Double double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble. Or not. While depictions of witchcraft in popular culture often border on the comical, witches have not faced an easy road to freedom in the UK.
In 1542, Parliament passed the Witchcraft Act, defining witchcraft as a crime punishable by death. It is estimated that 500 witches were executed under the act across the UK.
Nearly 200 years later, Parliament repealed the laws against witchcraft.
Since its decriminalisation, modern witchcraft has flourished.
Wicca was born in the early twentieth century. The first recognised religion to originate from the UK, it has since spread across the globe.
Lucya Starza, who is a London-based witch, tells Unreported London about her experience with witchcraft and the Wiccan religion.
What drew you into Wicca?
My grandmother was a theosophist [follower of an occult movement which focuses on/studies mystical experiences to better understand the mysteries of life] and worked as an astrologer. She met Gerald Gardner, the founder of modern Wicca, but didn’t really like him that much. She didn’t approve of the nudity in Wicca.
My parents were very interested in the supernatural and ran a group called Enigmas, which explored the unexplained such as ghosts and UFOs and dowsing [a form of divination using a rod to locate objects and materials] and the like. However, none of my family were Wiccans.
I trained as a witch with Shan at House of the Goddess when I was in my 20s. I only later joined a Wiccan training coven because a friend was a member and said it was a good coven.
Although I am now a 2nd degree Gardnerian Wiccan – a high priestess –I would still only say that Wicca is part of what I do. I’m pretty eclectic and always have been.
So is being a witch your full-time job?
It isn’t my job at all, it is a spiritual and magical path that I follow. I work as a writer and editor. I have written books on witchcraft though, including Pagan Portals – Candle Magic.
What happens when you meet up with other witches?
I am not in an active coven at the moment. When I meet up with other witches we usually have a jolly good cackle about life in general.
Have you faced adversity when telling people that you are a witch?
Nothing serious, but plenty of people take the piss a bit.
What do you think is the most common misconception about modern-day witchcraft?
Probably that Wicca is ancient. Wicca isn’t ancient – it is a modern religion that has roots in ancient practices, but in itself was only created in the early 20th century.
How do spells work?
Short answer – because all things are connected.
Which spells are you asked to cast the most often?
Spells for healing.
Do you often cast spells on yourself?
I cast spells to help with everyday things – anything from success in projects I’m working on to spells for finding things to spells for healing.
Have you ever seen a spell go wrong?
Not disastrously wrong, but spells don’t always work. They can nudge things in the right direction, but they aren’t miracles.
With regards to the phrase “Do what you will but harm none”, where do you draw the line on what is harmful or not?
The Wiccan Rede is a guideline – rede means guidance – it is not a law. Basically, I interpret it as a general ethical code.
How do you feel about representation of witches on Halloween?
It doesn’t bother me if people want to dress up as witches from horror movies or fairy tales.
What do you do on Halloween?
Halloween (or Samhain) is one of the eight Wiccan festivals celebrating the wheel of the year. It is a time to recognise that summer is over and that winter approaches. It is also a time to remember the dead.
Featured photo by Huw Poraj-Wilczynski