Navigating pop culture with a pointed hat and a sharp cackle, the witch is an elusive figure of power and mystery. Portrayed as notorious child haters (see Roald Dahls The Witches) and for their love of evil (look no further than the Wayward Sisters in Shakespeares Macbeth), as much as for their knowledge and ability to create and heal (cue Harry Potter), witches have always reflected the zeitgeist. Whether that be societys feelings towards womenoften ill feeling, especially towards those with poweror the collectives relationship to ritual and magick. The modern witch, however, has emboldened herself with a fierce feminism that defies definition; she does not exist in the black or white spaces, but in the grey. Todays witch isnt good or bad, she just is.
Witchcraft exists in the liminal. Like the archetype of the witch, it is always shapeshifting, neither here nor there, never quite fitting in a box. Its best defined as an age-old spiritual path rooted in the cycles of the earth and the seasons, in the cycles of the cosmos and in the cycles of the self. Its entrenched in personal empowerment and impacted by the culture that each witch is surrounded by. The beauty of magick is that its most effective and potent when its deeply personal.
My journey with the craft indirectly began with my parents. My father, a reform rabbi, and my mother, from the Jewish community in Mexico City, both encouraged my obsession with the spiritual from a young age. My father has always fostered my curiosity of the unknown and religion, while my mother shared practices like yoga, crystal healing, mindfulness and meditation with me since I was a toddler. But, when I discovered witchcraft at the age of 11, they thought it was a phase; the stigma around what witchcraft meant was still heavy, many considered it evil, especially in the Bible Belt where I grew up. Thirteen years later and a lot has changed. Witchcraft and magick have once again entered the zeitgeist, with more and more people discovering the positives of the practice, based around ideas of connection, communion with nature and love.
My personal practice means being devoted to the Divine Feminine; working with sex magick by using orgasms to raise energy for a desired intention; working with the cycles of the moon and seasons; and using a daily meditation practice alongside tarot, breath-work, therapy, energy healing and ritual to find empowerment in the everyday. It also means seeing myselfand my power to healas part of the collective consciousness.
The nuances of witchcraft are different for every witch. So, for an insight into the craft the world over, three women from Mexico, Japan and Arizona share why its one of the most inclusive practices of our times.
Bere Parra is a freelance communication consultant helping clients with copywriting, social media and community management. Parras magick contains multitudes: her witchcraft is rooted in devotion to the self, in Satanism and in honouring the divine rebel. My personal brand of magick and witchcraft incorporates principles from LaVeyan Satanism, Luciferianism and some Wiccan traditions. I also often work with the powers of the moon and with the aid of [goddess] Lilith, depending on the matter at hand, explains Parra.
Parras magick stems from a matriarchal lineage of healers. Her great grandmother was a witch, a curandera (a traditional folk healer) from Oaxaca in southern Mexico, who people in the community would turn to when they needed healing in matters of the body and spirit. This passed down to Parra and her mother, who incorporate their own magical rituals and practices into their day-to-day lives. And while Mexico is steeped in Catholicism, magick is often a heavy part of the culture as well. Mexicans are open, unique and contradictory, Parra adds. We dont like to follow the rules too closely. Even if theyre Catholic, many follow astrology, or consult the tarot, or visit brujas [those who specialise in witchcraft] for limpias [cleansings].
Being a Satanist in Mexico, however, is still taboo, since many people around the world have misconceptions about what the practice entails. Satanism is about individuality, at its very core. Its about subversion and rebellion, about being bold and daring enough to be original and to walk to the beat of your own drum. We do not worship the devilits a lot more rich and complex than that, Parra explains. LaVeyan Satanists dont worship any deity, as they are atheists. Theistic Satanists, like myself, will engage in different rituals or practices that do involve worshipping, but not all of us adhere to a specific canon.
Madoka is a virtual and augmented-reality researcher, whose spiritual and personal artistic practice combine as she explores witchcraft, divination and shamanism. Based between Tokyo and Los Angeles, her work dissects the differences between the two cultures and the fusion of feminism and witchcraft in the US. Madokas experience with witchcraft began after a friend showed her Aleister Crowleys Thoth tarot cards. As an animator and artist, she became instantly hooked by the hallucinatory beauty and archetypes of the cards; a year later and she wears the title of witch with pride. Im very interested in the culture of the US west coast, and studied witchcraft with [California-based] feminist activist Starhawk in San Francisco in 2018, says Madoka. I practice a lot of ritual and spells, vision quests, invocations and I meditate every day. She also works with many kinds of eastern and western divination, including the I Ching (ancient Chinese text), tarot, feng shui and Four Pillars of Destiny (Chinese fortune telling).
While witchcraft is a predominant part of the culture of the US, and steeped into the energy of Mexico, it takes on a different tone in Japan where the majority of the population is polytheist. Witch culture in LA is very big compared to Japan, but the biggest difference is that witches are not counter-culture in Japan, since Christianity is not the majority [there]. Paganism and Buddhists are the majority, which is probably why its hard to find those who identify as a witch, Madoka explains. Japanese people believe that there are eight million deities in the world. Stone, wood, soil, seas, rivers everything is a deity. Its normal thinking for us.
Taylor Cordova spends her days immersed in magick. The artist and art historian moonlights as an art teacher for an elementary school, and runs an online shop called The Flowerchild Bruja. This is where she sells crystals and handmade herbal smoke sticks made with sacred plants such as rose, lavender and mugwort, used to energetically cleanse a space. My personal practice involves a lot of communion with the spirit of Gaia [the Mother Earth goddess]. Altar work and cultivation of sacred space is one way I love to connect with spirit and practice my devotion, Cordova explains. She also engages in other rituals rooted in the mysticism of the divine feminine. Sex magick and working with my menstrual blood are some of the more taboo practices I engage in, but honestly it all depends on what feels right at the time. Spirit communicates what kind of work is most beneficial in that moment, she adds.
Growing up in the desert has been an integral part of Cordovas journey with her craft. The mountains, specifically the South Mountain Park and Preserve, have initiated her deeper into this ancient wisdom. As an Afro-Latina witch, Cordovas culture intermingles with the wisdom of the desert in myriad ways. My culture dictates every step I take. Its in the way I use my hands, its in the way I cast spells with my hips, its in my voice and in the way I pray. Each of my cultures are present in the way I offer my devotion. The Sonoran Desert, the south Phoenix community I was born and raised in, and my African ancestry are super-relevant factors in my practice, but they happen to be very nuanced and so beautifully blended together, that its hard to dictate all the ways in which my practice is shaped by my culture.
Halloweenor Samhain for those who observe the Pagan Wheel of the Yearis the New Year for witches, and the perfect time to start exploring magick. However, one can walk this path whenever they feel ready, no matter where they are. Its always the season of the witch, and everyone is welcome.
Gabriela Herstik is a Los Angeles-based writer, witch and author of two books Craft: How to be a Modern Witch (2018) and the forthcoming Bewitching the Elements: Finding Empowerment through Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit (2020)
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