As suggested by the title, this publication is meant to be a useful guide for witches at all levels of expertise and encompassing multiple styles of practice, who are interested in the acquisition* of real estate. The methods covered herein are organized into sections, from simple to advanced. Please note: this guide covers only the acquisition of real estate. For witches seeking advice on upkeep or divesting themselves of their homes, please see our companion volumes, The Practical Witch’s Guide to Care, Maintenance, and Feeding of Homes and The Practical Witch’s Guide to Flipping, Selling, Banishing, and Releasing Homes into the Wild.
*The authors of this guide fully recognize the inherently problematic nature of words such as “acquisition” and “ownership.” These terms are used throughout the guide as a matter of expediency only. Their use is not meant to imply either the authors or the publisher condone the subjugation of one living thing by another. Besides, who in the witch–real estate relationship can be said to be the true owner, and who is the one owned? Is ownership even possible in these cases, let alone moral? These questions are best left to our colleagues who specialize in texts of Philosophy, Ethics, and Social Justice. This is meant to be a practical guide only.
Section 1: Buying
This is the simplest method of achieving homeownership, usable even by non–witches. That being the case, for witches wishing to pursue this method, we suggest engaging the services of a real estate agent and/or browsing property values through helpful websites such as Zillow.
Section 2: Squatter’s Rights
This method of obtaining property, while not the most advanced covered in this guide, is not without its risks (and rewards!). Historical precedent may be on your side—for example the case of Dee St. Pierre in Cape May, NJ, who successfully moved into a darling cottage occupied by an elderly couple and refused to leave. Through patience and the judicious baking of apple pies, she managed to endear herself to the couple to such a degree that they legally transferred ownership of the property to her in their joint will. A similar case study would be that of Carson Dewitt in Etobicoke, ON, who moved into an empty house being used by no one in particular. Multiple attempts were made to dislodge him. However, like the proverbial cat, he continually returned until the police and city officials simply gave up and let it be.
Not every witch has the patience or tenacity for this method and the potential for legal trouble may be more than you wish to deal with, especially if this is your first home.
It is a well–known fact that the majority of human beings can be defined by their tendency to stick their noses in, and loudly offer their opinions on, matters that have nothing to do with them.
Should you choose the method of Squatter’s Rights in the acquisition of your new home, be prepared for:
- Incessant questions along the line of “What do you think you’re doing here?” and “Who gave you the right?”
- Loud demands such as “Get out.”
- Involvement by the law.
- Involvement by religious authorities, some of who may employ extreme and outdated methods of their own, such as exorcism.
- Pushy individuals with bullhorns, tear gas, floodlights, and vacuous songs with relentless beats played at full volume outside your window at all hours of the day and night.
Some useful counter–strategies which may help you mitigate these potential interferences:
- Pick a house far away from any neighbors, one that no one besides you could possibly have any interest in occupying. (Note: This is far from a guarantee that you will be left alone. Another defining characteristic of human beings is their knack for developing a sudden and burning desire for things/people/places previously uninteresting to them based solely on the knowledge someone else wants or has them/it.)
- Distribute bribes.
- Bring a cat. In addition to cats having their own powers and abilities, many humans find them charming (in the non–magical sense) and may be prone to soft–hearted decisions in their presence.
- Perpetuate the worst stereotypes pertaining to witch-kind. Pretend your house is haunted. Pretend you eat children. Pretend you will put a hex on anyone who even comes within sight of your property—Google Earth satellite images included. (Note: This tactic brings risks of its own. Mary Townsend was burned to death in Harleysville, PA. They pulled her out of the house first, of course, in order to prevent damage. This despite its ramshackle nature and that nobody had thought to care for it or give it a second glance until Mary moved in. (By–the–by, for the sake of providing complete clarity—when we say Mary was pulled from her home, we mean it quite literally. She was dragged by the hair a good distance down the road, but not so far as to be out of sightline of the house.) Roadblocks had been set up, orange traffic cones and striped barriers to ensure no stray traffic would disrupt the proceedings. Present were several of Mary’s neighbors, the woman she shared a volunteer shift with at the local hospital, the librarian Mary had always thought was a little sweet on her, the chief of the fire department. They doused Mary in pitch, set her alight right in the middle of the road, and stood around while she screamed and writhed and burned, just like they were standing around a Fourth of July cook fire. Not one person—not even the librarian—went for help or tried to put her out. They simply let her burn. The only one who mourned was Mary’s house—a great sighing of wind in the chimney, and a chorus of floorboards like ancient joints popping. The poor thing was inconsolable for days.)
Section 3: Building
Building one’s own home is an attractive option for many witches. With this method, one can control almost every aspect of the project—from location to construction to the placement of the final knickknack on the tippy–toppest shelf in the cupola bedroom. However the drawback for some is that the sheer number of variables involved can often prove overwhelming.
Does one choose the seaside, a cottage of spiraling nautilus shell perched on a crumbling dune, ever in danger of falling into the waves where one might be soothed to sleep every night by the lull of the tide, and wake to one’s joints swollen painful with the damp and arthritis? Or a remote mountaintop, wracked by storms, fraught with wind–stunted pines, sure to guarantee peaceful solitude, or unbearable loneliness and isolation? Or perhaps the woods, home to a myriad of potential familiars, infinite source of ingredients for tinctures, philtres, poutices, potions, fetishes, and charms, and sure to be infested by errant heroines bent on quests, and stray princes prone to kidnapping and seduction?
Even once the seemingly–insurmountable task of choosing an appropriate location is complete, there is the plethora of building material to consider—shadow, birch, gingerbread, stone, steel, bone. Any one of these might be coaxed into fabulous shapes by a skilled witch, but consider this also: the custom of foot–binding in ancient China; the over–breeding of certain dogs for faces so flat they can scarcely breathe without choking to death on each sip of air. Think how you would feel if your limbs were shattered and set anew in fresh and aesthetically pleasing angles, removed and re–stitched in different configurations. Think if your hair was always bound in braids wound clockwise around your head, if you were always made to stand with your nose pointing to the West rather than the East.
Please don’t mistake us. This is not to suggest that no house grown with care can ever be happy, only to caution the intrepid witch who sets out on this path that houses are also willful things. Location matters, but so do feelings, and yours are not the only ones you must take into consideration when raising your house.
Section 4: Taming
Do you remember when you first became a witch? When you unbound your hair or began braiding it in ever–more elaborate and intricate knots, each twist and curl a precisely–placed word in the spell you’d been rehearsing silently all your life, but never had the courage to speak aloud? Do you remember when you abandoned your family—left your wife, your mother, your uncle, your sister, and the twins with their crooked smiles and lightning scorched eyes? When you stopped shaving your legs or started for the first time? When your stretched lips bared your teeth instead of grinning and you learned to run under the moon?
Or was it when you first started to bleed or you finally stopped? When you woke with fire inside you, setting your whole body aglow. Did your bones crack and turn inside your skin? Did you step off a cliff, in front of a train, or from a building when you first learned you could fly? Did they burn you in the road, dig you up, cut out your heart when they learned? Did they hang you and spit on you and drive nails through your feet and into the ground to keep you in your place?
Whatever the truth of it may be, keep it in your mind and in your heart when you embark upon the taming of your house, if that is the method you choose. Open your skin so the house may see these truths written on your bones. Hold them like a sliver of glass on your tongue to remind yourself not to speak. Be still and be silent. Stitch your eyes closed, sit upon the ground with your palms up, your hands open, your hair undone. Learn to hold your breath for seven days.
Do not go to the house. Let the house come to you.
When you tame your house, you are not merely catching a wild thing. You are calling to the house beneath the house and letting it know that it is safe to be whatever it has most yearned to be beneath its skin.
When your house reveals itself to you at last, do not judge it. It is not for you to choose who your house needs to be.
A hut may learn to grow chicken legs and run away to be by your side. A bungalow may be a castle beneath its bricks and aluminum siding. A townhouse may sever itself from its neighbors (a most unpleasant and painful process) and go walkabout, grow a root cellar, sprout towers and bowling alleys, ballrooms and carriage–ways. A mansion may shed its three–car garage and go about wearing its basement game room on its head for all to see. Do. Not. Judge.
A house may be many things before it settles into its final form. Think of these early days as a courtship period. Discuss the weather, local sports teams, your favorite song. Do not bring out paint chips or flooring samples. Do not bring up window treatments, dry rot, or the need for new grout. Do not mention the cracks in her walkway, the creak in his fifth step, the draft that always creeps in through their upstairs window, no matter how tightly it is closed.
Find things that are mutually agreeable. Learn your common ground. You may be surprised and delighted to discover you would both dearly love a feeder in the backyard, filled with peanuts to attract blue jays.
The house is not your antagonist in this process. It is also not your friend. You are each working toward an abstract point in your future, one that may never come to pass. Gain its trust, let it win yours. Accept that you will break its heart one day and be open to having yours broken in return. Prove yourself worthy and make it do the same. Become responsible for one another, because that it what taming something means.
You and your house will be wrapped around each other’s hearts from the moment you walk in the door; the threshold is the bride and vice versa. The house may let you live inside it, but it will live inside you as well: an infinite series of nesting dolls, witch inside house inside witch, growing smaller and smaller until where one begins and the other ends is virtually indistinguishable, even on a sub–atomic level.
Section 5: Breeding and Growing
This method is not recommended.
Many a witch has made the mistake of believing growing or breeding a house to be simply a matter of degrees of separation based on our other methods, a more advanced form of building or taming. They are not the same at all.
Houses are capricious things. Breeding introduces variables on multiple levels, some not immediately (or ever) observable. The most obvious variables (read risks) are recessive genes for weak foundations, a tendency to flooding, or being picked up by tornados and transported to magical lands. Your house may have to live with chronic pain or under the constant threat of an early death due to some great grand-ancestor you weren’t aware of.
Furthermore, breeding a house takes a strong constitution, and the utmost hard–heartedness from a witch. Consider carefully—could you drive iron nails through the skin of a child you held in your arms, even if it was for their own good? Could you lathe its uneven surfaces, replace windows cracked and shingles warped, siding gone out of fashion? Will you be able, when push comes to shove, to look your house in the eye and make these changes, thereby letting your child know you think of it as anything other than perfect?
Another point to consider for the witch who wishes to breed a house: the temperament of a house may not be assumed based on the pedigree of its parents. Carelessly bred houses have been known to turn on their occupants, splinter, snag, or shift at inopportune times. Stairs have been known to loosen when you are only halfway down, your arms full of laundry and unable to see where your foot will land next. Doors have been known to slam before you are all the way through. In some extreme cases, floorboards have been known to give way completely, dropping an unsuspecting witch into a previously non–existent basement level and swallowing them whole.
Genetics are a crapshoot and nature is only half the battle where raising houses is concerned. Remember: a house may be coaxed to lie with a chicken; an egg may be persuaded to grow rooms within the delicacy of its shell, but walking like a chicken and roosting like a house does not a Baba Yaga’s hut make.
The factors mentioned above are only the risks that are most obvious on the surface of the thing. Even savvy witches rarely take into account the feelings of the breeding stock when embarking on the endeavor of bringing a brand new house into the world. There is the potential for resentment or even outright loathing. Termites poured down a chimney, shattered dormer windows, and entire floors thrown off level as tempers rise. Worse still is the opposite reaction, deep and abiding passion growing between the two donor houses. A wild and torrential love affair can be every bit as destructive as a relationship built on mutual hate, if not more so.
There is, of course, the possibility of splicing, grafting, cloning, and in–vitro fertilization. The less said about these, the better. The unwary witch will soon learn that science is every bit as volatile as magic, with results just as disastrous. For a relevant example, see the case of the Stuartville Coven Frankenhouse, which went on a rampage, killing three members of the coven and six innocent civilians before it was brought to heel, unable to reconcile the disparate parts of itself—split–level, shotgun, and ranch—and maddened by the resulting pain.
Which brings us to the option of growth, which is equally inadvisable. There was a witch in Cambridge, MA, let us call her Jane Scribe, who cut off the tip of her finger and buried it deep in the soil. She coaxed the most amazing shapes out of the resultant tree, and her house was a thing of beauty to behold. However, it was only once she had grown delicate arches, spiraling staircases, fantastic chandeliers, and countless rooms like a many–chambered heart that she realized the folly of her ways.
You see, her finger remained a part of her body, even severed, and her body had no desire to be a house. For as long as she dwelt between the walls she had grown, she suffered fits of claustrophobia, agoraphobia, and mind/body disassociation.
Often, on turning a corner, she would come face–to–face with herself, her haunted visage peering out at her from an odd angle between one wall at the next. She was prone to uncontrollable shuddering after even a simple stroll from bedroom to bathroom, haunted by the sensation of her own bare feet walking over her own bare skin. Jane is the primary reason we undertook the third volume in our Practical Guide Series, in specific, the section on Banishment and Dissolution.
In the end, every witch will decide for themselves upon the method of home acquisition that is right for them. As with most matters in life, it is up to the gut, the blood and sinew and bones of a person, not the head. Whichever method you choose, proceed with caution and discretion. Remember: witches have been burned, shot, hanged, and mutilated for lesser offenses than home ownership throughout the course of human history.
Last but not least, don’t forget to visit our website for additional safety tips. And don’t forget to purchase our companion volumes should something go wrong with your new home, which it inevitably will.
© 2015 A.C. Wise