Today, I spent most of my morning outdoors, prepping my garden plots by removing all of the weeds I had allowed to grow up over the Winter. As I was digging up clumps of clover and unwanted grasses I began a bit of internal debate with myself. Was my mucking around in the dirt an act of Witchcraft or the act of a poor suburban gardner?
I like playing with dirt, but I’d never pretend to be a great horticulturalist. Most years I grow hot peppers, tomatoes, sunflowers, and pumpkins, and none of it particularly well. But as I was scattering pumpkin seeds on the ground I could envision myself lighting jack-o-lanterns on Samhain as a way to summon the spirits of my beloved dead, and as I transplanted some rogue sunflowers into the ground I saw my coven working with their seeds at the Autumn Equinox, growing change in our lives and celebrating the gifts of the Earth. This year I plan to turn half of my garden into a home for various flowers, and I can already see my blooms on my coven’s altar come Lammas.
These thoughts led me to determine that all of my sweat this morning was in the pursuit of Witchcraft. My little garden patches are a way of connecting with the land beneath my feet and the turn of the seasons. I realize that by growing pumpkins and sunflowers I’m grafting a Midwest aesthetic to my Silicon Valley backyard, but those two particular plants bring me such joy (and magick!) that I think the extra water I lavish on them is probably worth it.
I’ve always found it difficult to quantify just what exactly an “act of Witchcraft” might be. I know some people equate every magickal practice under the sun and moon with Witchcraft, but I’ve never felt comfortable with that. Just because my Christian neighbor down the street is doing a spell, she doesn’t suddenly become a Witch. All sorts of people from all sorts of religious and spiritual traditions over the centuries have practiced magick. If someone identifies as a Baptist and does spell-work, they are still a Baptist. And there are lots of magickal traditions out there whose practitioners do not call themselves Witches, and because of that we shouldn’t either. (Let’s ask people how they wish to identify, or even better, listen when they tell us!)
For me “an act of Witchcraft” is one that brings me closer to the things I value in my spiritual life. In that sense gardening becomes an act of Witchcraft because it brings me closer to the Earth and the turn of the seasons. The simple act of putting a picture of my deceased grandparents up in my living room is an act of Witchcraft because it tells their spirits that they are welcome in my house and helps me to connect with them. As I write this my office smells of copal because I’ve been burning it in honor and as an offering to one of my favorite goddesses. That devotional act is most certainly an act of Witchcraft.Over the course of a day I probably engage in over a dozen little acts that might, by my definition in this article, be considered an act of Witchcraft. I run two miles or so every other morning and this time of year I can’t help but stop and literally smell the roses. Everything is in bloom right now and getting hit in the olfactory nerves by the beautiful fertile Earth nearly stops me in my tracks. In that moment I find myself connected to something larger and greater than myself. It’s the same sort of connection I feel during ritual, and to me it feels like an act of Witchcraft.
Now not everything that simply makes me happy is an act of Witchcraft. Listening to Redbone (Come and Get Your Love) is not an act of Witchcraft, though I can’t help but sway and dance a little bit as I type because of it. And I don’t think reading books and blogs are acts of Witchcraft, though if one closes the book they are reading and then puts what they’ve learned into practice it can then be transformed into an act of Witchcraft.
Witchcraft connects me to my chosen family, those I’ve lost, and the deities and powers that are a constant presence in my life. Witchcraft connects me to the natural world, the changing seasons, and the spirits and fey that live in my backyard (and beyond). Witchcraft connects me to magickal currents both past and present, and anytime I engage in any act that acknowledges or celebrates these things I’m committing an act of Witchcraft.
My Craft does not demand bold gestures, Witchy photo-ops, or that I proclaim “I’m a Witch!” as loudly as I can. (Though there’s nothing wrong with those things, we all practice differently.) I feel closest to my Craft in ritual and in those smaller moments that directly connect me to things greater than myself.