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Bi-weekly witch #1: basic witch

Feb. 7, 2018
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Welcome to @dolescent’s bi-weekly witchcraft column! Whether you’re an old hag or fresh on this path, there are tips and tricks to be had.

For my first installment, I’m going to tackle the basics: just what is witchcraft? Let’s start with the word “witch”. The Witch is an archetypal figure who is unique in that she is a feminine archetype that doesn’t rely on a relationship; Mother, Daughter, and Queen are all identities that are understood in relation to others. A witch is understood in relation to her own power. It should be noted that even though I am using she/her pronouns in reference to the witch, a person of any gender can identify and find power within this archetype. "Witch" itself is a liminal term. She can be young or old, beautiful or ugly, good and evil, woman, man, or anything in between. Her identity and destiny are her own. (Pam Grossman says all of this much better than me.)

Some people are drawn to the title but are hesitant to apply it to themselves: they don’t know enough about witchcraft or never practice spells. However, the great thing about the Witch is if you feel attracted to the title, you can take it up. There is no High Witch or ultimate Council of Hags issuing witch certificates to those deemed worthy. Being a witch is a self-identifying path. You are responsible for figuring out what Witch means to you. You are responsible for your own research in developing your craft. (For those intimidated by the many and conflicting material out there, fret not! We’ll have some great resources at the bottom.)

It’s important to note that witchcraft is totally secular. This means you can practice witchcraft with any religion (or without religion), just like you don’t need to be part of any religion to knit or scrapbook. To practice witchcraft, you just need to believe in magic.

Now, before anyone starts to argue that magic is something fantastic reserved for fairytales, I would like to suggest that it’s way more mundane than all of that. Magic is simply using or doing something to symbolically produce a result:

  • In this way, I would argue that Art is magic. An artist creates something with intention in order to produce a result in those that experience it. This can be as complex as a story or as ephemeral as an emotion. Anyone who has been moved by a written work, a film, or especially music can’t deny the power of art.
  • Even simpler than Art, things like charm and intuition are great examples of magic. A charming individual uses personal power to disarm others and win them over. Intuition clues people into subtle energies and cues.
  • Having a mantra or phrase to calm you down or encourage yourself is another example of mundane magic. In fact, positive psychology in general has many magical applications.
  • There’s a reason the art of beauty and makeup is called glamor! You are using a craft to create an illusion.
  • Prayer is also a form of magic. It utilizes deities to enact a result.
  • Even something like the Placebo Effect can be considered magic: if you believe, it produces actual, physical results.

Magic is a very simple formula of intent and focus: figure out what you’re trying to make happen in the simplest way. It helps to distill your intent down to a word or phrase, then focus on this result. You can meditate on it, think about it while completing a craft like embroidery or painting, or create a ritual around it. It’s a practice, anyone can work on getting good at it, and as I mentioned before, it’s highly customizable.

The first and best Witch Lesson is observation. Notice the world around you. Whether in nature or the city, there are rhythms to pick up on. Notice the energies of places and people. Tune into your gut. You don’t need to act on anything, just be aware. The next best Witch Lesson is to be discerning. Take everything you read, hear, and feel with a grain of salt. As a witch, you have great authority. Even if you work with gods, questioning and honing your own intuition is incredibly important.

You should make up your practice or rituals as you go, based on what makes sense or feels good. if you have a history, culture, or religion, this might be a great place to start!

I'm so excited to go on this wild and wonderful journal with all of you. Keep an eye out for future installments, where we will cover topics like the history of witchcraft; astrology; divination; and witch politics. Looking for more magic in the meantime? Check out some of my favorite witchy resources below: