Being A Witch
Over the years, I’ve been asked thousands upon thousands of times from people, that all ask the same question “How do I become a Witch?” Unfortunately a lot of them have a very misguided idea of what Witches are really like, and what it means to truly become one. The impressions many have of what we do, and believe I find very disturbing. They see Witches as people who spend the bulk of their time casting an endless array of spells to make everything in life go their way, no matter who they stomp on in the process, with a library of spells for every purpose they desire. Even worse are the ones that believe TV & Movies. You’d be surprised, shocked actually, at how many people (not just kids) think the character of “Willow” the Witch, on a show called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is an accurate portrayal of a real Witch! I’d love to float on the ceiling, or stand on top of a Mac truck, shooting lightning from my fingers, or be able to read books by putting my hand on them and ‘absorb’ the contents, but that’s ALL fiction. We can’t do ANY of the cool tricks you see her do.
So what is a Witch? The word Witch actually means “wise woman”, but it should be noted that males are also referred as Witches too. They are usually very adept at various forms of divination, and know a great deal about the powers of herbs and gemstones. They are usually very good healers as well. But every Witch I know also follows some form of Wiccan/ Pagan, or Neo Paganism religion as well. “Neo” meaning the Paganism we practice now, as opposed to our ancestors. A Witch is a person who has mastered the ways of Magick, and performs Magick spells and rituals. I myself am very knowledgeable about herbs, gardening, gemstones, moon phases and divination. Tarot seems to be the favorite, but rune stones come in at a close second, along with scrying, and pendulum gazing for simple yes or no questions.
Paganism is an umbrella term for all the different religious paths one can follow, such as Wicca, Druid, Celtic, etc. No different than referring to oneself as a Christian, but not mentioning you are Protestant, Episcopalian etc. This shows the difference between Witchcraft, and say Wicca. Have you ever heard of ancient times when Wiccans were burned at the stake, anywhere in history, even when King James changed a passage in the bible to “Thou shalt not suffer a Witch to live”, he wasn’t talking about Wiccans. Why? Because Wicca has only been around since the early 1950’s and was brought out into the open by Gerald Gardnes, considered the father of Witchcraft. One of his apprentices was the gifted poet that wrote the Charge of the Goddess. So as you can see, there is a difference between Witchcraft and Paganism, (although most incorporate the two quite nicely).
Yet of the thirty something books I have on Wicca, all say that Witchcraft and Wicca is the same thing. If that was true, then anyone who practices Witchcraft would be Wiccan, even though they aren’t, and follow a different Pagan path such as Celtic, Druid, Diantic or some other form of Paganism. Doesn’t make much sense since when you put it that way, does it? (shrug) Some Witches refer to themselves as Witches, while others choose to refer to themselves by the religious path they follow, such as “Celtic”.
The first thing you have to understand that Witchcraft *is* a craft, and like any craft, it takes a lot of study, and practice before you can become proficient at it. In any Coven, it is traditional that a person must do extensive study, and practice, for a year and a day, before they can even refer to themselves as a Witch. It’s a good idea for the countless number of solitary ‘would be’ Witches, to follow this rule as well. On the day you finish your year & a half of study is when you choose whether whatever path you’re on is right for you. If it is, a ritual called “The Initiation” is done in which you pledge yourself to follow that path, after which you can refer to yourself as a Witch or Wiccan, Celtic etc. A solitary Witch in training can easily design their own ritual, when the time comes, as they have studied and practiced enough to know how to properly perform spells and rituals.
You also must understand that learning the ways of Witchcraft is not going to take just a year and a day. You must continue to avidly practice, and read as much as you can your whole life. Witchcraft is a life long journey of wonder that only stops when you stop trying to learn. And the very first thing you should learn is meditation, and doing visualization exercises, along with study. The Witchcraft 101 course is a good place to start, followed by the Complete Magick course. As I said over and over in my spells essay, you cannot perform Magick if you can’t reach a meditative or trance state, as well as have crystal clear visualization skills. And as you’ll read on my meditation page, it’s a heck of a lot more than sitting around staring at a candle.
All good Witch’s follow some code of ethics such as the Wiccan Rede’s “Harm None, Do As You Will”, karma, what comes around, goes around, do unto others as you want them to do to you, and others. This means they don’t use Magick to hurt anyone, including themselves. We don’t sacrifice animals, or babies, or worship the devil, Satan, Lucifer, or whatever you want to call it. The devil is an entity that simply doesn’t exist in Witchcraft or Paganism. It’s an entity from Christian and Muslim religions, not ours. You can’t worship what you don’t even believe exists now can you?
What about those pentacles you wear? A pentacle is a 5 pointed star with a circle around it. The top point stands for spirit, the other four the four directions, north, south, east, and west. The circle around the star stands for the Wiccan God/Goddess, as well as refracts or reflects all light bringing the wearer total intelligence, universal wisdom, and protection. Satanist’s turn the pentacle upside down, as well as Christian crosses to be scary and a true Satanist doesn’t worship Satan either. Anton LeVay (the creator of Satanism) just used the name for sacrilegious reasons…and to get everyone’s attention.
So how do I become a Witch? You start by deciding whether you really want to be one, now that you know what’s involved (I’m assuming you’ve read my essay, if not, please read it once you’ve finished this essay. You must then make a commitment to yourself. From today (fill in the blank) until a year and a day later, you will avidly learn about it, and immediately begin meditation and visualization exercises. Becoming a Witch takes a lot of hard work, study, and responsibility. There is no short cut you can take to get to the end faster. Witchcraft just doesn’t work that way. You start learning the basics via books, internet, and talking to other Witches in real life or on forums. Taking the Witchcraft 101 course is a perfect place to start, followed by the Complete Magic Course, along with the rest of the information on my site.
Another thing you really need to use is your common sense, as mentioned on the “Spellcasting” page is when designing a spell. Remember that there are just as many nuts, and charlatans in Witchcraft, and Paganism in general as there are in any other religion. You will no doubt run into information that conflicts with something you’ve already read. You must decide what works for you, and what the real truth is. You must also realize that there is a great deal of freedom when it comes to what, if any, religious path you may want to have as your own.
For example, you may find Wicca to be the religion you like the most. I have lots of information on Wicca on my site because I know a lot about it because I am Wiccan. I am a person who practices Witchcraft, or “The Craft” as it’s known, but also incorporates aspects of more than one religion into my belief system. For example, along with Wicca, I also incorporate various aspects of Druid, Celtic, Shamanism, Buddhism, Native Indian, and a dash of Christianity for good measure. The point being, you’re not limited to one path, unless you want to be. You should also know that there are many Witches who still consider themselves as Christian. They’re Christians that happen to practice Magick, and known as Christ O Pagans. And they still worship the Christian God. So there’s another option I bet you didn’t know you had 😉
Attuning with nature is absolutely vital to being a Witch. Worship of Mother Earth is something every Witch does, along with the moon. As a rule, it’s a good idea for any Witch to always know what phase the moon is in. That’s because the phases of the moon are designed for particular types of Magick. Celebrating Sabbats and Esbats (full moon rituals) are the traditional ways to celebrate, honor and truly feel the life force of mother earth in all positive Pagan paths, although many think it’s just for Wiccans. They attune us with her constantly changing cycles. Celebrating and participating in these rituals don’t have to be elaborate ceremonies as the importance is to really experience and feel them.
Witches find joy, knowledge and enrichment in things that many people take for granted. We don’t just celebrate and observe the wonders of our glorious planet on Sabbats, we do it every day. By listening to the song of a bird, or watching them soar in flight, squirrels scampering about, the power and beauty of a thunderstorm, the majesty of a tree, and spending time with the nature of our surroundings. We meditate while sitting under trees, at a lake or even in a public park. No matter where we live, we seek out the nature of our area, and spend time connecting with it.
These qualities also strengthen our power of observation. Because we take the time to connect with nature, we see a lot more of it than most people do. We notice a new spider web on a bush outside our home or a new bird’s nest, and even smaller things like a dragonfly, the cocoon of a butterfly, a ladybug on a leaf, and the way the dew on grass catches the morning sun. The more time we spend in nature, the more we see, and the stronger our connection to her grows. I had to move 13 times in 6 years until I found my lovely, little place I call home, and in every place, whatever wildlife (insects too, except cockroaches ‘yeah!) came around to seek me out. Then came the squirrels, dogs, cats, skunks…but that’s another story. I believe that some of these animals come to give me messages, others just want to make friends, and I’m more than happy to oblige!
Witches also take on the task of getting in touch with themselves. Both the light and dark aspects of are beings are vital to explore. Part of being a Witch is trying to become the best person you can be. This is not possible unless one has the courage to journey within and to understand themself. This can be a very difficult journey, and we all have personal obstacles to overcome, but the benefits of learning who you really are, and working to overcome personal demons far outweighs the pain involved in doing so. We are all a part of mother earth, and to understand her and our connection to all life, we must understand the mysteries of ourselves as well. When things go wrong in our lives or we have bad experiences, we see them as lessons to learn from or challenges to overcome, not a reason to try out a new spell to make the problem go away. Getting to know one self is a long and never ending journey, just like your Magickal journey. Just as the more time we spend in nature the more of it we see, the same principal applies to getting to know oneself, or using Magick properly, and for the right reasons. The deeper we look, the more we find and understand.
Witches take full responsibly for their actions. There is no evil deity in our religion that we can blame for any misdeeds we do, and we know that it will come back to us in some form, be it karma or the three fold law. We carefully consider the ramifications of our actions, and what impact they may have on others. We are constantly working on sharpening, and keeping skills that are important to our ways such as meditation and visualization, the tools we use to aid in our connection to a spell, the earth, worship, rituals and getting to know ourselves better.
Doing all of this takes a lot of effort. We are everyday people that go to school, have jobs, children, families and all of the mundane responsibilities everyone else has, like paying bills, cleaning and grocery shopping. We are just as busy as everyone else. We make time to connect with nature and ourselves, but we also go beyond that. We also work to do whatever we can to care for the earth, and harm her as little as possible. We strive to do things that make the world we worship a better place. We recycle, pick up litter, plant gardens and trees, put up bird feeders and/or houses, food for squirrels, donate to environmental charities, educate about the truth of our ways whenever we can, and more.
Reading a few books and initiating yourself does not make you a Witch nor does casting spells. Witches read a great deal to understand the various concepts and aspects of the Craft and it’s very important to study, but along with this one must also practice what they learn. The most important lessons to be learned will not come from a book, but from the practices and experiences a Witch has during their life. No two Witches will ever have the exact experiences, just as each has their own lessons and challenges to learn from.
Witches also learn from each other and should help each other whenever they can. No Witch, no matter how many years they practice will ever know ‘all there is to know’. A Witch who has been practicing longer than someone else does not necessarily make them more knowledgeable. Everyone learns at their own pace, and just because someone hasn’t been practicing as long as you doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them. Remember that a Witch is just a person, and each has their own unique outlook and perspective. Someone who is just beginning to learn our path should be encouraged to ask as many questions as they want, and never have to feel that they are asking a stupid question just because the answer is obvious to you.
Witches also have a responsibility in how they present themselves to others. Almost all of my friends are not Witches and knew absolutely nothing about the truth of our ways until they asked me about them. Whether we like it or not, Witches that are not ‘in the broom closet’ can find themselves in a position where they represent all Witches when dealing with people who do not know the truth of our ways. One Witch with a pompous attitude can cause a great deal of harm and cast a negative impression on all Witches and our beliefs. Just as someone who is half way through their first book pretending to know everything can. When asked to explain your beliefs to others, keep in mind that you might be the only Witch this person will ever meet. You’re impression and the information you provide can open a window of understanding that can spread from that person to their friends and so on. It can create a bridge of understanding and tolerance.
Being a Witch is not cool, sick, sweet, glamorous, chic, trendy or a fad, and the practice of the Craft is not about gaining power over others, by abusing the Magickal aspect, of it to manipulate everything or everyone to your advantage. It is a joyous path based on a deep love and respect of mother earth and the universe. It’s a path where you take total responsibility for your actions. When someone is truly ready to be a Witch, they are choosing a path which involves following the ‘harm none, do as you will’ code of ethics. We don’t all have fancy tools and robes, and we don’t have a dress code. We each worship in our own way. What counts is the power of our convictions, and being true to ourselves and our ethics.
Being a Witch can be difficult. There are many that don’t understand the truth of our ways, and sadly a great deal of people have no interest in trying to. Many Witches have to hide their beliefs out of fear, and those who don’t can endure great hardships due to the many stereotypes that cause people to think we are evil. Deciding to follow the path of a Witch should only be done when you are absolutely certain that it is right for you, and you are willing to take on all of the responsibilities which go along with being one.
If you want to be a Witch, it is vital to understand that Witchcraft is not a game. It is not a hobby to dabble in on occasion when you’re bored. It’s also not a path that can be learned or explained in a day, or an email. Study our ways carefully and fully. Take time to absorb and understand the information you read. Don’t be in a rush to try and learn everything all at once. Practice the information you learn and keep records of them along with your feelings of the experiences you have. If it is truly the path for you…you will know.
P.S. – Don’t forget proper Witch etiquette. Never touch another Witch’s tools, without asking for permission. If you grant someone permission to touch any of your tools, don’t forget to cleanse and recharge them with your energy.