Growing up more or less atheistic, I had a strong disbelief in anything that could not be seen. Only, it was a lot more than that. I refused to believe in any singular power so great that it caused the existence of the universe and its workings. To me, this power was too great for anyone or anything to be able to wield and I could not wrap my head around the idea. Similarly, I had many preconceived notions about what it meant to be a “witch” and the supposed abilities of witches. Honestly, I thought theism and witchcraft were quite silly in concept. And to be honest, that seems like such a pretentious frame of mind now.
See, when people hear the word “witch” they will automatically have an idea in their minds. For most, it is something along the lines of either Sabrina, Harry Potter, or Hocus Pocus. Many have laughed at me and others like me for calling ourselves witches and I can’t say I really blame them, I was like that at some point as well. But, when you think about it, witchcraft isn’t that far off from any form of theology. That is not to say that witchcraft is inherently theistic or even religious! For many, it is more of a spirituality or lifestyle. It is to say, however, that they both function on a basis of faith in the unknown and unseen. We only treat witches like they are the silly ones because it is uncommon. And what do we do with that which we cannot conceive? We push it away. We laugh at it for fear that we will seem like the ignorant ones.
For me, calling oneself a witch is a means of empowerment. I wield this label similarly to how I wield “queer” in that I am taking something I identify with and politicizing it as a means of resistance—resistance of the mainstream, resistance of conformity, and resistance of patriarchal authority. It is a means of autonomy for me as well as a way to pay homage to the spiritual practices of my ancestors since, through slave displacement and a lack of documentation, me and other Black folx throughout the diaspora have trouble tracing back our lineage past a certain time period, and thus have very few ways to connect to a specific ancestral practice.
My definition of witch fully acknowledges the inherent abilities of each and every individual on this planet to create magick, or the effects of various energies and vibrations working together to create a reaction. To me, witches are alchemists. We accept and work with our innate human abilities to transform matter into whatever we want. Some people call this a “placebo effect,” some “science,” and others call it an “act of God”.
Witches—we call it magick.
I will admit that sometimes, when I hear how folx talk about certain types of witchcraft, I still feel remnants of my old ways resurfacing. Particularly in regards to things like weather magick (that involves the manipulation of weather), I feel the resistance that stems from my old beliefs that one being cannot possibly wield this much power. But, it is a habit I am trying to break free of because just as how I feel about witches being able to transform matter is similarly to how some witches feel about weather magick, and it just makes sense.
There was a small period of time in my life, right around middle school if I remember correctly, that my mind was more open to the concept of magick. I had watched films upon films and many television shows about witches, superheroes, and any kind of people with “other worldly” abilities. I felt naturally drawn to this world and I had wished many times that I could tap into magick (not knowing that this power was already within me), and I scoured the witch forums (back when Tumblr wasn’t a thing) on a daily basis. But after trying my hand at magick, either to no avail or with terrifying results, I let myself close off to the possibility of witchcraft. Much like how some respond to trauma with prayer, I often turned to magick in times of crisis. But, much like how I felt with prayer when I believed myself to be a Christian, I felt that it didn’t “work” and so I gave up on it.
During that time in my life, I was struggling with intense depression and anxiety that took over nearly all of my thoughts, so I didn’t have the luxury of patience when it came to results. And if being a witch has taught me one thing, it’s that magick takes time. I am now at a place with my mental health where I have coping mechanisms besides magick, so I know that it isn’t the solution to everything. But it did have some lasting effects on me.
Now, I think it’s important that I take a minute or two to dispel some rumors and let y’all know a few things that being a witch is not.
Being a witch does not mean being Wiccan. This is a common misconception that I personally think has something to do with the popularity of Charmed, which is a favorite tv show of mine don’t get me wrong. Nevertheless, it did spread some myths in regards to witchcraft. Witchcraft is primarily a practice, whilst Wicca is a religion (commonly regarded as a subset of Paganism). Wicca has its own rules and practices, just as any other religion.
Me and many other witches do not identify as Wiccan. There is a vast majority of reasons why others choose not to use this label for themselves, but I personally don’t vibe with a lot of the pre-established concepts of Wicca—such as its reverence of “the God and Goddess” as partnering figures. As a queer and nonbinary person, a lot of the God and Goddess archetypes are something that make me extremely uncomfortable and causes me to feel isolated within the witch community.
Witchcraft is also not the same thing as Satanism, nor is it inherently Satanic. But, I will let you in on a little secret. Remember that scene in Practical Magic when Sally tells Hallet,”There’s no devil in the Craft.“
While that may be true for some witches, again, it is not true for all. There are witches that practice Satanism in addition to witchcraft or practices a form of Satanic and/or Luciferian magick (though these usually don’t have much to do with the worship of your Christian Devil figure and more with the embracing of different magick types). I think the reason why no one hears about this though is because even in witch and Pagan circles there is an intolerance for Satanism because of all the terrible connotations the word ‘Satan’ has—despite these very people not even believing in Satan’s existence. So many witches try to distance themselves from Satanists as much as possible, claiming that no witch practices Satanism (which is just untrue). I don’t get it and frankly this bothers me for many reasons. I mean, it’s not like Satanic witches are going around sacrificing pigeons on the street or something. At most, it seems as if they live on a philosophy of hedonism—which I am all for.
And finally, being a witch is not a binding contract. So often I see people interested in the different facets of witchcraft, but too afraid to call themselves a witch. For one, that is totally fine. You are allowed to label yourself however you like. And for another, even if you do label yourself a witch and practice some form of witchcraft, it’s perfectly okay to stop if you get scared, uncomfortable, or just lose interest. You aren’t selling your soul to some witch authority, and you still have autonomy as a person.
To be a witch, first and foremost, is to be free. Choose your own path and do not allow others to dictate whether you “deserve” to call yourself a witch or not. If you say you are a witch, you are a witch. Period.
Peace, love, and spoons
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