I guess if I’m going to start writing seriously about modern solitary witchcraft again, the thing I would have to stress first and foremost is the importance of finding the magickal path that suits you best.
When I first started practicing, I felt inundated with so much information that it was simultaneously refreshing (that so many people are out there practicing magick) and overwhelming. There was ritual magick and wicca and ceremonial magick and british traditional witchcraft and celtic tradition and egyptian magick and norse and italian…not to mention other magickal and spiritual traditions I learned about when I moved to New Orleans: voodoo, hoodoo, southern conjure, santeria, quimbanda, and more. I read a lot of material, thinking it was my responsibility as a member of the broader magickal community to learn at least a little bit about everything. Since my teenage years, I stuck my fingers into the pots of a number of traditions, prayed and built altars to all sorts of deities and their pantheons. I felt like I appropriated cultures when I tried on their magick and religions for size to see what fit me and I feel badly about that now.
But there is something to be said for exposing yourself to different cultures and traditions and trying to learn about them, learn about beliefs other than your own, as long as it is done from a place of respect (not borrowing or stealing) and as long as your learning process isn’t causing harm to the cultures you’re trying to learn about.
Anyway, I didn’t come on here to talk about that–there are dozens of writers out there talking about cultural appropriation much more articulately than I am now and I’m not here to steal their platform. That being said, I do think there is something to following a magickal path that seems to draw you in some meaningful way. Those two things for me have always been simultaneously (1) the Egyptian pantheon and (2) ancestor workings.
(1) It’s super cliche and ridiculous, but my draw into the Egyptian pantheon came from a series of dreams I had several years ago in which I kept seeing what I now know to be the all-seeing eye or Eye of Ra, set against a starry night background. Then, I was on a writing retreat in Santa Fe, New Mexico just walking around the desert at night when I came across a random jar of sand in the middle of nowhere in the mountains. When I turned it over, I saw that the same eye symbol was painted in gold on the side and I knew immediately that I needed to know more about it. My research into Ra, Horus, and the eye symbol led me into a treasure trove of ancient Egyptian history, mythology, religion and witchcraft–and specifically, a deep and enduring relationship with the lion-headed goddess Sekhmet. My worry about cultural appropriation and disrespectful borrowing (I am not Egyptian) fell away when I was reminded that no one living in Egypt today still works with this pantheon. The ancient Egyptian deities, much like the ancient Greek and Roman ones, come from “dead religions” as they’re called. That’s why so many magickal practitioners gravitate towards them–they’re thought to be accessible to anyone.
2) I’ve always been interested in my ancestors. My background is Italian and Native American–both cultures in which I learned to value family, heritage, and traditions from a very young age. When I moved to the South, a lot of practitioners down here emphasized the importance of ancestor workings and building altars for your ancestors. “Witches pray to all different gods and goddesses and spirits and dead celebrities every day, but they fail to realize that the people on the other side most likely to intercede on your behalf are the people whose blood you carry, whose line you are a part of in the first place,” I was told. Your ancestors are the ones already rooting for you and for your lineage, so why not work with them? There’s also the idea that what you were taught at a young age stays rooted in you for your whole life. For better or for worse, this is a strong source from which you can draw personal power.
For much of my life, I resented being raised Roman Catholic. I saw Catholicism as an institution of hurt, pain and corruption both in modern times and throughout history. And even at its best, it seemed like a religion designed to make people feel guilty and bad about themselves–but it was still my roots. My great-grandmother was an italian immigrant and a catholic witch, so I started looking into that.
I began incorporating invocations to saints, angels, catholic imagery, rosary beads and burning myrhh resin into my regular workings–and the result was incredible. Like I had finally fit all my disjointed spiritual pieces together. I did a job spell with an invocation and offering to St. Joseph and got two new job offers a week later. I’ve been working with St. Dymphna on offering healing to a friend suffering from depression. I’ve also been working on a traditional Italian ancestor altar with pillar candles on it to burn for my great-grandmother and other ancestors–along with a separate altar space for family on my native side. The ways I structure my rituals and work with the dead are still heavily influenced by ancient Egyptian traditions.
These two paths–that of the Italian Catholic witch and that of the Egyptian necromantic witch–have fused together to form what I affectionately refer to as my “mediterranean diet of witchcraft.” As a result, my magick feels stronger than ever.
Magickal power is within, around, and accessible to all of us. The tools we use and the paths we follow simply act as conduits to help us, as witches, move and direct that power.
So I guess that’s the point of this post as well as my advice to anyone just getting started: read books, learn about different magickal traditions, learn about your own roots/ancestors, respect and honor the people and cultures you’re learning about, find the path that makes you strongest and roll with it 🙂 Or, that’s my two cents anyway.
The Dark Lady ❤