I believe a witch’s practice and and should change over time. But what exactly does that mean? And what kinds of things have been part of my practice?
Things to know
Almost all of my witchcraft practice has included either group work or things in keeping with my particular tradition. I spent very little time as an eclectic witch outside a tradition. There are definitely things I approached a particular way because of that.
My practice has consistently been:
- Polytheistic, by which I mean working with multiple distinct beings (or at least treating the beings I work with as distinct individuals).
- Centered on the Wheel of the Year for a ritual schedule.
- Involving a cast circle for many full-blown rituals (Esbats, Sabbats, significant other rituals) but without casting a circle for smaller workings or ongoing magical acts.
- Relatively light on spellcraft. I have had periods where I’m actively doing spell working on a very regular basis (for example, two extended job hunts) but I’ve also had periods of months or even years where my magical work was personal energy management (centering, grounding, shielding) and devotional workings, with little spellcraft.
I grew up in the Boston, Massachusetts area. I was baptised Episcopalian as a baby, but when I was 13, my parents returned to the Catholic Church and I became Catholic, going through classes with adults to become Catholic, then through confirmation with my agemates. I was active in music ministry at Mass through college (and also with the Newman Society, the Catholic student group).
Part way through college, I got very interested in personal energy management (because I desperately needed to figure out how not to be overwhelmed by other people’s energy).
I talked to friends who were various kinds of Pagan and witchy, and read a bunch of books I could get my hands on. (Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon, Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance are the two I remember). I also incorporated idea from various fiction books that seemed to work.
This was in 1995-1996, so the Internet existed, but the resources on it were rather different than now. I worked for a year after my college graduation at my college, and then moved from Massachusetts to Minnesota. At that point, I knew I wanted to look at my religious options.
I spent a year reading a lot about religion in general, going to occasional services, and settled on trying Paganism at the end of the year. I went to a number of open rituals and by May 2001, had found a local group that offered introductory classes.
Circle of the Phoenix
That was the Circle of the Phoenix, a training circle in a tradition called Omphalos Tri-Cellan that had been founded in Minnesota in the mid-1990s. The tradition draws on various magical and witchcraft traditions and practices. There are a few things in our circle casting I’ve only seen described in a book by someone who was one of my high priestess’s teachers, and there are some parts I’ve never seen combined in those particular ways in other people’s descriptions of their practices.
CotP offered a series of introductory classes. Those five classes took place in a public location (either a local Pagan shop or a cafe meeting room), and included an invitation to group rituals once you’d gotten through the second class which covered circle etiquette.
Once you finished that series, you could ask to be considered as a Dedicant, and go through that process (answering questions, and an interview/discussion with the group leadership. If that was mutually agreeable, then the Dedicant year classes covered the year and a day material, an overview and introduction to many topics. (I’ve rearranged some items, and added a bit more on research, but I used my Dedicant year as the basis for my own training structure.)
As a training-focused group, we had a lot of people coming and going in the main group rituals over time, some people for whom it was a first ritual, some who had a lot of experience, sometimes people coming back to the group after a break and needing to reintegrate into the group. There were a lot of things that were exciting and great about that, but it also meant that group rituals had to be designed so that all those people could likely benefit and participate.
As a Dedicant, I spent about eight hours a month in classes, plus attending Esbat rituals (full moons) and Sabbat rituals. And of course a lot of time working on exercises and homework on my own.
Rituals were usually about two hours of ritual time (sometimes more), because our rituals included a fair amount of singing and formal ritual setup. We’d either have potluck or go out to eat after ritual, which added another hour or two. I lived about a 25 minute drive from the covenstead or our likely ritual locations if traffic wasn’t bad, so you can also add about an hour of travel time for every event.
Once I initiated, I started helping teach classes to Seekers and then to Dedicants in the group, took my turn in the rotation planning rituals, and as I learned more, took on other roles in helping make sure the group could function well. (Some of those I was good at, some of those I was less good at…)
I earned my second degree in 2005. I separated from my ex-husband a few months before that, moved into the covenstead the winter after, and started grad school again to finish my degree the following fall.
Around 2005, I also got involved with the Twin Cities Pagan Pride project, and in 2010 was part of the committee that put on the first Paganicon, a hotel-based convention in the Twin Cities in March. It’s been an amazing event since, though I haven’t been able to make it to all of them.
I earned my 3rd degree in November 2007, and I had known for a while that I wanted to hive off (the common term for starting a new group in a witchcraft tradition.)
We talked about what that would look like. In the summer of 2007, I moved to a new apartment so I had space. After my 3rd degree, I formed the first iteration of Phoenix Song with one of my trad mates (someone who had been been a Dedicant with me, and initiated around the same time.)
In 2009, she took a break from witchcraft and group work, and a few months later I started having some serious health issues that left me exhausted, overwhelmed, and with a lot of brain fog issues.
My practice was pretty minimal at that point – everything was too much. I’e had chronic health issues since my teens, but this was a whole different sort of problem, it seeped into everything.
By spring of 2010, we’d figured out what was going (hypothyroidism and vitamin D deficiency, mostly), but my job at the time didn’t renew my contract and I was out of work for a year. I spent my time applying to jobs, napping for several hours in the afternoon, and not doing much else.
Late that summer, I started this site, as a way to start rebooting my brain, and get my ability to write things in sequence going again. I was writing for myself (and for people I might want to teach down the line), but also wanted a place to pull together comments I wrote other places online, that helped people.
It took me until the summer of 2011 to find a job (finding library jobs can be really hard going), but in August, I moved to Maine.
I was living in a town of 8000 people in the foothills of western Maine. Gorgeous landscape, but we were 45 minutes from the next largest town, and about two hours from the two sizeable cities in the state (Portland and Orono).
I made it to a few Pagan events, and talked to a few people about coven possibilities, but I was still not well enough to plan on lots of long drives regularly. (Driving back roads near a sizeable moose population is not something you want to do while exhausted…)
My practice in Maine was therefore mostly solitary: I did ritual when I could, as made sense.
In late January 2015, I was told they were cutting my job. By April, I had been hired at my current job, and on Beltane I moved back to Boston.
It took me a while to settle into my new job, which involved librarian skills I had, and content knowledge for a specialised collection that I didn’t have yet.
I spent most of the first two years working on my own, but one of my best friends lives about a 30 minute drive away. Their family has seasonal celebrations, inviting like-minded friends to join them. I went to those, to some open rituals in Boston, and started putting down roots.
I had a couple of people interested in coven work, but for various reasons (mostly around scheduling and other commitments in their lives), that didn’t work out until 2018, when two women became Dedicants. One became my first direct initiate in the spring of 2019, and three more students started later that summer.
As of the fall of 2020, those students have finished their Dedicant year, I have two more students about to start a Dedicant year. While we can’t meet in person right now, we’re continuing classes and modified rituals together.
My personal practice has also stabilised nicely. Right now it involves daily offerings (brief and simple), slightly more involved weekly offerings, a steady practice of new moon Tarot readings, rituals with the coven (and sometimes otherwise, as relevant), and a fair amount of reading, chatting, and otherwise learning about different approaches.
You can get a week by week sense of my practice since my birthday in 2019 in weekly blog posts: check out A Witch In Practice.
Posted on October 10, 2020.