Recently, during a live private interview, I was asked a question that has stayed with me the past couple days. And it is, what is my advice for someone wanting to get into witchcraft? Not the exact words. Basically, what is my advice for beginner witches. Faced with this question I somewhat initially pushed against giving a clear answer since for me witch and witchcraft is a personal thing, more of a subjective embodiment. Moreover in a circuitous way, it lead me to ask what even is witch. So, what is witch?
Witch is first a word of myth, arising out of the dark soil like the undulations of a mysterious song. To define witch is to delimit and box that which moves like smoke. To fall under the narrative song of this word is to fall in to a landscape alive, inseparable from the sweat inducing ecstasy of dance, body, transgression, and unnameable wildness. To fall under this song is to blur lines of significations. For me, there is no categorical being witch, but living witch. It is an immersion in a rhythmic landscape alive, conversant, pulsating with heart. Living witch is to see with sharp eyes, to feel with the body, and to engage this same body and this self in place. It is connection, dialogue, narrative with the human and other than human life-ways. It is also a recognition of the self and the body immersed in the all.
The doing of witch is a push toward the senses, the body in motion and moving, engaged in place, in relation to others as opposed to atomized and individual. It is a push toward the sovereignty that arises out of the body that opens up the senses, perception, awareness, all in relation. An everyday doing of this is a continual dialogue with the spirits of place, with the dead, with the land, and with the landscape.
This all has the thrust of rebellion because to engage in this way is to bridge relationships seeking mysteries, answers, and changes between boundaries. To do witch is to demand and seek.
Given all this, my advice stands as it always does, beginning with the body, opening the body perceptively and learning to extend the self outward into the land and the place, developing discernment and sense-ability. In this way the person begins to take hold of the ship’s wheel of their doing, their enchantment, their involvement, with the aim of charting a personal course for the self. This map, this course, is drawn through weaving thread by thread, step by step, the tapestry, the lay of the land as it unfolds. Consistency and perseverance. Each one, after setting out, should reflect on the question, what do I want this course to taste, smell, sound, and feel like, its form? The bare bones should be visible, even as the map of the journey will change through time.
On a practical level, how does one person want to shape the days, the weeks, and the months? Where will the work of consistency and perseverance show itself? What will the body do on a routine basis that sharpen persistence and awareness?
In tandem with the previously mentioned, the person which does witch is inseparable from spirit companions, whether these be Saints, Ancestors, Mighty Dead, or diverse spirits from a religious/mythological narrative, and also the spirits of place the witching person inhabits. And even more practically, what spirits of place will the person be in relation with?
One’s dead, ancestors, are always a good place to begin as most/many openly want one’s own life flourishing. Therefore they are excellent allies and should always have a place of honour. Without the dead we, you or I, would not be. I am because I have ancestors and I carry within me the lives that have come before me.
Spirits of place are equally important because you and I live and in-habit place, a particular landscape. Hence, it would also be wise to open relationships with the spirits that are also a part of this place we cohabit together. Some of these spirits might be ancestral, green spirits, of plant and tree, of the air, varied tricksters, and the list goes on… It behooves the person who witches to be in good standing with some of these spirits.
And then we come back to the body of the witch, how to awaken this body so often forced and reshaped into dormancy and complacency? Journeying and visionary work, which hones different forms of sight and perception as well as experience. Tarot cards serve as a good tool and a gateway into visionary practice. Not the only tool but a good tool nonetheless. I add movement to visionary work, the body in deliberate movement. The body deliberately doing is a body given purposeful shape, refusing to be subsumed within the culturally conforming body.
From where I stand, the overarching why of witchcraft, the why of witch, should be contained within desire and need. Desire to express the self and to create for this living body a life that is witch, that embodies agency and sovereignty. The whys change and evolve/transform through time for the person but moving with desire and how desires flow and are expressed through the body is the fire that keeps the cauldron hot.
It would be remiss of me to not address the witch as rebellion and as a decolonizing force. For this person/a responds to crisis, to the moment, embodying witch is learning to be hunter, and to be vulture. The witch is the inheritance of the daughters of men cavorting with the fallen angels, unearthing mysteries beyond petrified/constricting hierarchies. The witch is the crossing of boundaries and categories, a trickster itself at the periphery. Fluid and too slippery for categorizations. The witch is the daring, it is the reclaiming, the retaking, and the vivifying in the midst of crisis.
Since I read the cards, I thought I would grab one of my packs and ask, “Show me a portrait of the witch?” This is what the cards revealed.
Witch is a volatilizing force, guiding and synchronizing from the edges. Quick with the knife, direct, visionary. The searing seer and initiating potency.
I didn’t recommend specific books in the interview, but it doesn’t hurt now to mention some of my inspiration.
- The Book of St. Cyprian: The Sorcerer’s Treasure, Jose Leitao.
- The Immaterial Book of St. Cyprian, Jose Leitao.
- The Brazen Vessel, Scarlet Imprint
- Apocalyptic Witchcraft, Peter Grey
- The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abram
- Cunningfolk and Familiar Spirits: Shamanic Visionary Traditions in Early Modern British Witchcraft and Magic, Emma Wilby
On an ending note, these words and ideas have all cooked under the pressure and fire of my own body, my own experience, and living. I have been inspired by many things and these are merely some thoughts on what I have cohered along the way.