The Upside of Being a Superstitious Witch pt.1

Author: Quill ofQuillsOccultSupply / Labels: ,

I hear from all sides that superstition is bad.  It's archaic, outdated, and silly and only a fool would follow such a thing.  I beg you please, please stop.

I understand this from the regular folk who don't know any better but it's shocking to me that it shows up in the magical community, a demographic that has had these same claims waged against its own practices and people.  How can we take our cues of what is out of line from people who don't believe that we are even real?

Amazingly, occultists swap quotes like the one from Terry Pratchett: "Witches aren't superstitious. We are what people are superstitious of."  This seems to make good sense (especially because there are a noticeable amount of methods for the regular folk to protect themselves from our work), but it completely devalues a worthy form of magical thinking among those who should understand.  

No, I will not shun the superstition.  Instead I will honor it, acclaim it, and share that love and lore liberally.  I seek to reinstate the beauty, charm, and humility of the superstition amongst we magic users.


The Many Ways to Approach Superstition

Let's talk for a moment about all the things that are acceptable in the magical community and how they blend with superstition.  


Omens

First, there's omens.  Many sayings are predictions or expectations based on chance events and actions.  A guest will soon arrive if you drop a piece of silverware, a standing broom falls over, or a bee flies in the front door. Are these things omens or superstitions?

Omens are considered prophetic, often denoting a higher connection with some hidden wisdom or communication from the Gods.  Why can't a superstition be such a communication?  It would appear that there are few possible divisions between the two.  One of them is that superstition nearly always deals with very practical, everyday events.  So you're going to have company--do the Gods care?  Maybe, but most likely not.  

The only other difference is how these bits of wisdom are phrased.  In one of my favorite books, "Harvest Home" by Thomas Tryon, a gust of wind whistles down the chimney suddenly during a gathering of elderly ladies.  They all take note of the event, one saying "An omen, to be sure" and another adding, "Yes, but of what kind?"    So perhaps the more mysterious the exact meaning of the event, the more likely it is to be an omen?  It's certainly true that superstition has very little ambiguity.  The least amount of clarity that it offers is found in the list of that which is good or bad luck, never specifiying how that might manifest.

Spells

How about when they connect with magic spells?  A spell is the performance of actions and/or words to create effects which have no physical correlation with their source.  Some superstitions are perfect examples of magical thinking when taken this way.  For example, one belief that I follow closely is that whatever you do on New Year's day you will do all that year.  Because of this, I plan that day to contain a little bit of everything I love most and I do my best to avoid arguments and other things I don't want cluttering up my life.  This is my spell for the whole year binging me peace, love, prosperity, and productivity.  


Spells can be classified by their complexity.  Most superstitions would be considered as

only very simple spells, but they all take advantage of generations of firm belief--something that newly written spells can't have.  Perhaps it is that knowledge that its performance is the continuation of untold years that keeps the magic power in a superstition.


Superstition also overlaps, at times, with ritual.  A ritual is strictly defined as any practice with is regularly performed in the same manner or sequence.   Superstitions often entreat us to take advantage of fortuitous moments by doing or saying prescribed things at the right time.  Is wishing on a star a sort of ritual action?  How about the old practice of bringing a loaf of bread and box of salt into a new home to ensure prosperity?

Here's where we get into the problem that most folks seem to have with superstition.  It's at this point that we see methods for averting the bad luck found in certain places or events.  To constantly be on guard against bad luck, to feel the need to do the right thing at the right time to ward it off properly, as well as the fear that one might forget and accidentally invite ill fortune are all things that the "rational" modern mind sees as the damaging effect of superstition.

Now, let me be clear that a person who is anxiety-filled will not find much solace in superstition because they are the ones most likely to flip out over a missed opportunity to remove evil.  The rest of us will be absolutely fine.  I throw spilled salt over my shoulder, I avoid sweeping dust out my front door, and I never pass a person a sharp item by hand.  But if any of these things should happen be the opposite on one occasion out of a million, I'm not going to assume the world will fall apart.  Instead I will see it for what it is: a chance not taken to reinforce the positive aspects of my life.  Next time I will take that chance.

What It Really Means to Be Superstitious

Scientific studies prove that belief in lucky tokens and actions actually increases the abilities of athletes and that the same things can help anyone achieve their goals.  This comes as a result of trying to get to the core of why athletes are especially superstitious as a whole, often noted for wearing their jerseys a certain way for luck or not changing a routine until a wining streak ends.  Fans of those athletes are only slightly less superstitious, going to great lengths to bless their favorite teams and rally behind their mascots.  It has meant a lot to the superstitious--and all of the above mentioned people especially--that there is proven science behind the belief.  Superstition works.  So what's the problem with it that it is still so discouraged?


Frankly, it's only the tradition of modern folk looking down on older beliefs that keeps

superstition a topic of ridicule.  The "enlightened" person who knows only what they see, believes only what they were taught as a child, and lives in a world of absolutes will always tell others what is and isn't possible.  They know best and the rest of us should sit up and listen.  Because so few magical practitioners are born into the belief, we too start out this way.  It can be extremely challenging to shed the prejudice that surrounded you in early life, and many never manage it completely.  It would seem that the distaste for superstition is above average for prejudices to hold onto, despite having walked away from most others of the mundane society.  


So does it make one more of a rational caster to turn up one's nose at folk belief?  Perhaps that is the thinking.  After all, there are many practitioners who like to define themselves by what they shun:  "Yes, I'm a witch, but it's not like the movies!  I do real magic, not just wave a wand and fling fireballs."  

Does it make one more of a powerful caster?  This, too, could be the rationale.  Some do make specific rules about sources "real" power or how to spot a "true witch": "No real witch would sell her spells--magic is sacred!" or "Real witches don't cast curses; anybody who does isn't one of us."  So could it be that some think that following superstition is weakening their position as the genuine article?  Is it so expected by outsiders that we be superstitious that we tell one another not to be?

As a superstitious witch (as well as one who curses and has, on occasion, used fictional magic as inspiration), I do not feel beholden to any of these attitudes.  I know what works for me and that's all I need.  Rationale is not important to me.  What others consider powerful and proper is not important to me.  To be superstitious is to do what you feel works without worrying about public opinion or modern social expectations, and even literal causality.  Is this not what occultists are already doing?

Images from:
blogs.fit.edu/blog/campus/psychology
swide.com/art-culture/italian-traditions
superstitionsonline.com

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About Me

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My name is Quill and I've been practicing witchcraft for the past 17 years. 10 of those years I've been reading tarot and teaching.  I own a shop on Etsy called Quill's Occult Supply (check it out at QuillsOccultSupply.Etsy.com) full of handmade ritual and decorative items, spell components, and wild picked herbs.

I love to work with my hands.  Magic is a tool to shape our lives, and I'm using magic to shape tools to shape magic.  Cosmic! 

I use a lot of my favorite things in my shop: herbs, candles, wood, fabric, paint, clay.  And I get to carve, burn, grind, mold, think, dream ... I'm in the perfect business!

I've written 3 manuscripts for publication (2 non-fiction and 1 fiction) and am an avid NaNo-er!  I and my husband run a local coven called Orbis Prosapia, and our children are growing up surrounded by magic, mythology, fairy tales, Earth worship, art, open discussion, music, and humor. 

In addition to working on Ex Penna about my experiences as a professional witch, I also write for Scenes from the Circle about being a coven leader. 








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