Featured practitioner articles are one of my favorite things to write about. I love getting to know witches and other magical people through the way they express their magic. I have been following Bryan for a number of years on social media, and absolutely love his aesthetic. So I was very excited when he allowed me a peek into his private world.
Bryan (with a Y) Staniewski or @wytches.devil on Instagram, as he is known, is a practitioner of traditional witchcraft. Bryan uses the letter “Y” in the spelling of words like, “wytch” and “devyl,” to honor those folkloric ways of working that we call traditional witchcraft. It is also a way of embracing the idea that traditional witches just want to be edgy for (fill in the blank). I like, Bryan embrace this perceived edge.
Wytches Devyl: You know, it’s funny, for a while I remember witches on social media getting their witch cords all in a bunch over traditional witches trying to be “edgy” with a the main example being: spelling witchcraft or witch with a “Y” as wytchcraft/ wytch and I will say it’s not just us that do this , so I figured as an homage to those people, I’d pull a funny and use it in my handle.
With that said, I also used “Y” in my handle for that word because my name is Bryan and that name is usually more often seen with the letter I. I wanted to be edgy 😉
Bryan is not a vocational witch, meaning his day job (which is just as interesting) is not witchcraft. However, Bryan has offered his knowledge and unique expertise to those who reach out to him. He also has a You Tube Channel, where he discusses various witchcraft-related topics. You can subscribe to his channel here (Inleague wyththedevyl)
Bryan is in the process of uploading new content to the YouTube Channel. The majority of his content can be found on Instagram in the form of a rich visual diary of traditional witchcraft, history, folklore and necromancy. @wytches.devil
Wytches Devyl: I’m not the witch who has an online shop, or offers readings for a price, one that has a podcast (though that could be something of the future) or a blog.
I have a huge respect for those witches, I know a few handfuls online whom I’ve felt I’ve begun to forge meaningful relationships with, they’re mostly buisness but none the less, good ones.
multitasking isn’t my forte so I can’t imagine trying to juggle that with the life I live.
I don’t know how you, and the other witches do it haha
With that said, if you know me personally and ever needed anything in regards to “help from a witch” then I would 100 percent be at your service, depending upon your need etc
My best friend/ sister, shamhia whom I’ve known for a little over a decade, when she would come over for our sleepovers, sometimes she would express her worries with certain things in her life that she wanted answers too or needed help with navigating a certain situation, what route to take etc so she would always ask me to “pull out the cards” and sometimes I offered it, a witch is never too good to not sharpen thier divinatory skills so I’d ask her if she needed help with anything or answers to any questions that are eating away at her.
Occasionally in the past I have made tools of the arte and sold them off my IG, I’ve made wooden patens, I had an idea of constructing magickal squares like the planetary ones for example, bur Ed onto wooden squares for the witch who loves convenience but then I realized, part of the process in using magickal squares is to hand draw them, or so that’s what I’ve been told and read.
Maryland is where Bryan is practicing, which interestingly has its own colorful witchcraft history that is often overshadowed by that of Salem.
Wytches Devyl: For those that didn’t know (I learned myself within the last 5 years) Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia all had witchcraft trials. There is a historian who dwells in Hagerstown Maryland who is well versed in this particular piece of history, by the name of John Nelson.
According to him, the earliest known witchcraft cases from the state of Maryland, within the state archives is of the executions aboard ships that where sailing here to Maryland across the pond from England actually.
Total side tangent, but that little part (the migration from their to here) feeds into my hard belief of any magickal practitioners and the like, who did migrate here, definetely didn’t leave their practices, praxis of their paths, and beliefs behind. And so I believe those who were in league with the folk devil, the good neighbors under the land and the queen of those good people continued those practices over here, I know for a fact that Connecticut and the surrounding areas, referred to as New England, received Cornish at one point in time, a dear friend of mine who is a witch lived in Cornwall Connecticut when I first met him in person. So I got to learn some history about the town during my stay with him. When your driving through Connecticut at any time of the year but especially when the autumnal tide has rolled in, you can most certainly tell that the land has been touch by the English, it looks so similar to the English countryside it’s uncanny lol, at least the parts I ventured through, the countryside is a splendor to take in during that time of year.. tonly difference is you have to drive on the opposite side of the road haha.
We also have the infamous legend of the Blairwitch, from the town of Burkittsville Maryland, I’ve been to quite a few times but not to explore.
Unfortunately the story and myth is completely fabricated by the entire film team along with the actors for the silver screen, but it is a classic of our generation and tbh a masterpiece in my opinion. you have to know the backstory of how these kids made one of the highest grossing films that was also completely low budget and then you’ll understand my love for that film.
I’ve had zero experiences involving anything historical within the Maryland landscape that is historically tied to witches and witchcraft unfortunately. But plenty of experiences within my local landscape in regards to the artes and during late/early morning excursions of urban exploring in a few of Marylands abandoned asylums/ sanitoriums.
The terminology around traditional/folk witchcraft always seems to be changing. Bryan explains how he differentiates between various terms of traditional witchcraft and Traditional witchcraft, and British Traditional Witchcraft.
Wytches Devyl: I feel because the term itself “traditional witchcraft” can often be confusing to seekers and practitioners of witchery and on the opposite end of the broom I feel that a lot of practitioners nowadays are getting to caught up in the details, trying very hard to differentiate it from this or that and go out of their way to try and prove a point when what we all need to be doing is minding our P’s and Q’s, be good folks to each other and the other inhabitants of our local and worry about moving forward with the artes and making further progress because for most, this is a skill and practice that will follow us beyond our transition in death.
Also a lot of what we see being called trad craft is actually just folk magic, there’s usually, more often than not, a blend of folk magickal practices and sorcery and mostly due to the dual faiths of some trad witches. There is a clear distinction betwixt folk magick and sorcery, one distinction I will give is operation and praxis, how the two practitioners go about conjuring and working Magick, I along with a few other witches I know, personally feel it’s about where one gets their power from that makes them either a folk practitioner or a witch.
I personal refer to myself as a folk witch, simply because all my practice entails is in the label as clear as glass, my practice is a blend of folk magickal practices and witchery, leaning a tad more towards witchery.
Some usually ask “what’s traditional about it?” Or ” what makes it Traditional??”
And this confuses people too because when you think of tradition or traditional, it’s usually in regards to something that was once done in the past and has carried onward by later generations into the present, often something from the old days. when in fact, there is no set definition of that word that speaks of how old something has to be and how exactly it has to be brought forth in existence for it to be considered traditional.
By definition a tradition is an inherited, or customary pattern of thought, action, and or both such as a religious/ spiritual practice or even a social custom.
And if one was to look at the established practices and beliefs(Actions/thoughts) that are widely known throughout the streams of Traditional Craft, then you will come to see we all have shared knowledge of these rites and ceremonies, And it’s due to our research and studies and experience of the elders and ourselves.
Some of these rites include the laying of the round, also known as the witches compass, the rites of engaging in spirit flight to travel beyond the wall of sleep into the unseen for the gaining of knowledge from entities and spirits of dead humans and other matters that can be useful for the practitioner in the waking world.
If you haven’t seen his Instagram feed; it is a feast for the senses. While there are many things that a witch won’t post publicly, Bryan shares his opinions on photographing sacred spaces.
I have a strong, firm belief that the craft has always flourished in the shadows of this human experience/society.
As the wonderful Gemma Gary puts it
” The craft has always operated in secrecy.
Unsung, unheard, as silent as the trees”
And rightfully so, if one wants to know and experience true witchcraft and the immense power of the hidden landscape and that which dwells within it then take yourself out to the wood under the cloak of night, especially if the full moon is out, there is where you will find witchcraft.
To be quite frank, “stealing someone’s spell” or energy of a spell or however they phrase it by simply looking at thier photo and absorbing the energy or spell power is something I never really understood and often feel like this is the product of video games and world of Warcraft etc , it just doesn’t make sense to me.
Like I’ve literally had people message me to thank me for posting a staged photo of a past working cuz they were able to absorb the knowledge and power of the staged working simply by seeing my post, and are claiming they are gonna perform it.
So I figured, it’s most likely not really a thing and I need not worry about it and people have just build up the hype around this concept an it stuck, but for safe measure I decided any photo that I post of a spell will be fully staged, as in, it will include the materia that I would use or did use in the working and a few other bits and bobs to bring it all together visually so that the viewer, by seeing the photo and examining it, will get a better idea of what the idea of the spell is or was.
I find this works best, really your just creating a still life photo when you take this route.
I notice you are heavily influenced by Gemma Gary and Robin Artisson, both of whom have also influenced my own work. Are there any other authors or teachers that have been highly influential to your practice?
Wytches Devyl: Both have been a great deal of influence and inspiration thus far in my practice, Robin artisson being more recent though.
I was at a crossroads in my life, a hiatus if you will and to be honest I can’t remember how I even found Gemma work but I did.
The first book I ever ordered from Troy books publishing was “The Devils Dozen thirteen craft rites of the old one”.
not only had a veil begun to lift from my eyes but the inspiration to rewire my navigations and approach the arte magickal in a completely different way in this practice, was literally bleeding into my hands and I was dancing in it and soaking it all in.
I was so focused on the book and captivated that i read it straight through and at times, the atmosphere around me seemed to quiet itself beyond being already “quiet” in the normal sense. That’s how fixed I ways upon that book haha.
It snowballed from thier and now I’m a happy owner of all her works.
Robin is a wonderful and amazing writer, his works I’ve read thus far, the first being the clovenstone workings literally had my mind dancing with images and visuals of what I was reading off the pages.
A bit controversial yes, but in my opinion, being witched and to truly own the title of witch is, in itself, controversial. Us witches are nothing but a big bunch of controversy and it’s always been that way, we are the outcasts, we are the ones who have a strange knowledge that the average person doesn’t possess or may never even acquire in their lifetime, about the waking world, “We are the weirdos Mr.”, we are the ones who navigate through our lives with one step in the mundane, breathing world and one foot in the unseen.
I made my own term for this called “thresh riders” because we ride the threshold in such a way that it impacts our lives in such a strange way that produces experiences and situations that we and ONLY WE experience and no one else because the fact of the matter is, witches live and navigate a completely different way through life then that of your average everyday human being who isn’t in league with the unseen cuz remember, not everyone in this lifetime will have the opportunity, or have interest to experience what it is to be witched, know magick, and harness power.
Do you have any reading recommendations or other pages to follow that are good resources for information on traditional witchcraft?
Grimiore for Modern Cunningfolk
Treading the Mill
The Devils Plantation
Literally every book shes written but I’d say start with a Cornish Book of Ways and move on to her other books.
A Deed Without a Name
Standing and Not Falling: A Sorcerous Primer in Thirteen Moons
Ash Williams:(newly released first book)
The Black Book of Isobel Gowdie and Other Folk Magickal Charms from Scotland
The Crooked Path
(his first book to be followed by a new one about the witches sabbath)
The Clovenstone Workings (newest work)
An Carow Gwyn: Sorcery and the Ancient Fayerie Faith
An Cawdarn Rudh
A Champion of Invocations and Charms for An Carow Gwyn
The Horn of Evenwood
This last one is something that I have been thinking about a lot lately. It seems that as gay men and witches we are finding power in our sexuality and our maleness, something that has been lacking in modern society (in a healthy way). Your own practice seems to embrace sexuality, masculinity, sex and body positivity, what are your thoughts on this?
Traditionally witches are associated with the forces of death and decay, however we know that this is only one side of the coin. Where there is death there is life, and we can connect to those energies through sex. (It reminds me of the show Salem, where they talk about drawing their power from death and lust) I think this is true for those of us that work in this way. What do you think?
Wytches Devyl: I would definitely agree with you, i would even go as far as to quote Austin of baneXbramble from IG that
“witchcraft is inherently queer”
and I couldn’t agree more.
growing up as a gay man was definitely no easy task for me.
from elementary to middle school, I was subjected to not just the verbal abuse from my peers but once I got to middle school I received both verbal and physical abuse from my peers because I was different, and everyone could pick up on my vibe which unfortunately for me caused some students to react in an extremely disgusting and shameful manner.
Witchcraft was presented at some point betwixt the end of my 8th grade year and into the first half of summer before the start of the 9th grade school year. And I believe it’s because of the bullshit I had to deal with in those last 7 years, this was my way to reclaim the past and begin a new future, in a much, much different way and so over the next 16 years, through trial and error, imposter syndrome and some weird happenings I managed to get a well rounded grasp on my practice and my goals within my practice starting with the foundation.
Any practice that is going to flourish and thrive must have a firm and stable foundation to do so.
My life began to slowly shift and within this shift, I found myself, and learned to love myself and my body and my sexuality and learning to embrace that raw and primal forces within me that has for hundred of years been eradicated from us humans by the ways of the media and religion.
Everything that had occurred in my life previously, every wrong doing done to me, up to the point where I made that decision to take a different route that went in the opposite direction, happened for a reason and here I am today.
I couldn’t agree more! Here is to taking out power back! Thank you so much Bryan for theses intimate and insightful answers to my questions. it has been an absolute pleasure, and I look forward to connecting with you in the future!