Witches Are Not Light Workers. We are Death Walkers

Witches Are Not Light Workers. We are Death Walkers November 16, 2018

Light workers might have their place in the world, but it’s not within witchcraft. There’s little overlap between light workers and witches, except for an emphasis on psychic abilities and healing. Witchcraft is about death, whether to harness an animal spirit or the power of personal transformation. Witches are not light workers. We are death walkers, wandering in the shadows where healing and true magick are found.

I don’t know about you, but my witchcraft doesn’t look at all like whatever this is. I found it by searching “light worker” on Canstock.

Earlier this year, I wrote a few articles about what it means to be a witch, including “You Call Yourself a Witch? Then Own It?”

In that piece, I talked about how calling oneself a witch required accepting the responsibility that came with it, including the history of oppression, violence and marginalization. This grew out of an earlier blog that I wrote about “What Makes Witchcraft…Witchcraft?”  In that I said anyone can call themselves a witch if they work with natural energies to achieve a desired outcome.

What I’m about to say may seem to contradict that a bit, but I see it as more of a clarification. At any rate, this witch claims her right to change her mind. Witches love complexity, and I think defining witchcraft is much more complex than what I wrote in that article. It was the summer, maybe the humidity got to me? So, let’s talk about what witchcraft isn’t. Time to get really real.

Witches are not light workers. No. We are not. Many of us are psychopompes or death doulas. We guide souls to the other side. We receive messages from the departed. This is the darkest of work for we are reaching into the blackness of the unknown.

I shared the graphic above on my personal social media and on Keeping Her Keys. Many of you responded, “YES!” But there were others who said that there has to be a balance of light and dark. Balance is a tricky thing, beautiful creatures. I led a three month course last winter exploring this slippery topic. Like balancing both sides of a scale, balance in our lives is a lot harder than it looks. More importantly, this elusive concept of balance is very, very personal. My balance is about 3/4 dark and 1/4 light. That’s my formula for personal balance of the light and darkness. I’m a firm believer that too much lightness is unbearable.

I am NOT Your Light Worker

I’ve often been called a light worker, especially in more spiritual and less witchy circles. My reaction is always the same, “I am NOT your light worker.” That’s the last thing I would ever want to be. Usually, I don’t bother to say this out loud, particularly if I am at a public event. I do teach spiritual concepts such as consciousness, and occasionally talk about ascension. Both of these can be interpreted as New Age ideas. Of course, they aren’t at all. The human curiosity about the nature of consciousness is probably as old as consciousness itself. As for ascension, the idea is not without it’s place in Hekatean Witchcraft given her role as Anima Mundi.

However, are these constructs part of witchcraft? If we’re talking about micro level witchery, spells and such, then no. On the other hand, witchcraft today is very much about personal development. To me, this includes exploring the nature of consciousness and what lies beyond. To unpack this a bit more, a lot of common contemporary witchcraft practices, like trance work and journeying, require altered states of consciousness. I’ll stick to calling myself a spiritual teacher when I focus on things like ascension, but that’s just what I am doing in that moment. In my heart, I am a witch. No matter what I am doing, I am a witch.

What is a Light Worker?

What exactly is a light worker? The internet is full of definitions that are short on substance and long on vague positivity, such as:  “a lightworker is a special person with almost psychic ability to intuit what other people are thinking, feeling, or need in order to heal.” 

Who doesn’t want to be a special person? If you click on that definition, you’ll also find a list of 20 signs that you are a light worker. In researching the idea of whether or not witches could be light workers, I found probably 100 similar lists. They usually include things about psychic abilities, being a “sensitive”, developing higher consciousness and cosmic connections. Angels and aliens seem to hang out with light workers often according to these articles. I have an ongoing interpersonal conflict with angels that shows no sign of being resolved.

There’s also something called “light worker syndrome” where a person evolves up through levels of consciousness too fast or goes too high. Psychic abilities? Yep. Most of us witches have them. Are we “sensitives”? Usually. None of the rest of the characteristics seems to have much to do with witchcraft. So, based on the plethora of light worker checklists, there’s not much on there that has anything to do with witchcraft. No spells or rituals. Zero familiars. Nothing about working with spirits besides vague mentions of connecting with them. There’s also this emphasis on the “power of positivity.” That sounds excellent. In general, I try to look on the bright side.

Definitely not light workers.

The light without the dark becomes a self incendiary void. It burns away who we are, rendering us zombies willing to believe anything. It’s the realm of toxic positivity culture that gives rise to gurus, like that dreadful Doreen Virtue. There’s nothing wrong with borrowing some of the ideas from the New Age crowd, especially since most of them are co-opted from earlier traditions. Witchcraft has always been an amalgam of what’s available, whether it’s dead mice or chakras. Light worker? No thanks.

For the love of Hekate, never ever send me white light. Send me healing, send me good vibes.  How do you know if white light is actually what I need? Maybe I need the velvet embrace of the dark to heal. Light workers seem to make a whole lot of assumptions about what works. Witchcraft that’s effective is specific and critical. I haven’t experienced a lot of either in the light working crowd.

Can Witches Be Light Workers?

So here is where it becomes clear that witchcraft and light working are disparate. Witchcraft, at least the European kind that many of us practice, is a sort of hodge-podge of whatever an individual practitioner has access to. Inherently eclectic. It makes sense that we would use techniques, like that “ball of  white light” some seem to perpetually surround themselves in, from the light working crowd. Perhaps if you’re always having to do the white light thing, you actually need the superior protection of the dark.

However, fundamentally, witchcraft is concerned with death. Witchcraft is of the dark. We use the spirits of plants and animals in spells. These spirits are released when the organism dies. That dandelion tea you’re sipping? Dead thing. As is that sage bundle on your altar.

Read my article about the use of white ceremonial sage that complements this one well because light working to me, implies a whole lot of cultural appropriation rather than adapting customs from other groups out of reverence. As witches, we need to do the latter. My own witchery which is so deeply shamanic and connected to the Mi’kmaq people who traditionally inhabited my land is reverent, not exploiting. Witches should know the difference. A lot of what I’ve experienced with light workers is that they don’t.

Animal magick, my lovely bones, require death to visit the embodied creature from which they came. For all the crystal lovers out there, they are dead things, too. They were once flowing rivers of molten material or even actual living creatures. When we do stone witchery, we release it’s spirit. That’s death walking. Even when we burn that purple candle all the way out, we are creating a death of sorts. Words spoken, sigils made. All to bring about the demise of what no longer serves.

Witchcraft is about transformation of the correspondences we use in spells, through our words, and becomes realized through our actions. All magick requires something to die in order for something else to be born. Even the witch’s approach to healing is opposite of the light workers.

Crossing that veil is not the work of the light, either. We walk between worlds, inhabiting the spaces where magick grows and spirits abound.

I’ve never been able to relate to magick that has a color, like white or grey, but that’s a blog for another time.

Does this look like a light worker?

I am a Death Walker

I’m not saying that we witches don’t shine a light into the dark, nor that we don’t ever engage in lighter forms of energy work. I’m saying that even Reiki properly done is heavy, dark work. Witchcraft is inherently walking with death and the dark, not light.

Join my Facebook group, The Witches’ Realm,where we discuss death walking witchery all the time, including ancestral healing and reading the bones.

Connect with Keeping Her Keys on Facebook.

Learn True Magick, seven steps to unleash your inner witch.

About Cyndi
Cyndi Brannen is a witch and spiritual teacher, a trained energetic healer, psychic and herbalist. Merging together her training in shamanism, Tarot, past life work, meditation and psychology, she teaches and writes about better living through witchcraft. Keeping Her Keys: An Introduction to Hekate’s Modern Witchcraft explores Hekate from her ancient origins to modern understanding through magic and personal development is available now for pre-order from Moon Books. True Magic: Unleashing Your Inner Witch uses the magic of the elements and the three realms to activate your true witch powers and will be available later in 2019 from Moon as well. Connect with her on Facebook or at keepingherkeys.com to learn more about her teaching and writing. Cyndi lives in rural coastal Nova Scotia with her two sons where she can often be found wandering the cliffs or wild foraging plants. She lives what she teaches: fierce love, emotional courage and true magic. You can read more about the author here.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • *mashes non-existent “Like” button repeatedly until phone screen breaks* o_o

  • I wish you lived nearby so we could hang out and smash our phones together. *

  • 😀

    I applied to your group. I held out for so long with not going back to FB, but I rejoined the site *specifically* to be a member of your group.

  • Erin Coldrick

    You have NOOOOO idea how much this article made my heart sing!!!! My best friend is the reason I strapped my witch boots back on, but, she very much fits the description of a light worker… for the longest while, it bothered me that I wasn’t able to really fit in and relate to how the light working community seems to think. She is the most wonderful person you could ever meet and cares deeply about people, but fundamentally, she and I differ greatly on our paths. I am very much a dark person. It’s my core. I just cannot relate to the constant positivity that light working espouses. I sometimes don’t understand a situation fully until I have gone into the cave, sat in the dark inky silence and excavated all the details.
    I am sitting here trying desperately to find my notes from a session with my guide on balance and how it’s not all short and sweet like people make it out to be. You caught my attention with your comment about balance being a personal thing. People tend to think it’s a “one size fits all” thing. Sooo very far from the truth of it.
    I think there will be people who think you are being a bit harsh with this topic, but I have to say, as I read it, I felt like I had finally read something that really expressed how I feel. My dark side helps me appreciate my light side. If I was to focus mainly on the light, I think it would cause blindness and keep me from working through some of my issues. Yes, sometimes, when the power is out, a torch will help you find socks to help you stay warm, but if you stare at the sun too long, you go blind and then can’t see any of the beauty which surrounds you.
    Thank you!!

  • As much as I agree with many things in this post, I think it’s just another extreme of “lightworker syndrome”. Too many people I know who have experienced the other side have seen a white light, so to reduce deathwork to a simple shade, dark or light is problematic. I’ve been to many places on the otherside(s), and it’s as diverse as this plane is.
    I do understand that people tend to gravitate towards one or the other, but personal predilictions should not be used to point fingers and proclaim what a witch is or isn’t. Hecate is not the only owner of the craft. There are several other deities of craft all over the world, and they are not all dark. I understand why this is happening. The new age practitioners went to one extreme, and now the pendulum is swinging the other way.
    I hope when everything is said and done, that balance is finally restored, and there are several divergent paths for practitioners to follow without so much finger pointing, not just dark and light.

  • HearthforSolitude

    As lightworker, what can I say?

    I light the dark, nothing stays hidden with me. The dark and me we know each other well. It does not like me once it realizes it can’t have me.

    I think talking about dark and light as you do only confuses dark and light and their meaning. Dark equals evil with me, those that seek power are evil by nature and you state you prefer darkness because it makes you feel powerful. I agree, I don’t find much discernment and criticism in any pseudo-scientific field. New age is too much about selfishness as much as you equate witchcraft with dark things. You can be an evil witch but don’t say all witches are like that.

    You call dead dark, I won’t generalize that. It’s too vast a realm to make that assumption.

  • Cyndi,

    My 2nd new FB account got pinged! So, if they deactivate this one…as much as I would like to join, I am done with their nonsense. FB never stops giving me a new reason to hate them. -_-

    Sorry.

  • I think the emphasis on “light” in some forms of new-age influenced Paganism/Witchcraft are a response to a centuries-old societal mistake, where light is seen as “good” and dark is seen as “evil”. Of course, they are no such thing. Both light and dark are natural, and we need both to thrive. The day needs the night, the shadow needs the flame. While I’m not a Witch (my path is Druidry) I try to keep a balance of the two, and find magic in those liminal, twilight spaces in between.

  • Argghhhhh…we’ll meet again oneday….

  • Yep. Still waiting (on FB)… I never had to deal with this before, but I think because of all the Russian Trolls and Bots and such, they’re really cracking down. But it seems to be the other extreme now to the point of anal retentiveness. -_-

  • K Randall

    If you are equating dark with evil, you are not working with the same definition as the author.

  • Thank you for saying that.

  • Falkenna

    I just felt I needed to agree with Mercurial Delish emphatically, in addition to “Liking”. I understand the frustration, this is what the term “fluffy bunny” used to mean (I understand it now refers mainly to newbies who haven’t yet learned better – and really shouldn’t be criticized too heavily for inexperience. Bad change, in my opinion.) But there are many kinds of lightworkers – heavy duty ritual magicians, for example – and these days *anyone* who tries to co-opt the word “witch” exclusively for their own narrow path is likely to be onto a loser.

  • Sade Chambers

    I think I have something to do with the triple Goddesses. Im willing to talk to someone who can help me @sadec65@gmail.com

  • nikkidarlin

    Lighting the dark so nothing stays hidden is not lightworking. Lightworking, in the way the author means it, is avoiding the dark – ignoring the deathy parts of life, the shadow work, and the pushing through fear and trauma, and drowning in a sense of pure, angelic goodness.

    I’m not sure from where you derive any notion the the author is on a power trip. Or even that power trips are more often found in the darkness than in the light.

    The idea that darkness is evil is the inherently racist fuel behind manifest destiny. The lighter you are, the closer to god. You might want to rethink the formula.

    Darkness is simply more complex. Witches deal in complexity. I shine Hekate’s torches on my own darkness, the world’s darkness. But that is deathwalking not lightworking.

  • Alaska

    One more basic article trying to tell the world what witches are and what witches aren’t. Honestly when are you going to realise that witches aren’t one thing?

  • Of course, the truly basic one is that who doesn’t even have a profile picture. I banish you from my blog, sending you the healing you so desperately need.

  • Alaska

    Love and light, darling.

  • Miguel Cruz Cares

    This article brought me joy. The only thing I would like to add is the racist roots of the concept of Lightworker. The term was invented to carry on the distinction of “white” magic vs. “Black” magic after the was finally plurality in rejecting the roots of defining something as “white” magic. The roots of the concept are also deeply rooted in rejecting the powerful magic of African, Asian/Eastern, and Western Hemisphere Indigenous mystery religions. In curandismo we heal, yes- through connecting with the dead. We work in the dialectics, not equilibrium.

  • Miguel, you are so correct. As a white woman, I usually stay out of the debate about how colored witchcraft relates to persons of color. I work closely with traditions and spirits of the First Nations peoples indigenous to where I call home, the Mi’kmaq, and I try to know my place. I would like to know more about curandismo. Do you have a book or article to recommend?

  • Miguel Cruz Cares

    Yes, I appreciated that you were leaving that space for POC. Curandismo is a catch all to describe many indigenous syncretic traditions of Latin America. Were like cousins ok Regla de Ocha (Santeria) but most of our roots are indigenous instead of African, yet there are absolutely African influences. Allot of the best written material is in Spanish or in small booklet form, and I don’t love the main definition in Wikipedia, but it’s a start https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curandero the History in the US and Types sections are the best in the wiki page. Most Curanderos don’t consider themselves Witches (because of the Eurocentric understanding of the term, and defensiveness against attacks from the Christians), but that has changed allot in the last 10-20 years. I would describe myself as also a brujo/witch and many of the youngest generation, especially growing up in the US also consider themselves Brujxs/Witchs.

  • Will Harper

    As a Native, I can’t help but agree. So many Whites seem blind to this racist bias. I’m reminded of the early Mormons of Utah: One housewife wrote about how her family had taken in a young Native girl specifically to religiously indoctrinate her and groom her to be their son’s child-bride at around 13. The wife wrote in her diary that she was ‘concerned for the injun girl’s darkness which revealed her leviite heritage of sin’ but that ‘With hours of fasting and instruction in the cellar, she has repented -and grows more white, and delightsome to God by the day-‘. This is romanticizing brainwashing, starvation, the infliction of illness for the sake of racist ‘beauty standards and ‘purity fetishism’ and imprisonment, and this was typical of the era..and its toxic legacy continues, largely unchallenged to this day in the Western tradition’s many faiths. Light is not good, Darkness is not evil.

  • Miguel Cruz Cares

    Are those who are abused, evil by nature? Because they seek enough power to protect themselves, or heaven forbid win justice? Are those whose labor is exploited, evil by nature? Because they seek the power to control their destiny, or heaven forbid seek to join with their coworkers for the power of a union? Are those who want control over their own lives, evil by nature? Because they don’t want to just walk around hoping for the best, or heaven for bid seek the power of learning the best paths to pursue?

    The idea that power equals evil, is propagated by those who have the power and don’t want to lose it, and those they have fooled into believing that things are good enough.

    Your premise is a definition of privilege and disdain for those who aren’t ok with our lot in life when we let others keep all the power.

  • Michelle Regnier

    Very interesting article and superb use of personal reflection; nevertheless, I can’t help but wonder if you are more gliding toward Shamanism ….. don’t get me wrong, I know lots of Shamanistic Witches and they are amazing people. Just an observation from a native Witch myself 🙂

  • Unlabeled_Unlimited

    Just read this, backwards, comments first, article following.
    As I sit in contemplation, my very first thought was, “f%$#, no label for me, I don’t fit. Again.”
    I denied my connection to the other worlds/realms/dimensions for most of my life, all my adult life.
    Even though, over and over, beings were interacting with me, saving my butt, scaring me.
    I denied. I was a Modern Scientific Thinker. These things, don’t, can’t, won’t exist. I’ve got one heckuva imagination, maybe I made it up.
    Researching natural, earth based health when science failed me brought me to research on light, energy, matter ‘s building blocks and quantum physics, Eastern body energy, coupled with earth plant-mineral based optimum physical, but not emotional, health convinced me to reexamine my whole, “prove it,” and lifelong spirit interactions .
    In my view, this Universe, any and all dimensions, is in two forms, off (dark, 0 in binary, yang, the cosmic creation fabric) or on (light, 1 in binary code, yin, the cosmic spark/fire)
    Everything in this Universe is in a constant conversion of current form, matter, nowhere, is not in this pattern of existence. From stars, and mountains, to the cells that he made us, everything is in this constant cycle of birth/growth/decay/death/rebirth. A constant shifting of light and dark, blossoming and then rotting away.
    Every being, every cell, naturally strives for stasis, equilibrium, balance.
    My path is to heal, and help, the whole journey.
    I’m neither light, nor dark, I strive for center, gray.
    Love and creative energy for you Cyndi, you get to choose the color.

  • GillyBeans Gems

    I have been given the mantle of Lightworker many times over and have tried to wear it but it never quite fit. Then I read the title to this post and was immediately drawn in. It may take some time to get used to the term Death Walker and release all of the “stuff” attached to it but, it sure is more comfortable than the other one.

  • If I had to label myself with a type of witchery, it would be shamanic.

  • Yah, Mercurial, I agree with your saying, “I do understand that people tend to gravitate towards one or the other, but personal predilictions should not be used to point fingers and proclaim what a witch is or isn’t.” This kind of labeling can easily become demonically! (SELFishly) convoluted.

  • John Ross

    Piffle! We are CHANGE workers. We stand astride the boundaries and help others to navigate transitions. Yes, the transitions between life and death are dramatic and important, but that’s only part of the job. Maybe death and darkness define your specialty, but they hardly define the profession.

  • The thing I find most fascinating about this article is the varied reactions that people have to it, like the ones that you two have. Someone once told me that great art inspires many different interpretations in the eye of the beholder. As this article has spread, I’ve seen so many different interpretations of what I am saying. It’s very cool. I thank you for expressing your opinion in response to mine.

  • Same to you, UU.

  • Horrible story, but it definitely strengthens the point I was trying to make. Thanks, Will.

  • Piffle is an awesome expression. I won’t piffle your comments because they have some merit.

  • I thank you for your comments.

  • Thanks, GBG. Wear whatever mantle works for you.

  • MxRion

    THANK YOU. This is what I’ve needed. This is article means a lot to me. I’ve never connected with the whole Light worker phenomenon. Speaking of the whole, “Sending Light and Love”. My Dad just moved on and that phrase makes me want to gag. At this moment there is no light in my life without my Dad and I don’t need some self proclaimed “Healer” trying to send it to me.

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  • Rocio Elci

    After reading the article I could help myself from wanting to cry, I live in a Latin American country and always felt different and it hard to find a place to fit in or just find a group that understand you.

    The reason am looking right now for answers is because I had an encounter with three owls last night. They were communicating with each other, and when I went outside one of the owls flew on top of me. I know they are higher spirits but I can’t help this feeling of fear. If anyone can help me understand what this means.