Recently, I’ve had a lot of bad luck. My cat got sick and after three different vets told me it was an allergy, I invested hundreds of dollars in specialty cat food. This made no difference to her scratching and over-grooming, so I got blood work and scans. These revealed nothing, according to the vets, and they told me not to worry. After months of hoping for an improvement and desperate to see my darling return to her normal self, she stopped eating and lost weight.
I took her to a new vet who took more bloodwork, and I was told my cat’s FIV was peaking and there was nothing more to do. They could put her down that day, or we could wait for her symptoms to get worse and put her down in a few weeks. This came as a gut-wrenching surprise. If you have pets or have ever had to put down a pet, you’ll know that this is the day you dread.
Losing my cat demolished me. Today, a month after the fact, I can’t even think about it without crying. The months leading up to her death were filled with doctor visits and medication and my grasping at straws, trying everything to help her. On the more mystical side, I built her an altar for health and lit it every day. I researched health spells and tried all of them. I made her a sigil box and activated the sigil routinely. I put moss agate in her bed and carried around four Star tarot cards, hoping beyond hope that something would work. There was no magical avenue I didn’t stumble and crash down.
The day she died, I came home and dismantled my altars. I put away my tarot cards. I looked miserably at all my tools and herbs and candles and felt rage that nothing had saved her. I threw everything away except for her sigil box because it contains fur I snipped from her tail. Sure, little things had gone my way in the past, but when it mattered, magic had failed me. I was done.
Interestingly, although medicine and the knowledge of these vets had failed, too, I didn’t blame that in the same way I blamed my craft. Even though these vets had misdiagnosed her, and taken over a thousand dollars from me in the process, I didn’t come home and throw away my medications or think, well, it’s time to start eating bacon and throwing back vodka with every meal because health care professionals clearly know nothing. No, the blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of witchcraft. I disconnected.
In the depressing weeks that followed, it left me without a foothold. My routine, both mundane and magical, had collapsed. What now?
Many witches use their talents to achieve balance and peace. They perform magic as a way of self-care, and witchcraft is an overall way of being for them. I confess, this is not me. When I whip out the candles and crystals, it’s because I’m looking for a specific result. I try to practice gratitude, but as far as just taking a magical bath for peace or performing spells for inner strength, no way. If I so much as lose an eyelash, I make sure that bugger has an intention. See, that was a guiding force — always wishing for something. For so long, that was the point of every magical thing I did: Keeping my little cat healthy. Without that, without wanting something, there was no point to practicing.
All that changed, though, and I want to share with you the ways I used to start looking at magic differently. If you’re going through a rough time and you feel like your craft is slipping away, there are ways to get it back.
Redefining Your Craft
If you only use magic as a tool for your own means, when you want nothing, magic becomes meaningless. If a spell fails, well, then you can become frustrated with your tool instead of thinking of this moment as an opportunity to learn. Instead of looking at magic as a weapon or a means to an end, try to think of it as a part of your whole being. Think of it existing with you, even if you’re not using it. Obviously, a lot of witches already do this, so this is for the ones who, like me, haven’t fully embraced it or are feeling less than enthusiastic about their crafts. Think of magic as a friend who stays with you. And how rude would it be to only call on your friend when you want something?
To expand on this idea of viewing magic as a companion rather than tool, there are ways you can work on strengthening your “relationship” even when not practicing spells. There are ways to feel witchy just for the joy of it.
1. Treat Yourself
It seems like there’s a simple solution to feeling cut off from your magic: just start practicing again. But if you’ve lost faith in yourself or you’re just not feeling it, this “simple” way can feel impossible. So instead of falling into a cycle of doubt, do something involving witchcraft that doesn’t involve spells at all. Go shopping!
Buy a wand or a new crystal, indulge in a fancy tarot deck or get a new book about witchcraft and pour over it. Instead of shopping online, go to your local metaphysical shop and immerse yourself in all the wonderful different ways you can practice. Buy some candles for your room and light them just for the aesthetic. Buy some big platform boots that would make Stevie Nicks proud. First, it’s fun. Second, exploring all the different accoutrement available to witches may be just the inspiration you need to start using your craft again.
2. Expand Your Mind
Maybe you’re stuck in a rut because the ways you’re using witchcraft don’t fit your personal style. Maybe you’re just starting out and you’re doing what everyone else is doing, and it’s nice, but it’s not you. Maybe you’ve grown tired of your craft or it’s just become stagnant.
In keeping with the idea that you can reconnect without practicing, I suggest reading about witchcraft and all the glorious forms it takes. Read about correspondences and compile your own lists for future reference. Find a topic you’re interested in but never had the time for and immerse yourself in it. Look at this down time in your normal practice as a sign that you need to try new things.
Find a witch buddy (easier said than done, I know, but they’re out there!) and just talk about witchcraft with them, share experiences, and trade successful spells. Clear out your workspace and start from scratch — learn all about altars and make one that suits the new you. Take notes and become a student again. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a branch of witchcraft that’s been waiting for you all along.
3. Make A Grimoire
Stationary time. If you’re like me, you have roughly… oh, 10 empty notebooks at any given time, just waiting for a purpose. Witches love handmade journals that are bursting with drawings, dried plants, and fancily scrawled spells written in splattery ink.
Creating a grimoire is another way to become engrossed in witchcraft again without practicing, while also giving you an outlet for creativity. Go for long walks and collect leaves and other natural elements to add to the book. All that research you did can find a home in your book of shadows and act as your personal reference source. All the spells you once loved can be written down and then decorated with petals and charms. Keep track of your sigils. Take pictures of your altar. Write all the meanings of Tarot cards and how you could use them in spells. Fill that notebook from cover to cover and see if by the end you aren’t itching to get back to the hands-on enjoyment of casting.
4. Magical Exercise
If you don’t like the idea of magic as a companion, try looking at it like a muscle instead — a muscle you need to use to keep strong. Start small. Make a sigil every day and keep the intention of that sigil simple: “Today I’ll find positive things to be grateful for.” If you’re not into sigils, then just assign a meaning to a candle and light it. Gather some protective herbs and sprinkle them by your front door.
The goal here is simplicity and small steps, to think about magic daily instead of using it for bigger purposes. You keep magic in your life and then, when you’re ready, it won’t feel as though you’re returning to it after an absence so much as just becoming more invested. It’s a way to take the pressure off yourself.
5. Create Reasonable Expectations
Can magic cure a beloved family pet with a terminal illness? No. Can it ease the pain and suffering that comes with grief? I think it can. The point is, magic is not a cure-all. It’s not bulletproof. When we don’t accept the limitations of witchcraft and magic, we can’t appreciate the things that are possible. We should be grateful for what is, and stop expecting wild miracles just because we want it so badly. Instead, celebrate your accomplishments and don’t cut off the witchy side of yourself just because a spell didn’t work. Re-evaluate, and if you must, set your sights just a little more realistically.
Even if you haven’t performed a spell in weeks, even if you’ve lost faith in yourself as a witch, this doesn’t mean you’re any less of one. Give yourself time to breathe and get back to that side of yourself organically. Like other parts of your personality, the witch part can go dormant at times, especially in tumultuous periods of your life. Just remember that it’ll be there waiting for you, whenever you’re ready.