Thursday, April 20, 2017

Witch’s Work using the Powers of the Witch

In my particular coven, we have what is called “witch’s work.” This is the stuff within ourselves on which we must work to become better people and more powerful witches - to really evolve our spirits so we can move to the next chapter in the improvement of our spirit.

I don’t know if all covens teach about witch’s work, though I suspect not. I was taught that all covens teach it (or maybe should). But most of the Wiccan covens I’ve encountered are not concerned with any ultimate end goal for their existence here. Some of them show a morality that is merely borrowed from Christianity, or no morality at all. At best, they simply go about their lives like pagan robots, accepting only the techniques and teachings of a favorite author, not fully understanding that there is a larger goal and a story that transcends just the here-and-now.

How does one know what one’s work is? I was taught that a clue comes from one’s astrological natal chart. My experience is that this merely scratches the surface of what the work might be. It is simply the shadow cast on the wall by a very complex and deep problem requiring handling. The best way to know what is one’s witch’s work is to look at one’s fears.

Fearing the Past

Fear is a funny thing (funny-weird, not funny-haha). It has built into it the desire to turn away from it, yet it is the very thing at which we must look to understand how to propel our spirits forward. Any time there is something about your life that you fear, you are receiving a clue that the issue needs some attention. So fear is a scab – a kind of bandage – that prevents us from seeing or even knowing that we have a wound.

This doesn’t mean that because you fear death, you should experiment with killing people or yourself. I don’t mean that everything you fear is a life lesson. Fear’s job is to be a warning that something you face in the environment may hurt you, so fear has a place and should be respected as a useful tool. Instead, I mean that those parts of your inner self about which you are inflexible, intolerant, and resistant, may be the very parts of yourself at which you should look for a deeper understanding about your inner nature, or what needs some attention. The most useful manifestation of fear at which we should pay attention for clues into necessary change is embarrassment. It is the condition you feel when your self-worth has been completely destroyed. When you are embarrassed about something, it’s because you fear the judging and belittling thoughts you believe others think about you. Most of the time, your belief is based on speculation, rather than true knowing. Your inner power becomes completely destroyed when you are embarrassed because you believe the speculations.

If you are someone who fears commitment, you should dive into those parts of yourself. If you fear success or learning, you should dive into understanding why. If you fear being alone or crave control over others, you should pay extra attention to the part of yourself from where those desires come and why they exist in you.

I once had a teacher that seemed to have a problem defining his identity. He was someone hungry for power, which I suspect was what brought him to Wicca. In Wicca, one can simply do the rituals for a few years to get one’s elevation to be a High Priest. This happens because spiritual lessons are tough to prove that they have been successfully learned. No one wants to call out someone as the person who can’t do witchcraft, because proving the claim is nearly impossible. As long as a witch can lead a circle well, he tends to be elevated, even if he can’t do any of the “powers of the witch.” (I digress; more on these later.) My point is that my “teacher” had no idea that he was a megalomaniac and had even less inclination that he should work on that part of himself to be a better person.

The witch’s work exists within each of us because of our life experiences. We are the product of the experiences of our pasts. We get hurt and so we begin to fear commitment; we get approval for our learning and so we begin to crave knowledge. Everything that happens to us helps to shape who we are. But often those experiences teach us behaviors that are not healthy or helpful. They can be obsessive, avoiding, or oppressive over others. Basically, our experiences help to create baggage.


The Greek Philosophers said, “Know thyself.” This axiom has been the foundation of countless spiritual movements throughout the Western Mystery Schools. The entirety of the New Age and New Thought movements are based on this axiom, buried somewhere in their deep foundations. Yet it is the first axiom forgotten when it comes time to do the witch’s work.

When a witch knows his inner self, he knows all of his dark faces. He has put names to the parts of himself that makes him afraid. He knows that he is inclined to crave power, or solitude, or love, and he knows why each of those cravings exist. He has faced those damaging experiences that helped to create those conditions in his personality. More so, he has freed himself from the power that those past experiences have over his current self. The past no longer influences his decisions of the present, so his decisions are based on what is actual, rather than on the inaccurate perceptions of the world he thinks he remembers.

By contrast, most who are not doing the work simply have no idea that the past created these conditions in their personality. They are not guilty of failing to handle the baggage that is the source of their fear. Instead they simply assume that they are free of baggage, so they believe there is no work they need to do.

Here’s a hint: being in this material world is all about becoming a better you, with new lessons every day. School won’t end until you’re dead, with the experience of your own death being the final lesson. So if you think you’ve learned all the lessons of this life and can just spend the rest of it coasting along as a powerful witch, you are just plain wrong. Stop fooling yourself and get back to class.

The Witch’s Classroom

Wiccan Tradition has perpetuated a list of witch powers. These are powers that can play two roles in the evolution of a witch. The first happens when one or more powers are pre-existing in a mild form. They can be clues to a person that one is a witch at all. This is not an exclusively witchcraft kind of thing; the truth is that anyone has the ability to develop all of these powers. However, everyone has a few powers that are more difficult to develop and a few that are easier to develop. Yet many witches can mark at least one of these powers as the one that blossomed in them to such a degree that they became called to study witchcraft.

The second role that the powers of the witch play is to function like a crucible, burning away the parts of our personality that limit us. The efforts through which we go in our studies of the powers of the witch help to refine our spirits. This happens because there is something built into these powers that exercise all of the intuitive parts of the human spirit. As we work with the intuitive, we are brought face to face with the parts of ourselves with which we are not comfortable. As we exercise each of our inner qualities, they get stronger, which makes each of our inner qualities better. Yet the powers of the witch will effect no change if one simply assumes that one’s work is done and so stops trying. As with any system, “the system works, if you work it.”

The best public source for the witch's powers comes from Charles Godfrey Leland’s 1890 work, Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches. Here is the list of powers as Leland presented it. I will elaborate on each one.

1. To bless or curse with power, friends or enemies
This power deals with the ability to cast spells. As this is not a treatise on the nature of spell work, I will not provide details, but suffice it to state that spell work is the ability to cause positive or negative events to occur in others’ lives through the effort of sheer will.
2. To converse with spirits
This power deals with the ability to be clairaudient. The witch is capable of sensing, which is more so a mental sense, the thoughts of non-corporeal beings. These could be spirits that were formerly alive or environmental spirits that never had a body.
3. To find hidden treasures in ancient ruins
This is the power of dowsing. It can be done using dowsing rods, pendulums or other divinatory methods that point to locations. The “treasures” mentioned here are not necessarily of monetary value.
4. To conjure the spirits of priests who died leaving treasures
The “conjure” used here denotes this power as being very different from #2. This is the power to cause a spirit of a previously living being to create a physical manifestation, usually in smoke, or to perceive the spirit (clairvoyance), to pass along knowledge. In common parlance, this power is called “necromancy.”
5. To understand the voice of the wind
This is the power to interpret the impending weather. It is not “weather magic” as many believe. Weather magic is actually a product of #1, for as you bring positive events into your own life, you bring the weather that is best for you. Instead, this power is simply a knowledge of what the weather will be before it happens, through the observation of patterns. Basically, it is a kind of meteorologic forecast, but using experience instead of scientific sensors.
6. To change water into wine
Many incorrectly call this power “transmutation” and it would seem that it is an application of alchemy. In fact, it is the ability to cause “intoxication” from water, usually by the addition of the correct entheogenic plants, or through the process of fermentation. This power is an extension of shamanism and herbalism.
7. To divine with cards
One of the forms of divination, this is the power of understanding the unseen using a common, mundane tool. Cards are only one of many possible tools.
8. To know the secrets of the hand
Better known as “palmistry,” this is the power to understand a person’s inner nature by reading the lines on the palm. By understanding one’s nature, a witch can also predict likely futures. This latter ability is what turns a rather academic study of palm lines and bumps into an intuitive and very magickal art.
9. To cure diseases
This power is an application of herbalism, but also of energetic healing such as reiki and shamanism. It deals with any power that takes away disease, including the disease of the emotions and the mind.
10. To make those who are ugly, beautiful
This power is also called “glamoury” and is part of love magic. It is the power to manipulate the perceptions of onlookers in any way that succeeds. It can be achieved by changing the physical using make-up and clothing, modifying perceptions of character, or spells that modify the situation to produce favorable conditions for love. It is not a power that causes love where there was no chance of it happening. It creates the most fertile possible garden for love.
11. To tame wild beasts
This is the power to learn and understand the communication and behavior patterns of animals so that they work for the witch, rather than in opposition to him or simply ignorant of him. Examples of this can be seen in the efforts of popular trainers such as the dog, horse or cat whisperers. But this power goes more deeply because it incorporates the witch’s understanding of the spiritual role those animals play in the larger web of which we are all a part.

EDIT (21 April 2017): Many people think this list is incomplete. They claim that the witch has 13 powers, not 11. This comes from the popular poem listing 13 powers, which was an expansion of Leland's list and published in 2003 by Silver Ravenwolf in her book Solitary Witch. It is a wonderful poem and adds powers like astrology and weather magic. Certainly, these are powers that witches use. Any intuitive power that a witch exercises will help them to evolve the spirit. That poem is the first time that the witch's powers were represented as a kind of witch-dowry that can be passed on in ritual, somewhat the way reiki attunements are transferred.

Goal Oriented

Some people also wonder why the list doesn't cite the powers that they hear about in movies or the pop culture of witches, like psychokinesis or astral projection. The list seems incomplete because many people don't realize that this is not so much a list of powers, as it is a list of goals. Witches don’t do anything unless there is an end goal in mind, whether that be healing, causing love to bloom, finding information, or whatever. Most of the “powers” that people think should be on this list are just other methods to accomplish one of the listed goals. Getting good at astral projection seems like a nice idea, but what good is it if you aren’t using it for a reason. Projection for the sake of projecting is a useless endeavor, other than the experience it provides to you.

The ultimate goal of this existence is to learn power to be helpful. As witches move through the effort to learn each of these powers, we become better and more helpful people. It is the goal of the witch - of anyone in a village - to serve his people. Throughout the history of mankind, the powerful in a tribe became healers and helpers, because they knew that everyone had a role to play to help humanity survive this wild material plane.

Many witches will tell you that anyone who tries to use his powers to harm his people will find his powers robbed from him. The paradox of power is that it is actually just a loan of experiences from the universe. If you abuse it, you will lose it.