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My relationship with self-care has been long and tumultuous. When the term first hit the mainstream, it didn’t really click for me. That was probably for a lot of little reasons—none of which could be clarified by any amount of Goop content. It might’ve been because so many self-care routines seemed to require purchases—bath bombs, diffusers, face masks—and as a writer, I’m on a boxed-pasta-and-black-coffee budget. Or because the practice seemed reserved for those with Instagrams full of prepped meals, curated flat-lays and seaside yoga practices—people who might as well be extraterrestrials in terms of how much I relate to them.
When I first pitched a story about the self-care routines of witches, I assumed I’d walk away with a bunch of recommendations for candle brands or a handful of recipes for special, mysterious baths. I was partially right; I’m not sure I talked to a single witch who doesn’t absolutely love the shit out of baths as a concept.
But self-care for witches is hardly about name-brand accoutrements or accessories. Being a witch, it turns out, is a lot more about self-recognition. You can’t have power without acknowledging that you have it, and you can’t really acknowledge yourself without taking care of yourself, too.
This is what the witches I talked to had to say about the ways they choose to care for themselves. Some of their routines were occult, others simple—but all were, in their own way, magical.
1. Maja D’Aoust
Maja D’Aoust discovered witchcraft when she was a teenager. Her love for the practice was born out of the faerie books she pored over throughout her childhood and the forests that surrounded her growing up.
D’Aoust, who’s now based in L.A., tells StyleCaster self-acknowledgment is crucial for self-care. “Talk to yourself,” she says. “Don’t deny yourself.” The craft is all about power, and to deny your feelings, pains and baggage only gets in the way.
She believes an integral part of maintaining your sense of self is to constantly cleanse yourself of the influence others have over you. “Baptism is a deeply Christian practice,” she says. But it turns out it’s also a witchy one too.
Most of us mindlessly move throughout the day. Our body’s just like this crazy thing we’re traveling around in.
Feeling connected to her body—and in control of it—is also vital for D’Aoust. She practices the martial art of qigong to remain grounded. “Most of us mindlessly move throughout the day. Our body’s just like this crazy thing we’re traveling around in,” she says. “So qigong places your consciousness inside of your meat suit.”
According to D’Aoust, corporeal awareness is also vital to witchcraft; the physical motions and steps involved in spells and rituals make focus and attention to the body essential.
D’Aoust also draws a huge amount of power from being in nature. She spends a lot of time outside—and barefoot. “The earth is an electromagnet, and we are electromagnets, too,” she says. Even wearing rubber-soled shoes in nature makes her feel removed from the earth.
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2. Gabriela Herstik
Gabriela Herstik realized she was a witch when she received a gift in the sixth grade—a set of oracle cards and a book about witches and faeries. Shortly thereafter, she began vigorously researching and learning the craft. Herstik now lives in L.A., where she regularly contributes to NYLON’s “Ask a Witch” column. She’s also recently published a guide to witchcraft, currently for sale online ($11, Amazon).
Herstik tells StyleCaster that self-care is all about taking time to realize what you need—and then giving it to yourself. Sometimes, these needs are light and fun (think: skin care); other times, they may be as straightforward as taking the time to shop for groceries or sitting to process trauma.
Mystical stuff aside, Herstik says one of the most vital parts of her self-care practice is going to therapy.
If you’re in a strong place, then how can that not affect everything else?
According to Herstik, self-awareness—knowing who you are and being grounded in that sense of self—is vital if you want to create any lasting change in the physical and energetic planes. “[Staying grounded] is just going to make your magic so much better, because it’s coming from you,” she says. “If you’re in a strong place, then how can that not affect everything else?”
Herstik says her morning routine is important for establishing how each day will go; she pulls a few tarot cards each morning to read the day’s energy and set her intentions.
She also makes sure to tend to her physical needs, taking salt baths when her neck is sore and setting alarms to make sure she remembers to breathe. Doing things as simple as making sure you’re drinking water or stretching can help you be present, she says.
3. Chris O’Day
Chris O’Day discovered witchcraft at 19 when she met someone who practiced Wicca. Shortly thereafter, O’Day began working at New York City’s Enchantments occult store, and then at Equinox gym—before combining both passions into her own practice, where she calls herself the “Fitness Witch.”
O’Day, who recently moved to L.A., tells StyleCaster she’s seen too many people neglect their physical body in favor of their spiritual being—or vice versa. O’Day makes sure to pay attention to both: It’s all about balance.
I’m very careful about making sure I do yoga, take my sea salt bath and burn incense when I get home, just to make sure I’m getting back into my own space.
O’Day says she often finds herself in need of mental clarity: “I’m so mercurial that my mind is on a wheel of constant chatter.” To tend to her restless thoughts, O’Day engages in a kind of journaling called “morning pages” (though she writes hers at night).
The practice involves filling three notebook pages with stream-of-consciousness thoughts, without trying to write anything in particular, and O’Day says it helps her unload some mental clutter. “We have millions of thoughts a day that mean nothing,” she says.
O’Day also finds it important to establish your own space, one detached from negative energy. “I’m very careful about making sure I do yoga, take my sea salt bath and burn incense when I get home, just to make sure I’m getting back into my own space,” O’Day says. “I have to do something.”
4. Katelan Foisy
Katelan Foisy became involved in witchcraft after discovering her grandmother’s Romani roots and getting her first tarot deck at age 12. She did readings for her friends as a teenager before moving to New York City and reading professionally—first for a Botánica in the Bronx and then out of her own home. She now lives in Chicago, where she works as both a witch and an artist.
Foisy tells StyleCaster she has an array of detoxing methods she turns to after more demanding tasks. “I’ll do some pretty intense cleansings, and you definitely have to detox from that,” she says.
For one thing, she makes sure to bathe every night, and she varies the bath based on what she needs. (She has recipes for cleansing baths, rue baths and self-love baths—and you can find the ingredients for each at the bottom of this article.) Foisy also regularly smudges, or burns sage/incense to purge rooms of negative energy.
Filling my home with plants, having beautiful art on the wall—I wake up every morning, and I’m really happy to be here.
Foisy’s home is also carefully curated to make her feel comfortable and secure. “This is part of my self-care. It’s for survival,” she says. “Filling my home with plants, having beautiful art on the wall—I wake up every morning, and I’m really happy to be here.” Foisy even built a giant paper moon that hangs from one of her walls—just because she wanted to.
To this end, Foisy also sees keeping her space clean as a vital self-care practice. “Even cleaning the house is a magical act, because you’re… keeping it free so you can work in it, so you can have this sacred space to come home to or just be in,” she says. “All of that is a ritual in self-care and in survival; we’re in a pretty brutal world right now.”
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5. Liz Worth
Liz Worth, an author, tarot reader and astrologer based in Toronto, first discovered her affinity for divination when she found a fortune-telling book at age 13. She spent the following summer doing readings from playing cards. After feeling spiritually disconnected in her 20s, Worth discovered tarot and felt compelled to make it a bigger part of her life.
Worth tells StyleCaster she thinks there’s something a little backward about how many people view self-care. She sees it as a means of looking ahead and laying the groundwork for a rich life, rather than constantly reacting to damage that’s already happened.
“I think it’s important to stay in self-care mode all the time, so you’re being proactive about taking care of yourself,” she says. “[It’s important] to set really clear boundaries for yourself, know what your limitations are, stay focused on what you need and know how you’re going to move forward.”
I think it’s important to stay in self-care mode all the time, so you’re being proactive about taking care of yourself.
For this reason, Worth spends each morning working with runes (letters from the runic alphabet), setting her intentions and reflecting on what’s important to her. “When we talk about magic, a lot of the rules have to do with concentration—channeling your intention and willpower into the desired outcome—and that’s really what an intention is,” she says.
Setting boundaries, then, is both a practical mechanism for self-care and an act of magic. “That’s what magic is about, right?” she says. “What do you want? And what are you going to do to make it happen?”
Worth also makes time for physical activities, like walking, biking and lifting weights. “It’s always on my schedule, and it’s always just for me,” she says. “It really keeps me grounded and centered.”
6. Bunny Urick
Bunny Urick was a Wiccan fan before she had the vocabulary to realize it. During childhood sleepovers, Urick and her best friend would often sneak outside to do spells and light candles—something Urick later identified as an early affinity for witchcraft. Urick distanced herself from witchcraft for a while but reconnected to it after her mom’s death. She now works as a Reiki healer in Los Angeles.
Urick tells StyleCaster that keeping herself clean, clear and healthy is essential to doing her job well. Having healthy relationships with others starts with having a healthy relationship with yourself. “Getting good exercise, drinking a lot of water, eating really well, keeping my own vessel clear and clean—it helps me process things much better,” she says. “If I’m not taking care of myself, and I already feel like shit, other people’s stuff sticks to me way more.”
Urick’s an empath, so she makes sure to spend time by herself—particularly in nature. Taking that time to cleanse and recollect helps her stay centered.
Being in beautiful places is really important—whether it’s nature or the nice coffee shop down the street.
Urick has also found that her physical environment impacts her ability to practice self-care. “I’m very much about my material possessions. My space and how it’s kept really affects my mind. so I’m constantly cleansing and purging things,” she says. “Being in beautiful places is really important—whether it’s nature or the nice coffee shop down the street.”
Urick also draws on community to stay centered. She recently met up with other Los Angeles–based witches to spend some time together—specifically, to circle up for a working, watch The Love Witch and make love candles. (Urick expected her candle to be a passion working that would bring more energy into her relationships, but found that it turned into more of a self-love candle—one encouraging her to have a softer relationship with herself.)
Urick says there’s a lot of power in setting intentions with others and working toward something together.
7. Monica Bodirsky
Monica Bodirsky started reading about witchcraft at a young age. Both she and her family identify strongly with clairvoyance, reverence for nature and premonitions, and these things led Bodirsky to start researching divination and practicing tarot at age 10.
Ever since, community has been extremely important to Bodirsky, who founded the first-of-its-kind WITCHfest in Toronto so witches could come together to recognize their common voice and kinship. “Self-care for witches is often about community, because witches can feel incredibly isolated,” Bodirsky tells StyleCaster.
She also emphasizes the importance of professional help and urges witches not to try to “spell their way out of it.”
I think self-care is about recognizing your capabilities and celebrating them, but also recognizing your limitations and where you need support.
“When I’m working with tarot, I make sure I tell people: If you need a lawyer, you need a lawyer, not a tarot reader,” Bodirsky says. “I think self-care is about recognizing your capabilities and celebrating them, but also recognizing your limitations and where you need support.”
Bodirsky also turns to the elements to feel centered. Breathing in air and feeling her feet on the ground are both important to her, and she takes note of the moon’s impact in times of extreme emotion. “Understanding exactly where the moon is can help you understand self and self-awareness,” Bodirsky says. “Which, of course, is all part of self-care.”
Monica’s biggest piece of advice? “Do what you love. Don’t drag your butt through work and a job you hate. Do what your heart is calling you to do.” Hard to argue with that.
To get the witches’ recommendations for teas, aromatherapy and bath recipes, see below.
Bodirsky recommends inhaling lavender for relaxation, peppermint for focus and citrus for sheer joy.
Foisy recommends drinking or bathing in crema Earl Grey tea for prosperity, putting black walnut tincture into water and drinking it for a month to heal a broken heart, and mixing hibiscus with honey (and a bit of mint and rosemary) for self-love.
Bathing Beauty — Self-Love
When in need of self-love, Foisy mixes different milks with roses, honey, lavender and orange peel.
Bathing Beauty — Cleansing
When in need of cleansing, Foisy combines sea salt, lavender and rosemary into a scrub.
Bathing Beauty — Cleansing & Clarity
When in need of cleansing or clarity, Foisy bathes in milk, holy water, cascarilla (egg shell chalk), cocoa butter, white flowers and Florida water. She washes with white soap.
A version of this article was published in October 2018. Updated July 2019.