Not-guilty confession: I’m a sceptical witch. A lot of things make me roll my eyes when I’m reading books and posts on the craft. The same resources that tell you that witchcraft can be stirring your tea clockwise with some positive wishes are also filled with lists of herbs, crystals, flowers, essential oils and tools to stock up on for your craft.

Still, you can substitute rosemary and clear quartz for a lot of things, you can turn objects you already have into talismans and glamours, you can skip doing something on Thursday at twilight when the moon is waxing if you’re in a pinch. And I’ll discuss why I have the tools and materials I do and whether they’re really necessary (spoiler: they’re not) another time. But today I want to say something I’ve yet to see in any book or post but have needed to see so many times:

Total faith is not essential.

Why we should stop expecting total faith in magic from others and ourselves.

It isn’t essential to your spell working out. It isn’t essential to being able to read your tarot cards. It isn’t essential to achieving your goals and reaching your dreams. Total faith is not an essential in witchcraft, and I think that needs to be widely acknowledged. This post isn’t an in-depth discussion on whether witchcraft is more of a spiritual calling or a psychological tool. It’s a call to stop expecting yourself and others to believe 100% in magic.

Let’s go through a common scenario for witches just starting out or trying a new path: spells that don’t work. You’re struggling with something, or you want something, so you decide to perform a spell. Perhaps you even do it at the time, day and moon phase that’s said to give you the highest chance of success. You gather the ingredients, follow the instructions, and once your spell is complete you feel optimistic and powerful. Then your spell doesn’t work. You don’t get the thing. Everything is still terrible. And you turn to the internet or a book on the basics for a list of reasons your spell might have failed.

On most of those lists, you’ll see a variation of the reason “you didn’t believe hard enough”. They tell you that you need to be completely focused on your intent and actions. That you need to have total faith that the spell works, and that as long as you do your part the universe will reward you. As a beginner witch, this was really demotivating for me. Being new to witchcraft, it still felt a somewhat weird and silly to cast spells, but in order for anything to work I had to completely believe in what I was doing?

This demand for complete faith is not a reasonable one. For those who are new to witchcraft, it needs to feel okay to “mess around” and not expect results. It needs to feel okay to not have a solid belief in what makes your magic work, to explore your ideas and figure out what you do believe. For those of us who have mental illnesses, who have low self-esteem, who have failed in goals so many times before, it is a lot harder to expect our magic to work. It needs to feel okay to practice witchcraft when we don’t love and understand ourselves completely.

Faith in your magic and in your ability grows with practice and knowledge, but it’s alright if you never feel completely sure that your spell will work, or that your tarot deck will deliver the perfect message, or that the pentacle you’re wearing is protecting you. You are allowed to be sceptical, you are allowed to doubt and be critical. And here’s the best part – your magic can still work anyway.

Faith can be useful. It can drive you towards more action to reach your goal, and help you feel more hope and control over your life. But a spell to get a job without sending out any applications very rarely works, regardless of how confident you were it would be a success. A spell cast sceptically and applications sent – even with doubt and fear – have a much higher chance than the prior to work out for you. A tarot reading that seems murky and inaccurate can still provide valuable insight.

Here’s another thing I need to hear sometimes:

The amount of effort you put in gets you much further than the amount of faith.

Being sceptical has allowed me to see my own beliefs more clearly. It’s given me more freedom to be a witch the way I want to be, to use what I want to use, and not put so much pressure on myself to succeed in spellwork. Trying to have complete faith was so draining. Letting go of that need made witchcraft a lot lighter and more enjoyable.

I have nothing against those who strive for total faith in their practice, but I hope if you’re one of them this post gave you something to think about. If you’re not, I hope these words made you feel a little less alone, and maybe a little less like a bad witch. Because sometimes witchcraft feels weird and silly, and sometimes it’s hard to believe we can really achieve a dream. But every step, charm or hex towards our dream gets us closer.

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