This is a question that I get quite often, and for good reason. There are tons of videos and blog posts about “Witchy Materialism” and similarly fancy-sounding titles for the culture of consumption we’ve built around witchcraft, so I’m not going to preach that here because I seriously ain’t got time for that.
This post is meant to address the reason I think the question of whether or not you need tools to be a real witch still persists even with all of these resources out there, and it goes on beyond the ‘witches wanting pretty things’ like so many of them suggest.
What Is A “Real Spell”?
My favorite description of spellcasting is the one that views magick in terms of probability. The way it’s described, the energy we send out is used to tilt the scales in our favor to make us more likely to reach our desired goal. Under this explanation, correspondences do not make or break your spell—they can merely bring you closer to its achievement.
Because the herbs, crystals, candles and other tools many of us do use carry their own energy, they can increase our chances of a successful spell.
BUT, this energy can also be pulled from nature or raised from within yourself. It simply take practice. The problem is everyone wants results, but few want to put in the effort needed to reach them—and some people simply don’t have the mental, emotional, or physical resources necessary to put in that work.
So, we get questions from newer witches, dabblers, or those testing the witchy waters like, “What’s a real spell for_____?”
What’s really being asked is, “What are the correspondences for_____?”
To reiterate: the use of correspondences do not determine the validity of a spell. But the reality is so many witches think that they do. The only thing that makes a spell “real” is its existence. A spell from Charmed can be considered real if a witch uses it in real life.
You only need your will, intent, and some deal of resourcefulness to cast a successful spell.
This is going to be a short post because I mostly just want to hear your thoughts about this.
Has anyone ever used coloring pages as offerings or energy sources?
Think about it—the amount of time, energy, and focus it takes to fill an entire coloring page parallels many of the hallmarks of spellwork. It can be placed upon an altar for deities of creativity or inspiration, or just burned afterwards to release the energy. Since coloring books have become a very prominent self-care component for tons of people, it could also be used to banish unwanted energy.
As a person of multiple intersecting identities—many of them marginalized—I’ve often thought to myself that the key to survival lies within community. Not as in the people living in the same neighborhood as us, but the people of shared experiences and relationships to oppression. Me and many other witches, Pagans, and magickal practitioners of color have actively sought this for ourselves within our spiritual communities, but this can be hard to find when the spaces are predominantly or entirely White.
We are often left clueless and stranded if we witness situations of cultural appropriation, racism, and even acts of violence towards others like us. This trauma is exacerbated further when we try to retreat into isolation or solitary practices as the resources that fill our bookshelves, databases, and resource guides are littered with faces and experiences that look nothing like ours.
It was of no surprise to me that after I posed a question to witchy peers of mine asking what folx wanted to learn about queering witchcraft that a dear friend answered with, “Where do you start reading if you are a qtpoc (queer trans person of color) witch with few resources that aren’t Eurocentric or heteronormative?”
It’s a question I’ve often thought about myself. But I wasn’t prepared for the block I received when I tried to answer this question.
How can we, as people of color with a craving for knowledge, find a place for ourselves in a space that is heavily dominated by white folx? How can we find the resources that reflect images of us within them?
I had to think long and hard about what we could do to navigate the mass whitewashing of witchcraft, and I found that much of the answers I could find lied within my own experiences as a biracial person.
Sadly, many mixed race youth experience the feeling of being torn between many worlds and not being able to fit into one category in the way mono-racial folx can, I was no different. I had always felt a connection to my Blackness, but I struggled to connect with my Japanese heritage due to leaving Japan at a young age and losing touch with the traditions and language along with my way to communicate with any of the people on that half of my family (my mother’s side). I couldn’t find a way to immerse myself in Japanese culture until just recently when I started practicing witchcraft. Tracking traditional Japanese spiritualities and forms of magick helped me to forge that connection. I had to ask myself questions that I think many other practitioners of color could benefit from asking themselves.
1. What do you wish to accomplish through studying witchcraft?
It seems like a fairly simple question, but I had a really hard time putting it in writing because I didn’t come into witchcraft with the intent of gaining anything from it. I just felt drawn to it for some reason, always have.
So I considered what I could accomplish through magick? Was I looking to become a healer so that I could help people? Was I looking to enact revenge on enemies? Was I looking to win the lottery? Make a list of the topics you want to know about like herbology and the application of medicinal plants, or hexing and cursing, or divination if you really want to win the lottery!
Narrowing down the goals you have for yourself will give you a foundation to start your research so you aren’t running around aimlessly. But remember to stay flexible—you can always add or remove things. The list is just a tool for you to utilize during research.
2. How can you separate these topics from the Eurocentric narrative?
Specifically search for works written on these topics but in relation to communities of color. Say you are looking to find information on divination, if you just search general divination techniques you’re bound to get the practices that center Norse, Celtic, or Irish spiritualities and religions. If you look for divinatory practices that originated from African spirituality, for example, you’ll be greeted with beautiful traditions ranging from all throughout the diaspora. You can apply this to every culture (though some are harder to find information on than others).
Beware of cultural appropriation! I cannot stress this enough. It’s one thing to read up on different practices and entirely another to actually incorporate them into your craft. Approach everything you learn with respect and figure out if they are closed or open religions or if there is an initiation ritual you must be involved in to practice. If something stemmed from the oppression of group that you do not belong to then STAY THE FUCK AWAY FROM IT, especially if you are a part of a group that has privilege over them.
3. Be Mindful Of Your Sources
Don’t just search for the specialty books written especially by witches for witches. Dig into anthropologic studies, student essays, textbooks, college databases, and the plethora of other sources out there. Statistics show that of the 3,400 children’s books received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center in 2015, only 508 of them were about people of color (how many published books do you think are written by people of color that also happen to be witches, for any age level)! It’s definitely a process, that’s for sure, but we need to tap into as many resources as possible to compensate for the lack of visibility. Feel free to visit the Free Stuff section of the blog and browse through any of the literary databases listed there!
Key Search Terms:
I’ve found that my biggest roadblock in my research was my lack of vocabulary regarding the matter. I mean other than ‘Witchcraft,’ ‘Magick,’ and ‘Spirituality’ I knew just about as much as your average non-witch would (or wouldn’t to be more accurate). So here are a few terms and phrases you add to your search bar to get better results:
Occult Practices in (insert region here)
Spirituality (often preceded by the name of an ethnic group)
Divination or “Fortune Telling” in (insert region)
As children, many of us had that one sacred object, that inanimate companion that used to provide us a sense of warmth and security. Though at times we did not understand how or why, these toys brought us comfort when we needed them to and made us feel safe when we held them close.
In our own way, we were employing the use of poppet magic, a sort of sympathetic magic that involves the use of dolls (which are usually representative of actual people, protective spirits, or deity). We were imbuing these toys with love energy, similar to the way people would imbue fetishes, muñequitas, corn husk dolls, and other such figures and talismans with magickal energy for ritual workings.
Contrary to the popular characterization of Voodoo as evil or sinister, “voodoo dolls” actually weren’t created with the intent to cause harm to others. In fact, they were originally used as tools of healing. Pins were used as a way to focus energy towards problem areas in the body that a practitioner could then heal directly. Like the toys we used in childhood, these dolls were forces of good.
If you have been following my Instagram, you may have noticed that I have been dabbling in the use of poppets in both my own spellwork and as products for my magick shop. Making these little things is something I’ve been wanting to do for a while as it was one of the first types of magick I was introduced to. However, the view of poppet magick that I was given was a very negative one.
It was only after reading what is now one of my favorite essays in Llewellyn’s 2017 Magical Almanac called “The Magic of Dolls” by Charlie Rainbow Wolf, and after doing a bit of my own research, that I learned that the modern portrayal of Voodoo practices were very much (mis)informed by Hollywood sensationalism and racist motivations. Hopefully, those of you reading this will take some time to do a little of your own research on the topic as it is one of very great interest to me and I think everyone can get something out of it!
Virtually every single aspect of a poppet is customizable and can incorporate some form of magickal correspondence (the material, the color, the type of poppet, the filling, etc.) which makes this the perfect DIY. I have included my very own template for y’all to use either on fabric or as paper poppets themselves! So without further ado, let’s get started!
1 thin marker for light felt // or chalk for dark felt
1 Sheet of Felt (at least 10in. x 16in.)
Embroidery Floss // or any standard thread
Embroidery needle // or a self-threading needle
Pearl Head Pins
A Taglock (i.e. a piece of hair, full name written on a piece of paper, a photo, etc.)
**Optional: Herbs, sigils, crystals, etc.
Step 1: Print your template and cut out the human shape along the black line.
Step 2: Take your cutout and place it on top of your felt. Use your marker to trace around the outside of the shape (do not press too hard or it may bleed through the material).
Step 3: Repeat Steps 1+2 on another section of the felt to create a second piece. Once you have both of the outlines cut the pieces out of the fabric.
Step 4: Put the two pieces together and use your pearl head pins to stick them in place (I usually use ONE pin for each of the arms, legs, upper torso, lower torso, and head).
Step 5: Thread your needle with your embroidery floss and stitch the two pieces together using a Blanket Stitch. I have found it to be much easier if you stitch one side of the figure first (starting from the inside of the leg, up to the crook of the neck), stuff the arm and leg with the fiberfill, and then do the same with the other side. DO NOT STITCH THE HEAD YET.
If you are unfamiliar with the blanket stitch, Lauren Fairweather on Youtube has a very easy-to-follow video on it! It will seem intimidating at first, but trust me, practice a little bit on some scrap fabric and you’ll see how simple it really is.
Step 6: Once you have the body sewn, stuff the lower half of it with the fiberfill (using a thin pen or chopstick to push it into tough corners), and drop in your taglock along with any herbs (or other optional items you wish to include). Fill the poppet with more fiberfill up to the neck.
Step 7: Sew the head mostly shut, leaving a small opening to stuff the rest of the head with the fiberfill. Once you have the head stuffed, sew the head completely closed.