With her new book Craft: How To Be A Modern Witch, Gabriela Herstik—one of our first ever Numinous contributors!—says it’s witches who really run the world …
Four year ago I got an email from a student at the University of South Carolina. “Let’s just say Columbia isn’t necessarily forgiving of those who chose to dress how they want and stand out,” she wrote. “My all black attire, bright red lipstick and half shaved head make me the recipient of many side eyes, but my own personal style has never faltered or strayed.” Her name was Gabriela Herstik, and she pitched a story for the Numinous on dressing to honor the Death Card in the tarot. And in doing so, became one of my first ever contributors to the site!
Gaby continued to write for me over the years, going on to become an official intern and one of our Moon Club Founding members. It’s been AMAZING to watch her career grow and blossom, as she graduated college, went to intern at Vivienne Westwood, and got her writing published everywhere from i-D to Broadly. She landed a column at Nylon called “Ask A Witch.” And when she told me this time last year that she’s been asked to write a book about modern witchcraft, it was as if the cosmos had fully aligned!
Gaby’s book, Craft: How to Be A Modern Witch, is out today. And her take on what makes a witch—”The witch is anyone who does things differently, by her own rules, attuned to her own self and magick”—reminds me of a line from her first email to me. “I’ve had to grow a tough skin to stay true to myself in parts of the south that don’t understand what it means to be different,” she wrote.
How to have a tough skin (boundaries, people) while keeping your heart wide open is one of the messages in her book. Here’s what else she told me about the witches who really rule the world, and how she’s honoring the lineage of witches who came before us …
RUBY WARRINGTON: In the intro, you say it’s witches who really run the world. Who are some of your favorite inspirational witches, and why?
GABRIELA HERSTIK: We do run the world! An empowered woman who knows her own magick has always been a threat to the patriarchy and I stand by that! There are so many amazing witches out there. I think the first time I was truly introduced to powerful witches were in Harry Potter. Hermione Granger, Luna Lovegood, Professor Trelawney, Professor Mcgonagall—they all inspired my magick.
So did Oprah. I’ve been following her and her “super soul Sunday” show for years with my mom, and her insight, wisdom and power have been inspiring me for over a decade. Sybil Leek And Doreen Valiente are both historic witches who have inspired my own practice as well, reminding me that my strength and power and witchiness are forces to be reckoned with and that using my writing is a valid way of spreading my magick. Yoko Ono, one of my favorite fellow Aquarians, has also inspired me to be revolutionary without shame, showing that love and peace should always be fought for with an open heart and compassionate mind.
Starhawk is a JeWitch who has helped me embrace my own inner priestess, and has helped me deepen my craft and practice—she’s amazing! Goddesses and figures like Hecate and Lilith have reminded me of my own darkness as a gift, and that my non-conforming nature is something to be celebrate, curated and cultivated more than it needs to be shamed!
RW: In your book, you identify “the one without children” as one possible marker of a witch. This is me Gaby! Does the fact I never wanted to have kids show I’ve always been a witch?
GH: YES! A witch has always been someone who doesn’t abide by society’s (or in many cases the church’s) rules! You taking control over your own body and future by not having kids, (even though society tells us that we must follow the path of having a job, a spouse and children to be valid) means that you are claiming sovereignty over your future and self. You’re going against the grain and honoring your own needs, feelings and emotions, which in my opinion is the basis of magick!
A witch is empowered, not by an outside force, but by herself. And in a society that tells us we must conform to be worthy, doing what you want for yourself and your own sake isn’t only the witch’s calling, but it’s also revolutionary.
RW: Why is cultivating a Moon practice—like we do in Moon Club—the first step towards activating your inner witch?
GH: Many of us naturally are enamored with the moon. She been there for as long as the earth (4.53 BILLION YEARS) which means that we are looking at the same moon that generations and generations of ancient (and modern) people have. The moon represents and rules over our emotional bodies, our intuition, our connection to the feminine; the subtle, all knowing, feeling part of ourselves that’s in everyone, regardless of gender. No matter where we live, we can look up and see the moon.
It doesn’t cost anything and it doesn’t matter what religion or spiritual path you follow—the moon is there, and she cycles through her 28 days all the same. Cultivating a moon based practice is an easy way to get in touch with the subtle aspects of our soul, and an even easier way to chart our own growth alongside that of the moon. Starting at the new moon, the beginning of the moon’s cycles, we focus on what we want to grow as the moon’s light grows or waxes, up until the full moon.
The Full Moon is a time of completion and manifestation, and after that when she starts to lose light or wane, we focus on what we want to release. This is such an easy way to start learning about your own cycles and energies, and for those of us who bleed, the moon also imitates our own cycles. The moon is just the most inspiring, beautiful, magical being. I love her and I don’t think I know a witch who doesn’t!
RW: What was the most important step in you “coming out”and standing proud in your witchiness?
GH: Believing in my witchiness and my power! As far as physical moments, shaving off half my hair seven years ago is what I credit as my initiation as a fashion witch. It’s the first time I used the power of glamour and rebellion to transform my style and it’s what really launched my exploration of personal style.
In a broader sense, writing this book has been the biggest step in coming into my power as a witch. At the end of 2016 I decided I was going to write about witchcraft less, but the universe had other plans for me! I’ve had many incarnations as a witch (the old saying “once a witch, always a witch” rings true) and a lot of them have not ended well. Not only am I breaking this karma by embracing the title of “witch” and helping other people find their magick, but I’m also transforming the karma of my ancestry in this life.
I grew up Jewish and am ethnically Jewish as well. I had over 70 members of my family in concentration camps, including my paternal grandparents. The fact I can openly talk about being a witch, the fact that I have made a career out of sharing this practice and belief system, when my family members were killed and abused for their religious beliefs, is not lost on me. Coming out as a witch in the public eye, has been a lot of things but the most important thing is that that I’ve learned is that this is who I am. This is where my power lies. This is my path and my magick and embracing it, sharing it with others and spreading wisdom is why I’m here!
RW: What’s the last spell you cast and what was the result?
GH: The last spell I cast was at the New Moon for presence, gratitude, sex, abundance, magick and love—it’s still going (I’ve burned the candle every day since the last New Moon) but I’ve definitely been more in tune with all of those things. I did a spell last night using my rose quartz chakrub and sex magick to remove some blocks I have around my heart as “protection” and the result was some really intense, scary dreams that brought to surface some of my fears and a really intense feeling of centered peace this morning.
RW: What’s your favorite way to honor the lineage of the witches that came before us?
GH: I love this question! My favorite way to honor them is to honor my own ancestry through working with fashion magick, since both sides of my family are weavers, seamstresses and in the garment industry. As far as the witches who came before me, being vocal about how lucky we are to live in a place and time where we can openly call ourselves witches and practice witchcraft is a huge part of my practice.
My work and passion is sharing information about connecting with witchcraft and magick and goddess. This work, including my blogs and columns and articles and my book, are all dedicated to the witches who have come before me. The legacy of the witch lives on in many ways, and she absolutely lives on in me. By shedding light on witchcraft, by making it accessible, by holding space in my heart for those whose shoulders I stand on, I honor this lineage of witches.
Craft: How to Be A Modern Witch by Gabriela Herstik is out March 15 on Penguin Random House.