I call myself a witch really just because I enjoy titles. I love all of the terminology and associations for things that come with the territory of a magickal lifestyle: all of the subtle nuances implied in words like enchantment, charm, amulet, talisman, spell, incantation, hex, jinx, curse, reversal, banishment, invocation, evocation; it’s all such a buffet of whimsical delicacies with so many unique flavors to enjoy.
I realize that there isn’t necessarily a need for much of it. Especially when considering that the practice of witchcraft is my personal method of learning to shuck my ego and rid myself of labels and associations in the first place. Even magick itself, in its most fundamental state, is based on the influence of the mind on its reality. The mind is the root and stalk of just about every spell, so no real label or physical tool is generally required to cast one. An adept mind focused with the intention of one possible outcome arriving to it is all that’s needed. But that’s just so incredibly boring to me!
I love tools. I adore all of the various little additions of personal and cultural flourishes that many practitioners use in their individual styles, and I believe they all have something very significant to offer a magician and anyone who benefits from the efforts of a magician. As a kid, all I really had to work with was raw experience. I was raised in a broken and abusive home, so I spent most of my time outside. Nature was a better home with a better mother.
I loved animals, and they seemed to like me back, which astounded me. I have fond memories of sitting in fields and under canopies with deer and sharing my lunch with their foals. Birds were my absolute favorite – especially hummingbirds – and the songs of cicadas in the evening and crickets at night enchanted me. I had a fascination with trees and plants and an insatiable curiosity about how they related to me and also with what lived beyond the stars. Though that was the extent of it for me. All of the more extraordinary things that happened to and around me always seemed to be just out of the scope of my control or understanding, so they frightened me way more than they intrigued me. I felt more at home out in the world, but still intensely anxious and paranoid. It wasn’t until I met a woman who ended up becoming one of my dearest and most beloved friends that the fear slowly began to dissolve away and the stranger aspects of my life began to make any kind of sense.
And then the reading began. Oh, did it begin.
One of the first things I read was a phrase that seems to be used often in the witch community, which is “know thyself”. The very idea of this perplexed me and filled me with awe, as well as a desire to truly comprehend just what that entailed. The fact that there were actually people in the world who not only understood their place in nature and reality, but also used that knowledge to better their own lives and the lives of others, was mind-blowing to me. Learning that the connection I felt to the Earth and everything on it wasn’t a crazy delusion, and that even hundreds of thousands of other people in the world believed the exact same things I did was a defining moment of my life. And these people weren’t nut jobs!
They were intelligent and articulate people. They were healers and midwives and community leaders who sowed blessings and hope into the hearts of those they touched. They sent infants swirling with new life out into the world with the first kind words they ever heard. They tied together the bonds of matrimony and fidelity in couples experiencing the mysteries of new communion. They provided counseling and therapy when conflict rose and emotional respite when the weight of grief fell. They assisted families with turning the heaviest page in the final chapter of the life of a lost loved one. And most importantly, I think, they just seemed to be nice people. They appeared to have somehow discovered the secret to living gently and reasonably, with compassion and a grasp of who they were and what their place in the world meant to more than just themselves. They were people that one could truly look up to, which was something that I also desperately needed. So I knew this was the type of person I wanted to be, and nothing less than that.
I live in South Texas, and my region isn’t exactly a Mecca for Paganism. The closer to the border you get, the more apt you are to find a Curandera fixing and dressing vigil candles, mixing oils, or wrapping smudge sticks in a Botanica, or a religiously inspired folk magician behind the antique counter of an obscure shop frosted with dried wax and buzzing with the hum of an ancient and holy energy in the chips and cracks of its varnish.
My style of craft and brand of spirituality are largely my own: I research and browse through cultures and tradition and technique and I borrow what I need. I use what works for me, and cut out what doesn’t. Though I can’t deny that the eye-popping beauty of the culture I grew up in has most certainly played a role in tilting the direction of the style of my work as it stands today: with all the visceral passion of its minimalist approach, its striking imagery and use of color, and its somber idolatry, all activated by an incredible intensity of faith and personal conviction summoned from deep within. I was raised Christian, so I felt immediately comfortable in this spiritual system, and in pushing my mental limits through a more prayerful and shamanic form of spellcasting. Hoodoo also employs these types of things, and it has seasoned my palate as well. I’m simply in love with it all.
There’s also a rather large Eastern and Southern Asian cultural circle here, so alongside our ancient Catholic cathedrals and Synagogues are Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist temples. Meditation groups, yoga, Tai Chi schools, Reiki masters, and all walks of energy working spiritualists are very easy to find. I’m sure it’s fairly obvious to tell that my general spiritual philosophy and way of interpreting my experiences is Eastern in nature.
Personally, these labels speak to the kid in me. They simmer the world in a savory spice that infuses so much more aroma and flavor into everyday actions and seemingly mundane things. Assigning these names and titles of significance to all of the things I use daily acts as a gentle reminder to my subconscious that what I’m doing and where I’m doing it is incredibly special and deserves respect.
It’s easy to forget in all the business of living that the world is a beautiful place, life is a beautiful thing, and that cultivating an understanding of why is a beautiful endeavor. In a way, looking deeper into the nature of what defines something is a type of mindfulness practice with the ability to systematically lift me to a higher consciousness.
Just as suffering itself can be used as a mode of transforming the nature of suffering in order to eventually overcome it, the physical world and its affects can also be a door to transcendence. And witchcraft – as I see it – is the welcome mat.
I am a witch, and I am so unbelievably proud to call myself one.