“You’re a witch…so what does that mean?”

I guess I’ve heard it dozens of times. I usually find the most politically correct and academic way to answer the question…just in case the asker encounters another Pagan somewhere along the way. It’s not that often that someone asks the question sincerely wanting to know what it means to me.

When I was younger, I lived a magical life. I saw things other people didn’t see, knew things as if out of nowhere. Had it been medieval times, I would have been branded a witch for many of my natural abilities on the spot. In this day and age, however, we have the New Age movement happily classifying such talents and normal and acceptable, skills to be honed and used to serve our fellow man. So what makes me a “witch” and not a “psychic” or an “energy worker”?

Well, to be honest, I think it would be perfectly fair to call me a psychic, a tarot reader, an energy worker, an aura seer, a folk magic practitioner, an herbalist, an aromatherapist, a ritualist, a priestess, a mythologist, a drummer, a dancer, a singer and a teacher. Or, you could just call me a Witch.

The things that make me a witch do include all these disciplines, but it is something more than that. Witchcraft, to me, is the art and science of living in balance with nature and one’s will. There are hundreds of books that will gladly tell you “what witches believe”, although since there is no dogma to the practice, they are all incomplete; every witch believes precisely what he or she believes. There are books that will tell you “what witches do”, and while there are more traditions and handed down wisdom here, the problem remains. Witchcraft is a very personalized path, and every individual is different.

So what do I believe? What do I do? What makes me a witch?

Ultimately, I believe that all of existence is one, and it is divine. There are movies and analogies galore that explain the theory: “The Force” of the Star Wars epic, “There is no spoon” of The Matrix, the self-created afterlife of What Dreams May Come. All things are not merely connected, all things are ALL…and the effect of changing one thing is to change ALL.

The problem with this great universal ALL is that it is difficult, at best, for the human mind to truly perceive of it. The various Gods and Goddesses of ancient times and the modern era are faces of ALL, and parts of it. Of course, in being part of it, they are also it, and that is where the whole thing gets very confusing for the simple human mind (surely we are capable of much greater (simpler?) things) and it becomes easier to talk about ALL as a system, with parts and faces and representatives.

The Goddess who I work with primarily as my intercessory to feel my connection with ALL is Aphrodite. This ageless entity comes to us from the sands of time, and carries with her an impressive heritage that spans most of the ancient world. She is best known through the writings of Hellenic Greeks, and has therefore earned a rather unwarranted reputation as a slut and a harpy. She is neither.

Aphrodite is a personification of the Power of Love. She exemplifies joy and beauty, and exalts sensual pleasures–things that are pleasing to the senses. As Her priestess, I am dedicated to bringing love, joy and pleasure into my life and the lives of those I care for. I believe that to live means to love; and that having someone to love and cherish, not in a tragic way, but in a joyful celebration, is the greatest gift life can offer.

I also work with another God oft maligned by modern interpretation: Ares. He is best known as the God of War…but one must understand that He is a foil to Aphrodite. To fight for something, one must be passionate about it, and this is where Ares comes in. He is the Power of Passion, and yes, he has a dark side. It’s important to me to remember that everything, all the joys of the universe, come at a cost. This is what balance is all about.

The things I do to change my life and enhance my beliefs are really pretty simple. I perform rituals at certain points of the year to align myself with the cycles of nature. I also perform rituals when I feel that I need to reinforce my sense of self-in-ALL. Some rituals are grand and follow a nearly liturgical design. Others are as simple as collecting fresh herbs, or cleaning colorful gemstones. The thing that makes them special is intent.

One thing that everyone always wants to know about is spell casting: “Do you cast spells on people? Can you cast one on so-and-so?” etc. Well, I do cast spells, but it is a rare occasion that it is even possible to cast a spell ON someone. Generally, if there is an intended “other party” involved in a spell, the spell is kind of thrown in their direction…it is up to the other person to pick up their end, consciously or subconsciously.

A perfect example is the classic love spell question. Everyone wants to know this one, especially people who think I may have cast such a spell on him or her. To start with: I am a priestess of Aphrodite. The work I have done with her adds a kind of sexy-lovey-pretty sheen to my aura. Many sensitive people have commented that when I walk in a room, everyone starts to think about sex…not necessarily with ME…sensuality just starts to ooze out of everyone. So that might have something to do with it. It’s superficial. Most people who react to this and think they have just fallen madly in love with me soon find out that they get used to the shock of it and I become “normal” in their eyes again.

There are several types of spells that I do, but I have the most skill and experience in love spells. Because of this, I know better than to try the traditional “make so-and-so fall madly in love with me” route. This kind of magic requires the other person to pick up his end, and usually, it’s not a healthy end! A good love spell will ask for the right person to come and to become committed to a relationship. It seems fairly non-specific, but it works.

Here’s my story of a love spell gone right. About a year and a half ago, I was about to start a new job and had just moved into a new home, and I felt I was ready to try a real relationship. I sat down, assessed my situation, and explored within myself what kind of person I wanted to be with. I took a lot of time preparing, writing, and working the initial spell, and I am very proud of it. It is rather advanced magic, because it does require shadow and inner work, and it requires the ability to clear the mind fully of all potential mates. My mind and heart had to be prepared to accept the choice that the universe made for me. So, I did the spell and I waited. On my first day of work, I met several interesting men, but I had reservations about starting a relationship with someone I worked with. I took my time, but one young man just kept appearing in my workspace day after day. He used words that were special to me, and inquired about my deepest secrets. He intrigued me.

After a while, I could see that work was where someone was going to come from, but as I said, I had met a number of young men, and didn’t know which was the one. I had other sources (divination) which agreed with this perspective. So I baked up some magical cookies in two types: pink ones to encourage any warm feelings that were there, and gold ones to get these men to open up! The intriguing man ate most of the tin, then asked me out and poured his heart on the table.

Our relationship was far from perfect (remember what I said about costs!), and he frequently chose to ignore or avoid me. Every time this happened, I cut my losses, cleared my mind and said “Hey Universe, that wasn’t him…please send me the right guy!” Guess who always called the next day. We even had a major breakup blowout. It took me weeks to be able to clear my mind enough to do the spell. When I was finally able, it took only a day or two before the intriguing young man and I were patching things up again.

The last time I worked this spell was when I was about to give up. I felt the problems in our relationship were insurmountable. I changed the spell slightly, added some aspects that I felt I had overlooked before, and sent it out to the universe again. I said “He does this and this and this, and that’s not right. Send me someone who doesn’t do those things!” He began to approach our relationship differently.

I honestly don’t feel that I ever “cast a spell” on my partner. I cast a spell on a nameless, faceless right person for me, and this wonderful man just happened to pick up the other end. And he doesn’t seem like he’s about to let it go. And THAT brings me much joy.

I do other spells, of course. Prosperity magic is big around my home: oil to bring money, gold coins, green candles. I do spells to get that client, to find a parking space, to generally make life run just a little smoother. They aren’t scary, and I usually use a candle, some herbs, or a stone, but I don’t need to. These things are just focus objects. The magic is all in me-it is in my will.

I also use divination tools such as tarot and scrying. The purpose here is not so much to discover “the future” but to kind of see beyond the misty veil that we, as humans, establish between the things we know and the things we need to know. If we paid attention to everything we know, as ALL, we’d never get the shopping and washing done! Using divinatory tools can help to pick through the mass of everything that is constantly happening and get pertinent information to help make good decisions. Like the herbs and stones, these are just focus mechanisms, and aren’t necessary but do make things easier.

I listen to my dreams, to my intuition, and to the world around me. I use nature for healing as much as I can, but I don’t eschew “modern science”. I thank the universe for the bounty that it offers me, and I use my gifts to help me grow as a person, as a professional, as a daughter, a lover, a friend.

So what makes me a witch? Well, all of this does…but then there’s this little spark too. I meet people every day that I think of as “witches”. For me the word has a special connotation. It means someone who knows that he or she has the power to make things happen. Someone who is aware. Someone who faces the world with eyes open. I’m sure that other people have other words for what I am. But in my private heart, I am, and will always be, a Witch.