A Case for the Exclusive Cunning Arts

A Case for the Exclusive Cunning Arts February 17, 2023

Anyone can do witchcraft

Seriously, anyone can do witchcraft. Let’s break this down. A living breathing thinking person (anyone) can pick up a book that lays out the recipe for a spell or working. If you can read, you can do it.

But here’s the caveat. Anyone can do witchcraft, but not everyone will have what it takes to be a witch. Now let’s dissect this statement. We already established how anyone can do witchcraft as written above, but what does it mean to BE a witch? What does it take to dedicate your spiritual self to being a witch? What does it mean to own the identity?

A witch is cunning. A witch is resourceful. A witch knows themself. A witch studies. A witch goes to the edge of discomfort and then keeps going.

A witch puts in the work

Now this can look like different from place to place and person to person. But the description above stays the same. It’s not about what you can afford. It’s not about what herbs you buy online from west-eastern Euranida (not a real place). It’s not about having ALL the books that tell you what to do every step. In my not so humble opinion, it comes down to being cunning and having the will to do the work.

Let’s back up here for a moment. Last year, I saw a video where a creator was teaching how to craft a specific spell.  Someone responded in the comments stating, “I don’t have red pepper chili flakes. What else can I use?”

The creator made a second video responding to this comment with the sentiment that if you can’t go to the grocery store to get some chili flakes, you have no business being a witch.

People lost their minds.

It got cruel.

While I think the creators response was a bit abrasive, they have a very good point. Chili flakes are an extremely accessible resource for most people. They come free with a pizza from dominos. You can get them for 99¢ at the dollar store. You could even grown chilis in your backyard.

But there was a solid month where at least 3 times a day, I would be doom scrolling on tiktok, and I’d come across a stitch to the original creators video just blasting her for elitism, for being condescending, for gatekeeping, for being a fake witch, ect. I have to admit, I was a little shocked… because I totally agree with her.

As I stated above, the most important part of BEING a witch is doing the WORK. Sometimes this means going out to a crossroads at midnight to collect dirt under a full moon. Sometimes this means casting spell ingredients into a river running east at dawn. Sometimes this means picking a flower at dusk in spring. There are no substitutions for this.

In the age of the internet

Many of us who grew up learning witchcraft from the internet have been given so much free access to information, it’s led to somewhat of an instant gratification mindset. We see TikTok’s with jar spells for anything and everything. Reading the comments will show a plethora of responses and questions.

“I don’t have X ingredient. What else can I use?”

“I can’t have fire in my apartment. How else can I do this?”

“I don’t want to use your sigil in my own spell so I’m going to make my own, but can you show me how?”

For a while, in the spirit of wanting to be helpful, I catered to these requests. I would give substitutions for herbs and be met with, “I don’t have those either”. I would suggest electric candles or suggest working with a different element, and be met with, “I don’t have electric candles either”, or “what element and how?” I have made twelve long form videos on my Instagram platform on how to make sigils with numerous examples all free for others to use, and I’m still met with, “But can you show me how to make THIS VERY SPECIFIC SIGIL FOR MY PERSONAL USE?!”

I’m done.

This isn’t education. This isn’t a desire to learn. This isn’t cunning.

This is asking to be spoon fed information to cut out the work. It’s lazy. The work is where the magic lies. There is spirit in the journey to acquire your tools. There is witchcraft in the practice of committing to do a hard task to imbue your spells.

Let’s go back to my example above. Is there substitutions for chili flakes? Absolutely. You could use Tabasco sauce, possibly witches black salt, paprika, or even a shit ton of black pepper. When a spell calls for a spicy ingredient, it’s usually protective, warding, or transgressive. It’s your job as a self identifying witch to use your cunning mind to decide what to substitute with based on sympathetic properties.

But if you’re presented with a spell, read that it requires chili flakes, realize you don’t have any, and are unwilling to go to the grocery store (a place you most likely go at least once a week) to pay 99¢ for an easily accessible spice, and top it all off by going back to the person who presented the spell to you and make them give you alternatives without doing a lick of research on your own, you do not have what it takes to be a witch.


A witch works for their magic. A witch sees a problem (like not having an ingredient) and puts in the work to acquire it or find a substitute. There are books solely dedicated to herbal magic. There are free herbal lists online. I have one linked in the bio of all my social media platforms including this very article. This information is out there and it’s abundant.

witchcraft gets lazy results

That doesn’t mean a spell has to be complicated. It just means that the witch has prepared for it and used their brain to think about acceptable possible outcomes, ways to write their desire, the best timing, and of course how their allies (spirits/ingredients) are going to help them.

A witch thinks from A to Z. If you stop at B, you’ll never get to you’re desired end result. You’ll never understand how to communicate with the spirit realm. You’ll never dive into the nuances of sympathetic magic. And you’ll never realize there is so much more to being a witch than getting spoon fed spells on tiktok.

It’s totally up to you…

From the Crossroads of Texas,

Marshall WSL

About Marshall WSL
Marshall is a practicing traditional which living in Texas. Be sure to catch them on their podcast, Southern Bramble: a Podcast of Crooked Ways. You can read more about the author here.
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