“Are you a witch?”

I don’t know if anyone has ever directly asked me this question, but they skirt around it pretty neatly.

The tl;dr answer is yes.

I can’t really tell you when it happened, but I definitely know why. I found Buddhism first, in December 2011, and it probably wasn’t until after college that I started exploring other things. Growing up, one of my best friends was Wiccan, and he devoured any and every book he could get his hands on. It sounded interesting to me, but I was too flaky and angry at Christianity to try investigating something else at that age. But, after settling into a new routine with Buddhism, and really starting to discover my lost faith because of ideas like reincarnation and kindness to all living beings, I was pretty much open to anything.

It was a slow thing, still. One of my best friends (that I met in college) did things like set her hand fondly on a tree or whisper thanks to bees whenever I came to visit her. When she moved out of her parents’ house, she started actively talking about her garden and the possibility of becoming a beekeeper. We visited each other a few times a year, but nothing crazy. Mostly, she’d come with my family on our annual Old Orchard Beach trip, or I’d go up there during the summer or winter to frolic around.

It took a while for something else to begin, but, and it makes sense now looking back, it began because of yoga.

Pretty much any studio you go into is going to have crystals somewhere. And crystals are shiny and pretty, so I wanted some for myself. The best place to go was Village Silversmith, so when Erin next visited during my teacher training, I proposed the idea of going to Salem.

The rest fell together pretty organically. Anytime she visited, we went to Salem. At first, I would just shop in Village Silversmith (and Etsy when she wasn’t there), but, eventually, we started poking our heads into Coven’s Cottage, as well. I loved the look of all those dried herbs everywhere, and I was starting to think maybe I’d like a few.

We also went to Rockport, where they had an abundance of Asian shops, so I could find plenty of Buddhist statues and icons for my altar. It had become a sprawling thing, and it was no longer confined to one specific spot in my room. Instead, it was starting to unravel all across my bookshelves.

We started visiting the beach more often, we chased the moon, and we talked late into the night about the possibility of magic. When I visited her, we played in the woods, we pored over books for hours, handing them back and forth, and something began to shift inside me.

Again, it’s no surprise to me what happened next. In December 2016, I finally said goodbye to a novel I’d been working on for over a decade and tried something new. I wrote the first draft of Mason’s novel in eighteen days. It was like something had been cut loose inside of me, and I could not stop. His story was just supposed to be about faeries, but it quickly became about plants, tea, tarot, crystals, and magic. When I was done, I wanted more.

I wanted my room to look like Madhouse, the tea shop Mason owns, overflowing with plants and stuffed to the gills with dried herbs hanging from the ceiling. I wanted crystals scattered across every surface, and I wanted to read tarot for fun, not just because it seemed like something I should do.

And so, I got to work. I started rewriting Mason, working his story into something more. I worked every day for months until, in April, something unexpected happened. My best friend, who had grown up practicing Wicca, who had been by my side for twelve years, had been cutting little hurts into my heart over the past couple of years, and I tried to confront him, to explain why I was being hurt, to see how we could mend this hole widening between us.

In response, he said, “I hate you. I hate your writing. You’re a terrible friend, and a worse writer, and I never want to speak to you again.”

I decided that I was done. I put Mason away. I turned to reading. And I intended to never write again.

But it’s a funny thing, magic. It doesn’t ever really let go of you. It would take a few months, but that summer, when Erin came down to visit, we went to the beach, sat on the rocks, and stared out at the waves. “I want to write again,” I whispered.

“What about?” she asked.

“Magic. And teenage boys.”

“Do it,” she said, so I did.

The Pen boys was every feeling I was feeling poured into 180k words. It was also every bit of magic that my soul was yearning for. It was tarot cards, crystals, and intuition. It was energy, elements, and spirit work. It was yoga, reiki, and baking. It was connection.

If you asked me now why I identify as a witch, I would tell you it’s because of the connection. Not just to the universe around us, but to the people that also celebrate magic. Witchcraft is the most inclusive thing in the world, and I always feel welcomed by fellow witches. I came for the tarot and the crystals, but I stayed for the people.

Pretty quickly, Erin & my adventures changed. We visited Salem and the beach more often. We loitered in Coven’s Cottage as often as possible. We bought everything in sight in Village Silversmith. We started frequenting Jolie Tea. We wandered the Wharf, we clambered over rocks on Wingaersheek, and we howled at the moon.

I wasn’t calling it witchcraft yet, but that’s what it was, and that’s definitely what it is now.

So, you ask, “Are you a witch?”

Yes. I don’t have a single definitive answer of what that means, but at its very core, witchcraft is this–respect each other and the planet. At its core, that’s what Buddhism is, too. And so, for me, both make sense. I’m a witch. I also practice Tibetan Buddhism. I teach yoga. I use crystals, and I read tarot for myself and for others. I spray lavender onto my pillow, and I dab peppermint behind my ears. I wear mala beads and planet rings. I traipse into the woods at night, and I leave small spells. I pilfer my kitchen cabinets for ingredients. I read every book I can get my hands on. I burn candles. I hang dried herbs from my ceiling. I cover every available surface with pothos plants until my room looks like a jungle. I am a witch, and all of these things are because of that, and none of these things are because of that.

I know why the question gets asked in this shadowy, uncertain way, though. There’s a stigma surrounding it. People think I worship the devil. They see a pentagram, and they assume I’m summoning demons or something. (Spoiler: pentagrams are literally about the five elements.) They assume I wear all black and sacrifice things. And while none of that is true for me, none of it’s bad ever. (Except sacrificing things, don’t do that, ya psycho.) The devil’s a pretty chill dude, and Satanism is a lot more accepting than most religions.

Really, what I’m hoping for, is that the next time someone asks me if I’m a witch, they don’t whisper it. Ask me loudly. The answer is yes.

Okay, because this is a book blog, of course we have some recs! These are a combination of fiction & nonfiction, and they’re all my favorite witch-centric books.

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Duh, you knew this was going to be the first book on the list, and if you didn’t, you haven’t been paying attention. The Holy Wild by Danielle Dulsky changed my life, and I don’t mean that in anything but a completely serious way. I read it in January 2018, and I still think about it constantly. I haven’t read Woman Most Wild yet, but you can bet I’m freaking out about Seasons of Moon & Flame coming out next month. This is, hands down, one of the most powerful books I’ve ever read.

Why you should read it: deep look at each of the elements & how they affect us, how we affect them, and how we can hone our communal existence with them

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I could have easily chosen Shea Ernshaw’s new book, Winterwood, for this, but I haven’t talked about The Wicked Deep in a while, and I’m trying to scream about both equally, so hi, here we are! Ernshaw’s writing is absolutely gorgeous on its own, but combine that with powerful storytelling and incredible characters, and damn okay.

Why you should read it: tangles an ancient story of murdered witches with a modern island setting, WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN

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I read Waking the Witch by Pam Grossman last year, and I’m so mad at myself because I finished it right after she was in MA, so I missed seeing her by literally a day. It’s an excellent, modern take on witchcraft and how to weave it into your daily life, and the body monsters chapter is going to make me want to rage for the rest of my life. (In a good way.)

Why you should read it: powerful & inclusive about what it means to be a womxn in today’s society, and how we can counter that patriarchal bullshit with divine feminine magic

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I rec’d Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno to so many people after reading it that I’m not even sure who ended up reading it. It does need a tw for rape, but the way that’s discussed is done in a gentle and fierce way. It’s not swept under the rug even a little bit, but it’s also not aired out like dirty laundry. This book is alllllllll about women supporting women, and I am here for it.

Why you should read it: sapphic, healthy sisters dynamic, kickass magic set on an island

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I know people have a lot of issues with Edain McCoy, and I understand and respect those issues. I’ve struggled to find another book that discusses all of the Sabbats in one instead of requiring me to buy a book for each Sabbat, and I appreciate the information that’s in Sabbats: A Witch’s Approach to Living the Old Ways. I do not support McCoy’s blatant theft of other people’s work, so if someone has a rec for me that’s better than this book, send it on over! Until then, this was a lot of information that I didn’t have contained in an easy to access way.

Why you should read it: comprehensive look at the Sabbats, traditions surrounding them, and how to practice them in your daily life

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Witchtown by Cory Putman Oakes is one of those silly books that I was going to love no matter what, and I won’t be stopped. I love that it kind of took itself seriously, but mostly not, because I feel like we’ve taken modern witch culture way too far, and we need to back it up and remember to have fun sometimes. Still, this book is excellent and leans hard into the aesthetic of witchcraft.

Why you should read it: excellent plot twists, discusses cults & the occult without making it seem like they go hand-in-hand, super fun modern witch aesthetic

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Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popović is worth it for the language alone. It’s very purple prose, so if that grates on your nerves, run away, but if you’re looking for a story overflowing with descriptions of clothes, food, sumptuous displays of magic, and seaside small town landscapes, this is for you. The magic in this is like nothing I’ve ever read before, and I felt like lazing about on a sunny cliff in Greece once I was done.

Why you should read it: SO MUCH MAGIC, LITERALLY EVERY PAGE HAS MAGIC

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Nothing could have stopped me from immediately running out to buy Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft as soon as I heard about it. I’m going to list all the authors because I don’t think there was a story I didn’t wholly love: Brandy Colbert, Zoraida Córdova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, Elizabeth May, Anna-Marie McLemore, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Tess Sharpe, Lindsay Smith, Jessica Spotswood, Nova Ren Suma, Robin Talley, Shveta Thakrar, Brenna Yovanoff. This has every single type of witch story you could possible hope for.

Why you should read it: witches across gender/orientation/age/cultural spectrums, and so well done, plus a lot of #ownvoices

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Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive by Kristen J. Sollee came into my life exactly when I needed it. I’d just read a really terrible book similar to it that was the opposite of progressive & inclusive, and Sollee came in swinging. Her mission is to take back the words witch, slut, and feminist, to invoke power in every single being that identifies as a womxn, and to create a community of hope and respect. It’s powerful, it’s in your face, and it will not let anyone ignore it.

Why you should read it: there’s so much positivity & hope crammed into these pages, and they’re shouted loudly from the rooftops

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Perhaps one of my favorites on this list, Becoming Dangerous is a book of essays written by witches all across the world and what magic & ritual means to them. Again, a list of the authors: Leigh Alexander, Sim Bajwa, Marguerite Bennett, Kim Boekbinder, Deb Chachra, Sara David, Avery Edison, Cara Ellison, Maranda Elizabeth, Katelan Foisy, Catherine Hernandez, Gabriela Herstik, merritt k, Nora Khan, Sam Maggs, Laura Mandanas, J. A. Micheline, Larissa Pham, Mey Rude, Sophie Saint Thomas, Meredith Yayanos.

Why you should read it: inclusive & very diverse, magic & ritual means something different to every single person, and this explores that


And that is a wrap! A little bit of history, a little bit of book rec, which seems pretty standard for these types of posts now. I’m curious, though:

Are you enjoying these discussion posts lately?

Let me know in the comments below! If you have any kind of thoughts, topics you want me to tackle, etc., I want to know about it!

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Mary RYT 200 Tibetan Buddhism Gryffindor Part-time witch, full-time novelist. Lover of words, planets, dragons, and mountains.

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