I’m a witch, an artist, a partner, a mother, a writer… and I also have autism, or more precisely, I fall somewhere on the autism spectrum. You might not realize it if you met me today, which is partly due to the fact that I started closer to neurotypical than many people on the spectrum, and I’ve spent my whole life learning how neurotypical culture works. (Now, in my thirties, I finally sort of get it.)
Mainstream culture has some weird ideas about autism. Despite growing awareness, stereotypes surrounding autism haven’t moved too far from Rainman territory. People assume we’re all tech geniuses (and ok, I dabble a lot in programming, for an artist) with no friends and very little interest in creative culture.
This is partly due to greater visibility of men and boys on the spectrum, but it can be a misleading stereotype regardless of gender. As an adult, I’ve learned that it’s actually very common for autistic people to be in creative fields and have strong interests in art, fiction, and also spirituality.
When it comes to spirituality, Paganism, witchcraft, and related practices, these areas may be especially appealing to people on the spectrum because of the way they encourage exploration and self-determination. There are a lot of us involved, but it can still be a bit confusing to navigate a field that’s generally designed with neurotypical people in mind. So, here are a few tips I would give to autistic people just getting started in magick:
You can do magick in a way that feels comfortable to you
A lot of people on the autism spectrum process sensations differently than neurotypical people, and may feel comfortable with more or less sensation than others would expect. This stuff is pretty much always optional, especially if you’re practicing by yourself.
For example, if a ritual suggests burning incense to invoke the element of air, and you find that sort of thing overwhelming, you can substitute a spritz of essential oil with a milder scent, or even a completely different type of invocation like a prayer or a bell ringing.
If you find too much sensory input makes it hard for you to concentrate on your ritual or meditation, you can also use tools like earplugs and eye masks to block some of it out, or background music to help you focus on a particular mood.
A lot of ritual practice works with the idea of engaging as many senses as possible, and this can also be something interesting to play around with. If you have favourite textures, movements, sounds and so on, you can definitely find ways to incorporate them into your practice.
You can (probably) find other magical people you’re compatible with
There’s something to be said for practicing alone so you can do everything in the way that works best for you, but, in general, I’ve found that many magical communities are flexible and helpful if you can explain what your needs are — and it’s not too hard to find other people on the spectrum there, too.
Even neurotypical people in magical communities are generally interested in expanding their awareness and trying new things. They may be more willing than most to find different ways of connecting, interacting, and forming friendships and working relationships. Magical consciousness isn’t quite normal for any of us, so we’re all on fairly equal ground there.
Don’t forget about your body
A cool thing about magick is that it can help to integrate mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual experiences, which is something that autistic people can struggle with.
Even though I’ve always had creative and spiritual interests, I also have a tendency to overthink things and get stuck in my head, especially in stressful situations. I especially love practices that have a strong physical component, from walking meditation, yoga, and energy healing to ecstatic dance and sweat lodges. That sort of thing always leaves me feeling more balanced, relaxed, and ready to listen to my body in the course of my daily life.
Incorporate your interests
It’s true that some (though not all) people on the spectrum have one or two consuming passions that occupy a lot of their energy. Rather than fighting against that, you can incorporate your interests into your practice. For example, you could get into numerology, obsess about a particular historical tradition, explore an ecosystem, or develop magical apps. No interest is too weird! You can even do Lego magick if that’s your thing. (See, “Lego magick for creativity and protection.”)
Personally, I’ve found that my strong interests tend to cycle, and it’s been important to be able to work with that, too. I know that some days all I want to think about is magick, and at this point I’ve come to trust that even if I only want to think about web design, the magick will be back eventually.
Lots of structure, if you want it
Have you heard the theory that people on the spectrum love routines? I’m not sure I get it, personally, and neither do most of the autistic people I’ve talked to. If anything, I’d say we that we have a complicated relationship with structure. It can be helpful at times, though, especially if your struggles with executive function make it hard to balance the different things going on in your life.
However, if you could use more structure, you can create a regular practice that takes your needs into consideration. Daily meditation, magical house cleaning, regular get-togethers with a spiritual group? They can all be helpful, as long as you pick what works best for you.
What works best for you, really, is the bottom line. And if, at times, you feel marginalized when you hear about something that doesn’t work for you, well, magick loves marginal. Hopefully you can find a way to make that work for you, too.
Do you have any other ideas for accommodating various neurotypes?