How I Became a Philly Witch (and You Can, Too)

It’s not about wands and cauldrons, but rather empowerment, self-care, and connection with the Earth.

Witchcraft is a growing movement in Philly / Illustration by Chanelle Nibbelink

I didn’t anticipate becoming a witch. It was 2018, and I was planning a wedding; renovating what would become my bookstore, A Novel Idea in East Passyunk; writing a novel; and unpacking decades of emotional trauma. It was a lot. I longed for connection and balance yet knew that meditation wouldn’t be enough. That’s when it happened. One day, as I was perusing tarot decks at Deadwick’s Ethereal Emporium in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, I closed my eyes, and my hand began vibrating with heat as it neared one particular deck. In that moment, I knew.

People tend to be skeptical about witches, and yes, identifying as one invites ignorant comments: Will you hex me? Do you worship the devil? But for me and many others (check out #witchtok on TikTok), witchcraft is an empowering practice, grounded in self-care, activism, and connection with the Earth. I’ve always been interested in the occult, and fairy tales have long been my companions. In many of those stories, I encountered witches. Whether depicted as beautiful seductresses or bent-backed crones, witches serve as symbols of liberation, beings unapologetic about the power they possess. In that way, witchcraft is very 2022. 

But it wasn’t until I took my first class on candle magic (at Palo Santo in South Philly) that I began to really understand a witch’s power. This type of witchcraft uses fire to bring change. Think about making a wish on your birthday: You light a candle, set an intention (wish), and blow the candle out, sending that intention into the universe. I learned that this is what every type of magic is — combining intention with action to produce an effect. The only difference from the birthday candle is that you have to put in the work! Magic is work. How much effort are you willing to put into a goal? That’s how much return you’ll manifest. Since channeling my goals in this way, I’ve manifested story publications, two book acceptances, and teaching and business opportunities. 

None of this erased my trauma, but it invited me to explore it and work to heal from it. I’ve developed a ritual of pulling tarot cards on Mondays, then spending the week reflecting on them. I created a three-card pull during which I ask: What is the energy of this week? What will I learn this week? What will challenge me this week? I display the cards on my altar, which provides regular opportunities for introspection — so crucial these past two years. 

In search of solidarity, I started hosting witchcraft-based events at my bookstore in 2019. And Philly’s witches have turned out. We gather for holidays such as Samhain and Yule and annual events like September’s Pagan Pride Day. Witchy bookshops, wellness centers and meetups are popping up everywhere. Searching for meetups on social media or stopping by your local New Age shops are good ways to find this community. Witchcraft has given me a sense of belonging and serenity at a time when so many in the world are craving those things. It’s not about wands and cauldrons, but rather intention and action manifesting. What could be more magical than that?


Published as “A Charmed Life” in the April issue of Philadelphia magazine.