Witches: Baddest Thing in the Woods, or Not
Welcome to Part II of our article series on Magical Protection. You can read Part I // Pieces of Your Self: Or, What NOT to Give Spirits << here.
You've probably seen the meme floating around the internet with a quote saying something along the lines of "A witch shouldn't be afraid in a dark forest, as she should be the scariest thing in the woods." But this is a bit of a misnomer, because as a human witch, maybe even an Otherkin witch or witch with Fae lineages, we actually aren't all that strong, or scary-- on our own. There are a lot of things in the Spiritworld that are a lot bigger and badder than us. To think and act otherwise is a recipe for getting our shit f*cked.
Witches can be a pretty terrifying thing in the woods that things found therein would be wise to give a wide berth because we basically have Spirit Gangs. Traditionally, witches had Familiars-- beings tied to them who could come and go between this world and the Otherworld, assist with spellcraft, or otherwise do their bidding; worked in covens (a Big Bad Ugly might think they can take on one witch, but three? Thirteen? Nope.); and/or had other spiritual beings bigger and stronger than them (read: gods) backing them up. I don't know many spirits that wouldn't balk at the idea of going toe-to-toe with Hecate or the Morrigu, just saying.
That is maybe our biggest strength-- we as witches are meant to be mediators between the Spirit/Otherworld and this world. We keep the balance, we negotiate the needs of Spirits / the Land and the humans and animals who dwell there. We are drawn to and live on the edges in the liminal places (hence the old names for traditional witches such as 'hedgerider') both physically and spiritually. So naturally, we're good at (or should be) communicating with and building relationships with Spirits. One of the most important first steps in your practice as a Witch is to do so, and begin cultivating relationship(s) with a familiar, helper spirit, animal spirit guides, and/or deities. Not only is this fulfilling for you and helpful for you in your own practice, it is a matter of safety. It is also particularly important for you Solitaries out there.
Not just witches follow this guideline. One of the key tenants of doing shamanic work such as traversing in Journeys to the Otherworld (many of which are similar activities found in traditional witchcraft, hedgerider, and völva practices) is to make sure you're safe, most notably by 1) having a tie back to your physical body, and 2) taking a spirit helper or animal spirit guide along with you.
Next step, or I suppose an additional step, is to do magical workings with other witches. More witches = more power, yes, but it also means things are less likely to try messing with you. Or if something does, you have a greater chance of coming out on top. They also give you a sound board to bounce ideas off of, talk about a working or encounter you had and how it turned out and what they might have done differently, learn from each other (not everyone knows everything but everyone knows a lot about something), etc.
One time in our old house (the same one with the tree spirit mentioned in the last article), we had a BBU come into our home, past our wards, riding on one of our room mates and feeding on their relationship's turmoil and their son's depression. My husband couldn't deal with it on his own, but with the help of myself, another room mate, and our collective energy and helper spirits, we were able to kill it. Sometimes the only way to get rid of something that is trying to hurt you, or eat your children, is killing them. Yes, you read that right. Things can die on the astral planes, in the Otherworld. Spirits kill other spirits. That includes you. Old tales tell of witches "riding" animals, or shapeshifting and going to the Sabbat Hill, in this reality and being wounded or killed in that form while doing so-- this resulted in a physical wound to the witch's body or even death. Other tales warn of denizens in the Spiritworld attacking a witch or shaman, tearing them apart, even taking part of their soul.
Some people even do Spiritual Warfare, going out into the Astral or in the Dreamtime and fighting malevolent spirits or demons. Some people have bonds with spirits that eat other spirits, and can assist in dealing with such things. My husband did this very thing with a spirit that came into the home we are currently staying at and tried to get to our kids. It was also my first time astrally projecting, which I didn't realize until some time later.
I thought I was dreaming, but was sitting on our bed. My husband and daughter were asleep next to me, my son in his bed next to ours, and everything was as it is in waking reality, unlike most dreams where things are similar but not the same. I look up and our bedroom door, normally closed, is wide open, and a writhing black cloud-mass is hanging in the air at the ceiling just outside the door. I am immediately hit with a sense of dread and know instinctively that this entity is trying to get my children. I try banishing it from the home, claiming it as my domain and it having no power there. But it doesn't budge (my husband later suggests that this is because I do not actually see the home as ours, because it isn't, so my words had no power). I try burning it with fire. Nothing. I managed to wake myself up in real life, wake my husband up enough to tell him something was in the house and it wanted the kids, and then I fell back asleep. The next day he told me what happened after.
He went out onto the astral plane, and sure enough, there it was. He proceeded to eat it, and it was gone. He then told me that before he had gone to sleep, after us, at maybe 3 a.m. he had, for some reason he couldn't recall, opened the front door. Now, our neighbors have many feral cats, which are usually skittish and run from people, or are tentatively curious. Sitting on the little ledge along the side of the house by the front door, was a strange cat he had never seen before. And when he opened the door and peeked outside, it hissed and spat at him instead of running. He then closed the door and went to bed, only to be woken shortly there after by me. Craziest part? A few months later I came across a folk telling of a European spirit (I believe the story came from Transylvania) that rides (possesses) cats, needs no more permission to enter the home than the simple gesture of having the door opened, and has an appetite for children...
Basically, if you come up on a Spirit that would rather shoulder check you in the hallway than politely step aside as they see you walking, you should assume that you on your own are not enough to deal with it, and/or you need some sort of weapon or backup (and by deal with it, I don't mean you have to fight -- or kill -- every spirit you come up against; you might need help to just get it to simply leave you alone to go about your business). An example of this will will be expanded on in the next article. Having bespelled weapons, your own magical shields, and spirit helpers/deities to aid you can help keep you safe or help get you out when magical shit hits the fan. (The next part in this article series will talk about practical applications such as crafting magical blades and witch bottles).
Be well Beloveds, be magical, be safe.
This is the second article of my series on Magical Protection.
PART I is "Pieces of Your Self: What NOT to Give Spirits"
PART II is "Witches: Baddest Thing in the Woods, or Not" (ie. why witches are actually badass-- we basically have spirit gangs)
PART III is "Practical Magic: Tools for Magical Protection" (ie. how to keep yourself safe, and/or get out alive when magical shit hits the fan...)
This will be put together and expanded on in a book/class that my husband and I are writing.