IS VISITING MEXICO CITY’S SONORA MARKET SPIRITUAL APPROPRIATION?

On a solo journey of spiritual self-discovery in Mexico, Danielle Dorsey decided NOT to visit the famously witchy Sonora Market. She explains why …

Mexico City’s Sonora Market was up there as I had compiled a list of the city’s witchiest landmarks to visit during my two-week stay. The sprawling bazaar is famous for being the largest market dedicated to witchcraft in the country, offering patrons everything from tarot readings to limpias (or spiritual cleansing), banishments, love potions, and more. Earlier in my spiritual journey, I likely would have sated my curiosity and went, but the more I learned about the market’s offerings—which range from healing arts to the darkest magic imaginable—the less inclined I felt to go.

One obvious reason to take precaution before visiting the Sonora Market is its location. Nestled in the historic La Merced neighborhood, the market and its surrounding areas suffer from higher crime rates and poverty. Although generally safe during the day, those who stand out as tourists are more likely to be targeted for theft and scams.

Along with candles, herbs, and other trinkets for your spells, you’ll also find vendors selling animals in various states—taxidermied, encapsulated in liquids, or even alive (and often malnourished). Each vendor is its own business, so supporting a tarot reader who happens to be working there does not necessarily equate to endorsing animal abuse, but still I felt cautious about the volatile energies that might be encountered in such a space.

For all intents and purposes, the Sonora Market is an energetic vortex, where one can cleanse themselves of suffering at one booth and then curse someone at the next. For anybody not familiar with how to protect themselves with such conflicting energies at play, it could be easy to fall victim of a psychic attack.

I spoke with Shannon O’Neill-Loyola of Radical Reiki, who currently lives near Mexico City and has familial ties to the region that trace back for centuries. She told me that, “Aside from the fact that there’s dark magic, I won’t go because of the polarization of forces that occurs there. It attracts so many lower entities and earthbound souls who will do anything to latch onto anyone who has an opening in their auric field. People go there out of novelty, and with a superficial view of magic, and don’t realize how impactful these rituals and ceremonies are. Ultimately, this shows a lack of respect, and people who visit as ‘spiritual tourists’ don’t realize that they may leave with attachments.”

Mercado de Sonora México DF 20 04 07.jpg
Offerings on display at Mercado de Sonora. Photo: Maurice Marcellin 

Another reason I decided to pass on the Sonora Market is my wariness of casual tourism through others’ sacred belief systems. One of the best things about social media and the internet are their ability to connect us to cultures and people all over the world, but it’s also easy to trick ourselves into believing that we are more familiar with these practices than we actually are. We might mistake watching a video of a sacred ceremony with being qualified to host our own, even though we have no ties to that culture or deeper understanding of what it represents. Not only is this appropriative and intrusive, it belittles the spirituality of those that we are borrowing from.

When you take into account the different intersections of privilege and the historical oppression of certain cultures whose rituals are now being profiled by Vogue et al., it becomes even more vital that—if and when we participate—we make an effort to do so with intention and respect. That might mean sacrificing an Insta-worthy picture of creepy Santa Muerte statues and respecting the merchant’s request to keep your phone in your pocket. It might also mean that if your Spanish isn’t advanced enough to have a genuine conversation about someone’s offerings and what they can do for you, it might not be the right time to visit.

A good rule of thumb for distinguishing cultural appreciation from appropriation, is that appreciation typically includes an invitation to participate. If you’re truly interested in learning from Mexican brujas or brujos, you’ll have to foster a genuine relationship and prove that your interest stems from more than simply colonizing their beliefs. This might be difficult to achieve if you’re only visiting for a week or two. There’s also a chance you could approach somebody in a completely respectful manner, and they still won’t be interested in mentoring you. Remember that no one owes you their labor, spiritual or otherwise.

However, this doesn’t mean that spiritual enlightenment isn’t awaiting you in Mexico. If you’re looking for spellcraft items, you’re likely to find a few botanicas in just about any neighborhood market or tiangui, which are weekly pop-up markets that occur all over Mexico City. I also recommend a visit to White Willow Cafe in the Roma Norte neighborhood, which hosts weekly tarot and other mystical workshops.

Mexico is a country with a rich history and the same wisdom you are seeking from a bruja or brujo can also be found by simply tuning into the energy of the land. I was surprised at the downloads that came through during a few minutes of meditation at the ancient ruins of Teotihuacan, located just an hour outside of Mexico City. I had a similar experience in Frida Kahlo’s house and was struck with visions as I toured her bedrooms and kitchen, leading me to spend some time journaling in her garden. Even during long bus rides, I found myself bulldozed by spiritual insights while my eyes drunk in the gorgeous countryside.

If you do decide to visit Mexico City’s Sonora Market, take appropriate measures to protect your energy. As with anything else, do research so that you can be sure of what services you’re asking for and don’t get taken advantage of. Meditate and ground yourself before embarking on that trip. Slip a black tourmaline or obsidian crystal into your pocket to ward off negativity and envision yourself in an impenetrable bubble that one must be invited inside.

If, like me, you’d rather be safe than sorry, there are plenty of other ways to find spiritual healing in Mexico without putting yourself at the mercy of such potent energetic forces and engaging in spiritual appropriation.

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Danielle Dorsey is a content creator, publicist, copy editor, social media coordinator, and event planner. Read more from her at Danielledorky.com and follow her on Instagram

MY MYSTICAL LIFE: HOW TO BE A MODERN WITCH

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 …

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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!

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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.

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Craft: How to Be A Modern Witch by Gabriela Herstik is out March 15 on Penguin Random House. 

WHY DANCING IS THE ULTIMATE WITCHY WORKOUT

In his latest column, resident fitness witch Russ Marshalek shares how to make your next dance party a witchy workout—whether you’re dancing solo or with friends …

Photo: George Bohunicky

Last weekend, the Scissor Sisters’ Ana Matronic threw a rave for hurricane relief with her activist group W.A.F.T (Witches Against Fascist Totalitarianism).

What are a bunch of witches doing throwing parties and DJing? While using the adjective “spiritual” to describe a dance party might seem cliche, sweaty, unconscious movement to raw primal beats IS a magical thing.

Dancing raises our energy, loosens inhibitions, connects the physical body with the earth, and creates a feeling of “in-between” where anything can happen and creation is limitless. And a great DJ commands a crowd and uses song selection to cast a spell.

As Alkistis Dimech of Sabbatic Dance told me in an interview on the New Jack Witch blog, “For me, [dance] is to do with crisis and transformation. I hurl myself into the unknown, I encounter the ‘other’ in my body. In this way I remember and invoke the witches, demoniacs, ecstatics, hysterics, whores, the mothers who came before me.”

Ultimately, it’s the alchemy of all of this—joy, pleasure, connection to body and spirit—that makes dancing the ultimate witchy workout. An act of spiritual rebellion. Particularly in these times when legislation on and regulation of the body, particularly the female body, is at an all-time dangerous high.

This is reflected in the “radical softness” movement that empowers sensitivity and the body, and in media like Brit Marling’s stunning reflection on dance as resistance on Netflix’s “The OA,” and in the canonical “body as a tool of magic” essay Forging The Body Of The Witch.

So if your dancing body can be a weapon of resistance—be it against that jealous witch in the corner or the modern fascist regime—how can you put it to work? Read on for the Numinous rules of rave …

Ana Matronic and friend at the W.A.F.T Witches Howl hurricane relief rave

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DANCING AT A PARTY

So you’re out dancing. This is the physical work, congrats! There are a few ways you can subtly alter your reality or tweak your consciousness to bring a ritualistic element to your night out.

1) When you first enter the venue, set your eyes on the dance floor/dance area. Imagine it being circled in a ring of white light, ideally one white candle at a time encircling the dance floor. Guess what? You’ve just done a moonshine version of casting a circle! Expect to feel more protected and in control of your dancing body from just from this simple act. (If you can, on your way out, imagine the lights going out one at a time, or fading away.)

2) At the start of the night/party, set an intention, however major or minor, for something you’d like to achieve relatively soon. This could be as simple as finding your favorite flavor of seltzer at the store tomorrow, or more complex, like getting a new job. As you dance, imagine all your movements infusing  that goal with positive energy, grounding it in the here and now.

3) Close your eyes. No, really, close your eyes. Allow yourself to merge with the beat of the music and become one with it. This is harder than you think, and a rapture that seasoned ravers have come to treasure as a way to touch the ekstatik (which, coincidentally, is also the name of the next New Jack Witch dance party!)

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DANCING ON YOUR OWN

1) If you live by yourself, great. If not, kick everyone out for the night, or shut yourself in your room. Take off your clothes. Turn off the lights. Sit with yourself for a moment. Think of something you need release: a care, a concern, a shitty thing your boss said, a voice inside your head saying heinous shit about yourself. Meditate on this for a moment, and recall how it made you feel. With this in your mind, say aloud “Do. Not. Need”. Believe it and feel it in your core.

2) Now, feel your feet touching the floor, whatever that surface is for you. Let yourself feel your feet, the ground, your spine, your body. Take one or two slow forward folds. Then, with your intention firmly set to rid your body of whatever needs to get the fuck out, crank up some music and let your body move. To paraphrase Twin Peaks’ Agent Cooper, don’t plan it, don’t overthink it, just do it, allowing the music to flow through you and your body in whatever ways feel right in the moment. Allow any emotions that surface to pass, acknowledging them but not dwelling on any feeling overlong.

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CHOOSING YOUR MUSIC AND YOUR MOVES

Depending what you need and how you’re feeling, one song might be perfect, or nowhere near enough. I’ve chosen 4 songs, one for each element, as a guide …

For instance, for Earth, try rolling around on the ground. For air, make wispy moves. Fire can be big, bold leaps, suited to the drum beats of the track chosen here, and water should be fluid, rolling your shoulders and limbs like a stream (but not necessarily gentle).

Air: Sky H1, “Huit”—think wispy moves and swirling shapes.

Water: Apollo 440, “Liquid Cool” —get fluid, rolling your shoulders and limbs like a stream.

Fire: A place both wonderful and strange, “Hex and the City”—go for some big, bold leaps.

Earth: Corbin, ICE BOY—try rolling around on the ground.

Again, these are just suggestions. Ultimately, this is about you and your body, and what it needs and wants to express. When you’re done moving, sit quietly with yourself for a moment, and offer up a silent thank you to the Gods, Goddesses, and spirits guides that have been your silent dance partners.

NEW JACK WITCH: 4 MAGIC WORKOUTS FOR FALL

Lost both your mystical practice and your fitness routine in a sea of BBQs and long-weekends away? In the inaugural installment of his Fitness Witch column, Russ Marshalek shares 4 on-the-go magic workouts for fall, that will fast track you back towards body alchemy.

Image: “Sigil for Strong Bones” by Jon Iñaki

:: A Life on the Road: Taco Bell & Alchemy :: 
After having steeped myself in my practice to cope with a remarkably terrible 2016, full of betrayals and trauma, magic had become literally just one more thing to cross off on a daily list of to-dos. Not coincidentally, I’d also had a falling off in my personal fitness practice.

As I embarked on a two-week tour this summer with my band, a place both wonderful and strangeI realized I’d come to an impasse in my personal practice as a self-trained fitness witch.

As we set out, I had fully resigned myself to embracing a traditional “dude on the road with his band” approach to physical and spiritual wellness: Taco Bell, drinking heavily, occasional substance consumption, Applebees, gas station fountain drinks, sleeping in every morning until the last possible second.

At the last minute, I threw a kettlebell and a shitty yoga mat in the trunk as an attempt to appease my own ever-dwindling sense of self-care. This worked out fairly well for me for a few days, and I blocked out the existence of my body while subsisting solely on bottles of Chardonnay and vegan-friendly trash food (and some pretty trashy non-vegan, food too).

Then, one morning I woke up sobbing and in that hilarious and terrifying way people discuss Ayahuasca trips, I had a 6-hour chat with myself in the back seat of the car and came to a few fundamental truths:

That I simply wasn’t drinking enough water. That performing every night both deserved and required a spiritual and physical groundedness and presence that I had been outright ignoring. And that I was a fucking lucky duck; I had the opportunity to travel for work and get paid for creating art, every night, with two of my best friends.

In short, I owed it to everyone involved, myself included, to actually show up for it.

From that day forward, I was never without a bottle of water, I started performing simple offerings to local spirits in each town we visited, and I developed a simple on-the-road exercise routine coupled with daily rituals.

Within two days of kicking my own ass into realizing that my body was unwell because my spirit was unwell, and vice versa, I was happier, more energized, and the shows that ended the tour were the best we’d ever done.

It took me being hundreds of miles away from home for me to be reminded that the true meaning of “self-care” isn’t “tuck inside a brownie and a blanket” but rather “make sure you’re as well as you can be in body and spirit.” And the true meaning of “giving a good performance” is basically the same.

Whether you’re literally on-the-go, or just feeling far from home, here are 4 magic workouts for fall to up your mystical body mojo …

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1/ Get Out 
Regardless of where you are and what the situation is, there’s comfort and solace to be found in exploring local nature. It’s where we came from, and it’s where we are going. 

Fitness: Get up as early as makes sense, lace up your sneakers, find a park or path, and go for a 20 minute jog or brisk walk. Recognize and acknowledge the foliage, the rocks, the ways in which nature finds a way.

Magic: On your journey into nature, find a patch of green that’s particularly appealing to you, and make an offering to local spirits. Alternate between drinking water from your water bottle, ideally filled with water from a local source, and pouring it on the ground as you recite the following:

Spirits of this place in which I dwell/Please accept this offering/May it multiply to the 10 directions and take the form that is most pleasing to you/Take your fill and maintain peace between me and thee/So shall it be
*Drafted by Vanessa Irena and inspired by the writings of Jason Miller

Feel at peace in your surroundings.

Music: a place both wonderful and strange, “W*tch

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2// Peace In Discomfort 
The assimilation/accommodation process is an incredibly valuable and powerful one when in any type of new environment, and particularly so when you’re away from your literal home or just out of your comfort zone. Learn how to be at peace with the discomfort of the unfamiliar. 

Fitness: This is a modified version of a routine I developed myself for use on the road, and requires nothing more than a yoga mat and a kettle bell.

Experiment with using just a little more weight than you’re comfortable with (safely of course). If you don’t have a kettle bell, find a heavy thing–other free weights/hand weights, phone books, flanks of meat, a cat. If you don’t have a yoga mat, just make sure the surface you’re on is soft enough to not destroy your knees and tailbone. Grass is a wonderful substitute.

20 kettle bell squats/20 kettle bell swings/20 Russian twists/Plank for 30 seconds/Repeat 3x. **If this is too easy and you want to really shake yourself up, feel free to add more reps or sets. I do 5 sets of 30, with a 90 second plank in each. 

Magic: A simple mind-clearing ritual to help achieve calmness and clarity. It’s best to perform this at an open window or outside. Light a yellow candle, face towards the open window, close your eyes, and recite:

I call upon the power of Air/To clear the mind of confusion/To focus my thinking/And blow away the clutter/That keeps me from making good choices/Blow in the winds of clarity/And help me to think rationally and clearly/So Mote It Be  *Adapted from Witches of the Craft

Imagine any internal strife quieting. Take three slow, deep breaths. Open your eyes. Leave the yellow candle burning as long as possible.

Music: Zola Jesus, “Avalanche (slow)

Russ on the road with his band

3// Mother Night
We owe a debt of gratitude to the Moon and as such, it’s only fitting that we get outside and both observe and pay tribute to her.

Fitness: Under the cover of night, find a space that’s safe, that’s just yours, and take your clothes off. The freeing feeling of being naked, at night, and sweating, is an unbelievable, freeing high like no other. Do any routine that feels good and challenging to you. If you’re stumped, repeat the routine from #1, noticing how different your body feels.

Magic: Ideally, you’d be performing this simple blessing honoring the Moon after having just completed the workout above, and would still be nude. Sit crosslegged, with your palms resting on your knees facing up, in view of the Moon. Take a moment to ponder it in whatever form it’s presenting on this night. Unlike most rituals, don’t close your eyes–continue staring at the Moon, and allow its magic to dance in your mind. Repeat the following:

Mother Moon/I am restored by you/I am divinely protected by you/Help me feel your strength/Help me feel your power

Music: knifesex, “Mother

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4// Sleep Well, Beast
When in unfamiliar or uncomfortable territory, our inner life can turn to a raging beast that causes us to sacrifice our own sense of well-being. For many, myself included, the first thing that that gets thrown out the window is a good night’s sleep. When I don’t sleep well, I have maybe about a day’s reserve of top-level adult functionality before I begin to get angry, withdrawn, and paranoid. In those situations, sleep is quite literally the only cure. 

Fitness: There’s literally nothing like bedtime yoga to help with sleep. This Popsugar routine helped me find a good night’s sleep on the road.

Magic: Sit crosslegged in a quiet, dark, cool spot. Close your eyes. Feel your breathing as you breathe deeply in through your nose and out through your mouth. Become aware of your breath and your body.

Inhale through the nose for a count of six/Hold for 3 seconds/Exhale through the nose for a count of six/Hold again for 3 seconds/Repeat this series four more times.

Imagine your body as a slowly glowing, calming blue light, originating at your heart and slowly spreading to the rest of your body. Feel gratitude for yourself, your body, and your accomplishments of the day.

Music: Sky Ferreira, “Night Time is My Time (a place both wonderful and strange remix)

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Russ Marshalek is the founder of the occult electronic music project a place both wonderful and strange, a personal trainer, and the co-founder of the witchcraft collective New Jack Witch.

MEET BROOKLYN’S FITNESS WITCHES

Wanna get jacked up on magic? Bess Matassa explores workout as ritual with fitness witches Shanda Woods and Russ Marshalek of New Jack Witch

Shanda Woods

“The working of the human body is in and of itself a magical process”—New Jack Witch 

Inside of a dimly-lit warehouse on the Greenpoint waterfront, New Jack Witch is making sweaty magic. Musicians. Witches. Fitness Instructors. This is where Russ Marshalek, an excitable, feline moon prince, and rooted revolutionary Shanda Woods, craft seamless, full-body enchantment—that also gets you ripped.

What exactly is their signature “Fitcraft” session? As I strip down and start to move to a soundtrack of goth rock, witch house, and Twin Peaks instrumentals, it seems deceptively simple. Combining yoga and cardio, it’s a minimalistic workout that thrives on repetition.

But as we continue through our reps, the energy begins to shift. “You’ve got your own back,” Russ repeats. “You’re fucking alive,” commands Shanda. I begin to experience an invigorating collision between light and dark, and a deep sense that feeling good and strong in my body can coexist with the widest, rawest range of emotion.

Post session, I sat down with the fitness witches to talk rockstars, ritual, and a workout that’s both wonderful and strange.

**Set the mood for your workout (or read) with New Jack Witch’s signature playlist for The Numinous. 

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TN: How did you each come to your fitness practice? And when did it merge with witchcraft? 

Russ: The torture and torment of being the “fat kid” really fucked with me, and was the beginning of a lifelong flirtation with an eating disorder. To quiet my anxiety, and strike the balance between my deep-fried youth and my anorexic high school years, I started exercising. Combine that with a deep disdain for the patriarchy, a seed first sown through Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and you have the foundation.

When I moved to New York 7 years ago, I had a really intense period of unemployment that found me focusing on both witchcraft and fitness for self stability. And the more I worked on both, the more the two became vital facets of my everyday that I can’t really separate.

Shanda: My witchcraft and fitness practice have been intertwined for as long as I can remember. I’m a member of the Chickasaw Native American Tribe, and other parts of my lineage are from Ireland, so my blood is steeped in the craft. And I have always been physical—playing competitive sports since elementary school and practicing yoga since high school.

I also loved playing nontraditional “yoga” music in my classes, and got hooked on the energy of a room full of people working to change themselves. So I’ve forged my own style that blends my personal history with lessons from all of my great mentors.

Russ

TN: Both of you mention a dissatisfaction with existing fitness culture that led you to your current practice. What was lacking for you? 

Russ: The “new year, new you” concept sold by gyms everywhere actually removes the agency and ability of the individual, and places “fitness” as some unattainable goal. Self-care and working out should simply be present in everyday life. You don’t need a “new you,” you just need to actualize your intentions. You’re perfect and you’re strong and you’re powerful. That’s what magic is about for me, too. 

Shanda: Turning the art of helping and healing people into a commodity or ego-boosting strategy is what I really cringe at in the industry. Not to say you shouldn’t make money as a fitness professional, or that you can’t become well known, but those should be additional outcomes of helping people, not the goals.

I also believe that a lack of authenticity inspires the perpetuation of stereotypes, which leads to less variety for people who may not subscribe to the mainstream ideals of what “fitness” is. This is where we come in—we provide an honest version of ourselves, so others that are not seeking mainstream content or delivery can find a place to belong. 

TN: Tell me about some of your early icons and inspirations in both worlds. Who are the “patron saints” of New Jack Witch? Who do you see as your audience?

Russ: For me, this traverses boundaries. It’s Janet Jackson in Rhythm Nation—force, grace, power, intention. Gordon White of Rune Soup fame is another, for his combo of magic and political theory with pop culture observation. Grant Morrison. Tori Amos is our Ultimate Mother Witch. Michael Macneal of MonsterCycle is the fitness person who has inspired me the most. And my wife, Vanessa Irena (the third facet of New Jack Witch), inspires me daily to be a better person and a better witch.

But our patron saints are all those witches getting their fingers dirty, planting and growing and renewing and sweating and fucking, every day. I think our audience is everyone who wants to exist outside the currently established systems. Those for whom magic and fitness are both methods of creation and self-improvement, or those who want to align to that frame of mind and learn how.

Shanda: My mom and her best friend of 40+ years (who recently passed away, but is still here to guide me from the other side) are huge influences on my connection to the craft. As far as athletes, I’ve always loved the Williams sisters and any athletes or yogis that are rebellious and caring, sharp but kind. And patrons who speak to me through NJW are the Goddesses Isis and Diana.

TN: People often discuss the “mind/body” connection, but what’s the relationship between making magic and working out?

Russ: Magic uses the body and mind, as does exercise, and both require centering, intention, and the synching of the two. Think of breathing. Really. Your mind has your body do it subconsciously. It’s a brilliant trick when you think about it! When you’re in tune, both magic and exercise are like that—the two moving as one.

Shanda: Magic is learning how to control and manipulate frequencies, elements, and energy. Fitness is learning how to control your personal frequencies, energy, and breath. To me, they both address the strength and ability of the individual to transcend the artificial disconnect we’ve been conditioned to believe in—melting and coalescing mind, heart, spirit, body, and the physical external world, in order to manifest a desired outcome or reality. 

 >>> 

TN: You’re both musicians also. How does your music-making feed into your witchcraft and your fitness practice?

Russ: Music is ritual, fitness is ritual. It’s about creating a spell, setting an intention, and eventually enacting a change, be it large or small. In our music and our workouts, ultimately it’s about creating a spell to get from point a to point b, to reach the desired intention and response.

Shanda: Just like magic and fitness, music is the art of controlling or manipulating frequencies, energy, and emotions in order to produce a visceral emotional connection or shift in consciousness. They are all the same thing, just in different forms!

TN: You mention wanting to “rebrand” the notion of the “rockstar.” What do you mean by that?

Russ: The concept of the rockstar has meant egotistical, out of touch, slobby, etc. Yes, we drink, and we have fun, and there’s a certain glamor to the showmanship of the music industry, but we’re also engaging with our bodies daily to keep them strong and healthy. It makes us better performers, humans, and witches when the main tool we have (our body) is sharp.

Shanda: We are trying to show people that caring for yourself and finding your power is one of the biggest things you can do for yourself and the world. There is an archetype of the rockstar that doesn’t cherish this internal divinity. It’s an outmoded archetype of self-abuse, unnecessary decadence, and an egocentric notion that’s not based on service, which is really what all musicians and teachers offer through art and knowledge.

While indulgence or the use of substances isn’t always a bad thing (witchcract is often connected to entering a trancelike state either through meditation or substances, after all), indulgence to an excessive degree is counterproductive to lifting the spirit.

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TN: Some people think of goth culture and music as dark or cynical. What myths would you like to dispel about both witchcraft and about the music you use during your sessions?

Russ: Well, first off, there isn’t any separation between “darkness and light.” And once you start saying things like “I don’t fuck with that dark shit,” well, you’re already off to a highly misguided start. Both goth and witchcraft celebrate the lightness in the dark and the darkness in the light. Playing Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner” in a fitness class puts a huge smile on students’ faces.

Shanda: I believe that there’s a clarity that comes from practicing ritual or fitness, or creating music, when you approach them through a lens of innocent excitement. I believe everything should be viewed with an open heart. Vulnerability allows for the truth to filter through easier than upholding a wall of judgment. When you break down the walls, nothing but truth is left, and that’s where real growth and change can occur.

>>>

TN: What are your personal definitions of a witch? A fitness instructor? A musician?

Russ: A conjurer. A creator. A fighter. The definitions for all have been too rigid for far too long.

Shanda: Wavelength manipulators.

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TN: How do you want people to walk away from a Fitcraft session feeling? 

Russ: To steal a phrase from President Bartlet: Ready for “what’s next.”

Shanda: Empowerment, which is the knowledge of and faith in their own beauty and strength, backed by an infinite sense of self-love.

Learn more about New Jack Witch here, and check out their upcoming Goth Cycle + Yoga Class on Saturday, February 25 2017 at The Monster Cycle Limelight: 47 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011

RELEASE AND RENEW: A DARK MOON RITUAL

Transform the unhealed and unloved aspects of yourself this Dark Moon, says Shaheen Miro

Before the birth of each New Moon, the sky grows rich and velvety—it is the night of the Dark Moon. We enter the infinite darkness of the Crone Goddess. She is the keeper of the mysteries, the underworld, the expansive void that tingles our psychic receptors.

The Dark Moon is the gatekeeper between the waking world, and the rich, fertile land of inner transformation. She holds the key to the soul’s mysteries. Penetrating the surface of superficial life, the Dark Moon awakens our zest for life, our sensual nature, and our most inspired magic.

When we tread into the Land of Darkness, we delve deeper into our own soul. Riding on the dark wings of the Owl we sweep further into the enigma of our Shadow… to where our unloved, unhealed, and unacknowledged parts silently wait. But answering the call of the shadow awakens our tenacity and power. We show up bigger and brighter in the world, as we learn to express our most mystical self.

So lay down your hurts at the altar of the Dark Moon. Spin your woes into strands of gold. For healing only comes when you go into the places that hurt.

:: A Dark Moon Ritual for Purging Pain and Restoring Vitality ::

You Will Need:

Your Statement of Release. This can be a written statement, or an intention you carry in your head.

A black candle.

A black scarf.

Some Dragon’s Blood, or other rich, earthy incense.

Walnut flower essence. (Black walnut is a powerful tree for severing ties with the past, as well as with things that hurt you, especially unhealthy relationships—walnut Flower Essence has a similar releasing power)

The Ritual:

Set aside the night of the Dark Moon (the night before the New Moon) to perform your ritual. This ritual will result in a bath, and if you can perform the entire ceremony in your bathroom that’s perfect. If not, find a space where you will be uninterrupted and then carry on into the bathroom.

Darken the ritual space (or simply turn off all lights). Lighting the black candle, make a declaration of intent. Such as:

“I enter the Dark Moon Kingdom with reverence and respect. With perfect love and trust. With bravery and complete surrender. I visit the garden of lost soul fragments, seeking bones discarded by choice or force throughout my life. I honor these parts, I sing to them, I quicken them back into life. Enfold me in the arms of rebirth and regeneration. So Shall it be.”

Holding the candle, walk in a widdershins (counterclockwise) circle to stir banishing and releasing magic. Begin where you like, but the West is the power spot for soul work and metamorphosis. Walking the circle summon protective energies. Let the Dark Moon energy settle around you, creating a zone for inner work. Include your bathtub in the circle if you can.

Seat yourself in the circle’s center. Begin breathing deeply, in and out. Slip into a light, relaxing trance.

Now light the incense, letting the snake of smoke waft through the circle filling the atmosphere with sacred protective energies. As you continue to breath, go deeper into your center. Repeat the above invocation.

Now allow yourself to gently crack open, traveling down the path to your pain and heartache. Feel how your body has become dense with the garbage you have accumulated, staying mindful of the intention you came to release. When you are filled to the top with heavy, sticky feelings, begin to release them into the dark void.

Repeat the Statement of Release as they slip out—reading something you have written or simply speaking from your heart. Become vulnerable to the receptive energy of the Dark Moon. Give her your pain and trauma. You are ready to purge, move forward and heal.

Be here as long as you like. Let your body respond as it needs. Shake, cry, curl into a ball, slip into silence. Whatever spirit moves you to do is perfect. The Dark Moon will move you through this experience of release.

The Black Walnut Bath: 

Fill your bath tub with warm water. If your bath is in another room, gather your accouterments, and see your circle move with you into the bathroom. You can recast the circle if you like.

If you don’t have a full tub, fill a bowl big enough to submerge both your feet.

Pour a few drops of Walnut Flower Essence into the water. Visualize or feel the water being infused with the dark, generative powers of the Moon. See it become an inky black sky. The great void of transmogrification, where there is nothing to fear.

Now wrap your eyes with the black scarf to disrupt your sense of sight. Then slip into the bath. Relax into the embrace of the dark. You are in the alchemical waters of healing. The vessel of rebirth, the womb of the Dark Moon.

Do you feel any resistance? Is there still lingering pain in your body and spirit? Is your heart heavy? Are your wounds still bleeding?

Allow the remaining feelings to fill you up until there is a sense of surrender. Now release them into water. Speak your Statement of Release again to the Goddess, asking the Dark Moon to take it all away…to return it to the void. Speak out loud, and speak from your heart.

Fully release and float in these healing waters as long as you need. When you are ready, let the water drain. Unveil your eyes. Thank the Goddess for her counsel. Release the circle clockwise. Then blow the candle out, or allow it to burn down.

The Healing Aftermath:

Major blocks of energy and pain have been purged. You have asked for the guidance and protection of the Dark Moon. Her energy and influence will curl through your spirit and move through your life in synchronistic ways. Honor her process, and yourself by being compassionate. Rest, eat something rejuvenating. Sleep as long as you like.

You may feel spacey for a few days as your soul parts knit back together. You have undergone a type of psychic surgery. Go as deep into this process as you like. You have just scratched the surface. Meet the Dark Moon each month with a new pain to lay to rest. Healing is always an expansive, ongoing process.

Seeking spiritual guidance or doing divination with a favorite intuitive, friend or oracle is also welcomed during this process. They may help you see how the pieces are coming together. How life is heading in a new direction. And never forget to ask for the guidance and protection of your Spirit Circle: Your Guides, Angels, and Ancestors.

CASTING MY SPELL: CONFESSIONS OF A WHITE WITCH

“I see writing as a spell, decorating my home as a spell, singing as a spell. Whenever I express myself I am casting MY spell.” Shaheen Miro shares what it means to grow up and embrace being a white witch…

I have always had an intimate connection to the unseen – as a child I could feel the pulse of magic in the world around me. I spent my time wandering through the shadows of trees, marveling at the menagerie of creatures forming, looming, and dancing on the ground around me. I gathered stones, flowers, and found objects to create charms for change and good fortune. I spent my time talking to invisible forces…the spirit of the river, the rocks, and my little calico cat.

A little fairy on the edge of dreamland, roaming between worlds, and unraveling mysteries, sometimes I found myself lost, and confused by things I could not put into words. The loneliness of abandoned buildings made my spine tingle, and spirits of the dead danced in and out of my awareness – difficult things for a child to articulate.

My mother and grandmother were my advocates. Strong, beautiful women with big hearts, strong hands, they were brave witches who honored this path, and these gifts.

And so we explored the tangles of nature together. Singing with the plants, and soaking up the light of the moon. My grandmother always spoke of angels as divine helpers who could be called upon at any time, and my mother gave me the gift of the Tarot as a small child – her way of helping me cultivate and hone my blooming psychic abilities.

To some, my story may sound fantastical, the musings of a child captivated by fairytale visions. But all myths are rooted in reality, and I’ve simply always been aware that magic is alive and well in the “real” world.

As such, I never “grew out” of my exploration of the mystical world. I learned to read between the lines, to see the space beyond the eyes. In every moment, in every situation, and in every person, I can see a bead of magic. How we are all made of the same light and shadows – divine beings on an arduous and essentially liberating earth-walk journey.

I have found magic in books, in stories, and in art, and my life has become a pilgrimage to reclaim the folds of the mystical world, while remaining grounded here in the physical. Because this is where magic has the most power.

To quote Stevie Nicks (a weaver of spells through songs): “The stars are apart of us.” Witches know the ebb and flow of the Moon, and we hone and honor this powerful tide of energy in the understanding that we are equal parts spirit and flesh. Our bodies know the grace of the seasons, and the tides of the Moon, and when we channel this energy we become super-powered.

As such, the Moon has always been my muse and my teacher. I spend time soaking in her milky light. I talk to her, expressing my deepest wishes, and my heaviest regrets. My mother and I wander out into the landscapes of the moon and light candles in honor of her light and glory. The moon has become a portal to our inner world, and even when we are apart we know that the Moon connects our souls.

How else do I live it?

There is nothing like wrapping myself in an aura of black chiffon, and letting my wings catch the wind as I spin and spin in the moonlight. A little white witch taking flight into the mystical; transcending my body, and moving through time. I feel alive in the cool hush of the night. Night sounds are prayers that awaken the soul. Witches know the night holds mysteries, and so they seek refuge in her subtle energy.

And the white witch knows the power of magic lies in the ability to evoke what is cradled within. Spells become nothing more than a rhythm of expressing and exploring intention. We mingle with, and call upon the latent potential of objects. Calling on the spirit of botanicals, igniting the influence of candles, and mingling with the essence of crystals.

The Shadow self has also become a teacher for me – for there are gifts to be found here, in the parts that are suppressed, feared, and therefore unacknowledged. When you reach into the dark, you can pull out treasures and heal what’s stuck. So when I encounter the dark, I try to communicate with it. To see what my Shadow Self has to say.

I call myself a White Witch, because I know I am the night and the day. I seek to understand the dark, rather than fear it. To do this, I must know and honor my intuition, seeking out the patterns of the Universe unfolding around me. In omens, cards, and tea leaves. And it’s when I ignore the messages that I find myself falling off kilter.

This is why owning the word “witch” is an act of power. Sometimes it can feel easier to grow numb to the whispers of the magical world. To put your head down, and do what you are told. To act “normal.” But you are not living if you are not expressing, and you are not expressing if you are not telling the whole story. So now I find my power in being “different” – and stepping into the flow of my eccentricities.

For me, witchcraft is a way of life, an inborn desire to truly live. This also means following my creative impulses as an act of scared communion. I see writing as a spell, decorating my home as a spell, singing as a spell. Whenever I express myself I am casting MY spell.

This applies to all the powerful ones, the thought leaders, the rebels, the eccentrics, the artists. The ones who operate in the Earthly realms from a deep seated desire to bring their inner world to life. Magic asked them to channel their vision into being. All they needed was to be their unique expression. And the world changed because of it.

Witches know they do not have to explain their doings. They just do what feels right. Whatever feeds their spirit. And since this takes real bravery, witches don’t do well with fear.

A LESSON IN NEW MOON MAGICK

Want to align yourself with every phase of mother Moon? Gabriela Herstik has a lesson in New Moon magick just for you…

If you’ve ever wondered how you can use the energy of mother Moon to manifest or discard that which may or may not serve you, you’ve entered the realm of what’s known as ”Sympathetic Magick”.

Don’t let this menacing term fool you, it’s really not as scary as it sounds! To put it simply, it means working with the waxing and waning of the Moon, as it gains and loses light, to reflect what you would like more or less of in your life.

Here’s the lowdown on New Moon magick, to help you channel your inner witchy mamma…

What is it
“Sympathetic Magick” works on the assumption that there’s a secret sympathy that connects all energies. We may not be able to see this, but we feel and understand it. This concept can be broken down into two parts; The Law of Similarity and The Law of Contact.

The Law of Similarity
The Law of Similarity is the most relevant when it comes to working with the Moon. This Law states that magick works because like attracts like (as both the Buddha, and The Secret have taught us), and so in imitating the result you desire, you will cause it to happen by attracting it to you. This is also called The Law of Attraction.

The Law of Contact
The Law of Contact works with the idea that the energy of two objects continues to act on one another even after they’re separated. Voodoo dolls are a good representation of this Law! By hurting a certain part of the doll you’re following the Law of Similarity – by using some actual hair, or a piece of clothing belonging to the person the doll represents, you’re following The Law of Contact. (Don’t worry – we’re not suggesting you use Sympathetic Magick to hurt anyone, but this is the easiest way to explain the difference between the two Laws.)

How This Relates to the Moon
Okay, so some basic astronomy- when the Moon is dark it’s called the New Moon. As it then becomes more light it’s called a Waxing Moon. After the time of the Full Moon, it starts to lose light, known as the Waning Moon. The easiest way to remember this? Wax on, Wane off. In relation to Sympathetic Magick – as the Moon’s light grows, or waxes, you tap the Law of Similarity and perform some New Moon magick for what you want more of. When the Moon’s light shrinks, or wanes, you use the same law to perform magick for what you want to let go of.

When the Moon is Waxing
As the Moon grows in size and gains both strength and light, focus on what it is you want to grow and manifest! In the two weeks from when the Moon is black, up until it’s full, there’s a really strong window of opportunity to attract more of anything you want an abundance of. The waxing Moon is a perfect time to think about (and perform magick for) communication, financial and legal matters, healing and health. For example, you could do this money spell. Think about what you want to increase and go for it.

When the Moon is Waning
In the time between the Full Moon to the Black Moon, or New Moon, there’s a strong window of opportunity to let go. This is a time to analyze what no longer serves you and to rid yourself of it, a great time to break old habits, relationships and addictions. The waning Moon is a time of release. Take some time to tune in to what speaks to your soul – if it isn’t letting you rise to your highest possible potential, is it necessary? If not then let it go, let it go.

When the Moon is New
Of all the Moon phases, the New Moon and Full Moon are the most potent. When the moon is completely dark, it’s a really strong time to work your New Moon magick and get rid of what you don’t want. It’s a good idea to retreat from the world, focus and think of what really does and doesn’t serve you. The energy of the New Moon occurs the day it’s marked on the calendar, as well as the day before and after. PS – If you need some ideas of ways to celebrate with more New Moon magick, we got you.

When the Moon is Full
Meanwhile, the Full Moon is a time of celebration! The divine feminine is amped, and it’s a good time to gather up your tribe and give gratitude. The Full Moon speaks of commitment, psychic ability and magickal acts of all kinds. Spells are especially strong on this day (as well as three days before or three days after) and you can tailor your spell to fit the coming New Moon, too. If you want to manifest, think of the Full Moon as the apex of this energy. If you want to perform a spell to let go, tailor it to the fact that every day after the Full Moon will assist in shrinking whatever it is.

Other Tools
If you really want to use Sympathetic Magick to its full advantage during each Moon phase, don’t forget about the other tools at your disposal. Affirmations, crystals, flowers, herbs, incense, trees… go crazy! The more ways you can state your intended desire to the Universe, the stronger the magick will be. Beyond anything else – believe in what you do whole heartedly, Magick flows the best when you completely surrender to it!

SISTERS OF THE BLACK MOON: HOW TO BE A SUMMER GOTH

Gabriela Herstik meets Goth queens Sisters Of The Black Moon, and delivers some style tips for dressing the part in the summer heat…

Sisters of the Black Moon first opened their “matte black gates” in February of 2010, when a road trip turned into an epiphany. Founders Sara Larocca-Ramm, Alecia Marcum, and Rachel Hunt found the path they were on was no longer serving them, they decided to shift course – and so the numinous universe of SOTBM was born.

With a careful edit of designers, all with an occult and metaphysical aesthetic, SOTBM has cultivated a community of like-minded people while creating an ethical shopping experience. Think everything from exaggerated black capes to quartz and moonstone jewelry and constellation candles.

But perhaps most notable is SOTBM’s own unisex label – the current theme of which is EMBERS, with the emphasis on more structural pieces than previous collections.

We love the Moon-white crop tops and floor length skirts with harness details, and the stark black cloak dresses and in sheer, airy tunics. For all the dramatic undertones, there’s a sense of ease and versatility to the collection, which is designed to take the wearer from day-to-day tasks to gatherings and rituals held under the full moon.

More than anything else, the goal of Larocca-Ramm, Marcum and Hunt is for the souls who cloak themselves in SOTBM to feel confident, comfortable and empowered – a nurturing energy that’s amplified when you learn all three women are mothers. Check out our edit of their online store below, as well as 5 styling tips for summer Goths!

:: Play with proportions ::
When it’s sweltering out, the last thing you want is layers of fabric clinging to your skin. Play with proportion instead. Shorts or a skirt with chunky black boots are a sure fire way to look dark and not overheat. A good pair of leather ankle boots or combat boots will look extra edgy, especially when you’re showing a little leg.

:: Go sheer ::
Goth doesn’t mean layering on the heaviest black fabrics you can find. Instead, try layering sheer fabrics over one another – a great look, especially when they’re both in airy black. If you’re feeling extra spunky, a sheer top with a sheer bra is an empowered look.

:: Light leather ::
Whoever said leather isn’t for summer was completely misinformed and needs a talking to! Leather looks sexy when the sun’s out; plus, it’s the ultimate form of fashion rebellion. A leather choker feels especially appropriate with 90’s inspiration in full swing, while a good pair of leather shorts is equally sexy-tough.

:: Makeup mania ::
If you really don’t want to cake on layers of foundation, commit to your summer Goth look with a bit of smudged black eyeliner, a slinky cat eye and some dark oxblood lipstick. If you’re more adventurous try a full-on black lip and some striking brows. Oh, and never tan. Meowww.

:: Always accessorize ::
Keeping your outfits simple and adding dark accessories is the ultimate way to stay Summer Goth. Tie some long black sleeves around your waist, grab a vintage black wide brimmed hat and load up on occult inspired jewelry. Think onyx and quartz, paint your nails black, grab your favorite pair of pointy black boots or heels and you’re off!

SistersOfTheBlackMoon.com

Maude Nieblungen Shroud Dress, $264
Paula Hagerskans Branch necklace, $466
Paula Hagerskans Cone Ring Moonstone, $340
Moonshine essential oil blend by Naked Eye Beauty for SOTBM, $34
Peg & Awl Constellation Candle Block, £23

SPELLBOUND: INTERVIEW WITH A WHITE WITCH

The ancient holiday of Beltane (May 1st in the Northern Hemisphere), is celebrated as the first day of summer and carries a unique opportunity to authentically connect with faeries, romance, and magic! On its eve, white witch Lucy Cavendish shares with Madeline Giles what being a professional witch entails – and how true witchcraft is about inspiring others to remember their own innate magical powers.

“There’s an artistic aspect to being a witch,” muses a bright and bubbly Lucy Cavendish, calling from her native Sydney, Australia. “Even though a lot of spell work seems to be about attracting, it’s also about creating and contributing – there’s an eclectic, free-spirited vibe to it.” Cavendish, who is a self-declared bohemian witch, has been teaching, writing, speaking and practicing witchcraft for over 20 years. Through her bestselling oracle card decks and books (including Witchy Magic, Spellbound, and several others), Cavendish disparages the hoary viewpoint that real-life witches are fantasy.

Witches hold a rather notorious reputation in society. What’s your personal opinion on that?
I understand why people have a negative perception, because that’s been in our popular culture for some time – and I would say that just like there are bad postmen and bad teachers, of course there are people who work witchcraft in ways I would consider irresponsible and unethical. But the point people overlook is that there’s corruption and selfishness in all paths – whether you’re a policeman, a politician, or a witch – it all comes down to the individual and his or her intent.

How does one go about becoming a professional witch, out of interest?
It depends on what particular path you choose to travel, as there are various forms of witchcraft. Personally, I’ve chosen to follow a more eclectic, non-hierarchical path. I’ve done my Year And A Day, which is where you sit in a circle for 366 days with mentors discussing and practicing spells and conducting rituals. It’s a collective approach so you’ve always got people to support you and to question you if they think what you’re doing is unethical.

And how do you pass the teachings on?
It feels like; “I’ve developed this connection, if you would like to, you can develop this too. Maybe we could work together.” My aim is to inspire people to have a beautiful experience of the divine whether it occurs sitting in a grove of trees or through a celestial vision.

What was your life like before you became a witch?
Even though I was always really drawn to this work and I did readings for people all the time, I spent a lot of time trying to fit in. I wanted to live a life that didn’t look quite so weird from the outside. So I went to university and worked in really ordinary jobs, but I never lasted long. I’d be the production editor at a magazine, but have my cards out on my desk – which is probably why I didn’t last! At the time I assumed that other people wouldn’t accept me, but really I wasn’t accepting of myself. I honestly thought if I did what I loved – which is what I’m doing now – I’d starve and my cat would die. I thought I’d be a little street witch, a magical homeless person doing readings on street corners (laughs). That’s what I was afraid of.

So how did you make the transition?
I ended up leaving Australia to travel for a few years, and that really opened me up by helping me get through the fear of making ends meet while doing what I love. I never thought I could be doing what I do now – I assumed I would have to be unhappy in a “real” job, and that this would be a passion to be kept secret from some people. Thank goodness I took the risk! I chucked myself out of the nest and learned that it is possible to live a precarious, artistic and magical life – that somehow, if you commit to it, it will work out.

Now let’s get into the detail. Can you cast spells on other people?
There are very strong ethics and laws around what we do, one of which is never cast a spell against the free will of another person. So if someone comes to me and says; “I’d like you to cast a spell for me,” I can do that – but it needs to be for them. Not for that man or woman they’re interested in, for their mother’s inheritance, their ex-husband or wife, etc. That’s not what we do, and I don’t consider people who do do this kind of thing witches as they’re ignorant of the law, and it’s not healthy. Witches uphold the Law of Threefold Return, which means whatever you send out will return to you to the power of three. It’s important to be aware of that. It’s not the same as karma, but it’s similar to it – and if you’re going to sit in that consciousness and stir up that energy, there’s no way you can avoid it impacting you.

What types of spells do you cast most often?
A lot of spell work is about empowering people by raising their confidence and self-esteem – because that’s really the root of manifesting the things we want in our lives. Sometimes people are afraid to go after what they want because they feel they’re not good enough to deserve it, and spellcrafting is designed to shift a person’s energy and help them get to a place where they feel strong, confident and grounded – and then their contribution can begin.

What’s the first thing you’d recommend to someone interested in strengthening their divine connection?
The first thing I’d ask is how often they’re outside. How much time do they spend in nature? Are they aware of their local environment and what grows near where they live? What phase the moon is in? How often does it rain? It may sound like I’m asking everyone to become climate specialists, but it’s more that I’m asking people to get back in touch with how things work at a natural level in their environment. When you begin observing where you live and how energy works there, you begin to restore the natural power source that flows not only around us, but within us. That way, we begin to feel more powerful – and thus increase our opportunities to be a fully contributing, creative soul, which is empowering for anyone whether you want to be a witch or not.

In the below extract from her book Witchy Magic, Lucy elaborates on how to celebrate Beltane. Back in the day, our ancestors used to welcome the sweetness of summer on this enchanted holiday by dancing around ceremonious Beltane fires and making love underneath the stars. Today, witches continue to celebrate this festive day with large celebrations and generously sweet offerings to mother earth.

“Beltane is representative of vitality, fertility and the energy of the sun, so its foods include luscious fruits like cherries and strawberries, green leaf, herb and flower petal salads, oat or barley cakes, and honey. Beltane is a festival of love and romance, and roses and other flowers can be added to your food, used as a garnish or table decoration, woven into a garland for your hair or used in spells for love, which can be as simple as lighting a pink candle and making a wish or soaking in a bath filled with pink rose petals. You can also leave a little plate of nuts, berries and flowers out for the faeries, as this is a cross-quarter day when the veils are thin, and their energy can be drawn upon. Dress in long, swirling clothes with flowers in your hair and dance barefoot on the grass, soaking up the vibration of the earth and of this powerful, potent time.”

LUCY’S BELTANE ROSE PETAL TEA
Rose tea has a light flavor, a sweet scent and a calming effect.
*Using one cup of fresh rose petals, cut off the biter white bases from the petals and rinse well. Place in a teapot and pour two cups of boiling water over them. Allow to steep for five minutes – the petals will darken and become discolored, which is normal. Strain the rose petal liquid into teacups and add a little honey of you like.

Read more from Madeline Giles at Mermadeline.com, and follow her on Twitter.