Why I Chose Witchcraft and the 10 Books That Shaped My Practice

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When I look back on it, I think one of the most influential periods of my life was when I learned to read. To most, this moment in time seems obviously important, but I feel like it was so definitive. My mom started very early with me, running through the ABC and simple word cards every day until I could start reading little things on my own when I was 4. That finally opened the gates to worlds beyond my own, which for the next decade would become a daily retreat for an anxious kid trapped in a strictly Catholic school, and an integral part of the process of leaving that path behind.

The practice of witchcraft is just that – a practice. It is not a religion itself. Believe it or not, Christian witches do exist, though few and far between. I think my favorite example are Hispanic Catholic witches (though they probably wouldn’t use the term.) They are skilled community healers, some of the finest of kitchen witches, always in prayer, and their homes are filled with altars and candles galore. Pretty witchy, if you ask me.

In my experience, people approach witchcraft after a period of disillusionment within their own faith, which I can certainly attest to. It gives you the opportunity to have a spiritual practice that isn’t defined or restricted by ‘authority’ figures. With witchcraft, you are the authority. All of your practices, prayers, rituals, deities, and beliefs are created or chosen by you. Which means that yes, you can still practice the craft and be Christian – you are taking on the role of the priest. This statement alone can be jarring for adherents of such a patriarchal, authoritative belief structure, which is ultimately why I believe that witchcraft is demonized by these religions – they don’t want you to have the powers of the priests, the cardinals, the archbishops – even though you’re operating in alignment with your faith.

I knew very early on in my life that what I was being told in school and in church didn’t exactly feel right. I had a lot of questions but knew better than to ask – it was drilled into our heads that if you were questioning, you were having a crisis of faith and sinning. And I didn’t want to be a sinner. Sinners were bad people who did bad things, and if questioning things was one of the no-nos, then I wouldn’t do that either. Still, I couldn’t shake the uncomfortable feeling that I had come up every instance we were asked to pull out our theology workbooks.

The idea of sin was introduced early on, and it became more relentless the longer you were in it. At my Catholic school in Illinois, the sacrament of reconciliation was part of the third grade curriculum. Imagine telling a classroom of eight-year-old children that they were expected to sit right in front of the priest and confess all of their sins, lest you want to be a sinner and not make it into heaven.

I agonized over this for months leading up to our first confession. The worry and anxiety from that time is still viscerally stamped into my head. I started analyzing every single thing I did every day, wondering what counted as good and bad. Bad grade? Sin. Not keeping my room clean? Another sin. Not liking my little sister? Sinner. What if I had a list of sins longer than my classmates? What if one of them was unforgivable? Would I be kicked out of school? Would I get in trouble? And, the worst – would I ever make it into heaven?

Years later in conversation, my grandma mentioned that she would have never believed that a child could have such severe anxiety if she didn’t know me. I would tell my grandma all of my worries and fears, terrified that they made me a ‘bad’ person, and many of them were inconsequential, though some of them my grandma categorized as ‘big people worries,’ that I didn’t even need to think about until I was older. It got to the point where my grandparents bought me a set of ‘worry dolls’ (which I still have – they’re actually very voodoo-esque, and I love them). The way the dolls worked was that you would tell them what you were worried about every night, place them under your pillow, and go to sleep. The dolls would take everything and make it better, sending it through the pillow into your head, so when you woke up, you felt better. I practiced this ritual, probably my first-ever ritual, nightly from the time I was about eight to at least eleven or twelve. To be clear, the anxiety didn’t cease once I became a teenager. It became so much heavier that these poor little toothpick dolls probably wouldn’t have stood a chance, anyway.

The shift came when we moved from Illinois to Indiana. I began attending public school rather than another private Catholic school and the sense of relief I felt was overwhelming. I could wear what I wanted, I wasn’t being told horror stories about sin and bloodshed, I wasn’t being made to memorize and recite random prayers every week, and I wasn’t required to be at church services every day. Instead, I was just another kid without anyone checking my faith every single day.

It didn’t last long. After we moved, it was important to my grandparents that my sister, my younger cousin, and I still receive religious education. You don’t have much of a say when you’re ten years old, and the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my grandparents, who I love very much. I did the only thing a kid could do – nod their head and just do it. By the time I hit my teenage years, it was all over. The curtain had been pulled back. My intelligence had developed enough to understand it wasn’t bad to question things – in fact, you always should. And the answers I received or discovered were enough for me to know that this was not where I belonged.

I was always very fond of Mary. I loved her blue dress and the way they would dress up her shrine for the Assumption mass, with all of those pretty flowers and linens. I found more comfort in her energy than the tyrannical, judgemental God. Yet we were told that she was not important. To never hold or favor her above the Father. That she was nothing. This sentiment was just reflected in everything else in the church – women had no place there other than to be silent and bear children. Being a woman, I would never truly belong.

The harsh judgements bothered me as well, especially when the religious educators started to speak on marriage, LGBTQ+ individuals, abortion, and suicide. I am very much a person who values fair treatment, and this really rubbed me the wrong way. For a place that supposedly promotes love above all else, the church as a whole has no interest in you personally, your story, your struggles.

In the end, all I could see were maneuvers and practices to maintain control. It was no longer about love. And nothing could pull the veil back over. I was done.

It was a dark period in my life as I now struggled to make sense of the world at the ripe age of fourteen. I was sensitive to the horrors and tragedies playing out on the international stage and for a time wondered if there was anything out there at all. I once tried to convince myself that I was an atheist, but something within me refused to accept that there was nothing. My old soul was shining through even then. I eventually settled into the agnostic label. There was something out there, I felt certain. Little did I know then, but – everything is out there.

After a particularly difficult night, one that I now believe was my dark night of the soul, I had a sudden hunger for new knowledge. I wanted to know what else was out there – and if I was part of it. While lost in a daydream in school, I thought about how I used to play outside as a child. I would dream that I lived in a little house in the woods and I would make potions out of grass and water and rocks. In that moment I remember how happy it made me then, and I decided, Well, all right. I know that people practice witchcraft. I should get a book on it and see what it’s about.

And here we are, eleven years later. I have a very strong practice utilizing witchcraft that honors my ancestral Nordic roots. I believe that it has helped me develop my innate skills, face down my fears and traumas, and evolve into exactly who I am meant to be right now, the details of which I am still uncovering every day, and will likely continue to discover over the rest of my life. I am free to express my spirituality as I please without an authority figure to say otherwise. The only ones I answer to are my Norse family, and even then I have had productive conversations with them on things I feel differently about. I have never been afraid to ask, and they have never been afraid to answer.

I also feel that with all that I have seen and experienced, the Universe is infinite. Every reality exists. Every religion, every faith has a place out there. No one is right and no one is wrong. That’s not what I’m here for. I will go where I will go. You will go where you will go. There’s no sense in converting people to anything. It’s a waste of time and energy. Follow your path. Not anyone else’s.

I am truly blessed to have a family who I think always knew that I was going to be different. In the time since, my grandparents have still been very proud of me, something that I never take for granted. They have told me that they appreciate my love for the old ways, the ways that our ancestors did things before Christianity (violently) swept through our homeland. And in time, they began to simply ask why I do some of the things I do. Not at all out of judgement – just curiosity. When I count my blessings, I count their open-mindedness and their unending support of me living in a way that truly fulfills me, even if it looks quite different than what works for them. They could have reacted completely differently. They could have allowed fear, judgement, or misconceptions to drive their thoughts about me and what I was doing and what it meant about them. But they never did that. They just chose to love me instead. And I wish that everyone could be blessed with a family who, though certainly not perfect, chooses to react out of love rather than anything else.

So, without further ado, if you feel at all like you’re in the same boat, let’s take a look at the books that jump started my practice and that I still reference today.

10. Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham

Ah, the book that started it all. This was everything when I was fourteen.

Before proceeding any further, Wicca and witchcraft are not interchangeable. Like I stated earlier in this post, witchcraft is not a religion – it is a practice. Wicca, on the other hand, is a religion, and the most organized Pagan religion, which is why it’s no wonder that so many people leaving the Abrahamic religions fall into Wicca first – we’re so used to being told exactly what we need to do and how we need to do it that this is the most comfortable next step. We only want a little bit of freedom right now, and since we’re entering into a new religion all together, we want to be told how to do things, when to do them, and why.

On the outset, this doesn’t sound very appealing, but for a complete beginner, don’t let it turn you away – most of the reason I fell in love with this book was because of Scott, the author. His gentle energy can be felt in every word, so much so that you feel like you’re learning a new way of thinking from a laid-back neighbor or older relative. This also provided me with my solid foundation in conducting ritual, gathering supplies, calling in the directions, opening circle and sacred space, and learning how to work with the elements. Absolutely recommended to anyone interested in starting down this path, no matter if you choose to continue on the Wiccan path, or like me, using it as the stepping stone into Paganism itself.

9. The Book of Stones by Robert Simmons & Naisha Ahsian

Oh, every witch worth his or her or their salt should have this book on hand if you choose to work with crystals and stones…which I think most of us do. Stunning, high-quality color photos of stones, clear and easy to read information both on the geological nature of the stones as well as the metaphysical properties, and over hundreds and hundreds of listings. There are very few stones that I have not be able to find when consulting my Big Book of Stones – it is one of the most useful reference guides I’ve ever gotten my hands on.

8. Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore

A recent addition to my collection, this book spoke very much to my current, more advanced practice. Care of the Soul is a guide for cultivating depth and sacredness in everyday life by examining the soul through psychological routes, touching on the mythology of family and childhood, love and self-love, the shadows of jealousy, envy, and depression, the deeper roots of physical illness, and our innate need for ritual, mythology, and a spiritual life. As I’ve been doing more advanced work to figure out who my soul really is and what she needs, I shed more than a few tears while reading certain passages of this book – especially in my realization that in order to honor my soul, I needed to stop fighting with her and forcing her to live according to society’s standards, which as we certainly know aren’t one-size-fits-all. The courage to live in resonance with your soul will bring you the greatest gifts.

7. Eastern Body, Western Mind by Anodea Judith

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a yoga teacher training that didn’t include this book on the reading list, and if I’m mistaken, then it needs to be. Anodea Judith is one of the giants in the metaphysical world and for good reason – if you’ve ever heard of her other famous work, Wheels of Life, then you know.

If you wanted to get down and deep in your chakra system, then look no further. Anodea lays it all out for you, adapting the Eastern chakra system to the Western framework of Jungian psychology, somatic therapy, childhood developmental theory, and metaphysics and applying the chakra system to important modern social realities and issues such as addiction, codependence, family dynamics, sexuality, and personal empowerment.

Arranged schematically, the book uses the inherent structure of the chakra system as a map upon which to chart our Western understanding of individual development. Each chapter focuses on a single chakra, starting with a description of its characteristics and then exploring its particular childhood developmental patterns, traumas and abuses, and how to heal and maintain balance.

6. You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay

This book was the reason I decided to pursue my degree in Metaphysical Science (I have a Bachelors, am currently working on my Doctorate in Metaphysical Counseling) – so yeah, I suppose you could say it was quite influential!

I recommend this book and its accompanying workbook to almost all of my clients and beginner students. Louise Hay’s works have everything to do with mental programming – how you may be programmed right now due to your childhood, traumas, family life, etc. and how to re-program your mind to shift your energy. Trust me when I say that the endeavor isn’t always easy, completely overhauling your thought processes that you may have had running consciously (and subconsciously) for 20-30-40+ years…but the rewards along the path are astounding, even when you shift just a little bit. Louise is also big on affirmations, and many people have asked me, “How can affirmations really work? How can merely repeating something a few times cause a change?”

My answer to you is this: you are energy. Your consciousness is energy. Your thoughts are energy. What happens when you add sound and vibration to energy? You bring it down into this plane and make it real. ‘Watch what you say,’ they always advise. Now you know why.

5. A Modern Guide to Heathenry by Galina Krasskova

Ah yes, this one is for the potential Norse practitioners out there. As I alluded to in my personal account, I definitely started this path with Wicca, who revere the God and Goddess – nameless, for the most part, but containing the general Universal archetypes. I began to feel like there was more of myself to uncover (as it goes in this work), and that the path was calling me down a different fork. I have nothing but love for what my time within Wicca taught me, and I thanked the God and Goddess for their care while I learned under them. I set off again in a new direction, not sure what I would find, but now with some general practices and rituals under my belt. I have a more detailed account of this that I may link to later, but there were some entities out there looking for me while I was looking for them. Nothing has ever been the same since Odin approached me and welcomed me back to my family and my ancestry.

If you find yourself walking down a path that potentially leads North, then I highly recommend this book. Galina explores the ancient lore, celebrations, and mysteries of the Northern tradition with great skill and respect. In it, you will find detailed sections for each of the deities with following meditations, honoring the ancestors, ritual practices, explanations of our views on life, death, fate, breath, prayer, and more. I do not exclusively follow the path of Heathens or the Asatru, but I have found all of their information on our ancient culture rich and absolutely worthy of study to incorporate into my own practices.

4. Modern Shamanic Living by Evelyn Rysdyk

I love this book so much that I taught an entire workshop around its teachings. And I also love many of Evelyn’s other books, the other most influential being The Norse Shaman and Spirit Walking.

Most of my practice is deeply rooted within shamanism. I would like to take this moment to gently bring awareness to the label ‘shaman,’ as it has been unfortunately overused to death by some who really don’t have a clue where shamans came from. ‘Shaman’ is fairly synonymous to the word ‘priest’ or ‘medicine man/woman/person’ to the Saami – the ancient people of western Russia and eastern Scandinavia. I feel comfortable using this term for myself because this is where my ancestors are from.

This book is for everyone who feels uncomfortable in our modern world. The outdoor lovers. The wild hearts. The ones who pine for simpler times. The ones that, no matter how hard they try, can’t seem to get their mind, body, and spirit to just go with the program of our society. Many times over the course of my teaching career I’ve told my students to be easier on themselves – our bodies do not evolve nearly as quickly as our technology and society have in the past few decades. We are excellently wired for life in small tribes and simpler living…which is why I think many of us crave getting back to it. However, we can’t go back to the past, and we can’t just wish away the present. We have to figure out how to integrate the two while our bodies catch up. This book will take you in the right direction.

3. The Complete Book of Chakra Healing by Cyndi Dale

Every part of my energetic practice (Reiki, vibrational therapy, crystal therapy, etc.) comes together with everything I learned in this book – which makes it feel massive.

Cyndi masterfully ties together quantum physics, consciousness, energy, the chakras, auric fields, energetic trigger points, chakra development through childhood, energetic cords and boundaries…like, everything, in high detail. If you’re an energetic practitioner and wanted to move into a more advanced practice, I highly recommend studying this book. It’s extremely informative for anyone looking to go deeper into the quantum realms and themselves, and especially for those with a scientific bent – the opening sections will really grab your attention.

2. Spiritual Growth: Being Your Higher Self and the rest of the Earth Life series by Sanaya Roman

Okay, I guess I’m cheating a little by including a series of books BUT, I’m telling you, every one of Sanaya (and Orin’s) books belong here on this list.

The first time I began this series, I felt an overwhelming connection to both Sanaya and her guide, Orin, whom she channels for. It was refreshing to have validation of channeling relationships, since I find myself in one as well. Orin is a higher guide, an ascended master, if you will, and he shares very thoughtful information, guidance and advice for those of us living here in what I call the Earth School.

Spiritual Growth was the first book I picked up in the series (though it’s considered #3), and I feel that it really transformed me, allowing me to take one quantum leap after another while still remaining grounded in this life and putting higher practices and tools to the test in real life situations. The book’s back cover states it more eloquently than I feel like I can:

Spiritual Growth gives you tools to lift the veils of illusion, see truth, expand and contract time, raise your vibration, achieve higher states of consciousness, open your heart, and know yourself in new, more loving ways. It also opens the door for you to have more satisfying relationships with others by using the skills of non-attachment, right use of will, being transparent to others’ energies, and communicating as your Higher Self.

I highly recommend each and every one of Sanaya and Orin’s books to anyone in this field, including Living with Joy: Keys to Personal Power and Spiritual Transformation, Personal Power Through Awareness: A Guidebook for Sensitive People, Spiritual Growth: Being Your Higher Self, Soul Love, Opening to Channel: How to Connect with Your Guide, and finally, Creating Money: Keys to Abundance.

1. My Astrological Chart

No, I’m not kidding. I reference my star chart at least 3 – 4 times a week, whether I’m looking at current influences or if I’m looking for answers on how to potentially solve something that’s come up in my life.

Your astrological chart is so unique to you that it will not be replicated again for another 25,000 years. Seriously. All of the planets and asteroids will not be in the exact same place again until then. You will be the only one (unless, of course, you choose to take one of those lovely contracts and come back again – it may take you that long to warm up to the idea of another human life.)

When you are doing any meaningful, transformative work, you need to know what you’re dealing with, which is why so much of this work is about self-discovery. How much can you find out about yourself? Everything you uncover will help you know where, and how, to heal.

The placements of your planets can say a lot about you. Your Mercury is how you communicate and learn. Your Venus is about you in relationships with others. Mars is about your motivation, your driving factors, your fight. Jupiter is where you can find luck and abundance in your life (and perhaps you can eye a career in this area of life.) Saturn represents your obstacles and lessons to be learned in this life. Uranus is where you feel rebellious, where you are unique in comparison to others. Neptune can show you your dreams or your unconscious influences. Pluto shows you your shadow and the gifts that can be mined out of the dark fires of transformation. Ever heard of a little asteroid named Chiron? It can point to the deepest wound in this life, where you need to heal.

Sooooo much information and insight can be gleaned by reading about your placements and your chart. I was lucky a few years ago to be gifted a gorgeous, 100-page book where a lovely astrologer analyzed in depth what all of my placements meant, and I’m still pulling information out of it to this day. It helps remind me where I need to work, what lessons I need to learn, and how to understand myself in a way that allows me to be who I am and allows me to understand that not everyone is going to be operating from the same place. It is a priceless book in my collection, and I highly recommend finding someone to help you chart and analyze your placements.

You can run your chart for free at Astro.com (you will need your birth date, birth time, and birth location), though it will not give you a detailed analysis of what it all means. I know many people on Etsy offer these readings, and someone close to you may as well!

If you are having a hard time finding someone to do your chart, this is a service I offer as well, with a few different price points and information levels. Check it out here.

One thought on “Why I Chose Witchcraft and the 10 Books That Shaped My Practice”

  1. This was very helpful for someone who is currently struggling spiritually. It gives us a starting point as to where to go but still gives us the freedom to explore.

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