How Do I Become a Witch?
Openly practicing witches hear this question a lot. It comes in many forms. “So, you’re a witch? Can you teach me how to be a witch? How did you become a witch? Is it hard to be a witch? Do you like being a witch?” Underneath it all is curiosity and in many cases a desire to know if witchcraft is right for you.
If you’re here, reading this, you are at least curious. Read on!
People also ask, “Are witches evil?” or “Is witchcraft evil?” Sometimes I want to roll my eyes, but I rather someone ask than just assume that witches and witchcraft are dark or bad. I even prefer if someone asks me point blank, “You worship the devil, right?”
Uh . . . NO.
Witchcraft has absolutely nothing to do with the devil.
Most witches don’t even believe in a devil, nevermind the devil. So just throw that idea out entirely. Take a moment to watch that pesky bit of misinformation take a flying leap off a high cliff. Yup, there it goes. You can almost hear the classic cartoon descending-whistle sound effect, can’t you? But we don’t have to wait for the splat. Let’s move on.
Do witches really have magical powers?
Wait, was that too easy? Okay, let me explain. Witches don’t wave wands to send people flying into walls like in Harry Potter movies. Witches do make things happen, but real magick (that’s how we spell it, to make it clear we’re not talking about a Vegas show with white tigers in it) is a lot more subtle, and in some ways a lot more powerful, than the movies make it look.
Can I use witchcraft to become really powerful and teach bad people a lesson?
But not in the way you might think.
Oh, come on, I know you were wondering. And you may be feeling a little bit of disappointment by now if you were planning to send the school (or work) bully walking out into traffic the next time he or she gives you a hard time, preferably pre-toadified. We’ve all thought about it. I know I have. Okay, maybe some really goody-two-shoes types haven’t, but most of us have had a bad day and thought “If only . . ..”
Witchcraft is a powerful practice. Being a witch can be a powerful experience. But like any power it comes with the weight of responsibility. Witches are very “hands on” with the world and the power they use. They don’t just casually ask Deity for a favor by saying a prayer, they make it happen. So, a witch can’t just shrug and say, “Oh, it must have been God’s will” or “That’s just life.” If a witch messes up and something bad happens, she will feel every bit of compassion or guilt as any other person would feel for doing something hurtful. A good person will feel it deeply, a bad person won’t. Being a witch is no different. The best witches have a tremendous sense of personal responsibility.
So yes, witchcraft can make you feel powerful. The wonderful thing about having that kind of personal power is that the school bully no longer seems important. A witch knows how to deal with a small-minded person like that and will rarely be bothered by that bully again.
Do witches really cast spells?
Oh yeah. All the time. I guarantee that somewhere out there, right now as you are reading this, there are many witches casting spells. And yes, spells work. Magick works. It’s real and it’s powerful and it can be beautiful to experience. Honestly, it can be quite a rush. But it’s not flashy. Magick and spell-casting are practices that take a lot of study and time and a healthy dose of good old-fashioned concentration.
So, if you’re willing to learn, to take some time to study the basics and more time to build your own magickal practice, you too can be a witch.
What makes someone a witch?
That’s what I wanted to know in the beginning. In short, a witch is someone who has a particular skill set. That skill set is known as witchcraft. That’s a very general answer, and different witches specialize in different areas of witchcraft, but we’ll get into the basics here.
Witches use nature and their own will to make change happen in their lives and the world.
It’s really that simple. Witches often spend a lifetime learning how their will can be combined with the energies of the natural world (to us that includes the spiritual world) to create change. That is what casting a spell is all about.
To make spells easy to understand, casting a spell is basically a form of prayer. The difference is that the witch combines his or her prayer (or intention) with other things to heighten the focus and concentration and power. To add magick. The things that are added to spell crafting are candles, symbols, amulets, herbs, essential oils, crystals, other rocks that carry special energy, and a certain amount of ritual.
How does a witch cast a spell?
To give you a very general outline, a witch will usually “cast a circle” at the beginning of a ritual or spell. The circle is our sacred space. It can be big enough for a few hundred people to fit inside, or just a little bubble around the witch and whatever else he or she needs to cast the spell. Inside the circle, a witch and her work are protected from negativity and other outside influences. Many people feel a sense of awe and peace when stepping into a glorious cathedral or a holy temple. That’s what a witch feels inside a magick circle. Witches don’t build houses of worship, we carry the magick inside us and can cast our circle just about anywhere.
When the circle is cast, a witch will usually evoke the elements. No, I’m not talking about that scientific table thingy from chemistry class with all the letters and numbers. These are the more old-fashioned elements, the big four (or five). Earth; Air; Fire; Water; and for many, Spirit. A witch asks these energies to be with him as the spell continues.
Woah, did you just say “him?” Again? Yes, men can be witches too. Witches can be male or female. In fact, let me be inclusive here: Any gender, specified or unspecified, is qualified to be a witch.
Safely in the circle and with the elements adding their power and protection, the witch goes about actually working her spell. She may bless a special candle with essential oils and herbs, weaving in an intention for love or healing or justice. She may spell an amulet (a special necklace), to help herself or a friend get through a stressful situation. She may simply want to connect to nature on a spiritual level to refresh her own spirit. Being a witch can be draining. Witchcraft can be tiring work.
When the spell is done, the witch gathers his things together, releases the elements with his thanks, and opens (releases) the circle. Yeah, that’s it. There’s no requirement to sacrifice a live chicken or have creepy random stranger sex. (Yeah, a lot of people wonder about that too, and they are often afraid to ask.)
Types of witches
I’m not going to sugarcoat the real world. There are bad people. You know that. There are bad witches just like there are bad Christians and bad Muslims and bad Atheists and anything else you want to name. A belief system or practice does not make a person good or bad. That person’s intentions and her own personality determine whether what she does is good or bad or downright nasty. With that caveat, I’m going to continue by giving a very general idea of the types of witches. There is no way every witch is going to agree with me on these labels. These are just the terms I have heard most commonly and how I’ve heard them used.
- Hereditary Witch – A witch who has a witch for a parent (or uncle or grandmother, etc.), and who has been taught by that elder, is a hereditary witch. The knowledge they get is an inheritance, just like some people inherit money or jewels. Hereditary witches seem to have a certain cachet, for lack of a better word. People often envy the hereditary witch. I’m not sure why, but I will say that some of them really rub it in. Being a hereditary witch does not make that witch better than anyone else, it just means that the person who taught her was an older relative who is/was also a practicing witch.
- Solitary Witch – A solitary witch does not practice as part of a coven. Some find this path early on and are happy with it. Others have practiced magick in a group environment and found that being solitary works best for them. Very rarely, a solitary is a solitary because he simply has no choice. This is usually because he lives somewhere that doesn’t have a lot of other witches around, and/or where being a witch is something you need to keep on the down-low for whatever reason, so even if there are other witches around the solitary may never know about them.
- Kitchen Witch – A kitchen witch isn’t exactly confined to the kitchen, but she may use the herbs and spices from the kitchen cabinet in her spells. She knows what each of those is good for, besides making the chicken tasty. She isn’t likely to be found performing a complicated ceremony while wearing black robes, but if you look closely you will often see that she incorporates witchcraft into her everyday life more thoroughly than many other witches.
- Hedge Witches – This is a tricky one. “Hedges are edges.” When I first began studying the craft, I was taught that “edges” have power, and this is what hedge witchery is about. A hedge was often the boundary between the village and the wild field. Property lines and fence lines, and in-between places like the sea shore, can hold power. In the old world, people believed that the spirit world (or faery, etc.) was close to ours and that any “edge” was a magical place where if one knew how (or was just very unfortunate), one might travel from our world into that other world and (hopefully) back. Hedge witches often practice their craft in ways related to the boundary between this world and the next. They may deliver messages from the otherworld, they are often midwives who help new souls into this world.
- Ceremonial Witches – Several traditions of witchcraft study ritual and ceremony intensively and use those things frequently. Many are drawn to ceremonial practice because it fits with what a lot of people instinctively believe magick should be about. Ceremonial witches have more fancy tools than the average witch. They are more likely to recite complicated chants when casting spells. They are also more likely to practice in a coven.
- Traditional Witches – There are various magickal Traditions, most of them blending the skill set of witchcraft and a pagan (non-Christian) belief system. Traditional witches focus on witchcraft and magick as part of their religion. They try to incorporate as much historical information as possible, to follow the “roots” of pagan witchcraft, mostly from pre-Christian Europe. There are too many traditions to go into here, but most of them focus on Deity as a duality: male and female, sun and moon, god and goddess. This system of belief is often beautiful and very life-affirming in practice. Some of the Traditions you’ll run into are Green Witchcraft, Alexandrian, Gardnerian, Dianic, Druidic. Many focus on a particular region’s native practices, such as Odinism and Santeria and Stregheria. If you have strong ties to a particular region, you may want to do research into that area’s magickal traditions. I have found that blood ties to magickal practice are often the strongest.
- Shamanism – Just to make some people I know happy, I’m going to say that it’s pronounced “SHAH-mah-nism” not “SHAY-mah-nism.” The Shaman is often a healer. He is in touch with the spiritual world on a regular basis, sometimes incorporating trance states into his practice to gain insight into that world and/or communicate with the spirits. This is often something a person is chosen for at a young age. A shaman will choose a promising student and carefully train her to take on the mantle of shaman when the time comes. In a broader sense, shamanism incorporates the spiritual practices and beliefs of native cultures for various types of healing and for interpreting the will of the spirits.
- Eclectic Witch – An eclectic witch picks and chooses the pieces of his craft that work for him. He may honor the goddess and god but also carry a Catholic rosary. Or he may use Druidic ritual while focusing mostly on the Greek Pantheon. Some people will say this is a mish-mash and can’t possibly work. I’m not that kind of snob. I’m fairly eclectic myself. When it comes to practicing witchcraft, it is best to do what feels right to you, and if carefully selecting parts of different traditions helps you become a better witch, I’m all for it.
- Secular Witch – The secular witch uses witchcraft and the tools commonly associated with it (crystals, herbs, oils, etc), but does not ascribe to them a spiritual significance. To me, a secular witch often comes off very scientific. She is likely to know the properties of medicinal herbs and be able to explain their uses, but is unlikely to call upon Spirit or any other element or deity to help her in her craft. If you’re an atheist at heart, secular witchcraft could be right up your alley.
- Christian Witches – This has often been a point of debate. Many people call themselves both Christian and a witch, and I’m not going to argue with them. I come from a long line of devout Catholics, and there are quite a few witches in that same family tree. If someone wants to ask Jesus to help with a spell instead of invoking Ceridwen or Odin or Kali, that’s their business. I see no reason that it shouldn’t work. To me, all gods are one god, all goddesses one goddess, and each is only a face of the All.
As you’ve probably begun to see, being a witch is not simple. If this is what you want to do, you have a lot of research and studying ahead. Any witch worth her salt knows (there’s an inside joke there, but I’ll leave it to you to figure out with your witchy researching skills), you are likely to have a bookshelf full of witchcraft-related books before you settle on what type of witch you are going to be, then you’ll probably fill a few more shelves honing your skills and learning your chosen focus of the craft. Oh, and maybe another bookshelf when you change your mind a few times.
READ. Research. Talk to other witches. Life for a witch is a lot simpler in one way now than it was when I was starting out: you have the internet. All of this information is out there and there are a lot of online communities full of witches who are willing to help, advise, or just share sacred cyber-space.
Starting on the Path of the Craft
There are a lot of resources for beginners. Do a bit of research and don’t be afraid to skip around between authors and traditions in the beginning. Settle on what feels right for you. Or don’t settle at all. Eclecticism has its merits.
I have always considered witchcraft to be a path, a journey, not a destination. I think the oldest symbol for this journey is the best: a labyrinth. There are many twists and turns, many discoveries to make along the way, and what you find at the center may surprise you. It will be your truest self.
Here are a few simple signposts to help you avoid major wrong turns, dead ends, or oubliettes:
- No one knows THE CORRECT ANSWER. If someone says they know the right way to practice witchcraft, look around for another teacher.
- Shortcuts are never good. Like negotiating a hedge maze, you’ll only get scratched up and end up right where you were supposed to be in the first place. If someone says, “Pay me X amount of money and I’ll make you a witch,” consider them a prickly hedge and go on your way. I’m not saying you should never pay for a class or training, but if it seems way too expensive and/or way too easy, it probably is.
- At the exact same time, it should not be too hard. The study of witchcraft should not cause you pain or make you ill. Do not do anything to harm yourself. Many witches live by the rule, “An’ it harm none, do as ye will.” Translated loosely, it means that as long as you aren’t hurting anybody, you can do what you want. What many forget is that harm NONE includes yourself.
- Remember that everyone finds this path on their own. No matter their background or if they had a famous teacher, they came to witchcraft the same way you are coming now: they had to learn, they had to study, they had to practice. No witch is better than any other just because of how they came into the Craft.
- Get a journal. Take notes. You will often hear terms like Book of Shadows or Grimoire. Traditionally, these are spell books created by a witch or coven to be passed down through the years. People also use these terms for the special journal they use to take notes and keep track of their own progress in the Craft. It doesn’t matter if your journal is a school notebook or a fancy leather-bound tome or your IPad. If you are one of the gifted few that never forgets anything, your journal can even be in your head. Personally, I don’t recommend that. I have often been surprised by what I rediscovered in my own grimoires years later, and I have a very good memory.
- Find community. You don’t have to join a coven, and when/if you do it may not work out. Solitary is fine. But having others to learn from even just through casual conversation is important. You will pick up the terms and values of the Craft without even trying.
- Last, but certainly not least, BE YOU. If you find yourself feeling that you have to constantly change to meet an ever-rising bar put in place by other practitioners around you, consider it the same stinky kind of peer pressure that we’ve all been told to say no to since we were children. Your contacts in the way of witchcraft should challenge you, exercise your mind, help you learn and adjust. They should not PRESSURE you. If something makes you truly uncomfortable, just walk away. Stay true to you, and you will find yourself at the center of this journey.
Blessings now and always,