I loved so much this article by Donyae Coles in the Spriral Nature Magazine as explaining many of us experience. As the writer, I am open about my practice, but I don’t go to the streets with a sign saying “I am a witch”. If you ask me, I won’t deny, just that. But this isn’t the case for everyone. For a variety of reasons, many people are “stuck in the broom closet” and have to keep their practice secret. This need for secrecy can be very hard to practice under, not only emotionally but also from a practical standpoint.
There are many valid reasons not to share your practice and they should be respected, it is not for us to judge anyone else’s journey. We do not live their lives, we do not follow their paths.
Here are some tips to help people practice in secret.
1. Getting an education as a secret witch
Many new practitioners who aren’t sure where to start (but must stay secret) often are at a loss as to how to learn more about the work without exposing themselves. One of the simplest things to do is to read, but keeping an occult library would probably blow your cover.
The good news is that there are tonnes of resources available online. Not just blogs and websites (like the one you’re reading now!), but also a huge selection of books! Another option is to purchase ebooks for things that you are interested in learning about. Many of the larger publishers in the metaphysical realm offer their titles in ebook form that can easily be purchased from sites like Amazon of Google Books.
Finally, don’t discount online groups and forums. These places usually have files that they share and people are always willing to help those who are looking for information. Not all groups are meant for everyone though, so try a bunch and see what fits!
2. Altar spaces and sacred spaces
One of the biggest issues for people who are practicing in secret is the altar. Regardless of which practices you follow, many of them call for the use of an altar and even if ultimately the practitioner moves away from such practices, many people just starting out wish to have one.
Simple altars generally include representations of the four elements, icons or representations of deities or our ancestors and at least a small space for offerings. These are just some basic staples. Representations can be pictures or even small jars filled with the elements along with candles or incense. Read my post: Altar Set-Up for Beginners and Witches on a Budget to have more ideas :D!
There are many options for building one for more discreet practice. One basic suggestion is to place the altar in a closet, if you at least have your own room, that way it will not be on display. Another option for a larger altar is to build it inside of a box or suitcase that can be hidden under the bed when not in use. This solution works very well for those who at least have their own bedroom to function in.
For people who do not have their own room, it is still possible to have an altar! Small altars made from small boxes, even mint tins, are very popular. By using smaller vials or relying on just pictures and drawings, you can make a simple, functional altar.
A final solution for those who absolutely cannot have a physical altar is to create a virtual one. Either by using elements you found on the web to create a photo collage, or setting up a temporary altar and snapping a photo. This isn’t the greatest option as altars should ideally be “living” spaces where you move, add, and change things as part of your practice, but for people in a tight spot, it is a solid choice
3. Making offerings in secret
If you do have to rely on a digital altar space or one that cannot be out in the open, making offerings can be a bit tricky. After all, you can’t just set a plate in front of your nana’s photo and call it a day! But don’t worry, there are many other ways to send your offerings.
The first is simple, although food and drink are some of the most basic offerings we make, you can also offer your prayers, the lighting of a candle or your own meditation as a form of vernation. This option works for honoring both gods and ancestors. They will understand your constraints as long as you are diligent in your work and honest with what you can give.
Another solution is to make your offerings at a place that is associated with them. For ancestors, a trip to their graves (if possible) is something that would not raise suspicion in most communities. Taking flowers once a week to a cemetery is a very commonplace activity and people wouldn’t bat an eye.
If you’re dealing with deities or other natural spirits, then you can simply go to places that are associated with them. This means, for example, that if you want to make an offering to Oshun (a very popular Orisha), you could go to a river and leave her offering for her. Or, if you were hoping to commune with Dionysus, hit up a wine bar. The key is to find the things which is associated with them, where their energy would gather and go there.
Get to know who you are worshipping and get creative! There are a million and one places where a deity’s energy might be felt outside of the obvious ones, like parks and streams. Think about what your chosen deity likes and go where you can find that thing!
In some locations, it is much easier to leave offerings than others. Obviously in a park or by a river, for example, it would be very easy to leave something (just make sure that whatever you are leaving will not harm the environment!), but in a shop or public place, it might be a bit harder to do so discreetly. In public places, you may only be able to offer a prayer or devotion to your deity but that is better than nothing at all. Take advantage of this post regarding celebrations:
Other hurdle for people who must keep their practice secret is actually doing the work of the craft. For people who practice forms of chaos magick or just general worship, they may not need to engage in any actual rituals or spells. For other paths, actually completing rituals and casting are important parts of their practice and many people who must do so in secret feel as if they aren’t really following their paths because they cannot do so.
Although very blatant things like sigils scrawled on your walls, talismans around your neck, and iron cauldrons boiling over the fire may tip people off to what you’re doing, it is very possible to do work in secret. The first step is throwing out any preconceived notions of what the craft looks like. Forget about dancing naked in the moonlight, wearing pentagram everything, or swapping out your deodorant for a permeant aura of Nag Champa incense. None of those stereotypical things are needed to practice and you are more than welcome to do them later when you can be more open. For now, let’s concentrate on what you can do.
5. Low key divination
Finally, there’s the act of divination. Many people who embrace this lifestyle practice some form of divination as a way to help guide them, commune with the higher and lower planes, practice meditation, or even see how spells work will go for them. The problem with most divination is that you need tools and these leave the secret witch open for discovery.
The easiest-to-hide form of divinatory tools is perhaps the pendulum. The types you can purchase from shops made from crystals, stones, and fine metals are lovely but you don’t need these to practice this art. You can make a pendulum from just about anything and a piece of string. A ring, a key, a nail, tied to a string and there you go! It’s also very easy to make a pendulum board or mat.
Scyring can also be done with limited tools, however, it does take some alone time so this is only an option for people who are able to be alone and meditate comfortably. It can be done outside or even by staring at a screen, but if anyone will wonder why you’re staring at a screen for so long, it may not be the best option.
Standing in your power, even in secret
As I mentioned earlier, secret witches and people trapped in the broom closet get a lot of guff from those who have the privilege to be open about their practices. It’s hard when you feel like you can’t really be who you are and do the things that would fulfill you as a person.
These tips and tricks are meant to help you find ways to practice while keeping your mental and physical health safe from bullying and harm. Not everyone understands this lifestyle and some still outright fear it due to ignorance, however, don’t let that stop you from exploring, even if you have to do so in secret.