Self-care is widely understood as the practice of regular activities and habits to support physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It involves taking the time to understand your own needs and then making an effort to meet them in healthy and sustainable ways.
The concept of self-care has roots in ancient civilizations, where holistic wellness practices such as meditation, aromatherapy, and bath rituals were used for physical and mental rejuvenation. This idea of self-care resonates with the popular culture today.
But there is a more recent history of self-care that began in the 1950s in the field of long-term care. Health providers identified specific patients they believed could achieve better outcomes through taking an active role in their own care. Specifically, the elderly and mental health patients were encouraged to perform their own personal grooming, get regular physical activity, and learn to eat well.
Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, self-care took another direction, when the civil rights, feminist and anti-war movements brought attention to the importance of proactive healthcare for social justice and change.
In recent years, the rise of digital technology and the fast-paced nature of modern life has contributed to increased stress and burnout, leading to a growing interest in self-care as a way to disconnect and relax.
Bubble Baths or Bootstraps
For most of our lifetime, the idea of taking time from work and caring for families to indulge in unnecessary extravagance was frowned on. Hard work, duty, and selflessness were the desired virtues. If you fell on hard times you were expected to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. Emotional crisis called for pulling yourself together.
Especially for women, who provide the majority of family care and emotional labor, the idea that you have to take care of yourself to take care of others is relatively recent. For our mothers or grandmothers, self-indulgence and relaxation was a weekly visit to the salon for a shampoo and set, and maybe an afternoon of playing bridge with the ladies.
Self-care definitely needed a good PR campaign. Enter Calgon take me away, a marketing slogan for bath salts that told women a little self-indulgence wasn’t just okay, it was good for their mental health—self-care had come full circle. Now we indulge in mani-pedis, facials, massages, and other spa treatments, along with cocktails, candlelit bubble baths and a host of beauty products. Add vacation get-aways and retreats and it all adds up to more than a $1.5 trillion industry annually because, as another popular slogan tells us, we’re worth it.
It’s safe to say that health care means many different things to different people. Today’s self-care encompasses a wide range of practices. Examples include getting enough sleep, eating nutritious food, exercising regularly, practicing mindfulness and relaxation, setting boundaries, and engaging in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment. By practicing self-care, individuals can reduce stress, boost their mood, and improve their overall health and happiness for the optimal life experience.
As a health and wellness coach and blogger, I spent years pitching self-care focused on creating a balanced, fulfilling life. It was a classic case of the proverbial physician healing self—my own life was in chaos. Divorce had ended my 22 year marriage, I lost my job, my parents both died suddenly, just months apart, and my children were navigating the typical challenges of young adulthood that keep parents up at night with worry.
I felt like I’d been pulled into a game of crack the whip, something we played as kids on the ice rink in my neighborhood. One skater, usually the most powerful, is the head of the whip. Everybody else lines up behind, all holding hands. The leader begins to skate, making random turns left and right until the line becomes a human serpentine chain, gliding gracefully around the rink. As the skaters pick up speed, more force is directed down the line and it begins to twist and turn wildly until the weaker links break, sending bundled bodies flying in all directions.
It was great fun as a kid, but not so much in real life circumstance. I felt rudderless, like that last kid on the tail end of the whip, being snapped back and forth through no actions of my own, hanging on for dear life. That’s when I turned to witchcraft.
When I first requested mentoring from a practicing witch, she asked me what I expected to get from witchcraft. I told her I wanted to feel like I had some agency in my life again, some sort of control over what happened. I had no idea, then, that my answer struck right to the core of the actual practice of witchcraft. At that time, I was still influenced by the fantastical witchcraft portrayed in literature and pop culture. I believed the magick came from access to secret knowledge that would be shared with me as soon as I was initiated into the craft.
Self-Care or Witchcraft?
Nearly all witches have a story to tell about being a witch before they knew it. Mine is about a capstone project I completed for my coaching certification. I knew from my own experience, and confirmed with my clients, that embracing self-care easy. The real challenge was sticking to it in times of stress, when it’s most needed. I developed a self-directed path for creating positive, lasting change, or in other words, manifesting your desire.
Whether you want a new or better job, a new or more passionate romance, more money, purpose and fulfillment in midlife, or any other desire, the common denominator of both self-care and witchcraft is creating an optimal life experience.
As I learned the basic principles of witchcraft and began to understand the four foundations of the Witch’s Pyramid, to know, to dare, to will and to keep silent, I began seeing the parallels with my process of Self CARE™—finding clarity and taking action to achieve results for enrichment.
Keep It Simple
Over the years I’ve refined my practice of witchcraft down to its simplest form. But simple doesn’t always equate to easy; a witch needs to maintain a focused, regular practice to consistently achieve the best outcomes. Not all magick is going to work all the time, but you can improve your results with more practice. Further, regular practice not only elevates your skill, it also reinforces your belief. Stronger belief strengthens your will, which reinforces your belief . . . and so it increases.
I wrote about practicing Self CARE.™ to help support the demanding life of a witch, here. I touched on the overlap of the four foundations in my self-care process and the foundations of the Witches Pyramid, here. Now I’m taking a deeper dive into using the steps of Self CARE™ not as a complimentary support of my practice, but as the primary structure of personal empowerment that improves my witchcraft.
Oftentimes when things don’t turn out quite as you hoped, whether it’s a new job not being what you expected, or a romance being a complete fail, it’s because you didn’t have all the information you needed going in. Perhaps you were in a hurry and jumped before thinking things through. You thought you knew what you wanted, but the reality turned out to be something quite different.
Finding clarity means going in armed with every bit of information you can garner. For example, in choosing a career or job you might try job shadowing, an internship, or apprenticing—or at the very least, talk to people already in the profession.
I knew a brilliant man, a protector who joined the Marine Corps right out of high school. His test scores qualified him for JAG. He was more than taken with the idea of becoming a defender of justice and pursued his education and training with zeal. Until he was confronted by the full implications of the attorney-client privilege—the possibility of having to defend a client who admits guilt. His heightened sense of values wouldn’t allow him to do that.
It’s the same way in witchcraft. The more you understand about what it is you desire, why you desire it, what you’re capable of and comfortable with, the better chance you’ll succeed in manifesting what you want with the least unexpected or unwelcome consequences.
There’s a house currently on the market that I want to own. It’s not at all what I have been envisioning. I only took my husband to the open house to get his feet wet for the house hunting ahead of us.
This house is neither the craftsman or cottage style I’ve longed for all my life, it’s a boring one-story, four-square footprint. But it has basement storage so I wouldn’t have to venture out in inclement weather, navigating icy sidewalks and dangerous stairs to get to the garage storage we now have. It’s more space than we need, but on the other hand, it has room to expand my witchcraft, perhaps even offer classes or personal services. I wanted old growth trees and this lot has zero trees—or any landscape plantings for that matter. But one of the reasons we’re considering a move is because maintaining our heavily treed lot with its many garden beds is becoming too much work at our age.
The more I think about this house, the more I realize it is exactly what we need, but not at all what I thought I wanted. How did this happen? What drew me to even consider looking at it in the first place? I’m convinced it was because the witchcraft I’ve been working focused on clear desires for a house to fit our needs. The aesthetics—shuttered windows, front porch, picket fence and vining roses are secondary.
When you understand why you want what you want, your manifestation magick will be much more successful.
For the program of Self CARE™ to work at all, you have to believe in your ability to create positive, lasting change. You have to be willing to take chances, and understand the results of your actions, whatever they are. But most of all, you have to dare to take action.
When you were a kid and somebody double-dog dared you, they were challenging you to do something, generally something that required a level of courage.
We take all kinds of actions to get what we want in life. We meet somebody we like and we dare to flirt with them, hoping they might be mutually interested. We go to university or trade school daring to believe we have what it takes to be a doctor or lawyer, a chef or designer.
For self-care goals to be successful, the actions we take have to be authentic, they have to support the desired outcome. If you want to be a lawyer, you can’t just watch legal dramas, you have to get the education and pass the bar.
You can apply the same practice of authentic action to move your witchcraft to the next level. Identify the goals you want to reach and decide what actions you can take to best support your success. Is your knowledge in the history of witchcraft sketchy? Is your command of practicum lacking? Are you too busy for daily spiritual practice like meditation—or devotion if you work with deity? What actions can you take to improve your craft?
I know from experience that performing my grounding and centering ritual first thing every morning keeps me connected to my magick. I’m a better witch and my spells and rituals are far more effective when I take these actions consistently. The challenge is that I’d rather linger in bed, especially on cold winter mornings. I check social media accounts, create visual content or write a blog post on witchcraft. I can argue that this is an important part of my practice, but it’s not the part that’s giving me the results I want—the action isn’t authentic to my desire. If I want to take my witchcraft up a notch, I have to commit to regular, dedicated practice.
Perhaps you’re a busy person, working outside your home, taking care of family. You have volunteer and social obligations, and there doesn’t seem to be a spare minute in the day to practice your craft. Or you aren’t out of the broom closet and you never have a minute alone. I can tell you, there won’t be time or space until you dare to make it happen by taking actions that support your desire.
Set aside a time every day for reading, research, meditation or ritual—twenty minutes is enough, but five minutes is better than no minutes. Don’t wait for the perfect space, just create a space that’s always ready. It may have to be in your bedroom (or even the bathroom) with a locked door. It could also be a place away from home, out in nature, or even at the library online with headphones (Youtube is full of meditations, rituals and spells). Make it clear to others that you are carving out time—whether you tell them it’s for your witchcraft, or just personal down time. Then, just do it. Because, to dare requires action.
Also, when you’re performing rituals or doing spell work, make sure your actions support your desired results. Have you researched correspondences, gathered the supplies you want to use, set aside a time when you will be able to focus, undisturbed? Your personal energy is the most important part of your magick, your time and effort in preparation is one means of creating that energy.
In the path of Self CARE™, once you know what you want and you’ve decided what actions to take, you have to maintain the will to see it through. Sometimes the path to a successful outcome is straight and easy. Other times there will be unexpected turns, obstacles, detours and complete start overs. No matter which, you have to will yourself forward to reach the desired destination. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
But willpower and will are not quite the same thing. It takes willpower to continue an action or routine. It takes force of will to create change. This is where self-care and magic differ. Or perhaps, more accurately, this is where self-care methods, like vision boards and affirmation, begins crossing over into magick.
In witchcraft, we project our will onto our desires, with the intent to make them manifest—make it so! If knowing and daring are the conveyance of witchcraft, then to will is the driving force. Without will, little or nothing happens. With will, we get results.
Projecting your will is arguably the most difficult part or magick. Exactly how do we invoke our will? Meditation, visualization and correspondence are all means of amplifying your will. See it as if it already exists, write affirmations as if the desire is already manifest, create altars with representations of what you desire. The more you believe it is so, the more you empower your will.
One caveat about will—in some traditions imposing your will on others is discouraged. I think we’re all familiar with the warning of not invoking love spells on a specific person—as it might be against their wishes or will. However, all witchcraft is the act of manifesting your personal will. It would be ludicrous to believe that everybody your magick touches is in complete agreement with you. You can say “An it harm none,” all you want—it’s just whistling in the wind. If you believe your witchcraft has a direct influence on results, then you have to accept that you are invoking your will on others and take responsibility for the outcomes, whether intended or not.
Say you work a spell to get the job or promotion you want and the results are favorable. That means all the others who applied for that job didn’t get it. This is normal with or without witchcraft. But as a witch who cast a spell, you believe in your power. If you believe in your power you believe that your witchcraft gave you an edge over and above your qualifications. What does that mean for all those who didn’t get the job? Is it fair? Was there somebody more qualified or more deserving? Were there harmful consequences for them or others?
When you set the wheels of magick in motion with your will to manifest your desire, there are no guarantees. Whatever the outcomes, you have to accept accountability for invoking your will.
Enrichment — To Keep Silent
At first consideration, enrichment in Self CARE™ and keeping silent in witchcraft seem to have little in common. But a closer look shows they share a similar energy.
Of course, the first and best reason to keep silent in witchcraft is personal safety. We all know the history of the persecution of witches (if you don’t, you should). Even today, there are consequences such as doxxing, job discrimination, and harassment. Another reason for keeping silent is that words have power, so we should be circumspect in their use. A wise witch also knows to listen far more than they speak. Finally, don’t proselytize. If somebody has questions or is curious, it’s okay to share your knowledge of witchcraft, but don’t actively try to convert.
And for the love of all this is holy, don’t go around flapping all the time about being favored or blessed by your chosen deity. Don’t be an arrogant ass, don’t brag about your good fortune, don’t set yourself above others. It implies they are less deserving. Instead, be quietly grateful. Honor your deity by finding a way to give back to the community. In that way you keep the energy moving.
The same quiet attitude of gratitude applies to enrichment. You can, and should, give as you receive, not just to be altruistic but because receiving without giving stalls the energy. Living a truly enriched life includes giving back in a way that brings you fulfillment and a sense of purpose in return.
Experiencing enrichment also requires living in the present, not being stuck in the past nor fearing an uncertain future. You can’t live in a state of enrichment if you’re carrying regrets or grudges, or incessantly worrying about how and when the rug might be pulled out from under you.
In my personal gnosis for witchcraft, keeping silent also means not whining about the past and cursing the future with dire predictions. It stands to reason that both will detract energy from creating magick in the present. Sure, we might work on healing past traumas and creating better futures, but we have to focus on the spell or ritual in front of us to do that.
Finally, enrichment in Self Care™ and keeping silent in witchcraft both require the ability to receive with grace and without guilt. For many of us raised in religious beliefs focused on sacrifice, service, and humility, that’s not always easy. We attach qualifiers to our thank you, saying things like— but you shouldn’t have, I don’t deserve this, it wasn’t necessary. You are a witch, your words have power. If you say it, you believe it, and if you believe it, you will it to be so.
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