I think the hottest adjective (if that’s a thing?) of the past two years must be “witchy.” Witchy has become an aesthetic, a vibe, a deliberate lifestyle choice — and everyone wants to be a part of it. It’s very empowering to see that “which” was once demonized & hegemonized, become acceptable counter-culture, and then further become a mainstream form of individual expression. “Dental Hygienist by Day, Witch by Night” asserts one Instagram bio that I just made up (but it’s totally possible, right?).
We use “witch” and “witchy” as markers of our personalities. And that’s truly a rad reclaiming of the word. Sometimes, we leave it at that — I’m witchy: I wear dark velvet, and dry my homecoming roses upside down. And again, that’s is completely rad in itself.
But eventually, you may want to take your witchy-ness over the threshold of a social media bio and into the actual world of spells, magic, and divination – and what better time to cross that threshold than during the month of Samhain!
I’m a light witch who has practiced witchcraft recreationally for about four years (but I’ve celebrated it a lot longer than that). I’m not a medium, nor do I possess any extraordinary power (except for being born en caul). These are some things that I’ve learned along the way, and some other things that I wish I knew sooner:
1. Know Yourself / Know Your Limits
Before casting spells, reading tarot, or engaging in any form of divination, take the time to think deeply about what you hope to get out of these practices. Are you someone who is sensitive to energies? Are you in a place (physically and mentally) where you feel focused and able to set your intentions clearly? Do you feel safe?
I’ve personally always been someone who gets overwhelmed by energies. I hated living in a dorm room because I felt constantly swarmed by feelings unfamiliar to me. Simply receiving a catalog with a past dorm tenants name on it would send me into bouts of anxiety and nearly chronic sleep paralysis. As a personal rule, I do not touch ouija boards or cast spells that involve any form of collaborative energies. I’m just a horrible blocker (Bella Swan’s got this one on me). I was even apprehensive to read tarot, and even now, I will only do so when I feel safe in my space and free of negativity.
2. Do Not Hurt Others / Do not Mess with the Path of the Universe
As a disclaimer, I’m talking about small-scale, one-to-one hexes/spells here. It’s totally cool to hex the patriarchy, the president, etc., but just like everything else, be sure to research these hexes first and find a coven that is right for you (more on this later).
I get it. We all get jealous and angry. Sometimes bad thoughts coagulate in us, and it becomes easy to envision revenge. Of course, everyone who has ever been bullied to any degree can relate to the part in The Craft where the mean girl’s hair falls from her head in clumps. It’s human to feel these things, but you can’t let it go beyond this.
Attempting to alter the universe in such a way that it harms others is like flying too close to the sun: you’re gonna end up burning for it. Remember Willow at the end of BTVS season six? Yeah. Don’t be that Willow.
According to Wicca, all of our actions are rewarded or punished accordingly, times three. So, if you are truly concerned about another’s behavior, trust that the universe is watching, and that all will be as it should.
I love this essay by my witchy friend, Corrin Magditch, because she perfectly describes how to use magic to get what you desire without altering the any cosmic paths.
3. Find a Coven / Be Your Own Coven
Just like with everything else, witchcraft necessitates finding your people. When looking for a coven, think of it as looking for a roommate. You wouldn’t choose just anyone to live with you in your 2 BR 1 BTH loft, right? You want to find coven members who take accountability for their actions, who have empathy, and who share your values. The alliance of a coven is a force similar to a womb. In this womb, you are safe and constantly in a mode of creation. Be deliberate and thoughtful when choosing who to share this bond with. Or, do not share this bond with anyone at all.
Maybe it’s because of my aforementioned sensitivity to the energies of others, but I typically choose to practice alone. To be transparent, the spells that I choose to cast are more like prayers (ritualistic and used to send positivity to myself and my loved ones). And just like prayers, these spells are very personal and vulnerable — I like to keep them between me and the universe.
However, I do often practice divination with a consistent group of people (my sister, my fiancé, my mom), and I find that sharing these practices with others I feel close to allows me to glean more clarity and direction from my tarot cards or tea leaves. As a side note, I once read tarot for my sister’s friend who was six months pregnant at the time (we researched a lot first), and it was a pretty magical reading.
4. Be Safe / Do Your Research
Whether your intention is to practice witchcraft recreationally or religiously, made sure to do your research and approach spells like you would a work of art in the making. Look at the spell like you would a blank canvas. Imagine what it is you hope to create from this blankness. Know what can happen if your brush strokes lose control. Be at peace with the very idea of possibility before you begin.
Okay, I know. I’m kind of Leslie Knope-ish about everything I do. But research is important! And, how freaking amazing does a witchcraft binder sound?
In addition to general research, you also want to understand the tools you are using, the implications of your chosen practice, and the history of magic. For example:
Bros like to angry PM me for this one, but Aleister Crowley was a prime example of a pick-up artist with a unique angle. Honestly, look him up. He was misogynistic and disgusting. So, it’s probably a good idea to ensure you that you’re not using his teachings/practices when you’re hoping to use your power to manifest a more empathetic political or social climate.
If you’re totally new to the craft, here are some amazing resources to get you rollin’ on your research:
Now Age Tours (You’ll have to visit Salem for this one, but omg is it worth it!)
The Modern Guide to Witchcraft by Skye Alexander
Book of Shadows by Laurie Cabot
Where to Park your Broomstick: A Teen’s Guide to Witchcraft by Lauren Manoy
Witch: Unleased, Untamed, Unapologetic by Lisa Lister
Best of luck & blessed be!
Kailey Tedesco is the author of These Ghosts of Mine, Siamese (Dancing Girl Press) and the forthcoming full-length poetry collection, She Used to be on a Milk Carton (April Gloaming Publishing). She is the editor-in-chief of Rag Queen Periodical and a staff-writer for Luna Luna Magazine. She also performs with the Poetry Brothel. You can find more of her essays in Electric Literature, Hello Giggles, UltraCulture, and more. For other publication info, please visit kaileytedesco.com