The Magic That is The Self: On the Solitude of Practicing Witchcraft

Magick comes from the power within, but to access that power you must open yourself to nature, to intimate connection, to vulnerability. 


I was drawn to magick because I believed in myself. The idea that I needed to rely on an ethereal, probably-not-real deity to guide me and plan out my destiny seemed absolutely absurd. I had a good head on my shoulders, I did well in school, I had a clear vision for my life, and I was perfectly capable of making my own decisions.

At church, I felt the most spiritual when I was soul-searching and building my own self-confidence. It's a feeling that a lot of other people interpret as God, or the spirit, or whatever else you'd like to call it, but it's hard for me to see it that way—I believe in me, my humanity, my own consciousness. My vision and drive comes from within, not from a desire to end up in heaven or paradise. I am perfectly happy and motivated to make the most of my life and to put good energy out into the universe before my world fades to black simply because I feel that is the right thing to do, not because there will be a reward in the afterlife. 

I often laugh at myself for seeking out magick and witchcraft, because my independence is what most often prevents me from connecting deeply to my magick. Magick is full of paradoxes, and this is probably the biggest one: your magick comes from the power within, but to access that power you must open yourself to nature, to intimate connection, to vulnerability.

Even if you believe your magick comes from a connection to a deity like the Goddess, you have to break down emotional barriers around your soul in order for that power to inhabit you. Those of us who sought out magick because it meant we didn't have to rely on a God or a church find ourselves in an especially sticky predicament: once you strip away the walls of the Church, you're left with the walls inside yourself.

Being a witch is an essentially solitary thing. Even in a coven, you spend a lot of time practicing on your own. You cast spells alone, perform rituals alone, create glamours alone, hunt for treasures and supplies alone. So much of magick demands our undivided attention and separates us from more socially accepted religious circles. At my old youth group, setting a visual example for others was huge. We were constantly in groups, watching how we prayed.

"This girl has her eyes closed and her hands raised in the air...she must be feeling this more than I am" is an ACTUAL thought that crossed my mind. More than once. I can't help but look back and feel that we were acting for each other, trying to use our bodies and words to be the most-holy, aka holier than the rest of you.

It felt good to pray together, in groups, because I'm naturally drawn to community, but my actions and beliefs felt forced. Many religions create community, but magick cuts deeper than the superficial emotional fluff that singing songs around a retreat campfire creates. Witches don't often get the emotional fluff. Witches spend most of our time digging into our own neuroses, our inhibitions, our insecurities, to find substance and fodder for our magick. 

I build walls. I am convinced that in a former life I lived somewhere out in the woods, and didn't talk to anything but rabbits for 30 years. I am quite social and happy to be around people, but I often feel like I am simply performing emotions because it's what will best suit the situation and person I am talking to. I get feedback all the time that I come across as perfectly poised, prepared to take on any challenge, and relatively knowledgeable and capable of handling anything that comes my way.

While those traits are excellent for business and career building, they completely stunt my journey to magick. Magick is performed, but not performative. Magick can see through your bullshit, see when you don't really connect with a spell you're casting, see when you're just setting up your altar or reading tarot cards for the aesthetic qualities. I love Instagram. I live for aesthetic. I constantly battle these sides of myself in my journey to know myself and strengthen my practice. 

Magick isn't supposed to look a certain way. It doesn't have picture-perfect moments that need to be captured in order to be validated. I am an anxious perfectionist who dreads the moment when people catch my mistakes or shortcomings, and magick bombards me with these things all the time. It is a necessary struggle, and the breaking down of my pretension is what will build me into a truly magickal witch one day.

A couple weeks ago a friend called me "magickal" in a completely serious way, and I cried. It meant so much that I was finally able to inhabit my magick in a way that outwardly presented itself as part of my being. I'll probably always have the right words for most situations, and people may always view me as the responsible, collected Capricorn that I've always been.

My hope is that one day I start hearing people call me "genuine," too. And that I will always access that strength – the strength of the genuine – in my craft.

Emily Neie is a secular witch living and practicing magick in Austin, TX. She survives the demands of corporate professionalism by walking her dog, picking up rocks and feathers, and blogging at her magick blog, The Literateur.