For Jules Clardy ’23, witchcraft deepens link with ancestors

Jacob Posner

In her Frosh Quad single (above), which smells pleasantly of herbs, Clardy said she has “completely maxed out all of my wall and ceiling space.”
Album covers and art adorn Clardy’s room, which she has filled with decoration she finds beautiful and evoke memories.

“At my great-grandmother’s house on Cape Cod, we have a really terrifying hall that’s just filled with oil paintings of my dead relatives,” Jules Clardy ’23 said. “One of those paintings is my Crazy Aunt Sarah, and I remember walking through that hallway with my grandmother, and her stopping in front of this portrait and telling me these stories about this woman.”

According to family lore, Sarah was a psychic and a witch. In one story, she is said to have predicted a man would rob their house, and, months later, she found the would-be robber under her bed and exclaimed “I’ve been waiting for you!” He ran off in terror.

“Even if these stories are totally fake, which they might be, everybody in my family knows these stories,” said Clardy, who also identifies as a witch. “Like, this is a really deep part of our family history, and there’s magic in the fact that these stories have remained alive for so long, and the fact that the people in my family care about them so deeply, and believe in them.” 

Unlike the popular perception of witches, Clardy doesn’t cast hexes on her enemies or spells on unrequited lovers. Rather, she practices witchcraft as a practical way to self-heal, stay present in her life and feel connected to her family and ancestors.

“Witchcraft, for me, is a way to take these things about being mindful and setting goals and being intentional in your actions and not harming other people … [and] being able to manifest those things into physical reminders of your commitment to those qualities,” Clardy said.

For her, those reminders come in the form of spells or amulets. She said she is a “maximalist” who likes to fill her spaces with beautiful things. 

“One of the main things you’ll see when you walk into my room is that I have a ton of record sleeves around my room,” she said. “Some of these things have essentially no witchy significance to me — I just like the album and I want to have the vinyl. Some of them really do. A lot of them are really old and part of my grandmother’s collections or part of my grandfather’s collection on the other side.”

Her oldest sleeve is from a record by Carole King.

“That one I care a lot about because that is an album that has a lot of significance to my grandma, and I feel connected to her when I see that. For the most part, my records connect me to my ancestors, and that’s witchy.”

Dried flowers and crystals hang in her room, some of which she uses for spells. Dried lavender brings her clarity, helps with decision-making and has a romantic quality, she said, while her white quartz crystal helps cleanse the room’s energy. 

“Sometimes, I completely don’t believe in crystals and I just think it’s a pretty rock, and that’s fine with me, too,” Clardy said. 

She goes back and forth on whether she believes her practices and rituals are actually magical.

“Sometimes I force myself to do it to remain in the practice and because I do think there are actual completely logical advantages to doing those things, but then there are also days where I do think there’s an energy that I’m able to imbue in these things, and that is sort of magical,” she said.

For Clardy, “energy” answers questions left unanswered by science.

Energy is “partially just the spice of life that makes people more than just the playing out of physical systems,” she said. “I think that there’s a lot about being a human and being a spiritual being that science hasn’t fully explained yet. I think energy is being able to focus in on those forces that are a little more mysterious.”

She added that energy also helps her to feel in control of her own life.

Clardy, who is Jewish, plans on becoming a rabbi. She said that witchcraft complements her Jewish faith and that the two aspects of her identity have seldom come into conflict.

 “I find that something really powerful about my own Jewish practice is that it’s such a communal thing,” Clardy said. “Going to Shabbat services, going to Shabbat dinner here, I get a lot of the communal stuff that I need from being Jewish and being an active Jewish person.”

Clardy turns to witchcraft, on the other hand, for her personal growth. “I think a lot of the work that I need to do in terms of my own healing, and in terms of my own growth as a spiritual person — that has to be done, at least primarily, alone,” she said.  

Witchcraft is also one of the oldest feminist traditions in the United States, according to Clardy.

“This generation, there’s been a really big movement of women who claim that identity for themselves … because you’re actively placing yourself in this line of strong women,” Clardy said. “The people who were called witches [were those who] owned property, or knew how to do math — who were essentially taking control of their own life in one way or another. That was incredibly threatening and scary.”

Clardy said that when she lost her mother at age 10, her spiritual journey began in earnest.

“That was a pretty turbulent time in my life and in my family, and, for me, having Judaism … was incredible because it provided me this community that I really needed,” she said.

After that came an interest in Jewish mysticism, then tarot cards, and, through extensive online research, her other Wiccan practices, primarily tarot-reading and spell-making. 

Her high school, a Jewish day school that accepted students from multiple Jewish denominations, also helped encourage her interest in witchcraft.

“Once I started being more active in my witchcraft practice and being more vocal about it, my school wanted me to talk about it in a formal way to other people,” Clardy said. “There was this really amazing support that I gained from my Jewish community surrounding my witchcraft… I think that my spirituality comes from, first, this nature of community, and then this support that I felt when I was doing stuff that the rest of the community wasn’t doing but was important for me.”