How 4 Witches & Wiccans Define Their Faith For Themselves

produced by Anna Jay; photographed by Eylul Aslan; produced by Meg O'Donnell.
Despite the success that pop culture witches have seen this year (from the reboot of Charmed to the reboot of Sabrina to every sage-burning crystal healer who comes across your Instagram feed), it seems like we, as a mainstream audience, only get to hear from real-life practicing witches and Wiccans when their faith is being misrepresented in the media.
But, even that overlooks the fact that Wicca and witchcraft are highly personal spiritual practices — every person who identifies with these faiths may have a different reason for following them and a different approach to observing them. With that in mind, and in honor of 2018's boom in witchy media, we asked four prominent authors who identify as either witches or Wiccans to share how they came to practice their faith.
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Ahead, read their personal stories.
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
1 of 4

I never believed that God was some dude in the sky.

Laura Tempest Zakroff
Author, artist, and dancer

In your own words, how do you describe your faith (say, to someone who isn't familiar with nature-based faiths)?
"Witchcraft is both my spiritual path as well as a major part of my vocational practice. For me, that is about recognizing the sacred in the world around us in way that can be considered both animistic and pantheistic: People, places, animals, plants, and even objects have a spiritual essence to them... I work with spirits, deities, ancestors, and other liminal beings, while also drawing upon the physical world to bring about change in my life and beyond. I'm looking closely at patterns and details that most people don't even give a second glance. All of this factors into how I make art, write, dance, and just generally interact with the world. I don't 'worship' anything. Rather, I listen, observe, commune, and connect with the world around me."

How long have you been practicing?
"I have been a practicing Witch for almost two dozen years now."

If you started as an adult, what was your faith when you were growing up? And what you drew you to witchcraft specifically?
"My mother is an Italian Catholic, my father a Russian Jew. I went to Catholic school for 10 years and even was confirmed (I was a good student regardless of the subject). But even as young as age 6, I was disagreeing with church doctrine. But it wasn't until my very early teens did I fully comprehend there were other possibilities out there besides the Abrahamic religions. I was drawn to Native American practices early on from books I had read, but while technically I am made up of many cultures, that isn't my background, so it didn't feel right. But when I discovered modern Paganism, as well as the spiritual/folkloric practices still found throughout the Mediterranean and Slavic regions, I finally felt like I was on the right track.

"I never believed that God was some dude in the sky, damning people simply because they didn't believe in him, or granting a horrible sinner eternal life just because they confessed their sins before they died. Like even the concept of sin, people being devoid of divinity, and so forth — I could just never get on board... But recognizing the divine in ourselves and everything around us, acknowledging and respecting that reality? So much yes. Also, basically what magic really is is being able to recognize that we have power and agency, when we see and work [with] the connections present in the world around us."

What do you think people still get wrong about Wiccan practices?
"That Wicca, Witchcraft, Druidry, Voudou — any of the 'Pagan' paths — are some weird, crazy, fringe thing, or rooted in a Christian concept of good and evil. Honoring and respecting yourself, your body, other people, plants and animals, the environment — there's nothing weird, crazy, or evil about any of that. At the heart of all beneficial spiritual paths is the message to be good to each other, ourselves, and the world around us."
2 of 4

There's a lot more variety in Wicca than even other Wiccans realize!

Thorn Mooney
Author and Gardnerian priestess

In your own words, how do you describe your faith (say, to someone who isn't familiar with nature-based faiths)?
"Wicca is a type of religious witchcraft that was born in mid-20th century England and celebrates the divine in nature and in humanity. We try to attune ourselves to the cycles of the seasons and to the moon, because they represent both our connection to the land and serve as symbols of the gods. My particular tradition is devoted to the service of a goddess of the moon and a god of death and resurrection, but others work with a variety of the world's pantheons, or else see the gods as reflections of human nature and potential."

How long have you been practicing?
"I began practicing Wicca when I was about 13, which puts me at just over 20 years!"

If you started as an adult, what was your faith when you were growing up? And what drew you to Wicca specifically?
"I didn't grow up in a religious household, so Wicca was my first exposure to spirituality of any kind. Just like today, the '90s saw a boom in witches in the media. Where now we have The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, American Horror Story: Coven, and a Charmed reboot, I grew up with Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Craft, and Practical Magic. So I got in the way many do: through movies and television portraying witches positively. Sometimes we criticize young people for starting their explorations that way, but it's very natural, and doesn't prove one way or another how serious they are about their newfound interests."

What do you think people still get wrong about Wiccan practices?
"I think many people don't realize that Wicca started out as an organized, initiatory, coven-based religion, and many of us still practice according to those old traditions. I'm the high priestess of a Gardnerian coven, and we often don't have very much in common with your average Instagram Wiccan. There's a lot more variety in Wicca than even other Wiccans realize!"
3 of 4

Finding wonder and awe in the universe is a part of my daily practice.

Jason Mankey
Blogger, editor, and author

In your own words, how do you describe your faith (say, to someone who isn't familiar with nature-based faiths)?
"Wicca is more about 'the doing' than any theology. I value my Wiccan faith because it encourages me to live in harmony with the Earth, develop relationships with deity, and take responsibility for my own actions and circumstances. Wicca is often referred to as a 'nature religion' but to me, it's first and foremost a 'magickal religion.' Finding wonder and awe in the universe is a part of my daily practice, and if that's not magickal I don't know what is. Structurally, Wicca is about creating one's own sacred spaces and working with the natural energies of our world."

How long have you been practicing?
"I was 21 when I first truly discovered Wicca. I had danced around the edges of it beginning as early as the seventh grade, but didn't embrace it until I was in college. That would mean I've been practicing for about 24 years, over half of my life! If this is a phase, it's been a long one."

If you started as an adult, what was your faith when you were growing up? And what drew you to Wicca specifically?
"I was initially drawn to Wicca because it was accepting of other faiths and provided me with a way to engage with the divine. That it honored the Divine Feminine was (and still is) very important to me. Faith can't speak to the entire human condition when it only acknowledges one (the male side). I like that Wicca encourages people to see themselves as a part of the world, instead of apart from it."

What do you think people still get wrong about Wiccan practices?
"As a society, I think we've gotten over most of the misconceptions that plagued Wicca in the '90s; it's a rare day indeed when I'm accused of being a devil worshipper or a cult leader. The one glaring misconception I see today is that the current glut of Witchcraft-inspired shows in our popular culture have made Wicca look much cooler than it actually is on a day-to-day basis. I wish my life was nonstop spells and candlelit rooms, but my life generally looks rather ordinary."
4 of 4

Wicca is all about connection.

Deborah Blake
Author and Wiccan high priestess

In your own words, how do you describe your faith (say, to someone who isn't familiar with nature-based faiths)?
"It is a little different for everyone, but for me, Wicca is all about connection. Connecting with nature, with deity (both goddess and god), with other people, and with my own inner wisdom. I follow the cycles of the seasons and of the moon, worship goddess and god in their multiple forms, and believe in the power of magic to create positive change in my life and in the world."

How long have you been practicing?
"Over 20 years!"

If you started as an adult, what was your faith when you were growing up? And what you drew you to Wicca specifically?
"I grew up Jewish, and I still consider myself a Jew by heritage, although the religion itself never really appealed to me. I sought the right faith for a long time, going to the Unitarian Church for a while and studying Buddhism for many years. But nothing quite fit until I took part in my first Wiccan ritual. That night, I reached out for deity, and for the first time, they reached back and spoke to me. That was when I knew I’d found what I was looking for. I love that it is an open and accepting spiritual practice, and one that can be adapted to suit the needs of the individual, rather than the individual having to conform to a set of established rules. Plus, I have always felt a strong connection to nature."

What do you think people still get wrong about Wiccan practices?
"Well, there’s that whole 'evil witch' thing. Snort. There are still folks who seem to believe that witches worship the devil, when in fact the devil is actually a Christian concept, and for the most part, Wiccans don’t even believe in one... Or people think it is some kind of silly New Age nonsense, when in fact it is a deep spiritual calling for most of those who take part."
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