I’ve had this really big thing on my mind for some time now, and (surprise, surprise) my thoughts and conclusions about it all have poured themselves out in book form.
I want to talk to you about magick, power, and the new era of witch culture.
Especially since the 2016 election, I’ve noticed a serious and visible shift into occult culture—on social media, in books and publishing, in the rise of witchy stores, and heavily in my conversations with my friends. It started out slow. As the generation of entrepreneurs, we started using terms like “manifesting” and “intuition” before graduating to full-on “practicing” pagans. But I’ve really struggled with this cultural shift, much to the surprise of those around me.
I think there are two lenses through which to view this, and one of those lenses fills me with hope, power, and the spirit of revolution. The label “witch” has historically been used to radicalize women, to create hysteria (pun intended) around the notion of women’s liberation, and to incite fear about the empowerment of women in society. The term is a rally cry of persecution that reminds us that women are vilified as soon as they ask for “too much.” From puritanical trials to the stereotypical unmarried lone woman that lives in the forest and will eat your babies, the idea of witches has been dragged through the gendered mud. But fiction and literature long saw it differently.
In the realm of fantasy, literature often depicted witches closer to their real-life pagan roots—as priestesses and counselors, as healers and gardeners, as suppliers, as divine interpretations of the universe, as embodied power. My favorite example of this is the depiction of a family of women who created, catapulted, and controlled the rise of King Arthur in Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon. (There’s also an HBO miniseries that you can snag on DVD that is AMAZING and worth whatever it costs for you to get it). A more popular example are the many witches of the Lord of the Rings universe. As a little girl, these books taught me about a belief system that valued personal strength, about mastering and honoring your craft, perseverance, and connection to the Earth in such a way that inherently drew power, about balance and respect, about love and gratitude for life and creation, but also about revolt, integrity, honor, and righteous anger. In this way, I’m not surprised by the resurgence of witch culture in contemporary society. The sheer independent practice of witchcraft married with the cultural oppression Paganism has endured makes being a witch an act of feminism. So I get it. And I’m with you.
HOWEVER. There is another side to this resurgence that has me deeply disappointed and frustrated. The same liberal activists that decry cultural appropriation are often the same ones propagating their new-found witchy identity. Admittedly, I love the aesthetic of witch culture. I grew up seeking out occult stores, secretly reading Drawing Down the Moon and By Oak, Ash, & Thorn under the covers at night so my parents wouldn’t catch me. I’m still interested in the ideas behind Paganism, Shamanism, the Occult, and so on. But I’m interested in all of them in the same way I’m interested in the ideas behind all religions, because, at the end of the day, these, too, are simply that. Religions. And as a woman who stands strongly against organized religion (and delusional thinking)—and as a millennial (even if just on the cusp) who has watched and supported her own generation largely dismantle the relevancy of organized religion—I can’t wrap my brain around now advocating for this re-emergence of simply a different form of religion. Plus, for the most part, people are co-opting what’s convenient for them: the aesthetic and fashion of the culture, using crystals, tarot cards, etc. We’ve plucked out what we like about witchcraft—the things that we think can bring us what we want, the things we can use to “manifest” our desires—and have discarded the rest. There are a lot of part-time witches running around out there.
Okay, so why do I care?
This is where all of these thoughts intersect with writing and being an author.
The Hedgewitch, the Sage, and the Oracle
I’ve been wanting to write a book on writing and editing for some time. I’ve always wanted to share my knowledge, to provide writers with a structure and a conversation that will help them excel in their craft, and to offer all the editorial tricks and knowledge I can give. But the right mood never struck me. I’ve spent about five years on non-starts for this idea. Then I started to see this rise in witch culture all around me (and, at first, it was pretty awesome because I was no longer “weird”—which made me wish this movement had come while I was in high school. Oi.).
What bothers me the most about it all, as you might have gathered, is the collective lack of belief in personal power that seems to exist in witch culture—in the forfeiture of self-reliance. By that, I mean that every time I hear an entrepreneur tell me that they’re “manifesting” their income through allowing “the universe” to provide them with the opportunities they’re “meant for,” I cringe. Hard. Or every time I hear a woman tell me she’s making a decision based on that morning’s “spread,” I want to violently rip up her tarot cards. Because here’s the thing. I love tarot cards. I think they’re a really cool tool for personal introspection, and they provide a framework through which you can view situations from different angles and perspectives. Do I think that some magical power in the universe is ordaining that you pick the specific cards you turn over? Absolutely not.
I want women, entrepreneurs, and especially writers to understand that they have all the power and magic they’ll ever need right inside of them already.
It shouldn’t be about being anointed or gifted with a certain power, whether it be the ability to write, sing, paint, whatever, but it should be about learning how to access, grow, and execute the power you already have. It’s our psychology that gets in the way. It’s our self-doubt that gets in the way. It’s our limiting beliefs that get in the way. So we turn to some “higher power” to try and fix or relieve us of what we feel like we don’t have. And people always look to the past when the present seems too difficult.
So I wrote a book. It’s called Creation Magick and it’s all about harnessing your own personal power through the contemporary lens of Paganism and pop culture witchcraft. It’s about how the hedgewitch partners with the Earth in a contract to help grow and harvest life in the same way that the writer is the gardener of worlds. It’s about how the sage has divine knowledge and knows when to release it and when to reserve it for the good of humankind in the same way the writer is the deus ex machina with full editorial privilege. It’s about how the oracle can predict and feel the future, manipulating the fabric of time and space in the same way that the writer has the power to warp realities. It’s about how we all have the power of divination, but we’re scared to accept the path we know is ahead of us. It’s about reclamation, empowerment, and the strongest kind of magick there is: personal willpower and your ability to manifest any of your dreams. It’s a writing guide to modern storytelling that will give you things to think about, key tools and instruction, editorial tips, inspiration, and plenty of food for thought to chew on.
And the point of it all, of this exposition, of the book, of this discussion at large, is that if you want to cast real magick, start living out your purpose.
Happy writing, you magical beings!