Witch Wars: Survival Tips

In the previous two posts of this series, I discussed what you can do to minimize the likelihood of getting seriously attacked, and how to diagnose a curse or attack. In this post, I’m going to take a look at the less-discussed aspects of dealing with and surviving magical attack.

First of all though, I’d just like to clarify something here. The kind of magical attack I’m talking about here is the more serious kind, the kind that goes beyond a simple case of the evil eye. Now I realize that a lot of people don’t believe in this more serious kind of curse and generally look to psychology for explanations. Thankfully, relatively few practitioners from WEIRD cultures have experienced the kind of magical attacks that can truly destroy your life. And for those of you who have never experienced this, I truly hope you never do. I’m not going to argue about the existence of this, you can either take this seriously or not.

But if you have experienced this kind of thing, or simply take magic seriously enough to recognize its potential for completely fucking up your shit up to and including taking your life, then read on.

There’s been a lot written in various places about how to respond to curses in terms of getting it off you, uncrossing, protection, amulets, and magical counter response. However, there’s a lot of stuff I haven’t seen discussed about magical attack -stuff I consider important to management and survival -so that is what I’m going to discuss here.

The Fear Response

For most people who find out that they’ve been cursed, or are the subject of a magical attack of some kind, the most common response is fear. This is completely normal. For someone who hasn’t experienced this kind of thing witch wars - fearbefore, it can be one hell of a wake-up call to realize what others can do to you, your loved ones, and your life with magic. And for those of us who’ve been through the mill a few times, it can be triggering because you remember how fucking awful it was all those other times.

However, the hard truth of it, is that you cannot give in to that fear. Because it’s too easy to make stupid moves, and at a time when you really cannot afford to do so.

So the first step to keeping your shit together when you’re on the receiving end of some magical whammy, is to recognize the fear. Take some time to sit with it (but not too long), lean into it and find out where its roots lie.

Then put that shit aside for later. You haven’t got time for that right now.

Attacks Are Often Multilayered

In the majority of cases, ‘curses’ are generally more rightly thought of as “multilayered campaigns”. You see, people who want to take you out tend to not stop with simply fucking up your luck and your health, or messing with your dreams, or whatever.

They will attack you on multiple fronts (if they can), and some of those attacks will fall more into the “curse” category, while others will fall into the “psychic attack” category. They may even bind spirits and send them after you, and you need to also realize that they will probably come after your family too.

Fucking horrible, right?

But if someone has decided that you are sufficient enough of a threat to their ego, then nothing in their capacity is ‘off the table’. I mean, let’s get this straight: there is no such thing as honor here, it’s down and dirty shit-flinging. And even if you have cleared or gotten free of the main attack, you will probably find other minor fronts coming to light months down the line.

So recognize that this is likely not going to be a ‘one working and done’ kind of deal. If they have launched a campaign, then you are fighting a campaign, and you need to plan accordingly.

You May Need Help (And There’s No Shame In That!)

Unfortunately, being able to set aside the fear and recognize the breadth of the campaign being waged against you, is no guarantee that you’ll actually be able to fight it. Remember all those things I mentioned in my last post? Well a witch wars - helplot of them like that feeling of helplessness, sapped energy, and decline in mental (and physical health) can all affect your ability to respond. Depending on what has been done to you, you may not even be able to do anything at all!

To make matters worse, a lot of witches tend to take pride in being able to handle things alone. But don’t fall into that here – this isn’t the time for more ego. If you find yourself in this situation you need to reach out and get help. And the chances are that if you’re involved in your local community enough to cop an attack, you already know someone in your community that you suspect could and would help you.

Just be aware that you may have some difficulties getting to meet or communicate with your potential help. The spirits involved in curses will often take measures to prevent the subject of their nastiness from escaping. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s the ideal time to dig out any older amulets you have lying around. Depending on what you have, they may not help with the wider attack, but they may help with the simple issue of getting to your help.

Destroy Connections

One of the least discussed parts of being attacked that I’ve noticed is the matter of connections. Now on one level, when I talk about connections here, I’m talking about connections created by gifting. But on another level, you may have more subtle connections to a person that were either created through working together, or that were planted on you in order to influence, spy, or witch wars - chainsdrain you.
The physical connections are clearly the easiest to sever. Seek out anything they gave you that still feels connected to them (again, you may need help here) and either destroy it or put in some kind of containment for leverage down the line. If it can tie them to you and used by them to affect you, it can tie you to them for the same thing.

As for the subtle connections – this is another area where you will need help. Even if you can deal with the rest of the attack alone, you will need help to get rid of these.

Freeing the Mind

For a bunch of people who basically work to change reality with our minds, breath, bodies, incantations, and wills, we often forget our minds in our training, our work, and in surviving magical attack.

If you are subject to magical attack and the person wants to let you know it without directly saying it, they will work to keep themselves front and center in your consciousness. This is incredibly empowering for them, because on one level it helps to build upon the fear and feelings of helplessness their previous witch wars - onionwork has created. However, on another, it’s still giving them access to your mind.

This is something you need to resist; but how?

After all, it’s not like you can pretend they don’t exist or what are you fighting against? The key to this is figuring out the right level of access. Sounds confusing, right?

Try imagining your mind like an onion of many layers. Now think about where certain people in your life are in the onion -see your nearest and dearest in the central layers as clearly as you can before moving outwards from the center and mapping where different people fall in the layers. One of those layers should be some kind of defense that is impermeable from the outside, and it’s in the layers beyond that where any enemies should sit in your mind. If you find your enemies within that barrier, or yourself without a barrier, then you need to do some evicting.

Your goal is to be able to talk about them and think of them with no more weight to their names and faces than you would give turd you scraped off your shoe.

Tu Quoque

Finally, you need to realize that if you send things back to them, then you are sending them exactly the same as they originally meant for you, and you need to be ok with that. You need to really walk through the ethical and moral implications of it and figure out if you’re good with it or not. The morals of witchcraft are the morals that each individual witch carries. So work deliberately. Because it doesn’t matter that they started it, you are choosing to take the same action and will be just as responsible for the ensuing consequences.

Which all sounds easy to live with when you’re angry. But could you really live with something that (for example) was targeting your kids, targeting other children?

See what I mean?

Just…be aware of the scope of what you choose as a response before you do it, and recognize that you will have to live with whatever rolls out from that course of action.

Neoliberalism and Spirituality

neoliberalism - puppet2

A specter is stalking Europe. Well, not just Europe really, it’s pestering the whole bloody world. It often goes unnamed, though we can all point to its effects, and has been credited with everything from the 2008 financial crash and decline of public health and education, to the epidemic of loneliness.

This specter does have a name though; shall I name it?

It is none other than “neoliberalism”, and I guarantee that this poisonous ideology is currently fucking up a spiritual practice near you.

Defining Neoliberalism: The Roots

Neoliberalism is one of those terms that is difficult to define, and despite its early proponents happily referring to themselves as neoliberals, is a term seldom heard nowadays, even as the ideology has rooted and solidified.

Curious, no?

It started, as with many things, with a group of people thinking they’d found a better way. Collectivism is a force that can either be exceedingly positive or neoliberalism - treeexceedingly terrifying; and the earliest proponents – two Austrian exiles attending a meeting in late 1930s Paris had certainly seen plenty of the exceedingly terrifying. So it’s not hard to understand their aversion to anything that smacked of collectivism. I do not mean to paint these men with too much sympathy though, and the reasons for this will become clearer as I go on.

What began as a term coined during a meeting of minds in the City of Lights would coalesce into theory in 1944 when Hayek published his book The Road to Serfdom in which he argued that government planning not only crushed individualism, but would eventually lead to totalitarianism. This unsurprisingly caught the attention of some extremely wealthy individuals who saw in this ideology the potential for both limitless profit and an escape from taxation.

So it’s no surprise that when Hayek founded the Mont Pelerin Society in 1947 – the world’s first organization dedicated to spreading neoliberal ideology – he did so with the backing of multiple millionaires.

Defining Neoliberalism: The Ascent

Hayek went on to create a transatlantic network of supporters, and his rich backers put their money towards a series of organizations with names that some of you might recognize such as the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Institute For Economic Affairs, the Center for Policy Studies, and the Adam Smith institute.

As time went on, the movement changed and gained new thought leaders such as Milton Friedman. It was also around this time that the term “neoliberal” curiously all but disappeared as a self-identifier – or indeed from public discourse.

But no one was paying attention to that back then – Keynesian economics that emphasized the social contract were in vogue, and so the neoliberal leviathan slept.

The 70s brought with them economic crisis and the old Keynesian policies were struggling to keep up. This was when neoliberalism popped up again with all the enthusiasm of Internet Explorer when you accidentally hit the wrong icon at the bottom of the screen. Except with you know…a weird illuminati vibe.

“When the time came that you had to change … there was an alternative ready there to be picked up”
-Milton Friedman

Defining Neoliberalism: Dominance

1979 and 1980 were big years for neoliberalism – or rather the ideology that was now curiously unnamed. Key proponents of the ideology swept to power in both the US and the UK and set about following Hayek’s prescription to the neoliberalism - povertyletter. Deregulation was pushed so as not to impact the efficiency of industry. Public health and education were privatized and dismantled as much as possible. Special efforts were taken to break the collectivism of the trade unions (and the threat they posed to the neoliberal agenda). And all the while, the rich got to divide up and profit off everything that was outsourced and privatized – all with increasingly egregious tax breaks of course.

And that is the world we now find ourselves in, kids! That

is neoliberalism.

A world in which money buys freedom and political voice while the vote and wages of the average citizen decrease in value. In which the earth itself is sacrificed for profit, and people are kept docile by endless consumerism and entertainment. (Or as the Romans liked to call it, bread and circuses.)

But hey, “you can have it your way”, “you’re free”, this isn’t really the road to serfdom.

Neoliberalism and Spirituality

“Consumerism is the opium of the masses…along with well, illegally acquired prescription narcotics.”
– Me

But what in the Sam Harris does any of this have to do with your spirituality, and how is probably fucking it all up for you? Well, I’m glad you didn’t ask, because I’m going to tell you anyway.

In my last post, I wrote about consensus and how it affects perception. Well neoliberalism is a huge part of the consensus reality we live in, and it guards its neoliberalism - puppet2position fiercely. How often is it presented as being the only option (and the only alternatives presented as being either Nazism or Communism)? Think about that for a second. Does it really make sense that out of however many years humans have populated the earth in all of our countless cultural variations, this (or Nazism or Communism) is the only feasible option for forever?

Of course it doesn’t, and yet we can barely imagine actual alternatives.

That’s powerful.

So it only makes sense that as such a key part of the consensus, its influence on your spirituality is significant.

This influence can be seen in two main ways.

Firstly (and most obviously), you can see its influence in the commodification of spirituality. I’ve written about this before, but how many of us buy occult tchotchke like it’s some kind of super special thing that’s going to fix/provide greater connection with/protect us from ______ like right now? And if we’re honest with ourselves, most of the time we don’t need that shit. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t buy pretty arcane things if you have the cash, just don’t kid yourself that it’s anything other than something you just like.

neoliberalism - smudge
Exhibit A

We see this commodification in courses as well, or rather the forms they take, and this is especially prevalent in the “shamanism” courses. Now there are some excellent courses out there that are presenting information as wholly and authentically as possible, but there are many that are basically taking lots of very complex things and simplifying (or outright editing and distorting) them to make them more accessible for predominantly white American audiences.

The second way in which we see the influence of neoliberalism in spirituality is in the cult of the individual. Remember that old neoliberal grudge against any form of collectivism? Yeah, that plays out in your spirituality too.

We live in a world in which staunch individualism and the ability to get by on your own are seen as virtues. Like the tax burden, the solving of problems (regardless of the root cause or capacity), has been shifted to individuals (preferably in a way that does not in any way burden productivity in terms of time and cost).

Have a terrible job that barely pays you enough to live? Here! Take this mindfulness prescription! Go fix it with this commodified, soulless version of a

neoliberalism - yoga
“I make shit for money on my three jobs, I can’t afford to get rid of my crappy roomie, and retirement is something I’ll never see. But it’s all okay, because I’m doing a yoga.”

practice that’s actually deep and whole-making when not completely divorced from its religious context! How’s about a little Jesus to go with that? Yeah, he’ll make you feel better, he fucking loves you! I got some yoga to go with that too if you still haven’t managed to fix yourself (why haven’t you managed to fix yourself yet?).

See what I mean? This focus on the individual has given us a necessary extra job that nobody wanted: ‘self-care’.

And you know, we talk about spiritual bypassing a lot in the Pagan community. Of course, it’s always in terms of the behaviors of individuals within our respective communities. But is it any surprise that these behaviors exist when corporations and society at large push what amounts to spiritual bypassing in order to get people to focus on something other than their shitty life situations (and more importantly, the things that are causing them)?

Interestingly, the term “spiritual bypassing” first appeared in the early 80s. Funny that.

Thinking With Motivation

Which brings me to the question of motivation for spiritual activity. What motivates you? Because if you sit with that question and you come up with what essentially boils down to self-care, then your motivations may need a little work.

Having the right motivation for spiritual practice is an incredibly important yet under-discussed (at least among Pagans) thing. Proceed with the wrong motivation and you either burn out when things become difficult, or it becomes limiting. But if you proceed with the right motivation, then it can both sustain your practice when things become hard, and present a limitless array of possibilities.

neoliberalism - LARP
“My favorite LARP is ‘Paganism: The Escape’. It’s super sweet, really takes me away from it all!”

Motivation that is essentially self-care generally falls into the first category, because (and this is especially the case with paradigms that are very different from what we know in our day to day lives) it can all too easily become a form of escapism. A therapeutic religious LARP, if you will. When this occurs, spirituality is no longer whole-making. It is no longer something that connects us to our lives in a more authentic way, and rather than chasing the real, it becomes an exercise in avoiding the misery.

Final Words

In my next (Tuesday) post, I’m going to take a look at ways in which we can free ourselves and our practices from neoliberal ideology. Sounds like a tall order? Well, nothing is too tall if enough people are working together – just ask that Yahweh one about Babel.

“Reality”

reality - cat

Reality is a funny old thing, isn’t it? For starters, everyone thinks they know what it is. We all have clearly defined ideas of what is ‘real’, and what is ‘a bridge too far’, and while there is some degree of variance between individuals, on the whole there is still something of a consensus.

This my good people, is what is known as “consensus reality”.

Examining Consensus

I’ll admit, the first time I heard the term “consensus reality”, it somehow managed to make all the sense in the world, and also sound like bullshit all at the same time. It just sounds like one of those terms that crazy people make

reality - VR
Another wonderful experience in a human-created reality! Thank you for trusting Rekall for your memory needs!

up, that sound scientific, but really are not.

However, when you think about it, and especially in the context of what we know about how the brain perceives and stores information, it makes a lot of sense.

You see, consensus and prior experience (which is also subject to consensus) provide the framework for how we perceive and remember the world around us. This is part of why the Overton Window is such a big deal. Because if you shift the consensus, then you shift the very framework through which people perceive and interact with the world. (Those “culture wars” don’t look so fucking stupid now, do they?)

But how does this all work?

From Senses to Storage

Our senses take in a lot

of information per second. According to the Hungarian-American psychologist, Prof. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, we take in around 2 million bits of information per second through our five senses. Now that’s a massive amount of information, and so it’s probably no surprise that the brain cannot store it all. After all, the brain is like any other storage device – it has finite capacity.

So what does the brain do?

Well, this is where the conscious mind steps in and basically edits, deletes, distorts, and generalizes this information down to a more reasonable 134 bits per second.

Or does it?

There is some disagreement as to the amount of compression taking place here, with the Encyclopedia Britannica citing a compression ratio of 11 million bits of information perceived to 50 bits stored. Which suggests that we remember even less about what we perceive than believed by Prof. Csikszentmihalyi.

The Editing Room

So how does our conscious mind decide what to store and what to dump?
Multiple studies suggest that interpretation and storage of information is massively influenced by prior knowledge and experience. In other words, we interpret what we encounter and build a complete picture of our world, from within the framework of what we think we already know.

This is also where consensus comes in, as part of that prior knowledge is informed by consensus. It is quite literally the ‘style guide’ for your brain’s internal editor.

So when I see arguments online about “reality” that are largely based in the enforcement of the scientific materialist consensus that has dominated for so long, I can’t help but roll my eyes.

Why?

reality - fairy
Unbelievably, Pixabay has no images of fairies wearing roller skates with neon signs. I am disappoint.

Because if you hold to that consensus strongly enough, a fairy could literally skate by you wearing a tutu and leg warmers, with big, flashing lights saying “I’m here!”, and it wouldn’t matter because your brain would just edit it out anyway. It would just be another bit of information out of 2-11 or so million that just gets edited out within less than a second. You wouldn’t even know you’d seen it. Hardly makes you an arbiter of reality, right?

Let’s not kid ourselves here, there is no objective reality when it comes to your senses and what is stored. If anything, the consensus that people cleave to is probably best thought of as being something akin to the Matrix. So why not go ahead and trust your senses (after you’ve ruled everything else out)? Well you know, as long as they’re not leading you to do something harmful to yourself or others…

Hacking ‘Reality’

However, unlike the Matrix, both the brain and consensus are somewhat “hackable”. All you really need to do is just change the narrative and keep repeating the same narrative until it becomes the prior knowledge that “everyone knows”. This is basically how people like Donald Trump get entire groups of people to believe in things that would have been considered too ridiculous to consider even five years ago.

This is also how you can consciously choose to change your perception. Ever wonder why some people always see weird shit and others don’t? It’s all down to perception and the ‘style guide’ your conscious brain editor is working to.

In my opinion, this is a big part of why you see some of these ‘trends’ in the kind of phenomena that people report experiencing around the same time that entertainment media is focusing on similar things. Are people really seeing that stuff, or are those things arising from the energy and belief of the consensus and becoming entities in their own right? Who knows? It’s kind of like Schroedinger’s cat in that we just don’t know and cannot know without somehow opening “the box”. But ultimately it doesn’t matter either – especially for magic workers. Because we tend to have to work with what we encounter, in the form in which we encounter it, and at the time when we encounter it regardless.

(As an aside, this is also why it doesn’t matter what fairies originally were. If you don’t work with what they are now, learning from the people who have continued to experience them, then you’re not only being an arrogant dick to the cultures in which these beliefs still survive, you’re also probably going to run into trouble sooner or later. That is if you’re actually encountering them, of course.)

To return to the main point though, this is also how you can work to hack your brain to see more stuff that you may not otherwise see. And you do this by repeatedly and consistently setting down the layers that change your ‘prior knowledge’ about the world and what is possible. In other words, you demolish that “bridge too far” brick by brick.

Unpacking Realities

All of this talk of a somewhat malleable consensus reality though, does beg the question of whether or not there is an absolute reality that is untouched by consensus. A reality that exists regardless and that serves as the foundation upon which all else is built.

Personally, I think this is something that is self-evident. After all, if we are editing things out to fit in with this created reality of the consensus, then it’s

reality - elephant
“Is it me, or is this reality thing a little cold, hard, and wrinkly?”

logical that the unedited version is the absolute reality, or at least as much as a human can perceive of it. Moreover, if dogs can smell more than us, and mantis shrimp can see colors we cannot even conceive of, then we can infer that this absolute reality is also beyond human concepts.

But what is this absolute reality?

I don’t know, but I personally believe it is one that is interconnected – that we are all connected in a tapestry of energy, consciousness, or whatever other word best fits here. And that the interplay between absolute and consensus realities is best imagined as being like a glass of milk with melted butter floating on top.

This absolute is beyond concepts and limitless. It is also a state in which a magical practitioner who is able to perceive and manipulate even the smallest portion, would not only have greater wisdom, but also possibly the ability to do some truly wondrous stuff.

There’s just one catch though: if this absolute reality is one of interconnectedness, then if you ever get to that level, it’s a cookie either poisoned or blessed by your actions that we must all ultimately eat.

Thank goodness for that psychic censor, right?

Witch Wars: Diagnosis

witch wars - magnifying glass

Finding the Right Balance

Belief in being cursed or being subject to magical attack, can become a curse in of itself – especially when you’re already encountering a run of bad luck. So it’s important to have the proper perspective when it comes to the subject of witch wars - balancemagical attack. Because if you place too much belief in the possibility of being cursed or attacked, then it’s all too easy to see malefic magic and psychic attack at every turn and become paranoid. There’s also a lot to be said for self-fulfilling prophecy here – especially with the more magically-minded. But if you refuse to even consider the possibility, then you run the risk of missing some of the earlier warnings and allowing things to become far worse.

I’ve been that person in the second category, and I’m coming to you from the future to warn you about that very thing.

I messed up a lot in my early 20s with this, and a whole lot more. So trust me when I say that if you write everything off as being “just a run of bad luck”, then things can get really bad and in really unbelievable ways too.

So how do you find the right balance with this?

In truth, unless you have physical evidence that someone is working against you, you need to be looking at multiple factors. But what are they?

Luck

The most obvious thing that is going make you suspect attack is a run of bad luck that just doesn’t seem to end. But sometimes shit just happens! So how do you figure out if it’s regular old run-of-the-mill shit, or magical shit?

witch wars - horseshoeThis is where it gets pretty tricky, and also why you shouldn’t just rely on one thing when assessing whether or not you’ve been cursed. However, a good starting question to ask yourself is if what is happening is logical given the surrounding causes and conditions. For example, if you happen to lose your job and your house is foreclosed on during a time of economic downturn, it’s easy to see the circumstances at the root of your situation.

However, if (for example) you find yourself applying for a college hardship fund and being rejected for being “too poor” after a run of being told you’re overqualified for student jobs you’ve applied for as a student, then something is probably going on. (It was. Those were some “fun” times.)

See what I meant when I said “unbelievable”?

Dreams

For a lot of people, dreams are just randomness bundled up with a combination of wish-fulfilment and stress. However, for magical practitioners dreams are a hell of a lot more. That’s not to say that we don’t also get the stress dreams about being late for French Literature class at college (or…you know…). But for us, dream can often also turn out to be a place of entrance into the Otherworld, or a common ground upon which we may interact with Otherworldly beings.

And other practitioners…

See the problem?

So if you’re not keeping an eye on your dreams, especially around the 15th lunar day, you’re missing out on one of the biggest canary warnings you could possibly have. Dreams on this day that include arrows, snakes, or any form of attack really, can be indicative that someone is working against you. Moreover, it’s often possible to divine the person (when a human is doing the cursing, but that’s another story) attacking you, and what their beef is (beyond simple ego).

For example, you may find that the attacks in your dreams are conditional on you avoiding or carrying out a certain behavior. For example, if someone wants to keep you in what they see as ‘your place’, then the attacks in the dream may only happen when you disobey instructions to not cross a boundary.

So pay attention to your dreams!

Feelings and Foreign Thoughts

Strange emotions and thoughts can come from any number of sources, especially if you’re empathic in any way (and if you are, you might want to check out this post for some handy tools). Moreover, our brains can be pretty weird places just in general. Which can make it quite difficult to figure out if a new crop of negative emotions and strange thoughts are from you, picked up witch wars - fallenby accident from others, or the result of a curse directed at you.

But what do I mean when I say “negative feelings” here? Generally speaking, the kind of negative feelings that come with an attack are an impending sense of doom and dread, and a nose dive in self-esteem. Depression is also common, as is a feeling of helplessness.

And I know, I know. Who hasn’t felt those things? I mean, for goodness sake, we live in the monstrous shitshow that is 2019!

However, when you take the time to examine why you normally have those feelings, you can usually point to concrete reasons why. Maybe it’s all the plastic in the sea? The climate crisis that is going largely ignored? The internment of asylum seekers and attendant human rights abuses? Or maybe it’s just down to the simple yet highly stressful economic insecurity that most of us experience on the regular?

The point though, is that when you get down to it, when you take the time to examine these feelings, you generally find causes that are usually highly logical (and not the result of outrageously abnormal examples of bad luck).

This is part of why meditation is important – because it gives you the tools to carry out that kind of introspective examination.

But most importantly, meditation helps you get to know your own mind. This is incredibly important when you’re subject to this kind of attack. After all, how else will you recognize which thoughts are truly yours, and which belong to a hostile party? However, for all the danger of implanted thoughts (especially the kind that ensnare the mind and have you picking out a death day on autopilot), this is also often the area where a lot of attackers ‘overplay’ their hands and give themselves away.

As the old adage says, “know thyself”.

Health

In the Old English sources, the concepts of ‘health’ and ‘luck’ (as well as wholeness and holiness) are expressed by the same word – ‘hælu’. This collocation of concepts into a singular term tends to make great sense to anyone who has worked extensively with either the paranormal, Good Folk, curses, or all of the above. Because it’s never just luck that tanks, but personal health too. For some of the more metaphysical (and scholarly) reasons for this, you can check out this essay here.

However, for the TL;DR version, let me just say that both curses and interference from the Other have very similar effects on the body, and especially the torso. So keep an eye out for gastric and other torso-related issues that are accompanied by a loss of physical energy – especially if medical investigation leads nowhere.

Dying Plants and Eggs

Finally, a lot of witches look to their plants. If a lot of your plants suddenly start witch wars - eggsdying off, then there’s a chance that someone is working against you. This is especially the case when this happens in conjunction with any of the other factors mentioned here. Some folks also keep an egg on their altar as a kind of hex alarm and watch for it breaking. Of course, you may go through quite a few eggs, and will need to remember to change them out if you opt to do this.

Being Off-Balance

Find yourself taking more trips and falls recently? Perhaps you’re experiencing the kind of clumsiness that you only normally get before your period (if you have those), but at the wrong time?

It’s not uncommon for people to experience more falls and injuries when subjected to psychic attack – part of this is down to that luck thing.

But in my opinion, there’s also a wider theme of keeping you off balance here too. This is something you may also see reflected in your thoughts. You may find yourself fixating on something or someone completely random and illogical – just out of the blue, to the point where it’s taking over everything to a really unhealthy degree. And it’s smart too – part of keeping you otherwise occupied so you can’t do the things you need to to fight back.

Now I’m not saying that every weird crush or obsession with a thing or person is the result of magical attack (especially if you’re already predisposed to obsessive behaviors). But it’s another factor to take into account along with everything else.

Next Steps

So what do you do if you suspect that you have been hexed by another practitioner (or even the Other)?

Your first next step is to perform divination and find out if your suspicions are reflected in a reading. Depending on what’s been done to you though, you may find yourself unable to read for yourself (assuming you could do it before), and in these cases you will need to get a reading done by someone else. Honestly though, regardless of whether or not you can read for yourself, it’s advisable to get a reading done by a trustworthy person anyway. In my experience, the role of divination in the diagnosis and management of malefic attacks is one that iswitch wars - tarot often forgotten. And I get it, it’s easy to lose your head when you suspect that magic is being thrown around – especially if you’re already a little battle-scarred before figuring out what’s going on. However, if someone is working against you and you give into that fear, you help them in their cause.

Divination can provide a chance to catch your breath and at least run your thoughts by another human. This is important for two reasons: firstly, running it by another person can provide a valuable “checksum” that you’re not experiencing some kind of mental breakdown; and these kind of experiences tend to be pretty isolating (which is never good when you’re vulnerable). Most importantly (?) though, divination can help you take stock of the situation, and may sometimes even give you information on how best you can defend yourself or otherwise end the attack. In other words, it’s a critical first step on the path to resolution and healing.

Witch Wars: Minimizing the Damage

Witch wars - tarot devil card

Which Witch War?

There are two kinds of “witch wars” in the Pagan world, and most of the time, it’s the gossipy, bitchy, war-of-words kind that is the most common. This blog

witch wars - praying skeleton
“Oh West Virginia Jesus, please don’t let me be misunderstood!”

post isn’t about that – largely because I suck at them. I just don’t have much investment in the kind of social fuckery that allows an actual honest-to-West-Virginia-Jeebus negative social campaign to form. In short, I’m not the droid your looking for when it comes to advice for surviving a social shit storm (but this droid might be helpful, and also this).

I am however, the droid that can give you some helpful tips on the second kind of witch war: the magical kind.

An Evil of Ego

To put it simply, this kind of witch war is usually an utter clusterfuck. Like the social shit storm variety, it usually comes about because one person gets their pants in a twist over some ego-related matter. They can come about quickly, Witch wars - tarot devil cardor they sort of ferment over time. In my experience of these slow wars, you usually have about 2-3 years of fermentation punctuated by relatively minor periods of being poked at before hostilities fully escalate.

The magical witch war can be soul-destroying, and can wreck your whole life in otherwise unbelievable ways. This is especially the case if you take the position that this shit just doesn’t really happen and so are perhaps not as vigilant as you should be. Moreover, if the attack is particularly bad, the aftermath can be quite difficult and take some serious recovery time .

Hands down the best way to deal with this kind of witch war though, is to avoid it in the first place.

But how can you avoid something that hasn’t (hopefully) happened yet? The simple answer is that you can’t. But there are some relatively easy precautions you can take to reduce both access and effectiveness that go beyond the usual wards and shielding.

Reciprocal relationships

One of your most important lines of defense against nastiness, is the reciprocal relationships that you nurture and maintain with your numinous powers. Sometimes it may be gods who help you, and sometimes Fair Folk. However, mostly it’s going to be ancestors and house spirits that do the bulkwitch wars - land spirits of the heavy-lifting here, so these are the relationships you really need to cultivate.

That’s not to say that the gods and Fair Folk wouldn’t get involved though, or that it isn’t worth taking the time to develop reciprocal relationships with them too. It’s just that they have less reason to be involved than the aforementioned groups, and unless there are already signs that you have their favor, their prices tend to be much steeper.

When you have good reciprocal relationships with your ancestors and house spirits, detecting, diagnosing, and dealing with magical attacks become much easier. Because when you have those relationships, you can get a lot done by simply calling to them with some offerings and checking in. I recommend checking in in this way on a weekly basis (at least).

Cleanliness

This is where I tell you to clean your house! No really, regular cleaning is one of the best steps you can take to create a layer of protection from some major whammy.

witch wars - cleaningYou see, sometimes witch wars involve sending asshole spirits to mess with you, and those asshole spirits tend to gravitate to the shitty, cluttered areas of your home like mosquitoes do to buckets of water. (This is pretty much why paranormal teams get people to clean up as part of the solution.)

Another reason why cleaning is an important activity (you know, aside from regular old health, hygiene, and decency), is that if you are in the slow moving kind of war, then you may find items planted in your home that come with…extra ‘gifts’ (in the German sense of the word). Regular cleaning keeps you familiar with what’s in your home and what doesn’t belong.

Lastly, and most importantly, there are layers of protection you can build into your cleaning regime. You can clean with apotropaic herbs and washes (especially if you make your own cleaning supplies like I do), and you can get into the habit of regularly fumigating your home to cleanse it. This helps to prevent a build up of magical nastiness over time, which is useful all the time, but invaluable if you ever end up having the misfortune of dealing with a protracted campaign.

To Gift is to Connect

One of the worst things about witch wars, is that most of the people you are likely to end up in magical altercations with, will have likely started out as friends. They are usually the people you’ve “talked shop” with, considered working with, or maybe even worked with. This is part of why your slow-moving witch wars are like car wrecks that you can see coming in the distance – you can see the wreck coming, but there’s also this desire to try and prevent it if you can. I don’t mean to be the plot spoiler here, but most of the time you really can’t. Because it’s usually not about you or your friendship, but simple ego and dominance, and that’s an ill that lies solely within the person that witch wars - giftstarts the war.

But in those early days of friendship before you get to know a person, it can be really easy to gift freely. However, until you know how things are going to roll out (or oaths are in place), it’s important to be careful with both what you gift, and also what you accept.

To give or receive a gift is an act of trust, especially among magical practitioners. Gifting connects and provides either leverage, or a way into someone’s life (the Trojan horse principle). Because when you gift – especially if that gift is something you made or have had for a long time – you’re essentially giving them something they can use to connect you to them in a spell. Alternatively, the gifts you accept can come with some added…”extras” that can make for some really unpleasant times.

So be careful who you give gifts to, and what presents you accept from others. If you really want to give gifts in those early stages of friendship, opt for gifting by Amazon or another online service. They still get the gift, but none of the “you” to leverage.

As an aside, I always learned to never accept salt from another witch. I don’t remember where I learned that now (it was a good two decades ago now), but it’s a taboo I’ve kept to. Your mileage may vary.

Personal Concerns

Even worse than a gift though, is when a rival gains something of you. The term “personal concerns” is quite delicate-sounding for what is being referred to here, but basically, it’s your hair, nails, blood etc. Any enemy practitioner (or practitioner yet to out themselves as an enemy) that gets access to any of witch wars - hairthese things, gains the keys to the kingdom. There is so much more that they can do to you with this stuff- trust me on this. Because there was this one fun time and it literally nearly fucking killed me.

Protecting your personal concerns requires both cleanliness and diligence. Don’t leave hair brushes, toothbrushes, or anything else with your hair lying around anywhere where any guests can get to them. Be extra careful with sharp objects when others are around. If you cut yourself, pocket any tissues you use to staunch bleeding and take them home. Count them as you pocket them and keep track. Try to wash away any blood spilled with whatever is to hand. Got flyaway hair? Tie it up or cover it while meeting with new folks. Get the idea?

Basically, adopt the level of paranoia a hated Roman emperor would have found admirable.

Final Words

Witch wars of this variety are thankfully relatively rare, and it can be all too easy to become a little too paranoid. There is a balance to be had here, and in the next post I’m going to discuss some of the things you can look at to try and discern whether or not someone is working against you.

But for now – and most importantly – don’t give this topic too much space in your head. Stray thoughts can be dangerous things for people who use their emotions, visualizations, and will to change reality.

A Magical Go-Bag Tour

magical go-bag - hag stone

In my last blog I talked about the process of putting together a magical go-bag, and some of the reasons why a witch might want to. In this post, I’m going to give you all a tour around my main magical go-bag to give you an idea of some of the options that are out there when putting these bags together.

My Magical Go-Bag: A Backstory

Call me paranoid, but I’ve always carried some kind of magical supplies on me. I’ve just had that kind of life. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been the proverbial poop pile to the supernatural flies, and so always having some supplies on hand just makes sense. However, the impetus to create a dedicated bag for going out on the battlefield (or whatever else I’m up to) only came last year. Before then, my bags were all repurposed, or small bags that I’d just shoved into other, bigger bags. Last year though, things changed

To cut a long story short, working more intensely with the dead led to other spirits showing up. One of those spirits was a crane-dancing woman who told me to create a what was essentially a magical go-bag. Jokingly, I called it a “crane bag” (because it was a crane-dancing woman who told me to make it). However, the connection between the crane bag of Irish lore, and the Irish analog of the Welsh god who has played a pivotal role in my battlefield work also did not go unnoticed.

So off to the internet I went to scroll through endless pictures of “crane bags”. But none of them worked for me, and soon became clear that the best option was to make my own. So I did.

I knew from the outset that it had to be grey and hardwearing. The inner fabric – which could be softer – was a chance find that I chose for the deer in the pattern (an animal that’s long held significance for me). I came across the giant crane-patch by chance while searching for fabric, and well, the idea of a “crane bag” with a giant crane on it gave me a chuckle, so naturally I slapped the ‘purchase’ button.

Making the Bag

I’ve never been a good (or even competent seamstress). I don’t know what happens but I can start off with a perfectly good sewing machine, and then it all goes wrong. The tension decides to do its own thing, then the thingie in the bottom is also like “fuck you”, and in the end, it’s raining, the earth is falling in, and I’m about ready to pitch the machine out of a window. So the prospect of creating a go-bag was daunting to say the least.

I used this tutorial at the recommendation of my mum (thanks mum!), and although it didn’t quite work out (because: me), I came away with a serviceable bag with the custom pockets that you can see here.

magical go-bag - crane bag

magical go-bag - pockets
Custom knife pockets ftw.

Once made, I consecrated it in a small ritual to Manannán Mac Lir as it seemed like the right thing to do at the time.  And in the end, I think it was the right decision as it triggered the dream experience that you can read about here.

So that’s how, and the why of creating my go-bag.

My Essential Items

Now here is where I finally get to the things I consider essential for how I work, But as I mentioned in my last blog on this topic, your mileage may vary.

Hag Stone

Function: Apotropaic and tool.

First on the list (but not necessarily in order of importance) is the hag stone or holey stone. These are stones that have naturally occurring holes through the magical go-bag - hag stonemiddle of them, and although I haven’t really found good scholarship on them, my experience has been that these are both effective tools and apotropaics. They’re protective against the Unseen, and allow you – again, in my experience – to see through glamours and things that are normally unseen if you look through them.

You can sometimes find them along rivers, but they are also readily available to purchase online. I would advise caution when purchasing these online though as some unscrupulous vendors try to pass off drilled stones as genuine hag stones.

Black Salt

Function: Hardcore apotropaic.

Next up is black salt. Salt is a great addition to any magical go-bag in magical go-bag - black saltgeneral because it has so many uses. You can use it to salt boundaries, protect, and banish. But black salt is just taking regular old salt and leveling it the fuck up! The addition of iron, ash, and (in my case) ground wolf bone, makes black salt an excellent addition to a go-bag. It’s like an apotropaic powerhouse!

Even better, if you make your own black salt, you can build in extra layers of apotropaic magic into the creation process! Why just scrape some iron from your pan when you can use your pan to burn prayers asking for divine favor with some protective herbs, then add that to your fire ash before scraping the pan for iron? I have a dutch oven that I use specifically for ritual work so that I don’t have to wreck my cast iron cookware; it was $10 from a thrift store – bargain!

Spindle and Fiber

Function: Tool and offering.

I use a lot of spinning in my magic, and especially when it comes to working with spirits. Spinning in a space can trap both dead and leftover remnants of magical go-bag - mini spindleenergy that might “grow up” to get its own ideas and start its own trouble. Spun fiber can provide a bridge, delineate space, and serve as an offering in its own right. I have two spindles that I typically use in ritual work: one is a collapsible spindle that fits in my bag; and the other, magical go-bag - large spindlemy large one, was a gift to thank me for help given. I adore my large one because it feels weighty and authoritative – like a wand. It’s something I’ve wielded in ritual before now when opening portals and working my will. The collapsible one lives in my purse (yes, it’s that small) along with the sheep knuckle I use for yes/no divination.

Railroad Spike

Function: Apotropaic and tool.

This is something I tend to swap out with my black-handled knife. There’s a magical go-bag - spikeresonance to this item that just works. I’ve engraved it with words of power (which I won’t show here), and it’s one of my favorite spirit weapons for subduing, setting up some hardcore protective space, or for when things go bad. I don’t know whether it’s wholly iron or steel (which is mostly iron anyway), but it’s kickass anyway.

Red Yarn

Function: Apotropaic, tool, McGyver goodness.

magical go-bag - red yarnThis is one of my more McGyver-type items. Red thread can be used to bind and protect, or create new items (like a crossroads effigy or protective rowan cross). It can also be used for knot spells, marking off space, and much more. The yarn I use is hand spun with intent and then ritually consecrated.

Offerings of some kind

Function: Offerings, because being a magical murderhobo is bad.

And finally, because being the magical equivalent of a D&D murderhobo is not something that any of us should aspire to, I carry offerings. So many situations can be avoided or calmed by just communicating and making propitiatory offerings. Easy offerings to carry on the regular are cornmeal, tobacco, water, cedar, and small sealed butter or cream packets. Just please, take any trash home with you so you don’t ruin any of your good work by doing anyone the disrespect of leaving trash in their space.

The Magical “Go-Bag”

magical go-bag - lego person

The Magical Go-Bag (AKA “Preparedness For Weirdos”)

What do you think of when you see the term “go-bag”?

If you don’t know what that is, the name has already probably given you an idea. However, if you do know, then the chances are that you fall into one of two camps: those who think they’re a great idea and already have or are working on putting one together; and those who think they’re something that only paranoid preppers do.

Preppers have a bad name. They suffer from the stereotype of being religious fanatics with doomsday bunkers and enough canned foods to last decades. However, that’s really not representative of most preppers, and if anything, we should all prep to some degree for potential events like natural disasters or economic downturns.

Most prepping efforts focus on sheltering-in-place scenarios, but the go-bag

magical go-bag - storm
The main reason why I have a tote full of emergency stuff.

is designed to help you get the hell out of a place temporarily (usually for 72 hours), and survive. As the name suggests, it’s preparedness on the go!

Ever since the Otherworld apparently began bleeding through, my magically inclined friends and I have noticed some pretty major changes in how the Unseen interacts with us (and vice versa). For starters, it’s far easier to get attention from Themselves nowadays. Moreover, the effects we’re getting during ritual are (or at least seem to be) more obvious and visceral. And it’s all too easy to stumble into situations while out and about. Lastly, we know we’re not the only ones experiencing the weirdness; we’re all getting hit up more often for advice about everything from simple hauntings to fairy possession and curses.

Does this sound familiar to you? Because if it does, you may want to consider making a magical go-bag.

Planning Your Magical Go-Bag

Unfortunately, when it comes to planning your go-bag, I can’t tell you what to put in it. My way of working is not yours, and so you really need to think about how you work and the kinds of tools and implements you find useful.

The first step to filling your go-bag is taking some time to think about the last ten or so magically weird situations you were in while out and about. Where did they take place? What did you encounter? What tools were useful? What do you wish you’d had at the time?

Go on, write that shit down.

When you have your list of items, you’ll probably find that there’s too much to carry comfortably in your handbag in day-to-day life. So this is where you need to begin paring down your list and/or looking for miniature equivalents.

Paring Down Your Tools

Ideally, the magical go-bag contains a combination of tools, apotropaics (protective items or substances), and offerings. So with this in mind, take another look at your list and classify the items you have. Divide your lists into three separate lists if it helps! Anything that serves as both a tool and apotropaic instantly graduates to the next round of consideration. For example, a hag stone serves as both tool and apotropaic, so that would make it into round two.

Now take another look – is there any way you can use any of those items to McGyver other tools on the fly?

magical go-bag sheep knuckle
A sheep knuckle – the ultimate in portable y/n divination.

The process of paring down is really about getting the most utility for your bag space, so think carefully here. Anything that is multipurpose or can be used like the Swiss Army Knife of witchcraft goes through to the next round. Don’t forget to consider items that you usually carry that can be improvised into a magical tool here (e.g. your keys can serve as a good stand-in for bells, so leave out the bells if you usually use them!)

Finally, is there anything that you just aren’t going to dump because it’s just so kickass and has been useful more times than you can count? If so, and if that item is on the larger side, it might be worth it to track down a miniature version.

Magical Go-Bag: The Final Cut

By this point in the process, you probably have quite a good idea of what is going in your bag. And clearly, how much you can fit in depends on how big your bag/ the space in your bag is. I tend to keep at least one apotropaic and one offering item in each of my regularly used bags in case I encounter some

magical go-bag - lego person
“Hello! I’m responding to a 911 exorcist call…why yes, I would be your on-call person. Oh yes, a cup of tea would be lovely!”

kind of incidental issue. I also have a more specialized bag that I take with me when I know I’m going to work “in the field”.

Whatever your bag situation looks like, only you know what you have and how much you can fit in. The trick here though, is taking your final list and figuring out where everything would work best. And don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time – the process of reorganizing your go-bag/emergency supplies is one that you’ll likely be revisiting again and again in line with what you encounter.

In my next blog, I’m going to give you a small tour around my main go-bag and talk about my favorite magical go-bag items so you can see what works for one witch.

5 Magical Hacks for the Brokeass Witch

brokeass witch - empty pockets

Being A Brokeass Witch In The Modern World

It can be expensive being a witch, especially if you work with more historic forms of magic. Materia magica and tools like goat fat, spindles, and the bodies of hanged men just aren’t as readily available nowadays as they were for our forebears. There is no walking to the gibbet at the crossroads to

brokeass witches - gibbet
Foraging was so much better back in the day.

harvest goodness knows what from some hanged criminal for us, comparatively few people raise their own animals, and unless you’re the kind of person to hang out at your local sheep and wool festival, you probably also don’t have a spindle.

Or a cauldron.

Or a pitchfork.

And depending on where you live, your foraging options might be limited when it comes to traditional European witch herbs anyway.

So what’s a brokeass witch to do when a working or form of magic requires materia magica and tools that are prohibitively expensive?

Well, you could try out the following hacks.

1. Keep An Inventory

The first and easiest cost-saving activity that any witch can do is take an inventory of the magical supplies that are already in stock. As a group, we tend towards being pack-rats. We accumulate herbs, rocks, journals, random bones and raccoon dick bones as we practice, and it becomes all too easy to lose track of what we have. So if you’re looking to cut the cost of your craft, you need to reduce the risk of buying unneeded items, and that is where your inventory comes in.

Go through your stuff, make a list, keep the list somewhere easy to see, and refer to it when making your nefarious, magical plans.

2. Cost It Out

brokeass witch - empty walletWhen you have a specific working in mind, take the time to research the cost of supplies. Shop around, fill shopping baskets on random sites and see what totals you get. Sometimes things will work out much cheaper than you initially expected and are actually affordable with a bit of budgeting work. Conversely, things may turn out to be a whole lot more expensive than you thought, so it’s good to cost things out to avoid any nasty surprises.

3. Figure Out Substitutions (And Make A Purist Cry)

In some cases, substituting some tools or ingredients can make things a little more doable financially. However, you need to be careful with any substitutions you make. After all, there’s a certain logic to magical workings, and some of that logic has pretty deep roots.

But while it’s clearly beyond the scope of this listicle subsection to teach how to ‘read’ and deconstruct magical workings in this way, I can give you a down and dirty hack to at least get you thinking about it.

Over the years, I’ve found that the easiest way to think about magic is in terms of story; and leveraging stories in order to change my own story, and the story of others. From an animist perspective, everything has backstory, and these backstories are what build the greater story-arc that you form when you create a spell. So the next time you look at a spell (or consider creating your own spell), try to think of it like a movie in a series of movies and deconstruct the various plots. Those bits where you find yourself thinking “Oooh wouldn’t it have been cool if (character name) did that instead of (character name)” are where you can possibly make some decent substitutions.

Just bear in mind that some spirits care a hell of a lot more about substitutions than others. I have done workings with some real sticklers, and workings with other spirits who are fine with you using whatever you have. So if it doubt, perform divination. Sometimes you can get some leeway from promising better when you’re doing better.

4. Make Your Own (Tools) if Possible

There can be a lot of magical and economic benefits to making your own tools. Because aside from the (usually) cheaper cost (again, cost this out first) of making your own tools, there is the added benefit of being able to birth your own tools into the world. You get to be there at the point of creation, and begin their stories. Yes, you get to be momma to some sketchy knives, spindles, staffs, and whatever the fuck else you need to produce in order to get on down with your magical selves.

Go have some magical tool kids! It’s like the only time you get to reproduce prolifically while poor without society looking down on you.

There’s also a certain niche value there too. I mean, no one else will have a table of art quite as shitty-looking as yours (or mine…speaking from experience here).

Table of “art”. Ha!

It’s artisanal, not shit.

5. Look For ‘Free’ Or Thrift

Finally, despite our lack of early modern witchy resources (oh, the irony), there’s still a lot to be said for foraging locally, especially if you can figure out some decent substitutions in your local plant life. Thrift stores can also be gold

brokeass witches - cauldron
This would be free if you stole it. But that’s not the kind of ‘free’ I mean here. Stealing is bad, m’kay!

mines for witches in need of tools, and you can still observe planetary timing in your purchases! Knives, candle holders, offering dishes, and fireproof bowls are not all that hard to find in a lot of thrift stores.

Of course, the only downside here is that you’ll probably never know the backstory on those tools, but can you ever really say that about any tools bought from local occult stores? So what if that knife you picked up was used by a little old lady called “Evelyn” to eviscerate her Canasta nemesis? Free spirits, bonus.

Final Words

Witchcraft has changed a lot since the days of our early modern counterparts, and so has poverty. However, one thing that has not changed is that witchcraft was, and still remains, the tool of the poor and marginalized.

So regardless of what you end up missing, or the cool shit you don’t get to own, just know this: By being poor as crap, you’re continuing a true witchcraft tradition. Like I said, witchcraft has always been the tool of the downtrodden, and most of those were also poor as crap. Poverty just looked different then. But don’t forget, it’s your economic counterparts (give or take a few hundred years) that the folks who can afford all the swank stuff are trying to emulate.

Yay, validity!

Leveling-Up Witchery and “Flexible Covens”

I’ve seen a couple of blog posts go by my various feeds within the past week that seem to be getting a lot of shares. People like those easy 5-point lists that promise easy ways to get better at something, and they also like models that give them a sense of belonging. However, while I can appreciate that no one can learn their path from a list and that the concept of ‘flexible covens’ gives people a descriptor for the kind of informal magical alliances we often find ourselves in nowadays, I still found elements of these posts problematic.

The Old Days and Five-Point Lists

A few weeks ago, a Facebook friend shared a blog post she wrote about shielding (you can read it here), and we got into a conversation in the comments on meditation. You see, for years I’ve been under the impression that this is one topic that magic 101 books have neglected for a while now. And that’s not entirely surprising, because the most part, meditation is massively misunderstood in the West. Moreover, it seems to be one of those parts of spiritual/magical practice that people decide are too hard. Worse, a lot of people don’t even know why meditation is so important for spiritual/magical practice.

However, when you read older magic 101 books, or books written by people who are more old school, they’re pretty uncompromising on the need to develop a practice. And like I said, I’ve been under the impression for years now that a lot of the witch 101 books have become more…compromising. (Of course, the cynic in me just says that people write whatever books they feel will sell regardless of their utility for practice.) But it would seem, at least from the conversation with my friend and other participants in the thread, that I am not the only practitioner to have noticed this trend.

And this is where we come to what I would put on a five-point list. This is not a five-point list that claims to teach you everything, but if you follow it, you will level up your witchery.

#1 Meditation

Yeah, I get it. You fucking hate meditation. It’s boring as shit, and who the fuck could just sit there and do nothing until they have no more thoughts in their heads (and who the fuck wants that anyway?)? Also, what the fuck even is the point? It’s also completely impossible.

Okay, so now we’ve got the excuses out of the way, let’s go through a quick witchery - meditationrundown of what meditation actually is.

So the first problem is that we can’t actually give a potted definition because there are multiple different types of meditation and they have different goals. There’s also so much damn material out there on those different types too – no seriously, there are entire manuals written about each variety (and multiple manuals as well!).

However, the type you should probably begin with is what is referred to as ‘calm abiding’ meditation, or shamatha. I suggest this for four reasons:

1. Shamatha stabilizes the mind, making it far less volatile and allowing you to really take stock and figure out what the hell you’re doing before you start flinging magic like a monkey flings poop. It also makes it easier to catch your mind when it’s trying to run away with you in scary situations.

2. Shamatha includes the same kind of mental discipline as mindfulness. This is indispensable for developing not only will, but the ability to maintain focus on whatever the hell you’re doing magically.

3. It also provides an opportunity to practice visualization. In Shamatha you learn by using ‘supports’. Now, the support can either be a physical object that you maintain single-pointed awareness of, or a visualized object (such as a ball of light that you visualize just sitting there chilling out on your carpet). This is like magical cross-training because you’re not only stabilizing and strengthening your mind muscles, but you’re also working on those visualization skills while you’re at it!

4. Finally, if you stick with it, it can become a source of major insight. Things will arise that will help guide you along your path.

Interested? The Buddhists have the best materials on this mind-tech, so I recommend checking this  and this out for an easy explanation, and then picking up this book by Pema Chödrön for more concise instructions. The (free) beginner magic course over at Quareia isn’t half bad either!

#2 Keep a Journal

I’ve posted about this before, but I’m going to reiterate its importance here. Magical journals are incredibly important to developing a practice – regardless

witchery - holy book
Let’s pretend this is a journal, m’kay?

of what your magic looks like. There are a number of reasons for this. But the biggest one is keeping a record. This sounds like a no-brainer, but keeping a record of dreams/trances/interactions with the Other/magical workings/insights/and especially pacts can help save your ass down the line like you wouldn’t believe. Not only that, but it will help you take stock of what you’ve done/experienced, and show you how to tweak what you do to get better results in future. A well-kept journal can highlight so many teachable moments, and we always learn far better from our fuck-ups than the things that went perfectly.

#3 Get to Know Your Local Area and Work on Connection

This is a multilayered recommendation. For me, the process of creating connection begins with going for long walks. Back in the 1990s I read in a book that a witch should explore a 5 mile radius from their home in order to get to know it and that advice has stood me in good stead since. But what am I looking for?

On a purely physical level, I note the trees, the types of plants, the rivers, the graveyards, and any spaces that just interest me for historical or aesthetic reasons.

But then there’s the hidden dimension too. This is best expressed in questions like “Why does that tree draw me?”, “How does it feel?”, “Why do I get the feeling I’m being watched in that place?”, and “Does it feel friendly or unfriendly?”. I recommend bringing offerings on these walks. You may find the witchery - pathunseen interacting with you in some of these places, and that’s fantastic. That’s what you want as a witch! Relationships with the Unseen have always been part and parcel of witchery. Just remember to be polite and to never offer anything of yourself or that you are not prepared to truly give.

Sometimes you find places where you feel like someone may be there, and these are the places where you can sit out (as long as the vibes are good).

The practice of sitting out is old – very old, and no one knows exactly how to do it. However, the method I’ve found that works best for me is to simply allow myself to sort of melt into the land – to become a part of it – then just simply sense what or who is around me.

I’m not going to lie, there is an element of danger in this kind of work – a place can quickly go from welcoming to dangerous. Just remember that offerings can appease, apotropaics and amulets are a great idea, and that Morgan Daimler writes a whole bunch of books about staying safe(ish) when dealing with the Other (you should absolutely read them).

#4 Read Widely – Especially Those Older Texts

Humans have been doing magic for a really long time, and even better, a good chunk of us have been writing that shit down whenever we’ve had the ability and/or cultural imperative to do so.

So it goes without saying that there’s a hell of a lot out there. Moreover, much of it is far better than the stuff we find in modern texts. Okay, so the style of writing might not be as accessible, but the shapes of magic are pretty well conserved over the years. These shapes can give us the underlying mechanics of how different magics work, and that’s probably one of the most useful things any witch could learn. Moreover, being “conversant” in more forms of magic only adds to your ability to not only diversify your practice, but tweak your workings to get better results, and adapt when encountering magic that is the product of a different paradigm.

To learn about the shapes of Goetia, check out Jake Stratton-Kent’s work.
To learn about Greco-Egyptian magical shapes, Stephen Skinner is a good bet.
Aaron Leitch explains Solomonic magical patterns.
Paul Huson shows some of how all that stuff above can be shoved into a witchcraft paradigm.
Folks like Jason Miller and Gordon White also show some of that sexy adaptation shit.
People like Ian Corrigan leverage grimoire—shaped magic for Irish-inspired workings.

And those are just a few examples! If you really want to get into the weeds, you can also read reconstructionist magical sources of Irish/Norse/Old English/Greek/groups not represented above.

Cool, huh?

#5 Commit to Experiment, Commit to Practice!

But none of the above is any good unless you commit. You need to commit to experiment (so you can find your flavor of practice), and you need to commit to practice.

witchery - practice
Even if what you do looks like this kind of a train wreck, just do it!

Nothing happens without putting in that work, and if you cannot commit, then maybe you need to evaluate whether or not you should even bother trying to level up? Or even bother with any of this. It’s okay to just find something interesting and enjoy the aesthetic. That doesn’t detract from your inherent value as a person. Or maybe it’s just not your time yet? That’s also okay. There’s nothing wrong with thinking about whether you’re ready yet. Magic can fuck you up, so it’s important to be self-aware and honest with yourself about this.

But if you’re ready to go balls to the wall on this magic thing, then do that. Do the meditation even though you fucking hate it. Keep that journal. Walk like Hobbits on their way to Mordor. Make allies and figure out who to avoid. Read all the things. Grow.

You’ve got this.

But one thing you should absolutely be wary of doing is getting in one of those ‘flexible covens’.

Flexible Covens

Look I get it, it sounds really nice, the vast majority of people don’t come across their perfect coven. So a lot of folks end up working with people in a really undefined way.

From that perspective, the idea of a ‘flexible coven’ is lovely. It projects a sense of belonging and closeness, and that’s entirely why it’s a terrible idea.

Think about all the things you associate with the word ‘coven’. I bet all those ideas are overwhelmingly positive (at least if you’ve never been burned by one), right?

Herein lies the problem. The thing about membership in a coven or any tight magical group is that there is a level of trust and intimacy. It’s the kind of ‘deep’ you don’t find in the kind of casual friendships mentioned in the ‘flexible coven’ post. You are connected on a level that is hard to describe, and strange things happen because of those connections all the damn time.

I’m in a magical group, it’s kind of an outgrowth of our battlefield psychopomp group. And though we don’t refer to ourselves as a ‘coven’, that is pretty much what we are. We are a ‘magical family’ – that’s probably a good term for it.

To give you an example of the kind of thing that happens to us, we were looking for retreat places. You know, somewhere where we could disappear for a couple of days and just immerse ourselves.  So naturally, I became fixated on this one place – Shepherdstown WV. I posted about it in our chat and found that two group members were actually in Shepherdstown. They’d driven up randomly and I hadn’t known about it before they posted.

This is on top of all the other stuff like dreams with shared themes on the same night.  Or contacting each other randomly when someone is working magic. These are people I trust and share secrets with. These are people who, if they violated their oaths, could harm me (and I them).

This is precisely the problem with the ‘flexible coven’ though. When you work deeply with people on a magical level, you share a lot of yourself. You make yourself vulnerable and consider them ‘safe’. You stop doing things like clearing your hairbrush before they come round or keeping hawk eyes on your tools. In other words, they gain opportunities to really fuck you up.

But what of people who start to think of others as ‘coven’ without those bonds and oaths being there?

I would advise caution. Perhaps create for yourself an inner and outer court system like some covens have. Make your inner court those who have proven to you again and again that they are worthy of your trust. Casual acquaintances you like and work with occasionally can fill your outer court.

In other words, don’t give ‘the keys to the castle’ to anyone who hasn’t earned it. (And even then, keep a backup plan just in case!)

You Don’t Own Witchcraft (and Other Rants)

witchcraft - devil

Ownership and Gatekeeping

You don’t own witchcraft – none of us do. It kind of makes me sad that I feel witchcraft - morpheuslike I have to say this, but witchcraft isn’t just the domain of (predominantly) white neo-Pagans – there are forms of witchcraft all over the globe, existing in multiple worldviews. Just because you’ve created modern forms of religious witchcraft, it doesn’t mean that you somehow have a claim on it all, or that it bears any resemblance to (any) historical witchcraft. In other words, none of us get to be gatekeepers here.

You know what does bear a resemblance to historical (European) witchcraft though?

Some of the shit in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (hereafter referred to as CAOS).

You know, that shit that some of you are getting mad about.

Look, I get it. You don’t like the inclusion of Satan/the Devil/Old Nick in a show about witches, and some of you seem to think it’s playing into a Satanic Panic mentality. But let’s be real for a moment here.

Sympathy for the Devil

First of all, the way Pagans react to the Devil/Lucifer/Satan/Old Scratch/Whothefuckever (not that they’re all the same being anyway) is ridiculous. It’s 100% Christian baggage over a being who is basically the kitchen sink of all the shit the Christians hated.

witchcraft - satan
“Oh fuck…I think I left the coffee machine on.”

I mean, could you honestly say that you’d feel the same about the Devil if we lived in a world that had retained large polytheist populations and the Christians were ranting about this being? You probably wouldn’t. You’d probably file it away in your head that he might be worth slitting some (animal) throats over in certain situations, but could also be a royal dickbag.

And it’s not like we avoid worshipping beings capable of being royal dickbags as a collected mass of religious and spiritual movements either (see: current popularity of “fayeries” for a great and exceedingly ironic version of that). We’re actually pretty cool with that – it’s edgy even. They just have to be ‘our’ (potential) dickbags.

But a dickbag, is a dickbag, is a dickbag.

So why do we elevate one dickbag over all the others in terms of how we perceive their inherent dickbag…ness?

Could it be that despite our best efforts to Pagan ourselves the fuck up, we inherited more than a few attitudes from the dominant religion/s in our society anyway?

Yes, of course we did. None of us live in bubbles.

But that’s not the whole story – there are bullshit respectability politics at work here too.

To some degree, I can understand this. After all, we’re only a few decades out

witchcraft-Dees20
I know, I know…but I wasn’t sure if I could rip off any actual D&D pics for this post.

from when playing D&D could get you into trouble. But there are some very real issues with engaging in respectability politics that I think we should all be mindful of (which you can read about here).

Sabrina and Satanic Panic

Secondly, the obvious ‘hole’ in the Satanic Panic worries is that the witches from CAOS were clearly intended to be fantastical. I mean, they’re immortal (or near enough) and you’ve got people kissing the Devil’s hairy hooves, for goodness sake!

Their magic is also massively more successful – like supernatural being successful. This and the immortality element are important markers of the fantasy elements of this show. The witches here are not *meant* to be believed in in a literal sense.

And look, don’t get me wrong, we can do a lot more with magic than we witchcraft - Devilgenerally think. We *could* do a lot more, but most of us just aren’t there yet (you know, if we’re being real). We’ve got a lot to build and paradigms to shift before we can really get there.

But none of that is inherently a bad thing. Because the Satanic Panic concern isn’t entirely misplaced; our current social climate is absolutely ripe for a resurgence of kind of awfulness.

It won’t be CAOS that will set it off though. If anything, it’ll be all the highly public grandstanding curses of public figures and groups like the NRA.

To Keep Silent

It’s one thing to network among practitioners and set up working groups – that carries very little risk. As does democratizing magical efforts via anonymous fora such as 4Chan. However, it’s quite another thing to go in front of a camera crew and ramble on about how you’re going to work malefica on people in power! (People in power who, I might remind you, enjoy a good deal of support from the kind of zealous motherfuckers who would gladly burn people like you and I had they the chance)

These public rituals have already planted those seeds in their minds too. Pastors and other sources on the right already talk about the curses against the president, and the NRA put out a video not all that long ago warning of that very thing. So in other words, they were taking that threat seriously and starting the rumblings of what could become another Satanic Panic way before CAOS came along. If you think this is going to be instigated by a Netflix show with a talking cat, then you haven’t been paying attention.

No, if anything, what will come will be because of what people within Pagan communities themselves were putting out. CAOS isn’t the problem here.

Disbelief is Our Friend

Because as galling as it might be, one of the greatest protections we could witchcraft memehave in times like these is disbelief. We don’t want people to believe we can do the things they associate with witchcraft. Especially not in times like these.  Trust me, we probably wouldn’t like their BBQs, and it wouldn’t just be because the potato salad has raisins in it.