uh, so, witchcraft.
i don't talk about it much. i don't know why, really. the stigma is mostly gone these days (or has at least been revised to elicit much milder outcomes).
i guess i probably don't discuss it because my rituals are casual, solitary and practical. i've read some books over the years and have a basic foundation to my methods and beliefs, but i'm more or less making it up as i go. i know there are traditionalists who wouldn't dream of practicing without a coven or making up their own spells or straying from what little preserved convention we have and this post probably isn't for you (although i do also admire and appreciate you!). this is more for anyone wondering what magic is or feeling too intimidated by all of its avenues (as i did for a long time) to practice.
one thing i should probably mention is that i don't follow wicca (the relatively new religion closely correlated with witchcraft). i'm agnostic and i don't rule much out, but i have a hard time committing to a fixed set of beliefs or deities. i'd rather just live well and find out later. i also have a hard time with the binary wiccan god and goddess duality (whether you view them as literal or symbolic), because i'm non-binary. wicca IS, however, a cool religion with much less judgement than most and a fairly agnostic approach anyway - it's just not for me.
so, without carrying long term spiritual meaning, witchcraft mostly serves as a form of self care for me. i do believe that energy carries power and i define magic as just that (as do most witches). my rituals are largely meant to influence what goes on in my mind and body, rather than my surroundings. the external world is much harder (and often impossible) to control. when my practice does relate to my environment, it's more about articulating my hopes/intentions and less about the belief that i can manipulate other people or circumstances through my will. i use a mirror quite often at my altar to represent self.
there are many different aspects to and types of witchcraft and it's easy to get lost trying to find a label. in my years practicing, i've come to realize that i fall most accurately into the category of an elemental witch, but i'd say it's best not to get too attached to labels (in magic or elsewhere). i use the elements in my practice as tools and symbols. i collect things from outdoors and bring them home to my altar or i practice magic in nature. i feel immensely connected to my environment and i always have. i admire earth's energies and hope to honour and embody them in my craft - it's as simple as that.
things like stones, twigs, water, seashells, soil and salt can represent the elements on an altar and lend meaning to specific spells. i may go into my altar setup and provide my framework for some spells in future posts, but today i'm just talking generally about how i approach magic. all i really want to say is that it's important to use tools that make you feel good to practice magic that makes you feel good. there are a lot of approaches, some stricter than others, but anyone can practice witchcraft in whatever way suits them.
it's also important to note that you don't actually need anything to practice - sure, there are traditional tools, ingredients and items that may come in handy, but they aren't essential. again, magic is just energy.
one bone i have to pick with modern witchcraft is that capitalism exploits it. you could easily spend thousands of dollars "perfecting" your craft. because of this, i try to gather most of my tools myself, or buy them secondhand. there's a romanticism to it. it feels like bad karma to shovel money into flawed systems to support such a spiritual and healing endeavor.
don't get me wrong - i'm no purist. there are plenty of small businesses and witches selling wonderful items and there's no reason not to support them. i have no problem making a purchase if it's reasonable and meaningful. for example, i purchased my wand, pictured above, from alienscty because it's crafted from sea elements (something that was, for reasons unknown, incredibly important to me and hard to achieve myself, being located in the canadian prairies). wands are one of those things that absolutely aren't essential (hands serve just fine), but i knew i wanted one. i don't for a second regret purchasing it - it makes me feel powerful and focused each time i pick it up.
lastly, don't collect shit, bought or otherwise, just because you feel like you're supposed to have it. i've been so tempted on a million occasions to buy raw crystals, because they're pretty and they have historical and magical significance but i haven't done it, because i know in the back of my mind that i would be purchasing them for superficial reasons. there are tons of people who obtain and use crystals properly but, for whatever reason, i know i'm not one of them. what i do have, however, is my complete collection of polished rocks and minerals (whose names and properties i can still recite by memory) collected throughout grade school. they serve me just as well. using what you already have and know is just as acceptable as setting out to attain information and objects you don't already possess. while it never hurts to explore something new, you can always operate within your current knowledge and abilities.
in summary, there's no universally agreed upon witches' golden standard or certification - if you believe you possess magic, you do. notice it within yourself and in the world around you. notice how they complement and conflict with one another and build your practice accordingly.
P.S. as a final note, i want to clarify something that the magic community seems more or less oblivious to (at least i hope it's ignorance and not malice)! smoke cleansing has been used in many cultures and magic practice dating way back. many stores and practitioners, however, use the term "smudging" and call sage "smudge". these terms relate to sacred indigenous traditions and are NOT synonymous with witchcraft. it is appropriative and offensive to refer to smoke cleansing as smudging - now you know.