But she's not the main reason why I'm particularly tired and simultaneously excited this morning. In the middle of the night I was up for over 2 hours as a bunch of information and the backbone of this blog, among other things, was downloaded seemingly out of nowhere into my mind, demanding to be written down. It happens from time to time. It's the only time I feel sleep deprived and am cool with it.
Witches don't diet. Let me explain the title of this crazy midnight-inspired blog. Starting with the "witch" bit.
In our climate of cultural misappropriation, and of hashtags like #witch, #witchvibes, and #blessed, it seemed cliché, cutesy, and just icky to label myself as a witch. I rejected the label and the bastardisation I believed (and still to some extent believe) went with it, much in the same way I once rejected yoga culture, hard.
Sure, I align my energy with the wheel of the year; I observe the sabbats, seasons, and the cycles of the moon.
I use multiple tools to connect with and sharpen my intuition, including but not limited to meditation, embodied practices like yoga.
I love nothing more than to spend hours wandering by myself in the forest - although these days I'm usually accompanied by little people.
I use divination tools such as oracle cards and occasionally scrying.
Despite being scared of ghosts, I feel the presence of long dead loved ones and communicate with them, not frequently but from time to time.
Most mornings I cast a circle, set an intention, burn sage, commune with my ancestors, journal, and/or read oracle cards.
I have had visions of past lives, my own and those close to me.
I have created multiple altars and sacred spaces around my home. My family is just used to having weird stuff including talismans and many sage sticks lying around the place.
I work with the elements of nature and use herbs daily, and crystals sometimes. The main reason I am undergoing a degree in naturopathy is to add clinical herbalism to my tool belt, yet I also talk to plants and try to connect with plant spirits.
I cast my first spell at age 17 and it worked so well I got frightened and didn't cast spells again until my late twenties when I decided I wanted to get pregnant. That, too, worked incredibly well.
Despite all of this, I have long rejected the label of witch. Not wanting to frighten my Christian friends, or freak people out, and not wanting to further disrespect the archetype of wise healer and elder I hold in my mind.
When my spiritual teacher unflinchingly pointed out that I was, indeed, a witch, I immediately recoiled. I told her I didn't feel comfortable with that term, that I felt it was overused and misused. Perhaps at some level, collective long held negative connotations and echoes of painful ancestral memories sounded through my psyche; the centuries when the word 'witch' led women to be tortured, drowned and burned at the stake stored as warnings in my cells.
She gently reminded me that "witch" comes from the word wicca, which means wise. Witchcraft in ancient history was known as "The Craft of the Wise" because most who followed the path were in tune with the forces of nature, had a knowledge of herbs and medicines, gave counsel and were valuable parts of the village and community as healers and leaders.
My teacher showed me that in my haste to retract from cultural misnomers and in my disdain of anything trendy, I had perhaps forgotten what a witch really is.
In the words of author Lisa Lister, a witch is "a woman in her power. She is wise, a healer, someone who is aligned with the cycles of Mother Nature and the phases of the Moon."
A witch is a woman in her power. Her intuition is strong and she listens to it and trusts it. She sharpens her intuition like a knife and uses it to cut through cultural bullshit, allowing her to stay true to herself. She knows the difference between intuition and the voices of fear.
I know many wise, intelligent, heartfelt people who meet this description. Social and environmental justice warriors fighting for gender equality, opposing weight stigma, and lobbying to stop deforestation. The fiercely compassionate and scientifically justified proponents of the Health at Every Size movement. Herbal medicine masters who are fighting to grant cancer patients access to plant medicine that could save their lives in a medical climate where natural medicine is viewed with suspicion and derision.
They are all witches. And so am I.
And if you're still reading this, chances are you are, too.
Intuition is rooted in the body. Think of the words we use to describe intuitive hunches: I had a gut feeling. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I felt it in my bones. I knew it in my heart.
Think of the times your intuitive, instinctual nature has kicked into gear. When somebody has stepped into your space and something feels "not quite right". When you know your child is in danger and you check they're still in their sandpit only to realise they're about to cross the road by themselves.
When you sense the presence of a loved one who has passed on, something around 75% of us report having experienced. When you recognise a soul mate or lifelong friend by how your heart feels and the tingles running down your spine. These are usually gut feelings, a body sense. Not calculations you've made in your head.
Dieting and the religion of thinness have cut down many a modern day witch, leaving a gaping hole in our collective wisdom and capacity to heal ourselves and others.
Intuition is rooted in the body. Food rules keep you up in your head, disconnected from your body.
When you're spending hours googling gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free recipes instead of doing your practice, whatever that practice looks like for you.
Calculating, compensating and calorie budgeting instead of nurturing your innate gifts, talents and skills.
"Saving yourself" all day for a dinner out with friends and starving in the process, dwindling energy stores that you could otherwise have spent honing your craft.
Being so cut off from your hunger and/or fullness cues and your body, that intuitive messages seem a distant memory or a far off concept, rather than a daily normal experience.
It's hard to stay connected to your spidey senses if you've skipped breakfast AND lunch, all you can think about is how hangry you are and how you could probably hold out for another hour before you really "need" to eat.
So many women I know (myself included) do a bunch of weird shit that has the capacity to - consciously or otherwise - sharpen our intuition. We wear crystals, read oracle and tarot cards, journal, meditate, practice yoga... all in an attempt to "be more intuitive". Or more accurately, to connect us to the wisdom and intuition we already embody.
But food rules pull us right back out of our bodies and into our heads. You can wear a bone necklace made by a Hopi shaman, burn sage until the neighbours call 000, and do a three-hour headstand atop a giant piece of clear quartz... but as long as you're still stressing about how much sugar you ate yesterday, you're going to stay largely shut down to your intuition.
Intuitive eating, intuitive EVERYTHING.
Intuitive eating asks that we begin listening to the hunger and fullness cues of our bodies. But that's not all. It also offers ways to reject the diet mentality and let go of the religion of thinness so pervasive in our cultural and inherited conditioning.
One caveat: If you've been chronically dieting, or you're in a semi-starved state, listening to and honouring your hunger and fullness can be difficult and complicated. This is where getting help from a non-diet practitioner can be of great value to re-nourish your body first so you can begin to receive and interpret those messages correctly.
Witches don't diet
Getting a balanced, satisfying and adequate intake of food can ease mood swings, panic attacks, anxiety, and mild depression. Mental health takes a dive when we're in a state of semi-starvation as the body struggles to construct all the neurotransmitters it needs to remain healthy. Intellectual clarity and intuition is improved when the mind receives proper nourishment.
It's time to stop wasting your energy on the illusion of weight loss or maintaining a low weight as if that's the most important thing in life. It's not.
Sister, we need you. Now is the time to hone your craft, shine your light and offer your healing gifts, and dieting is only stopping you from reaching your magical potential. The world needs your witchy-poo self, and it needs it now.
Casey Conroy is an Accredited Practising Dietitian, eating disorder specialist, herbalist in training, yoga teacher, and coming-out-of-the-closet witch.