5 Things You Need to Know About Being a Witch

Thursday, July 9, 2020

1. Being a witch is, at its simplest, being a human with the veil lifted from your face.

You understand that everything is connected. Maybe you see this logically, maybe you always just "knew" or "felt" it. You see the patterns of nature reflected in our human lives, the cycle of the seasons, the polarity of night and day, reaping and sowing. But you also recognize the gray area in-between. The murk, where things are not so easily seen or defined. You know that "supernatural" isn't super at all, just a natural phenomenon that has yet to be explained by science. You don't need everything to be explained. You know that we don't know all there is to know and that's okay. 

2. Being a witch does not require accessories, tools, spellbooks or any other paraphernalia.

The core of spellwork is really just focusing on your intent and sending it out into the universe. You can do this without tools or accessories.

Your first spell - a song. Your first tool - your voice. Chanting, prayers, and visualization are all forms of spellwork that require no tools. Tools in witchcraft serve two purposes primarily. First they are a tangible item to focus your intent on. When you're using a wand, you're looking at the wand and sending all the energy of your intent into that wand. When you're writing a spell you're looking at the words and sending all of the energy of your intent through your arm, into your hand and onto the paper. When you're making magical art, same thing. Tools make focusing easier for some. 

Secondly, certain tools help you get into a heightened state which makes accessing that in-between area, a little easier. Using tools to create, whether through writing spells or crafting witch jars or poppets, quiets the left, analytical side of the brain giving the right, creative side of your brain, dominance. It is in the right side of the brain that we gain access to the universe. Tools make quieting the analytical brain easier, but we can also do this through mantra, meditation, visualization, singing or prayer.

When you start gathering tools, keep it simple to start. A pen you really like, a journal or spiral notebook you think is gorgeous. Practice creating sigils in it. Be present in the moment, focus on your intent, send it out into the universe and see what happens. Don't let yourself become a collector instead of a practitioner. Too much stuff becomes overwhelming. It drains your energy, and instead of helping your craft it kills it. Keep it simple. Try new things but get rid of what doesn't click. Don't hang on to things that don't absolutely energize you.

You will watch YouTube videos and see your witchy idols doing haul after haul after haul video. Ask yourself when these folks have time to actually DO the CRAFT when they are always buying stuff or filming what they bought? And then see how many of them are SELLING craft merchandise or hawking for their friends that do. Some of these folks are just shopping addicts, some of these folks are trying to make money. But if any of them tell you that you HAVE to have this or that - they're lying to you.

Look for Witchy vloggers that are about creativity and, not so much about the hauls. A couple of my favorites: Molly Roberts and Kelly-Ann Maddox

3. Being a witch is not one-size-fits-all.

People wear the Witch label for different reasons. For me, as a woman, it is empowering. The Witch is a feminist archetype. The Witch is something patriarchy has feared and destroyed over and over again and yet she persists, rising again and again from the (sometimes literal) ashes. But men are witches too, and men and women (and everything between) all have their own reasons for being witches and choosing to don this label.

Witchcraft is not a religion and it is not Wicca. Witches don't have to believe in deities, or call on corners, or do any kind of elaborate rituals. Witchery is a nature craft. It's witchCRAFT. Witches are crafters who work with nature and energy the way knitters work with yarn and thread. 

Some witches combine their craft with religion. This is why you have Wiccan witches and yes, even Christian witches. Witchcraft and religion are two separate subjects that are often and easily combined (similarly to religion and politics) though they do not necessarily need to be. A lot of stuff we do as part of craftwork is considered 'spiritual' because there is no other category to place it in besides perhaps occult. Religion and spirituality are not one in the same. One can be spiritual and not religious.

4. Being a witch means learning about racism.

cul·tur·al ap·pro·pri·a·tion
  1. the unacknowledged or inappropriate adoption of the customs, practices, ideas, etc. of one people or society by members of another and typically more dominant people or society.
    "his dreadlocks were widely criticized as another example of cultural appropriation"

Remember those tools I talked about earlier? Well some of them are pretty problematic if you aren't Native American. Profiting from the spiritual practices of marginalized groups is the height of cultural appropriation. Think dreamcatchers, smudge sticks, etc... It's infuriating on so many levels when it's done by big companies. But you will also find a ton of small shops on Etsy where, most likely, the shop owner just doesn't understand that what they are doing is hurting people. 

The mass consumption of white sage through smudging kits is making it difficult for Native Americans to access white sage for their long-held spiritual practice. It's beyond time for non-Natives to look to other herbs and or methods to cleanse. The more energy we put into our practice, the more powerful it becomes. Growing your own herbs for a smoke cleanse would certainly be more effective than getting a smudge kit shipped across the country from Amazon. But even going to your local grower to purchase a few herbs you are particularly fond of to dry out and burn would be a nice middle ground. (Burning incense is also a viable alternative in my opinion.)

Spiritual practices are not inherently powerful. The power of any practice comes from the people performing it and much of that energy is drawn from the world around them. The herbs used, the animals worshipped, they come from the culture's local environment. These are herbs the people gathered, animals that crossed their path. Unless you grew up in that culture, these things cannot hold the same significance or energy for you.

I lived in a holler in the Blue Ridge mountains of western North Carolina in my late teens and early 20s. I woke up many mornings to the smell of honeysuckle at my bedroom window. I loved that smell. It usually accompanied beautiful weather so I associate it with nice days and happy feelings even 20 years later. It would make sense for me to add honeysuckle to my practice since it has significance to me and my life. 

Is this making sense to you? Can you see where the line between cultural appreciation and cultural appropriation is crossed?

5. Being a witch is being political

It just kinda is. You can stay in the broom closet and try to avoid it. I did for many years. But once you decide to wear the label you're aligning yourself with a group of people who have been hated by "common, decent" folk throughout history. 

Being a witch can get you ostracized in some parts of America (and possibly other western nations). Fundamentalists of most modern religions will want nothing to do with you and in some parts of the world the state will kill you for wearing this label. Being a witch means taking on the responsibility of being politically conscious and accounted for.   

You will meet people who call themselves witch but stand for things you don't want to be associated with. There are white supremacist witches. There are anti-Christian witches. There are witches who hate men. There are witches who are absolutely out of their mind, truly mentally disturbed. There are witches who claim powers they know they don't have and make promises they know they can't keep in order to con people out of their money. There are people who claim this label because they know it's controversial and they enjoy the negative attention.   

Please do your best to wear this label well.

Being a witch is not an aesthetic. 

Though the witchy aesthetic is fabulous...

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