I am light
I am one too strong to fight
Return to dark where shadows dwell
You can’t have this Halliwell
Go away and leave my sight
And take with you this endless night“The Importance of Being Phoebe”, Charmed, The WB
I’ve always been intrigued by the prospect of a magical world. When I was a child and made my earlier trips to the UK, I forced my new friends to call me Phoebe after the wonderfully kick-ass witch in Charmed. Now that I’m grown-up (kind of?), one of the spells in the show is a mantra when depression kicks in or a certain asshole rears his head back into my life (not for many years now, thankfully). It has the same effect as meditation or exercising breathing techniques do to fight anxiety, so I believe in magic in my own way.
I welcome Nadia Heaton back to the blog – they were the first person I interviewed when this blog was Portraits of Us, so it’s a delight to have them as a guest under Travel with Mer.
What is witchcraft?
Love is like magic, it’s like life itself.
Similar to learning a new language, Nadia tells me how, to them, witchcraft is a away of weaving reality into something you can control instead of being at its whims. Larger than the ego itself, and much like falling in love, witchcraft is about pulling together different strings of reality that exist beyond oneself.
We all do this unconsciously, regardless of our belief system. Christians join together in communion on Sundays, connected through the act of mass. Magic and spells work very similarly – the whole idea is to gather and channel energy for a purpose.
Witchcraft, or Wicca in its religious form, also has its problems. It’s often associated with “indigenous” cultures – Native Americans, pre-colonial Central and South American societies, rural South-East and East Asian communities and even Celtic groups in Europe or nomadic tribes – so it’s crucial to understand the origins of different witchcraft practices and respect them accordingly. Something I’ve noticed a lot in pop culture is how magic practised by white women is often portrayed as the “standard” form of witchcraft while other magical expressions tend to be mocked.
This doesn’t mean we can’t practice. I’m a firm believer in cultural sharing and Nadia’s Reiki healing once brought me back from a dark place; it’s all about understanding, respecting and appreciating. Every society has found a way to explain the unexplainable and connect to nature. Nowadays we have fountains of knowledge at our fingertips and we can use them to get started.
What can witchcraft and magic do for us?
Although most practice their magic alone, Nadia tells me that it’s brought them a community and freedom to understand their mental health.
They tell me how individuals that have struggled with mental health tend to show great healing powers and abilities. In a way, magic is a different way to harness tools to manage grief and trauma. Witchcraft attunes you with the spiritual realm and opens the mind to notice the value of atypical mental health.
So how does one start?
At 12 years old, Nadia picked up some books on witchcraft and felt a call to it. Playfully, they practised some simple spells with friends – for example, an innocent money spell that resulted in them getting some petty cash from their dad. Teasing from siblings while growing up eventually led Nadia to stop practising until their teens.
Nadia’s adolescence was difficult. A mental health crisis led them to experience with psychedelics but it also brought magic back into their life. They started to read more on the topic and sought out people in the community who actively practised magic and witchcraft.
Finding a community in which to share their experience and learn more was not easy. Knowledge was scarce and practitioners very solitary but a constant series of synchronicities resparked their belief in magic. While we sipped our wine after cleansing my flat with sage, Nadia told me how they’d started to see signs in their daily life and how eventually they were compelled to believe that there was something else out there.
To get started with contemporary witchcraft practices, it’s worth reading up on gods and goddesses, crystals and spells, and astrology.
One of the most popular goddesses is Hecate (you’ll recall her from Buffy or The Craft), known for being the source of pure energy. Nadia told me how she can be a frightening entity but through her, one can also empathise with suffering across the world and understand oppression.
When it comes to spells, having an open mind is vital. By incorporating colours, herbs, charms and following the position of the moon in your astral chart you can channel energy for different purposes such as wealth, health, wellbeing and self-esteem. For newbies or the curious spells can seem a harmless form of fun although witches believe they’re a way of connecting different realms and so protecting the area is recommended.
I’d like to think I’m open to exploring almost anything as long as it doesn’t cause harm to others. I’m no witch and I probably won’t build an altar in my living room, but the few spells I’ve tried have brought me peace. I’m still healing from a break-up that’s turned out to be more devastating than I could ever imagine and, in a magical turn of events, witchcraft’s been a helping hand to move on. I’ll keep my eyes open and my sage lit, you never know what I could learn.