EDUCATING SYRIAN YOUTH, RETURNING WITH TRUTH

As the reign of terror wages on, poet-activist Lisa Luxx says she can no longer be silent. Join her journey to Lebanon to educate Syrian youth, and help pave the way towards new worlds …

Lisa Luxx by Suzi Corker

From the cradle of civilisation sprung everything you know. The context of every story you’ve been told. And for the past six years the cradle which birthed the youngest part of us, has been turning into a black hole. I’m talking about Syria. The seed from which society was grown.

Where a peace march for liberation has ended in a reign of terror. Violence so extreme, you wouldn’t think it could be contained in 2017. A darkness so thick, we could all fall into it.

In 2011, a peaceful uprising against an oppressive government began. The government responded with bullets. Since then, a country built on tolerance and cultural differences has become divided into many violent factions, each funded by a different foreign government with their own wicked intentions: Russia, Saudi, the US, and the rest are sat around Syria like it’s a chess board.

Citizens have, for a while, been cut off from basic human resources like food and water. Activists have risen, and been tortured. Those who have escaped, have lost everything they had and everyone they knew. The whole situation split into so many pieces, there is no longer a clear solution. And there are children from Syria, now, who know nothing but this. For it is the only ‘normal’ they have witnessed.

So complicated. So ‘far away.’ It is easy to turn our heads, run a rose water bath, and get lost in our comfort. But I believe the spiritual purpose of the Internet is to usher in global awareness. I believe we were born in these times because it is our generations’ responsibility to honour this. I also believe that safety is our most valuable asset (an asset because it can be taken away at any moment).

So every day, when I think about Syria, I having been asking myself: how can I share the wealth of my safety?

A couple of years ago, I was nominated for a Peace Poetry Award, and at the ceremony a Syrian refugee named Sleman spoke of his escape: “though my body is now here, my soul is still in Syria.” Every cell in my body became an eye, opening. A remembering awoken in my own DNA.

For I too am Syrian, on my birth father’s side. I was born and raised in England in an adopted family; happy, safe, comfortable. But I feel the shelling and screams of Aleppo, Homs, and my patrilineal homeland, Damascus, in my bones. And I hear the silence of the West.

So in December I will travel to Syria’s neighbouring country, Lebanon, to volunteer with refugee children and teenagers in Shatila. I will be teaching English and the arts. It’s not that I believe education can solve a problem like Syria. I don’t. It won’t. But I know that language and creativity can pave roads to new worlds.

Writer and translator Lina Mounzer asks if using writing to make sense of war “is the desire to know or the desire to be known?” It seems to me it is both. To translate your story through language and arts is to know your experience is seen, your truth valid, and that your heart has been heard.

Our governments here won’t lead the way. So why can’t we— the wise witches of the West— put our power into making those roads manifest?

While I am in Lebanon, I’ll be collecting the stories that wish to be told, and translating them into poetry that I can share back home. Behind the headlines are 23 million truths. It’s those voices I hope to give a platform to.

I believe that only when our eyes are open, can we begin to let the light in. That change will only come from direct action. That when faced with a black hole, we must hold hands. That together, our strength will dwarf that which we withstand.

Lisa will be volunteering in Lebanon with the support of a Gofundme campaign. Please support her and donate HERE. You can also follow Lisa’s journey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

HOLY F*CK: WHY WOMEN TRIGGER EACH OTHER & HOW TO DEAL

From public shaming to private comparison—enough is enough, says Alexandra Roxo. It’s time to figure out why women trigger each other, stop throwing shade, and turn those triggers to gold …

Photo: Alexandra Herstik

As women, we have been taught to compare ourselves to others women from the day we were born …

We’ve been presented with images of people we’re supposed to look like, dress like, love like, and work like. We’ve talked shit about other women and not only has it been acceptable, it has gained us allies.

And then we reach a certain age where we hold the shit talk in, because it doesn’t make us look good … but the shit is still shit. And it stinks.

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WHEN JUST BEING IS BEING “TOO MUCH” 

I’ve been triggering people since I was young. I was 12 when people started calling me “Slut” and “Whore.” Though I hadn’t so much as seen a penis at that time, I was expressing as a feminine being, and people were pissed. I eventually saw that the way I expressed myself made people uncomfortable, and so I stopped eating, changed my hair, and did just about everything I could to attempt to deflect the hatred and jealousy of other women.

But as hard as I tried to squash down my power, it always leaked out. I’d piss someone off and they would tell me I was “too much” or call me “Slut” again. Thankfully, at age 33, I have had enough therapy, sat in enough plant medicine ceremonies, and done enough inner work in general to know that it’s safe to reclaim and express the power I attempted to shove down for so many years. But it’s always a work in progress.

As an adult, I’ve split with business partners and besties because of triggering behavior—and received death and gang rape threats because of the creative work I do.

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WHEN WE DO OUR WORK, NOTHING REMAINS UNSEEN 

But now, because I’m more aware of EVERY fiber of my energetic alignment, when something even just feels slightly off, I can tell.

When we develop our witchy and magical powers and do our own work, nothing remains unseen. And negative thoughts or jealousy towards another person creates a hook or cord. An energetic connection. Now, more than ever, I can tell when I am triggering other women, and they are triggering me.

I can see the look in their eyes when I’ve said something too bold or too big or too sexy or too powerful. I know when I don’t hear from them for a while and they aren’t speaking up, that I’ve triggered the part of them that wishes they could. I used to avoid those looks in people’s eyes. They hurt too much. But now I won’t sacrifice myself at the altar of someone else’s shit.

And I know when I’m triggered too. When the tall skinny blonde women in my life bring up my own body issues from the past. Ones I thought I was over (ish). It’s like being an alcoholic and walking into a bar. Why do it? But I can’t just get rid of the beautiful blondes in my life because they unknowingly trigger me! So I keep working through it … 

Photo: Alexandra Herstik, Dress: Forgotten Feather Vintage, Styling: Haley Francise

FROM PUBLIC SHAME TO PRIVATE COMPARISON  

As adult women most of us no longer publicly shame each other. Instead, we compare quietly behind closed doors. Remember when we had private eating disorders and hated our bodies? Anybody? Now many of us are all talking about that, thank Goddess! But we still aren’t talking about the fact that we’re quietly judging each other all the time …  

It’s a wild world out there ladies and I know that the endless sea of triggers is never gonna end. But we CAN own up to our triggers, speak honestly with one another, and start CLEANING UP OUR SHIT!  

Digging in to why women trigger each other and what we can do about it, here’s what I propose …

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DO honestly challenge yourself to come clean. Pretending will get you nowhere! Recently, I felt very triggered after hanging with a friend. At first I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t hang with her!” But I challenged myself to come clean. The next time I saw her, I spoke directly: “I felt very challenged the last time I hung out with you. It triggered the part of me that thinks I must hustle to be successful. I know this is all mine and it was a beautiful and painful process for me.” She received my words and it was so loving, and there was nothing ANYONE did wrong. FUCK YEAH.

DON’T lash out and say “You trigger me! Every time you complain about your weight and you wear a size 2, I feel awful that I’m a size 6 and I want to kill you. Fuck you!”

DO take space. When you need to, step aside, take a moment, breathe. Journal. And come back to the situation when you are grounded and in a productive place rather than a REACTIVE one.

DON’T use excuses about taking space to avoid necessary confrontations. Ask yourself, “Am I just running?” While I’m definitely not suggesting that you contact everyone in your life who’s triggering you, notice when you can’t ignore that heavy feeling inside. Instead of ignoring that text, DM, or email, craft an honest reply.

DO start taking responsibility for throwing internet shade. If you’re sending jealous, envious, or angry vibes, sometimes to complete strangers, it’s time to come clean. If it’s a trigger you can confront, then DO that. But if it’s not, unfollow, block, and stop engaging. If Kim K triggers you and you keep thinking hateful things about her bod, then stop looking at photos of it. When we start to learn energy work and ritual, we must take responsibility for EVERY little bit of our energy that gets thrown around. Whatever you send—even unconsciously—is going to come back to you three-fold.

DON’T try and “fix.” As women we LOVE to sit and “fix” each other. When you share a trigger with someone, or someone shares one with you, let it hang loose and messy and bloody for a moment instead of trying to solve it and make it neat and pretty and clean. For example, after hearing the statement “I am triggered by the fact you have more followers than me,” just sit and hold that energy instead of suggesting your fave social media strategist and marketing plan and sending 10 helpful emails. Feel the feelings together about what was said. Holding the words and trying to fix are two different things.

DON’T throw out a good friendship just because the person triggered you a few times. In the past year, I’ve been in multiple situations with women where our friendships have ended because we haven’t chosen to just sit and talk and face the triggers together. Instead of giving it time and space and facing the dark depths together, we have both run for the hills!

DO look at the why. “Were they intentionally hurtful? Or is them being them just triggering for me?” If you find the fact your new friend can walk into any bar or yoga class and turn all the heads in the room incredibly triggering, look at the part of you that desperately wants to be seen. Instead of thinking about her—spend some time on YOU. Work on how you can begin to turn heads.

DON’T let it eat you alive. If we walk away from friendships, and block people on socials again and again because we are triggered, we are walking away from incredibly valuable lessons about ourselves. But if we stick it out without acknowledging the facts, it will become an elephant in the room that becomes cannibalistic and eats the friendships. Usually in an epic and mythical way that warrants trips to psychics and energy clearings to clean up the mess! We don’t want that either.

What we need, if we want to revolutionize this reality, is a new era where vulnerability and truth have real value. It starts with us.

Want to make sure you move towards your fullest expression and don’t get lost in a sea of triggers? Join me in Moon Club for powerful communion and mentorship. 

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. 

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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.

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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

BEST OF THE NUMINOUS 2016

In the face of heart-wrenching challenges that left many of us feeling very troubled (read: angry, confused, and afraid) we remained committed to the deeply magical acts of connecting and co-creating. From transforming difficult emotions into empowered action, to the pure pleasure of crystal dildos, we give you the Best of The Numinous 2016. Cause we gotta have faith, cosmic crusaders…

 

 

1. A Message of Hope from Miki Agrawal: Thinx Founder Miki Agrawal shares her post-election thoughts for how to change hearts and minds.

 

2. Dream Project: The Story of the Dust II Onyx Tarot: When Courtney Alexander couldn’t find a deck that spoke to her on a soul level, she decided to create her own.

 

3. How to Work with Your Spirit Animal—A Total Guide: Wolf Sister teaches us to tap into the animal kingdom by learning to work with our spiritual beasts.

 

 

4. Holy F*ck: Holding Space for My Shadow Self. “Just like our sexual self doesn’t have much space to roam in this world, neither does our shadow self…” says Alexandra Roxo.

 

5. Why Are All the Lightworkers Moving to LA?: Fern Olivia breaks down why life on the Left Coast is calling.

 

6. Cosmic Calling—Astrology for Entrepreneurs: When it comes to astrology for entrepreneurs, it’s about knowing your cosmic career signature, and following a few hard and fast rules, says Rebecca Gordon.

 

7. Empowered Action in the Face of Trauma: Recent world events have stirred up many intense emotions. Louise Androlia shares her wisdom on how to use our feelings as a catalyst for empowered action.

 

8. Fashion as Self-Love: The Story Behind KE7H3R: “Everything, even fashion, is a transference of energy.” Janelle Corpuz Hethcot talks sartorial style as self-love with Ruby Warrington.

 

9. Hello Chakrubs: Yes, That’s a Crystal Dildo: Forget the battery-operated vibrator and pick up a high-vibe, soul-opening crystal sex toy. Chakrubs founder Vanessa Cuccia shares her story with Gabriela Herstik.

 

10. 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.

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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.