Is Your Witchcraft Subversive?

posted in: glamour | 6

Jow: What will you ask for?

Me: To live deliciously, I guess?

Jow: What if you are given a dress, butter and travel?

Me: I fail to see the problem here.

Jow: . . .

Me: Look, if I’m going to my goddesses and spirits who have been established as bigger and more powerful than me, I’ma have to do them the solid of trusting that they aren’t going to Amelia Bedelia out on my ass.

Let’s get started with today’s lesson.

Life in America Hasn’t Changed Much


salem life

When I read books about Puritan America when I was much younger, everyone wanted to give you the impression of how different Puritan life was from modern American life, even when glossing over the whole Witchcraft Crisis where everyone lost their damn minds for a hot minute in American history.  Puritans never drank!  They never had fun!  They wore severe clothing!  They always were good at all times!  And . . .not so much.  There were tons of bars, they played games once their work was done, the Boston Puritan women wore scarlet petticoats and the Puritans often fell asleep during sermon along with getting into long lawsuits with each other and had frequent pre-martial sex.

Of course, when I started my life as a witch in ye olde 1990s, everyone was super excited about the Burning Times.  Who doesn’t love a good persecution story?  On its highly sensationalized surface, it was a Wiccan Feminist Lifetime Movie that was hard to look away from.  Women being killed for presumed witchcraft!  Innocent victims!  No one is acting in a sisterly manner to each other!  Men were being super mean!  Witchcraft was super misunderstood!  And while it was highly unlikely the women who were murdered were murdered for actual witchcraft, they were often widows or landowners and sometimes had difficult personal histories such as homelessness and children out of wedlock.  During that time, children out of wedlock happened far more likely than you would think and was either received semi-neutrally if you were super sorry about it and people liked you or as an excuse to seize all your goods because you were a ho and people didn’t like you for whatever reason.

While obviously it’s horrific that all these innocent women (and men!) were slaughtered and we can’t (and shouldn’t) overlook that aspect, what I am personally becoming fascinated with is how the Crisis was a time for women to seize power.  Teenaged girls (literally) roared like lions for months in their houses and their parents had no escape from it during the winter.  Wives suddenly became too afflicted to do house work and took afternoon naps instead.  Women of color and servant girls figured out how to run this show, even when they had to do prison bids here and there.  It was a really exciting free for all for a hot minute while women were power grabbing and settling scores, both things that had been previously denied to them.  In the beginning of all this, there wasn’t even much of a consequence to being accused, people were just getting locked up for a little bit here or there making it a really powerful time for oppresssed parties until it got (dead) serious.

What Does Living Deliciously Even Mean?

I know, we all got super excited when The VVitch came out.  Black Philip!  Living deliciously!  Witches as badasses!  American history told in a reasonably plausible sort of way but for all the flying!  Like, believe me, I too am waiting for Black Philip to come and take me away from my boring, back breaking life as much as the next gal but until then, what are you doing about it?  How are you actually trying to live deliciously?  Because the odds of you being swept away all supernatural bodice ripper style are slim, if we want to look at a Particular Cautionary Tale.  Any of your goddesses and spirits may (or may not) help depending on how into you they are. We will get to the magical aspect of course, but let’s start with your actual every day life, killer.  Are you eating crap that makes you slow and slothful regularly?  Cut it out.  Are you moving around enough so your brain meat actually works?  Get it going.  Are you overly indulging in your vices so that you aren’t really living deliciously so much as in a wine induced stupor in front of the intertubes/television?  Knock it off.  Are you creating beauty, magic and glamour in ways that are meaningful to you on a regular basis?  Your fairy godmother ain’t gonna do it for you.  You need to figure out what your butter, dress and travel are.  If it is literally butter, a dress and travel that’s fine.  Like I said, at the end of the day, American life hasn’t changed that much.  If it’s not, you need to figure it out.  What do you need to feel fulfilled?  How are you going to get there?  You need to get faster, stronger, harder.


This is really hard.  I get it.  If it was easy, we’d all be living the lives we’d want to be living.  My Fetch is whining and mewling piteously about the decided lack of sloth going on right now.  I’m dragging my ass to the gym.  I’m not impulse buying.  I’m not drinking much.  I’m not smoking much.  I’m restricting my calorie intake.  I’m watching maybe an hour and a half of television in a night.  I’m spinning wool.  I’m rejiggering my schedule to be better.  I’m reading.  I’m doing yoga.  I’m contributing to my flex spending.  I’m contributing more to my 401K.  I’m saving money.  I’m writing.  I’m paying down what’s left of my credit card debt.  None of this is fun or enjoyable in the slightest way.  None of it.  The general current egregor in America right this minute is to eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die under Trump’s regime.  Living like some kind of vague modern Puritan isn’t what anyone wants to do right before New Year’s.  We want to throw caution to the wind and whatever happens, happens.  But that’s exactly what your oppressors want you to do.  They want you to live like the grasshopper and not the ant and make poor short term decisions to feel a little better in the moment instead of good long term decisions that will actually whisk you into the life you want to be living.


Look!  Elle Woods sure wanted to go to the parties her sorority was having.  It was her senior year in college.  But she wanted to get into law school more.  You have to prioritize what’s actually important long term and figure out what is actually worth it short term.  For me, not worth it short term: the Victoria Secret sale, eating cake during the day at work, watching four episodes in a row of Real Housewives.  Worth it in the short term: a few bites of a mouse shaped French pastry during the day, a bra sale at Nordstrom’s, watching one episode of reality television.


We need to decide as witches to choose art over junk.  Creating it, consuming it.  Not all the time, let’s not get crazy. That’s how the whole Salem Crisis happened – they couldn’t just chill out and read a trashy novel/intertube/junk television for a little while to calm the hell down for an hour here or there.  But most of the time.


Work Your Way Out

 I’m going to present to you a challenging concept that I’ve been meditating on for the last few weeks.  Your impulse will be to reject it, but give it a chance.  You need to surrender to a role in order to subvert it.  Like baking.  Baking is very different than cooking.  Baking is far more science than art, unlike cooking.  There are strict measurements for each ingredient that must be adhered to for your baked goods to turn out properly.  Only once you have mastered these measurements and received your desired results can you start messing with it.  Another example.  Rory Gilmore in That Damn Donna Reed episode decided after offending Dean (who is terrible in every way possible forever and ever amen) about his mom being a homemaker (which is a valid life choice, Mrs. Forester, don’t let the fact that your son is a horrible human being make you feel bad about that) to immerse herself in the Donna Reed role.  She makes dinner, puts on pearls, heels and a retro dress and gives it a whirl.  She finds it’s not for her, but if she didn’t immerse herself, she wouldn’t have truly known why she didn’t want to be like Donna Reed.  When she objected to Donna Reed prior to trying the role out, it was an intellectual objection without personal experience.  When she found she didn’t like the role after trying it, it became an ontological objection for Rory, making it much more powerful and meaningful.


The Puritans was always a bit off balance in America because it was nothing like England on any level at the time and there were always boar attacks, attacks from people whose land you attempting to steal, wild animals, a hostile climate, the French and lots of other things to be worried about.  If you could hear a beaver slap its tail a half mile away (and you could) and have no idea what it was, witchcraft was a plausible explanation for a lot of things especially when your med kit still was full of dolphin blood and beetle shells.The Puritan women were most definitely fully immersed in their roles as wives, daughters, neighbors, daughters, mothers, church roles, etc.  Since their roles were so highly structured, they couldn’t subvert those roles until they had fully lived them.  They wouldn’t have known what would have gotten a reaction without that immersion and experience in the local culture.


Think about the roles in your life. As a worker bee, as a partner, as a family member, as a neighbor, as a friend, as a coven mate as whatever you are.  Chances are, since you don’t have Angry Puritan God yelling at you if you are even thinking about dessert and survival is often more of a financial issue rather than an agricultural/environmental issue at present, you are probably auto piloting on some if not all of those roles.  Consider spending some time fully present in these rolls, even when it’s annoying/tedious/aggravating.  What’s expected of you?  Consider fulfilling a few temporary expectations that you usually dodge.  How does it feel to do them?  After spending some time fully present with these roles and the expectations of the roles, how can you make those roles subversive in order to regain your power?  How can you use that subversion to agitate for your world to change in the ways you would like to see it change?

The Experiment

So, the magic part.  Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you just had to go down to the crossroads and make (1) pact with the right spirit and then buy the clothes to get the life you want to have?  How tidy!  How low effort!  All you would have to do is do magic once and then spend some money and taaaaaaaaaaaaaa-daaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!


Even if you are as new as a shiny new penny to magic, you are not new to life.  Have you ever seen life work that way before?  Not the way you want it to work, the way it actually works.  No, friend.  It does not.   So let’s work with the actual paradigm that is in front of us.  Real change comes from lots of work that may or may not pay off in the ways you want it to, lots of magic that may or may not work in the ways you want it to and a little bit of glamour to set you apart.  It is slow.  It is long.  It is tedious.  It is cumbersome.

If you are new to me, you are seeing the results.  You’re not seeing the last ten years it’s taken me to get here.  Here’s a hint: Before the book, there was a steady diet of despair, crying, rejection and existential crisis.  This has not all magically all gone away.  Nothing makes anything all better.  Not for me, not for you, not for anyone.  But the board is always changing, do you want to be batted around it all helpless and hopeless or do you want to move the pieces?

If you want to start moving the pieces, I highly recommend doing the entire New Year, New You: An Experiment in Radical, Magical Transformation and start now before you get wrapped up in everyone else’s half assed New Year’s resolutions.  It’s self guided and it is as always, my gift to you.  If you’ve done it before (or started it before), you can always do it again and see how you’ve grown and changed and evolved since the last time you’ve done it and make some moves on the board.

Get that dress, Charmer.  Get that dress.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV.

She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  


6 Responses

  1. Living Deliciously was basically what my first NYNY was all about. <3

    Also: "If it is literally butter, a dress and travel that’s fine."
    Someone came over yesterday and literally handed me a PIE, a new book, and a set of car keys (their out-of-town partner is lending us use of their car in exchange for free parking, for the next 10 days or so).
    Today? Today I made a dress. (And a whole wodge of jewelry. And gingerbread cookies).

    Butter, a dress, and travel is pretty damn close to exactly what I'm going for. 🙂

    • I want to see the dress and jewelry! Yes, that’s pretty much exactly what I am working on and what glamour is good for.

      • Most of the jewelry has been given to its various recipients,and have no pictures. (They were a couple of pendants – one peacock jasper beads (with matching earrings) and the other a giant penny-farthing charm paired with (dyed) red coral beads. Everyone was happy). I may be able to get a picture of my wife in her dress – once I let it out under the arms, that is. She loves it, so I’m really happy. 😀

  2. […] me tell you). That’s the magic I’ve been doing. My witchcraft isn’t particularly subversive. But it works.     TTFN, Meliad the Birch Maiden.     [1] What is says on the […]

  3. […] feel like new beginnings.   What do I want to call into my life? Well, as Miss Sugar puts it, Butter, A Dress, and Travel. Maybe, more accurately, I should say that I’m feeling hopeful on the heart front and, while […]

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