By Christopher Orapello, and Tara-Love Maguire
Witchcraft ties deeply into matters of personal governance and individual control. It addresses, with blood and sweat, the ills of life and society. In the hands of those who won’t sit idle as life just happens to them, it’s a tool for change. It’s about magick and spells, herbs and spirits, flying and divining. It’s about living in the world, for better or worse. It is raw. It is dirty. It is a skillset, a discipline. It is an art. Witchcraft is dwelling in the woods where people rarely go. It can be found right in your yard, in a nearby park, or in an undefiled and wild land. It is resting in forgotten caves and beneath silent trees. It even dwells in the endless bowels of the city, a living entity all its own. It is basking under the moon at night, breathing slowly beneath the silent stars. Witchcraft is all of these things and it has always been there, waiting to be rediscovered. It is a response to the fears lurking in the darkness and a means to deal with them. It is a weapon. It is a talent. It is an instinct.
Witchcraft is not simply about magick; that is why there are sorcerers. Witchcraft is not just about herbs; that is why there are herbalists. Witchcraft is not only about divination or contacting spirits; that is why there are psychics and mediums. Witchcraft is something wholly, entirely different. It is a lifestyle, a vocation, a liminal space defined by experience. It is a virtual crossroads where several paths meet and create their own space by virtue of their intersection.
Witchcraft is a methodology. It is a multifaceted practice that combines several skills and avenues of knowledge. The paths that comprise it sit squarely upon the landscape of history and folklore, individually distinguishable as magick, divination, and herbalism.
Magick leads to spells and exerting your will upon the cosmos to influence desired changes and effects. Divination is the act and process of divine seeing or foretelling the future. Herbalism is the knowledge and application of herbs for medicinal, culinary, and ritual use. The combination and interplay of these three streams of knowledge enable other practices like seership, soul flight, and necromancy to take shape. It is only when these various practices are blended together that witchcraft emerges as a distinct practice that uniquely combines history and folklore, magick, divination, herbalism, hedgewitchery, and necromancy into a unifying system that we refer to collectively as the Six-Fold Path.
Magick, divining, working with and growing herbs, having visions, flying out of the body, and consorting with ghosts of the dead. Witchcraft is all of these things. It consists of no religion or dogma. It has no need for clergy. It worships no deities. It celebrates no intrinsically holy days. Witchcraft is a practice that is focused on successful function, rather than being beholden to the aesthetics, symbols, and affectations of 19th-century occultism.
Witchcraft is secular and filthy—dirty, figuratively and literally. There will be times when you walk through your everyday life bearing the stains of some working you’ve performed. The evidence may be anything—the faint scent of scrying incense in your hair, a smudge of charcoal on your cheek, dirt under your fingernails. You will look at these traces of your craft and only you will know what they represent. And that knowledge will give you strength, a secret shield. You will look at them and think to yourself: I did that. And your face will flush briefly from the power of that knowledge. Your power.
About the Authors:
Christopher Orapello is an artist, witch, and animist with a background in Western occultism, ceremonial magick, and Freemasonry and has been on his journey for over 20 years. He cohosts the podcast Down at the Crossroads with his partner, Tara Maguire, and is a signature artist with Sacred Source, a leading producer and distributor of ancient deity images in North America. After a growing desire for a more locally based form of witchcraft, he and Tara founded the Blacktree Coven in 2014 and set out to forge a modern approach to traditional witchcraft for a new era of praxis.
Tara-Love Maguire has been a practicing witch for over 30 years. Her path has been crookedly influenced by Isobel Gowdie, Marie Laveau, and William S. Burroughs (among others). Growing up in and around the New Jersey Pine Barrens, she found witchcraft within the tales and shadows of that folkloric landscape. She cohosts the podcast Down at the Crossroads with Christopher Orapello and is one of the founders of the Blacktree Coven, which exists in the heart of southern New Jersey.
Adapted, and reprinted with permission from Weiser Books, an imprint of Red Wheel/Weiser, BESOM, STANG & SWORD by Christopher Orapello and Tara-Love Maguire is available wherever books and ebooks are sold or directly from the publisher at www.redwheelweiser.com or 800-423-7087.