Incarnated, as witches, shamans, healers, and sorcerers, in talismans, potions and enchantments, magic is one of the most mysterious expressions of human interiority and our relationship with the divine. Some argue not only for the existence of magic, but that we’re all capable of practicing it, even unconsciously. Art, to name but one example, is in its own way a form of magic. Regardless of our belief in it, it’s one of humanity’s oldest practices and, for that alone, the recognition of magic is nothing short of indispensable.
The role of the witch, the woman with supernatural powers, is prominently featured in ancient mythologies and folklore, of multiple religions and cosmogonies. An archetype who understands or sees more than others (perhaps because of her powerful intuition), she’s also an expression of the feminine divinity in its life-giving dimension. For some, this is itself a spectacular form of magic. Even the word “witch” bears an obscure meaning: for centuries, it was used in reference to women who used magic for evil purposes and those who simply lived outside of the social standards of their times. Lamentably, this has justified all kinds of atrocities throughout history.
In any case, the witches who’ve trod the planet even until now, have held preponderant roles in the metaphysical imagination. Their practices (always replete with an inexplicable magnetism) are expressed in rituals that today preserve treasures of a millenary and traditional wisdom. These practices continue to inspire all kinds of art and creativity around the world. In English, the very idea of “witchcraft” speaks of the implicit possibility of learning and perfecting this craft, an invisible discipline.
Although many consider witchcraft the result of unfounded superstition, magic and magical rituals accompany us all the time, though we seldom notice. It’s still common to carry talismans, objects to which we’ve assigned powers of protection or good fortune. It’s also common to use language as a form of enchantment: how often do we surprise ourselves repeating a word or phrase in the hope that it will change some course of events?
Ritual—among the most beautiful of human acts—accompanies the great majority of us, even during our most intimate moments and can also be considered a form of witchcraft. Finally, the simple, powerful adoration of nature in its many forces has also characterized witches since time immemorial. This too connects us with the inexplicable, with the magical, with that which is bigger than us and which feeds us even when we can neither see nor substantiate it. We all do magic in some way, even if it is done so unconsciously. And we live fascinated by magic, maybe for the simple fact that we’ll never know quite how it works.
Image above: “A witch at her cauldron surrounded by beasts”, J. van de Velde II (Wellcome Images)