What better day to talk about witchcraft than Halloween?

Illustration of a woman in a long dress, cape, and witch hat, standing with a black cat under a tree on a hillside, with bats flying by.
“The Little Witch,” illustration by Ida Rentoul Outhwaite from Elves & Fairies, 1916

A few things first, to avoid some of the most common misconceptions: Witchcraft and Wicca are not the same thing. Witchcraft is a skill set; Wicca is a religion. (All Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan.) Witchcraft can be wholly secular or part of a religion – any religion, including Christianity. For the purpose of this piece, I’m going to talk about witchcraft as a secular thing; to talk about the sectarian paths would take too long, as there are more than a dozen.

In its most basic form, witchcraft is not much different from any power of positive thinking program. Meditation/mental focus, energy, and clear will are really all you need. You do not need pentagrams on the floor or arcane books of spells – in fact, if you are uncomfortable with such things, they can actually hinder your work. The accoutrements are there to give your energy a boost and that can only happen if they – whatever “they” are – have positive connotations for you. Personally, I can’t use the scripted chants or dialogue that come with pre-made spells. It’s usually crappy writing and Hallmark-worthy rhymes, and every time I try, I roll my eyes so hard they about roll right out of my head. Nor can I script my own – if words are to be involved, I just make it up on the spot.

By clear will I don’t mean merely a strong desire for something. That’s important, yes, but what’s vital is a determination to back your will with action. This isn’t praying or wishing; you have to actively work for it as well. If you’re going to cast for money, you’d better be out there hustling every way you can. If you cast for a new friend or lover, you need to be where they can find you. Magic and energy will always take the path of least resistance. You need to put a neon sign at the head of the path and make sure it’s clear of debris. Help the energy find you.

Clear will is also an absolute belief that it will work. You have to believe your will is strong enough to prevail, that it is strong enough to make the universe see things your way, at least for a minute or two. This is probably the most important part, and for many it can be the hardest. There are no easy answers, no tricks that help it along. It is possible to start out without absolute faith in what you’re doing, but unless you find your belief along the way, your chances of success will diminish. I think this is probably what makes most people walk away. If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, it’s too easy to feel you are wasting your time. For me it was a case of “fake it ’til you make it.” I’ve never been one to believe in anything easily, even things I want to believe in, and this was no different. I didn’t fully believe, I felt all kinds of silly, but I kept at it. Eventually I found the belief.

Once you have the will and the belief, what next? The magic, of course. There are many types to choose from, including (but not limited to) candle, crystal, herbal, knot, and poppet. They can be mixed and matched or practiced exclusively. It’s all a matter of what feels right.

Magic is half science and half art. You start with a theory – if I put this, this, and this together, will I get this outcome? If it works, you do it again (and again and again), and if you get the same result, you know you’re on to something. If it doesn’t work, you go back to the drawing board – and that’s where the art comes in. The art of magic is knowing what to add to the recipe, what elements to mix to get the desired results. For instance, good ingredients for a money pouch spell might be bits of gold, loose gemstones, coins, bits of high-end fabrics such as silk – anything associated with money or wealth. Parsley is a common slang term for money, so throw some of that in. Cinnamon was once used to trade for goods, so why not add it as well? Perhaps use magnets to help draw money to you. Anything that you associate with it is fair game to toss in the mix.

I could keep going, but before long I’ll edge out of expository introduction and into instruction manual, and a) that’s not my intent, and b) I’m really not qualified to instruct. I hope I’ve given you a better idea of what magic is, what it isn’t, and what it can be.

Happy Halloween, from your friendly Persephoneer Witch.

By Brenda

40-something-something stay home mom, floating somewhere between traditional and strange. I’m addicted to music, making things and my computer.

6 replies on “Witchin’”

Coincidentally, I had to have the witch/Wiccan talk with someone today. Thank you for your wonderful post.

Also, because I thought this was really funny, as I was frantically looking around for candles after the power went out, I sorted through my drawers and thought to myself, ‘I have three athames and a Tibetan ceremonial dagger, and no damn candles anywhere to be found.’

I think part of what causes the confusion is mainstream conversations about witchcraft are usually by, or about, Wiccans. It wasn’t until I started looking beyond Wicca that I understood they weren’t always the same.

You’re most welcome, I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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