Over the centuries, witches, folk magicians, and "cunning folk (as we refer to them in the British Isles) have beavered away behind the scenes to help their communities, often by stealth and in most cases without credit. At odds with the performative, virtue-signalling culture of the digital era, there were and remain magical workers and healers who rarely broadcast their works of positive magic, not least because, depending on individual or societal circumstances, such boasting could be misconstrued or lead to danger.
Additionally, as my mother always told me, if you let ego get in the way of this kind of work, one's "gifts" may be taken away. There are many positive aspects to social media, and I love that so many inspiring practitioners have been able to connect with each other and share thoughts and ideas. Through social media we can support and learn from each other, cheer each other on and form global communities in ways we never could before. But, as with all things, balance is vital.
When it comes to working effectively (and, indeed, being a decent human being) the underrated quality of humility is essential. Whatever our path, magic and witchcraft is deep, spiritual work, and we must frequently inspect our intentions. Are we coming from a pure place? Or are we doing it so we can post about it on TikTok, or to appear "mysterious" and powerful? In this "pictures or it didn't happen" epoch, the squeaky wheels often get the grease, but when said squeaky wheel suddenly realizes they aren't the only witch in the village and that others around them have quietly been practicing for years, rather than rejoicing that there are kindred spirits nearby, there can be a sense of competition or a desire for self-justification. I feel this is a great shame and can stand in the way of love, unity, and progress. It's also important to remember that the biggest voice ultimately counts for little if they're not committed to living their magic and doing the work, every day. And a lot of that work takes place—you guessed it—in silence. Without anyone knowing about it. By stealth, if you like.
"Stealth" normally makes one think of sneaky behavior, but how about when you just want to silently do some good for another with no agenda? It's hard for humans to do a nice thing without wanting a pat on the back for it—usually in the form of a thousand likes on Instagram and a flurry of new followers—but when we seriously commit to our work as witches, and we become accustomed to the magic and power within silence, the grip of ego becomes at least a little looser.
Magical work is also, as many of us know, more effective when it is not talked about; when we discuss it with others, we risk our plans or results being inadvertently polluted or knocked off course by people's attitudes, doubts, or negativity. "To know, to dare, to will, to keep silent" is a law many magical folk live by, and for very good reason.
Occult means "hidden," but sweet Venus, how open things are now. Even twenty years ago I would carefully cover my witchy books in silver paper so I could read them on public transport without arousing curiosity, or bury them deep in drawers so nosy landladies wouldn't see them as they snooped about. Let us never forget the value, necessity indeed, of silence and mystery. But it's not just about hiding what's precious to us from prying eyes and mischievous minds; it's also a beautiful act of magic in itself, I think, to want to do something to help or uplift another without expecting anything other than the quiet satisfaction of having done it.
What can you do, by stealth and without seeking credit, to uplift others? Here are some ideas that may sound mundane, but are filled with positive magical potential—and amplifying the magic in the mundane is at the heart of my new book Witchful Thinking:
- Leave tokens, notes, or positive messages in public spaces for people to find. I used to live in a seaside community where kindly unknown souls would paint an affirming message on a stone and leave it on the beach, on a bench, or under a tree for someone to find. The number of pictures of these stones snapped by delighted passers-by proved that a simple but powerful magic had not only taken place, it had spread for others to enjoy, the messages being received by those who needed them. Alternatively, whenever I was feeling flush, I would attach a pound coin to a postcard with a friendly message encouraging the finder to put it towards a treat. But just a note or a single word can create a shift in someone's day that prompts a butterfly effect.
- Donate. If you can afford to donate to a charity, it is wonderful to be able to do so. Look into having a tree planted to aid reforestation. Pop the loose change in your purse at the end of the week into a special tin that is just for charity use, and donate it at the end of the month. Alternatively, donating items you no longer use or want to thrift stores can help others, too. If you can afford to do so, you could add extra food to your grocery shop to take to a food bank, or delivering a pack of healthy pet food to a struggling animal shelter.
- Write a positive review. As consumers, we rely more than ever on customer reviews. We are quick to dismiss a service if we spot a one-star write-up (even if we can't prove whether or not the review was genuine or due to some personal agenda). On the other hand, we all too quickly fall for the product garlanded with fake 5-star praise that's secretly been paid for. As a result, our genuine kind words are like gold dust—as they always have been— unfortunately, many of us only feel moved to write a review online if we're angry or displeased, rather than if we enjoyed something, or received decent service. Take the time to think about a book you loved, a café you enjoyed, a beautiful artisan-crafted candle you bought—anything at all. All of those things have people behind them, people who worked hard and did their best to create something special. Once you've made a list—or even if you can only think of one thing—go online and spread the love. Don't worry about time-scale—your positivity is always welcomed and makes a real difference on so many levels.
- Send energy. We are sending out energy all the time, anyway—good, bad, and neutral—and this makes a difference, for better or worse, because we are all ultimately connected. With that in mind, I often like to hold a person, an animal, or indeed the whole planet, consciously and lovingly in my thoughts if they are going through a difficult time. One way to do this is to sit quietly and light a candle, concentrating on raising your vibration (the act of lighting a candle alone will help with this). Call in your guardians and guides and request that you are filled and surrounded by the white light of the Divine, of Spirit, the Higher Power, the Highest and Best—use whatever words and terms that work for you. Then humbly request that the guides of the other person accept a gift of healing energy or positive, uplifting thought from you. Ask that, if it is not accepted, it be redirected wherever it is needed and wanted. Then visualize your friend (or a place, or the planet) looking serene and happy, enrobed in light for as long as is needed. When you have finished, say goodbye, thank your guides and theirs, close down the meditation and ground yourself—eating and drinking something is a simple way to do this, or stamp your feet. You could do both, but maybe not at the same time (it could get messy). I also like to tailor this ritual if someone's pet has gone missing, with a prayer to Bast for a cat, or to Hekate for a dog, for example. Hold them in the light and imagine them bounding safely back to their owners, who greet them with relief and joy. (Resist the desire to tell them you've done this when you see them celebrating their return. Just be pleased for them.)
- Send prayers to those passing over. Tap into old-style "cunning folk" ways by assisting the journey of souls into the next world. One way to do this would be to spend time in meditation and ask the appropriate deities (Hekate, who lights the way, for example) or angels to guide souls safely to the light. It's a lovely way to silently, meaningfully, support others, whether you know them or not. Write a heartfelt prayer to those who have passed, or are about to. Light a candle at twilight or just before dawn: these liminal times are considered to be "thin," making it easier to connect with the other side. Imagine yourself grounded, and picture yourself suffused with Divine Light. Now speak the words, aloud or in your head, while linking in with any others doing the same, on both sides of the veil; you can bet those already in Spirit will be working with you to amplify this work too. Byron Ballard wrote a beautiful prayer for the dead during the first year of the Covid 19 pandemic, and generously shared it with the world. Many people adopted it and recited it every night. You can find it here.
These are just a few examples of straightforward but profound acts of compassionate magic, and they make a quiet but powerful difference in the world—to others and to yourself. What simple acts of "stealth" magic can you conjure?