This is the inaugural post in my Q&A series, "Dear Glitter Witch". You may send questions to me here. Please include your mailing address if you would like to receive a sticker in return!
To break in this column, a friend known here as Drako asks:
How does one become a witch?
Is there a non-binary version of witches?
Becoming a witch is as simple or as difficult as you want it to be. Much like gender identity, the label itself is self-deterministic: if you identify with it in any way, you may use it. The term "witch" in its common usage within the neopagan communities has no gender. Anyone of any gender can absolutely be a witch.
Witchcraft has always been an important tool of justice and self-empowerment for the oppressed, so if you feel called to study and practice, I think it could be very transformational for you and for anyone else who is oppressed by our patriarchal and capitalist society.
Below I am going to outline two options for study, Wicca and Feri, because they have many resources (including options for online study). Know that there are a myriad of other options, too.
Wicca is a popular place to begin pagan spiritual research due to the fact that resources for learning are readily available. Wicca has its foundation as a fertility religion based on agriculture, so the binary of male/female is important as a symbol of biology, because you need those components to be present for successful harvest and animal husbandry. These days, that aspect of Wicca is generally not taken literally as applied to people—many Wiccan groups are explicitly inclusive of trans and gender non-conforming folks. Be aware that the Principle of Gender is one of the foundational principles in Wicca and many other occult traditions.
I respect Starhawk's current take on the principle of gender, which she describes in the most recent updates to her classic book The Spiral Dance as a web with many possible connections, not a simple binary. It's interesting to see how her thoughts on witchcraft have evolved since the book was first written in the 1970s when even the mere concept of a Goddess religion (and its connection to women's liberation) was revolutionary. It's beautiful that more and more people are free to live authentically and that the greater neopagan community is a safe space for that.
You should be aware that there are traditions and schools of thought that are less open to non-conforming genders. Some traditions of witchcraft, like the Dianic tradition started by Zsuzsanna Budapest, are for AFAB (assigned female at birth) woman-identifying witches only.
For my nonbinary readers, I would recommend first looking into the Feri tradition (of which the aforementioned Starhawk is an initiate), which has no basis as a fertility religion and so does not center the strong gender binary aspect that Wicca can have, and has a strong queer and genderfluid contingent. Black Rose is a trustworthy place to learn online at your own pace, and it's affordable at $25/month.
If you are not put off by working spiritually with gender polarity in the form of God and Goddess and the Principle of Gender I linked to above, absolutely look into the Temple of Witchcraft, of which I am a first-degree initiate (more on that later!). The Temple is explicitly queer- and genderfluid-friendly in their policies, and the founders are a gay polyamorous triad.
Another aspect of neopagan culture that may be a comfort to you is that it is not uncommon for members of pagans/witch communities to take on new names or identities, so if your identity or presentation shifts within the group, it will be celebrated and affirmed.
If you find that magical work is for you, it's inevitable that your own understanding of your identity will expand even further. I know one non-binary witch who uses the pronouns fey, fem, and feir as an expression of both feir femme-ness and feir otherworldly magic.
Before you research anything, I suggest journaling about what you hope to gain from this spiritual journey. It is interesting to check in with this as your research and studies progress. My own personal list written two years ago looked something like this:
- connection to nature
- an interesting hobby
- a belief system that supports my personal goals
- new holidays/traditions
- historical study
- meditation practice
Above all, know that there is no wrong way to be a witch, and you absolutely can practice on your own and build your own traditions if you do not find a tradition that resonates with you. Additionally, it's important to note that you can practice witchcraft without practicing a pagan religion, and vice versa. I hope I've given you a helpful starting point with which to craft your own spirituality, if you feel that would serve you.
I leave you with bright blessings, Drako!
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