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You’re probably curious about the title. The word “witchcraft” is a strong one, conjuring up images of fairytale villains, children’s costumes, and supernatural beings. You probably think of some teenager sitting cross-legged with their Ouija board, trying to summon the dead, find true love, or ace their math test. These are your goth girls all grown up — the oddball; someone who’s probably seen The Craft one too many times.
Some of that is true, but in the modern era, witchcraft has taken on a whole new and rebellious meaning.
My own journey into witchcraft, or at least, the idea of the metaphysical, began with Harry Potter. I mean, who wouldn’t want to travel off to a castle to learn spells with your pet owl? While the book's setting was enchanting, I was mostly interested in the characters. Professor McGonagall, Luna Lovegood, and, of course, Hermione Granger a.k.a. the Brightest Witch of her Year. She was smart, brave, deeply compassionate, and took charge of any situation with her talent, and cool intellect. She saved her male friends so many times that she could be seen as the real hero of the Harry Potter books. She is, to put it plainly, a total badass.
My interest in witches continued to grow in my teen years with my favorite show at the time Charmed, a series about three sisters who discover they are witches. Throughout the series, they have the balance between vanquishing demons and having love interests, families, and careers. The “Charmed Ones,” as they are called, were cool, confident, and strong, sticking together in times of trouble through their unbreakable bond of witchcraft. They wrote spells, brewed potions, and looked into their all-knowing “Book of Shadows” for answers to their magical problems. But mainly, they relied on their moral compasses and inner strength to guide them along. Soon after I realized this, I began to take baby steps into the world of witchcraft.
I thought it would be much more difficult than it actually was. I thought for sure I would have to become Wicca, join some kind of cult that would have me drink animal blood on the full moon, or some weird nonsense like that. I quickly learned that Wicca and witches were not mutually exclusive things. Wicca worships both a God and Goddess, mostly viewed as Moon Goddess and Horned God, and pays special attention to the five elements. While many things can be taken from Wicca and put into your own witchcraft practice (having an altar, worshiping deities, creating a Book of Shadows, etc), you don’t have to convert to Wicca, or give up your current religion, worship Satan, or believe in anything to be a witch. And most certainly, you don’t have dance naked in the forest for your craft (unless you’re interested, then it seems like a fun time).
It was actually my mother who helped me with my craft. I wouldn’t call my mother a witch in any sense, but she was and still is very interested in the metaphysical. Together, we would collect witchy things, like shiny rocks of purple and orange, carrying them with us, hoping to bring luck and creativity. We'd create fairy gardens with succulents and moss, leaving shiny trinkets and maybe some leftover crumbs for them. In the summer to late fall, we would go into the garden with slips of paper that held our deepest desires and bury them in the ground, hoping they would come true.
To be fair, we didn’t do these things for the hard set belief that by doing them they would have to come true, but putting on a citrine bracelet right before a big test I had studied all night for gave me a boost of confidence. Wearing my evil eye pendant made me feel a little safer when I was riddled with anxiety. When the wishes I buried came true days, months, and sometimes years later, they became a happy surprise. Witchcraft is not a fix-all. It won’t let you pass a class you’ve never done one assignment for, or help you get a job that you never applied for. And if for sure won’t heal you if you are seriously ill (go see a doctor!). However, it does, at least in my witchy opinion, give you a little extra boost; or at the very least, a little extra confidence in yourself.
The older I got, the more I wanted to expand my magical horizons. I got into reading tarot cards after a deck fell on me in the storage room in my college English department. Talk about a sign, right? I learned tarot spreads from “past, present, future,” to the Celtic cross, and even making a few of my own. I blend tea leaves to create brews for calmness and wisdom. I collect crystals to put around a flameless candle for spells. I use diluted special oils to bring love and ease headaches. Does putting cinnamon in my coffee really give me luck and energy like it’s supposed to? Maybe not, but it does taste great (also coffee is suppose to bring productivity and boost mental health). And yes, I do the horoscope and numerology reading of every person I ever meet.
I also brought fashion into my identity as a modern witch. Dressing in black, with rings, crystals, and pendants as symbols of protection and attraction. I wear dark red and purple lipstick because it looks hella cool AND it makes me feel powerful. The men I have dated think it's a little ridiculous that I have a list on my phone on the different meanings of colors, but there is something so powerful about choosing what you want to wear because of how it makes you feel, no matter what men say.
Eventually, in college, I found friends who enjoyed the witchy world as much as I did. We'd go to psychic fairs together, read tea leaves, and go to the Misty Hollow, the towns local witchy shop (now closed... teardrop), to buy crystals and pendants. We’d trade tarot and palm readings and call ourselves a coven. But most importantly, we bonded, sharing secrets and vulnerabilities with each other. We created a trust within one another that in a culture which teaches us that women should see other women as threats, truly gave us strength. We learned that we are not in competition with each other — we are here to help each other grow. When my three best friends and I were about to graduate from college, I gave each of them special witchy pedant that reflected each of their personalities, with the hope that even when we are far apart, they’ll feel my love for them.
Witchcraft is not a fix all. It won’t let you pass a class you’ve never done one assignment for, or help you get a job that you never applied for.
My friends and I are not alone in being modern witches. For some, it’s another hipster trend or an aesthetic, but some are truly dedicated to the lifestyle like I am. Tumblr actually has a huge witch community full of resources, guides, and friendships with a diverse group of all ages, races, and sexualities. Witchcraft is not a just a "women thing;" literally any and all are welcomed and loved in the witchcraft community, as long as they are accepting, kind, and respectful.
Modern witches have also become entrepreneurs, creating Etsy shops and offering their witchy wisdom to the world. We have shunned big businesses in favor of supporting small witches in the community.
We are also a community that won’t take any crap from anyone. To be a Modern Witch is to defy the gender norms that women are supposed to be meek, soft dainty things. But once discovering our own power, whether it's dressing in all black, wearing a crystal, or chanting a confidences spell to ourselves, we become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Maybe we need witchcraft to help us, because we've been conditioned for years that our power is not ours.
But we are out, loud, and proud, willing to say "f*ck you" to anyone who tries to silence our power in our voices and actions.
So, where are all my witches at? Who wants to reclaim their power, dress in black, and bow down to your higher power self? Being a modern witch not only adds a dash of magic to everything you do, but gives your life some serious hex appeal!
Ellen Ricks is a writer, blogger, and Hufflepuff living in Upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing which, despite popular belief, is actually very useful. Ellen has been published in a variety of websites, journals, and writes her own fashion blog: Sarcasm in Heels. Her freelance work covers literature, pop culture, mental health, travel, fashion, and LGBTQ issues. When not writing, Ellen enjoys consuming pumpkin spice everything, frolicking in fancy dresses and dismantling the patriarchy.