What is magic? You may have even seen it written as magick. Is there a difference when the k is added at the end? That depends on the person you are talking to. Some people think of magic as sleight of hand tricks like a magician at a child’s birthday party. Those people are usually the ones who use magick as opposed to magic. They want to differentiate between the magick that they practice and seight of hand tricks. I just use the word magic without the k because I prefer it, but it really doesn’t matter.
The reason why magic vs. magick doesn’t matter is because magic is a mindset. It’s what you believe it is. Magic is manipulating your environment to get a desired outcome. But manipulation in this case is not bad. It’s taking what you have and transmuting it into what you want. Magic is neither bad nor good. It’s neither black nor white. It’s neither dark nor light. Magic just is. It’s what you make of it. If you don’t believe in magic then you aren’t magical. If you do believe, then you are.
Magical practitioners often use tools like crystals, herbs, oils, etc. to manipulate the situation or create an intention. But tools aren’t necessary and many practitioners use nothing at all. Magic isn’t a spell. It’s not an incantation, a ritual, or a charm. Magic is energy. Everything is energy, and magic is using your mind to change the frequency and vibration of energy.
You know how people use visualization to help themselves become better at whatever they are working at? Like a basketball player who struggles to make a goal but visualizes herself doing it until she succeeds? That’s magic! Or a person with low self esteem who repeats positive affirmations daily until she starts to believe good things about herself? That’s magic!
We create magic with our minds. We create what we think. It’s impossible to create positive things in our lives when all we think about is the negative. Likewise, it’s impossible to create negative when all we think about is the positive. Yes, bad things happen. That’s life. That’s not magic. Magic comes into play when you take what life gives you and change it into what you want.
It’s often not easy, and no one is successful 100% of the time, but everyone can create magic. If you think you can then you can. It’s all in your mind and what you think.
Earlier this week I posted a blog entitled A Jewitch Samhain. So, what exactly is a Jewitch? Basically it’s exactly what it sounds like: a Jewish witch. Yes, it’s possible to be a Jew and a witch. It’s possible to be a Christian and a witch. It’s possible to be a Buddhist and a witch. It’s possible to be any religion and a witch. This is where people ask but aren’t witches Wiccan? Some are. Wicca is a religion, witchcraft isn’t. Witchcraft is a path. It’s how you walk out and practice your religion- if you have a religion. Not all witches have a religion. Because witchcraft is a craft- a path- it can be practiced and followed right along with any religion, or no religion at all. There is not god or goddess of witchcraft. Those are aspects of religions. Some witches devote themselves to following a god or goddess, but that is part of their religion and they use witchcraft to help them in their religious devotion. So, all Wiccans are witches, but not all witches are Wiccan. I know. Mind blown for a lot of people.
Let me start by explaining what a witch is not. It’s 2018 and there is still a lot of stigma around the word witch. Witches don’t sell their souls to Satan and dance around naked in fields baying at the full moon. For the most part witches don’t even believe in Satan. Witches aren’t evil. Most witches aren’t out to get you, although there are some witches who practice dark magic and use it for the wrong reasons. That isn’t most witches, though. Witchcraft isn’t Satanism although I suppose there are some Satanic witches. Again, it boils down to most witches don’t even believe in Satan.
Before I go into what a witch is, let me tell you if I think of myself as one. Yes, I do. For a long time I was afraid to embrace the word because of the very connotations I mentioned above. I was afraid to say it for fear that someone would tell me I’m going to hell. I’m not afraid of someone telling me that in and of itself. I don’t believe in Satan, and I don’t believe in hell. But, I don’t like confrontation and I hate feeling like I have to explain myself. But, this world loves labels, and if I embrace the Judaism label, I need to embrace the witchcraft label as well.
Now, let me tell you what a witch is. I’m not going to use my own words, because I have come across a beautiful explanation that I feel is worthy of sharing. Several of my spiritual sisters have been sharing this on Facebook. I am not giving credit here (yet) because I’m not 100% positive which one wrote it. Once I confirm I will certainly give her credit. The remainder of this blog are her words.
A witch is a wise woman, a healer, a wortcunner (herbalist), a grandmother, a bonesetter, a mid-wife. She is a cunning woman — one who knows. She is a woman who understands the powers of the changing seasons and the phases of celestial bodies. She is the woman in your village who will come to your home when you are ailing with a cauldron of herbal tea and sit with her loving and healing hand on your back while you drink it.
A witch is part shaman, part psychologist. She understands not only how to choose the right root for the cure, but what must be healed at the root to make a person whole: a broken heart; an angry liver; lungs full of grief; etc.
These women honed their wisdom and craft not through some dark sorcery, but through quiet lives filled with careful study and communion with the natural world, and they passed down their wisdom in lineages that spanned millennia.
Witches not only facilitated wellness and healing, they advised and assisted in all aspects of life effected by the Turning of the Seasonal Wheel. They knew the right time to plant a seed and the particular moment to cut a leaf or harvest a root for optimum potency. They were effective, humble, and dedicated servants of their communities.
And what did they receive for this service? Gratitude? Accolades? Tragically, no.
For their service to humanity these wise healing women were killed by the millions. (Please read that word again: millions.)
They were tortured on racks, eviscerated, drawn and quartered, burned at the stake, boiled alive in pots, and drowned in rivers and in barrels. They were raped and defiled in ways no one should ever have to think about never mind experience. When they hung these poor women, they did so with a short rope because it was not enough just to kill them, they had to torture them first, and a short rope does not snap the neck, it strangles.
This is patriarchy; this is femicide; this is the destruction of the living legacy of the power of women at its most diabolical.
And the more powerful these women were, the more successful their healing graces, the better they served their communities, the greater the chance that they would be taken to the slaughter because success was seen as proof that they must have powers that “come from the devil.”
When things went wrong, they were also blamed. When a child failed to thrive, a cow quit giving milk, or when a person died despite the best efforts of a healing woman, people in their grief (and need for a scapegoat), and powerful men looking for an excuse to take them down, went after these women often burning their homes and taking their lives.
And that, is true evil, to use superstition and fear to crush powerful women to dust. Because, even to this day, a powerful woman, standing in her wisdom and strength is something that many will simply not abide.
As religions grew in power and as a male-only chemical based medical system came into dominance, the demonization and slaughter of these wortcunners, midwives and village healers became a genocide. So many died we will never know the full numbers. Because of their “evil” most were dumped in pauper’s graves and their families were left to mourn in isolation.
But today the goddess is rising and we witches are rising strong with her. Today women are beginning to come back to their rightful places of power and with them they bring circles instead of hierarchies. They bring not only cures, but deep healing. For in our creative and generative power, women stand in symbol and purpose as Mother Nature to all living things on our planet. I pray each day that together we guide a better world into being.
Today herbal medicine, methods of hands-on healing, biodynamic and organic farming —all the realms of witches— are becoming widespread again and women are leading the way.
But, you may ask, What of magick? Aren’t witches magick? And the answer is, Yes! Yes we are. Because magick is just another form of mindfulness. To know how to be still, to meditate, to listen to messages spoken by the wind, to hear the voice of a tender spring shoot, to feel the pulse and rhythm of life at its deepest levels: this is the magick of the witch. This is my magick and I feel it running deep in my courage bones every moment of my life.
Samhain. All Hallow’s Eve. Halloween. No matter what you call it, this is a sacred day. What began as a Celtic harvest festival evolved over time into a Christianized day prior to the day to honor saints and has since morphed into a secular day of parties and candy. I won’t go into the history of Samhain because you can find that online pretty easily. What I will talk about is why I, as a Jewish woman, celebrate Samhain.
Samhain (pronounced sow-win) and the two days after it (seriously- look up that history if you don’t already know it) are an auspicious time for honoring the dead. Most cultures throughout history have honored the dead and looked at their ancestors for guidance (you can look up the history of this as well).
Side note before I go further: I won’t get into religious dogma here but will point out that some religions do believe that talking to the dead, praying to the dead, etc. is taboo. Also, some people believe that if you borrow something from a culture you weren’t born into that you are appropriating the culture. I will say up front that cultural appropriation is a bad thing, but I don’t think most of what is labeled as cultural appropriation is really that. I think it has to do with intention. If you have no real knowledge of something and just think it’s cute and then practice a silly form of it, sure. That’s cultural appropriation. But, if you admire some aspect about a culture, study it, learn about it, and genuinely apply that to you own life, that’s flattery. After all, isn’t imitation the sincerest form of flattery?
Back to the point of this blog. Being born in the American South I was taught from a young age to respect my elders and that the elders are wise. This isn’t really all that different from many other places. As a Christian I was taught that once our elders die, that’s it. We learn from their lives but we move on. Once I began studying Judaism, that changed for me. In Judaism, elders play a big role, but so do our ancestors- you know- the ones who have already crossed over. In Judaism there is a holiday called Sukkot. Actually, it’s not a day, it’s 8 days. We really like to stretch our celebrations out! Sukkot is a harvest festival and a time to honor and commemorate our ancestors. We build a little hut in our yard- called a sukkah- and we eat meals in there and sometimes even invite our ancestors to join us.
Anyway, this isn’t a blog about Sukkot. It’s a blog about Samhain. Since Judaism already has a holiday that celebrates the harvest and honors ancestors, why do I need Samhain? Well, I don’t need it per se. I can live without it just fine. I choose to honor Samhain because I choose to honor my ancestors for a season instead of a week. My ancestors are the people who came before me, who created me, and even though my spirituality is not what theirs was, I would not be here without my ancestors. So I choose to honor them for a season. I welcome them into my sukkah and I commune with them through Samhain. I can’t physically be with my ancestors anymore, so I spend time with them spiritually- for a season- and reflect on all that they have given me.
Babies. They get me every time. I always wanted babies- even when I said I didn’t I secretly did. I don’t have any children. I see my friends having babies and I’m genuinely happy for them. But, I have to admit that I’m just a wee bit envious as well.
When we are children we all have a vision of what we want our adult lives to be like. Here is how my vision went: I would be thin and beautiful. I would have tons of friends and be in a sorority in college. I would graduate college and become a teacher. I would meet the love of my life and get married. We would have two children: a boy and a girl in that order. We would have a dog and a cat and live in the suburbs in a house with a white picket fence. Our children would be well behaved and loving children. We would continue to have tons of friends and socialize all the time. We would grow old together and have at least 50 years of wedded bliss before my husband passed away with me soon following from a broken lonely heart. Seriously. That was my life plan when I was ten.
So, at 38 years old, how much of that has actually come to pass? Let’s see. I’m not thin, but I am beautiful. I struggle with that sometimes, but ultimately I do think I’m beautiful. I’m not a social person by nature. Well, let me rephrase that. I am a very social person but I’m also extremely shy. I don’t make friends easily, and as a result I have very few friends. I have tons of acquaintances, but very few friends. I was in a sorority in college, and am a firm believer that sisterhood is for life. I was a teacher, but not straight out of college. It took 12 years after college before I became a teacher. And guess what. I HATED it. Literally, couldn’t stand it and left the profession after three miserable years. I am married, but this is my third marriage, and I seriously doubt we will be growing old together. He happens to be 24 years older than me, so he likely will die before I do. I just hope I don’t follow soon after. Sorry ten year old self. You will thank me for that one. My second husband passed away. He was six years younger than me, and passed away. That’s life and it happens. We die. But back to my rehash of how my childhood life plan turned out. Like I said, I don’t have those 2 children. I do have a dog, but no cat. So, out of a life plan that consisted of 15-20 points only 2.5 of those came to pass.
If you judge the success of your life based on how things line up with a childhood plan then my life is a miserable failure. And I will admit that I sometimes struggle and think that. When I stumble across old childhood friends on Facebook and see how their lives turned out it sometimes makes me sad to think I wanted that life but didn’t get it. But I try really hard not to dwell on that. I remind myself of the beautiful life that I do have.
The life I envisioned for myself was a childish fantasy. That’s not to say that people who are living that life are childish. Not by a long shot. But see, that life was not for me. My guides have a higher calling for me than to live that life. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but there is something in store for me that is so beyond that life that I can’t even imagine it. If I had gotten my fantasy adult life there is something out there that I would miss out on. You see, my life is magical. You heard it. Magical. I’m 38 and on my third marriage. My husband is a disabled senior citizen. I work full time, but it’s in a field I love. While it’s not an easy job I love it. And, I’m also cultivating this magical corner of the universe.
My childhood life plan was not the life of my authentic self. And that’s the key to remember. That fantasy was based on the me that I thought I needed to be, the me I tried so hard and so long to be. I tried to be popular and was not. I tried to be a Christian, and I’m not. I lived so many years of my life trying to fit the mold that I was raised to be. And i have nothing but love for my family, but that life is not me. I have finally embraced the authentic me. And I am happy. I am happy because I can be who I am here to be and I can accomplish whatever it is that I am here to accomplish. I have a loving husband who supports me. He doesn’t understand my path completely, but he supports me on that path. And for all of this I have to say that I am beyond happy. I am content.
So, no. Sometimes we don’t get the life we always wanted. But we get the life we need. We get the life we are meant to live. Those of us who are living what others consider to be a failed life can remember that we have not failed. Our lives are full of destiny and a lot of magic.
The new moon is an auspicious time for many religions and philosophies. In Judaism, it is the beginning of a new month as Judaism follows a lunar calendar. In philosophies that practice magic the moon phases help determine the most effective time to work for specific intentions.
As a Jewish woman who practices magic, the moon phases play an important role in my practice. The new moon is specially auspicious for me. The new moon is the head of the month- known in Hebrew as Rosh Chodesh. It has traditionally been considered a holiday for women. If you want a deeper understanding of the role of the new moon in the Jewish calendar you can find that information here.
Customs for celebrating the new moon vary according to religious traditions. Personally, I like to meld various observances from different practices. This is my style for pretty much any holy day that I celebrate. On Rosh Chodesh my ritual includes time meditating on new beginnings. I also set intentions for working magic in regards to things I want to increase in my life. I also spend time reading scripture and in prayer. I love practicing ritual with others, and Rosh Chodesh holds a deeper meaning for me when I am able to celebrate with other women. I enjoy hosting women for new moon ritual and serving them at this special time.