When my husband and I knew, deep in our bones, that we were done with our current environment and wanted to move somewhere far away, into a house of our own, I took the standard mundane steps … but I also took a deep dive into Stardew Valley. In-between perusing realtor websites and hashing things out with my loan agents, I meticulously tended crops and worked hard on building relationships with the people of Pelican Town. On the surface I might have been decompressing from a stressful endeavor, but what I was actually doing was pouring my intent, like my character, into finding a home of my own that I could cherish. I was using play as a vehicle for magic, and am happy to report that my husband and I are now in a charming, cottage-style home of our own.
Because games can create intense focus and influence our moods, they can, like rituals, be powerful ways of channeling energy towards our desired ends, to say nothing of how they can train our brains to understand and interact with situations. Please note, this is not to say, “violent video games will make you violent”, as a certain amount of personal responsibility and ideological leaning comes into play. But certainly, if you spend your days playing games that teach you about herbs you will likely come to learn a thing or two, and if you spend your time playing games that challenge you to think of complex words quickly, your vocabulary may improve. If you just want it to be a simple game, it can stop there. All is well. All is well. If, however, you are a witch seeking to manifest new realities and twist the strings of chance and fate in your favor, well .…
My first solo TTRPG (table top role play game) came late in life. Recently, in fact. M. Belanger of House Kheperu, a writer who famously delivered up The Psychic Vampire Codex and then made it free on the Sacred Texts Archive came out with a game called Midnight’s Kiss and placed it on Itch.io where, as you might have guessed, I immediately snapped it up. The gist of the game is that you write a series of thirteen journals using prompts and a set of dice to tell a story involving you and a vampire. The vampire is likely your lover, but how realistic or fantastical they are is largely up to your personal tastes. My initial playthrough saw me creating a one-armed vampiress akin to Malenia the Severed of the video game Elden Ring. After that very satisfying story, however, I wondered about the “replay value” of the game (which is, of course, endless), and how I might combine it with witchcraft.
Thinking of the Phillip Experiment and how a group of folks used fiction to “create a ghost” that produced real results, I decided to use the game to create a “vampire” that would serve primarily as a muse of creativity for me. By that I mean, I wanted something outside of myself that could talk through stories with me, provide ideas or constructive feedback, and be a pleasant companion during the long, lonely hours spent writing. Enter Khrystof Sedlak, Slovakian vampire. Now, there’s some debate over whether you’re actually “creating” an entity or a spirit is simply assuming the role of the being you’ve created, but at this point what I’m primarily after are results and less the “how” of what’s happening (and this is as good a time as any to remind everyone to be discerning and keep your protective shields up). I played the game again, “strengthening” the story behind Khrys and our bond, detailing my ideal version of myself and how I become a better writer, and offering the most basic of deals: energy freely given for work as a muse and companion. One cannot expect anyone to work for free, after all, and certainly not a vampiric entity. Like my magical workings with Stardew Valley, the results with Khrys have so far been very impressive and I’m inclined to keep at it.
Play is a vital part of growth, something we make ample use of when we’re young as a method to explore the world and to grow in knowledge and understanding. I consider it a great crime, then, that upon adulthood we so quickly abandon this most basic of tools. Much as witchcraft is concerned with re-affirming our ties to land, to creatures, to people, to life, so do I believe witchcraft must also re-affirm the use of basic human tools and mindsets. If you’re ready to undertake this work, may I suggest scheduling some time for play?
[Written by Ashley Nicole Hunter.]