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.

Exploring the Season of the Witch: Are We All Witches Now?

Witches are not consumeristic; to be a witch is not to be diseased, or infected. So what makes them so relatable? Why the craze?

Practical Magic. <3

Practical Magic. <3


For most of my life, I’ve found myself defining generations by the supernatural creatures that surround them. High school was hands-down the era of vampires, and college was the zeitgeist of zombies. It always begins with a cultish art form: the publication of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight, or Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic books, respectively. The interest in such works slowly breeds fan-fictions and blog posts among niche audiences. Soon Hot Topic brand “I Run with Vampires” t-shirts become available (which I, uh, totally do not own) and mainstream films cash in on the craze. Before you know it, your fave monsters are mainstream. And now, in the latter half of the 2010’s, it seems to be the season of the witch.

The entities we follow and often fetishize always carry moral and political philosophies. Vampires and zombies are consumers; the former is simply sexualized while the latter is not. At some basal level, we as viewers, can relate to brainless walkers and lusty vamps and understand that their general fate is in some way realistic. Who hasn’t walked aimlessly around Target for two hours, sipping a latte and staring blankly at their phone screen? Now, as witches infiltrate underground and mainstream media new questions arise. Witches are not consumeristic; to be a witch is not to be diseased, or infected. So what makes them so relatable? Why the craze?

We, in reality, can very plausibly choose to be a witch at any time. This choice is equally represented and enforced within the media. Television shows like the once again popularized Buffy the Vampire Slayer show women coming upon witchcraft the way one might come of age. It’s a natural progression where a woman first finds a spellbook, and then delves deeper into magicks until a new understanding or self-awareness is achieved. My Instagram account is flooded with woman much like Willow Rosenberg, the main witch of BTVS, who are strong-willed and fantastic. Divination is now a mainstream party game and crystal healing can be as quotidian as popping a Tylenol. The ultimate gain of these practices stems, I believe, from a sense of community. Whether the practitioner is Wiccan, a long-time witchcraft enthusiast, or simply someone who had their tarot read once on the pier, there is a new sense of camaraderie and cultish understanding among these witchy women.

The interest in New Age practices and aesthetics extends far beyond spiritual belief. You don’t have to label yourself a witch to partake in the culture; it’s everywhere. For example, if I wanted a flowy, midwife inspired skirt five years ago I’d have to order from my Pyramid Collection catalog, or travel to Salem, MA. Now, “witchy” fashion is trending in what seems to be an amalgamation of pre-existing festival aesthetics mixed with subdued Victoriana. If you scroll through any look-book, you’ll surely find the bell sleeved, choker-clad beauties that you can easily picture hunched over a herb garden.

The contemporary film and performance industry has taken full advantage of such trends. In many cases, revitalization of former witch narratives have become extremely popular. Robert Egger’s newly released film The Witch offers a revisionist look at Winthrop era society. Likewise, Broadway has just released a slightly modernized version of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible with A-list stars like Saoirse Ronan and Tavi Gevinson. As mentioned before, television shows like Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are resurfacing, while films such as Practical Magic and The Craft are becoming more culturally relevant as well.

In each of these pieces, we are presented with what might superficially look like an outdated dichotomy: the good witch and the bad witch. For example, the aforementioned Willow Rosenberg would easily be considered a “good witch.” In other words, her actions stem from a place of love. However, her personal emotions often cloud her judgment causing her to act irrationally. A major consideration in Willow’s narrative is how much power one can ethically maintain over another. Conversely, Nancy Downs from The Craft uses her power in order to justify her own hatred and insecurities -- a classic portrayal of the “bad witch.” However, the witch’s relevance in today’s culture deconstructs that dichotomy entirely by positing that it never really existed. Willow and Nancy alike are young adult women who carry the moral and emotional implications of your everyday young adult women, hence our ability to relate to them on such a strong level.

Essentially, the witch is female, or human, and contains the same implications of such a  person and persona. People can be vengeful; witches can be vengeful. People can be peaceable; witches can be peaceable, etc. What’s interesting another dichotomy true of witches and women alike: either have been argued to be “supernatural” or “natural” beings. While the presented powers of the witch, and the sexuality of the women are often viewed as otherworldly, the means to achieving such powers and the allegory of them is anything but. This harkens back to second-wave feminist theories, specifically stemming from Sandra M. Gilbert who posits that the same supernatural/natural divide has been applied to woman by oppressors.

In Gilbert’s theory, she states that every woman is split into what society wants to see of them (the natural self) and who they actually are (the supernatural self). To be supernatural is to be othered, but the witch deconstructs this notion by instead empowering (quite literally) that otherness. Witch culture unifies this divide, making room for acceptance. While society considers sexuality, consent, and LGBT concerns more vocally, it makes perfect sense that we would laud the archetype of the witch.

Of course, any time an “other” is presented, a portion of society will seek to oppress or victimize out of fear and paranoia. As this victimization is already a well-ingrained part of witch history, the witch is again made topical in contemporary discussion. As previously oppressed groups are achieving progression, society balks and hegemony occurs. The portrayal of the witch in mainstream art forms acts as a relevant reminder of what can happen when fundamental, or totalitarian mindsets ensue. Genocide and senseless death is the somber reminder and warning carried by the witch a la The Salem Witch Trials among other tragedies.

The season of the witch is at large now for all of the right reasons. What differentiates this being from monsters past, is that she (or he) is not a monster at all. The moral and political implications of the witch are not a warning against what an individual can become, but instead an encouragement for the individual to be all that they can be.

To be a witch is be in charge of the mind and body, and I could not think of a more relevant didacticism to reflect the climate of 2016.

Kailey Tedesco is a full-time poet and a part-time taxonomist of vintage collar dresses. She will soon receive her MFA in Creative Writing from Arcadia University, and she's the co-founder of Rag Queen Periodical. On any given day, you can find her musing on the Season 5 finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and munching on French pastries. Get to know more at or follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram: @KaileyTedesco.