Witch Wars are so ugly. Sometimes it’s one individual spewing hate. Others, it’s a teacher or writer that’s launched an attack against another. Insults and insinuations are made, sometimes by one but often by both sides in the battle. Egos, lies, low self-esteem, and once in a while, actual wrong doing are all involved. It’s all a big toxic mess. How do you cope if you’re a bystander? What if you’re the one being attacked? How do we win a Witch War? Does truth prevail?
I’m defining a Witch War as an organized campaign by a an individual or group of magical practitioners against one or more others occurring within a tradition or an organization. It can also happen between groups. Witch Wars aren’t at all unique to the magical world. There is a fundamental “us versus them” toxic mentality that has potential to erupt in almost any area. Sometimes these are based on unethical behavior, but a lot of the times is all about fragile egos. If you’re a bystander, it can be confusing to figure out what’s really going on. If you’re the one being attacked, it can be incredibly hurtful. Rarely is the truth revealed and justice is hard won.
But, we’re witches, right…shouldn’t we be better than regular humans? I think some of us try very hard to be, but there are loads of wounded witches out there that are like powder kegs ready to ignite. When they get triggered…BOOM!
Don’t Trigger Me
Triggering occurs when our “fight versus flight” system is activated. We read or hear something that upsets us. Some people retreat while others launch into battle mode. Any individual’s response will vary based on their personality and experience. A big consideration is our orientation towards either avoiding or approaching conflict. This interacts with how important a situation is to us. There are things we are willing to fight for in response to a threat.
The threat can be greatly exaggerated by psychological problems ranging from anxiety to delusions to what’s known as a fixed mindset. I think the latter is a frequent cause of Witch Wars when practitioners get all wound up because they don’t like how someone else does things. A fixed mindset is characterized by rigid beliefs, fragile self concept and low personal agency. It’s a Molotov cocktail waiting to explode. People with a fixed mindset often complain that life is unfair and are very dogmatic. All characteristics that are very, very unmagical.
Gossip and Other Forms of Toxic Behavior
A growth mindset is empowering, permitting us to see multiple perspectives and focuses on our own journey rather than everyone else’s. Can you see the difference? What does all this have to do with Witch Wars? I think talking about the psychology that leads to them helps us understand the underlying dynamics. Hurt feelings. Low self-esteem. And taking things far too personally. Gossip, manipulating, lies and all sorts of mind games usually follow. Shouting matches, especially on social media, ensue. It is confusing for those of us watching this all play out, especially when one or more of those engaging is someone we look up to. Where is the truth in all the mudslinging? Is this a power play for dominance?
This is entirely different than when a witch actually does something unethical. In that case, steps need to be taken to correct the situation. Of course, one practitioner’s ethics – especially those with a fixed mindset – may not reflect reality. A witch with a growth mindset is unlikely to be unethical. What is unethical in witchcraft? The usual: lying, cheating, stealing, plus activities that intentionally intervene with another against their will. Violating a non-disclosure agreement within a tradition is one example.
I feel strongly that all forms of discrimination are also unethical, but this gets tricky because of the rights of individuals and groups to define their own regulations. The recent ruckus about TERF attitudes in a certain tradition is a great case study of this. Witches with a growth mindset get involved in these battles because it is the right thing to do. They don’t sit it out. Conversely, growth minded witches are highly unlikely to get involved in foolish games and gossip.
Figuring Out What to Believe
Figuring out what to believe in a Witch War can be confusing. If there isn’t a clear ethical violation, then ask yourself what is really going on before jumping in to support one side. Is this a clash of personalities? A power grab? Attention seeking? Try not to get caught up in the situation unless you have a stake in it.If you do have an investment in the situation, then perhaps you are involved in waging the war. Why is it that you feel so strongly about a person that you are attacking them? Actually, never mind. I’m 99.9% certain that anyone who would wage a Witch War against another due to a difference in opinions is probably not reading this article. Unless, of course, to pick it apart. To them I say thanks. Controversy is good for business. If you’re a bystander, remember that last sentence. A Witch War can be a way to get attention. If someone is vilifying another without any evidence, maybe this is what they are up to.
Bystander Survival Tips
- Know your own boundaries. If you don’t have a firm understanding of your personal policies, it’s easy to get sucked into drama, whether aiding an attacking witch or by inserting yourself where you don’t belong.
- Think before getting involved. Evaluate the accusations and evidence. You may want to show your support for a respected teacher or writer, but do a bit of research first. If you’re involved with a leader who doesn’t encourage this sort of critical thinking, find a different teacher.
- Is this an important issue for you? Will the outcome change your life?
- If you decide to get involved, avoid making it about you unless you are the one being attacked. Supporting a fellow witch on the battlefield doesn’t involve whining about how all this impacts you. Seriously. Try my article about Witches Behaving Badly to check-in to see if you are part of the problem.
- Protection magic may be required if you are caught between the opposing sides. Keep yourself safe however you need to. Referring to my article on Toxic Witches can help you cope.
- Hold space for the vilified one rather than offering heaps of advice.
- Disengage from the situation as needed. If it truly doesn’t impact you, why not mind your own business? It’s not healthy to get caught up in someone else’s drama, even though it is very entertaining.
- If you decide that you need to cut ties with a teacher or writer, make a graceful exit. Publicly ranting about how they’ve disappointed you only embarrasses yourself.
- Cord cutting witchery should be part of leaving the relationship, tradition or group. Don’t leave any connections, make a clean break.
- Take time to process and heal if you’ve been wounded by a teacher or writer. Don’t let a negative experience destroy your own witchery or trust.
How to Survive Being Targeted
- Start by asking if the allegations have any basis in reality. We all make mistakes. Talk to trusted others to see if they feel that there is truth in what’s being said.
- Plot your attack. Don’t give into the temptation to lash out. Wait until you calm down to think things through and then respond.
- Is the accusation something worth dying on the battlefield for? What’s at risk? To me, some things, like my reputation, are worth risking it all.
- Don’t forget to use magick – protection, transmutation, banishing and reversal can all help to bring a speedy end to the mess.
- Stay the course. Attackers will usually get tired of their war games after a bit. Sometimes ignoring them works, but that’s not a Witch War. If you have decided to not let someone get away with their insults and lies, gather your own troops and reinforce your boundaries.
- Disengage as needed.
- Keep your perspective. Is this really important to your life?
- Savor your victory. Take time to perform a ritual honoring the forces who helped you succeed. Acknowledge your own tenacity.
- Take time to process and heal. Don’t let the experience control you.
I don’t think Witch Wars will ever end. Conflict is part of human nature. Being prepared by understanding what is going on and how to survive them is probably the best we can do.