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What Witchcraft Is

I’ve self identified as a witch for 20 years now, but practised it for much longer without knowing (in the early days there were a few accidental spell castings that had ‘interesting’ results). A lot of seekers are online looking for covens at the moment. Perhaps it’s the New Year thing, or maybe it’s just cabin fever. But it’s caused me to want to write a bit more about what it is I do.

I’m used to people‘s reactions if it comes up in conversation, and very often they fall into two camps. Firstly there are the folk that react with fear - they think I’m doing something ungodly, something against the church. No prizes for guessing where that one comes from. Needless to say I don’t worship Satan – he is not part of the witches worldview. Neither do I believe I’m doing something ungodly, witchcraft is something I practice with the gods not against them. And yes, I said gods (plural). I believe that the concept of God is a man-made one, created to explain the vast force of the universe which we struggle to understand with a tiny human mind. To me the gods are archetypes - hundreds if not thousands of tiny facets on the giant disco-ball-miracle that is the power behind the universe.

The second response I usually receive is the one where you’re seen as being slightly eccentric at best, mentally unstable at worst. But if that’s a reflection on outmoded and outdated thinking about mental health and neuro-diversity, it’s a madness I want to have. I am much happier when I care less about what people think about me, and whether I fit within the narrow margins of what is ‘normal’ or not.

At the moment, if you glance at social media, you’ll see a wealth of young women and men, flocking to the term ‘Witch’. Witches of Instagram is one of the fastest growing hashtags, and there are many folk out there ready to tell you how to be a witch. Only I wonder if they’ve ever actually thought about what it is they’re doing, at the heart of it. So what does being a witch mean to me? bear in mind if you ask a room full of witches what it is, you will get a room full of different answers. For context I practice Gardnerian Wicca, as part of an initiatory tradition (which means I work with a coven, in what would be referred to as British Traditional Wicca in the states) and I also have a very active spiritual life as a Hedgewitch or Solitary witchcraft (who doesn’t during COVID). Those on the Wiccan path tend to have a strong sense of being part of a priesthood, and living a life of service. After 20 years of constant study, internal review and reflection, what is this life as a priestess? And what do I think I’m a priestess of?

As a practising Wiccan, this does not mean I run around charmed style battling demons and casting spells which give me supernatural powers. While I would love supernatural powers, that’s not how magic works. And the only demons we battle are our own inner demons. Simply put I am a priestess of nature, and my gods. When I signed up for Wiccan training as part of the preparation for initiation into a coven, I knew I was signing up for a life of service. Service to my gods, service to my community, and service to a wider community of souls - both human and animal. My mission has always been to improve the little corner of the universe in which I reside, and follow the inner promptings of my gods. Sometimes priestessly duties mean writing, sometimes making jewellery or soap, sometimes teaching classes, but always I’m interested in helping other people to connect to their own inner divinity, often through their creativity. I’m not interested in telling people what to do, only empowering them to make their own choices, their own decisions.

I’ve explored in other blog articles the nature of the deities I serve. The Wiccan concept of sacred feminine and masculine (and everything in between those two binaries). I always encourage my students to discover their own connection to the divine, in whatever form that might take, paganism is not a path which engenders dictatorship. It’s about each of us finding your own way, and connecting in a way that works for us.

The one constant through all pagan paths, whether you practice sky clad or robed, is a love of nature. To me, life only begins to make sense in nature, whether I’m walking, or swimming in the rivers or the sea. I’ve come to realise as I’ve got older I have a rural heart. While I loved the excitement of living in the city, that brought with it its own challenges. (How to connect to nature in one of the worlds biggest metropolises is always a challenge. But it was a challenge I rose to, and I believe succeeded at.)

My book Nature Mystics was an examination of fellow writers who were, like me, inspired by nature to write. Nature opens up the pathways to my creativity. It enables me to connect to something bigger, to see the pattern in the universe, what Mary Webb referred to as reading the Kabbalistic signs in nature. It is evidence of the divine in life, and walking in nature allows me to remember the billions of souls that reside on this planet. Every living creature deserves our respect and our protection. They are to be cherished not used.

So what’s with this life of service? What does that mean? I believe the label of priestess is to be earned and conferred. For the last 20 years I’ve studied the craft whilst also carrying out a day job at a charity, which work to support those who are suffering from addictions. I strongly believe, that even if I earned my living using only my creative tools and didn’t need to work, that some part of me would stay working in that charity. I follow in my mother’s footsteps in that I believe life has to have a purpose beyond our own inner requirements. The challenge is not just to thrive in your own life, but, where you can without injury to yourself, to help carry along those who are struggling. However, I’m also aware of the archetype of the wounded healer. And I’m learning through life that you cannot give all at the expense of yourself. You have to put your own air mask on first before you can help others. So a steady diet of self-care, nurturing yourself, and healing of your own inner wounds is also essential. And as much time in nature as possible - to de-compress, to plug in, and to refill my own batteries, with both creative energy and compassion. Which is what the witches path has taught me - each sabbat we come to asks us to do an inner inventory of what’s worked, and what hasn’t. Where we need to focus our attention and what needs doing next, what we want to manifest and what we need to do on behalf of others.

I am lucky that my practice of witchcraft comes with a coven. A very select few souls who I work with magically. We’ve been bonded for 15 years now, each of us working in our own sphere in the material world.

What community do I serve?

A community of souls-both human, and non-human. I serve those that need me, whether it be through a conversation that reminds people that they have the power of choice, or a person who needs a bit of extra kindness, or an ancestral line that requires healing. I’m always interested in what you believe, but that doesn’t prevent me from carrying out priestessly work if that’s what you need. However I am also not a commodity to be bought or sold.

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