In “Ask a Witch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age. From spellcraft to finding your path, explore what it means to be a millennial witch.
Welcome back! Another month means another #AskAWitch, and this month’s column holds a special place in my heart—and that’s because Ask A Witch is officially a year old! In the past year, I’ve written about manifestation, binding, tarot, love magick, the universe as genderqueer, moon magick, how to create a witchy home, how to bring witchcraft into your everyday life, the politics of witchcraft, and self-love. Wow! This month, I decided to celebrate by doing something a little different and answering a few questions that intersect, all about the subtle nuances and energetics of magick. With that being said, enjoy! And if you want even more witchiness, I’ll be writing about it in my upcoming book Craft: How to Be A Modern Witch.
Question: I feel like I can do spells with just myself, meditation, and making intentions. Is it necessary to cast a circle and ground yourself? What is the purpose if we’re continuously connected to nature and the Divine Feminine?
Answer: First off, I just want to say that you absolutely can do spells with meditation and intention. Your actions and your words are the basis of all your interactions every day, and these are spells in themselves. So while you can do spells by just meditating and setting an intention, it’s kind of like creating the base for a soup without adding any garnishes. What you have is still soup, and it may still be delicious, but if you added some herbs, fresh veggies, and spices, then it would be even better. Put this all in a container that can actually hold the weight and heat of the soup, and you’ll be able to eat it.
This is kind of like spell work. The broth and base are the intention and energy, the herbs and veggies are the extra correspondences you utilize, the container is the circle, and eating the soup is like releasing the energy.
Here’s the thing: There are spells where you don’t have to cast a circle. But when we’re working magick, most of the time we’re entering an altered state and space and then we’re raising energy. When we ground and cast a circle, we’re doing a few things. First off, we’re centering our energy and getting back into our bodies. When we ground, we’re altering our state of mind, shifting it from the part that we use in our day-to-day lives to that which we use in magick and ritual. Grounding is connecting to the earth while also marking an altered state of thinking and being; it’s setting the intention to work with magick. This not only gives us a more stable, integrated, and embodied base to work with, but it also points out that what’s about to happen is something different and special going on, telling our higher selves, the universe, and any beings or deities we’re working with that we’re preparing for something important.
Next, the circle isn’t only creating a boundary of protection between this world and the astral, but the circle is also a way for us to contain the energy we’re raising. At the end of the ritual, when we release the energy (usually in a cone of power) it’s almost explosive, like an orgasm! Not only does this circle protect us, but it helps us contain this energy until we choose to release it.
Yes, we’re connected to the divine feminine and the universe always, but we’re also connected to our phones, our computers, the internet, and many other people and things. When we intentionally enter a ritual or magickal space with the intention to just be connected to that, we’re entering as a blank canvas. I always suggesting grounding before any magickal work; not only will it help you feel better, but it will get you in a better space. I think circles are more case by case, but I would strongly recommend them for whenever you’re raising energy.
Question: How do you keep your head clear when you’re doing a spell?
Answer: BREATHE. Breathe and remember you’re not a monk and you don’t have to always be perfect to be valid. Listen, you’re not going to always keep your head clear. It can feel impossible! Instead of thinking about keeping your mind clear, think about keeping it focused. Sometimes we just need to take a deep breath, drop back into our sacral chakra, breathe some more, feel our connection to the ground and the earth and then continue on with our spell. Sometimes we need to just take one deep breath and refocus. Maybe you need to ring a bell, clap your hand, or grab your calcite for concentration. It may take a few times before you can snap back into it easily, but it will get easier. Instead of getting frustrated or angry at yourself for losing concentration, simply relax, acknowledge, and allow yourself to step back into the flow. Worse comes to worse, you close the circle, take a break and finish the spell later.
Question: What does it mean, or what should I do, if I strongly believe in magick, but when I see it happen I get scared?
Answer: When I was younger I did Tae Kwon Do (fun fact: I’m a black belt!), and one of the first things you learn once you get your yellow belt is how to break boards. I don’t remember what I felt before I broke my first board (I was like… eight years old) but I’m sure that after it happened for the first time I was frozen in shock and totally in disbelief.
Doing things for the first time is scary, and accomplishing things for the first time can feel even scarier. We’re scared of the unknown, and this is totally normal. For many of us who grew up in a household with organized religion, magick was a theoretical concept that never actually existed. Coming into your own as a witch means recognizing the power in yourself, in the universe and in what you don’t know. If you’re first seeing your power manifest, as a feeling, apparition or something else, it can feel like putting a candle out with your mind—it can be scary. The first thing to remember, however, is that you’re safe. To ensure this, you can set up a circle, and have protective crystals like onyx, tourmaline, and clear quartz around, and also call on any angels or guardians of protection that your ideals align with. Breathing into your feelings and allowing yourself to feel them without being overwhelmed by them is vital; acknowledge your feelings, but don’t invalidate them. Getting angry at yourself for being scared won’t help anything. Sometimes you just gotta be like, “Hey, well I’m scared as fuck but I’m safe. I’m here. I’m protected.” Then recognize your power; seeing it happen in front of you is the universe reminding you to stop doubting yourself. It should feel good, and validating, and remind you that this is real!
It may take you a while before you truly feel comfortable with your power or magick, and you may be scared of it at first, but that’s totally okay. Allow yourself to open up to it a tiny bit more each time and before you know it, you’ll be comfortable with your power and magick, ready to manifest in even bigger and better ways.