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Book Nook: ‘Witchcraft’ as self-care

To set the mood for Halloween, I read Patti Wigington’s “Witchcraft for Healing: Radical Self-care for your Mind, Body, and Spirit.” I have no experience with witchcraft and didn’t know what to expect. I failed to connect well with the spookier aspects of the book, but its emphasis on self-care resonated with me. Its focus on the transformative power of self-care is applicable to all readers, regardless of the reader’s interest in witchcraft.

Wigington has been a practicing witch and pagan since 1987. In addition to writing books and columns, she reads tarot and is the founder and high priestess of a local gathering of witches called a coven. On top of this, she balances a full-time job. She has a remarkable dedication to many different interests, which aids in her ability to communicate knowledgeably about a wide range of topics.

What is Witchcraft?

The opening chapter of the book explains that the folklore image of a witch — someone hunched over a cauldron, amassing great magical power to do evil — is inaccurate.

Modern witchcraft traces back to healing magic. Wigington asserts that witchcraft developed from animism, a belief system that associates spirits with specific living things. This evolved into shamanism, which involves the spirit world and using supernatural forces to heal communities. Ancient healers used herbs to treat ailments, forming the basis of witchcraft today.

Modern magic focuses on bringing about positive change in the practitioner’s life, such as healing, protection and growth. It’s grounded in the will and intent of the practitioner. In short, performing magic is more like the TikTok “manifesting” trend than the kind of spells Harry Potter would cast for instant results.  

Self-Care

This book heavily emphasizes radical self-care — the responsibility to take care of your needs before responding to the needs of others. Each chapter focuses on different forms of self-care. For example, one chapter focuses on self-care for the body, while another discusses self-care for the mind. The end of the book speaks about using witchcraft to serve the community, but it heavily emphasizes serving yourself first and foremost.

I found Wigington’s methods of self-care transformative and insightful. She discusses toxic mindsets that affect our self-talk and self-perceptions. She offers a variety of different techniques to increase self-esteem like changing the way we think about ourselves or exercising regularly.

This book serves as an excellent introduction to different forms of radical self-care. Though it doesn’t go particularly in depth with any of the methods it introduces, they’re all superb practices for caring for the body, mind and spirit.

Magic

Many of the spells in this book blend well known forms of self-care with witchcraft tools. They combine the idea of using will and intent to do magic with common self-care practices. These spells are accessible to beginners and don’t require many resources. The few it does are readily available. Drawing from natural forces, like the phases of the moon and crystals, is also explored.

Overall, this book provides a good beginner-friendly overview of both witchcraft and self-care. This read was certainly eye-opening and changed my perspective on what witchcraft actually is. Though I don’t plan on practicing witchcraft, the self-care routines discussed are very insightful. I’d recommend it to anyone who wants to learn more about self-care or get into the spirit of Halloween.