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Surviving The Occult

Kimberly Shumate grew up as a Christian in the Bible Belt. But the spiritual practices of her family and their interest in the supernatural led Shumate down a road that led to deep involvement in Black Magic and the occult that would take years to conquer. This is her story.

[RELEVANT magazine:] How did you get into Black Magic?

[KIM SHUMATE:] My father had been raised a Christian in the Bible Belt, and my mother grew up Episcopal. My parents slowly drifted from the truth to incorporate every spiritual philosophy under the sun. They loved God and searched zealously to find a way to be close to Him. Everything was there, all mixed up together; a picture of Jesus sat on the desk right next to my mother’s crystal ball.

I played like all the other children in our neighborhood: jacks, jump rope, hop scotch, hide and seek and board games (monopoly, scrabble, and the family favorite, a Ouija board). It was by far the most exciting of all the games and not so much a game to us as a hot line to the beyond. We knew that there was a spirit in the room and that it wanted to make contact; the glider floated across the board, propelled by a force unseen. Letter by letter, it would spell out a name. We would then address the spirit by name and continue the questions. “How did you die?” or “Are you angry?” or “How long have you been in the house?”

Having been raised primarily Episcopal, I was shocked when our local priest excommunicated my family when he discovered that we had added a Hindu belief system to our Christianity. Choir camp was soon replaced with psychic camp encouraging the talents the church condemned. Séances, white witchcraft, mind over matter, crystal gazing, tarot cards, numerology, astrology and pendulums were all practices in my house. The subjects of life after death, ghosts, poltergeists and contact with the beyond were the nightly topics of discussion at our dinner table. The weekly “enlightenment” meetings that my mother hosted followed me through my adolescent years, filling our house with wonderful friends including psychics, mediums and fortune tellers along with an East Indian couple who lived with us for several months. It was an infused spirituality, a hybrid religion where all roads lead to heaven. And as strange as it sounds, we all considered ourselves to be Christian. Ask anyone in the occult who Jesus is and they’ll tell you the same thing: He was the Son of God. The only word that changes when becoming a believer is the word “was.” It changes to “is.”

It wasn’t until the loss of my mother to her battle with cancer that I graduated from White Witchcraft to Black Magic. I was 17 years old and I was her protégé in the supernatural arts. Losing her pushed me over a precipice and I fell into a world only God could recover me from.

[RM:] Give me a typical day in your life back then.

[KS:] An average day could go something like this: “Let’s see, today I’ll visit the Christian Science Reading Room on my way to work; maybe visit that new occult bookstore and see if the have a copy of A Course In Miracles in stock. After picking up a new piece of black velvet to wrap my crystal ball in, I’ll have lunch with my warlock friend. Later this afternoon, I’m chanting with the Buddhists up the street and tonight I can’t forget to drive out to that old cemetery and dig up some graveyard dirt for that hex I’m going throw on so-and-so. Oh, that seminar on communicating with angels is this weekend. I wonder if it covers auras, charkas or the Akashich Records? What a great way to end the week.” Yes, I’m exaggerating, and no, I could never pull all of this off in one day—in two or three, absolutely.

[RM:] What kinds of things could you do to people through magic, and why was that so attractive?

[KS:] My spells of choice were for mental disruption, confusion and fear—a hex or curse that would combat them on a level they couldn’t win. I also knew spells that would attack on a physical level, like an illness. It usually took a couple of days to see results, but the reward always came. It was the fear in their eyes that I craved most; they were afraid of the power I tapped and used to attack them.

I once threw a quarter pound of salt (a readily accessible ingredient for hexes) across a doorway that I knew an enemy of mine was about to walk through. I cursed the doorway and named the woman that the curse would fall on. This spell was designed to bind her abilities to confront me and turn her own evil upon herself. A few days later I was told that she had reconsidered her position and withdrawn from the confrontation. Mission accomplished.

The sad part about this lifestyle is that it was very lonely. After my mother’s death, my appearance changed to that of a gothic vampire. My public outbursts were to counter people’s disgusted looks of disapproval. The glare I carried in my eyes along with a few choice words inspired parents to grab hold of their children’s hands, and for restaurant patrons to request a different table. The game was intimidation, and I always played to win.

[RM:] How did it all end?

[KS:] I had finally exhausted all of the spiritual resources I had found comfort in all of my life. There was no relief to that persistent and confounding issue which I had devoted so much of my time attempting to unravel: the emptiness of the human condition.

It was a small Bible study at the home of a young man barely 23. As I sat on the floor in Scott’s living room, I felt peaceful, rested. There was a warmth that compelled me to stay after the study was through. Maybe it was the fellowship of people that really cared about one another. Or maybe I just missed being in a family. Even though I didn’t “fit in” or share their views, I felt completely accepted. It felt good. As people began to leave, my new Christian friend, Lisa, sat beside me as Scott (a young scholar, and today, a pastor) patiently listened to my new-age arguments of how the universe worked. I’m sure the Holy Spirit sat there with us, patiently waiting, while Scott and I—Bibles opened side by side—began our methodical deliberation. One by one, the scriptures I had prepared so carefully to punch holes in the Gospel now came back at me with hurricane force. Blow after blow, my swing became his punch. The weapon he had was stronger than any incantation, hex or spell I had ever used. It didn’t make sense that this sweet, mild-mannered guy was beating me, the queen of collision. Fighting was second nature to me. By the end of that hour, I felt weak, done in.

As Lisa drove east on Santa Monica Boulevard towards my home, the view from her passenger’s seat seemed perplexingly different. My mind ached as I replayed Scott’s words. Old and New Testament scriptures, all those words had one oddly familiar voice; one tone, one heart. “How could a book compiled of so many books and stories, written by different people over the course of hundreds of years all fit perfectly together as if one amazing storyteller had written the whole thing?” God revealed the truth; it flooded my eyes. “Oh, my God, it’s You.” It was the very last person I ever thought I’d see: It was Jesus. The same Jesus I had neglected, whose name I had used for profanity, dismissed, rejected and flat out didn’t like … it was Him. The same Jesus who came to earth and lived the perfect life (the life we all long to live) and took the verdict of guilty so that I could be found innocent. It finally became real to me. This Jesus loved me enough to die. For the next three years, all I could do was cry.

My first act of obedience was to throw out all the now-empty props that filled my life. But the most important and most difficult to discard was my mother’s crystal ball. It was priceless to me. The voice of the Holy Spirit reverberated through me, “You know where it belongs.” Yes, I did. My phone call to Lisa was met with immediate action and as she drove us to the ocean, my heart pounded as if the demons themselves weren’t far behind. Unwrapping the black velvet cloth, light streaming like rainbows flew out in every direction as the thick crystal met the sun’s fleeting rays. As we dropped it into the deep blue water, I knew my future was secure. The most frightening thought of becoming a Christian was letting go of my old life. It was all I knew; it was my identity. Still, on that day I found out that letting go never felt so good. Now, I had a Savior to catch me. I fell into His arms and for the first time in my life, I felt safe.

[RM:] What does a typical day look like for you now?

[KS:] The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning, as cliché as it sounds, is thank God for the day. I never used to do that. I go to work (at a Christian publishing company) where I have my Bible open in front of me. It’s like spending the day with my closest friend. I have many friends who believe, and we pray during the course of the day about all kinds of things. It’s been great finding new Christian music to listen to. I am involved with an amazing Spirit-filled church where I work on a ministry team.

It’s strange, I’m still alone—having never married or had any children—but I don’t feel alone anymore. When I’m at home, sometimes the presence of the Holy Spirit is so strong, I sense His arms around me and it overwhelms me to the point of tears. He’s unlike anyone I’ve ever known and I can’t wait to see Him in person. When I was in the occult, I never felt like I had a home. There was no safe place or a sense of security because people kept leaving my life. Now, I am finally comforted knowing that I have a home waiting for me.

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[RM:] Do you ever have a desire to practice witchcraft, read tarot, etc.?

[KS:] Never. There isn’t anything attractive about any of it.

[RM:] Explain the most helpful interaction you had with a Christian before you became a believer.

[KS:] The woman with the smile: Every week she would walk through the salon door (I worked as a manicurist), smiling that smile and singing that song. She was unreasonably happy. Not that she lived a charmed existence or relied on prescription medication (as some of my Beverly Hills clients did). She was deeply and sincerely joyful. It baffled me. In the midst of my misery, there she was smiling like she knew some wonderful secret that she could hardly contain. In retrospect, I believe she had the most effective form of witnessing I’ve ever seen. Despite my spiritual efforts, I wasn’t getting that kind of joy anywhere. What did she manage to find that I had overlooked? Well, she had Jesus, and also the words that would change my life: “You should come to my church.” That’s all she said and that’s what did it—that and the tireless effort with which she loved the unlovable—consistent, non-judgmental, unconditional love.

[RM:] How should Christians pray for an occultist, and what can we do to help?

[KS:] I would have them ask God to bring a Christian into the person’s life to minister to them consistently. Also, I would have them pray relentlessly and to never count them out of the race. If you could have seen me 12 years ago, you would have passed me on the street and bet your last buck that I would never know Jesus Christ as a savior. But God is bigger than our disbelief—believer or non-believer. Saul/Paul is the perfect example. Also, I would have Christians protect themselves by committing to memory Psalm 91. It’s one of the most effective scriptures for protection. Ezekiel 28:12-19 is one of the best for taking down the enemy. He can’t stand that one because it’s a reminder of what he was and what he is.

Be very clear before you start that it is God telling you to minister to them. Be available to dialog with them when they are ready, but don’t push. There is nothing more attractive to a non-believer than to see love in action. Don’t be afraid of them because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. This isn’t a battle against flesh and blood, so don’t try and take matters into your human hands. Allow Jesus to do what He came to do.

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