The modern casual witch often relies less on handed-down rituals, covens, or traditional forms of witchcraft than many traditional witches. Instead they are accomplished in do-it-yourself research and synergizing different or sometimes disparate traditions. Assisting them, the internet has brought about a renaissance in the way we perform witchcraft in private and public practice. No longer do we rely solely on books purchased discretely from new age bookstores, mail-order courses, handed-down rituals, or paths such as the OTO or Golden Dawn. Instead there is a breadth and depth to our access to guidance, knowledge, and materials that in contrast to twenty years ago is almost staggering. As such, the casual witch finds new ways to forge a spiritual practice, fitting it around their schedule, their lives, and their worlds.
Most modern Western ritual witchcraft traditions have their origin in the Victorian era, with the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis, and Aleister Crowley as influencers, to name a few. Gerald Gardner followed in their footsteps to found Wicca in the 1950s.
For about twenty years, this was the status quo in paganism. The 1970s saw the first transition from the secret society model of paganism to a more varied, eclectic model. This is where we see Budapest’s Dianic Wicca and similar traditions spring up, influenced by feminism as well as environmentalism and social justice concerns of the era. This time also witnesses the rise of Asatru in Iceland and America along with other, similar paths.
From that point onward, paganism (especially in America) blossomed into thousands of paths and movements and witches became increasingly eclectic. These varied witchcrafts borrowed or outright appropriated other traditions, including Native American Shamanism (or what some practitioners assumed were Native American), Voodoo/Hoodoo, Santeria, and other non-European practices. The more interesting witchcrafts came up with new ideas, finding inspiration in city magic, graffiti, technology, and the artifacts of the modern era.
This eclecticism didn’t come into its own, however, until the age of the Internet, and witchcraft has never been the same since. It has turned in a glorious bubbling cauldron of distinct practices and paths that all still manage to have enough similarities so as to be easily recognizable as witchcraft.
Forging forward, modern witches are as diverse and as knowledgeable as ever before. There are thousands of resources available to the discerning witch on just about every topic of interest (many of which are on Amazon). We no longer have to rely on small covens or mail-order books. Solitary practice doesn’t have to be as solitary any more.
But with this level of accessibility, the “storebought” of our era, how do we honor our own traditions while being respectful of other paths? Buffet-style paganism is a model that many people use, but is it always appropriate to pick and choose from the traditions out there without consideration for their legacy and culture? There is a hazard here of our spiritual practice becoming too shallow and too superficial.
One of the main hazards of superficiality in our witchcraft is insensitivity to the surrounding culture of other witchcraft traditions. As with any Colonial (and primarily White) dominated field, it is often easy to overlook the history and legacy of non-Western traditions. When we fail to appropriately attribute or respect the contribution of other cultures by picking and choosing what we find to be the most interesting, we can lose sight of the purpose of such magic.
That being said, many modern witches avoid this problem entirely by forging new practices, spells, and rituals. The casual witch doesn’t have to rely on the rituals of the past, or cultures not their own, but rather draws power from their own inspiration and spiritual guidance. While ritual can be useful and important for deepening our understanding of the underlying spiritual underpinnings of the universe, there is also a place in our world for the intuitive witchcraft that so many witches are making their own in the modern era. Casual witches perform makeup magic, pin images and spells, and buy their supplies online.
Following this path of intuitive witchcraft, the casual witch uses what they have at hand to focus their intentions. We use the spirit of magic, rather than the law of magic to craft changes in the world. In every sense of the term, store-bought is fine.
Featured image: Richard Bush for i-D Magazine
Clifton, Chas S. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America. Alta Mira Press, 2006.
Hutton, Ronald. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft. Oxford University Press, 1999.
Magliocco, Sabina. Witching Culture: Folklore and Neo-Paganism in America. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004.
Penczak, Christopher. City Magick: Urban Rituals, Spells, and Shamanism. Weiser Books, 2001.