In "Ask a Witch," Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age. From spellcraft to finding your path, explore what it means to be a millennial witch.
Hello, one and all! And welcome to the witchiest corner on the internet! We've taken a break since November, but we're back now, and better than ever. If anyone else felt like January was a whole year, you're not alone! Between the eclipses and all the intensity that comes with Capricorn season and a new calendar year, things have felt like a lot. But let's be honest, when do they not?
Anyway, this is why I'm so glad to be back with a new installment of this column! This month we're getting into some fun, like learning how we can ease our anxiety about being "perfect" with spells and ritual; how we can identify "our" card in the tarot deck; and where we can find magical supplies on the internet. And as always, if you want even more magick, you can grab my book Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft and also follow me on Instagram, where I share lots of witchiness as well. So without further ado, let's get to it!
Question: Any spell tips for someone with major anxiety and OCD about messing something up?
Answer: How many of us have felt like we must do something perfectly for it to be valid? Like, if we mess up, it will ruin all our work? This is such an easy trap to fall into, especially with magick, and especially with the idea that, if we fuck up, we're fucking ourselves over. For those who practice and have anxiety—or, in this case, major anxiety and OCD—the stakes can feel even higher. And to all of you, regardless of whether you're living with anxiety or not, my first piece of advice is to BREATHE. It's totally okay to feel worried, and it's totally valid to be concerned about fucking up, but thankfully the universe does have a sense of humor, and magick doesn't have to be perfect to work.
So, erase the expectation that things have to look perfect or a certain way for you to get your result. I know this can be very difficult, but here's the thing: You WILL mess up. You will call the wrong corner first, or mess up the order of a spell, or say the wrong incantation. And you know what? It's okay. Although there are ceremonies and rituals where there's less room for error, for the most part, messing up a little bit isn't going to ruin your spell.
Intention, though not the only part of magick, is a very important part. And if you have this down and you mess up a little, it's okay because you're directing and focusing your energy on the outcome you want. Even if the steps mess up a little, you still have the intention in mind! This morning as I was doing a ritual called the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, I called the wrong quarter first. And you know what? I just laughed, apologized to the universe, did it again, and moved on.
The first step in overcoming your perfectionism is giving yourself permission to make mistakes and not to be perfect. Do the best you can, and if you catch yourself making a mistake, do what you can to correct it. The next step is to laugh and to have a sense of humor about it. The gods are rooting for you, the universe is rooting for you, and as long as you're doing all you can do that day, at that time, you don't have to worry. Laugh it off, apologize to whatever beings you believe in, and then keep going. It's okay, and you WILL be fine. Plus, the more you practice, the less you fuck up! Baby steps, my love. You're a human and "messing up" is a part of this experience. It's okay to own it.
Question: How do I identify "my" card in the tarot?
Answer: Oh my goddess, I love this question because—guess what?—there is no one answer to this! The tarot is broken down into two parts, the major and minor arcana (arcana meaning "mystery" or "secret"). The major cards are embedded with archetypes that speak to the collective unconscious, and they represent big transitions in our life. These are cards like The Lovers, The Tower, and The Star. The minor arcana are broken down into four groups called "suits" which are pentacles (earth), swords (air), cups (water), and wands (fire). These represent our day-to-day life and go from ace (one) to 10 and then include a knave, knight, queen, and king, which are known as the court cards.
In a reading, sometimes you'll be asked to pick a "significator" card, which is supposed to represent you in the reading. But how the hell do you pick that? Well, there are a few ways to do this! You can use your intuition and go through your deck and see what card you're drawn to. Perhaps you're inspired by the energy of the Two of Cups (love) or The Hanged Man (a new point of view). Maybe you're more into the fierce, fiery energy of the Queen of Wands. If you're using what feels right to guide you, really honor what you're drawn to and write it down before looking up the card's meaning. Then see if this feels like you! If not, keep looking!
You can also turn to astrology to help you understand your card since each zodiac sign is assigned a different tarot card. For example, I'm an Aquarius, and we're in Aquarius season, which is ruled by the Star card, a card of divine guidance and fate. At the end of this month, we'll be in Pisces season, which is ruled by the Moon, a card of the divine feminine, intuition, and mystic depths. You can look up your sign and card here.
My suggestion is to look up what your sign card is AND see what cards speak to you, because this often changes. My personal muses are The Moon, The Lovers, and the Queen of Wands. But in the past Death was my muse, as was The Devil. Keeping a tarot journal of your pulls and muses is also a good way of further exploring what archetypes speak to you. Meditate with the cards you like, asking for any messages or downloads to accompany this. Set your card as your phone background. Write about your card, make art inspired by it, look up the card in different decks, dress like your card; the tarot is a tool for transformation, and we can embody this energy however we see fit! Goddess-speed on your quest, beloved.
P.S. if you want to know more about tarot, check out my column with The Tarot Lady here.
Question: Where do you find tools for your practice and altar if you aren't near a metaphysical shop?
Answer: Ah, dear one. Growing up in the deep South, I remember the days when I had to figure out where to buy my magical items. Thankfully, you can get ethical and beautiful altarpieces and magickal items on the internet now, so not to worry! I have a few suggestions for IRL shopping too: Try Goodwill and local thrift shops for things like chalices, candle holders, and other altar items. If you're looking for herbs, I shop from Mountain Rose Herbs. For crystals, herbs, and other magical supplies, I also recommend The Hoodwitch, who sources ethically and has a lot of amazing resources on her site. I also love the smudges and altar kit from The Flowerchild Bruja if you're looking for flower magick heaven. I love Natural Magics for crystals and crystal pipes, and Chakrubs for crystals and crystal sex toys. November Sage Apothecary is also another great online shop, and I love House of Intuition for candles and incense as well. Also ETSY! If you're looking for something super-specific, Etsy is the place to go. Also, use Twitter and Instagram! That's how I find all my favorite brujas to support.
Sending you all love on this wild and crazy ride. Until next time!