“A witch is anyone — regardless of gender identity —who works with the cycles of the world to find balance; who honors these rhythms with practices of reciprocity; who observes & celebrates celestial events & seasonal shifts; and who understands how to heal themselves & others with the generous provisions of nature.”
~ Micaela Foley, Alchemist's Kitchen Resident Herbalist
No longer a cobwebbed caricature, the Witch's true spirit - an intuitive healer tuned into earth's rhythms - is celebrated in the modern day without shame. The Witch is just one manifestation of many different wisdom traditions that have been practiced since ancient times, all oriented around a deep communion with nature. These traditions have been upheld by indigenous cultures to this day, but only recently have they been authentically invoked in Western society. People across the globe are embracing their inner magic, and channeling it through spiritual, healing, and creative practices.
Below, you'll meet 5 young healers and creatives who manifest their magic in different ways, such as Ayurvedic healing, unique tarot decks, a powerful reclaiming of female sexual agency, shamanic ceremonies, and surreal photography. I asked them questions about their practices and relationships to spirituality to get a deeper feel for how the earth magic that binds us as one can also be so uniquely and diversely expressed.
Photo: Kirstin Huber
Regina grew up in a small town in Texas and moved to Brooklyn, NY in 2004. She spent most of her life dancing–pursuing both a BFA (2004) and MFA (2006) in dance before switching careers towards a devoted spiritual practice. In 2014 she received a certification in Ayurveda from the Kripalu School of Ayurveda followed by receiving her 200-hour yoga teacher training from Kripalu. She completed Breathwork Healer training with master teacher David Elliot in 2017 and received her 500-hour yoga teacher certification from Shaktibarre in 2018.
Morgan Claire Sirène
When did you first begin identifying as a witch?
The summer after 5th grade my 3 best friends and I saw The Craft (rented on VHS from Hollywood Video of course, it was the late 90s) and became absolutely obsessed. We had already gone deep into Sailor Moon and writing our own fantasy "novel" so this was the next logical step. We performed a "blood pact" which involved walking about 10 minutes into the Sonoran desert behind the home of the 2 of 3 triplets involved, attempting to slice our palms or fingers with I'm not sure what, and dripped or smeared the blood into a cup of grape juice which we all drank from. I think we might have opted for spit since the blood letting was a struggle. We bought one of those spell books from Barnes & Noble with the offensive silhouette of a Halloween witch flying in front of a moon on the cover (this book is still in print!) and gleaned what we could from it. We began our own grimoire using a binder, we drew a pentagram on a piece of paper and dyed it with lemon juice and burned the edges to make it look cool and slid it into the plastic front. My parents found it under my pillow in my room one night while we were attempting to cast of spell of some sort in a flood underpass and needless to say, the results of this discovery were very very bad. I continued on from this point believing and participating in the craft at varying levels of seriousness and shame, until about the age of 18 when I became more open and confident about my identification as a witch and interest in the occult. I still share a sisterhood with those 3 women (who are all extraordinary) which I believe will never be broken, no matter how rocky the past 20 years have gotten at times.
What does the word “slut” mean to you? How does it relate to the archetype of the witch?
Slut to me is about sexual agency. I've always loved this word. It's a term that a friend and I used affectionately for one another in high school; since we were, after all: sluts. Two of the few to be sexually active and rarely holding down relationships. We had a phrase, "slut down," that indicated when someone had done something particularly stupid, embarrassing or awkward when it comes to boys. I have about the same intellectual approach to this term as most people who enjoy it, the one set forth (for the first time?) by Dossie Easton and Janet Hardy in The Ethical Slut, "a person of any gender who has the courage to lead life according to the radical proposition that sex is nice and pleasure is good for you." There's really no improving on that statement. For me personally, the archetype of the slut is a shameless, funny, wild femme who always goes after what she wants. She rocks a tight mini dress. The intersection I see with the archetype of the witch is living shamelessly, authentically, and for the joy and appreciation of Earthly things.
What inspired you to create the Slutist tarot deck? How does it reimagine/revamp classical tarot imagery?
I've always wanted to illustrate a tarot deck, but get this...it's really fucking hard! I struggled for nearly ten years trying to come up with something, some image or idea that would be interesting and original and that I didn't feel was totally corny. It wasn't until Kristen (Sollee, editrix and founder of Slutist) passively said she'd love to commission me to create a tarot deck some day that things clicked. I realized I wanted to create a tarot deck that is positively loaded with sluts. Why not? So much of the tarot decks and materials from the past were so prudish and male centric (though this is no longer true of contemporary decks!). I once read an reversed description of the High Priestess that was something to the effect of, "an adulterous woman who brings misery" while the normal orientation was like, "a pious wife." This guy can put the virgin/whore dichotomy on an archetype who is essentially an oracle, such bullshit. In terms of the imagery, I like to draw on some symbology but ultimately my cards are mostly portraits. There's not a lot that one can compare visually between Pamela Colman-Smith's incredible images and my own. There's a reason why so much tarot imagery stays in the realm of these images: because they are impossible to improve upon. My deck won't work intuitively with visuals for everyone, I focused more on creating characters than on symbolism and imagery that might help one divine. So, in that way it's kind of a tarot nerd's deck rather than a tarot learner's deck.
What witch in history or mythology do you most identify with, and why?
Morgan Le Faye! My namesake. Though I was named after a very different kind of witch-Morgan Fairchild. I’ve honestly just cracked Mists of Avalon and still haven’t read it all the way through, but I always felt a kinship with Le Faye and swoony over anything Arthurian. I was told that she was the first and most powerful witch, and that she was a scandalous, independent sorcerous who can’t be tamed or owned by anyone. She's really cool.
Mary Evans is a radical artist hailing from the small town of Franklin Tennessee. After living in many places in the US, she settled in the desolate desert of Joshua Tree CA where she found community and a quiet place to develop new works. Southern folk art, having roots in storytelling and craft, rather than acting as a form of “high art” had an early influence on Mary’s work. Raised in the church, from a young age she was attracted to ritual and mysticism. In recent years, her work has focused on developing tarot and oracle card decks that can be used as tools for self reflection and healing. With the intention of releasing judgement Mary uses creativity to open up space for readers to have a freeform approach to their own personal understanding of divination. In her practice she honors craft as a form of expression that is accessible to many and empowers others to experiment with their natural intuition and abilities to help themselves and others.
How did growing up in Nashville in a church environment shape your relationship to the occult and mysticism?
I actually grew up in Franklin Tennessee, which is about thirty minutes outside of Nashville. It’s a pretty cute little historic town. However it lacks greatly in diversity and is highly religious. Because the elements of religion are not only in the church, but also extend into business, schools, and, politics, it creates this sort of bubble ecosystem. The way that society reflected the religious ideals made these beliefs seem undeniable. Which I guess is the point right?
As a child, the elements of miracle and ritual in the church set deep within me. Even though I rebelled from an early age, I see now that it still carries an influence upon me. There is a mysticism within Christianity, one that as a child I saw as fact. Talking to God and angels, believing in impossible stories, walking on water, parting seas with your willpower. I think it’s this kind of thinking that left me open to receiving messages through cards, and working with magic.
What inspired you to create your own tarot deck?
I had wanted to make my own deck for many years. The project appealed to me because not only was I learning the cards myself, but I wanted to make my art useful. I didn’t want to just make art that hangs on someones wall. I wanted to use my art to make a tool.
Your tarot deck is crafted in the tradition of Southern Folk Art. What is it about that style that resonates with you and makes this deck unique?
I’m not sure I would say that my deck is crafted in the tradition of Southern Folk Art. I think rather the folk art that I grew up around has had an influence that you can see carried through all my works.
I think the Spirit Speak deck is a clear and honest depiction of my style which is more of a craft-based practice than a fine art one. What appeals to me about folk art is it’s non-pretentious attitude. Folk art is for the people by the people. People who are not preparing for their next gallery show, but who are making art because it’s what serves their spirituality or for practical purposes.
It’s the same reason I became heavily influenced by punk and D.I.Y culture in my early 20s.
Before I made my first deck, I was working on zines. I think zines are a really important medium because of their ability to be accessible to many. Its casual nature allows for a freedom in content. Often used for the spread of grassroots knowledge or radical politics, zines are historically less about status or being beautiful, but more about saying something important.
Once I let go of my work being pretty or well done, I could be free in saying what I felt. My artwork is naive and doodly, messy and quick, and I don’t care anymore.
Do you have any other creative projects you’re working on that are part of your spiritual practice?
So many. I feel that all my creative projects are part of my spirituality. Right now I am finishing up some large scale paper mache sculptures, working on a new zine, finishing my 6th and last deck, and developing some art-to-wear inspired garments.
Crystal Lee Lucas
Crystal Lee Lucas is an artist and photographer that resides in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and creates haunting narratives that are inspired by the spiritual aspects of early photography and the Victorian era. Through her use of photography, Lucas creates compelling compositions that explore a spectrum of emotions: solitude, inner-turmoil, depression, anxiety. This exploration is a means of coming to terms with the past, present, future and everything felt along the way.
Often using herself as the subject in her photographs, Lucas is a contemplative figure set against the natural world. For Lucas, nature is both uncontrollable and unpredictable yet it is a source of superior beauty and strength. By incorporating elements of the natural world within her compositions Lucas showcases the transience.
Chiron Armand, founder of Impact Shamanism, is a spirit-initiated shaman holding additional initiations in such New World traditions as Haitian Vodou (Houngan Asogwe), Brazilian Quimbanda (com licensa), and the Unnamed Path. He is a trained hoodoo root doctor in the Southern Conjure tradition and is the author of "Deliverance!: Hoodoo Spells of Uncrossing, Healing, and Protection" and "Clearing Spaces: Inspirational Techniques to Heal Your Home." He holds an MA in Performance Studies from New York University and a BA in Ritual Anthropology and Queer Studies from Hampshire College.
https://www.impactshamanism.com/ Instagram: @chironarmand
When did you first realize that shamanic healing was the path for you?
I first realized the shamanic healing path was for me when, as a root doctor in the Southern Conjure tradition (also known as hoodoo or rootwork), I found myself most drawn to the work of uncrossing, exorcism / entity removal, and the plant medicines called upon for healing emotional blocks and wounds. There are all kinds of materia magica that help enhance one's self-esteem and virility, and cut mental and emotional attachments to persons and old ways of being standing in our way. Because when we experience power loss through abuse, oppression, and unconsciously giving our power away, it is necessary to get that power back and restore our sense of self.
My shaman sickness began in Summer, 2013. I had just finished a performance art intensive in Athens, Greece under the radical live art group La Pocha Nostra and, through a series of omens and synchronicities, found myself in Ariadne's mythline through an experience of isolation and psycho-spiritual crisis on the island of Naxos while in search of the ruins of the Temple of Dionysos. A few months later I would experience total loss of my default sense of self while Mami Wata and Mongolian spirits dismembered me, deceased transwomen took up residence in my life, and I'd awake from nightmares of a tiger trying to consume me.
A lot was happening to me, sure, but it was also an opportunity for me to take action to heal past traumas and come to grips with the stories I was telling about myself. I had to shed old skins and learn new techniques of spirit communication, boundary setting, and power retrieval, and quickly. It was during this period that my call to the path of shamanic healing - technologies for diagnosing and resolving what is out of alignment through direct engagement with the spiritworld - was made fully clear to myself and those around me at the time. Whether in one's personal life or an ancestral line, sometimes the only way we know something is broken is when something we thought was at least functional breaks in a way that is undeniable.
You work with a variety of different modalities and traditions. How do you bridge them together when working with people?
My work is very spirit-led. I use divinatory tools, mediumship, and trance states to communicate with my spirits and those of my clients. It's a conversation - all of us together, with certain voices being prioritized depending on what is needed. During this conversation, we can find out what’s at the root of what the Southern Conjure tradition calls “crossed conditions” - what’s causing dis-ease in the life of an individual, family, ancestral line, business / organization, or environment.
What needs to be removed through acts of cleansing or release? What needs to be transformed? Who or what needs to be fed or given an offering? Does a soul part or a creative / spiritual gift need to be retrieved and restored? Does a relationship with a helping spirit, spiritual tradition, or even artistic practice need to be cultivated?
What is the precise medicine that will shift the conversation we're having to a new one that enables us to be more joyfully effective in our lives and communities? Any or all of the above ways of engaging can be the necessary bricks on the path to healing. This can include referrals to persons with specialties, training, or initiations I don’t have.
Whether the conversation finds it footing in an animist / shamanic perspective, African-Diasporic cosmologies, practical everyday actions that shift perspective, or a combination of these, what we’re engaged in is a dance of reciprocity between parts of ourselves and energies related to those parts that sometimes need to be called in to bolster our own abilities to manifest and share what we've been given. Gifts, for instance, need to named so they can be cultivated - so we can get out of the way of our own medicine and so that others can identify their need for our gifts and celebrate us for sharing them.
My experiences and training have put me in the position of being someone who sits at the crossroads between the Old World, the New World, and a number of modalities that can provide a way "in" and a way forward. We're all meeting there, together, at the crossroads.
What does the term “shaman” mean to you? What is its connection to the “witch”?
The term “shaman” is a very contentious one here in the industrialized Western world. Popularized by anthropologists and applied to similar roles found globally, it has its origins in indigenous Siberian contexts and has come to signify indigenous medicine persons and their initiates in Meso- and South American plant medicine traditions as well as those who've studied the Core Shamanism techniques developed by Michael Harner, founder of the Foundation for Shamanic Studies.
There's a bit of an obsession with the word that is proportional to our lack of identity and sense of purpose. This leads to its misappropriation by persons who may feel called to work with shamanic technologies for the purposes of healing but might more accurately be embodying a different role. This goes back to our trouble with naming gifts.
Shamans and many of those who might belong to the "shaman class of persons" (to quote my colleague Theanos Thrax) are no longer human in the way we commonly understand, being more of the spiritworld than they are of the human world. North Asian cosmologies recognize a triplicate human soul, and shamans are considered to have one or more additional soul aspects. Any impulses or yearnings that are inspired by the shamanic calling are a call to recognize one's own profound personal mystery and to step onto the path of mastery. To quote Christina Pratt, “Shamans are not the only initiated people. Anything we choose to do in our life that is ultimately a path of mastery has within it an initiatory function. Some are simply more profound than others. The shamanic initiation happens to be extremely profound, and others are simply more subtle, but they all involve a fundamental transformation of the person who is on that path of mastery.”
That path of mastery might indeed involve technologies wielded by shamans, witches, healers, diviners, and other types of medicine people. Every traditional culture has multiple types of medicine people. The word "witch" is very unique to the Western world in its current popular usage as its use in other languages differs greatly. In contrast to words like "shaman" and "curander@", the terms "bruj@" (Spanish) and "macumbeiro" (Portuguese) can be considered pejorative in their traditional contexts, indicating someone who might be prone to wield magical power unethically that is at odds with community values. The latter term is being reclaimed by many Latin-American magical practitioners as an identity marker recognizing inherent spiritual giftedness, descendance from animist cultures, the value of subjective and embodied ways of knowing, and the desire to wield that knowledge on behalf of "the folk" in a way that disrupts oppressive norms. Similarly, the word "witch" (rooted in European contexts with its own denigrated history linked to the oppression of women, queer people, and people of color) has been being reclaimed by many Europeans and Americans to signify the same.
The identity of "witch" is necessary for our times, wholly accurate for many people, and can be a source of great personal power in a culture that outright denies subjective, embodied, and ancestral epistemologies. The path of witch is the path of the highly empowered "free agent" at the borderlands of the people and the spirits of the land. I have my own connections to the word and encourage gift identification, intimacy with innate helping spirits, and dedicated skill-building so witches can play the role we need them to play right now in our culture and society.
How has studying theater helped you in developing your relationship to leading ceremony?
Much of my study of theater has been about its relationship to ritual and embodiment and the importance of performance in representing peoples, histories, and ideas. I entered my undergraduate studies hypothesizing that it is our lack of embodiment that leaves our ethics and values by the wayside. How can we embody civic responsibility and our relationship to our environments? How does performance name and heal trauma in bodies and communities? I know that the root of some of my own trauma in this lifetime has been a lack of representation of persons like myself in media, a lack of true mirrors. What needs to be mirrored about us? What needs to be reflected back to us and for us?
I jokingly call the field of Performance Studies "secular animism" because, in addition to exploring performance lineages, it asserts the idea that objects, words, and gestures are performative - they act upon us and have agency, which is at the core of what animists, witches, shamans, and magicians work with in their crafts. To quote poet and spoken word artist Jordan Chaney, "How do you conduct spiritual warfare? With spirits." Our world is an inspired. Join the dance. Join the fight. Be inspired.