Last week I was fascinated with the sweet young witch, Kiki, from Studio Ghibli’s animated film “Kiki’s Delivery Service,” so this week we’ll look a little closer to home to learn about more witches.

As spooky season slowly approaches its end, I want to tell you about our local witches — the real ones.

Before researching Lafayette’s alternative spiritual practices, I had preconceptions about modern day “witches.” I use quotations because I use this word as a broad term to describe more than just people who practice witchcraft.

My interest with these spiritualities branches out further than your typical idea of witchcraft and into other alternative practices like Wicca, Paganism and so on.

I was raised in a conservative Hispanic Christian home, so growing up, I was told witches, warlocks and magic were of the devil. I also wasn’t allowed to wear skulls or cut my hair short for similar reasons.

My mom’s prejudice against witchcraft is exactly why I’m writing about those who practice it (or practice a similar form of spirituality). There are many people, other than just my mom, who hold preconceived judgments against what they don’t know or understand.

I want to share with you the truth about alternative spiritualities and open your mind to the possibility that the practices and rituals of other people are as justified, or as important as anyone else’s.

Thing is, growing up I always questioned the truth in my mom saying that these mystical things were satanic, and I’m glad I did because I realized that’s not what witches — and their practices — are about.

Jarred Breaux graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette with a B.A. in history and religious studies and is now vice president of the Acadiana Spiritual Association, so, for him, religion is a great passion.

Breaux and the Acadiana Spiritual Association are dedicated to educating people about faith and helping correct the prejudice against religion and spirituality.

“Our group is about raising awareness of peaceful alternative faiths for people not to fear them,” Breaux wrote in a message. “Ignorance and misunderstanding often fuels discrimination. We hope to educate people and show them similarities between their own faith and the others who they believe they may not have anything in common with.”

The discrimination Breaux mentions was common in my religious upbringing, so it’s refreshing to know that there are people who want to change for the greater good and not just for their own selfish benefit.

It’s beneficial for everyone to be open and kind to others. The way Kiki learned to be open with others and pass along the kindness that she was given is the same way anyone can make everyone’s life just a little better. These traits are so important to learn. Like Breaux said, sometimes you’ll learn that you have a lot more in common with people than you imagine.

“The vast majority of people who consider themselves a witch (and even those who do not but practice a form a witchcraft like traiteurs) would consider themselves doing the work of God (or a specific god if they are polytheistic). Witchcraft is another form of prayer and devotion; it is using tools and objects to focus their prayer and intentions,” Breaux wrote in a message.

I figured a few people (including myself) had this idea that all witches were the same, but Breaux explains that there’s a complexity and history in modern day practices.

“I consider Cajun Traiteurs to be ‘witches’ because they use prayer, herbs and rituals to heal, similar to a Native American witch doctor,” Breaux wrote in a message.

“Creole culture is heavily influenced by not only French, Spanish and Native American faith but also by the African faiths. We get religions like Voodoo, Candoble, Santeria, etc. that syncreticise multiple faiths into a new, unique religion.”

It’s reasonable to believe that Lafayette’s diverse and culture-thick past created a lot of overlapping traditions within religions. Families — and their spiritualities — from all over the world were blended in the black pot of south Louisiana, so it’s possible that witches and Christians can share the same values today.

Even though Halloween is over soon, the witches will continue to be as mystical and spiritual as ever, so it’s important to become a little more aware of how we can interact with and be kind to others.

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