You may be wondering, “What is witchcraft?” Perhaps you have dazzling or dark Hollywood associations with the word, ranging from Bewitched to Harry Potter to Blair Witch to Charmed, The Craft, or American Horror Story: Coven. The craft that I practice has very little relationship to these representations of supernatural fantasy, spectacle, or horror. For me, witchcraft is a practice of meaningful, intentional living that recognizes and nurtures our sacred connections to a living world. It is a collection of practices and knowledge traditions that expand my awareness of myself and my relationship to the more-than-human world, engaging the shifting cycles and patterns of the earth and sky as a way of aligning my life with the world to which I belong. It is healing in-and-through intimate relationships with ourselves, human and more-than-human others, ancestors, and Earth.
I first came to witchcraft in the stacks of the public library as a teenager in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I sat for hours reading arcane texts about medieval witches burned at the stake, complex systems of ceremonial magic, books of spells, the creation of charms and amulets, and the emergence of modern Wicca as a spiritual path with mythic roots in pre-Christian European earth-centered Goddess religions. In the pages of those books, I felt my world expanding, my personal agency growing, and the possibilities for the direction of my life multiplying.
In college, while working on my BFA in dance, I also began to study tarot, the use of stones and crystals in magic and healing, and the creation of spells and rituals as tools with which to shift consciousness and focus my intentions. I started celebrating the lunar cycles and the passage of the seasons as sacred, tuning into the rhythm of a world that was much bigger than my own life. I immersed myself in Wicca and Goddess spirituality as steps toward healing from patriarchy. I felt more connected to the world around me, and more in touch with my own agency and self-determination. As a queer person living in Mississippi, these practices were vital lifelines.
Now having practiced for over fifteen years, my understanding of witchcraft has evolved as well. Great witches of our age have given me several definitions with which to play: Dion Fortune taught that “magic is the art of changing consciousness at will,” a definition made even more widespread by Starhawk. Phyllis Curott and the Temple of Ara have taught that magic is what happens when we encounter the Divine within ourselves, one another, and our world. To be a witch is to be someone who is paying attention, someone who removes the blindfold in order to witness and commune with the sacred all around us. All of this holds true for me.
Witchcraft has also become a kind of “carrier bag” of practices with which I shift consciousness and make my life meaningful, including spells and rituals, astrology, tarot, communing with different plants and stones, breathing techniques, teachings from core shamanism, teachings from the yoga tradition, and teachings from cultural practices of intentional living like Feng Shui. All of these practices fold into the ways that I make magic, cultivating connection, meaning, and well-being in my life; the witch-crafting is connecting and composing these different practices and traditions, and being composed and transformed by them.
Over time, I have also realized how deeply akin witchcraft is to my work as an artist, choreographer, and performer. These are all practices of creating meaningful experiences for ourselves and others, and while they might function in different ways and in different contexts, I approach my witchcraft as a creative, aesthetic experience with which to generate meaning—not unlike artmaking. My witchcraft is insistently embodied. I understand the body as our most sacred site—the altar, the oracle, the convergence of ancestral lines with the elements, the meeting place between earth and sky. I know that dances can be some of the most powerfully transformative spells, and that in order to be healing, witchcraft must involve reverence for the body.
I also very much recognize being a witch as a feminist identity. The figure of the witch in the past and in our present day stands as an antagonist to patriarchy and to patriarchal systems of control, oppression, domination, and exploitation that are rooted in misogyny and alienation from the feminine. While there is no essential ontological connection between women and the earth, both women and the earth have been depreciated and oppressed throughout centuries of patriarchy. This depreciation and oppression also aligns with the oppression of queer people, trans and gender-nonconforming people, people of color, Indigenous people, and all those who have been marginalized by what bell hooks describes as the imperialist colonialist white supremacist capitalist hetero-patriarchy. The figure of the witch stands at the meeting place of these oppressions historically. Witches of old were healers, midwives, herbalists, and wise women, in tune with the wisdom of the earth. When we claim identity as a witch, we align with centuries of ancestors—many of them women—who have lived and died in resistance to oppression and repression. I bring that feminist consciousness into my work as a witch.
witchcraft is a practice of meaningful, intentional living that recognizes and nurtures our sacred connections to a living world