You Can Be A Witch, Too — Just Ask These 9 Practicing Witches
I'm no mind-reader, but I can pretty much guarantee that one of your friends owns a deck of tarot cards, some pretty crystals, special candles, and maybe even a beginner's grimoire. (Or you're the friend.) Witchcraft is everywhere these days, and there's no better time to get started practicing spells and incantations. Even if you've never been religious or spiritual, taking up your own practice could empower you to take charge of your life and be mindful of your day-to-day feelings, actions, and attitudes.
I reached out to nine published authors of magical texts to get their responses to a single question: What is the first thing that people can do to get started practicing witchcraft? I've collected their insightful answers for you below, so keep reading to find out more about how you can set up your own witchy practice.
As you're reading through this piece, you may notice some differences in spellings, particularly of the word magic/magick, used by various witches. The use of the word "magick," generally speaking, differentiates witchcraft from the optical illusions and tricks of magicians. There's nothing wrong with being an illusionist, of course, but there are pretty clear differences between the witches on the list below and, say, Penn and Teller.
Witchcraft is on the rise across the U.S., as millennials turn to spells and self-reliance as an alternative to mainstream religions. In an age of increasing global anxiety, witchcraft offers its practitioners an internal locus of control — the sense that they, themselves are in charge of their destinies. There's historical precedent for this shift, as Christine Emba points out in her The Washington Post opinion piece:
"An interest in the esoteric tends to reassert itself at moments of crisis: Spiritualism was in part a reaction to the Industrial Revolution; the New Age movement reflected the cultural upheaval of the 1960s and ’70s. But I think the growing interest in witches and witchcraft speaks to a uniquely unsettled moment in U.S. history — and an unprecedented loss of hope felt by an entire generation. Absent anything else to hold on to, we’re reaching into the dark."
No matter the reason for your interest in witchcraft, the nine authors on this list have plenty of great tips to guide your burgeoning practice:
Tonya A. Brown
"The first thing to do is to take a moment and think about what you've seen in media. While yes, media is often overdramatized and takes creative license, a lot of it has some kernel of truth. Create a list of things you've seen that interest you, as well as things you've seen that do not. You may like rituals or ceremonies you've seen on tv, but not fortune telling card readers. This will give you a hit at what to dig further into, and what not to bother with. It may feel silly to look at fantasy for this type of thing, but it'll help with finding what speaks to your soul."
Tonya A. Brown is the author of The Door to Witchcraft: A New Witch's Guide to History, Traditions, and Modern-Day Spell.
"One of the first things I try to emphasize with new seekers is that witchcraft is multifaceted; there is no correct way to practice or be a witch. However, the one connecting factor between the various paths of the craft is the importance of nature. A great introduction to practicing witchcraft is by learning about the Wheel of the Year, the 8 sabbats or seasonal holidays that many witches, pagans and magical practitioners revere. As the Wheel of the Year turns, each season grants us the opportunity to evolve through nature, learning from its inherent wisdom. With the Autumnal Equinox (also called Mabon) upon us, spend some time outdoors feeling the winds of change in the air, the colors and light changing. A time of harvest, examining inner balance and accepting the flux of fall, write down any feelings this season evokes in a journal. Honoring the Wheel of the Year is a wonderful way to create a framework for witchcraft, creating personal rituals, celebrating folklore and the magic of nature."
Cat Cabral is the author of The Spells Deck: 78 Charms, Remedies, and Rituals for the Modern Mystic.
"The first thing people can do to get started practicing witchcraft is to first and foremost acknowledge they are Magick. Magical beings with all the tools they need within themselves. The power of this acknowledgment is what ignites the Witch to work at her fullest potential, becoming and embodying her truth is the only thing that will give rise to her power."
Juliet Diaz is the author of Witchery: Embrace the Witch Within.
Amanda Yates Garcia
"At its most fundamental level, witchcraft is a practice to help you create intimacy with your life and the world around you. As it says in the Charge of the Star Goddess: All acts of love and pleasure are Her rituals. So, what are your acts of love and pleasure? How can you cultivate them and turn them into rituals you can rely on when times get rough? For me, I begin my day at my altar. I want my altar work to be the first thing that I do, so that my day begins in intimacy with spirit and with my practice. I begin by ringing a bell to call my spirits in, I say their names. Your spirits are anything that guides you. Your spirits might be the spirit of the willow tree next door; maybe one of your spirits is an ancient mystic like Hildegard Von Bingen; or a beloved ancestor; or maybe you’re calling Mercury, queer god of communication and healing, who leads souls from the underworld. If you’re uncomfortable with calling in deities, you don’t have to. You don’t have to believe in gods or supernatural spirits to be a witch. You can call in the spirit of your adult self, the part of you that makes healthy decisions. You can call in the spirit of love or justice, or whatever principles you want to guide you. Once I call my spirits in, I give them offerings — not so that I can get something from them later, but so that I can build a relationship with them. Our offerings say, 'I’m here because I care about this. You are important. You mean something to me.' Lately, I’ve been singing my spirits songs and reading them my favorite poems. I promise you that your experience of life will change if you begin your day this way. You spirits will appear to help you through times of trouble. They will guide you and help you cultivate a life of beauty and connection, not just for yourself but for all beings. Victory to the Goddess!"
Amanda Yates Garcia is the author of Initiated: Memoir of a Witch, out on Oct. 22.
"Magic and witchcraft are based in our intention and understanding of the energy sources around us. Beginning starts with that inner calling and desire — to be willing to learn, listen, and explore. In the most practical of senses, it is important to then educate yourself in the many different avenues of witchcraft. This will help in finding specific areas of interest for further study and practice. Having a grasp on the 'hows' and 'whys' will provide the structure and stability for defining your path. While learning, it is also important to suspend any cynicism, disbelief, or fear and try not to micromanage your magic too much or compare yourself to others. Be patient in your magical journey and anchor your goals in your personal spiritual growth and mastery of self."
Michael Herkes is the author of The GLAM Witch.
"Although I don’t believe there’s one 'thing' that people need to start practicing witchcraft, I do believe a change of mindset is one of the most important. To see magick happen you have to believe in it; believing in the unseen, in the power of the universe, in the power of the earth and cosmos and YOURSELF is vital. This is the true magick, and the seed for any spell you cast or ritual you practice. Meditation, visualization and ritual are a huge part of this as well; having a simple activity you can return to every day whether it’s a breathing exercise, lighting a candle or a short meditation, is another solid way to create a magical practice for yourself. Consistency and devotion should not be underestimated if you want to see yourself grow as a witch."
Gabriela Herstik is the author of Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft.
"Open your eyes and your heart. Cultivating awareness is one of the most important aspects of practicing witchcraft, because it informs and facilitates your interaction with the energies around you. Practice listening, extending your senses to learn as much as you can. There’s so much going on in our heads and in the world around us that you can miss a lot of information due to the interference and static. Part of opening your eyes and heart also includes being open to material that comes from all sorts of different places — books, people, nature, your own experiences. Make sure you’re receptive to it, and don’t prejudge its source. And remember that how you absorb and interpret information is unique to you. This is your path you’re forging; trust yourself!"
Arin Murphy-Hiscock is the author of WICCA: A Modern Practitioner's Guide.
"From the outside witchcraft often looks like a lot of burning herbs, crystal collecting, and tarot card readings. Thankfully you don't actually need any rock collection or herb garden or to memorize all 72 cards upright, reversal, and conjunctive meanings. You don't need to go out and buy a witch kit from some pricy metaphysical Etsy. To start, all you have to do is decide what you want out of witchcraft. It doesn't need to be a grand, be-all end-all sort of goal either, in fact it's better if it's not. You can find spells in a book from your local library, and figure out which one seems like one you would want to do, and work towards it from there. Do you want to try a prosperity spell? Or a self-love spell? Or maybe just cleanse an area that gives you bad vibes? Go for it, and if it doesn't work out the first time, you can try again or find a different spell. It's your path, you decide where you want to go one step at a time. But there is no movement without a decision on what direction to go in."
Orriculum Rose is the author of Pastel Spells.
"One way to get started practicing witchcraft is to start being aware of the phases of the moon. It doesn't take much — I have an app on my phone that reminds me, but you can just add the information to whatever calendar you're already using. It turns out that across cultures and through recorded history, creating culture and recording history are among the most essential functions of the priestx. And since each witch is their own clergy, keeping the calendar is kind of your job now, too! You don't have to ascribe any particular significance to each phase, although you'd be very welcome to, but just by increasing your awareness you can gain some valuable occult wisdom about if and how that cycle affects you. When used intentionally, your lunar calendar can be a powerful reflective tool, like a mirror to the solar month."
Mya Spalter is the author of Enchantments: A Modern Witch's Guide to Self-Possession.