Episode one covers sex parties and Dionysus, the God of ritual madness and wine.
This article was originally published in Allure.
Are witches real? Well, have you ever had a vivid dream about someone, only for them to text you the very next day? Consider that your intuition was burning bright. When you’re overwhelmed and stressed, do you ever turn your bathtub into a cauldron by filling it with soothing salts, perhaps lighting some candles to further set the mood? That’s a self-love spell if I ever saw one. Or have you ever found yourself in an overly cluttered apartment thinking, “I just have to tidy up to change the energy in here”? Look at you, performing cleansing rituals.
Witches are real: They’re people who practice magick. Magick, which witches like to spell with a “k” to differentiate it from stage magic, is real too. The practice of magick is about raising and directing energy to fulfill your intentions, and if you haven’t noticed, witchcraft is in vogue. You may be wondering what in God’s (or the Goddess’s) name is going on, or even what you need to know if you’d like to practice witchcraft yourself. A very good place to start is by clearing up any misconceptions you may have about witches — here’s the truth about nine of the most common myths out there.\
1. Witches aren’t real.
Remember the evil witch from “Hansel and Gretel” who snatches up children to eat? How about Nicole Kidman’s sexy character in Practical Magic? There are lots of different kinds of witches presented in pop culture, but witches exist outside of films and fairy tales, as well.
In real life, you can be a witch and look just like yourself, no eating children required. So how do you know if you’re a witch? If you feel an urge to exert your will and get what you want (while fighting the patriarchy and practicing intersectional feminism, of course), you qualify. A witch is simply someone who is aware of their own power and puts that power into action. If that’s you, then congratulations, you’re a witch.
2. You need tons of training from established witches before you cast your first spell.
Researching and doing some homework is never a bad idea. If you’re looking for good starter resources, I recommend the website The Hoodwitch and the books Craft: How To Be a Modern Witch, by Gabriela Herstik, and Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive, by Kristen J. Sollee. However, writing a spell does not require a coven, goat’s skull, and full moon, as fun as nights involving these can be. Performing a spell just means setting an intention and then conducting a ritual — be that lighting a candle or meditating in the bathtub — to fulfill it.
For instance, let’s say you want to wake up each morning filled with more self-love. Write an intention letter affirming how much you appreciate yourself as you honor Venus, the Roman goddess of love and beauty. You can invoke the energy of any deity you personally connect with, so long as you show proper respect, but Venus is a great go-to for love spells. You can also work with an ancestor or inspired celebrity, like David Bowie (a personal favorite) or Rihanna. Light some pink and red candles, and take a bath while meditating on how loved you are. See? You’re doing magick. Simply writing out gratitude lists or repeating a mantra is casting a spell, as it means you’re injecting reminders of your self-worth into your life. Most witches believe that the universe is filled with energy. Casting a spell is just harnessing that energy.
3. Practicing witchcraft is expensive.
The upside to witchcraft’s recent popularity is that it’s becoming more accessible, and more people understand witchcraft isn’t synonymous with evil. It’s also allowed powerful witches to make money from their craft, which is demonstrative of the power of magick on its own. Some online shops are worthy of your money if you have some extra to spend. Witch Baby Soap, for example, sells lovely, vegan, cruelty-free beauty products infused with spells.
However, it seems like everyone is cashing in on the witchcraft trend these days. Do you need to drop $85 on Goop’s “8 Essential Crystals Medicine Bag” in order to engage in crystal healing? Nope. Sure, tools such as crystals, tarot cards, and incense can be handy in rituals and help sharpen your practice. But all you really need is yourself. You are the witch, you practice the magick, and you are more powerful than any crystal money can buy.
Before you blow your paycheck on overpriced accessories, simply begin sharpening your practice by adding daily meditation and learning to your life. The more you immerse yourself in witchcraft, the more you’ll notice that witchy tools are all around you: in your spice rack, your closet (hello, broomstick), and growing outside. Witches of all economic backgrounds have been practicing for centuries using the tools they have at hand.
4. All witches are female.
Whether you are male, nonbinary, trans, gender-nonconforming, or anything else, you can be a witch. It’s true that there is a beautiful history of women and witchcraft, in part because women have been historically silenced and have used witchcraft to tap into their power and subvert the system. Think of the term “kitchen witch,” which means a witch who flourishes in the kitchen: When women were told their place was the kitchen, some simply focused their magickal energy there. Ultimately, though, magick is genderless.
5. Your ancestors have to have been witches for you to be one.
Like many other communities, the occult world has problematic members who insist that to be a witch, you have to come from a magickal bloodline. Remember how messed up beliefs about “Purebloods” are in the Harry Potter series? It’s not OK to shame or exclude based on lineage in our world, either. Some people do have witches in their families, and when you’re looking for spirits to work with, magickal ancestors are a powerful choice — but so are any ancestors. If you come from a non-magickal family, aren’t close with your family, or have severed ties with them out of necessity, that has nothing to do with whether or not you can be a witch.
6. Hexes aren’t real.
Sorry if this scares you, but hexes, cast to inflict misfortune on others, are indeed real. You may have heard of “the rule of threes,” or the belief that performing magick with ill intent will come back to you three times, turning the ill intent on you. (The neo-pagan religion Wicca holds that “Three times what thou givest returns to thee,” which can be applied to positive magick as well.)
But the rule of threes doesn’t simply mean, for example, that if you cast a spell to steal someone’s man and you and said man get together, he’ll cheat on you exactly three times. Hexes like this usually entail bigger blowback: If you’re performing magick to cause harm to someone, you’re probably in a pretty nasty, dark place. You likely aren’t exuding positive, loving vibes, but swampy, malicious ones. And it doesn’t feel good to be a mean troll. Performing magick to release yourself of anger so you can move on after you’ve been harmed can be healing. Using your craft to hurt someone, meanwhile, often just ends up making you feel bad, not to mention that positive energy is simply more powerful. Work with the universe, not against it.
7. There are “black” witches, meaning evil witches, and “white” witches, meaning good witches.
Speaking of hexes, you’ve probably heard about “black magick” and “white magick.” Some people use these terms, but they probably shouldn’t. To start, they have racist undertones: Rituals that are mistakenly believed to be “bad” and therefore labeled “black magick” often come from traditions such as Hoodoo, which is traditional African folk magick. Generally speaking, magick itself isn’t simply “good” or “evil”: It’s a tool. We can all act selfish, jealous, and petty from time to time, and honestly, that’s OK. We have good sides that are loving, too.
Often, the best way to get in touch with your loving side (and then inject it into your magick) is to recognize that you’re human. Negative thoughts are normal. Instead of acting on them, perform a cleansing ritual, dance around or go to the gym, or take a long, hot bath to soothe yourself. All such acts can be magickal rituals.
8. You must join a coven to be a witch.
A coven is a group of witches that meets regularly to perform magick and rituals. A coven can be traditional, with 13 members and a highly organized initiation process, or it can be more laid-back and designed by you and your witchy friends. As witchcraft has become mainstream, covens have become more casual. Some people enjoy the responsibility and framework of performing magick with a structured group, while other people perform better as solo artists. By all means, form a coven if it’s appealing to you. But if magick is something highly personal that you do alone, that works, too.
9. Your witchcraft should be Instagram-ready.
Explore the hashtag “#witchesofinstagram” and you will see a plethora of pristine, perfect-looking altars, clothing, and crystals. Social media can offer camaraderie and inspiration, and aesthetically pleasing rituals — such as cleansing your space with herbs like sage — have value. But your practice doesn’t have to be camera-ready to be valid. In fact, many of the most powerful witches prefer to keep their practices secret and their altars private. (A note about altars: They’re basically just areas set aside for devotion. You don’t need to spend a ton of money on yours for it to yield rich rewards, and you’re allowed to be a little messy — IMO, Joanne the Scammer is totally a witch and “polished” is definitely not her brand.) It’s OK to look at photos for inspiration, but your practice only needs to reflect one thing: you.
This article was originally published for Broadly. Illustration by Vivian Shih.
When people ask Kristen Korvette how she landed her first book deal, she normally responds with a predictable platitude: She achieved her dream through a combination of hard work and luck. In private, however, she attributes her success to masturbating under the full moon.
Korvette, the editrix of Slutist and a professor of the New School’s class “The Legacy of the Witch,” is a practitioner of sex magic, using sexual energy (often orgasm) for manifestation.”It happened to be a full moon on the evening I submitted my proposal, so I engaged in my usual practice”— which consists of “listening to my favorite erotically-charged music (which is always glam metal: Motley Crue mostly), lighting a candle that has been carved to symbolize my goal, and unsheathing my crystal dildo to consummate the spell”—”and exactly one month later, on the full moon, I received word that I was in,” she says.
Given the preponderance of love spells and evil-yet-seductive witches in pop culture, it’s understandable that sex magic is so often misunderstood. But according to those who practice the erotic craft, it’s just another form of magical manifestation. “You have an intention, and you’re using orgasms or sex as a tool to achieve that particular intention,” explains Cat Cabral, a Wiccan priestess who managed the East Village occult shop Enchantments for more than a decade. Bri Luna, owner of The Hood Witch, agrees with this characterization. “We’re not talking about how to be sexy or have an enhanced libido. We’re getting down to manifesting, talking about harnessing sexual energy to make very real results,” she says. “Sexual energy is just energy. It’s neutral.”
Neutral, maybe, but extremely powerful nonetheless. “With sex magick, all you need is to reach orgasm and you can change your world,” writes Damon Brand in Adventures in Sex Magick.
The history of sex magic as a whole is as expansive as it is elusive, and it’s often difficult to obtain records about it. According to Sex and the Supernatural by Benjamin Walker, sex magic and erotic mysticism were practiced earliest in Central Asia. The citizens of one area in particular, known as Urgyan, a “semi-mythical kingdom that fought for the rights of the Tibetan people,” and are said to have used rites involving tantra, the build-up (and avoidance to increase power) of sexual energy and orgasm. “[It] was a place of some notoriety, according to the Hundi Chronicles, where intercourse was regarded as not only pro-creative…but for the acquisition of magical power,” writes Walker.
Sex magic through tantra dates back to the middle of the first millennium. The diversity of tantric practices has made it difficult to pinpoint the precise origin, the first record of tantra is likely the Śaiva Mantramārga tradition during the fifth century. While today tantra has often taken on associations with new age sex workshops and Sting, it’s also about harnessing power, and even achieving enlightenment, according to Essence of Vajrayana: The Highest Yoga Tantra Practice of Heruka Body Mandala By Geshe Kelsang Gyatso. Unfortunately, many early tantric texts were destroyed by crusaders. The Gnostics, a collection of ancient religions and sects, found in a range of regions from the Middle East to China, also performed sex magic rituals, such as blood rituals and mantras to invoke sexual energy.
The most notorious sex magic practitioner in recent history is Aleister Crowley, a famous 19th century British occultist who viewed sex as “the supreme magical power.” A high-ranking member of the secret society Ordo Templi Orientis, which uses sex rituals heavily in its initiation ceremonies, he went onto write several books on the use of erotic magic. His views were extreme, as was his desire to experiment with new forms of sex magic. In Sex and the Supernatural, Walker writes: “In seeking to enlarge his tantrik-oriented experiences, Crowley advertised for females of all kinds, deformed women, dwarfs, hunchbacks, and as he put it in his characteristically unfeeling way, ‘freaks of all sorts.'”
Contemporary witches dismiss much of his work. “It veered on the more racist and sexist and just really weird,” says Luna. “I feel that a lot of his work, for what it was, was very self-serving and low vibrational, very demonic in a sense where you’re working with things that if you have no idea what the hell you’re doing, you could fuck yourself up. I’ve never felt compelled to go any further with studying him.”
Modern sex magic users have a myriad of historical, cultural practices to draw inspiration from, and many of them emphasize the importance of finding what works best for you. In ways, sex magic is similar to any other form of energy work, which harnesses energy, with the practitioner often tapping into their own spiritual energy to heal. the only difference is that the energy being harnessed in this case is the release of orgasm. “The first step is to have a clear goal and an intention of what you want,” says Luna. “I find for me that sex magic works best when your intention has to do with sex, love, confidence, power, strength.”
“Not, I need a new car, I’m gonna masturbate—that’s just so silly,” says Cabral.”
Other techniques involve repeating mantras during orgasm, focusing on sigils (a magical symbol) to help focus your energy, and invoking certain deities. Hathor, Isis, and Aphrodite are common goddess to invoke, but you can use whatever deity appeals most to you since sex magic is so personalized and intuitional. “I think everybody needs to find deities or mythology or archetypes that relate to them. So for some people that’s staying within their own heritage or culture,” says Cabral. “Personally, I love working with Venus or Aphrodite.” Intuition, she adds, is “the most important thing.”
Indeed, most witches will say that sex magic is one of the most intuitive practices. “I came to sex magic pretty intuitively,” recalls Korvett. “As a young girl, my mother taught me the power of manifestation, but in a G-rated way, of course. Somehow I made the connection between that and all the self-pleasure I was engaging in, and realized it could be used in a more powerful and productive way.”
Another, perhaps less intuitive, component of sex magic involves the use of bodily fluids. An early example of this is Abbe Guibourg, a French Roman Catholic occultistknown as a “renegade priest,” who in 1683 performed a Black Mass, a corruption of the traditional Catholic ceremony. Such ceremonies involve the nun figure urinatinginto a chalice, often as a demonstration of opposition to strict Catholic beliefs. Period blood is another useful liquid in sex magic, and according to Luna, there is a long folkloric history of women putting period blood into coffee or tea or red pasta sauce (because it is easy to hide!) often for binding spells, to cause sexual attraction, as in the Hoodoo tradition. Some practitioners also do spells with a concoction of semen mixed with period blood, which is considered very powerful. The mixture typically obtained and placed in a chalice, or swapped through kissing after oral sex, in a ritual believed to “seal” the magic performed, or create whatever manifestation the practitioner desires (again, sex magic goals don’t have to be about sex), according to Brand.
“Blood is life, especially menstrual blood; it nourishes life, you grow humans,” says Luna, adding that you can use bodily fluids to dress candles and talismans, meaning coating a candle, often carved with a sigil, with a substance whose properties are believed to help one achieve their goal.. (If you are going to work with bodily fluids, please be aware of the health risks. Feeding and eating bodily fluids carries the same danger as oral sex, so get tested, discuss it with partners beforehand, and become educated on dangers. “You’re playing with someone’s will and health. You can transmit diseases and all kinds of icky things,” cautions Luna.)
In general, when practicing with a partner, communication is very important. Luna says that you should either work together completely or keep your partner entirely in the dark about the fact that you’re manifesting magic during intercourse. “Either they know what it is that you’re doing, or they shouldn’t know at all. Because any person who kind of knows and isn’t really into it they can fuck up the whole flow of energy,” she explains. “So either keep them ignorant altogether, or they know and they are going to focus on that energy as well, so it makes it that much more powerful if you are going to come together.”
Even those uninterested or skeptical of practices such as magic can attest to the intimacy and intensity of coming at the same time. “With a partner, it becomes really cool and exciting when you can trust someone, and the both of you can work together. You know, staring at each other in the eyes, maybe slowing down an orgasm, breathing together,” says Cabral.
For many practitioners, though, the fact that sex magic can be practiced alone is one of its main draws. “Although I’ve experimented with partnered sex magic, I find the solo spells have worked better for me thus far,” says Korvette. In a world that’s traditionally punished women for freely enjoying both sex and magic, combining the two can feel revolutionary—and taking matters into one’s own hands only heightens that sense.
“Witchcraft in and of itself if very empowering for women… you know that all of your power is just innately within yourself,” says Luna. “One of the most powerful aspects any women can have is owning her sexuality, and not being afraid of that power, and not being afraid to use that power.”
This article originally appeared in VICE Broadly.
In the intersection of kitchen witchery and kink, magical women are brewing balms, ointments, potions, and lotions, which they bring into the bedroom for BDSM purposes and in lieu of mainstream oils and lubes. While Judeo-Christian traditions carry shame around sex, pagan traditions celebrate it, as many view sexuality and spirituality as one of the same.
“Sexual intimacy can be used as a ritual representation of the fertility of Earth and Goddess when celebrating the cycles of seasons; as a spontaneous reaction to psychic energy either during ritual, meditation, or spell work; or a consenting form of kink as energy play between two or more people,” says Arwen, a 23-year-old Neo-Druid from Orange, California.
Considering the overlap between sexuality and spirituality, it makes sense that self-identified witches are combining nature with their sex lives. “My work with salves is a big part of my life,” says Gg Irkalla, a 29-year-old artist from Olympia, Washington. “A few years ago, I was part of a sacred whore temple wherein there were bowls of coconut oil. It’s terrible for toys and condoms, but amazing for everything else—especially massages, healing work, and skin health.” She defines witchcraft as “not tidy maypole ceremonies in someone’s backyard in the suburbs, while Enya plays timidly in the background. It’s hashish, opium, Adderall, cocaine, anal sex, BDSM, sex work, sorcery, ordeal, and holy rage.”
Stepping outside of the magical lens, kinky people use plants through figging, the act of placing of piece of ginger in an orifice. “[Figging is] often used in D/S [dominance and submission] dynamics and as part of other aspects of intense sensation play, as it creates burning sensation,” explains Dr. Michael Aaron, a NYC-based sex therapist and author of the upcoming book Modern Sexuality. “Some folks’ fetish involves molding it into butt plug shape; it’s important to have some form of handle to retrieve it.” (He advises keeping figging confined to ass play due to the vagina’s particular pH balance.)
When using any essential oil that can cause burning sensations, it’s important to dilute the oil to prevent skin damage. “You definitely need some sort of carrier oil. It could be a sweet almond oil, or a fractionated coconut oil, whatever kind of scent draws you in. There are good things like sesame oil, grape seed oil, wheat germ oil—the list goes on,” says Sheeba, a 31-year-old energy healer from Portland, Oregon.
While drugstore brands such as KY sell warming oils, many women are more interested in a natural and homemade concoction. Sheeba recommends cinnamon oil, which creates a burning sensation and holds an association with the goddessesVenus and Aphrodite. In her own BDSM scenes, Sheeba often uses thieves oil, a blend of clove, lemon, rosemary, cinnamon, and eucalyptus, as part of CBT, a.k.a. cock and ball torture.
“We used thieves oil on the top of [one of my sex partners’] penis and around the head. I have this really mean clip that fit all the way around the tip of his penis,” Sheeba says. “Some of where his extreme pleasure comes from was from that extra sensitivity from the oils and that constriction.”
For cooling oils to soothe oneself after BDSM play, Arwen enjoys a concoction of Calendula, a healing oil associated with love, blended with olive oil for both aftercare and massage. “Steeping Calendula in olive oil in the light of the sun imbues the chemical compounds and energy of the plant to create a healing oil to anoint during ritual or to soothe the body after impact play,” Arwen explains to Broadly.
Other magical women, such as crystal healer Katie Manzella, turn to aloe, coconut, and CBD oil for sex. “When I make love, I find the aloe vera plant to serve as a wonderful way to enhance the experience. Usually I don’t need its assistance, but it’s always fun to work with plants to make life more magical and healthy,” Manzella says. “Coconut and CBD oil is wonderful too!”
Lube has other important mystical uses as well: It’s important to remember it when integrating stone magic into your sex life. Vanessa Cuccia, the creator of Chakrubs, a line of sexual wellness products made from 100 percent mother crystal, recommends using coconut oil when using a rose quartz dildo. “Especially when somebody is making it themselves, I think that makes it more special,” Cuccia says. “When you’re making it yourself—that work that’s going into it, that you’re going to appreciate so much more.”
Coconut oil comes with one downside, however. As Irkalla mentioned, the oil is not latex friendly. If you’re looking for an organic lube to use with condoms, stick with something like Good Clean Love.
Simply creating your own massage oil or BDSM tool from plant ingredients found in your home can make you feel like a crafty kitchen witch, but the true magic is the power and healing that takes place when sex and spirituality meet. “Whatever you are doing can be seen as spiritual no matter how kinky it is, as long as you’re understanding that what you are doing is sacred,” Cuccia says.
When consulting with clients interested in Chakrubs, she will work individually to find the right crystal catered to individual healing. “Bodies carry a lot of hurt, trauma, and loneliness,” Irkalla says. “Sacred sex is a vital tool for addressing these issues.”