I was lamenting to a friend a few days ago that I had had very little time over the last week for doing something “witchy” for myself due to having to spend most of the week working on paperwork for my disabled son’s transition from children’s into adult services. It’s a worrying time with budget cuts to vital services all over the place and he needs a lot of physical support to be able to live his life the way he wants to. It was important to me that it was right and so I spent hours of my time ensuring that the information they had included everything it possibly could and spelled out his wants and needs explicitly.
She immediately turned to me and said “what do you mean nothing witchy? Sounds to me like that’s all you’ve done all week!” Of course, my first reaction was to argue that I’d spent all week in front of my laptop and that clearly wasn’t witchy! After some contemplation, I realised that she was of course totally right.
My activities didn’t feel very witchy because they didn’t involve a ritual that I recognised in my head as such. I hadn’t set my space, lit any candles, used any tools that I associate with that kind of work or intentionally brought my focus in to work with the energy intended. Working on my laptop is what I do most days and I automatically associate it with getting jobs done, earning a wage and being productive in some way. What my brain didn’t do this week is associate it with magic or healing, yet really it absolutely should have.
What I had done was the other part of witchcraft that lots of people forget to acknowledge. The hard work part. The bit where you have set your intention, worked your spell and then followed it up with the necessary work to ensure that it has the desired effect. I had spent all week making sure that we had the best chance of my son’s needs being recognised, understood and met as he moves onto the next part of his life where I won’t be able to fight and advocate for him as much as I always have done. I had spent my week living and being my magic out in the world rather than tucked away in my healing room and I hadn’t been able to see it through the focus and energy that I had put into it.
I’m grateful for the reminder that not all magic is candles, incense and focused circle work. Most of the time, its about realising that we live it each and every day. We ARE magic and everything we do is magic at work whether that’s working in circle or putting our energy into logistics and physical activity to make our wishes come true.
I’ll no doubt need reminding again when I get insanely focused on something that’s important to me and the weight it brings but for now I’m glad to have remembered that no matter what my week consists of, I am a living witch being the best I can be and working my ass off at the hardest part of magical work.
This week sees the launch of my pre-sale period for my upcoming Pagan children’s book… And it’s taken a fair few of my friends giving me a good talking to, once again, to convince me that I deserve this, I’ve worked for it and I can do it…
I wrote the stories to entertain my daughter. She was five at the time and I’d just had my son and we’d snuggle in bed at night, baby on my lap, my daughter next to me and I’d tell her stories of baby elements and the adventures they experienced as they learn about the world because they want to be big and strong so they can help protect Mother Earth and her Children.
I remember the first story I told her. It was a stormy night and she was scared of the thunder. I told her it was the big elements coming together to blow away all the heat that was making her feel sweaty and hot during the day and she wanted to know how the big elements learned how to do that. So I told her the story of the little elements and when she was tucked up in bed, I called my mother. I told her I’d had an idea for a cute set of toys we could make for my kids and nieces and nephews… It didn’t even occur to me to write them into stories, despite me coming from a family of great writers!
I saw my mum a few days later and she’d been sketching them! There they were, sketched into the little book my mum always carries around with her. As soon as I saw them on the page, about sixty new stories popped into my head! So many lessons I could teach my children about the natural world and themselves through these teeny imps.
So… When I got home that night I wrote the first six. It took me about two hours, my fingers typed so quickly, I felt a bit like Jim Carey in Bruce Almighty! You know the part, where he’s answering the emails and his fingers are going really fast? Except it was my prayers being answered and I was answering them myself!
As someone who’s struggled with my self esteem and self image my whole life, it’s been rare that I’ve looked at something I’ve created and known, without needing to be told, that it was good! I’ve needed reassuring and reminding many times since back then… But in that moment, I looked at these stories and I knew they were the inspiration many families needed to teach their early years children to love and respect nature.
So… There… You’re all witnesses… This admission right here is probably the most arrogant I’ll ever be in my life… And I’ll need reassuring multiple times after it’s posted that it’s ok to say I’m good at something and not apologise for it…
I believe these stories were a gift to me. A magic and a power that I can’t fully take credit for because it came from my children, my mother, my faith… And I can’t wait to share them with you!
We get a lot of questions and emails, some we answer in public on our website and some we answer in private via email depending on the content and need for privacy. We also get a lot of spam as I’m sure you can imagine but what we don’t usually get is people telling us we’re wrong about something as bluntly as this, and especially on occasions where we're not wrong at all.
The email we received had the following comment:
“In your web page entitled "Ceremonial Magic and the Occult" you mention Doreen Valiente, when I believe you meant Doreen Virtue, creator of angel oracle cards.”
Our Sarah gives her comments about this here………
So - let’s set this straight right at the off - we did indeed mean Doreen Valiente and NOT Doreen Virtue.
Doreen Virtue was until 2017 a prolific “new age” author on angels and working with them among other things. She has since renounced all her work before this date, stopped profiting from her many books and card decks and converted to Christianity from new age spirituality. Many were left bereft, disappointed and lost when she denounced these things as “the devils work” and walked away from her following after an experience during which she claims she spoke directly to Jesus Christ. I am keenly aware of her work and find it uninspired at best, downright dangerous at its worst. Her past work has unfortunately been guilty of preaching false positivity and reliance on other worldly beings rather than self-responsibility and realistic routes to healing.
Doreen Valiente on the other hand, was without a doubt the matriarch of modern witchcraft. When she passed away in 1999, she left behind her a legacy that is far reaching and its echoes will live on for many generations of witches to come. Not only one is Doreen of the most well-known and influential names in the world of modern witchcraft, she is also one of the most respected and endeared of our elders. The author of several books and a whole world of poetry about witchcraft, she was responsible for opening the door to the world of magic and occult practice to many who now walk the path – including myself.
Doreen’s work included working with members of parliament to ensure the rights of witches and pagans were protected as much as it did the research and practice of magical workings so we have much to thank her for as we enjoy the freedoms she helped to start establishing.
Thankfully, her collection of tools and written works now reside safely in the hands of The Doreen Valiente Foundation, a charitable foundation dedicated to her work and memory established by her very dear friend John Belham-Payne. Her work has been recognised posthumously with the placement of a blue plaque outside the flat in Brighton where she lived happily for many years.
In short, Doreen Valiente will never, should never, be forgotten by the witchcraft community. She dedicated her life and work to us and that should always be honoured with the deepest respect.
You can find out more about Doreen and support the work of The Doreen Valiente Foundation by clicking their logo below. If you would like to know more about her and her accomplishments, I can highly recommend the biography written of her life by Philip Heselton. It is beautifully written and a true in depth look at the incredible life of a wonderful woman.
I’m one of the first to moan about witches who encounter an issue in their personal lives and suddenly drop their craft path and flail around to find a world based solution for something that could easily have been rectified by magic. And sometimes I do find this frustrating. A witch who only practises in the good times is neglecting her greatest skill to her detriment if she can’t push through with her craft when times get tough.
But sometimes magic isn’t the perfect solution and as witches we need to realise this and use our common sense to discern when a magic based solution is the right one or when a mundane answer might be a better fit for a given problem.
I remember years ago reading about a witch who helpfully intervened when a work colleague was struck down with a bad cold. Without asking the person the witch went ahead and worked some effective magic to aid her friend’s recovery and help them back to work. Unfortunately their friend was furious. They had been working extremely hard and saw the cold as nature’s way of telling them to take a break. They needed those few days off for mental and spiritual recovery. The spell, albeit cast with the very best of intentions, wasn’t the right thing in those particular circumstances. And while we do learn the very clear lesson from this not to intervene without permission, we also learn that sometimes nature knows best and sometimes our meddling is neither needed nor wanted.
I was reminded of this the other day when my own personal life opened up into two clear and distinct paths. One way offers stability and security, the other offers opportunity and adventure. A close friend of mine who also practises the craft asked me curiously which path I wanted and which path I intended to bring about with my use of magic.
My initial response was to decide which of the two paths appeals the most and then take action to bring that event into reality. But then I got to thinking about the wider implications of this. The truth is that both paths offer me different things and both would benefit me in different ways. And not just different known ways, but many unforeseen outcomes and repercussions which would echo down my life path for many years to come.
I’m not in a position to know which fork in the road would make me happiest. I can guess with the limited information available to me but I have no way of knowing which direction would be better for me long term.
So I took, what is for me, the unusual step of letting the cards fall where they will. I’ve left things to the fates this time. I’ll see what the Universe has in store for me. And I must admit I am curious to see how this all plays out without intervention.
I’ll still involve magic of course. But rather than change the path I take, I’ll do magic to draw me toward what is the best outcome for me, even if at this stage I am not sure myself what that is. I’ll do some general work for health, wealth and happiness and hope that I attract the right choice for me.
Sometimes witchcraft isn’t about control. Sometimes being a witch is having the confidence to let situations unfold naturally in the full knowledge that you have the character and resources not just to cope with whatever life throws at you, but the ability to manipulate a given situation to work for you as an individual.
And sometimes the Universe does know best…
Today as I was scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across a meme showing a stereotypical picture of a witch complete with robes and pointy hat that carried the words “True magic is neither black nor white; it is both, because nature is both loving and cruel at the same time. The only good or bad is in the heart of the witch.”
I have all the feels about this statement, and while I essentially agree, to me it is a far more complex subject than this statement makes it out to be so I thought I would explore it today for my musings.
You see, to me most things work as a spectrum and have multiple aspects that can overlap, compliment or contradict each other. I don’t see that spectrum as a straight line either, I see it more as a circle where the most extreme aspects actually sit right next to each other rather than being opposites - much like a colour wheel I suppose. I can apply this to several human aspects including emotion, behaviour and even our sense of morality.
As a healer, I learned to understand emotion through colour. At first I thought that each one could only relate to one particular kind of emotion and spent a long time confused but then I had a lightbulb moment – each colour had a spectrum of shade and tone, and that related to a spectrum of emotions.
The magic I work then is a whole rainbow of colour in that I see it is as being a practice that is as colourful as I am. It is not black, white, grey, green or any other single colour – it is a spectrum. My practice literally depends on my own colours (emotions, behaviour, morals etc) and how I choose to apply them as much as it does the colour of the magical thing that I’m working on. One day I could be red and the next I might be black or any other colour - and either of those might be a positive or a negative thing depending on the “colour” of my emotions, thoughts or moral sense that particular day.
In other words, I don’t see a duality to my practice, or to the world and its inhabitants – I see multiplicity and multipotential in any number of different colourful nuances.
How do you see it?
Let’s talk about labels for a minute.
Recently in a group for fans of a show I quite enjoy a woman was complaining that the show was “anti-Christian” because it repeatedly made fun of the Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ. This then led to an interesting discussion around media and popular culture representations of various faith groups. I pipe up and mention that my faith is very rarely seen as anything but a gimmick or the worship of an anti-deity that most of us don’t even believe in… Everything went all to heck!
Everything from “witches aren’t real” to “pagans worship the devil” (despite me literally saying that Pagans, as a rule don’t even believe in the devil/Satan but what do I know, right?) was thrown about and I ended up leaving the group, feeling it wasn’t a safe space for me… And by safe I mean, I’m pretty sure I’d have grown another stomach ulcer if I’d have stayed there trying to correct those people!
It got me thinking about labels… Both the ones we claim for ourselves and the ones forced upon us by others… And how people look at us based on them.
Now, I know many people will say that we shouldn’t use labels because they’re harmful but that, in my humble opinion, is pure tosh! Speaking neurologically, psychologically and sociologically (as well as developmentally and cognitively just for good measure!), our minds literally work by creating chemical signals for absolutely everything in life, giving them labels
(what are called mental representations in scientific fields) and storing them for future use (which usually includes comparing against new signals for better categorisation, amongst the many other complex things our minds and bodies do!). So, to tell someone not to rely on or use labels is literally telling them to ignore what our brains are designed to do, it’s the very basis of cognitive functioning…
This lesson in neurology and whatnot aside, labels can be an extremely negative thing when used against you… But so can anything else! And I, for one, find a power in taking back the labels and using them for my own ends.
I have many labels.
Scientist (quite tickled by this one, to be honest! Take that, family who thought I was stupid!)
The list could go on and on and on and I didn’t even use some of the more offensive ones, which would make my co-Founder froth at the mouth with rage if I chose to use them myself after they’ve been thrown at me. They’re very protective of this particular insecure Animist Heathen Druid Witch! ��
I’m not sure if I have a point today… Do musings necessarily have to have a point or can they just be wandering, twaffle that jumps from one thing to another with no general direction?
I’ll create a point… My point… A point… Ok, here’s my point… The point is; don’t let other people’s notions of what and who you are dictate to you how you see yourself (yeah, I know, I’m a hypocrite, my self esteem is basically zero! But you’re supposed to learn from me and be better! Lol.) and if you choose to take a label and make it your own, don’t let the
way other people see labels bully you into not using them.
Take the names they call us, the labels they give us, the misconceptions others breed around us and throw it all into the Fuck It Bucket. You are who you choose to be, despite what they throw at you, despite life’s experiences… It’s up to you how you identify yourself. Names and labels have power. Use yours to your own advantage, don’t let them take that
power from you.
Take that power back.
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