In “Ask a Witch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age.
We’re back! It’s time to get witchin' and bitchin’. Are you ready to start the new year with some extra mystical, magical, boss witch vibes? Me too. Let’s get to it.
Question: What is the significance or power of the "crossroads"?
Answer: Ah, the crossroads. Whether you’ve heard that a crossroads are the best place to bury a spell or are familiar with deities like Hecate who rule over these paths, the crossroads are an ancient part of witchcraft, dating back to the Greeks and Romans. Crossroads are associated with union, with the joining of paths, with balance, and with the meeting of energies and times and space. The crossroads are also associated with nature spirits. The crossroads, then, are a place where the worlds meet and have the same effect as when you cast a circle. The directions, the energies, and the elements intersect at this point. They’re neither here nor there. And classically, crossroads are considered a point of supernatural activity.
When we work with the energy of the crossroads with a god/dess, we’re picking up on the energy of possibility, of balance and union. And when we dispose of a spell here, we’re scattering the energy to all points, not just one. We’re all equal at the crossroads. This is a space where worlds intersect, and, as we know, there are more layers to the world than what meets the eye.
You can work with these energies by meditating on them, actually visiting them (modern-day crossroads are just street intersections!), and working with deities like the goddess Hecate or the voodoo god Papa Legba. Equinoxes and cross-quarter days could also be considered energetic crossroads, and this in-between energy, that’s neither here nor there, could be honored in the same way, as well.
Question: I’m sure you’re familiar with the saying "as above, so below," which refers to the idea of witchcraft as being bad and good, or, rather, both things. What are your thoughts on this concept?
Answer: As above, so below; as within, so without. This a saying or law that isn’t just related to witchcraft but to many occult and hermetic philosophies. What it means is that whatever is happening in the universe, beyond our realm and in the cosmos, is also happening to us on a very real physical and emotional level.
The universe is energy, and it’s all vibrations. I’m adamant about the fact that I don’t use the word white or black magick, or white or black witchcraft, for this reason. Not only is equating good with white and evil with black wrong (white attracts both “good and bad,” and black repels both “good and bad”), it’s also racist to label things in this way. (Also, as a fellow member of my coven points out, this isn’t a universal truth either—in Germany, white cats are bad luck, and black cats are good luck!)
Energy is energy; it’s not good or bad, helpful or evil, until the witch decides what it is—we’re the ones filtering it and labeling it. Think of Mother Nature: She causes rainbows and soft breezes and rains when the land is in need of replenishment, but she can also cause tornadoes and hurricanes and all kinds of natural disasters. But we wouldn’t label her “evil.” Mother Nature and her entire spectrum can be compared in this way to the range of human emotions we experience, from the good and the bad to the ugly and hurtful. Just because we think something “evil," that doesn't mean we're “evil,” similarly to how Mother Nature caused a storm doesn’t make her evil either.
I love the saying “as above, so below” because it’s a reminder that, like a tarot deck's Magician or Wheel of Fortune cards, all things are connected, and all things cycle. When we place our judgments on good or evil, we’re missing the point. I think it’s more important to shed any residual shame about the darker parts of ourselves while remembering that darkness doesn’t equate to evil—and that without darkness, there would be no light.
Question: Do you have any advice for new witches?
Answer: Read and learn!! Go to your local bookstore and spend a few hours in the occult and metaphysical section. See what catches your eye, and read it. Listen to podcasts (Pam Grossman’s The Witch Wave is my favorite). Go to used bookshops and look through their vintage books. Talk to your family and see what magick is in your own lineage. Think about what sparks your inner flame. Is it cooking, plants, art, music? This absolutely has a place in the craft. My first column gives some information about different forms of witchcraft, but there are plenty of other resources out there, as well. The Hoodwitch is a great place to start. Going to local metaphysical shops is also a really beautiful way to learn more from people face-to-face and start forming a community. Using resources like the School of Witchery and House of Intuition TV are other great ways to learn online if you live in a place that doesn’t have a metaphysical or spiritual community. Also, the internet. Twitter and Instagram are a great resource. Go on a journey and a deep dive and enjoy the ride!