In Defense of Gatekeeping

There’s been a lot of conversation in the witch community recently about gatekeeping and whether or not we, as witches, have the right to be gatekeepers. The answer, in my opinion, is yes and no.

To be clear, saying “she’s not a real witch” because she’s new to the path, or just discovering things like the cleansing power of certain herbs, or the energies of crystals, or she’s simply enjoying a witchy aesthetic, is just flat out unkind and nothing else. As a gatekeeping method it’s very Mean Girls in a “you can’t sit with us” sort of way. It’s not actual gatekeeping of witchcraft as much as it’s petty social gatekeeping.

Witchcraft trends in a cyclical way, bringing some people to the Craft itself and others to the curious hedges of it and no further. It falls in and out of popularity. The ones who are meant to be witches stick with it. The paths of both kinds of individuals are theirs alone to walk, and not ours to judge.

In my favorite oracle deck, The Faeries Oracle, there is a card called The Guardian at the Gate. I’ve learned a lot from this spirit and energy in the many years I’ve been working with this deck (this was actually my very first deck as a child), and this spirit has taught me a lot about gatekeeping. Sometimes barring access is appropriate, and other times we are meant to help others step through.

There have been times in my life that I’ve been approached to teach what I know of witchcraft. I don’t ever take this kind of request lightly. I am not quick to enter into teaching mode on this. It’s not that I have some puffed up idea of my own importance, or that I arbitrarily decide who to teach and who not to teach, it’s that I believe in the power of magickal living and magickal workings. This is a seriously life-changing path, and it can absolutely put you through hell at times to walk it.

I always consider the character of the person who is coming to me to learn. I think about whether they are likely to do more harm than good, and whether at this time learning from me would do them more harm than good. I ask my spirit allies for their opinions. I take my time. And I always ask the person coming to me why they want to learn these ways.

I know that I don’t have a monopoly on witchcraft. If someone really wants to learn they’ll do the work of sifting through all the resources available and finding what works, finding their way. I encourage that actually. Please, please do the work. But my willingness to assist someone on this path depends a lot on what they tell me they want from it and what I can tell of their character.

If someone wants to avoid the realities of living life, or thinks that it will be like Harry Potter, or doesn’t want to do the work of knowing themselves and dealing with their shadow, I’m not obliged to teach them the magickal arts. To do so would be incredibly dangerous for them and for others, so I do what I can to keep that gate closed.

If someone comes to me and they have an inclination toward the Craft, and genuinely seem to be ready to take steps on the path, and seem able to handle it responsibly, and I’m certain I’m supposed to play some role in assisting them, then I hold that gate open.

It’s simple, really. I don’t have the final word for anyone on their path. No one does. The path of the witch is highly personal to each individual. But in my own life and in my own role, I have a responsibility to myself, the spirits, the individuals who come to me, and the community, to be discerning. This is why gatekeeping is necessary.

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