by Mikell Petty
Celebrations of change are a staple of modern culture and most noticeable during the holiday season; a time riddled with traditional feasts festivals and rituals co-opted by mainstream western religions. Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, even Easter! (Look it up!)
We currently happen to be in one of my favorite solar phases, which for us here in the U.S. is noted by the reddening of leaves, crisp air and the sweet scent of synthetic pumpkin sweetener.
It’s also marked by the first true holiday of the season, one that happens to be a personal favorite for most of us who are often oppressed because of our differences: Halloween.
One of my favorite Halloween traditions can’t necessarily be counted as a tradition, I guess — seeing as I try to pay homage to ‘90s femme cinematic icons every day of the year — but October is when all of my favorite movies become so much more appropriate to watch: Practical Magic, The Craft, and childhood classics like Hocus Pocus and Halloweentown. Noticing a trend?
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I think it’s safe to say some of the greatest things to come out of the ‘90s (besides myself, TLC and soy lattes) were these incredibly powerful and yet completely modern young women gifted with abilities beyond belief. Witches were everything. From Sabrina, to Charmed, to Kiki’s Delivery Service, they all served as guides for a young femme like myself to follow and emulate.
Now, in my study of the craft and magic, I’ve noticed that despite the blatant lack of diversity in most of the witchy shows and movies we grew up watching, there are underlying themes that resonate in mysticism that span the globe. Those themes include attaining knowledge, putting that knowledge into action and using one’s skills to achieve overall harmony with the world.
Different kinds of knowledge align with different cultures because of variation in geography and climate. This is why witchcraft, healing and alchemy are so seemingly universal Studies of magic are really only studies of the natural world and what humans can do to find our place and maintain balance with nature — a notion that’s so desperately needed in present times of injustice.
Most forms of magic, including Santeria, Voodoo, Brujeria, Shintoism and some religious beliefs (even the ones that lean more on the Western side) manage to go by two basic rules, known in the Wiccan faith as the Wiccan Rede, and the Rule of Three. Together, they loosely state: do no harm and you can do as you please, but remember that whatever you put into the world will come back to you.
Most of the lore around magic and women is extremely negative. Enchantresses, brujas and evil witches were often women who weren’t afraid to make things happen. Femmes/womyn of color must carry on that tradition, honing our craft in all aspects of our lives.
6 Tips On How to Do Just That:
1. The Craft Within.
Understanding what you put in your body and what makes it tick are crucial to your body’s health and your overall success. Beyonce and Warsan Shire said it in so many words: making delicious lemonade out of the bitterness of life is a form of alchemy. That’s true magic.
Knowledge of the Earth can be compared to our knowledge of food and fitness, our two essential interactions with the physical world. Eating and moving with intention are key in many Eastern practices. Yoga and acupuncture, for instance, are perfect examples of knowing what nerves and muscles can affect your mood and overall flow of energy. Many Eastern herbs and spices, like turmeric and ginger, can help with aches and pain both physically and mentally.
Think of each meal as a potion that’s meant to bring vitality and energy; every ingredient has something to offer, but making sure you know what it is and how it benefits you is what sets you apart from mere mortals.
Learning to listen to your body and having agency over your physical self is the first step in mastering not just magic, but everything else this world has to throw at us. Your parents may think of you as some hippie freak who smokes too much pot, does too much yoga and only eats organic, but you’re really just magical AF and trying to bring change to the world. You’re welcome.
2. Find Your Zen.
Just as we should strive to do no harm to others, we must also reduce the harm and toxicity within our own lives by maintaining our well-being. This internal energy flow can be influenced by the spaces we occupy. Here’s where a practice like feng shui comes in. The idea of arranging a space with intention can be as simple as placing a mirror or piece of furniture in a certain direction — but in making that intentionality more effective, we can be more specific in other choices as well, like color, lighting and decor motifs. Adding plants can literally breathe life into a room. Making sure you let in fresh air and light, and choosing colors and accents that reflect your goals (for instance, my room is white to give me a sense of clarity, and I’ve chosen black and grey motifs to symbolize the stoic strength and grace of marble).
You can go even further to intentionally create a positive space. Essential oils that calm the sense of smell, like lavender and jasmine, can transform a room. Smudging (the act of cleansing a space with white smoke from dried bundles of sage) is a common practice in some Native American spiritual teachings. Calming salts and minerals along with oils can be put in baths, or even used for decoration. (Himalayan Salt Lamps, anyone?) Candles, as we learned in The Craft, can bring different energies into a room as well. Adding the element of fire (carefully!) can bring balance to a room or ignite energies that were dormant before.
3. Wear Something Black.
As I dug into the history of magic, one of the things that fascinated me most were the reports of ancient Mexican witches who “wore peaked caps, and took as their common symbols the owl and the bunch of dried herbs. […] They are represented in ancient paintings as wearing black skirts on which cross-bones were depicted and round their heads a fillet or band of unspun cotton [or gold].”
Often, wearing black is seen as an expression of death; I see it as a way of better seeking light and truth (in addition to being chic AF). Wearing a color so dark is said to welcome the light of knowledge, for you can only truly see light in darkness. Crystals and other precious metal jewelry can be enchanted and used as talismans and amulets.
A black vegan leather jacket is the perfect combination of intention matched with symbolism. It has all of the symbolic strength that’s suggested by the imagery of a black bull — with all of the intention of never actually killing one. Collars and chokers were not only all the rage in the ‘90s but super relevant, suggesting the circle of protection witches cast around their loved ones. A cute choker is just the ultimate form of self love.
4. Adopt a Familiar.
Let’s be honest. We’ve all seen Harry Potter, and were super jealous that everyone in the story basically got to take pets to school. The concept of interspecies companionship is not new. Native Americans worked with animal totems as guides that came to them during coming-of-age ceremonies. The idea of a familiar animal spirit is omnipresent in witch lore — especially the presence of feline companions.
Cats are not only adorable internet fodder, but were worshipped in some ancient civilizations. Today, however, cats often given up for adoption, rarely adopted out as adults — and black cats are even adopted sometimes for the sole purpose of torture. Cats are neglected — often because they’re seen as untamed, moody and seemingly able to fend for themselves, which is not always the case. Cats need love and attention, but on their own terms.
5. Coven Up.
Speaking of trust, if you’re so inclined, finding a supportive group of likeminded people who bring out the worst and best in you is the epitome of millennial witch #squadgoals and that nostalgic ‘90s girl power we still seek. Human nature drives us to congregate. Whether you’re joined by traditional beliefs and practices or with people who share an unspeakable bond, they all equate to the same thing: a sense of unity. The group of people you’ve come to see as closer than your family are, in essence, your coven/girl gang/squad/fam. I’ve come to realize that my best friends are the people I can work to make great things with, and whom I can depend on to teach me lessons about being my best self.
6. My Other Diary is A Spellbook.
This may be one of the most important tips. The true power of language, the combination of the logical and emotional, the way we as humans can invoke the mental and physical and convey this to one another is powerful. Words carry power, and when we use our words with intention they have the ability to change reality.
If the Cromwell, Halliwell, Spellman and Owens women have taught me anything, it’s that no witch is as good as the wealth of knowledge and experience she’s managed to garner over generations of sisterhood and witchdom. A grimoire or book of shadows is a place where a witch takes note of her best spells and potions, her attempts, her failures, her intentions. It’s something to pass on to the next generation. Writing is sacred in this way; it captures so much more than what’s in the actual words.
“Calling oneself ‘witch’ does not make a Witch — but neither does heredity itself, nor the collecting of titles, degrees and initiations,” according to Emberlyn Rayne. “A witch seeks to control the forces within her/himself that make life possible in order to live wisely and well without harm to others and in harmony with nature.”
So whether you call yourself Wiccan, practice your own form of magic or just prefer the power of #BlackGirlMagic (because witches come in every shade), just remember to treat the world like you treat yourself and vice versa, and never be a bitch to your fellow witch. Unless you plan to be the baddest bitch that ever did witch.