how to become a witch

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About the Authors

Amber K
was born just outside New York City. She was not trained in the Craft at her grandmother’s knee and does not come from a long line of hereditary Witches.

In 1978, she joined the Temple of the Pagan Way in Chicago, and received her initiation and ordination there. She has worked with Circle, New Earth Circle, the Pool of Bast, and the Coven of Our Lady of the Woods, and she was a co-founder of the Ladywood Tradition of Wicca. She has served three terms as National First Officer of the Covenant of the Goddess, the world’s largest network of Witches. She taught in the Cella (priestess) training program of Re-formed Congregation of the Goddess, a national Dianic network. She has a son, Starfire, who resides in New Mexico and is part of the Pagan Spirit Gathering.

Azrael Arynn K
was born in New Mexico. She brings to the Craft her experience as a police officer, race car driver, stockbroker, and architectural designer, as well as a degree in law. She is a talented costume designer and ritualist, and she is also a certified NLP practitioner.

Both Amber and Azrael are third-degree priestesses in the Ladywood Tradition of Wicca. They met in 1991 at a Wicca 101 class sponsored by Our Lady of the Woods and were handfasted in 1994. They have taught many workshops at Pagan festivals and conferences, including PantheaCon, Heartland, United Earth Assembly, Dragonfest, Florida Samhain Pagan Gathering, Starwood, and others.

Amber and Azrael are part of Ardantane Pagan Learning Center in northern New Mexico, an hour northwest of Albuquerque in the Red Rocks area of the Jemez Mountains. Amber serves as executive director, Azrael is dean of the School of Sacred Living, and they both reside at the growing Ardantane campus. (For information, see the website at ardantane.org or write to Ardantane, P.O. Box 307, Jemez Springs, NM 87025.)

Azrael likes to read mysteries, shop for antiques, drive good cars, and study nutrition and healing. Amber enjoys hiking, photography, the Native American flute, science fiction, collecting ancient keys, and the Peanuts gang, especially Snoopy. They share interests in travel, pink transferware china, Chinese checkers, art, and all things magickal, including their lovely hybrid dog, Kyoshi.

Llewellyn Publications

Woodbury, Minnesota

How to Become a Witch: The Path of Nature, Spirit & Magick
© 2010 by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any matter whatsoever, including Internet usage, without written permission from Llewellyn Publications, except in the form of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

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Any unauthorized usage of the text without express written permission of the publisher is a violation of the author’s copyright and is illegal and punishable by law.

First e-book edition © 2011

E-book ISBN: 9780738728889

Book design by Rebecca Zins

Cover design by Lisa Novak

Cover illustration by Melissa Findley

Interior illustrations by Wen Hsu

Leaf image from
Ready-to-Use Old-Fashioned Floral Illustrations
(Dover Publications, Inc., 1990)

Llewellyn Publications is an imprint of Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

Llewellyn Publications does not participate in, endorse, or have any authority or responsibility concerning private business arrangements between our authors and the public.

Any Internet references contained in this work are current at publication time, but the publisher cannot guarantee that a specific reference will continue or be maintained. Please refer to the publisher’s website for links to current author websites.

Llewellyn Publications

Llewellyn Worldwide Ltd.

2143 Wooddale Drive

Woodbury, MN 55125

www.llewellyn.com

Manufactured in the United States of America

We dedicate this book to all those ancestors and teachers, both those known to us and those whose names and stories are lost, who passed down to us the traditions and their wisdom, the love of the Goddess and the Old Gods, the ways of magick, and the understanding that the earth and all of nature are sacred.

Contents

I Am A Witch

Introduction
:
Why Do You Want to Become a Witch?

Chapter 1
:
What Is Witchcraft?

Chapter 2
:
Seasons of the Sun, Cycles of the Moon: The Wheel of the Year

Chapter 3
:
Power of the Pentagram: The Witches’ Paradigm

Chapter 4
:
Bell, Book, and Candle: Equipping the New Witch

Chapter 5
:
I Am a Witch at Every Hour: Witchcraft as a Way of Life

Chapter 6
:
Spiraling Into the Center: Your Daily Practice

Chapter 7
:
Are You a Good Witch or a Bad Witch? The Rules of Witchcraft

Chapter 8
:
When the Moon Is Full: Witchcraft and Magick

Chapter 9
:
I Am the Soul of Nature: This Sacred Earth

Chapter 10
:
Worlds Beyond This One: Divination, Dreams, and More

Chapter 11
:
Circle Near the Old Oak Tree: Solitary, or Three or More

Chapter 12
:
Sacred Priestess, Sacred Priest: Serving the Lady and the Lord

Chapter 13
:
The Witch in the World and In or Out of the Broom Closet

Conclusion
:
The Path from This Place: Ever Learning, Ever Changing

Appendices

A
:
Recommended Reading

B
:
Glossary

C
:
Contact Points

D
:
Color and Metal Correspondences

E
: The Wiccan Rede

F
:
Rite of Self-Dedication to the Craft of the Wise

I Am A Witch
[1]

S
ome find their home in the Witches’ Craft,

Touching magick, wielding power,

But each must seek and find their path,

Is this your way, is this your hour?

Sing to Goddess, moon times three,

Touching magick, wielding power,

Drink to God, stag-hornéd he,

I am a Witch at every hour.

C
elebrate as the Wheel turns,

Touching magick, wielding power,

Dance and leap as the balefire burns,

I am a Witch at every hour.

W
ater, fire, earth, and air,

Touching magick, wielding power,

Ruled by spirit, all is there,

I am a Witch at every hour.

B
ased on knowledge, filled with love,

Touching magick, wielding power,

As below, so above,

I am a Witch at every hour.

I
n darkest night, in forest deep,

Touching magick, wielding power,

In broad daylight, awake, asleep,

I am a Witch at every hour.

A
t your altar, seek the way,

Touching magick, wielding power,

With Spirit start and end each day,

I am a Witch at every hour.

A
n ye harm none, do as ye will,

Touching magick, wielding power,

Heal always, never kill,

I am a Witch at every hour.

I
cast the circle, raise the cone,

Touching magick, wielding power,

And pour the wine when magick’s flown,

I am a Witch at every hour.

W
ork your will, but earth revere,

Touching magick, wielding power,

And every creature living here,

I am a Witch at every hour.

S
oar upon the astral planes,

Touching magick, wielding power,

Visit woodland faery fanes,

I am a Witch at every hour.

D
ance the round with Pagan folk,

Touching magick, wielding power,

’Neath the stars, beside the oak,

I am a Witch at every hour.

I
am Goddess, neverborn,

Touching magick, wielding power,

I wear the crescent, wear the horn,

I am a Witch at every hour.

W
e may forgive, but we can’t forget,

Touching magick, wielding power,

We’ll claim our place in sunlight yet,

I am a Witch at every hour.

M
any seek, a few may find,

Touching magick, wielding power,

That Witchcraft feeds the heart and mind,

I am a Witch at every hour.

[
1
]
“I Am a Witch” by Amber K, 1998; revised and expanded by Amber K and Azrael Arynn K, 2009.

Introduction

Why Do You Want to Become a Witch?

S
ome find their home in the Witches’ Craft,

Touching magick, wielding power,

But each must seek and find their path,

Is this your way, is this your hour?

Merry meet! That’s a traditional greeting among Witches. We’re glad you decided to look at this book, and we will be even happier if it helps you begin your journey into the world of Witchcraft and Wicca.

Perhaps you heard about the Craft, became interested, and are exploring it alone. This book is a good introduction. Or perhaps you’ve found a coven, and they have recommended this book (or handed it to you and said, “Read it!”). Most exercises/activities are designed for someone working alone, but they can easily be adapted for anyone working in a coven.

Almost everything you have seen and heard about Witches in popular comics, cartoons, role-playing games, songs, books, television shows, and movies is wrong. Those are fairy tales—fantasies—entertainment.

There are real Witches, and we are two of them. Amber has been an initiated priestess for over thirty years, and Azrael entered the Craft about twenty years ago. Both of us have traveled and taught the Craft throughout the United States; Amber has served as first officer of the largest Witch network in existence, and we both help run an institution of higher learning for Witches and other Pagans—Ardantane Pagan Learning Center. We know something about the modern Craft.

But Witchcraft is incredibly diverse from place to place, coven to coven, individual to individual. There is no One True Way to be a Witch—and that is one of the glories of the Craft. There is room for individuality and freedom and different points of view, which are the bedrocks of Witchcraft. It is no place for dogmatics, followers, or sheep. If you want to be told what to believe and how your spiritual life should be, look elsewhere.

Start with this fact: Witchcraft is partly craft (the arts and skills of magick) and partly spiritual path. Some Witches focus on the first part, some on the second. Many of the spiritually oriented people, including us, call ourselves Wiccan Witches, or priestesses (or priests) of Wicca.

Our heritage as Witches is in the ancient, nature-loving religions and folkways of Europe. Our formal spiritual path, Wicca, as a modern Neopagan religion, got its start in the 1950s in England. Our future is unlimited.

Witches abhor dogma, creeds, ironclad rules, authority, and anything that stifles the human spirit or treats people as subjects, market segments, or mere consumers. Witches prize individuality, spontaneity, creativity, and freedom. We seek wisdom, love, and power to be used for individual freedom and the common good.

Witches are explorers. We believe in the value of science and technology when carefully and ethically used. But we know that science has barely touched the mysteries of life and death, and so we are also mystics and adventurers in the realms of mythology, magick, meaning, and the realms of Spirit. We know that there are realities beyond the material world and consensus reality, and we intend to explore them. We move among goddesses and gods, animal allies and plant devas, faeries and legends, sylphs and salamanders, speaking stones and talking trees, and our world is deeper and richer, more colorful and harmonious, than most people will ever know.

You will need courage to follow this path. Dwellers in the ordinary world will call you crazy, or foolish, or possibly evil. Yet there is something harder than facing their condescension or ignorance: facing the changes that will happen within you. Of the Goddess, we say, “Everything she touches changes,” and if you wholeheartedly enter our world, you will be changed forever. Some of the changes will be exhilarating and wonderful, empowering and intellectually expanding. Others will make it harder for you to relate to the “muggle world”—less content with convention and habit and mindless labor. Your spirit will be Goddess-touched, and you may become a little wild, a little fey, and a little weird. Accept that or seek another path.

This world is not for everyone. Most people would do better to choose a different spiritual path with more rules and guidance and fewer challenges. But if you are heart-drawn to the Craft, then you are welcome—whether you are female or male; white, black, brown, yellow, or red; straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender. Most Witches know that the outer package matters very little; what matters is your courageous heart, your open mind, and your questing spirit.

To Be or Not to Be

If you stop and think about it, it’s pretty strange that anyone would want to be a Witch. After all, most of us have been raised to think “Witch: green skin, pointy nose, warts, scraggly hair, nasty, old, with a shrill cackle….” Of course you know better, but that image is still there under the surface. What could possibly be attractive about that?

Let’s look at some of the reasons, good and bad, that you might be reading this book.

Some Really Good Reasons for Choosing Witchcraft

There are several very solid reasons for becoming a Witch, and yes, one of them is a desire to affirm your worth. Becoming a Witch doesn’t make you better than other people…but it may help you understand that all people, including you, are part of the divine energy that creates and sustains the universe. Thou art Goddess. Thou art God. You are not the Creator, but you are part of the Creator’s essence. Knowing that places a great responsibility on you to act wisely, lovingly, and thoughtfully; Witchcraft can train you to handle that responsibility with grace and honor.

You may feel a deep need to connect with your heritage: with the people of field and forest, the healers, farmers, hunters, warriors, and explorers of the past. If you have been a Witch in past incarnations, or simply a proud Pagan, the old ways may call to you. If the modern world and mainstream faiths seem alien to you, maybe exploring a faith rooted in nature will feel like coming home.

If you are female and have grown up in a culture that still belittles you, then you might need to affirm the power and beauty of being a woman. As a Witch and priestess in service to the Goddess, there will be honor and strength and self-acceptance in a way you have never experienced before. Wiccan women have the whole range of goddesses to inspire us—not only pretty and gentle ones but warriors, scholars, leaders, and wild ones.

If you are male but feel disgusted at the macho posturing and power games that society expects of you, and if you are looking for other models for being a man, Wicca might be the spiritual home for you. As a male Witch, you can be courageous and strong without being a tyrant; gentle and loving without being effeminate; and sexual and lusty without being an exploiter or game player. (In fact, the strong women of Wicca won’t stand for games, and it takes a strong man to enjoy the company of powerful women.)

You may be called to Wicca or the other Pagan paths because you love nature far more than you could ever love a “holy book” or the inside of a church. For you, perhaps, the wind flowing through tall pines is sacred; a stone warming in the sunlight is sacred; wolves and hawks and silvery fish are sacred. If you are inspired and empowered and healed and free when you are in the wilderness, Witchcraft is one path that is a natural fit.

Or you may have an abiding curiosity about the deep energies and mysteries of the universe. You may or may not be drawn to science as a career, but you know in your heart that there is more to the cosmos than science has yet discovered. You are called to be a magician, a mystic, or perhaps an artist or poet. Through inner journeys, using the very personal and subjective tools of mind and spirit, you want to explore the metaphysical heart of reality.

You may have come to the Craft with a powerful need to explore the shadow side of reality. By this, we do not mean that you want to steep yourself in evil. But you do understand how a worldview that is all rainbows and sunshine cannot equip us to handle the darker side of life. There is pain and anger and fear in the world and in ourselves, and if we do not face these powers and come to terms with them, they will control us. Some religions conveniently divide the whole world into good and evil, and simply tell their followers to embrace what they define as “good” and reject what they have labeled “evil.” If only it were that simple! Wiser heads know that we must face and understand and heal what is hurting and hurtful inside us before we can face evil out in the world. Wicca has the tools and the will to encourage this inner journey.

Another reason for the appeal of Wicca is that we understand and accept the inner child, or younger self, within each person. We may be adults on the outside, but that childlike, playful, curious, and adventurous part never really goes away, although many people try to squash it into submission or at least hide it. Witches don’t. That inner child is what keeps our minds and hearts youthful. Its laughter heals us, its delight gives us joy, its curiosity makes us creative. So Witches dance and sing, light bonfires and make love, play music and put on costumes, feast and drink mead. When no one is harmed, why not?

Pause now, and think. Which of these aspects of the Craft, if any, call to you? Which ones feel like a cool drink to one who has wandered too long in the desert?

Some Really Lame Reasons for Choosing Witchcraft

If this path calls to you, you must weed out any motivations that are shallow, ignorant, or fleeting.

Being a Witch can be a great way to get attention; often the wrong kind, but some people crave attention so badly that they’ll do anything to get it. Being honest with yourself, is that what you want? People staring at you, whispering comments, gossiping about you?

One might become a Witch because of low self-esteem. “I’m a bad person. Everyone must know I’m bad. Okay, then; I’ll show them how bad I can be. I’ll be the worst thing they can imagine—a Witch!” Then, when “they” scold you or avoid you, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Some young people choose things, including a religion, to show that they are more liberated and adventurous than their boring old families. They may even want to deliberately shock their parents. Of course, whether you copy your parents’ lifestyle or choose one that’s the exact opposite, it’s still letting them control who you are. It’s still all about them, not you. It’s far more empowering to choose your religion according to what is exactly right for you, regardless of how it compares to your family.

Some are drawn to the Craft just because they want to be interesting, special, and unique. Well, you are that already! It might be hidden from others or even yourself; it may be that you’ve never expressed the authentic person you are. But there is absolutely someone unique and fascinating in there. Don’t cover it up with Witch trappings unless
that
is exactly who you are.

Some people come to the Craft because, frankly, they’re lazy. They assume that they can have whatever they want with the flick of a wand or a muttered spell. They’ve been reading and taking Harry Potter too seriously, or they’ve seen too many fantasy movies. They don’t realize that magick is work, sometimes more work than getting stuff the old-fashioned way.

Another uglier reason that some are attracted to the Craft is that they want power. Not just self-empowerment (which is certainly a virtue in the Craft) but power
over
others, as in control and manipulation. As in “I can make you do my will, serve me, love me. I can use the robes and dramatic props—and maybe even magick itself—and be the master!” Not only is that selfish and unethical, it’s just stupid. Why? Because whatever energy you send out to the world comes back to you. If you send out nasty, arrogant stuff, you have just attacked yourself. It will come back.

Choice Vs. Blunder

Have you explored other paths? If you choose Wicca, let it be an informed choice.

Almost every religion has within it great truths and wonderful people. All can be paths to the Divine if followed wisely, lovingly, and diligently. But any religion can also be misused, as an instrument of prejudice, hate, fear, and violence. Look at the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants, Sunni and Shiite Muslims, and so on.

The challenge is not only to find a spiritual path, but to find the heart of that religion and let it guide all your actions.

Why not explore other paths? Your cultural heritage gives you a place to start. Are your ancestors from Ireland, Lithuania, Japan, Polynesia, Spain, or Brazil? All had, and have, their own ancient religious traditions.

Have you ever looked at Shinto, Druidry, Taoism, Candomblé, Unitarianism, Sufism, Asatru, the Mayan faith, liberal Catholicism, the Society of Friends, Church of Antioch, or Zen Buddhism? How can you choose a spiritual path if you know nothing about all the choices that are out there?

Most of you have the privilege of living in a land with religious freedom. In some nations, it is actually illegal to practice certain faiths. You are lucky. So use your freedom to learn and explore!

Religion is all about reconnecting with the divine source of all things, and you can either find your path by trusting yourself or by trusting someone else. The world is full of people who claim to have the truth; it is revealed in a holy book, spoken by a prophet, or channeled through a preacher. Of course, all these spokespeople for God disagree with one another about the truth, but each declares that there is only
one
path to God—and that religion is a one-size-fits-all garment that can be obtained only through that particular person.

Wiccans believe differently. We say that we cannot know the whole truth about God, the universe, and everything. Religions are only maps to help us get closer to Deity, and it’s okay to choose your own route. There is not one true path; there are many paths to the same goal.

Even Jesus said, “In my father’s house are many mansions.” So perhaps the Baptists, Lutherans, and Catholics share the Christian fraternity house in the next life, but you can bet there’s a temple for the Buddhists, a mosque for the Muslims, and a cozy little cottage in the forest nearby for us Witches.

You may decide that no single religion holds everything you need in your spiritual journey. You may discover you love parts of Judaism, Taoism, Christianity, Zen Buddhism, and six other things. That’s fine, as long as your blended path helps you to play well with others, become a better person, and connect with Deity.

The only difficulty is that you may not be able to find a spiritual community that precisely reflects your beliefs. But that’s okay. Find an open-minded religious community that is accepting of your core beliefs, and hang out with them. Not every church is hung up on dogma—for instance, the Unitarians, Unity Church, Quakers, and most Pagan circles.

As you create your own spiritual path and practices, listen to your inner bell, “the inner sense of truth, the inner reality, the inner knowing which exists deep within all of us.”
[1]
You are the only one who can hear that bell; you are the only person who knows what spiritual path is right for you.

Challenges
The Risks

Let’s say for the moment that you feel irresistibly drawn to Wicca, and you are determined to become part of it. You have a right to know what risks are involved. (More on this in chapter 13, “The Witch in the World.”)

God may be loving and open-minded, but of course that doesn’t mean human beings are. Probably the greatest real risk is that somebody is going to find out you’re a Witch, take offense, and try to do something nasty to you. This could include:

Spreading lies about you
Firing you from your job
Trying to get your children taken away from you
Vandalizing your home or property
Evicting you from your apartment
Driving you out of town
Assaulting or murdering you

These are worst-case scenarios, and they are becoming less and less likely as we educate people about Wicca and the Pagan faiths. But they’re still possible. People get hurt or even killed for being different. Of course, people also get hurt or killed for being American, or female, or Methodist, or gay, or whatever, but that won’t be much consolation if you get dead for being a Witch.

You’re the only one who can estimate the risk, because it will be different everywhere. Some people choose to avoid the W word entirely, except in their own heads, and present a very ordinary mask to the world. Others find a church that’s pretty open-minded and make do. A few go to the opposite extreme and play “Public Witch” to the hilt, with black robes and TV talk-show interviews and enough mascara for six opera stars.

There are other risks, less dire but still serious. There is always a risk of joining the wrong coven. Now, “wrong” can be as simple as realizing “I don’t like their classes, this is boring,” or possibly “I don’t really click with these people,” or even “That person is a real jerk, and I just don’t want to be in the same group with him.”

“Wrong” can also mean that the “coven” and leaders are a scam to part you from your money, get you into someone’s bed, or feed the giant ego of a tyrant looking for minions. There is no simple way for genuine Witches to eradicate bad apples who use the glamor of the Craft for their own unsavory purposes. However, there are warning signs you can watch for, and we’ll cover these in chapter 11.

More common than the nasty ones are coven leaders who are just immature or inept. Anyone can start a coven, and they don’t all have training from wise and experienced elders. Someone can read half a book and declare themselves “Grand High Witch Empress of the Totallyclueless Tradition.” So before you join a coven, it’s a good idea to chat with the leaders about their teachers, lineage, and number of years in the Craft.

Finally, there is the possibility that you’ll get involved and discover that Wicca just isn’t working for you. We have known people who thought they wanted to be Witches, and tried it, and finally realized their heart wasn’t in it. They thought it would be a good path for them, the principles made sense to them, but there was no heart connection.

Well, that’s okay. You don’t sign any blood oaths to stay a Witch forever, and any Witch of good will and common sense would want you to find whatever religion is best for you. So reflect on what you’ve learned, thank your teachers for their efforts, and go find what you need.

Blessings
The Rewards

Now that we’ve been brutally frank about the potential risks, let’s cover some of the good stuff.

First, there is a great deal of intellectual and spiritual freedom in the Craft. Generally, Wiccans are averse to dogma, creeds, and must-believes or must-dos, and very open to different experiences and ways of thinking. If you go into a mainstream church and say that rocks talk to you or that you tried being Aphrodite in a ritual last night, you will get funny looks—or worse. Among Witches, you’re more likely to get, “Oh, yeah? I did that last week. How did it go for you?”

Second, we live in a rootless society, where ancestors, traditions, and connections with the past don’t seem to count for much. But some of us miss those roots, that sense of being grounded and part of something that has endured over time. Witchcraft provides one way to have that. Our roots and our inspiration go way back, and when we dance around the bonfire or call the Hornéd God or perform a healing spell, we know that our ancestors are smiling because they did the same.

Wicca offers the chance to learn subjects that are not part of your average college curriculum. You can develop skills in magick, divination, ritual, healing, shamanic drumming, animal communication, and more, with others who are lifelong learners. These skills may come through a coven’s training classes, workshops at festivals or metaphysical stores, Pagan schools, or online programs.

Community is important to most of us; even Solitary Witches like to come out and socialize or do rituals from time to time. What kind of people will you be meeting and befriending in the Craft? The only thing that holds true 99 percent of the time is that Witches are very individualistic. Fitting into the crowd is just not on a Witch’s radar, unless they live or work someplace that’s dangerously intolerant.

In general, Witches are intelligent and more highly self-educated than average. They’re scrupulously honest: at festivals, some merchants will walk away and leave a sign: “Take what you need, leave money in cashbox.” Their goods are safe. A high proportion of Witches have some kind of skill in healing, music, or computers. Most have animal companions: dogs, cats, snakes, whatever. They wear what they please, and some go skyclad whenever they can.

Many of them are the friendliest, kindest people you’d ever want to meet. And some are cantankerous, opinionated, prickly, or just very strange.

Witchcraft will quickly introduce you to a more colorful reality than you’ve ever known. Most people know the customs and worldview of the place they live, and not much more. Witches are interested in how other cultures view the world, think, and do things, and want to learn about the religions and mythologies of other nations and other times. They also do past-life regressions, visiting incarnations in distant times. They mindshift into other species to learn what it’s like to be a wolf, hawk, or frog. They interact with spirit beings, devas, power animals, and faery folk. They work with chakras and energy fields and earth currents.

If you feel claustrophobic in the standard Western fast-food-slow-think-one-size-fits-all consensus reality, you may like the much bigger universe that Witches live in.

Wicca gives you tools for improving your life. Magick, ritual, and spells. Holistic, natural, and alternative healing techniques. Methods for controlling, releasing, channeling, and enhancing your thoughts, emotions, and energies. Ways to relax, tune in, connect, ground, and center yourself. These are not superpowers, just a toolkit of skills that you can use to improve everything you do. They make you more competent at life.

Wicca is spirituality for the whole person. Some religions are big on doctrine and scripture and rules, and they appeal mainly to the head. Other churches offer an emotional hallelujah-chorus-rock-’em-sock-’em ecstasy of the spirit. Still others try to quiet the soul with meditation and contemplation. Witches aim to satisfy every level and aspect of ourselves: body, head, heart, and energy field; playful younger self, responsible middle self, spiritual higher self; the feminine side and masculine side of each individual; and so on. We are complex and multilayered beings; our spirituality needs to be rich enough to work on all levels.

The Choice

We’ve explained a lot here, and hopefully it’s made you think and do some self-exploration. Though it’s good to understand what draws you to the Craft, in the end it will not be a choice made by weighing the pros and cons. Like most crucial decisions we make in our lives, the real choice is going to come from your gut, your need, and your true will. In your heart, you probably already are—or are not—a Witch.

You can just try it on. Say to yourself, “I am a Witch.” How do you feel saying that? Neutral and blank? Afraid? Excited, empowered, eager? Your heart and body will tell you if it is true. All the rest—who you tell, what training you find, how you express yourself in the Craft—is just follow-up, and the reason for the rest of this book.

May the blessings of the Triple Goddess of the Moon and the Hornéd God of the Wilds be with you on your journey.

Blessed be,

Amber K & Azrael Arynn K

[
1
]
Marion Weinstein,
Positive Magic: Occult Self-Help
, rev. ed. (Phoenix, 1978), 11.

Chapter 1

What Is Witchcraft?

S
ing to Goddess, moon times three,

Touching magick, wielding power,

Drink to God, stag-hornéd he,

I am a Witch at every hour.

In deep woods on a late summer evening, nine men and women stand in a circle. The youngest is twenty-three, the eldest seventy-one. Candles on a stone altar flicker in the light breeze, and together they drum as the full moon lifts into the darkening sky through a gap in the Minnesota forest. They chant to the moon goddess in time with the rhythmic drumbeat and send the growing power to a coven sister who is giving birth to her long-awaited child. As the moon crests the trees, they imagine they hear a newborn’s cry—and a cell phone rings. The high priestess answers the call, grins, and announces that baby Selena has just been born, and mother and child are doing fine. The coven cheers and claps, and begins an impromptu dance thanking the gods. Witches have performed magick.

Willowleaf walks in the woods at noon in the early fall, talking to the trees and plants and listening for their answers. Every so often, she harvests a third of a plant with a small knife and puts it in the basket over her arm, gathering ingredients for some personal healing work. Later, she sits quietly in a clearing, her mind open to the land around her—the gnarled oaks and dogwood; the small, scurrying life; the stream to the north; the living soil. She frowns—something is not right; she picks up a dead twig and whispers, “Be thou wand, and show me.” Sweeping it slowly around her, she pauses, the stick pointing north. Soon she has found the trash some careless camper left by the stream, and she takes it with her. At home, she makes a warm herbal compress with the plants she gathered and places it on a red, irritated spot on her arm, saying, “May this potion soothe my skin, and let the healing now begin.” In the morning, the skin is smooth and clear, and another Witch has done her healing magick.

Diana is a fifteen-year old whose altar is in the lowest drawer of her dresser. On this night, she locks the door to her room, pulls out the drawer, and sits on the floor in front of it with her sick kitten in her lap. She mimes lighting the two pink candles, whispering, “Rose-colored for healing,” then puts a small carved cat in the center of the drawer. Calling on Bast, the Egyptian cat goddess, she repeats over and over, “May my kitten healthy be, as I will, so mote it be!” After nine repetitions, she lifts the kitten and surrounds its tiny body with healing energy. She thanks Bast, “blows out” the candles, and closes the drawer. A young Witch has performed magick.

Becky sits with her husband and two small children at the kitchen table and passes around muffins fresh from the oven. “Mmm, they smell great,” says George. “What’s in them this time?” “Oh, blueberries, pecans, local honey, a few special herbs and spices…” “Mommy puts in lots of love,” says the five-year-old. “And magick!” adds the seven-year-old. Soon Becky and George are tucking the children into bed, with a story about a wonderful dragon who lives in a cave. Becky silently senses the children’s energy fields, then draws some soothing energy from the earth and gently pours it into their auras; they sleep. Their mother, a Witch, has done her own magick.

Zephyr sits absolutely still in the dark room of his apartment high above the city streets. He has no robes, candles, or ritual tools. Within him is a rich tapestry wrought by his imagination, an alternative world that could come to be. When the picture in his head is complete, the colors vivid, and all the details present, he traces a path in his mind from the present reality to what he envisions, and he draws upon the power of his spirit allies to help make it real. His breathing changes as he begins to pour energy into the mental image, certain that what he imagines and wills must come to pass. Yet another Witch is working magick in his own way.

Witches, and the ways in which they practice their craft, are as diverse as the myriad leaves of a great forest. So, what
is
Witchcraft?

Witchcraft, sometimes simply called “the Craft,” consists of the arts, skills, and knowledge of the Witch, usually blended with a spiritual path guided by the Goddess and the Old Gods of nature. Some Witches prefer to call themselves Wiccan—it doesn’t have as much green-skin-and-evil-potions baggage as the word
Witch
. In many people’s minds, Wicca is a gentler form of the Craft, with a strong ethical and spiritual component that Witchcraft alone may not have.

We tend to use the term Witch and Wiccan interchangeably, because a Witch without ethics won’t last very long (see chapter 7), and most of the Witches we know
do
follow a spiritual path as well as practice the arts and skills of the Craft.

The word
witch
derives from the Old English nouns
wicca
and
wicce
, the masculine and feminine, respectively, meaning “sorcerer/sorceress.” The plural of both is
wiccan
, and
wiccecræft
was Witchcraft. In a turnaround in the mid-twentieth century, Gerald Gardner (sometimes called the father of modern Witchcraft) called the people practicing the tradition “the Wicca” and the religion “Witchcraft.” The more common usage today is to call the skill and art part “Witchcraft” and the religion part “Wicca,” but the boundary between them is not always clear.

T
he meaning of warlock

In popular movies, women are Witches and men of the Craft are—warlocks? Not actually. The term
warlock
is used by most Witches only to mean a traitor or oathbreaker—especially one who has betrayed the coven to those who intend harm against it. Never call a man a warlock unless you mean it to be a dire insult. A man in the Craft is called a Witch.

Witchcraft, as used in this book, is a combination of magick and a spiritual practice based on the sacredness of nature. We can work magick to make changes in ourselves and the world around us, but because everything is sacred, we must use our skills wisely and avoid harming ourselves or others.

The Roots Of Witchcraft And Wicca

Witchcraft is derived from three primary sources: folk religion, shamanism, and ceremonial magick. It is not a “revealed religion” like Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. It has no founder, prophet, or holy scripture, and no single date when it originated.

It just grew. It is a mixture of tradition, revival, re-creation, inspiration, and imagination. It is sometimes called the Old Religion, and though some of its customs are probably very close to what our ancestors practiced, no one believes that it is the same as it was in ancient times. We are different from our forebears, children of an age of science and technology, and could not duplicate the original faith if we wanted to. Modern Witchcraft has deep roots, but they support and feed living branches that grow and change.

The folk-religion aspect is based in the pre-Christian religions, mostly those of Old Europe, although some Wiccans work with the deities and mythology of other cultures. In ancient times, religion wasn’t something you did on Sundays. Religion was how life was lived, in harmony with the natural world of which people were an integral part. At least that’s what we modern Wiccans tell ourselves, and it is the ideal to which we aspire. This is the part of Wicca in which the earth and all life is sacred.

This is a genuine religion, from the Latin
re-ligio
, meaning “to reconnect.” All things are connected, and we can influence the world because we are connected to it. In this way, the religion part and the practice part are interwoven and inseparable in our shamanic roots.

As we dance the cycle of the seasons and the phases of the moon, we are practicing the ancient shamanic roots of Wicca. As we heal with herbs, drumming, and energy work, we are practicing the ancient shamanic roots of Wicca. When we recognize a young person’s transition into adulthood, or any other rite of passage, we are practicing the ancient shamanic roots of Wicca. Calling on the energies of the four directions is an ancient practice, as are drum circles, ritual work in circles, and making decisions in a kind of tribal council. All echo our shamanic roots.

Shamanic correspondences are very direct and relate to the physical world—wearing the paw of a lion would grant the wearer the courage and power of the animal. The timing of ritual is organic—it’s time to do ritual when the moon appears full or when the buds begin to show on the trees.

The other part of Wiccan practice is based on ceremonial magick as practiced in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, in which the forms and ceremonial trappings were important in reaching one’s magickal goal, and belief in what you were doing was often more important than belief in any faith or religion. Magick was largely practiced outside of religion, just as some Witches today practice the Craft but do not subscribe to the spiritual part of Wicca.

The non-magickal folks

Just as the Witches and wizards of Harry Potter’s world had a name for non-magickal folk, so do real Witches. Harry and his friends call them “muggles”; we also call them “cowans.” The word is not an insult or put-down; it’s just a term for non-Witches or non-Pagans. Many modern Witches, though, think that the Potter books by J. K. Rowling are great fun, and many have adopted the word
muggle
as their new word for the people who don’t dance in the moonlight.

So when we call the elements, archangels, or watchtowers that correspond to the four directions, we are using ceremonial magick. When we make long or ornate robes for ritual or wear ritually symbolic jewelry, we are practicing ceremonial magick. Correspondences are usually very cerebral—colors have meaning, complicated sigils have meanings beyond their form, and all correspondences must be congruent. Any time we focus on the intellect in magick, we are touching our ceremonial roots. When we consult the ephemeris or star chart to determine the precise timing for our ritual, we are practicing ceremonial magick.

The spiritual part of Wicca stems mostly from the core beliefs of ancient nature religions, and the practice of magick has its origins in both shamanic practice and the ceremonial magick of the Middle Ages. Together, they weave the rich tapestry that is modern Wicca. However, this blending was not simple, and our history is complicated.

The Misty History Of Witchcraft

Many thousands of years ago, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers living a precarious existence in close connection with the weather, the seasons, the land, the sea, and the other animals.

They worshiped the earth and, we believe, the great Mother Goddess embodied in the earth. Later, they began to worship as well the male principle, personified in the gods. Because they were hunters and relied on wild animals for food, they created beautiful images of bison, antelope, and wild horses, both to honor the prey and to ensure success in the hunt.