With Halloween approaching, students are embracing and celebrating the supernatural, but there are some who see it as not just a holiday, but a way of life. Hannah Culverhouse, a former JMU student, practices witchcraft every day. She said she reads tarot cards, collects too many crystals to count, makes moon water and communicates with spirits.
Culverhouse was a freshman computer science, later turned geology, major at JMU in 2017. Other students at the time might’ve known her as the campus witch. At a single glance, nothing about her appearance hints at her beliefs, aside from some uniquely shaped rings on her hands. She identifies herself as a pagan and a witch, working with a balance of energies. Some sought out her powers, including those in the Hillside lounge waiting in lines for her to give them tarot card readings.
“One of my friends said that they would always come true,” Coleson Hill, a junior biology major who lived in Hillside with Culverhouse, said.
Culverhouse said she’s been doing tarot readings since she turned 17 after her mother gave her a long-forgotten tarot deck she had bought on a whim.
“Traditionally, your first deck is supposed to be gifted to you,” she said while grabbing an orange drawstring bag full of cards from eight other decks on the table. “This is just my oldest friend. It’s accurate. It’s familial because it’s been with me like my whole life.”
Culverhouse said that tarot decks choose their witches. Each deck has its own personality and it’s important for a witch to connect with it to receive accurate readings. There are 72 cards in each deck and it’s up to the witch to interpret their meanings, she said.
She roughly shuffled, allowing cards to fly onto the sofa cushion, putting them into place within her spread of three by three while mumbling, “OK … OK yeah … uh huh. Oh OK girl, alright…”
Realizations dawned on her face as she drew each new card. It was all good news. Along with her tarot reading abilities, many female students sought her out for assistance with romantic interests. She’d make them a sachet to carry and help with their situation.
“I have these little knitted sachets and I would throw in a couple crystals and then I would write some kind of affirmation or spell on a piece of paper,” Culverhouse said. “I would tie it up with yarn and use knot magic and put it in the sachet and tie up the sachet and give it to the girl and say, ‘Alright, carry this around in your backpack, your purse, wherever, carry it with you.’ About a week later, they’d come back and return it and said, ‘Oh my god, it worked — thank you’.”
Culverhouse said there was also an instance when she put a minor bad luck spell on a hallmate who’d been unkind to her roommate, freshman Madison McAleese.
“She goes, ‘I got this,’” McAleese said, attempting to imitate Culverhouse’s voice as she told the story. “[She] starts writing a bunch of sigils [symbols] on a piece of notebook paper and writes the girl’s name at the top and goes and marches out of the room and tapes it to her door. That was a good little prank.”
Besides that, Culverhouse said she doesn’t do many spells since they never seem to work for her, and her main focus is working with her deities. Deities are beings that some witches communicate with and worship, and the deity is unique to each witch. Culverhouse’s witchcraft journey began with an archangel summoning, and her experience during it showed her that witchcraft must be real.
She said that in high school, she faced East and summoned four archangels around her. She summoned them one at a time and said to each, “Give me guidance and protect me from negative entities.”
“So, we finished chanting the first little thing and we felt this warmth,” Culverhouse said. “It felt like a furnace was there and we had this candle. I remember it very clearly: it was [the] middle of summer and there was no wind, the A.C. was off, the window was closed, no fan, nothing, and the candle was freaking out and we felt this warmth.”
About a week later, a small stone of citrine appeared on her dresser. Her mother claimed to have found it in her pants pocket.
“Turns out citrine is [archangel] Gabriel’s crystal, so I like to say that he brought it to me and it’s my lucky charm for when I need extra luck or I’m scared,” Culverhouse said.
Later, she said she began to work with Loki and Hades and talked about the deities like old friends. She said Loki is a “firebug,” Gabriel likes fruit punch lollipops and Hades likes keys. In her room, each of the deities has an altar made up of offerings from Culverhouse. She said she can communicate with them through what she calls a “god-phone,” from which she can hear them speaking to her in her mind.
“I kind of like to view it as the universe created all these little sorts of local gods for different areas, just created all these little gods to help take care of the world because the world needs a lot of help,” Culverhouse said.
She’s since left JMU and lives at home, spending time between her mother’s and father’s houses while attending college online. Her mother is Baptist and sometimes struggles with understanding her relationships with other beings.
“4:44!” Culverhouse said out of nowhere, directing her gaze to the clock on her stovetop. “444 basically means you’re on the right path, you’re doing something right, your angels are taking you in the right direction.”
Culverhouse said she receives signs through repeating numbers, finding feathers, ringing in her ears and songs. She’s also a believer in crystals and the power of the full moon. She could be found on Hillside field on the night of every full moon charging her crystals and creating moon water during her freshman year.
“Every full moon she would go out at 4 a.m. and do a little ritual,” Hill said. “In the middle of the field with a blanket laid out and a bunch of crystals. I knew if she was doing that at 4 a.m. she genuinely believed it.”
When asked how many crystals she had, Culverhouse said, “I’m a witch and a geology major. There’s no telling.”
Culverhouse thinks that most misconceptions about witchcraft come from fear and lack of education. Most witchcraft isn’t dangerous or evil, and every witch has their own interpretations. She said she’s happy to see that with spirituality and witchcraft becoming more of a societal trend, people have become more open to her beliefs and she’s been able to find more common ground with others.
“Witchcraft is kind of like, realizing that you have the power to ask the universe to give you certain things,” Culverhouse said. “It’s just realizing that you have the power to change certain things and make things your own.”
Contact Sarah Connor at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.