The magical world of Atlanta witches

Atlanta is home to a wide array of cultures and religions, and in recent years, witchcraft has grown among these. All around Atlanta and in other cities across the South, people have united to practice rituals that harness and focus cosmic and seismic energies.

Contrary to popular belief, this does not entail pointed hats and smoking cauldrons; rather, Atlanta witches employ everything from musical mantras to ancient texts to guide them in their connection with nature. Witchcraft is an ever-evolving and intensely personal practice, and it is perhaps this malleability that has made it so appealing to a growing collective of people.

Haley Murphy, better known as “Witch Mama,” is the founder of ATL CRAFT, an Atlanta witch community and resource for all things healing arts.

“I always tell people when they start [witchcraft] not only to reach out to witchy people but to take an ancient literature class and dive into that literature,” Murphy said.

Murphy explained some starting points for those who are interested in studying witchcraft.

To practice traditional witchcraft, you’re going to need to learn the voice and the language of the universe, and you also have to learn the language of the occult,” Murphy said. “Beyond that, though, it’s all up to you. We’re really lucky in that Atlanta is such a melting pot of places and cultures, so we have so many different types of practitioners and different forms of faith.”

Murphy opened ATL CRAFT in 2017 as a healing space in response to the 2016 presidential election. Since then, it has become Atlanta’s prime destination for all those interested in or actively practicing witchcraft.

ATL CRAFT offers monthly classes ranging in content from religious history to yoga to herbalism, as well as astrologically aligned “witchin’ weekends.” During these three-day retreats, attendees venture into nature to learn spells and divination, practice plant magic and bond with fellow Atlanta witches.

“It’s a very free space of play,” Murphy said. “In July, we’re doing our annual witch flit, where it’ll basically just be a bunch of witches floating down the Ocoee River.”

Murphy also co-hosts the podcast “Witches of Atlanta” with Brooklynn, a local musician and longtime witch who asked that her last name not be used. Brooklynn’s journey into witchcraft started after leaving her Christian hometown and moving to Atlanta, where she met Murphy and became a regular at ATL CRAFT.

“After a year or two of knowing each other, when we got closer, I came to Haley with this idea for a podcast,” Brooklynn said. “For me, I wasn’t seeing a lot of people of color represented, and there are plenty of black and all different minorities that are practicing witches, so I just really wanted to have a podcast or show that featured a person of color.”

Since early 2019, Murphy and Brooklynn have met regularly to record “Witches of Atlanta.” The show often features special guests and includes discussion on everything from the jade crystal industry to what it’s like living as a witch in the Bible Belt.

“The goal has always been to give information and resources to witches in the South, which is why we specifically decided to call it ‘Witches of Atlanta,’” Brooklynn said. “Being here in the Bible Belt comes with its own set of challenges for our community, and we want other witches to feel like they’re not alone in that.”

While Murphy and Brooklynn pave the way for witch acceptance and education, other individuals are just beginning their journeys. Alix Laing, a Georgia State student and Atlanta native, has been interested in witchcraft since middle school but admits she only recently began to practice it more seriously.

“I used to be a part of this little coven years ago, but it kind of just dissolved,” Laing said. “I think it’s hard to find covens here [in Atlanta] because everybody just kind of does their own thing.”

In the last few years, however, Laing has sought out local spaces to help reinvigorate her spirituality. 

“There’s this woman named Shasta who lives in Atlanta, and she has a space called the Goddess Garden,” Laing said. “It’s really magical. Every time I’ve passed by it, I’ve just turned onto the road. I think she’s more practicing with Native American art, but it’s a really peaceful and rejuvenating place for me to go practice.”

Laing’s personal relationship to witchcraft follows no strict order or routine. Like Murphy and Brooklynn, she believes experimentation is the best method to find meaningful spirituality. Throughout her journey in the craft, she has become most comfortable practicing through singing and music, though she recognizes that this approach is not for everyone and might even change for her moving forward.

Laing has also faced the constant struggle of deciding whether to discuss her craft with others.

“There [have] been a few times where I’ve heard people joking about witches or something, so I’m definitely not super open, like, ‘Hey, you guys, I’m a witch,’” she said. “I think you have to figure out what people you feel comfortable bringing it up in conversation with.”

Despite witchcraft’s persistent negative connotations, there is a promising future ahead for witches in Atlanta. Since the Edgewood location of ATL CRAFT closed, Murphy and her team have begun meeting at a farm in Fayetteville, around half an hour outside Atlanta.

“I thought we’d have fewer people being so far out of the way,” Murphy said. “But I’ve actually been met with the complete opposite. I think it’s because people in the city want a place in solace and nature, and you can find that when you come to the farm; it’s such a great getaway.”

At the farm and beyond, Atlanta witches are harnessing their power like never before. With increased access to books, classes, songs, nature locales and community resources, it seems that moving forward, “witch” might no longer be a dirty word.