From Samantha on Bewitched to Sabrina the teen spell queen to the gals from Charmed and The Craft, to American Horror Story and The Love Witch, brimstone and broomsticks seem to go in and out of vogue faster than one can say “hocus pocus” in pop culture. Right now in L.A., witchiness is having a moment. Again. And why not? Witches are hot and mysterious. At clubs like Cloak & Dagger and Belle Book and Candle (celebrating its first anniversary tonight), the logical link between sex, magic, dance and social ritual is explored regularly, while vendor events such as Bitchcraft, not to mention stores like Green Man and Panpipes, allow anyone to buy in. But for many, witchcraft is more than a fashion statement. Here, dancer and practitioner Gregory Barnett muses on the new coven culture and explains why conjuring this world should be about more than pentagrams, potions and black hats and cats.
To banish evil spirits, burn curry powder. For prophetic dreams, dip rosemary into a mix of stirred vinegar, gin, water, rum and wine and then leave near your bed. Before retiring say, “Tibi impero ut quondam viluero et velim adimpleas et facias.” Carry a red flannel bag of caraway seeds for spiritual power. A lot can be accomplished with nothing but salt and water.
There, I've just saved you several hundred dollars at a new age store and/or a trip to the desert to do hallucinogens and then return to inform me you're a healer now (I can only hold my eye rolls for so long.)
It seems being a “witch” is cool these days. But it's about more than dropping a bunch of money on a large amethyst or heading to a remote festival or retreat for a magical makeover. That smells like capitalism and imperialism more than harmonizing. The very idea that harnessing personal power is related to an investment of money or a geographical location that you don't already exist in, that power is outside of you but can be quickly attained through a substantial purchase or occupying more spaces on the planet, is dangerous. I understand the idea of “getting away” for a clear head and am obviously not doubting the power of objects imbued with meaning. I frequent smells and bells stores and take vacations and all that. But it feels like the integral aspect of a daily trust-practice-critique-failure–learning curve–patience has been bypassed by a decent percentage of recent self-proclaimed “witches.”
Also missing is the dedication to work in the mundane, the remembering everything you do has consequence, not just the fun theatrical or aesthetically pleasing parts. This isn't a brag, but I remember when I approached my mom at around age 7 and admitted my dreams were coming true. She exhaled with an affectation reserved for low grades and chicken pox, then replied, “Oh, you have it. Well, it's going to be hard. Don't tell anyone yet.”
This shit is work, people. Thinking “I Am In Tune With All There Is” for a few days while wearing black Stevie Nicks garb in some forest doesn't change much, or anything if you fail to integrate it. Don't mistake your excitement for enlightenment. Apply any and all insight if you want to hold onto it.
Talismans work because you strike an agreement with them to serve as a vessel that holds a well-articulated belief or desire, not simply because you have the financial means to own one. A twig can regulate more hoopla than a torso-sized piece of fluorite if you take the time to mold and align an intended vibration. You can't claim the title of “wizard,” “witch,” “healer” without the responsibility of an ongoing (read: constant) negotiation with the unseen whatever/whoever you're conversing with, or sans the many internal recalibrations that result. Fun fact: Everybody is an empath; our bodies were made to receive messages, we just got dense as a species somewhere along the way. Calling yourself one with the tone of “I'm special” is like pointing out that you're breathing with an ego.
I hate to break it to you, but you're playing dress-up. You're buyers, not brujas. The Gods aren't up for being your recreational activity or a merchandise selling point. They don't need expensive gifts. Instead, they'd prefer you call them a bit more often, maybe get to know them by name. So out of respect to Them, familiarize yourself with your bare-bones psychic potential for a bit. Don't resort to the easy outs of blindly trusting a labeled product, because that's the same kind of mindless consumer behavior you're telling yourself you've righteously overcome. Your spice cabinet and grocery store are usually sufficient arsenals, I promise. A ticket to a sound bath means you purchased a ticket to a sound bath, nothing more. You don't get your wizard stripes upon your first visionquest (read: fortified daydream.) Phenomena are common, people. Spells at their purest are about recognizing your wants and ritualizing your intention through conscious actions in a way that reminds you visible and invisible aspects of our universe interact. Nothing more.
Remind yourself that magic was household logic well before it was exotic escapism. Our grandmothers and great-grandmothers have been doing this for centuries and all it takes is a bit of humility to realize we didn't invent this wheel. Half of you aren't aware enough to notice yours hasn't started spinning yet, and goodness you are loud. Slow down enough to take in what you're up to. Buy less. Seek more. You've purchased a tool, not a diploma. Great start, now get to work. We are waiting for you to take yourself, and this craft, seriously.
Belle, Book & Candle, a night of (real) witch burlesque and ritual, takes place at El Cid, 4212 Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; Wed., May 16, 8 p.m. Tickets and info here.