Gemma McGowan ‘I have a lot of health problems, but my faith allows me to face everything with a smile... well, most of the time anyway’
Gemma McGowan is from Kells, Co Meath. She studied theatre and music at Manchester Metropolitan. She is married to Donagh, with whom she founded The Handmade Soap Company.
She has now trained as a kinesiologist, a form of therapy that uses muscle testing to help identify health problems, and employs a holistic approach by treating the whole person – mind, body, bio-chemistry and energy.
My interest in witchcraft began as a teenager. I had abandoned all thoughts of Christianity with its strict dogma and patriarchal hierarchy by the age of 12, and was searching for the right spiritual path for me. But it wasn't until I was diagnosed with Crohn's disease at the age of 20 that my life really transformed.
My mum introduced me to authors and practising witches Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, and instantly I felt as if I had 'come home'.
For me, witchcraft and spirituality go hand in hand, and, as with other spiritual paths, I pray and I worship, commune with and give thanks to my deity/deities.
I guess the difference is that, being polytheisitic – ie, believing in many gods as opposed to just one – I believe there is no one way to God. Each individual can find their way to forging a very real and powerful connection with their god, whoever that may be. The divine is present in everything, and I work with that presence to weave magic.
I worked with a coven for many years, then solitary for around three years, and this year I started my own teaching group called Keepers of the Well. We are an eclectic training group focused on personal and spiritual development, who come from a number of spiritual backgrounds.
I believe that spirit or the divine spark is present in all aspects of the natural world. The trees, the birds, the animals and the earth herself all contain the same spark of life that humans do, and therefore all life is sacred and should be respected.
At the same time, I understand that all things must die and decay, and so the cycle of life, death and rebirth continues.
My faith is my power and it continues to carry me through extremely difficult times. I have a lot of health problems, but my faith allows me to face everything with a smile... well, most of the time anyway.
In terms of helping others, that's what I live for. I work as a healer, teacher and spiritual guide. Nothing makes me happier than seeing people empower themselves and take control of their lives. Now that's magic.
My family is incredibly supportive, and they see the powerful and positive change that my spirituality has wrought in my life. I am much more grounded, focused and committed to all aspects of my life, and I am much better equipped to deal with my health problems and anything life has to throw at me. Plus they love my otherworldly stories of spirits, ghosts and fairies.
I have never experienced any difficulties in Kells, where I'm from. I was recently asked to open a wonderful art trail in the town with a blessing, and I'm regularly asked to do storytelling for adults and children.
However, I do know that others have experienced enormous bias and have been shunned by their communities and their families.
Witches and pagans tend to focus on finding that which connects all faiths and traditions as opposed to that which divides us. I wish other faiths could do the same.
Magic is extremely hard work, and it holds a magnifying glass to all aspects of the self. Often we really don't like what we see there. Witchcraft and paganism isn't for everyone. It takes dedication, hard work and the ability to 'get over yourself'.
My life is dedicated to my gods, but I really reap the rewards of experiencing their presence in a very real and tangible way.
Magic really does happen.
Contact Gemma on email@example.com