Wiccan-style Witchcraft conjures up all sorts of different images in the minds of today's magickal community. Many individuals picture coven practice in the light of the full moon, perhaps with everyone in attendance wearing robes. There are many who think Wicca is a belief system full of rules and limitations, dictating the beliefs, deities, and magickal practices of its practitioners. However, today's Wicca is a vibrant tradition that can be celebrated in a variety of ways and practiced every day.
When people ask me what my Wiccan practice is about, I often answer with the word "connection," because Wicca connects me to the things that matter most in my life. What we choose to connect with will vary among Wiccans; our practice is more about ritual action than theology, but most every Wiccan-Witch I know has used their practice to plug into something. Away from the coven there are all sorts of "little things" I do on a weekly or basis that connect me to spirituality and make me a better Witch.
Unfortunately, deity doesn't always respond exactly how we want it to. Calling to Artemis does not automatically result in long conversations about the state of the natural world, but I do believe the gods hear our words and respond to them in their own ways. Often the signs are subtle—a whisper right behind an ear, a light breeze on an otherwise still day, and sometimes just a "feeling" that can't truly be put into words. The more you speak with the deities that are a part of your life, the easier it becomes to interpret their messages to us.
Beyond prayer there are other ways to celebrate the gods. My favorite is by building them an altar. Altars make great focal points for interaction with deity, and while it's probably a stretch to say that deity "lives" in our altars, their energy often inhabits that space even when we aren't actively engaged with them. When I need to feel a little extra love in my life, I head straight to our house's Aphrodite altar, and once I get there, I rarely even need to say anything.
Deities are much like us; they enjoy gifts and flattery, and one of the easiest ways to do both of these things is to offer the gods you love offerings. Offerings don't have to be anything physical—simply burning their favorite incense on your altar is often enough. Our offerings strengthen the gods and strengthen our relationships with them. If you find yourself drinking an especially good wine, why not pour a little on the ground outside as an offering to Dionysus? He'll appreciate it.
The Natural World
One of my favorite ways to connect with the world around me is through gardening. I'm not a particularly good gardener, but I can generally manage to grow some tomatoes and not kill all the citrus trees in my backyard on an annual basis. Observation of just how food grows is part of the fun with gardening, but by putting our hands in soil we get up close and personal with the Earth. In this age of cellphones and hours of "screen time" getting dirty is essential! It reminds us of where our home truly is and how we are a part of it. In the age of apartments, many of us don't have access to a conventional backyard, but even growing a potted plant offers many of the same benefits as a garden. Most of us have room for something green and growing wherever our homes are.
The natural world is more than soil and seeds—it's what's above us. Take time to notice how the days grow longer (or shorter) throughout the year, and just where the moon is in the sky. While it's easy to feel disconnected from "space," we are all essentially stardust, and contemplating the rest of the universe, or at least the stars above us most nights, is a part of experiencing the natural world, too.
But magick also connects us to thinks beyond our wants and needs—it connects us to those who have practiced before us. No matter what magickal system you utilize, it most likely has ancient roots, and when we practice magick we connect to those roots. My distant ancestors (regardless of their religious identity) most likely used magick in some way, and when I fashion a charm or light a candle for a specific purpose I'm drawn closer to them. My magickal practice also connects me to famous Witches of the more recent past such as Doreen Valiente and Raymond Buckland.
Building the Cone of Power or participating in magickal activity on a grand scale is probably beyond what most of us do daily, but I like to keep my magickal activity brewing as often as possible. Slow-burning spells are a way to do this; most of us have enough time to light a candle every day for an hour or so, and I often place stones and other items on my pentacle to charge for weeks at a time, checking in on them every day to monitor that progress. Few things make us feel more like Witches than magick, so practice at least a little bit of it as often as you can.
Make the World a Better Place
We can make the world a better place in small ways; not everything needs to be a grand political march. Simply smiling at the those around you can have a huge effect on people, as can picking up trash in your local neighborhood. Volunteering at a local library or homeless shelter will allow you to see the divine that inhabits every person.
If time is not something available to you, consider making a monthly donation to a charity or non-profit group that you value. My wife and I make monthly contributions to a few different groups and the energy we acquire from giving to them helps fuel our magick. Making the world a better place requires real action—simply posting articles on Facebook designed to outrage folks doesn't accomplish that.
A Chosen Family
The more we do to increase the bonds between those that are a part of our magickal practices, the stronger our magick will become. Gestures here don't have to be big, either. Simply checking in with someone you care about after they've had a bad day can go a long way. As do the small kindnesses of cooking someone a meal when they are sick or gifting them twenty bucks when things are tough. The energy we put out into the universe comes back to us, so why not put as much kind and loving energy out there as possible?
My practice as a Wiccan does not end when I release my circle and bid farewell to those in my coven. It fuels my actions on a daily basis, and every day I try a little harder to connect with it. This has not only strengthened my faith, but has made me a better person, magician, and Witch.
Jason Mankey (Bay Area, CA) writes online at Patheos Pagan and is a contributor for the magazine Witches & Pagans. He talks about rock and roll, Pagan deities, and various aspects of Pagan history at festivals across ...