Will the real witches please stand up?

Lineage and Legacy

M

iracles,

If you have been paying even the barest attention to trends, you know that the word and concept of “Witch” is enjoying a surge of social media and commercial popularity. Why is this?

I contend that the role or archetype of Witch is not a goal in itself but rather a pointer to something deeper and vaster, and – in a sense – more universal. I contend that the something being pointed to is our magic. I have written at length about the importance of names, and this one, Witch, is one of the most important of all, so I want to take some time to really explore what is happening with Witch in popular culture right now.

Now, I live in (what I like to call) my magic mushroom doing my work, so these trends often go zipping right over my head. But with the recent Sephora dust-up, you couldn’t help to catch a glimpse of what’s happening out there.

You may have seen it. Sephora partnered up with San Francisco based beauty brand Pinrose and offered a stylish kit complete with scent – you can smell like a witch (what does a witch smell like?) – slated to be carried in stores everywhere – but then pulled due to accusations on the part of both witches and Native Americans that the witch-kit was an act of cultural appropriation. In an interesting turn, some Native American tribal representatives also accused (appropriately in my opinion) witches themselves of appropriation. The whole thing was a mess frankly – poorly conceived and poorly executed. Accusations that Sephora was trafficking in endangered White Sage were met by claims that Pinrose had employed Native American artisans to craft their smudge bundles (and who as a result of the dust up are now out of a job). Two words y’all: HOT. MESS.

I take the question of cultural appropriation seriously. In fact, one of my guest teachers for Spinning Gold this year, my good friend and head of Dartmouth College’s Native American Program, Sarah Palacios, and I met to talk about the problem of appropriation in the Sacred Arts because make no mistake – it IS a problem. We do need serious and clear thinking about human culture and our roles in making – or unmaking – culture.

But when it comes to Sephora’s mass-consumer product, a make-up ‘witch-kit’, it is in some ways not easy to know what we are dealing with here.

There’s an argument to be made that all mass-consumerism has been nothing but a corrosive agent to human culture and aspiration for as long as it has been around. In this light, Sephora’s ‘witch-kit’ is simply a tiny part of a much wider and more serious long-term, on-going exploitation of human culture. Getting rid of the witch-kit – making consumer culture cleaner and more culturally sensitive – doesn’t get rid of the underlying structural problem: it just makes it harder to see. A “kind” slave master is a slave master all the same. The rim of the poison cup may have honey on it, but it is poison nonetheless.

Secondly, trends are just that: trends. They come and go. Witchcraft – or some shadowy idea of it – has been part of kitsch consumer culture at least since the days of Wizard of Oz, the crooning Sinatra and the 1970s TV sit-com, Bewitched, and then more recently, Harry Potter.

But folks who used to make fun of “woo-woo” now begin their sentences with “not to get all woo but…” as they then proceed to do exactly that, get all, you know, woo on you (whatever the heck that means!). There are the popular writers who have never mentioned sacred arts or rituals in their work and now are making them a core part of their “marketing strategy”. There are the life and business coaches who are adopting “witch” or some variation thereof to their list of job titles. How much of this represents real learning? And how much of it is merely following the trend? Underneath all of it is there any sense and any respect for what Witch is really about? And what happens when the trend shifts, and blows in a different direction?

I would hope that many continue discovering their magic and a broader stream of Sacred Arts, but I suspect that all-too-many of the voices we hear “witchifying” everything will eventually turn to something else to ‘market’ themselves. Who knows? Maybe one day the trend will turn to adopting the inquisitorial “look”of crucifixes and monks, or the“look”of Puritan witch-hunters. Wouldn’t that be fun? Instead of lots of instagram ready pics accessorized with crystals we will accessorize with what? Burning coals? Pyres ready to be lit. A hangman’s noose?

If you have grown up in North America, and have participated in Halloween as a child, you’ve heard of witches. Witches are fun. You’ve ‘seen’ them too: in posters and images, movies, songs and costumes. You know, the green skin, hooked nose, broomstick wielding and black cat loving old biddy. You’ve of course heard all about the Salem witch trials and the witch hunts. Not so fun. And you hear the term witch-hunt appropriated in the political sphere today – even less fun.

The word itself has an old history, well before North America was first colonized by Europeans. The women and men called witches have always been associated with a dangerous power – even as large institutions (like the Church or later the Scientific Establishment) have claimed that they have no power, that their beliefs and life ways were built on mere fantasy. The women and men called witches have been, and in many places still are, harangued, accosted, harassed, and killed. Groups of people who experience such are not sought out and molested because they are seen as powerless, but precisely because they are seen as powerful, as dangerous. Persecution is always a tacit admission that the group persecuted has power. What is more, the sources of their power are not understood, easily rationalized, visible, and/or controllable.

So when we use a word like“witch”, we are – unconsciously – calling upon both a blood-stained history and at the same time kitschy commercial stereotypes that seem like harmless fun. Those are two strands of the lineage carried in the word Witch. Here is another: sovereignty; sovereignty for all.

Witches make magic. That’s what they are supposed to do (besides scare children in graveyards or seduce married men, I guess). The idea of magic appeals to so many of us right now because we are (if I may put it bluntly) so tired of the pall of fatalism and hopelessness hanging over everything, especially in politics. It is so tempting to feel like we are on a runaway train, headed to the brink of a precipice. Magic – when practiced correctly, we sense – leads to the discovery of hitherto unseen choices and possibilities – on our own terms. Magic, especially our own wild magic, poses a brilliant alternative to the fatalism, hopelessness, and victim hood that the air can feel so very thick with these days.

There are many theories: it could be that Witch is the new face of feminism, a millenial battlecry, about claiming or re-claiming our personal power – and evidently then exercising that power in whatever ways we see fit. Witch is about allure, rebellion, seduction, and independence – all at the same time.

Meanwhile, actual witches are doing their thing, you know, living life. They are picking up kids from soccer practice, learning how to dance flamenco, trying out a new recipe, asking the cute girl or boy out for the third date, working out, trying out a new flower essence, planting seeds, listening to dreams, living life in the best way they know how. And that is really the whole point of the thing isn’t it?

So when “witch-kits” are introduced into the mass market encouraging a huge outcry, what are people crying out against? Yes, they are angry that their way of life has been packaged for profit. Yes, they are responding to a sense that to try and package a spiritual path, any spiritual path, is, all good intentions aside, an attempt to diminish both the path and the people that travel it. And yes, they are responding to their way of life being presented in its most vapid, superficial, and superfluous form. They are rightly reacting to a perceived threat and theft of their power. But both our fascination with Witch and our resistance against trading on the term for profit strike at something deeper than power.

Power, at the end of the day, is not that interesting. There are the forces that you have power over and then there are the forces that have power over you. The pursuit of power is almost always one way: we want to increase our personal power and we want to decrease the ways in which we feel dis-empowered or without power. Rarely do we hear someone say that they want to learn from power, rarer still do we find people interested in precisely the places where things are quite beyond our power to control. In fact, in today’s world we have all tacitly said that there is nothing, really, beyond our power to control.

Big science and big money are working in tandem to rule over and control everything – even up to and including Death. And those of you who have read your Greek Tragedy, your European fairy tales, your African and Middle-Eastern folk tales, your Native American legends, or watched Tolkien’s Lord of the Ring trilogy know just how well seeking to have power over everything including Death goes. Why do all of the stories agree? They come from different people, different times, and different cultures – how can they agree? Because the authors and tellers of them all encounter exactly what we do – the lust for power leading to ever more lusting for power, leading ultimately to the exact opposite of what we are actually seeking, which is not power at all, but something far more precious and subtle: magic.

Magic may appeal to many people because of some kind of promise of power, but magic goes beyond power. Its roots are much deeper, the word itself is rooted in an ancient word for wisdom, its shadow and radiance much wider. Any true power has a hint of magic – the ability to transform ‘water into wine’, waste material into good soil, a still heart into one that beats out the crimson taboo of life once more. This transformational power, must be exercised with wisdom and discernment: we need to make sure we really know what is good and beneficial in our sense of things, as we attempt to call in the good and beneficial while repelling that which harms and diminishes. We all make mistakes – we just do. That is one way that our magic goes beyond mere power and leads into wisdom ways. It embraces the mistakes, it learns from them, it does NOT pretend that they never happened.

More than that, our wild magic takes us beyond the over-simplified power dynamics and points out what is really interesting and worth wondering about: the warp and weft of the things that are not up to us, that are out of our power and how we live our lives in light of those things. Witches, whatever else they do, make magic. And this is why we love them and fear them and seek them out – because they overtly traffic in something we sense belongs in reality to all of us; and the best witches I have met (and I have met quite a few) would nod in agreement and say: well of course it does, dearie. Your magic has been there all along, waiting for you to see it.

Yes, witches make magic. But so do others: Magicians, Sorcerers, Priestesses, Prophets – they all make magic too – they all carry a whiff of the Witch. What about creative artists and good lawmakers and good business people? Yes, they too make magic, they too have the power to wonder and transform and bless, and so perhaps they too carry something of the Witch within them, perhaps we all do.

The role and concept of Witch is worthy and worthwhile in and of herself; but/and in her mysterious and twisty-turn-filled way she points to that which we all hold – or what holds us – in common, which is magic. When we diminish her, package her, attempt to render her harmless, we diminish ourselves as well. For she is both a reminder and a promise of our own wild magic. She is one of the oldest of old ones who calls us home, firmly back into ourselves. It is for these reasons that Witch cannot be packaged. One might as try to package fire, or the spinning of the stars, or birdsong.

In love and blessings,
Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Creating Sacred Space with Jacquelyn Tierney

Learning and Community

D

ear Miracles,

Jacquelyn Tierney is one of my favorite Sacred Artists! She is a dedicated student of mine and a beloved colleague who fuses her background in art and design with deep psychic skills and profound mediumship. Spend some time with this beautiful soul and come back feeling refreshed and inspired!

In her own words:
Jacquelyn is an Artist, Traveler, Psychic-medium, Feng Shui Practitioner, Destiny Reader, and an Old Soul. She has a background in the fine art of printmaking as well as the history of decorative arts and design, with a special focus on 18th-Century German Palatial Interior Architecture and the history of Italian gardens. Today, Jacquelyn specializes in working with the energetic history of antique and vintage objects and historical properties. Combining her love of art, furniture, and object history with her mediumship abilities enables her to look at and understand the history of objects and spaces not just through a scholarly lens but also through an energetic one as well.

She also connects with loved ones on the other side, reads destinies, and in her spare time travels the world.

Your work fuses disciplines as diverse as Feng-Shui, Mediumship, and Psychometry. What is the thread of commonality running through all that you do?

Working with and understanding energy.

This is actually a question that I used to ask myself over and over and over again before I had a lightbulb moment in 2012. I realized that every subject I had studied and explored up to that point in my life–printmaking, wallpaper, type, design history, 18th- century stucco work, garden history, Feng Shui, mediumship, destiny cards, and the list goes on–was not as separate from one another as I thought. In fact, all of these subjects were connected like a large staircase leading me to what I am doing today which is reading, communicating, and working with energy in order to help my clients create lives and environments that support their needs and desires. Sometimes my work takes place in the garden; at other times in the home or through the computer.

I will often use two or three of these disciplines in one session with a client as well. For example, if I have been given an object to read (psychometry) I can also inform the client of the most auspicious placement in their space based on the object’s energetic history and provenance (Feng Shui).

Some of your work specializes in objects or even estates that are antique, vintage, or ancient. What led you to this kind of work and what do you love about it?

Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by old objects and other people’s stuff as well as the rooms that often house these older items such as attics, basements, closets, crawl spaces, and private spaces. As a child, one could find me organizing my mother’s friends’ closets on the weekends or rummaging through neighbor’s basements. This gave me the opportunity to inspect the contents of every box and drawer and get to know people in a more intimate way–even if I didn’t understand what I was looking at. Today, I still love inspecting all the nooks and crannies for hidden truths and secrets.

I believe the objects we collect and the spaces we inhabit tell a story about our soul’s history not only in this incarnation but also in our past lives too. That’s one of the things I love most about this work–collecting the stories and uncovering those hidden truths and secrets. I also love the deep connections I am able to make with other people through the exchange of those stories because even though our paths in life may be different, or we are from different generations, we all experience the same basic emotions of love, joy, sadness, and grief. We are all human.

Tell us a bit about Possessed–your how-to guide on “collecting, editing and manifesting”

I wrote Possessed as an introductory guide to help others understand and strengthen the relationship they have with the energy of their objects and spaces. Because everything is composed of energy, it helps to know the history of the energy being brought into your space so that whatever you are bringing in is supporting you. The book also provides suggestions on how to clear the objects once you have had a conversation with them.

Let’s say you have picked up an object from a garage sale or your interior decorator acquires furniture from an antique store. A couple of questions to start asking yourself are: “Where have these pieces been? What energetic memories did the objects collected from their environments?” If the desired object was pilfered from a holy place, you might want to know if any curses will be tagging along. If the object is a ring that has been through a few divorces, it would be wise to not give it to your fianceé. On the flip side, if an object is from an ancestor that you feel deeply connected to, keep it near you to help channel their spirit. Once you have acquired this information you can then go ahead and clear the object as part of its initiation into a new chapter of life.

You also have a relatively new service that you have rolled out called “Design for Woo-Woos.” Tell us everything about it!

Design for Woo-Woo’s is a graphic design service I have developed specifically for practitioners of the sacred arts and woo-woo who want to infuse more of their soul’s essence into their website and online presence. Too often, I find energy workers getting stuck with cookie-cutter sites and fluffy graphics that look like they have been pumped out of a big corporate machine. This is unfortunate because each one of us is unique, therefore, making our practice unique. Our web presence should reflect that.

I also take a very woo-woo approach to designing. When a client comes to me with a request I want to get to know their soul. What is their soul’s history? How has it evolved? Where is it going? I look into what really turns that person on visually and spiritually. I even talk to my clients about the past lives that they may want to channel in the work. When the vibration of our soul is embedded in the visual design of our online presence, we are saying we are comfortable being honest with who we are as spiritual beings and practitioners. As a result, we attract ideal clients for our work.

If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Life is a journey that doesn’t end here. I tell this to my destiny reading clients to help them adjust their perspective and see their current life as a chapter of a very large book rather than a single race with a set finish line. Sometimes, we get so focused on our timeline of goals or what we should be accomplishing and experiencing in this life that we forget to slow down and enjoy the earthly delights right in front of us. We rush through the magical changes that take place when the season’s transition, the way our pet’s heartbeat feels as he/she lays on our chest, or how the flora in a far off land can be tasted just by licking a dab of that land’s local honey. All of these moments are also a part of our larger purpose here on Earth. They can only experience when we slow down and notice where we are now and our movement during each step of our journey. Besides, if you don’t complete something this time around you’ll get another chance in the following incarnation.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.