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Witchcraft isn't as scary as it seems. Here's what a 3rd generation witch wants you to know

The witch has been depicted as evil for centuries, but perhaps it's time to honor what witchcraft is about: connecting to nature and to our inner selves.
Witchcraft and Nature
Becoming a witch doesn't require converting your spiritual belief or religion to Wicca or Pagan. It's simply about listening to "the call," which can manifest in a myriad of ways.Jenny Chang-Rodriguez/TODAY illustration
/ Source: TMRW

Being a witch is more accessible than one may think. It's a practice that reinforces people's connection to nature, to each other, and perhaps most importantly, to themselves.

According to Lisa Lister, author of the book "Witch" and a third-generation witch herself, becoming one does not require converting your spiritual belief or religion to Wicca or Pagan. It's simply about listening to "the call," which can manifest in a myriad of ways. For some, it's an urge to defend animal welfare, human rights or the environment. For others, it can be a sudden desire to explore your lineage, read books about mysticism or just confront an uncomfortable feeling in your gut.

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Today, following an intuition to reconnect with your deepest self and natural surroundings is perceived as positive. But in the past, any urge to act like a witch was demonized. According to the University of Washington, the European witch hunts began in the 1300s and escalated in 1484 when Pope Innocent VIII classified witchcraft as "crimen exceptum" (an exceptional crime) and ordered the church to find witches, torture them and kill them without fair rights to trial. This occurred repeatedly, and most infamously in Salem, Massachusetts.

Lister describes some of the accusations at the time being as minor as having a cat or being disliked by a neighbor, while others were having knowledge of childbirth (like a midwife) or understanding "secret" meanings of numbers, stones, cards (like tarot) or the future. The Salem Witch Museum's records say some of those accused during the trials were already considered community outcasts, including a beggar, an enslaved person and a differently abled person.

This vintage engraving depicts prosecutors with Martha Corey, who was accused and convicted of witchcraft during the Salem witch trials on Sept. 9, 1692 and hanged on Sept. 22, 1692, along with her husband, Giles Corey.duncan1890 / Getty Images

The stigma that witches were evil, ugly or something to be feared still lingers today. We've been raised on pop culture depictions of witches as green-faced, cackling creatures who have no tie to spiritual light, rather than spiritual healers or intuitives.

More recently, witchcraft has come out of the shadows into a niche popularized by social media, popular shows like "American Horror Story: Coven" and chic magic shops. Cosmopolitan magazine, for example, published an articlein 2018 on new age witches being the new "it" influencers, while the BBC reported that more than 85,000 people in the United Kingdom identified with Wicca and witchcraft religions in the 2011 census. On the main street in Santa Monica, California, the House of Intuition sells majestic crystals, candles and herbs against a crisp, white backdrop and an enormous, winged statue made of purple amethyst.

So what's behind the surge in popularity?

"I think the pandemic has had us all desperately seeking roots, whether that's ancestral and/or physical, so I recommend reconnecting with the earth by getting your hands in it," Lister told TMRW. "Grow food and herbs in tune with the moon as our ancestors once did, track the moon cycle if you live by the sea know when the tide rises and falls, go for nature walks, speak to wisdom keepers who can help identify the herbs and flowers growing in your area."

Strengthening your inner witch could be as simple as stopping to notice and admire nature in your immediate surroundings, pausing to notice your breath moving through your body, feeling the earth with your hands and under your feet or meditating. You could try growing chamomile, sage or other safe herbs and use them to make teas or place them in a cleansing bath. Growing plant life can also be done easily indoors if you live in a city or a harsh winter climate. It doesn't matter where one lives because tuning into nature is, as Lister says, about tuning into your self and your natural power.

Being a witch is about honoring the elements of nature and feeling how they mirror the cycles within our bodies.Kyle Monk / Getty Images

"You are the ritual, you are the practice that reconnects you to nature," Lister told TMRW.

Lister encourages people who are interested in witchcraft and who also menstruate to pay attention to their cycles, because these cycles are replicated in nature.

"It's remembering the cyclic nature of all things, it's recognizing how nature's cycles are mirrored within our human experience and it's having deep reverence for it all," Lister told TMRW. "If you're just beginning this process ... start with the outer landscape: What season is your part of the world in? What's blooming, what's dying? What phase is the moon in? The moon impacts our moods and emotions, so then take a look at your own cyclic nature: How am I sleeping? If you bleed, when are you bleeding? In what phase of the moon? When you start to chart both your inner and outer landscape you see how it's all connected. We are she and she is us."

There are countless types of witches who are drawn to different areas of healing and nature and, like any practice, going deeper requires dedication and work. But right now, we all have the capacity to pause, breathe and reclaim our strength and focus on the beauty of nature.

"In each and every woman, there is a creature," Lister wrote. "She is wild, and she's a reflection of nature. She's a powerful force. She's a power source. She's passionate, creative, deeply intuitive and has a knowing that's older than time itself. And the creature's name? The witch."