Know Thyself

Jose Roosevelt - Tutt'Art@

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.


7 thoughts on “Know Thyself

  1. Enjoyed this very much, Darryl. I think what I enjoyed most was the connection between knowing thyself, and becoming a conduit for the flowing power of Creation. If this is what it means to be a witch, my past and undoubtedly uneducated preconceptions of witchcraft will require some benevolent revision. I think I was too infected by the idea of witchcraft as a strange sort of “power over”, or dealing with the devil. As I have come to see the beauty in all ways and walks, I have had the inkling this was probably a false perception, and I am delighted to have the opportunity to learn more here… 🙂

    My “spiritual” reading of late has largely been in a book called A Course of Love. Which is neither here nor there, except the stated purpose is to assist uptight, mind-driven beings like myself to downshift into the realm of the heart, and there to release the creative power of our authenticity. It sounds quite similar to the passages I most connected with above. The power of knowing thyself as a representation or conduit of the universal. To know this fully, while in the moment of the personal life, seems the grandest sort of wizardry.

    Keep inspiring!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Really love your comments, Michael. I apologize for getting back to you so late. I’ve been working what seems like non-stop lately, but I like to get back to comments as promptly as I can regardless.

      I’m really glad that your mind opened up a bit more overtime – especially if that change in perspective, and your downshift into the depths of your heart is what caused such beautiful writing to result – but also because I of course can’t speak for all witches. I can even be accused of having an overly romantic bias toward the healers and community doctors and mediators of the past and even today: the wisewomen/men who the people sought refuge and respite in. But it can be a tricky lane to walk in when you’re getting into learning about practical magick and the different kinds of spirituality. I tend to have to go back to the old adage that magick isn’t necessarily a black or white practice. You can’t really assign a color to a neutral force. One of my favorite witches and biggest inspirations of all time, Cassandra Latham-Jones, likened magick or any of those higher forces we connect with and use to electricity: it can be used to light your house or to power an electric chair, and that the character of the witch or practitioner is in how you set up your circuits.

      Styles of craft are all so different and varied, and from outside appearances, even the most mundane of rituals in certain styles can seem dark or even frightening, which can immediately conjure up (lol… “conjure up”) all kinds of images and learned perceptions. I know mine can, definitely. My style of practice is more on the macabre side. I use a lot of different angles and tools that other practitioners may be very uncomfortable working with.

      For instance, I hardly cleanse all of the new materials I either buy, find, or make, because I believe that the energies that surround certain objects which most would want to immediately shuck away with a cleansing or magical banishment – even cursed objects – can provide a lot of unique insight as well as be very useful: either in skillfully transmuting them into something positive by “setting up new circuits” to reach a new result from an old output, or by filing down the personality of those energies into a sort of non-specific “stem cell” of wild chaos you wouldn’t normally get in a blank object or one that is emitting purely positive energy – which can be INCREDIBLY powerful and effective. Even straight up darker or “black” magick can lead to very fascinating insights and spiritual growth in some practitioners – and the kicker most people (even most witches) often don’t understand is that what can be called “black” magick can be used in spiritual practice without ever being used on any other living thing or affecting the lives of any other person in any way. It’s just a different window into the same world, lit by less light, which from the brain’s perspective, rids the world of its walls and barriers and creates a limitless arena for all. It’s all about intent and how the mind is focused. Some people are wonderful human beings, and some people are just dicks, and their practice reflects that.

      I walk the line between what is often considered acceptable and not, but I generally feel like as long as nothing is being hurt or intentionally destroyed in the process, then why not? Witchcraft is already kind of spooky in a mystical sense, but then when you learn that, in order to really understand what’s going on, you have to walk a little deeper down the staircase, it can be very intimidating or overwhelming, so most will dismiss all of the different types of craft as whatever they can sort of make out from the top of the stairs. But in the end, that staircase eventually does turn back up into an entirely new world of transcendent beauty and spiritual evolution. And we’re all, for the most part, essentially trying to enter that world from our own individual staircases.

      I’m so glad I’ve given you a little introduction of my own!

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Beautiful! Oh my goodness, I’ve been meaning to check out your blog, as you are one of my biggest supporters at Inspire Oneness. I am still new to blogging, I just love to write… aaand I love magic! This was just so absolutely wonderful, I look forward to reading more. Thank you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! I love your blog and what you have to say. You may be new to blogging, but your writing is wonderful, and you’ve given me a lot of inspiration for my own writing as I was beginning myself. I’m very glad you enjoyed it, and even moreso that you’ll continue to read! That makes me incredibly happy. 🙂


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