Witchcraft appears to be having another “it girl” moment. If you are old enough to remember the movie The Craft and the original Charmed you will remember the first pop culture craze in the 90’s. I’ve got conflicted feelings on this but mostly I’m happy that so many of us recognize the need to reconnect with the wisdom of Mother Earth. Learning the Craft is a lifetime of exploration, joy, wonder, and growth. It is both magical and messy.
When I first discovered witchcraft many decades ago, it was still completely taboo to speak of anything occult or pagan. My sweet Catholic mother was convinced Satan had gained a foothold on my soul and that demons needed to be cast out of my life. Congress was waging a war on “evil heavy metal music” and that bat loving freak Ozzy was making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Sweet goth teens were dying by suicide at an alarming rate because of bullying. This continued well into the 2000s. I remember Tempest Smith.
It wasn’t easy to find information or teachers to help navigate the path. This was well before the time of the internet. I was incredibly fortunate to inherit my late grandfathers collection of world religion and occult books at the age of 13. I devoured every tome and it included the collective works of Kahlil Gibran, The Tibetan Book of the Dead, The Koran, Aleister Crowley’s works and the original publication of The Golden Bough. As my awareness and understanding of the ideas outside of the traditional Puritanical American religious concepts emerged, I felt relief that there were others out there as different and weird as me. I found a name for who I was. I embraced becoming a witch.
The Maiden Years
It took several years of solitary study and practice before my teacher appeared. In that time I was visiting “New Age” shops and buying everything I could find on the subjects of Wicca, paganism, magic, palmistry, astral projection, astrology, etc. I became a vegetarian at age 15 after reading Tim Robbins Diet for a New America and I was committed to environmental activism. Not all of us are taken by surprise with climate change today and witches are political by nature. I had also discovered The Grateful Dead and the healing power of music and community.
It was only when I turned 19 that, as they say, the student was ready so the teacher appeared. I met Lady Brenda through a local shop and signed up for her Intuitive Tarot course. It may have been designed for a small group but it ended up being weekly 1:1 sessions working through the Rider-Waite deck. It was amazing to finally have an experienced high priestess to work with.
As our relationship developed I was invited to meet and work with her coven. The culmination of my experience was initiation into the coven, however, my time with them was all too brief. Mental health issues once again forced dramatic changes in my life and at the age of 20 I moved away from Southern California to go to college in San Francisco. There I became an art student with a minor in Women’s Studies and my feminist rage at the patriarchy was at full throttle. It was back to solitary practice in the broom closet.
The Motherhood Years
It wasn’t until one marriage, two children and 7 years after San Francisco that I met my new coven. Now firmly entrenched in family life back in Southern California I was still a hippy and just beginning to home school my little ones. It was at a local meet-up in the park that we met and there was an immediate connection. Power recognizes power and crazy knows it’s own!
This time my high priestess was a traditional Gardnerian and I had the joy and hard work of completing both first and second degree initiations. Those years are some of the best times of my spiritual life (while being some of the hardest and most devestating of my mundane life). Cue the death of my father, cancer treatment, bipolar diagnosis, a painful divorce and move 6 years later and I have been on my own ever since.
My coven followed our priestess to Texas and I relocated with my children at the beach. With the magic of the internet and texting we are able to stay in contact but I’ve never again found the group of witches that resonate with my heart. The “fluff bunnies” of the ’90s and ’00s drove me nuts while the “Witches of Instagram” today get under my skin as well. I’m perfectly content practicing an eclectic and simple craft again. (In fact, it wasn’t religion, but roller derby that saved my soul in my thirties! But that’s a story for another day…)
The Harvest Queen Years
The old adage of “with age comes wisdom” is very true. I have found that moving into my Harvest Queen phase has brought me a more grounded and peaceful perspective on life. If you are wondering what this phase in life is all about, I wrote more on the subject >>HERE<<. Basically the antiquated idea of the threefold Goddess and “Maiden, Mother, Crone” was appropriate when our lifespan was only 40 years. But in our modern age, we have doubled that life expectancy and we have the full richness of the years between fruitful “motherhood” and wise old “crone”. (and please remember, motherhood energy expands beyond just raising children) The midlife stage of the Harvest Queen is full of reflection, new beginnings, and some sage wisdom to share.
If I were a young witch starting out on my journey today in this digital age I think the way forward would be vastly overwhelming. There is an endless stream of information and misinformation to be found online. Like everything else, you need to cut through the noise and bullshit to distill the truth at the heart of it. How do new witches do this?
I may be old school but I know that my foundation of understanding the different world religions helped solidify my own belief systems. In addition to reading the sacred texts (the Bible, the Koran, the Baghavad Vita, etc.) I took a World Religions course at the local community college. Being able to debate in real life with other people helps expand awareness and understanding. It is an experience that is vastly different from debating online in social media forums.
Finding other witches to practice the craft with is also an experience that helps you deepen your faith. I recognize that there are still so many areas of the world where it isn’t safe to be openly pagan. But what about starting a book club or study group? We used to host a weekly meeting that started with Joseph Campbells “The Power of Myth” and continued on to work through all manner of occult books.The beauty of our digital world today is the ability to connect with other like-minded witches around the world to pursue this path together.
The Way of the Witch
The most important aspect of walking this path is letting go of societal expectations and embracing your own intuition. Be prepared to spend a lifetime unraveling your own karmic mystery: Why are you here at this moment in time? What are your gifts? How are you sharing this with the world (your own immediate circle of loved ones and/or the larger community)? What have your past or current hardships, pain, or tragedies taught you? Remember that the Phoenix can only rise out of the ashes from the flames.
You will need to do deep Shadow Work to address the inner most pain that holds you back. Witchcraft is not all sparkles and light. Toxic positivity and fluffy affirmations will get you nowhere. If working through your issues means traditional therapy, accept the help. My best tool of transformation during my hardest years was my journal. Write. Write it all down. When you have filled that journal, get another one. You don’t need to keep these forever if they are too painful. I always burn mine. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that.
Connect with the rhythms of the natural world around you. This means getting outside every day and observing what life is doing in your own neighborhood. (If physically going outside isn’t possible, open the window and observe). Learn the sounds of the birds, the trees and flora and fauna native to your area. Keep a record of the weather and moon phases. Track the movement of the Sun on its path around the Wheel. Notice the play of light and shadows during sunrise and sunset. Plant herbs and learn about them as they grow.
Take it all one day at a time because the deeper you go, the less you know. True wisdom is not something others can teach you. It develops over time and from within. You are choosing to walk a magical path that will unfold in a way uniquely your own. Enjoy the journey.