defend, he continues, use these inverted pentagrams and desecrate the sanctity of Wicca.I agree with him that it is unusual for Wiccans to wear the inverted pentagram. The pentagram, or five-pointed star, has long been a symbol used by various people who practice ritual magic. When the star is inverted in a Wiccan ritual, it may be used in the ceremonial invocation of a non-Satanic deity that Wiccans call the horned god, the son of the goddess.Wicca was a part of me now, it may be that I have not yet fully accepted it yet but I still use the teachings I learn from it and apply it to my life. Neil says that I was meant to turn. He keeps insisting on the serendipity of our fates.VI have embraced Wicca as my own. I now understand Neil’s fierce intent on showing me the connectedness of the situations that happen everyday. I learned from Madame Mardible’s teachings that Magical energy flows between each living thing like osmosis, linking everything in a cosmic dance, an encompassing totality of forces both benign and malevolent.For us, those who have truly understood the importance of valuing each and every rock and tree and creature in this earth, the unknown world is an enchanting realm that is hidden from the everyday world, especially those who are entrenched in the glimmer of the rat race and its false belief systems.