This week’s Q/A column comes with a trigger warning: child abuse.
This week’s column differs to my previous columns. It’s longer and more subjective in its advice, as such, it may be better to think of it as an essay. I decided to expand the usual depth and scope of my reply to fully answer the many concerns and questions posed by Eli, the witch who penned this week’s letter.
Eli’s journey is a heroic one, as are her questions. I can only hope my reply honors her journey, her pain, and her resilience. I also hope these words bring some comfort and healing to Eli and anyone else in need of them.
Despite the length of this column, there is no accompanying TLDR. The material covered does not lend itself to reduction. However, I have broken it down with subheadings. I hope these bite-sized sections are short enough to read in a single session, especially for those time-poor readers who have to read on the go.
“Hi, I am a new witch.
It feels weird saying that. Mainly because I was abused by religion growing up and have always brushed it off and harbored anger towards it.
However, though I always leaned toward science and logic (not saying there isn’t any of science or logic here) to avoid religion like the plague, when I stepped into an alternative store to by a crystal necklace after falling in love with a friends, I felt called too. After a card reading, I felt like they knew me better than any therapists I had ever been too. That was about a year ago.
Now I feel, lost? But also found? It seems strange. Like I feel like a kid in a candy store but all the candy is in different languages and I don’t know where to begin sampling. I also feel a bit in overhead and alone, again.
How do I find my coven? How do I find my goddess? How do I move past my own anger toward religion and lifestyles like this to accept it’s okay for me to want this? Where do I even… begin?” Eli.
Thank you for writing in and sharing your journey with us. I am sorry to hear that you were the victim of such a horrible crime. No one should ever have to experience the harm and betrayal of such abuse, much less a child. I can’t imagine the challenges you’ve overcome, but your strength shines through regardless. Not only did you brave the darkness but you kept going, you kept moving forward in life, healing and growing. You didn’t let that wound harden your heart. In fact, your strength enabled you to do the exact opposite, your strength allowed you to stay curious and open to the world – open enough to experience a spiritual awakening, and curious enough to question the reality you’ve always known as a result.
Never underestimate the courage it takes question.
A spiritual awakening is a wonderfully intense experience that, whilst awe-inspiring, entails levels of personal reflection and perspective shifting that shakes most people to their core. And yet, you, Eli, with all your hurt and anger, embraced the challenge. If you ever doubt your strength or your courage, just remember where you came from, what you survived, and how you have come to thrive in the present moment. You may be a new witch, Eli, but you are already an ass-kicking witch.
Priorities: Abuse, personal safety, and healing.
Regardless of your spirituality or religion, your health and safety are necessary and non-negotiable priorities. From what I can gather from your letter, Eli, your abuse is in the past and you are currently safe. However, if I am wrong and you are not safe, stop reading and get yourself to safety.
Once you are safe and the shock has settled, healing may begin. Whilst the abuse is not your fault, the responsibility for healing is up to you—this may not be just or fair, but it is the truth. I suspect you know this, Eli, but it can be helpful and empowering to be reminded from time to time. This healing work isn’t just to address your pain, but also to ensure the abuse and any overflow of anger isn’t controlling your life now.
The key to a fulfilling life comes from learning to choose your path in life, as opposed to being guided by angry split second reactions—including instincts. As a witch, consulting your instincts is important, but having the presence of mind to choose how you want to act on those instincts is absolutely vital. Because if you believe in free will, then this is when your free will is expressed: it is in these tense, breathless seconds where your impulses are stayed, and your choices is made.
Optimal mental, emotional, and psychical health also ensures you get the most out of your spiritual awakening whilst providing a solid foundation for your future. The mind, body, and soul are the tools through which you experience the Universe. By keeping these balanced, you’ll be ensuring clarity, intuition, and understanding.
My advice about safety and your health might strike you as obvious, but it’s not unusual for witches, especially new witches, to overlook their physical health while they focus on the marvels of the spiritual world. I should know, many moons ago I was one of those young witches making that exact mistake. I ended up very ungrounded and unwell before figuring out just how important self-care was.
First rule of witchcraft: don’t die.
The other first rule of witchcraft: don’t get hurt.
And always remember, you are not alone. While every community has its share of drama, it has been my experience that if a witch needs help, most witches will always set aside grudges and personal grievances in order to assist a sister witch.
Witch needs, human needs: Love, support, and trust.
The importance of having support as a new witch can’t be overstated. It doesn’t matter if your supports are friends, family, witches, or atheists, just so long as they are people you trust and can talk to if you need care.
I don’t know all the details of your situation Eli, or what help and support you have. You mentioned therapists. If you don’t currently have a therapist you trust, I would strongly urge you to find one. But it’s important to find a therapist that you feel understands you, much in the same way that tarot reader did, Eli. The right therapist is someone you can trust with all of your secrets. Finding this therapist takes time but is absolutely worth it. They will be able to help you with your anger. And if you are not ready to work with a spiritual teacher or, if spiritual teachers trigger your past, a good therapist can also support you through any spiritual challenges. To be clear, I don’t think that your anger is wrong or unjustified, but I do think it’s important that it doesn’t impact your life negatively if it can be helped.
As a new witch, it can feel like you need people who have the same interests around you. While it can be nice to connect with other witches, having similar interests is not the same as the trust and understanding that comes with a lifetime of friendship. A good friend knows you and knows what questions to ask to keep you true to yourself while supporting and loving you all the while. A good friend is a priceless gift and will teach you more about life than a stranger who can recount all the tarot cards or list off the various crystals and herbs for certain spells. However, if you do happen to find a witchy friend you can trust, those friendships are extremely rare and pure magick. Treasure them.
Clarification of terms: Religion and spirituality.
Before delving in to answer your questions, Eli, it’s important that we clarify some of the terms at the heart of your questions. This will ensure you, the readers, and I are all on the same page. Elucidating the relationship between science and witchcraft may also help you with some of the conflict you feel, Eli. But please be aware that these definitions will be subjective and incomplete due to the vastness of the topics and the constraints of this article.
Firstly, religion and spirituality are separate. Each religion centers on a specific system of the divine and dogma. Religion tells you what to believe and how to live your life. Religion offers all the answers and thus, a lot of safety and certainty, but the price is personal freedom.
Spirituality refers to a person’s personal relationship with the existential and metaphysical questions life presents, that may or may not involve the Divine/God. Most witches would classify their system of belief as spiritual. There isn’t really a ‘witchcraft religion’ as such, but some people would consider Wicca the closest thing to it. Wicca was invented by Gerald Gardener in the 1950’s. Some witches are called to Wicca, some are not. Some witches are atheists, and some, like myself, are agnostic. Witches can be found in most religions including Christianity, Catholicism, Buddhism, Judaism, Sikhism, Hinduism, Shinto etc. So while it is possible to be both a witch and religious, they are largely separate in theory and practice.
Science is not the opposite of spirituality. I’m aware you touched on this fact, Eli, but I will expand it here for the readers. First and foremost, witches are deeply connected to nature and committed to understanding the ebb and flow of the natural, and supernatural, currents of the Universe. The language of nature is equal parts science and beauty. Witches are fluent in both. Witches know how to see and address the world as it is in order to help those in need. But we can also walk between worlds and across dimensions to gather new magicks that allow us to dream up new realities.
Science is not perfect. It’s limited by human intelligence and perspective. But it’s still the best means we have for understanding and predicting the world around us. In this post-truth era, science is more important than ever. However, for a lot of witches, the current state of science is not enough to explain and explore the totality of human experience. That is why we turn towards the arts and spirituality—to find a means of expressing and connecting with that ephemeral sense of ‘something more’ we all feel at our core.
Witches tend to be versed in not only the world of science but also the arts, spirituality, magick, philosophy, play, interconnected wonderment etc., etc. These different approaches are not opposites rather, they are all different threads of knowledge that come together to create the gestalt of human experience and understanding. Some people refer to this as the Akashic Records.
Witches are charged with the looking after these threads. We collect the threads, spin every strand with equal care, and weave them into humanity’s collective memory. We use both science and beauty to understand and heal. We collect these threads of knowledge and keep them safe. We also conjure new threads and weave those in, too, thus expanding the magick and wisdom available to humans. This is one of the reasons why you’ll sometimes see witches referred to as weavers.
Science, religion, spirituality, and witchcraft are all separate but equally important areas of the human experience. They are by no means opposites. You do not have to forgo science or religion to embrace witchcraft. You do not have to believe in the divine to be a witch. This is your life. This is your spiritual journey. You are free to create it as you wish.
Don’t mistake their rules for the truth.
A spiritual awakening.
Referring back to what you, Eli, describe in regards to finding the necklace, stepping into that alternative shop, and receiving a tarot reading, sounds like it could be a spiritual awakening. Ever since human’s started recording history, there have been reports of spiritual awakenings. Everyone has their own definition of spiritual awakening, but a general definition might be something like this: a sudden change in consciousness that widens one’s perspective, offering a greater appreciation of a reality which has been previously unrealized. The ego melts away taking our fears and doubts with it. The culmination of such realizations is the recognition of oneness with all of existence. It is accompanied by the perfect symphony of awe, timelessness, connectedness, peace, love, and homecoming. The sense of self ceases to exist and yet, at the same time, is everywhere at once. Pure content and fulfillment are accompanied by eternal, blissful emptiness—there are no opposites during a spiritual awakening. Everything is at once and true and untrue. Everything is born and dying within the same moment. We come to know ourselves as whole, unbound, and everlasting. Ambition turns to ash. The only thing that makes sense is love, and that love is everywhere. In short: it feels like finally taking a deep and peaceful breath after a lifetime without air.
In light of this definition, it is easy to see why most people feel overwhelmed at the start of a spiritual journey. The mind, heart, and soul are all blown apart and come back together creating a new you and a new reality. With new eyes open, there are suddenly so many interesting paths, texts, tools, workshops, groups etc., to choose from. It’s exciting and confusing. But I promise, as you come to trust your instincts, and as you find the courage to follow your heart, this sense of being overwhelmed will pass. As you start to settle into this new and magickal way of being, you’ll come to realize that it doesn’t matter which path you take, they all have the same destination. Any mistakes will teach you important lessons. Any successes will reveal beautiful truths. The passage of time and persistence will show you that each and every moment is ripe with magick and wisdom.
A word of caution: if anyone tells you that the only way to spiritual enlightenment is through their method, run the other way and make yourself aware of the BITE model of mind control.
Think back over the various lessons in your life. Remember what it was like to start learning and how impossible it could seem. A good example of this is learning to drive a car. This is one of the most intense lessons humans undertake. The stakes are high and so our are expectations. There is always a daunting period of doubt and anxiety at the start of learning any new skill. There is so much to learn. It can be hard to know where to start. It can be harder to know if you are doing things ‘right’. This is why most lessons start with either a mentor or a teacher, someone who can help and motivate you. But as you get better at driving you need less guidance and more experience. It is the same for witchcraft. As long as you keep showing up and doing the work, you will learn, you will get better, you will become independent, and in time, you will be competent and capable of steering your own development. Whether you’re learning driving or magick, you get out what you put in.
Where to start: Finding yourself and finding your coven.
Eli, you will probably hear this next piece of advice a lot in the coming years. You may be bored of it. But as the years wear on, you will come to know the truth of it and the gravity of: know thyself.
There are some important lessons witches are expected to learn. For an idea of what they might be, research the structure of ‘A Year and a Day.’ However, it’s advisable that your essential witchcraft studies are balanced with areas of study that ignite your soul and excite you. By staying connected to the parts of witchcraft that inspire you, you remind yourself why you were first drawn witchcraft. This will help motivate you. It will also enrich and deepen your learning.
Regardless of what books you read and who your teacher is, you will always be your best guide. Your intuition will guide you towards what you most need to know at any given moment. When the time is right, your intuition will also you help you find your coven and your goddess. Until then, the best way to learn witchcraft is to live it. Keep questioning. Be true to yourself. You will always be exactly where you need to be.
The mere fact that you exist is a miracle, both in terms of science, spirituality, and outright luck. Take the time to explore yourself as you explore the world. Seek out adventures that light you up, whether those adventures are out in the forest, the city, an old bookstore, or thrill-seeking with friends. Observe the world and observe yourself in it. This life and self-exploration are incredible but fleeting privileges. So, even when you do find your coven and your gods, the greatest spiritual tool you’ll have, is still, you.
On a more practical note, most people find their coven through integrating themselves with the local witchcraft community. Examples of how you might achieve this include: attending workshops, lectures, spiritual circles and retreats. Art communities and centers are often havens for spiritual seekers. You may also want to consider volunteer work for the environment and animals in your area. These causes attract a lot of witches, both out of interest and because witches often enjoy serving their community. A lot of witches take ‘service to the community’ as a vow when they become a witch. Alternatively, there are also a lot of covens online. While they are a different experience to face-to-face covens, they are equally powerful and supportive.
Witchcraft, like any community, can take time to integrate into. There will be lots of ups and downs until you find the right group. Then again, you might find the perfect coven tomorrow. Or, you might decide to start your own coven. Whatever you do, try not to rush or force things. It’s better to wait and find the right coven as opposed to rushing in and joining a group that doesn’t feel like ‘home’. You’ll know in your gut when you find the right coven.
You’ve heard and recognized the call of the witch. You will recognize your coven, sister witches, and teachers in the same way: a homecoming for the soul.
Finding your Goddess.
From a very broad and reductive perspective, there are two main paths to finding a goddess. The first path is the path where you choose your goddess. Once they start studying, most witches find they have gods and goddesses they are instinctively drawn to. Indeed, as they move through deeper periods of reflection and questioning, a lot of witches come to remember and/or realize that they had made a connection with their goddess when they were a child, it’s just that the memory didn’t make sense until the wider context was known. Once you have made your choice, you can seek out that goddess and ask them to work with you. There are some wonderful books and websites out there that can guide you through this. I will list resources at the end of the article.
The other way to meet your goddess is to let them reveal themselves in your life when the times is right. This path takes a lot of trust and patience. You have to trust yourself to be able to recognize and understand the signs, symbols, and messages from a goddess. However, the divine won’t appear until you’re ready. This is where the patience comes in.
In my experience, a consistent characteristic of first encounters between witches and their goddesses is that they are predicted by the witch’s skill set. That is, goddesses will make the effort to meet a new witch on a plane they feel comfortable with. For example, if a witch finds it easy to lucid dream, they will meet them in a dream. If a witch meditates a lot, they may meet them there. If a witch is partial to divining, her goddess may appear between the tarot cards or within the scrying bowl. Or, if a witch is most open and alive when creating art, or playing to music, dancing, sparring, cooking, or driving down the highway at midnight, their goddess will meet them there. Meeting your goddess can quite literally happen anywhere at any time, whether you are performing magick or just walking down the street.
No matter which path you choose, you will find her when the time is right. Trust that your Goddess is looking for you just as you are looking for her.
Healing anger and embracing the spiritual: Some thoughts.
Firstly and most importantly, be careful of thinking that you need to ‘fix’ your anger or any part of yourself. There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. Your anger is justified and probably did a good job of protecting you and keeping you going when you needed it.
Anger is an important and energizing emotion. You can learn a lot about yourself from exploring your anger. By figuring out what triggers your anger, Eli, you may be able to figure out what areas of witchcraft you can accept, and the areas you can’t, for now. Working on your anger may help you shape the kind of spiritual life that is right for you.
However, if you feel your anger negatively impacts your life or, if the spiritual is a trigger for pain, then I would advise you seek professional supports on both fronts: the spiritual and the psychological. With the right supports, you will be able to manage your anger and triggers whilst learning to disentangle the spiritual from the pain. I would also advise you partake in extreme self-care alongside vast amounts of patience, compassion, and self-forgiveness.
Any pain or anger you feel is not wrong. You are not broken. You’re human. To be human is to be healing. We all have our wounds to tend, some deeper than others, some more unfair than others, but regardless of our opinions, our wounds persist. We can either tend to them in anger and sadness, or we can tend to them and remain open to the lessons that come with any wound, lessons that start and end with compassion.
Secondly, it’s important to manage expectations about healing now so that if you don’t face a healing crisis in the future. The brutal truth is that sometimes we don’t fully heal our pain and anger. It’s possible to do everything right and still lose. I don’t want to sow doubt or helplessness. It’s absolutely possible to heal from abuse and manage anger. However, healing trajectories are unpredictable. As such, it’s important that you give yourself all the time you need to heal, and don’t place unrealistic and unnecessary pressures on yourself and your healing. One of the best ways to do this is to set realistic expectations.
Closure is rare. Moving on isn’t. Humans and their lives are messy. This means a lot of our endings can feel more like a fading out than a decisive end. Some chapters of our lives never close and never make sense, they just stop. Time erases the pain while a forward focus prevents us from dwelling in the sad and stagnant swamps of the past. Sometimes all we can do is just keep moving.
In light of the capricious nature of healing, we can see how making our spiritual journey conditional on our healing, we risk growing stagnant and frustrated in our spiritual studies. That is why I suggest that you work on healing and embracing your spirituality in tandem, but avoid making this relationship conditional. An example of what a ‘condition’ might look like includes the belief that you must heal your anger, or any particular wound, before you can fully embrace your spirituality or magick. By placing conditions on your healing can lead to feelings of failure, de-motivation, and increased procrastination. It can also cause you to feel resentful of your spiritual needs and studies.
Even the very best witchcraft teacher/mentors are not (usually) trained in the deeper psychological work that comes with healing trauma. And it’s not their responsibility to do this work with you. That is why I suggest that you work with both a witch teacher/mentor and a therapist/psychologist. Let them both know that you are doing this, and see if you can combine your lessons from both to help you grow and heal. Despite the stereotypes around psychology and therapy, there are plenty of therapists who openly welcome the spiritual into their client’s sessions—regardless of denomination.
When God betrays: What happens when your anger is in response to the spiritual?
An organization that claims to be ‘of God’ hurt you, Eli. It makes absolute sense that you would have conflicted feelings about anything to do with the spiritual or existential. It also makes sense that you would wish to reclaim the spiritual for yourself, separating it from your wounds and making it your own. It is essential that this healing work is handled with the respect and depth it deserves. The first step of which is finding professional supports that you trust. You will heal, Eli, but you can’t force the healing process.
Understand this: given what you have been through, Eli, you may always have some inner conflict around religion and spirituality. I sincerely hope you don’t, but if that is the case, try not to chastise yourself. Healing and self-development is part of the ongoing work for all witches. Understanding our limits and learning how to care for ourselves is important witch-work. It is equally important to remain open to the fact that anything is possible, even radical, spontaneous healing. And remember that healing doesn’t always manifest like you imagined it would. Don’t stop hoping and dreaming. Manage your expectations. Be honest with yourself. And above all, be kind to yourself.
The very nature of healing is unique to every human. As such, it’s not for us to judge another person’s healing. Healing isn’t democratic or linear. You can feel healed and still find yourself triggered decades later. This is not your fault, nor is it any kind of failing, it’s just the next step on your healing journey. And it is precisely in these painful moments that you need the strength, care, and wisdom of your inner witch.
You are a witch on of a lifetime journey of healing and magick. You are living. You are healing. You are changing and evolving. Healing and spirituality don’t have to be conditional in order for both of them to inform and help each other.
In summary, I suggest that you, Eli, find a good therapist to help you work through your past. Find a teacher that can help you move your spiritual studies forward whilst you work on your anger and abuse with your therapist. Make sure that your therapist and teacher are aware of each other and the work you are doing. Be honest with yourself. Manage your expectations. And don’t underestimate yourself or your healing, it is profound, ongoing, and challenging work. Be kind to yourself, none of this is your fault, you are not your anger or your past. You are not broken. But you do deserve to live a life free of anger and pain. This will take work. You will heal. You will rise.
Permission to believe.
How do you accept that it is okay for you to want to be a witch? That’s up to you, too, Eli. I could tell you that it’s okay for you to want to be a witch and live this lifestyle, but it won’t help or change the way you feel. Only you can give yourself the permission you’re seeking because you are the one holding yourself back. Yes, your past informs your inner spiritual conflicts, but in the end, the conflict resides within you. However, this also means the answers and permissions reside in you, too. Never lose sight of that. You are witch. That truth won’t change unless you want it to.
You are not alone in finding it hard to accept your desire for a spiritually meaningful life. Even without your history, Eli, a lot of people don’t think themselves capable or worthy of the spiritual. Or like you, Eli, a lot of would-be witches feel like they have to choose between logic and magick, and thus ignore the call of the witch.
The task of developing your inner-permission will be part of your ongoing witch-work. The challenge of attaining and maintaining inner-permission is a common theme for witches, myself included. As such, there are a lot of crones and teachers out there that can help you in this process. But be careful not to compare yourself to other witches. I promise you, that even those of witches who appear most the enchanted and enchanting, particularly through the filter of social media, still struggle to feel like worthy witches behind the scenes.
Throughout history, women have been denied spiritual lives. Witchcraft is a nature-based, feminist spirituality that aims to empower witches, whether they be male or female. Most religions limits the role of women. Some religions consider being born a women a sin and a punishment. Powerful men in powerful positions outlaw witchcraft and openly mock it, mocking women in the process. For centuries, women have been told they are not allowed to exist much less assert spiritual agency. They killed our gods and destroyed our communities and our homes. But, much to their ire, we witches persist.
That’s the thing about witchcraft, you can’t kill it. You can burn the witch but you can’t burn her magick. When you kill a witch, all you’re doing is returning her magick to the earth, the very source of her magick. There it will grow, ready to empower the next generation.
Those powerful men, with their powerful suits and their powerful strides, are anything but powerful. They are cruel and greedy, driven by comparison. The only power they know is the power of ‘having more’. So, please don’t underestimate the importance of this healing work. It’s as much a societal problem as it is a personal challenge. You are not just battling your own doubts, you’re also battling the patriarchy and it’s relentless war on women, a war that has been waged throughout history.
Whether you are a witch or a sceptic, exploring the spiritual and existential questions that come with being human, is a basic human need and a basic human right. Indeed, many of the great minds throughout history posited spiritual reflection is humanity’s highest purpose; a purpose that none of us have the right to take from another.
Another obstacle that a lot of witches face when establishing inner-permission, is shame. A lot of women experience profound shame around their spiritual needs. This shame can develop for any number of reasons. Some of these reasons are personal, informed by things such as one’s past and personality. And some of these reasons are on the societal level, such as the patriarchy’s war on women. Religion has been a primary weapon in this war. Abuse at the hands of religion can sow seeds of shame, leaving the abused spiritually paralyzed and disempowered.
Why am I bringing up issues from the past? One, because nothing has changed, this issue exists in the present. Two, I am doing this so that you can understand the importance and magnitude of the work you’re undertaking when you seek permission from yourself to pursue a spiritual life. It’s big work, go easy on yourself. You aren’t just healing yourself, you’re healing a wound that has scarred all of humanity’s history.
Shame is another theme that impacts a lot of witches. It can be tricky to heal shame. Everyone’s path to healing shame will be unique. The important thing is that you, as a witch and a woman, know that you can heal shame. You can take back that part of yourself that society and your oppressors took from you.
With shame, comes doubt. Doubt is one of the main reasons clients cite for seeking out my counsel. Doubt is humanity’s constant companion. Even the world’s greatest spiritual leaders doubt. It never goes away and it’s not mean to. Doubt urges us to research and test truths for ourselves. Doubt is the seeker’s fuel. Doubt is a hugely important tool, especially in this post-truth world.
Doubt is helpful in moderate doses but it can be toxic if left unchecked. Overwhelming doubt can make it incredibly difficult to attain self-acceptance and self-belief. Sometimes we unknowingly use doubt to avoid making choices or taking action. It is a great procrastination tool, not just in the moment, but in life overall. Once again, that is why I would suggest that a good teacher or therapist to help you manage your excess doubts.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, your own research powers can also help temper self-doubt. It’s possible to use your doubt and shame to formulate important questions. Rather than denying your doubts or repressing your shame, lean into them, and learn to see them as useful tools. Shame keeps you isolated, fearful, small, and quiet. Use your doubts to connect to and stay active in the world. Doubt drives curiosity. Curiosity drives questioning. Questions drive learning. Education stimulates growth and healing.
Witchcraft is dangerous. Witchcraft is dangerous because it empowers witches, most of whom are women. As such, witchcraft poses a real threat to religion’s control over women. If witchcraft wasn’t a threat, religion wouldn’t waste so much time campaigning against it. We are told witchcraft is make believe, unlike all of those religions built around a man in the clouds. We are told witchcraft is evil and linked with the devil. The concepts of evil and devil were created by the churches. The devil belongs to religion, not witchcraft. But religious propaganda still demonizes witchcraft and warns women against the ‘seductive powers of witchcraft’, unlike the seductive power the churches wield as they snatch trillions in gold and infiltrate the world’s politics.
To be a witch is to be revolutionary in the face of inequality.
If you have abuse in your past, especially abuse at the hands of religion, you may experience more doubt than other witches. Abuse can undermine trust in the self, and trust in authority figures and institutions like the church. Whilst witchcraft isn’t a religion, it’s possible your past may still cast a shadow over your spiritual experiences. This is where your teacher and therapist may be able to help.
Be mindful of how your past shadows your witchcraft. Try not to get caught up in the emotions, and care for yourself if and when you do. Observe your patterns of doubt—are they helpful and healthy, or are they paralyzing you? When do they occur? What do they hold you back from? Are your doubts helping you learn, or are they keeping your small? Are there areas in your life where you feel free? What does that freedom feel like? How can you expand that feeling of freedom into other areas of your life? How can you work with doubt in a healthy way? Can your doubts become your strengths?
The discomfort that doubt causes is both a blessing and a curse. It stops us getting comfortable and complacent. But if your doubt gets to a point where its paralyzing you, it’s time to get help.
Being a witch isn’t easy. But being a witch makes you strong.
Context: The importance of spirituality.
If your doubts and shame are problematic and restrictive, it can be helpful to remind yourself of why spirituality, in its many forms, is vital to all humans. A wider perspective on the human need for spirituality can help you understand the importance, context, and gravity of your spiritual needs. It can also help you feel less alone in your doubts. It can help remind you that your spiritual needs aren’t silly. Yes, silly. I’ve met a staggering number of witches, young and old, that feel silly for having spiritual needs.
There are many reasons people are drawn to a spiritual life. Some, like you Eli, are called to the witches path. Some people are called to a religious path such as Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, etc. Some people find spirituality in a quest for divine guidance and sanctuary. A lot of people gravitate towards the spiritual to meet their needs for community and connection. For many, spirituality is where they learn about morals, compassion, and empathy. While other people simply fall in love with the rituals of belief. Regardless of what spirituality or religion you follow, science has shown that a rich spiritual life improves mental health and general well-being. Spirituality gives our lives meaning and structure. Indeed, this is one of the theories as to why spirituality emerged—to answer the human psyche’s need for structure, narrative, and meaning.
If witchcraft helps make sense of the world and brings meaning and happiness to your days, why would you deny yourself that? When you realize that the spiritual and science aren’t on opposite sides, you can have both in your life. You can have the love, nourishment, peace, and beauty of magick and witchcraft in your life and still move within the bounds of science.
Human existence is hard. We are conscious of ourselves, this life, and our transience. We don’t know where we came from, why we are here, or where we are headed. Our only truth and certainty is death. The task of finding meaning in the face of such fleeting chaos is an enormous challenge. Spirituality can make this reality easier because it gives an overarching narrative to our lives. This helps us conceptualize, remember, and explain the world and our experience of it. It brings us back to the moment and encourages us to find the beauty in the here and now. A spiritual life is a meaningful life.
If your inner critic starts criticizing your spiritual journey and witchcraft, know this; a witch’s approach is often similar a scientist’s. A scientist wouldn’t turn their back on a mystery, rather they’d explore it, question it, and find out as much about it as possible before drawing any conclusions—if there were any conclusions to draw. Scientists and witches both find mysteries irresistible. Witches tend to approach life’s mysteries with the same mindset of a scientist, but they apply their studies to a wider range of experience and energies. How else do we know if a spell works if we don’t replicate, record, and scrutinize the results?
Embracing witchcraft doesn’t mean you have to have blind faith. In fact, witches are discouraged from blind faith. A good teacher will encourage curiosity and all the questions that come with it. They will foster a scientific mindset and encourage you to use your logic and your doubts to explore and experiment. They will inspire you to lean into the mysteries of the universe; to both question the mysteries and to bask in their wonder.
Eli, you will know magick and it won’t be at the expense of science or logic.
I know you’ve been hurt, Eli. It will take time to heal. However, you’ve also experienced the rare and exquisite exhilaration that comes with the call of the witch. Despite your pain and anger, you have connected with the eternal love of spirit. Your heart is open and full of magickal potential. I hope that one day you can feel the full extent of the strength and courage you possess. You are rising like a phoenix from the ashes, mightier and brighter than ever. You have all the skills and tools you need to build a spiritual and magical life. It is absolutely okay and natural for you to want a spiritually rich life. It is also okay to say ‘no’ and walk away at any point. This is your life, your path, your choice. All of it.
You are witch, Eli. Trust yourself and your magick, and you will know joy.
Where to begin?
You’ve already begun, Eli. You’ve already taken the biggest and most daunting step: accepting that you were moved by the spiritual despite your past. A lot of witches have been abused at the hands of religion. A lot of these witches go on to be powerful and brilliant women. Their healing transformation is magnificent and inspiring. But time and time again, I’ve seen these women brush off this aspect of their journey as ‘no big thing’. Trust me, it is a big thing. You’ve taken the biggest and hardest step: you survived and went on to thrive. Be proud.
Where to next? Explore. Play. Have fun. Follow your heart and intuition. Be mindful of what interests and excites you. Why are you drawn to these things? Is there a common factor? Be open to new experiences and people, but be smart about maintaining healthy boundaries. And remember: you can say ‘no’ to any witch or entity at any time. You can’t buy enlightenment. You can’t rush healing. Life can be hard. The truth can hurt. But as a witch, you have the power to change yourself and your life.
Eli, you are incredibly strong and incredibly powerful. You may not feel that way yet, but your heart beats to the drum of the witch. Deep down, you know where you have to go and what you have to do. You know where to start tomorrow. You feel it in your bones and deep in the wells of your heart. All the wisdom is within you, you just need to wake it up and take the time to understand it. It will be hard but it will be worth it. You are worth it. Trust yourself. Be still. Be silent. Listen to that timeless voice that whispers to you from the bowels of eternity. Listen to the truth of that voice. In that truth lies your answers because that voice, is yours.
Before I close this article, there is one last thing I would like to say to you Eli. This, of course, also applies to anyone else who resonates with my words.
Earlier I mentioned that the person you need permission from to want this, is you. So, while I understand my words may not change anything, I still wanted to assure you, in black and white, on the stark screen, and in front of a global audience, that it is absolutely okay for you to want to be a witch. It’s the simple truth of who you are, and nothing to be ashamed of. Exploration of one’s spiritual life is a normal part of the human experience. It is also absolutely normal to feel conflicted about your spiritual path, regardless of your past. It’s also okay to seek support and guidance on your spiritual journey. This is your life, so strive to heal and to grow, care for yourself and those around you, and follow what makes you fall in love with living. You will know magick because you are magick.
Letters to a new witch: Spirituality, science, religion, abuse, awakenings, and healings. (Trigger warnings.)This week’s Q/A column comes with a trigger warning: child abuse. This week’s column differs to my previous columns. It’s longer and more subjective in its advice, as such, it may be better to think of it as an essay. I decided to expand the usual depth and scope of my reply to fully answer […]
This week’s Q/A column comes with a trigger warning: child abuse. This week’s column differs to my previous columns. It’s longer and more subjective in its advice, as such, it may be better to think of it as an essay. I decided to expand the usual depth and scope of my reply to fully answer […]
Love and Magick: A look at love spells and how to bring love and magick together in a healthy and powerful way.This week’s Q/A column comes with a trigger warning: child abuse. This week’s column differs to my previous columns. It’s longer and more subjective in its advice, as such, it may be better to think of it as an essay. I decided to expand the usual depth and scope of my reply to fully answer […]
Protection in Witchcraft: A look at the philosophy, psychology, and methods of keeping safe and growing strong.