Every now and then, I find it useful to examine my path as a Witch. Refresh my memory on how I got to this place in my practice. Many books influenced my beliefs but the one which gave me a solid foundation included the Thirteen Goals of a Witch. Penned by Scott Cunningham in Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner, this influential list has become the bedrock of how I live and work as a Witch. Therefore, I thought I’d take some time to look at these essential tenets which for me have become so ingrained.
Before I list the goals, and my understanding of them, I’d like to share how Scott’s book became an intregal part of my path which still influences me. Because I know for many practitioners today, Scott Cunningham is not popular. He was a hippie, too “soft”, or is no longer relevant for current solitary practitioners. Hearing this makes me sad because while I do not identify as a Wiccan, Cunningham’s approach to nature and magick resonates. For me, his writing stands the test of time, even though I have not adopted everything he espoused.
My first introduction to Wicca came in 1995 through a book called Ariadne’s Thread: A Workbook of Goddess Magick by Shekinah Mountainwater. At the time, the book was a revelation to me as I struggled with belief in my own religion. I’d never heard of Wicca, although I was familiar with the practice of modern goddess worship. The magick is what drew me. Connecting to Goddess opened my eyes to other spiritual possibilities. However, I was unable to follow through with picking up the practice at the time. My time came in 1999. Then, while looking for books to further explore Wicca, I found Cunningham’s book. And while Ariadne’s Thread introduced me to Goddess, it was Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner which helped me create a solid, meaningful practice as a Witch.
The Thirteen Goals of a Witch are not universal, any more than are the Wiccan Rede or Three-fold Law. They are, however, influential for many within the Craft. I’m not sure of the etymology of the Thirteen Goals. Many people are under the impression Scott Cunningham conceived of them himself. However, in 1998, Lady Bridget posted the list online stating she found them not only in Cunningham’s book (1988) but through a British Traditional source as well (although she could not include citation). To my knowledge, the original author is unknown. This does not negate Scott Cunningham’s usage but rather garners appreciation of the Thirteen Goal’s continued remembrance through his work.
The Thirteen Goals of a Witch are as follows:
Know your craft
Apply knowledge with wisdom
Keep your words in good order
Keep your thoughts in good order
Attune with the cycles of the Earth
Breathe and eat correctly
Exercise the body
Honor Deity (this is my personal edit).
The Thirteen Goals of a Witch are not rocket science. They are precepts built upon common sense, experience, and wisdom.
To Know Yourself is a general truth which has been uttered since the time of the Ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Pythagorus. How can you know what you want if you don’t understand what you need. How can you find happiness if you don’t know what brings you joy? Defining yourself as a person, rather than letting the world tell you who you should be, is an important step in claiming personal power and sovereignty.
To Know Your Craft makes perfect sense when one understands that witchcraft (however one’s spiritual path is reflected) is something you learn by living and doing it. There is a reason Wicca and witchcraft are called the Craft of the Wise. Sure. You can pick up all kinds of interesting things from books, but if a person does not put into practice what they have learned, how do they progress from student to adept?
To Learn means that one must be teachable. There is always a new theory, technique, or idea from which to glean information. A way to improve upon our knowledge and skill. In my experience, those who are unwilling to learn often find themselves stuck like the Hanged Man. Life is about the journey, afterall. Learning is a big part of that.
Apply Knowledge with Wisdom means to be smart about how and when you use your skills as a Witch, Wiccan, Pagan, or magickal practitioner. Using good judgement with what we know or being able to read a situation and act accordingly is an important ability which can be hard to employ at times (especially when fractious emotions are involved) but is important nonetheless.
Achieving Balance in life can be a struggle so it is important to remember. Taking time to care for our emotional, spiritual, and physical self. All of our energy, time, and skill cannot be settled on one thing in life or scattered among so many things we cannot take a breath. Personal energy management is important so one can have a calm mind, spirit, and heart to maintain overall body/mind/spirit health and do the things they want.
Keep Your Words in Good Order is an understanding that your word is your bond (an important belief in Ode’s Heathen tradition). In my experience, watching over words is an admonition that they have power. We cast spells with our words. We make or break vows with our words. The power to wound or reward is held or released through the tongue.
Keep Your Thoughts in Good Order is a reminder that magickal energy is directed by intention. Our thoughts govern the direction in which our spells release and manifest. Our thoughts can have a direct impact on our lives (emotions, health, relationships, etc) and those within our sphere of influence.
Celebrate Life for me is recognizing the gift that existence on this planet has allowed me to enjoy with every breath. It’s in acknowledging the little things as well as the big, the trials and triumphs, weeping and rejoicing, pleasure and sacrifice.
Attune with the Cycles of the Earth is found, for me, in recognition of each season through growing herbs and plants, observing animals and birds, following the lunar cycle and celebrating the turning of The Wheel. For those who are not “green thumbs,” shopping for food based on what’s growing in their region each quarter. Of course, I do that as well.
Breathe and eat correctly is a positive way to enhance your magickal practice and spiritual path. Wholeness comes from taking care of ourselves in the physical as well as the spiritual.
Exercise the body is important to a healthy mind. As we’ve seen in the previous goals, a healthy mind is important to a successful and powerful magickal and spiritual life.
To Meditate as a practice is good for a person in body, mind, and spirit. However, one does not have to assume meditation must come in only one form. A person can practice meditation by walking, ecstatic dance, Tai Chi, yoga, or some form of art. There are many ways to bring mindfulness into one’s life. Meditation can help us form signal clarity which is important for many aspects of the magickal/spiritual path.
Honor Deity is important to those who include a spiritual aspect to their magickal practice. Wicca is a religion so it is obvious why it is important to remember the Goddess and God. For myself, I work with Goddesses. There was a time when I considered myself a secular Witch but strived to honor those deities who joined in my workings.
The Thirteen Goals of a Witch are not law. They are as stated. Goals to set within one’s life. Potential course correctors for when life slips sideways from time to time. Have I accomplished them all? Hardly! But they are still worth pursuing as a means to care for myself, pursue and hone my Craft, and devote myself to the Goddesses with whom I work. Do I need to do them all? No. Do I have to be a Wiccan to follow them? Obviously not. Personally, I believe they can be tailored to suit the individual and their path (devotional, secular, whatever it may be).
As a Solitary Witch, my path has been led by my intution. Until recently, I’ve never pursued study with a coven or followed a particular tradition with degrees or levels. And I find myself glad for the framework the Thirteen Goals has provided for me. I can look back on my path as a Witch and see how I’ve progressed and where I could use some work. In fact, I believe the Thirteen Goals of a Witch to be very useful for any solitary who finds themselves unsure of their direction or feeling overwhelmed. Using the Thirteen Goals of a Witch can bring a sense of order where chaos reigns unwanted.
Who knows? Perhaps that is the reason they were written in the first place.