One thing that folks who are newer to Witchcraft and other magical practices often ask me: how do you really know when your intuition speaking to you? How can you tell that sense apart from your fears or some other aspect of your personality that may lead you astray?
It's no wonder we doubt ourselves. Society likes to push the idea that magic isn't real—that we aren't connected to the world around us. This fallacy leads us to ignore our gut instinct and mistrust our ability to know and perceive.
Our intuition helps us navigate the world more successfully and to make more informed choices. That is, if we're listening! And that doesn't take much, because our bodies are designed to help us communicate with the world around us. We are much more than a pile of flesh and blood—we are spirit and energy, consciousness and creativity embodied. Our bodies are highly sophisticated systems of communication—and our most powerful tool.
The Anatomy of a Witch is a set of symbolic systems I use to describe the connections and correlations of our biological and metaphysical bodies. It is composed of the Witch Lungs, Witch Heart, Serpent, Witch Bones, and the Weaver or Witch Mind. For helping you connect deeper with your intuition, I'm going to introduce you to the Serpent.
The Serpent is the most primal aspect of ourselves—intertwining instinct and intuition. I often visualize it as a snake wrapping around the Cauldron of Warming, nestled in the belly. Here in the abdomen, the Serpent is connected to the digestive and reproductive systems, as well as part of the endocrine system. We also find the Vagus Nerve, which is responsible for sending signals from the digestive system, heart, and lungs to the brain. It's this nerve that gives us the phrase, "a feeling in your gut" or, "gut instinct."
We tend to think that our brain is the master and generator of thought, but it's not the only organ capable of it. All of our organs are communicating—the brain's job is to act as mission control, deciding who/what takes precedence. Think about how a mission control tower directs incoming and departing flights. The tower is taking in communication from those planes in order to devise the safest and most effective pattern of travel. So our brain is filtering information from our all of our senses, including the signals carried by the Vagus Nerve.
Being primal in nature, the Serpent is very interested in the basic need of protecting us, as well as spotting potential opportunities that would be helpful for living. It doesn't need to theorize, it knows and reacts. When you think about time when you've that "gut feeling," it's probably also been a time when you might have also said, "I don’t know for what reason or how, but I just feel it." This sensation is the Serpent at work, guiding your intuition.
Understanding and learning to best interpret your intuition does take time. Paying close attention to how you feel, how your body responds to situations and ideas, noting your choices and the results—all of these observations help you understand the Serpent's wisdom better. Another factor is how your life experiences have molded you up until this point. The sensation of being excited and being nervous or anxious feel very similar, so we tend to rely on what's happened to us in the past to determine if something is positive or negative for us.
Consider what happens to your body when you are presented with a certain stimuli or information. Whether you are walking into a place you haven't been before, interacting with someone new or familiar, or being asked to do something on a future date, you're going to have a reaction of some sort, and it's not always one you can pinpoint to conscious thought.
Here are some of the sensations I'ved note with my own intuition that has been consistent over the years. Your bodily responses may differ from mine, but you will start to notice a pattern after a while.
The Drag: If the proposing of doing a task or an event causes me to go from feeling fine to utterly exhausted, I find it's generally a good idea to say no. My brain may want a specific reason to justify it, but that exhaustion feeling has never been wrong. The times when I have overridden that sensation, I've regretted it.
The Kickstart: The opposite is also true. If I'm in a state of feeling tired and then I'm presented with an idea, task, or event that makes me feel rejuvenated, it's always been a favorable happening. Even if logic doesn't work out right then and there, it has in the future.
The Wall: The wall is a call for a full-stop. This feeling is different from the exhausted sensation because it's usually concerning an immediate situation that needs my full attention. I get the urge to be still, focus, and pay attention. When you think about prey animals that freeze when worried about being attacked, it's sort of like that, but without a feeling of terror or danger. Cool thinking needs to prevail.
The Detail Check: If my attention is drawn to something that seems ordinary but sticks out for some reason (something I see, hear, taste, or feel—so it comes in many formats), it's often something I need to pay attention to in short order. Usually has a favorable result—either an unexpected benefit or avoiding some sort of issue that would have caused a problem.
The Bridge Is Up, Please Wait: If things aren't flowing as expected and I'm getting frustrated, there's usually a better way I haven't seen yet. I get the feeling that I need to regroup and breathe, even walk in circles to get the anxiety out. Even if time is short, it's best to stop and re-evaluate. That time spent waiting and watching always provides a better revelation. The path or choice is definitely the right one, but patience is required.
These are just a few of the ways I feel the Serpent speaking to me. Again, your experience and feelings may differ from mine, but I bet you'll start noticing more correlations. Intuition is a creature of both nature and nurture—our experiences shape how we interact with the world, particularly in how we perceive and interpret them.
Keep in mind that not everything our intuition calls out is for big major moments. Sometimes the Serpent is calling out the little things that make our lives easier and provides new opportunities as well. Noting those small moments can also help us notice signals for big critical moments, too. The more we pay attention and observe the world around us, the better connected we become to ourselves and our magical practice.
Find out more about the Serpent and the rest of your symbolic systems in Anatomy of a Witch: A Map to the Magical Body.
Laura Tempest Zakroff (she/they) is a professional artist, author, performer, and Modern Traditional Witch based in New England. She holds a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and her artwork has received awards and ...