With a Youtube channel of over 12,000 subscribers that features informative videos on witchcraft and an Instagram account full of empowering captions and an adorable kitten, Rhia Sage has become a well-known figure in the world of witches and witchcraft.
Upon the premiere of the dark spin on Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Netflix’s The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina has garnered quite the audience, ultimately inspiring countless people to adapt to the “witch life” — or at least how it is portrayed in the fantasy TV show. However, despite the show being great when in need of some excitement, it also gives off a false depiction of witchcraft and witches in general. As a result of the show, being a witch is becoming more of a trend, notwithstanding the fact that witchcraft and witchery are both genuine ways of life for numerous people around the world.
Rhia Sage, a practitioner of the craft, discusses what it means to her to be a witch, unconventional superstitions surrounding witches and witchcraft, and the bizarre fantasy elements of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
There are many different names and terms out there that can be used when identifying as a witch. On YouTube and Instagram, you refer to yourself as an Appalachian Witch — what sort of craft does an Appalachian Witch practice that stands out from the rest?
Something about Appalachian witchcraft is that it can be hard to define. This is because there really is no distinct guidebook for specific spells. Historically, the word “spells” was never used when doing Appalachian majick. A big part of Appalachian witchcraft is the importance of Appalachian folklore. Often, the “granny witches” did practice their own majick, but in a way in which southern folk just thought normal of. They never called it witchcraft. For example, farming by astrological signs, divining what the upcoming weather would be or water dowsing. These were all very practical, yet incredibly majickal, practices. Modern Appalachian witches aim to keep that historical richness of our southern ancestry alive. In my opinion, Appalachian witchcraft is all about practicality. Granny witches weren’t very elaborate in what they did — many prayed fervently, so that was a powerful element to their majick. But if they needed some sort of changing, protection, healing, or insight, you could often find them using resources readily available to them like plants and herbs, eggs, thread, random novelties such as bolts and nuts and bones!
The most important part of Appalachian witchcraft is simply working directly with Appalachia’s energy. I don’t usually call upon deities from other traditions. Instead, I want to work directly with my lands and my ancestors.
You’ve watched The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — all fantasy elements aside, would you say that it was realistic to some extent or completely false?
I actually really enjoyed the new Sabrina. I know it’s been controversial because it’s pretty much-appropriating witchcraft and pieces of Satanism, but this has been an ongoing theme in entertainment. I usually do well to separate Hollywood depictions and actual facts of my practice, and I feel like others are intelligent enough to do the same. If somebody is actually interested in the craft, they’ll learn that there are some similarities as well as many differences to what they see in entertainment. I think as long as people can accept that the show is entertainment and not a documentary, then it doesn’t really bother me. I know that the Church of Satan had an ordeal about the show-stealing their copyrighted statue, so I definitely understand conflicts like that. At the end of the day, people should know not to get their information about witches from the media. Instead, actually talk to us and see what we’re really about.
As a result of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, countless people have started calling themselves witches. What is your opinion on that trend?
My opinions on this have fluctuated throughout time, but I’m comfortable with my recent resolution that it’s none of my business what other people consider their spiritual practice to be. If they call themselves a witch, who am I to determine whether or not they really are? I’ve met some seemingly pretty superficial people who I would never think to be witches, but they actually know a lot and have some serious kick and vice versa. Witchcraft appeals differently to everyone. Even among witches, our practices can be so different. I feel confident in that, if anybody claims the title “Witch” for themselves with no honour or practice, then it’ll die out just like every other trend. I can understand why some witches get angry because it does feel like some people may just want to seem cool and they don’t care about all the layers to witchcraft. But what may be a trend for one person may be the formation of another person’s lifelong dedication to the craft. At the end of the day, I know I’m true to my beliefs. I respect history and its future. I’m free to believe how I wish. That’s all that matters to me, and I try to extend that same courtesy to others.
On your Youtube channel, you speak a lot about witchcraft being empowering. What exactly does the craft mean to you?
Witchcraft is definitely empowering in that it really tests your strengths and weaknesses. In my experience, people who are serious about practising witchcraft will often be very introspective and existential people. Witchcraft doesn’t generally have any specific rules. It’s a “build your own path” kind of spirituality. In that sense, it forces me to look within myself, observe my place in the world, and decide what I want to do with it. As humans, we are bound by nature, subject to experience challenges and suffering and death. But we also live in a world where majickal things exist, like unseen energies, spirits, and crazy coincidences or miracles. Witchcraft aims to take all of that into consideration — all of the bad and the good. Make of it what you will, you know?
Are there any specific superstitions surrounding witchcraft that really get to you?
I used to get pretty upset when people would automatically assume that I worship evil deities because I’m a witch. Now, it’s more laughable and petty than infuriating. I think I’ve come to terms with the fact that some people just really are more comfortable in their ignorance and pride, and there’s little I can do to change that. What’s more aggravating though is when people who “disapprove” of witchcraft try to tell me what it is I believe. I can say, “I believe in working with nature and honouring my land,” and they will reply with, “No, you worship dark forces and are following the path of Satan.” Ha! It’s the arrogance that really gets to me! But lately, I’ve been better at just brushing people like that off because it truly has no effect on me, my majick, or my confidence.
For those who are earnestly interested in learning more about witchcraft, what advice would you give them?
My advice is to follow your intuition wherever it leads, and study. Study everything regarding the occult or spirituality or mindfulness that you can. People have to realize that this isn’t a path where you can just join a coven, take a few classes, then be done with it. It’s a lifelong journey. Sure, you may master some areas — but overall, witchcraft is something that progresses. It is knowledge. Knowledge is never-ending. Everything is in constant motion and subject to change. So long as energy exists, witchcraft will continue evolving. Expect your craft to be a journey that never ends. You will always be learning, growing, and creating. It’s more a philosophy, in my opinion. There are pieces that can be fun and appealing, like winning a lover using a love potion, but realize that there’s a lot more to the craft, like developing a relationship with nature, delving deep into your subconscious to better understand yourself — these are all things that take time, sometimes years. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, then witchcraft may be for you!
You are an extremely open-minded person and your Youtube channel is like a breath of fresh air — any tips on how the rest of us can become as tolerant and receptive as you?
That is so sweet! Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad people perceive me that way. I do feel very open-minded, but that’s just because I know that life really is subjective. Our minds are so easily influenced, so the experiences we have in life all shape who we are. As far as my receptiveness, I’m not sure how to teach somebody that skill because I feel like I’ve always been that way. I feel my imagination has allowed me to see that the world is full of possibilities. Maybe a good way to learn to be receptive is to do creative things, train your brain to think outside of the box. Appreciate your own unique place in the world, and understand that just as you have thoughts and feelings and reasons, so does the person next to you. That shouldn’t excuse bad behaviour, but I think having a decent understanding of sociology has really improved my mental health and given me more hope in life.
When you aren’t practising the craft, what else do you like to do in your free time?
I really love writing and making music. I enjoy making blog posts, playing my piano. I used to paint a lot, too. Other than that, I love seeing movies, eating Chinese buffet, spending time with my love, family and friends, getting outdoors if the weather permits, having a drink, and reading.
You’ve mentioned reading on your Instagram account and Youtube channel. What is your favourite book of all time?
I’m a huge literature fan. My favourite book is actually not “witchy.” I think my favourite would have to be Walt Whitman’s, Leaves of Grass collection. I also love Pablo Neruda and Virginia Woolf. My witchy favourites would have to be anything from Laurie Cabot and Christopher Penczak. I really love their perspectives and ability to incorporate science and history into their work!
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I think these questions have been super informative and fun responding to. They’re meaningful questions, and I appreciate that! If anybody has further questions, they can contact me at [email protected].
Care to follow Rhia on the rest of her journey? Follow her Instagram account for more information on witchcraft as well as captions that will leave you feeling like you can take on the world.