Out of the Broom Closet, into the Cauldron
What does the term ‘Witch’ mean to you? How about ‘Witchcraft’?
I invite you to pause for a moment and explore the thoughts, feelings, sensations, perceptions, and biases that these terms evoke within you. Perhaps you would like to sit in meditation or write your thoughts and feelings down. Are they negative or positive? Ambivalent? Indifferent? Do you feel tense, or relaxed when considering these terms? Do they simply represent harmless fantasies? Fictional fuel for fairy tales that don’t have a notable effect on you at all? Or do they feel a little more real, making you uncomfortable, afraid, nervous, uncertain? Perhaps you even feel confronted? Angry? Hateful? Disgusted? Or do they represent something else entirely, something more admirable, empowering, uplifting, or inspiring?
Throughout my life, I have had a keen interest in Witches, Witchcraft, and Magic. I don’t remember how and where it all began, but I grew up watching Charmed re-runs, and movies like The Craft, Practical Magic, The Covenant, and Harry Potter, as well as all the Disney classics containing magic, fairy godmothers, witches and wizards. My mum frequently took me to crystal and New Age shops, actively encouraging a variety of alternative hobbies and interests. When I was 9, the TV show Supernatural began its first season, and I never missed an episode. I vividly remember studying The Crucible in High School, exploring the Witch trials that occurred throughout Europe and America, and later Macbeth with its three Scottish Witches delivering their fateful prophecies. My keen interest in all things magical never went away. In fact, it has developed into a bit of a passion.
I have avoided openly sharing this passion until now, because I feared that I would not be taken seriously as an Allied Health Professional if I did, but recently I reached a point in my journey where I realised that if I wanted Sacred Hearth to continue evolving, I would need to stop rejecting and suppressing the passions that inspired its development to begin with. Witchcraft is fundamental to this business, and my healing practices, and it’s time for me to both embrace and share that passion with others. I also wanted to write this post because calling oneself a Witch has become a bit of a trend, like calling each other Queens, and although I love and fully support this act of personal empowerment, I want to clarify that there are people out there who identify as Witches because they actively practice Witchcraft. It isn’t just an empowering pop culture buzzword. There is an entire system of beliefs, practices, tools, teachings, and more, behind being a Witch, and I’d love to share as much of that as possible with you, beginning with my own personal journey.
I am aware that, for some, this may not resonate. That everyone has their own definition, biases, beliefs, ideas, and philosophies in relation to Witchcraft, but my identity as a Witch is defined by my desire to live in harmonious alignment with the Earth, my Mind-Body-Spirit, the stars, planets, and all-that-is and ever will be. With this perspective in mind, perhaps you're a Witch too and you didn't even know it!
I think the “keen interest” grew into passionate obsession after travelling to the UK with my mum and stepdad in 2010. When we arrived in Edinburg, Scotland, it was as if I finally landed in my body after spending years outside of myself. It felt like a homecoming, even though I had no knowledge of my Scottish heritage at the time. Everything about the place felt safe, homey, and magical. One afternoon we visited Mary Kings Cross (which has such a cool story behind it that I will not be recounting, so please look it up!), and after our tour, I spotted decks of Tarot Cards in the gift shop. Being a relatively wee one at the time, just 14-years-old, I only had a small amount of spending money to last me the 3-week trip, and being obsessed with old-school stationary, I chose to buy a calligraphy set with a little feather quill and inkpot, instead of the cards. When we returned to the hotel, despite being excited about my purchase, I could not stop thinking about those cards… The thoughts led to strange dreams, and the next morning, I set off by myself, with no map or phone, to get those cards. As I think back, I feel this experience as an activation. Something that was lying undeveloped within me had been awoken by the sight of something that could encourage and support its growth. I still remember how sure I felt walking myself around what was technically an “unfamiliar” country. I seemed to know exactly where I was going, and I felt so safe in doing so alone. It felt like my heart-home. Anyway, those cards kicked off my Witchcraft journey, but I still didn’t have a clear direction, or any real understanding of what I was doing. I was running purely on intuition and synchronicities. It just felt right.
By the end of 2011, I was still just dabbling, tea staining paper to craft an imaginary Book of Shadows, playing around with my tarot cards, runes, crystals, herbs, and writing the occasional couplet to direct my intention or energy. I thought I was playing imaginary games, fantasising, and pretending I was a Witch, but that year I came across a book in my High School library that brought my childlike imaginings down to Earth. It was a teen-fiction series (called Sweep, if you’re interested) about Witchcraft, and it introduced me to the modern and very real practice of Witchcraft, known as Wicca. (Note: I realise that Wicca is referenced in both Charmed and The Craft, but it's not presented in a way that feels accessible, this book series is what made it real for me.)
I was beyond excited. I could actually BE a Witch! In fact, I was already halfway there! I didn't have to languish in my imagination, wishing fruitlessly for an extremely delayed letter from Hogwarts to arrive, or scour my very fractured family history for ANYONE who may have left a musty old spell book or ancient magical lineage that I was just waiting to be initiated into, or stumble into some ancient sacred site that might gift me with magical abilities, I could actively practice and live a life of magic as I was right in that moment.
Before long, I had researched and sourced a mountain of books on Wicca, wrote and performed a self-dedication ceremony committing to a year and a day of self-study, and dove in headfirst. Unfortunately, I have never been particularly good at studying, even when the subjects are of interest to me. I am significantly lacking in what one might call “discipline”...and after buying all the books, tools, and witchy goodies I could afford, reading and annotating every single one, committing significant practices, procedures and correspondences to memory, the intensity of my commitment and practices slowly began to wane.
This happened for a variety of reasons. Along with my own general lack of self-discipline, I had no-one to share my experiences with, guide or support me, and my only experience with learning at that point had been through Primary and High school, where you are simply taught to accept and repeat what you are told. I had no knowledge or understanding of discernment, and so I didn’t have the mental-emotional maturity or sovereignty to understand that everything I had read so far, was up for my own interpretation and personalisation. So, when I came across a practice or principle that didn’t resonate, instead of thinking “Oh, I just won’t include that”, I would think “Oh, perhaps this isn’t the path for me…”. Even now, I notice myself deferring to “professionals” or “experts” for direction, rather than consulting my intuition and personal experiences. Consulting an expert certainly has its place, but one’s Spirituality is, and always has been, deeply personal and unique to the individual. It is not for others to tell you what to do, or define what is right and wrong, it is up to you to experience it for yourself, through trial and error, study and practice, seeking and exploring.
My inability to understand that I could pick and choose what worked for me and still be a valid Witch was not the only factor that caused me to shy away from my practices though. One of the biggest barriers to my progress was that I had only been exploring books on Wicca, which is a religion. I had made the mistake of assuming that because it was different to mainstream organised religions, that it would feel different in practice. This wasn’t the case, and unfortunately, many of the beginner’s books were framed in such a way that the teachings and philosophies being presented felt non-negotiable. Either you followed the set path, or you weren’t a Witch. Some of the teachings that didn’t resonate with me included deity worship, specified frameworks and regular requirements for conducting rituals and celebrations, and the assertion that solitary practitioners are “incomplete” or “invalid”, as their knowledge and experience has not been assessed or deemed worthy by a Coven or High Priest/Priestess, and they have not received an initiation into a specific lineage or Coven. The more I read, the more rigid, dogmatic, hierarchic, outdated, and very much like the organised religions I was actively seeking to avoid, it all began to feel. This was extremely disheartening, and I became disillusioned with what I had originally thought was THE path for me.
Just as a side note, none of the books I had read overtly claimed their way was the right way, or the only way. They were all designed to be beginner friendly and informative, and the expectation was for the reader to decide for themselves what resonated, and what tools, philosophies, practices, and understandings they wished to adopt based on their own experiences with the material presented, however, that expectation was not always emphasised. Many of the authors also tried to create a sense of structure and consistency through modules, or degrees of learning, that you had to pass in some way to move forward, which often felt limiting and reductive.
I loosely continued to practice my own eclectic form of non-religious Witchcraft, exploring astrology, crystals, herbs, divination techniques, symbolism, the chakras, various cultural pantheons, myths, legends and folklore, faeries, circle casting, altar construction, the Sabbats, and various correspondences, while simultaneously feeling ashamed, incapable, and unable to call myself a Witch because I wasn’t practicing in a manner that was “correct”, “measurable” or “acceptable”, choosing to refer to myself as “Spiritual” rather than a Witch.
It wasn’t until I started my Yoga Teacher Training (YTT, with Ava Irani at Spanda Yoga School) in 2019 that I finally began to reclaim my identity as a Witch, shedding the religious dogma that had shaped my initial explorations, and feeling into what was right for me. I came to realise that Witchcraft (for me) is just a highly stigmatised and taboo synonym for Spirituality. They are one in the same, but only one of them is socially accepted enough to be practiced and spoken about openly. I went back through my old books, substituting the words ‘Witchcraft’ and ‘Wicca’ for ‘Spirituality’ as I read, and the meaning and purpose of every chapter, paragraph and sentence remained the same. Slowly, the limiting beliefs I had placed upon myself, the box I had confined myself in, began to dissipate, and I began exploring my old Witchcraft material again with fresh eyes, a clear mind, and an open and inquisitive heart, checking everything I read against my own beliefs and lived experiences, adopting only what resonated with me and no longer feeling ashamed or incapable because of it.
How did this Teacher Training cause such a massive shift in my personal perception of Witchcraft and what it means to be a Witch? Throughout the course, whenever Ava presented us with a concept, technique, philosophy, belief, anything, she would always encourage us to experience the material for ourselves, measure its effectiveness and merit against our own lived experiences, and only after effectively experiencing the techniques and teachings for ourselves should we consider adopting them as our own. This was huge for me, because although I had already begun using my discernment in other areas of my life, when it came to Spirituality and all the philosophies, beliefs and practices that come with it, I almost always deferred to someone I believed had more knowledge or experience in the field than me. Yet here was my guide, my mentor, telling me not to accept what she said unless I felt it to be true for myself. No matter how passionately Ava believed in what she was sharing with us, how much the teachings had benefitted her, she was always sure to emphasise that it is not a one-size-fits-all type situation, and that we should always check in with ourselves. Isn’t that life changing?!
Along with emphasising discernment and practicing [Yoga and Spirituality] in a way that drew from our own personal experiences, Ava gave us another tool for assessing and measuring the effectiveness of a Spiritual teaching or practice against our own lived experiences: establishing a goal or intention. What do you want to experience or achieve with your practices? Get clear on that, because how can you measure their effectiveness if you have nothing to measure them against? She also redefined Spirituality as a whole for me, and re-framed the practice of meditation from one-pointed focus and mindfulness, to allowing everything to be as it is, and gentle self-enquiry. All this expanded and clarified my beliefs, values, and ability to discern what is right for me, as well as my experience of Spirituality and consciousness, and has allowed me to rekindle my relationship with Witchcraft, my Self, and Spirit.
Witchcraft is a lifestyle choice for me, not a religious practice, and I consider myself to be as much a Witch when I’m brushing my teeth or making my morning coffee, as I am when I am setting up an altar or conducting a ceremony or healing session. It is my way of honouring, celebrating, and developing a deep connection with all-that-is, through the observance of natures cycles, and my Mind-Body-Spirit connection.
Now we arrive in the present, or at least the very recent past. Almost a decade ago when I purchased my first witchy books and tools, I purchased ‘Advanced Witchcraft’ by Edain McCoy, and at the time, I had the limiting belief that I was only allowed to read it once I had completed the levels of competency that had been laid out in my beginner’s books. Unfortunately, as I grew disheartened with my studies, I never got to the level at which I felt worthy enough to read it, and eventually forgot about it completely. It has been sitting at the back of my bookshelf for a decade, unopened, until a few months ago. Now, it is one of my most cherished books on Witchcraft, and I strongly believe that anyone, at any level, can and should consider it.
I do believe I opened this book at exactly the right stage in my journey though (all in divine timing, as they say), regardless of the circumstances behind why I haven’t opened it until now. This book has really helped me clarify where I’m at, and what that means, so I would like to share a few quotes that I have pulled from the Preface and Chapter One, as McCoy’s definitions and explanations of advanced Witchcraft, and what makes one an advanced Witch, resonate quite strongly with my own lived experiences, and I feel that I could not articulate them any better.
In the Preface, McCoy describes Witchcraft as “…an experiential spiritual path, one we must undergo alone.” (XI), which resonated instantly with my own realisations following my YTT, and she likens ones advancing practices to the climbing of a huge tree, “The higher you climb, the more choices you are presented for exploring different paths, all of which shoot off into dozens of other sub-studies.” (XV), which is remarkably similar to the way in which my mentor Ava described the growth and development of Yoga, each new style or teaching like a new limb growing out from the ancient roots of the Yoga ‘tree’. Regardless of which limb you choose, or how far you have climbed, you are drawing from an ancient lineage of Yogic practices and philosophies, and the same goes for Witchcraft. Regardless of the lineage, philosophies or practices you choose, you are still a valid Witch drawing from, and building upon, the ancient roots of Witchcraft.
When defining what constitutes ‘advanced’ in the practice of Witchcraft, McCoy writes that it is not synonymous with greater complexity, but rather becoming a greater person and that “Being an advanced witch is not much different than being an advanced person...” (pg. 8). This is where the parallels between modern Spirituality and Witchcraft became quite clear to me. Spirituality is a path of Self-realisation designed to awaken us to our true nature—the witness consciousness or Being within—that connects us to all-that-is. A path that leads us back to the pure presence, or conscious awareness, that existed before our experiences conditioned us to believe that we are separate from all-that-is. Witchcraft is the same, the only notable difference is that it emphasises an awareness of, celebration of, and attunement to, the Earth, nature, and its recurring cycles, especially the way in which they are reflected in our Earthly-Human experience. This conscious awareness of the interconnected and cyclical nature of the Universe is what demonstrates true advancement to me. One of the issues I had with Spirituality in the past, was that it always felt like the goal was to transcend our Earthly-Human experience, as if the Human is separate from, and less desirable than, the Spirit, rather than to celebrate, honour, and appreciate our Earthly-Human experience as a fundamental part of our Spiritual experience. I choose to align myself more with Witchcraft than Spirituality, as (for me) it feels more balanced in its celebration and unification of Earth, Human, and Spirit.
Another milestone McCoy believes to be an indication of one’s advancement in the Craft is the realisation that there are two or more valid realities in any given situation. When one is capable of realising, accepting, and living this truth, one has officially arrived at the mindset necessary to practice and live advanced witchcraft. “Before you go any further in advanced studies, make it your goal to discard any thinking that is not a 360-degree observation. Toss out that black and white mentality and learn to see in shades of grey, and then in the full spectrum of colour. Disregard labels others have put on items, behaviours, or thoughts. Avoid making value judgements whenever possible. Expunge the words right, wrong, good, bad, love, hate, male, female, yin, yang, negative, positive, liberal, conservative, and all other supposed opposites from your mind. Try it for just one day and you’ll discover how brainwashed we all are in our acculturated, narrow channel of allowable thought processes.” (pg. 14). I wanted to include this quote and perspective as I feel it highlights how open and expansive Witchcraft really is, and it connects back to the beginning of this post where I asked you to explore your own beliefs and biases in relation to Witchcraft. Witchcraft has been put in a box, by those who wished to vilify and eradicate it but also those who wished to share it more openly with the world by structuring and clarifying it. When exploring Witchcraft, or Spirituality, let all that go, and you will see how truly open and unlimited it really is, which will allow you to personalise it to suit you.
The realisation that I was embarking upon the path of an advanced Witch fully landed for me when I arrived at the responses McCoy had received after asking fellow Witches to share their thoughts on what made an Advanced Witch. For Dorothy Morrison, advanced Witchcraft is “The ability to live a life so completely saturated with magick that the practitioner not only becomes one with every effort, but that every effort becomes the practitioner… It is, in fact, as natural as drawing a breath, blinking an eye, or moving a finger. That being the case, every simple act—washing a dish, scrubbing a toilet, or even paying a bill—becomes a magickal operation.” (pg. 17-18). This obviously resonated as I mentioned earlier that Witchcraft to me is a lifestyle. Everything I do, and everything that I am, is steeped in magic and Witchcraft, there is no separating it from me, or me from it.
The other response that landed for me was from Dagonet Dewr, “To me, advanced witchcraft is when you take responsibility for teaching, guiding, and empowering others around you.” (pg. 16) I have been feeling the call to serve my community as a guide or mentor in Witchcraft for quite a while now, with a particular desire to simplify it and make it more accessible as a Spiritual path. These thoughts began after multiple friends on multiple separate occasions expressed that Witchcraft was either too scary, intimidating, complex, or overwhelming to explore on their own, and they wish they had someone they could turn to as a resource for information, guidance, and clarification. I finally feel ready to step up and accept responsibility for mentoring, guiding, and empowering anyone who wishes to explore this magical way of life with me, and am extremely excited to share that I will be running Seasonal Celebration Circles in 2021, to delve deeper into the Wheel of the Year and the eight seasonal Sabbats celebrated by Witches all over the world! The first of these circles will run on Sunday January 31st 2021, and will celebrate Lughnasadh, a Fire Festival or Cross Quarter day that honours and celebrates the first harvest, and I have released another blog post along with this one that explores the eight Sabbats in more detail so that you can find out what they’re all about and if you would like to join me in honouring and celebrating them.
Something I feel is an indicator of ones advancement in Witchcraft or Spirituality, is being able to define it for yourself. My personal and experiential definition of Witchcraft and what it means to be a Witch is, “Witchcraft is the act of intuitively connecting to, and living in alignment with, the natural world as a means of connecting to one’s true nature as a Spiritual Being having an Earthly-Human experience, thereby resulting in the experience of true Oneness with All-That-Is.” and I am "coming out of the broom closet" to freely share my witchy magic because it is fundamental to understanding me and my healing work, and I don't believe there is (or ever was) anything wrong with identifying oneself as a Witch.
Just to wrap things up for anyone on their own spiritual journey, exploring various teachings and practices but perhaps feeling a little lost, overwhelmed, or not good enough.
Follow your intuition. Train your senses to become aware of any patterns or recurring themes, teachings, practices, and other synchronistic encounters, this will lead you in the right direction, and if you feel yourself doubting or questioning, ask yourself why, and feel into the answer because that will also offer you direction.
Try not to get bogged down in what you read or hear, check it against your own lived experience and don’t be afraid to disregard what doesn’t resonate. Nobody can tell you what to do or believe, or judge whether your path is right or wrong, that is for you to feel into for yourself.
Avoid limiting yourself to one path, one lineage, one teacher, one teaching. Be open with all your explorations. You are allowed to mix and match things from various different sources to create your own unique system of beliefs and practices, you don’t need to confine yourself to a box to be a valid Spiritual practitioner.
Ensure that all your teachers have the integrity to admit that their way is not the right or only way for everyone, and that they do not stoop to judge, vilify, or condemn the teachings of another to justify or validate their own.
And lastly, have the courage to live and embody your truth and your journey openly, every day, in the presence of everyone, because that is the point. You will inspire, uplift, and encourage all those around you, even the ones who judge and doubt you, because even doubt and judgement contain a beneficial teaching that can spark meaningful growth and change.
My sincerest hope in sharing this post, sharing my journey with Witchcraft, is to support, encourage, uplift, and inspire you on your own spiritual journey. I want you to feel confident in living your truth, and for you to keep going, keep exploring and evolving, despite feeling overwhelmed, disheartened, invalid or unworthy. This is your journey, and it is all valid and worthy.