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Working with Deities 101


Witchcraft is an open and diverse practice and witches are free to work with magic in any way we choose. This includes if and how we work with gods and goddesses, spirits, angels and other non-human beings.  While many witches consider working with deities and spirits an essential part of their practice, some witches do not work with them at all. 

What are deities?

A deity is a divine being or entity that is typically worshipped or revered in religious or spiritual traditions. Deities are often associated with specific powers, qualities, or domains and they are believed to have control or influence over aspects of the natural world or human existence. They can take various forms, including gods, goddesses, spirits, or cosmic forces. 

Do I have to work with deities?

If you do not want to work with gods and goddesses, but see your magical practices as more of a psychological tool then that is just fine. You can use magic to connect to your higher self, communicate with your unconscious and find out what limiting beliefs might be blocking you from manifesting your goals and desires. Many witches, who may refer to themselves as Skeptical witches, believe that magic primarily involves working with the subconscious and removing limiting beliefs to manifest what we desire, rather than entreating deities for help and guidance. I worked in this way for years and found it very useful. I eventually began to work with gods, goddesses, land spirits, house spirits and city spirits, but this is not a more valid way to be a witch, it just happens to be what developed for me.

In addition, while some witches perceive Gods and Goddesses as literal beings, others view them as cosmic archetypes or manifestations of the collective unconscious – repositories of ancient divine wisdom that can provide guidance. This is an equally valid way to work with deities and one that works well for many witches.

If you do choose to work with gods, goddesses or other spirits such as angels, fey or ancestor spirits then the following sections will offer some ways you can begin.

Ways to work with deities

For many years I didn’t work with any specific deities, however, as I continued with my practice I began to notice certain connections with the energies around me. On my daily walks, I passed a tree I instinctively called the Goddess tree. I liked to sit by her and think. I also felt drawn to other trees in the woodland and went to them for comfort when I was troubled.

When I finally decided that I would like to work with gods and goddesses, I thought I would start with ones from the Celtic pantheon as I am of English, Scottish and Irish heritage. I spent some time working with The Morrigan who helped me a lot with shadow work. Then, I felt I also needed a lighter presence in my life so I began to work with Brighid as well. She had a motherly presence that I found calming and her influence on my life was certainly very healing.

And then suddenly, out of the blue, the Goddess Hecate started calling me. In fact, more accurately, I realised that I had, in fact, been working with her for a while – I just didn’t know it! You see the Goddess tree had three strong trunks – and Hecate is a triple Goddess. In addition, she was situated at a three-way crossroads, a place that Hecate is often associated with. Furthermore, Hecate is the Goddess of witches!!!  I had also been drawn to owls for many years and these are often considered a symbol of Hecate. I began to work with Hecate in a more formal way, setting up a shrine for her and petitioning her for help and guidance.

So you can see that working with deities can look very different to one person over time let alone between witches. 

Do I have to wait for a deity to call me and how will I know if they do?

You do not have to wait for a deity to call you before working with them. If you feel drawn towards a certain god or goddess then by all means start to work with them. In my opinion, having an interest in a deity is a calling in itself. If it turns out it’s not the right one for you, you can change course. You might find that the deity you choose points you in a direction more suited to your current circumstances. I decided to work with The Morrigan and Brighid, even though I didn’t feel particularly called by them, and they had a very positive impact on my life. 

Can I work with more than one God/Goddess or pantheon?

You can work with as many entities as you choose. For example, you might work with the Greek Goddess, Athena, the Egyptian God, Isis, the Norse God, Odin and the Celtic goddess, Brighid all at the same time. You can also work with different deities for different purposes and at various seasons of your life. You may have a patron deity who you work with successfully your whole life, or you may find the deities you feel drawn to or called to change as your practice does.  For more information on different Panthoens check out this fab post by The Pagan Journey.

It does pay to be mindful of the individual deity’s preferences, though – you wouldn’t want to set up adjacent shrines for gods or goddesses who don’t get along!

How to discover which deities to work with

You can find potential deities to work with by looking at your needs, passions, interests, and concerns. For example, if you are a parent you might like to work with a goddess who is considered a patron of mothers, such as the Egyptian goddess, Bast who protected mothers and their newborn children, or Hestia, the Greek Goddess of home life and family. Whatever your needs, an internet search for Gods and Goddesses related to your requirements will offer lots of options in a variety of pantheons and cultures.

A second way to find a deity to work with is to think about any myths, animals, symbols or plants you are drawn to you. You might like to look up their symbolism to see if they might be signs that a god or goddess wants to work with you. Think about any coincidences and synchronicities that have happened recently and see if they offer some clues that a deity is already showing up in your life.

What do I actually do?

The final question witches often have is how exactly a relationship with a deity works. Will they speak to me? Can they make things happen in my life? Will they disrupt my life or make it better? How will I know they are communicating with me? There are many practitioners that have a deep practice with a deity and they will tell you things like ‘My goddess told me to do such and such’. You may be wondering how did they tell you? How do I talk to the gods and more importantly how do I hear what they want to tell me? 

In truth, the way you work with a deity will be individual to you. You may just feel a comforting presence or you may see evidence of a deity’s impact in your life. You may hear a clear voice offering guidance or it may be a more subtle sense of insight or inspiration. As your relationship develops then this guidance may become more distinct.

Deity work is a rewarding and fulfilling experience for many witches. However, a god or goddess is not like a magic genii who you can just ask for cool stuff and then stuff back in the lamp. Your work should be about building a relationship of trust, support, love and appreciation. You can’t expect a god, goddess or other spirit or energy to do the hard work for you – they will guide and support you – and they may grant your wishes – but at times they might very well say: what are you asking me for, you know what you need to do so just get on and do it.

Working with deities

If you choose to work with a deity there are many ways to begin. The most obvious is to ask the deity for guidance – guides, guardians and deities will not interfere with your free will so may not intervene unless you ask them to. Spend some time sitting quietly or meditating to clear your mind and allow a space to be with your god or goddess and hear or feel their guidance.

The second is to research them to find out what they are responsible for and how they might like to work with you. You can find lots of information in books and online about different deities, what they can help you with, what symbols represent them, what offerings, incense, crystals and candle colours they may like and so on. Once you begin your work, you will begin to discover how they want to work with you, what they like and how to develop that relationship.

You can also use divination as part of your work, asking your deity to guide you through tarot cards, runes, pendulums or scrying.

How do I know if I’m doing it right?

A concern many new witches have is whether there is a right way to work with deities and what might happen if they get it wrong. However, as long as you are genuinely respectful and open to learning, most deities won’t mind how you choose to worship them or what offerings you make. Working with a deity is a great way to practice tuning into your intuition. If an idea pops into your mind for an offering that your god or goddess might like, go with it. A deity is not going to punish you for making a genuine mistake. However, they may get irked if you are disrespectful, such as, for example, taking back an item you have offered them without being sure they are happy first. 

Creating a shrine

Many witches and pagans begin deity work by creating a shrine. This is not obligatory so if you want to work in a different way that is fine. However, setting up a shrine creates a focus for your practice and can be a great way to begin.

A shrine is different from an altar in that it is usually dedicated to a particular god or goddess. Once you have decided on the god, goddess or other spirit or energy for whom you would like to make a shrine you should create a space and cleanse it. The shrine can be a shelf, tabletop, tray or old wine crate. Ideally, the shrine will be set up permanently in your home or garden, however, you can keep the items in a box and just bring them out when you need them. 

Ideas for what to include on your shrine

When decorating your shrine, start small – there is no need to go out and buy expensive statues, crystals and candles. This is particularly important if you have just started working with a god or goddess as you don’t yet know for sure it will work out! Also, the deity might guide you towards particular items they would like on the shrine and not like the fancy statue you have chosen. You could print an image of your deity or a symbol that is important to them or choose a small inexpensive statue or ornament to symbolize them.

For other items to add to your shrine, look at what you already have that would work. Think about the type of goddess you are dedicating your shrine to and include appropriate items. For example, Hermes is a traveller God so he might appreciate that bag of foreign coins gathering dust in a drawer. Hestia would appreciate something to represent a hearth such as a candle. You could make a cross from straw for Brighid or include an image of a raven for Odin. You might like to add plants, flowers, herbs or incense. As long as you set up your shrine with respect and good intentions the deity will likely appreciate the effort. 

Working at your shrine

Once your shrine is set up you might invite the God, Goddess or spirit to come and work with you. You can light a candle or burn incense if you choose. Perhaps you would like to say a prayer or chant or recite a poem. You can also spend some time meditating at your shrine. You don’t have to do complicated rituals or ceremonies, but try to spend a few moments at your shrine most days or at least weekly, even if it is just to say hello or give it a quick dust.

Deity shrine offerings

You can make offerings on your shrine if you choose. Offerings can be food and drink, but remember that your time and attention are also offerings, as is lighting a candle or burning incense or herbs. You may write a poem or a story, play some music, make something such as an altar cloth or candle, say a prayer or meditate as your offering. 

It is not necessary to leave food offerings for the gods and goddesses so do not feel that you have to. Many people prefer not to leave food lying around when they have children or pets, and most people don’t like the idea of food going to waste. If you are making a food offering, choose offerings that relate to the god or goddess you are working with, rose petals or apples for a love goddess, bread for a home or harvest god, herbs for a nature goddess etc…You may leave the offering for a while and then eat it yourself, or, if it is safe, scatter the offering out in nature, or you can leave it for a day or two and then dispose of it in in the way you normally dispose of food waste. 

When choosing offerings, ensure that they are meaningful in some way. A food item that is going out of date is not an appropriate offering. However, you do not have to leave offerings that are not healthy for you. For example, you do not need to offer wine if you are struggling with sobriety, eggs if you are vegan or bread if you are gluten intolerant. An offering that you value is the most sincere offering you can give.

Closing thoughts

Beginning to work with a god goddess or other spirit is exciting, but it can also be confusing. Take your time, as you would with any relationship. There is no right or wrong way to do deity work so follow your intuition. The most important thing is to set aside some regular time to work with your deity so that the relationship develops and you begin to hear their guidance more clearly.

Eva May Baker
Eva May Baker
Hello, and welcome to The City Witch, your portal into the magical world that exists within the hustle and bustle of city life. My name is Eva Baker and I am an urban folk witch, author and your guide on this magical journey.


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