Fear is one of those human mechanisms which presents as a double-edged sword. A healthy dose of fear, in this instance, the experiencing of falling can be a survival mechanism which promotes the use of safety devices on a treacherous job site. To its credit, the instinct of fear has kept the human race alive for many successful generations, however, when does fear become something which inhibits our personal growth or perception of our surroundings?
I think the subject of our fears is not a subject that is spoken enough about in the Pagan / Witchcraft communities. On the surface, it should be enough to say we’re proud people who have faced much adversity together. Fear of different belief systems and the occult should be something we should easily conquer, given there is so much talk about Gods, Faeries, the Ancestors, and different entities abounding in our social media feeds. There are memes shared on Facebook which casually describe dancing naked under a full moon and performing necromancy (work with the dead). To be sure, there’s a lot of laugh emojis when discussing these bigger concepts in occultism.
It’s decidedly easier to push a reaction button on a meme, however, how many of us would jump out of our boots if we heard a disembodied voice during a midnight ritual in a graveyard?
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s alright to be scared. It’s healthy to admit when we are in over our heads when it comes to the things we pursue on our spiritual path. One of my mentors once told me, “No one freaks out when nothing happens in a ritual. People freak out when something happens.” As someone who has personally witnessed people transform from skeptics to adepts over the course of years, I can tell you this reaction to the happenings in the sacred Circle is normal.
Sometimes as humans we tend to forget that there are things we can not explain yet, with science or spirituality, and these experiences can certainly be the stuff of nightmares.
Here are some of my best practices regarding facing and annihilating the dread surrounding occult practices:
- Admit your fear. It would be hubris to say that every witch or Magickal practitioner has never encountered an incident which left them confused or quaking in their symbolic pointed hats. It’s a battle of ego to admit when a message from tarot cards simply left you a bit unnerved. The result of not admitting our fears can be succumbing to them such as a person who receives a message from an ancestor during a divination session and then never does it again because their brain has simply marked it as “stay away from this.” Who knows if that intimidating message would have helped the practitioner overcome a hurdle in their personal lives?
- Don’t write these experiences off. Sit with fear for a while. Study the mechanisms inside yourself which cause fear. Using the previous experience of hearing a disembodied voice in the graveyard, try to ask yourself a few questions before dismissing the practice altogether. Are you afraid of death? Why are you afraid of death? Asking yourself why you’re triggered by a certain magickal affair will help you better understand what kind of personal work you need to do to overcome the habits which no longer serve you.
- Education is everything. For so much of our work in Magick and in following any Path within Paganism, we are always pointed to research. When encountering a fear such as meeting a Satanist or a Luciferian for the first time, are we afraid because we don’t know anything about that Path? Is the reason we won’t work with a dark Goddess or a Goetic daemon because we were conditioned to believe these things are wholly evil due to a previous Christian upbringing? It’s not to say that these entities can’t be dangerous, however, when we have a better understanding of what we’re engaged in and how to approach such entities, we are eradicating the fear of the unknown through the illumination of knowledge.
- Weigh your fears. Some fear and panic is completely legit. An example of a legitimate fear would be a person or entity who does not respect your boundaries or engages in any form of healthy reciprocation. If you are pursuing the path of knowing yourself better, then you’ll be able to understand more quickly as time goes on what fears are worth facing and what fears are healthy fears which act as survival mechanisms. This weighing of ideas isn’t an overnight process, so I heavily suggest not making any rash or emotional decisions regarding a practice or entity you fear.
- Build trust with your fear. Maybe you are attracted to working with the Kemetic Goddess Sekhmet, however you’re afraid to work with her because you’re worried about offending her. If you’ve done your research, and you’re coming at this with a pure intent, and you’re watching for the signs, you’re likely to have a functional experience with this Goddess. Start out on your journey with facing this fear one step at a time. Using the example of working with Sekhmet, it might look like writing a letter to her explaining your intent and what you have to offer. You might do a divination to see if she has accepted your offerings and is willing to work with you. It does not look like a massive ritual to commit the whole of yourself to a Goddess who may or may not be willing to participate in Magickal or sacred acts. Small changes are the most sustainable, so go with your gut.
- Record your outcomes & share them with people you trust. Let’s say you want to embark on a series of shadow work journeys to uncover past traumas. You have a fear of what you might uncover. Once you’ve begun this work, my advice would be to record your experiences in a journal. If you notice any disturbing trends such as a rise in anxiety levels or dark thoughts, stop immediately! It’s also a healthy practice to share your experiences with others such as a therapist or coven mates who will be able to give you a different perspective on how to tackle your challenges.
- Protect yourself & plan ahead. We’ve talked about so many ways to tackle fears in the occult, now we’re going to touch on how to protect yourself if you have a negative experience. Let’s say you’re working in the graveyard one night and a feeling of dread comes over you. You don’t feel welcomed. Maybe you are experiencing a gut-wrenching feeling. That’s the kind of experience you’ll have when healthy fear kicks in and it’s time to walk away. For myself, I carry certain herbs and say certain incantations when working with spirits to protect myself from harm. One of these herbs is bear root, which is known to devour any spiritual activity (good or bad) from an area. I generally have protective wards on my vehicles to keep any spirits I’m working with out of my personal space. If you’re going to be engaging in any of these activities, I strongly encourage you to know how to get yourself out of trouble. Working with the occult and entities is no joke.
Does staying fearful help us in our growth? The short answer is no, maybe. There are certainly forces out there which should not ever be pursued by ignorant souls looking to cash in on shock value. If we are looking to transcend our fears and go beyond what we initially thought was impossible, there are methods to do so that we can use as tools to overcome and understand our practice better. I think if we are able to bridle some of our less founded fears, we may have a deeper connection to our spiritual practices.
What are your thoughts on facing the fears associated with Witchcraft, the Occult, or even certain practices within Paganism? What was one fear you encountered and conquered? Have you ever experienced something powerful and knew it was too much for you to handle? Thank you for reading my article. I encourage you to ask questions, leave comments, or share your insights with myself and the community. Please follow me on Instagram for more related content. Blessings to you – Shining Quill the Unicorn.
The title of this article references an old show on a network called Nickelodeon named, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” I chose it as a title because honestly I felt this show was one of those primer shows for young Pagans and witches which helped us embrace our fear. Much like Charmed, Angel, or Buffy, these shows weren’t a real depiction of the Craft, however, in a world without YouTube or solid information, they helped alot of us millennials come to terms with who we were.