Not infrequently, I find myself on the receiving end of the following question: “Wait … are you actually a witch?” This is a logical thing to wonder, given the available evidence: I have a pet rabbit named Lucifer who resembles a wizard, I avidly enjoy boring people at parties by pontificating about astrology, and a lot of the time my acrylic manicure makes it look like I’m wearing ten of those plastic witch fingers they hand out to children on Halloween. I appreciate the implication inherent in this query — that I am a witch to be taken seriously, not some sort of wretched plebeian of the esoteric who buys ineffective spell kits from Sephora or says that Mercury is “in retrograde” (which is akin to saying Mercury is “in backwards” — humiliatingly incorrect!).
Still, I am never really sure how to answer this question. This is not because I don’t want to be an Actual Witch; I have been drawn to the occult since I was a young child, as anyone who attended my and my twin sister’s extremely poorly received rendition of the witches’ speech from Macbeth in our second-grade talent show will tell you. It’s because I suspect I’m too lazy to qualify as one.
Being a serious witch takes a great degree of dedication, diligence, and introspection, three concepts I generally prefer to avoid in my personal life. Based on my copious casual online research, to be a sedulous witch is to devote countless hours to the study and contemplation of the mystical arts: doing spells and rituals, for which one typically has to gather ingredients that can range from dried herbs to sticks freshly cut from a tree to a lover’s semen (I imagine this last one is not easy to collect in a neat and orderly fashion); tending and maintaining one’s altars to any number of goddesses and deities; mindfully observing a series of pagan holidays, such as solstices and equinoxes; and generally being in touch with oneself and all of nature.
Because life is often very stressful, I enjoy being as sedentary and blank-minded as possible during my downtime; I like to imagine my brain as an orb that I can smooth out by subjecting it to stultifying television shows and inane conversations. The occult takes a lot of work — which I am willing to put in, just as soon as I’m feeling well-rested enough. (For instance, it took me several months to get to a cemetery in order to collect the requisite graveyard dirt for a banishing spell I planned to perform on one of my nemeses, but I got there eventually.)
Just yesterday morning, I spent several minutes staring across the room at an enchanted candle I had carved with intricate runes, left charging under the light of the full moon, and then placed upon my ceremonial altar. You’re supposed to light the candle in order to actualize your desires, but that would have required me to go all the way to the kitchen to get the matches and also to set my intention while maintaining a clear and pristine mind, which seemed hard. And so the candle went unlit.
I have been assured by my serious witch friends that there is a place for witches like me in the occult community. Although specific covens and traditions will have their own initiation rites and requirements, it’s also possible to be a “solitary practitioner,” meaning that you practice on your own time, in your own space, and according to your own whims and desires. (About half of pagans identify this way.) Plus, witches are an unusually welcoming subculture; many seem to believe that anyone who has the right mindset and is chill can be one of them.
“Being a witch means you get to make your own rules,” said Annabel Gat, a professional astrologer, practicing witch, and author of a forthcoming book on astrological compatibility. “So you don’t really have to do anything, unless, of course, you are initiated into a tradition that you’re committed to.”
In other words, being a lazy witch isn’t necessarily being a bad witch; it’s often just being a practical one. Last night, after a long day in which I’d failed to light my enchanted candle once, I went to a ritual with my sister. The host, another witch I know, is far more diligent than I am — I immediately noticed and felt intimidated by the Book of Shadows and the ceremonial dagger casually lying around along with a human-sized pile of books about goths. The ceremony concluded with a small cauldron filled with ashes, which we could either walk down three flights of stairs in order to discard with our backs to the wind, as was specified in the actual spell, or kind of dump out of the open window.
Everyone looked at each other for a moment, waiting for someone else to be the one to point out that three floors is a lot. As the brand ambassador of lazy witchcraft, I seized the moment: “I feel like … we can just throw it out the window …” I said. Everyone seemed relieved.