This is the second installment of The Wiccans and Witches of Wes, a three-part interview series with two students who identify as Wiccans and witches on campus. The last names of the students have been omitted to protect their privacy. Interviews were conducted and edited by Danielle Cohen, who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How would you write a spell?
Abby ’21: It depends what the spell is for and what mood you’re in. For me, I read a lot of spells before I ever tried one, and then I was, like, “I remember I really like that part of that, so I’m gonna draw that in.” And then in the moment if you’re, like, “I feel like I should say these words,” just throw those in. That makes it sound like it’s really cavalier, but you’re putting a lot of energy and focus into it. But it should still be whatever you’re feeling.
What kind of objects would you use?
Natasha ’21: Um…my box. The box. [Both laugh] I have a box of supplies I’ve accumulated over my eight years, so it’s pretty extensive. It’s mostly a bunch of different sachets of herbs, a bunch of different crystals, a besom, which is what is known as a broom for cleansing, an athame, which is a special ceremonial knife, pentacles, you know, the star in the center of the circle, and lots of jars. Lots of dirt. I have dirt for every occasion. I got graveyard dirt, I got beach dirt, you know, sand, if you will…. You can quote me on that.
Do most practicing witches have an altar?
N: Yeah, usually. It’s pretty standard.
A: I have one in my dorm room that’s just on a folding table, and I put a nice tablecloth over it and lay out my items. It’s constantly up.
N: Some people change it around. For a full moon I’ll change it, or if it’s the change of a season, or to honor someone.
What might prompt you to do a spell?
N: There are different types of witches. Someone can be a certain type of witch and practice all different things, but specifically, I would say I’m mostly a sigil witch, so I practice making sigils a lot.
What kind of spells would you cast?
A: The time when I tend to cast spells is if I need something emotionally or if I’m struggling with something. Natasha works with sigils a lot; I do a lot of candle magic just because it’s what I was first introduced to. Everyone’s got a different way of doing it, but I’ll take a candle, and I usually use the color of whatever I’m trying to get done. As you can imagine, green is success, and red is vitality and passion.
Are the colors pre-established?
N: Kind of. I might say, like, blue feels very happy to me today, but then later on I’ll be, like, you know, blue is the angriest color I’ve ever seen and I need to use another one for this spell.
So can you take me through a candle spell?
A: I have a coyote claw, and I use it to inscribe into the candle a very small phrase or word encompassing what I need—clarity, for example. Then I’ll usually anoint the candle with dragon’s blood oil, which strengthens whatever you’re trying to have done. And I usually sit and meditate on that for ten or fifteen minutes, and then I light the candle using a match, and then typically the way to tell if it’s been heard is if the flame rises immediately and it stays big. Then that spell has been sent out. And if it stays small there’s some sort of energy blockage, so you snuff it out, and re-center yourself, and try it again.
What other types of spells might you do?
N: So whenever there’s a full moon, I’ll do an honoring. And whenever I do rituals like that, where I’m paying respect for someone, something, the earth, whatever, I also ask for something in return. So I’ll do a little ritual for honoring the earth, and then I’ll say at the end, for example, “In return, I would like for this upcoming month to be filled with prosperity regarding my academics and health.”
A: Green witches do spells with a lot of plants and herbs.
N: Right, or a kitchen witch would maybe do spells regarding stuff in the kitchen. A water witch would do spells regarding rivers, oceans, rain. A weather witch would do stuff according to the cyclical seasons.
A: I love kitchen witches; I think they’re so cute! They just, like, bake things.
Are either of you a particular type of witch?
A: I’m still in the process of figuring if I’m a certain type.
N: I’d say I’m a sigil witch, because that’s what I do a lot. But that’s just my specialty. It’s like that’s my major, but I’m still a college student going to all the classes, that’s just what I focus on.
A: There’s also eclectic witches. I feel really attached to the elements, so right now I’m trying to work between a lot of them to figure out which element I feel more—I’m really drawn to fire and air, so I’ll do different spells for both and think about which one I feel closer to. But usually the longer you practice, the more you’re drawn to a certain area, which is where you get, like, kitchen witches, who bake and cook to cast their spells. You can cast a spell by making a love pie, for example, and then eating it is all a ritual experience.
Do you ever do spells with other witches?
N: I did my first spell with someone else on the super blood blue full moon in January. It lasted, like, ten hours. We went out, we walked down to the woods, and we did the whole process of grounding and cleansing, and then we did a super long honoring ritual, and then—this is the most witchy sounding thing—we danced around the woods and spent time in the nature.
A: [Laughs] Straight from “The Crucible.”
N: Yeah, literally. So doing things with other practitioners, you bounce energy off of each other, and you can feel enhancement in your energy and their energy and the mixings of energy. That’s definitely something I’d want to do more, and I haven’t had the opportunity since getting to Wesleyan.
A: I’ve only done one or two spells with other people. And it wasn’t here—it was back home with someone I know. But it really is a wild experience. It heightens everything. It was the most wild thing, and for me it was a much higher vibration of energy. So I definitely do want to do more of that.
Where do the limits lie of what you can cast?
N: I don’t know any witches or Wiccans who claim to, like, move things with their mind or turn people into frogs. And that’s not really the goal of witchcraft, that’s just the media’s idea of what witchcraft is. The actual goal of witchcraft is to better your life and better the planet by manipulating energy. Normally I get vibrational responses, or I can feel when something’s working because I’ll just feel myself on a higher energy level. Sometimes I see physical reactions if I’m doing a spell. The most intense thing that’s happened was a couple years ago I changed the color of the flame of a candle.
Is the division between light and dark magic something that exists in the real witchcraft practice?
A: Yes! I look at light magic as just, like, not putting out negative energy or not casting anything that’s gonna harm anyone or anything. The way I was taught was you never do magic on behalf of someone else unless they explicitly ask you to.
N: The idea of dark magic is doing heavier things that human beings traditionally shouldn’t be capable of.
A: Interfering in things you shouldn’t be interfering in.
Has anyone ever asked you to do a spell?
N: There’s certain rules that witches either follow or don’t. Some witches will be anti-cursing, and some witches will be pro-cursing. I’m fine with casting a curse. But the idea is not, like, someone stole your girlfriend so now you’re gonna damn them to hell or something. It’s a different sort of leveling the playing field in terms of energy. A lot of times it’s avoiding bad energy. If someone is affecting your life in a bad way, the most I’d do with curses is distance myself from that energy using magical energy. The Wiccan Rede [a statement on which the main moral system of the religion and the witchcraft practice is based] is “An it harm none, do what ye will.” Some people follow that, but other witches say, “No, I don’t choose to follow that, so that’s not what I’m gonna do.”
A: One thing I tend to pull from Wicca is the Three-fold Law or the Rule of Three, which is whatever you put out will come back to you threefold in mind, body, and spirit. That’s all the deterrence I need to do anything bad. But I’ve done things like freeze-out spells where I just don’t want your energy around me.
N: Or glamours, which are to alter the way people see you. So I would do a glamour if there’s someone I’m trying to avoid who’s in proximity to me, and it would just basically repel them in a way.
How fluid is the practice? Can you opt out of certain parts, or alter them if you don’t feel they quite resonate with you?
A: Yes, it’s like that with every single aspect of it—I’ve found, at least. Even set spells. If something doesn’t connect with you, you can get rid of that and add because it’s all about what is going to make it most beneficial and how it will be strongest for you. So it’s absolutely all about what feels comfortable, what you connect with the most.
You guys have mentioned a couple witch mentors. Is there always a designated person who brings you into the practice or religion and teaches you about it?
N: It’s less of a mentorship or a traditional apprenticeship and more a community of people who you reach out to when you have questions because a lot of literature is hard to find or understand. But it can also be problematic because it’s good to let people find their own way and find their own beliefs instead of trying to teach someone something. So I would love to be a mentor because I would love to teach people, show them the basics, and help them understand the fundamentals, but then I wouldn’t say, like, “You follow this rule and this rule and this rule and read this book and this book and this book.” I’d be like, “I’ll show you the ropes, and then do what you will.”
Do you feel like you had a go-to witch at the beginning?
N: I would say I’m the most senior witch I’ve met. I’ve never met another witch or Wiccan before Wesleyan, so I haven’t really had someone I go to. I’ve found my own way, or I’ve found, like, internet resources and stuff.
Are there specific sites you tend to go to?
N: [Laughs] There’s definitely less reliable spell sites.
A: I don’t know if I’ve ever followed a spell directly from the internet, but that’s how I kept adding to my idea of what a spell is and what some of the common themes of the spells were. But they definitely get weird if you just search for spells.
Are they all in English?
N: In witchcraft, what I’ve seen is mostly English. But for spells that Wiccans do, specifically Wiccans who honor or worship gods or goddesses, we’ll often incorporate Latin. I always use the phrase “matre dea”—mother goddess. I don’t have an extensive knowledge of Latin.
A: A lot of people use Old English, like “ye” and “thy” and “thou,” and I’ve heard of some people who, if they’re really drawn to a certain Celtic figure, they might change the language up a bit. Any goddess or person they’re worshipping, they might change it to their language.
N: There is actually a written language of witches called Theban. But it’s not very commonly practiced, and it’s pretty hard to learn. I’m trying to learn it. It’s pretty much just a written language with equivalent characters to English letters. A couple of them are repeats, like V and W are the same character. But they’re very complex to write, so it’s taken a long time to try and memorize it. And it’s not spoken, just written.
What was both of your religious life like growing up? Do you still identify with the religions of your upbringing?
N: Yeah, definitely. I’m culturally Jewish, but I’m also Wiccan—the same way people say they’re Christian and Jewish, but they don’t believe both things at the same time. For me, Judaism is what I grew up on. I love to go to Seders, I practice Passover, I observe the holidays…. It’s something cultural, and I love the history and everything around it, but my spiritual beliefs don’t align with Judaism. The beliefs I have regarding religion are Wiccan beliefs.
A: I grew up Catholic, but I never felt tied to that. This sounds super New Age-y and annoying, but I always was more spiritual than religious, and I didn’t really know how to channel that or what that meant until I discovered witchcraft.
N: I like the label just “spiritual” because if someone doesn’t want to define themselves as a witch because they don’t practice it in such a way that they feel aligned to the word, that’s fine. But you can still use some of the practices or meditate on a specific intent and simply call yourself spiritual. There’s a difference between dabbling in witchcraft and having certain beliefs. Because you can’t really dabble in witchcraft. You can’t, like, pick up a spell book one day and then, like, put it down for a year. It’s kind of a lifestyle.