Discernment in Witchcraft

There are often trends and rises in popularity for Witchcraft, with the latest tied to feminists reclaiming the word, astrological and political climate, popular TV and movie, and more. With this brings an incredible influx of new witches, asking questions that make many of us with 10+years of practice eyeroll and sometimes gatekeep!

“They aren’t real witches”…”Those aren’t signs”…”That’s not real magick”

This gatekeeping has got to stop. It doesn’t progress Witchcraft, and it certainly doesn’t serve ourselves or new/curious Witches. It creates an unwelcoming environment and those new witches are going to move along to something better. None of us know it all, and when we think we do it’s time to let that view go.

What does serve us Witches? Discernment. 

One thing that often happens, in my opinion, is that the above type of responses come either from a place of experience and skepticism, or assholery. Now I won’t deal with the second. They aren’t worth the time. But if like me, you’ve said some of those things above from a place of experience, and perhaps discerning, then you’re still being a bit of a jerk but the reason for it is valid – and that means we can change our approach.

Discernment is such an important tool within witchcraft, and unfortunately few beginner books discuss it. The Temple of Witchcraft series by Christopher Penczak speak about it, but few other beginner books do. I’ll include some of my recommended resources that speak to discernment at the end.

Discernment is the act of critically reviewing the psychic/energetic information received to determine what is meant by it. Was that bird just the same crow that always flies by here? Does my toddler constantly giving me rocks mean anything more than they’re a toddler? Does constantly dropping tarot cards mean something beyond being a crap shuffler?

If discernment isn’t a part of your practice today, here are some simple ways to be more discerning in your practice:

  1. Examine the frequency of the event. Something out of the ordinary is far more likely to have a spiritual significance to you than the everyday crow or squirrel in your tree. Not that they aren’t important, but as far as spiritual significance in terms of signs for you, they likely aren’t it.
  2. Examine the cause of the event. Was the toddler picking up stuff just being a toddler again, picking up the usual rocks like toddlers are want to do? What emotions were you experiencing?
  3. Examine what the experience is telling you. Is it always confirming what you already know – if the experiences are always good news or bad news only, you have cause to be skeptical.
  4. Review what you were doing at the time. For example, walking by a farm and getting a spiritual message from cows far away in a field is pretty unlikely if you live down the road from that farm.

Another tip I’ll offer is that if you want to look for omens, signs, or messages from various daily encounters (a completely valid divination tool), then start your day by aligning yourself to that. When your day begins with a ritualistic practice such as a grounding, centering, brief meditation, and a card draw for the day, you are inviting the sacred to your life. By doing this you are working more closely with the energy and spirits of place, and you can then (alongside the critical thinking I mention above) discern more fully what is Real.

Another important point of discernment, which I’ll quote from the Grape Vine over at Patheos Pagan.

Does it tell me one of the following things that are very rarely/almost never true?

• You are the savior/the chosen one/the most important person in the world
• You are vile and horrible and not worth living
• Everyone is out to get you
• You’re not really a human being

If any of these occur I recommend seeking support from a trusted spiritual adviser, counselor, or therapist. You are human. You are worth living. No one is out to get you. You’re just as dull as the rest of us.

So in closing, experienced witches and new witches alike, discernment is important practice. Use it daily in your Witchcraft so that it becomes honed like a sharp knife, directing you toward the Truth. And experienced witches, use that sword of discerning Truth well, for the new witches don’t need to get stabbed with it to learn how to use the sword themselves.

Blessed Be,


Hear more from Jade by following her blog, and over on Facebook.

Want to read more on discernment?

Discernment: Distilling the Truth from our Pagan Experiences

Discernment, The Spirits, And You: How To Separate Invocation From Ego

Sharpening Your Knives: Three Simple Tools for Developing Discernment




Author: livingtheliminal

Witch, Priestess, Teacher, Student. Living the Liminal. Musing about Witchcraft.

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