INTERVIEW BY LISA MARIE BASILE
I simply cannot fucking say enough good things about Gabriela Herstik. She’s kind, compassionate, supportive AF, magical, knowledgeable and inclusive. I first “met” her on Instagram, and could sense her wild magical passion through the ether. I now consider her a friend. Her book, CRAFT (the UK version) and INNER WITCH (the US edition) is gorgeous—and it’s even translated into Spanish and on sale in Spain.
She does such a service to the witches among us, and sets such a great example of someone approaching witchcraft ethically and creatively. I’m honored to have sat down and chatted with her here:
LMB: First up: can you tell us a little more about how you discovered your inner magic? What did that process look like—especially because I know you come from a traditionally religious family, and when did you decide you were a witch?
Gabriela Herstik: I’ve always been deeply spiritual. I grew up with a Mom who has been into different esoteric practices ( crystals, meditation, yoga, energy) since the 80s. Both my parents are Jewish, and my dad’s a reform rabbi, so I grew up in the framework of that faith. I should also mention I grew up in Johns Creek Georgia- aka the Bible Belt. I discovered witchcraft after getting a deck of oracle cards when I was 11. This led me to another book about witchcraft and suddenly I remembered going to Salem, MA on Halloween three years prior and learning about witchcraft at the museum, seeing a ritual..etc. I knew that I was a witch but still had to go through my bat mitzvah even though I knew I was pagan.
I was so young so my practice has evolved a lot. It got more serious when I left for college and started combining my love of fashion and tarot into a series of blog posts for my then - fashion blog that were looks based off the wild unknown tarot cards. Around this time, I started studying yoga more seriously and taking my practice more seriously. Now I celebrate pretty much every full and new moon, and holiday.
LMB: You write a lot about witchcraft—were you always a writer, or did you become one to express your love of witchcraft? Did they sort of bloom hand in hand?
Gabriela Herstik: I have been writing much longer than I’ve been a witch. I wanted to be a writer in second grade, and I remember loving my schools essay contests. I’m super air sign and always have a million things going on in my head, so writing has always been a form of escapism to me. It helps me get things out and transmute all the junk in my head to something else. My grandma was a writer too, she wrote poetry and a memoir- I didn’t find that out until after she passed away when I was 18.
LMB: When you got the book deal for CRAFT, how did you want to approach the book? Was it important for you to differentiate it in some ways from other books? For one, it’s got a personal streak, and it’s inclusive, and it’s got a focus on fashion, too, which is fresh and exciting.
Gabriela Herstik: Thank you so much! From my own experience as a witch who grew up in the Deep South without much of a community, who really learned from Books, I knew the things that I wanted to include; things I wish I knew! Also, thanks to my column for Nylon, I have a steady stream of people asking me questions about the craft. I knew I wanted to talk about fashion magick (and share my story with it) both because it’s so important in my own practice and because it’s something I don’t see others addressing in the same way. I knew that my publisher and I agreed that I should include tarot, astrology and crystals. Everything else kind of stemmed from my own practice and what I felt was a well rounded approach to what this practice can look like.
LMB: When people think of the Witch, what are they getting wrong today? And what are they getting right?
Gabriela Herstik: I think that people think of witchcraft as a monolith, that it’s all skinny white women waving around sage wands. Witchcraft is rooted in folk magick, found across the world in so many different ways. It’s rooted in indigenous practices, it’s led by POC and other marginalized folks. We’re not all satanic (which has its own misconceptions) and we don’t all subscribe to the notion of being a “white witch” or “black witch”.
I think we’re starting to see a shift in the idea of the witch as someone who is unapologetic in their power, as someone who utilizes magick, as an empowered wo/men who lives consciously and in their fullest incarnation
LMB: I think we both get asked a lot about the intersection of social media and magical living or witchcraft. There’s talk of empty Instagram posts that are “purely” or “only” aesthetic, or revealing sacred altars (which remove the “power). Stuff like that. What do you think about that sort of talk?
Gabriela Herstik: I think that to dismiss social media as frivolous or as all bad is really hurtful! Obviously I think, like for anything, boundaries are important. Obviously putting your worth in social media is harmful. But I think that used consciously and with intention, social media can be a way to connect, to learn, to find community. Years ago, I would post photos of my altar and talk about the spells and rituals I was performing. Now I don’t do that. I don’t share photos of my personal working altars, and I don’t share what specific things I’m doing or post photos of that work. I think the things I’m working on and seeds I’m watering are too sacred to share. This is an evolution though, and I think that it’s important for each witch to ask why she’s sharing what she is. Sometimes I post photos of spells as part of the magick- having likes and other peoples interactions infusing energy into the spell. But even then, I won’t share abojt what I’m doing or why. Like anything- this has to be a relationship you cultivate for yourself!
LMB: Let’s talk Dark Venus. That’s your alter ego of sorts—which has her own Instagram account. What prompted you to create that space? What sort of things draws you to the dark? Here at Luna Luna, and in all of my own work, the darkness is a friend, an ally, an inspiration—and I’m driven to it because I don’t believe it’s a synonym for “bad.” How do you approach it? Why Venus?
Gabriela Herstik: So I’d been working with Venus for about a year and some change when this archetype of Dark Venus came to me. I had just begun my exploration with kink and she was like this shining light to me- like if Venus was a dom, If pleasure for her was trasnsmuted through pain. Venus is my matron, so I started working with this archetype by incorporating bdsm into my rituals and I created a shrine for her as well. @Dark___Venus is my “thot account” where I can explore my shadows outside of the public eye. I post about cannabis, sexuality, and just use it as a personal expiration of darkness and self. I am a very positive person but I have hella Scorpio placement (including my moon and north node) so exploding my shadows has always been important to me. My first muse was the death card. So Dark Venus isn’t only a deity I work with, but another aspect of my Self that I get to explore through sexuality and kink and art and instagram! I’m an exhibitionist and think of social media as its own kind of performance art. It’s been really fun and I’ve loved connecting to venus in this way.
LMB: Also, you run FASHION IS DYING, which I adore. Can you talk about your interest and roots in fashion and it’s intersection with magic for you?
Gabriela Herstik: So my background is in fashion writing, which I studied in college. I started a fashion blog ( Breathing Fashion) at 14, and was convinced I would be a fashion editor up until I wrote Craft/ Inner Witch. Five years ago I started a series of outfits based on tarot cards for my blog, and wrote about that. That was when I first started exploring the intersection of spirituality and style. My first pitch and freelance piece was for The Numinous on how the death card inspired my style. Then I started writing for nylon, my first piece for them was how to make your wardrobe actually witchier. Both sides of my family were in the garment industry so it feels really special to connect my spiritual and physical identity in this way. Fashion is Dying is my latest incarnation of this. I do zodiac season style guides and interview really cool voices in the industry and do full and new moon reports and it’s just been really fun. I love the intersection of glamour and identity.
LMB: You live in LA but you have visited NYC recently. Is there a different sort of magic in these cities? A different kind of witch?
Gabriela Herstik: Yes absolutely!! I think NYC is way more witchy and magical in the sense that there’s a huge community and pull on that there. In LA it’s more self-care / wellness, and less magick/ witchcraft. So I think LA is more of like… a wild witch who does shrooms on the beach and has crazy rituals in Malibu and NYC is more of an organized coven or solitary practitioner more rooted in the occult.
LMB: What do you think is the most radical and important thing a person can do to honor and care for themselves today?
Gabriela Herstik: I think it’s to be self-compassionate and to allow themselves to be wherever they’re meant to be. And to choose love. To love deeply and wholly and fully. To make the effort and set the intention to know themselves and honor themselves. To be okay with not being okay and to ask for help when they need it.
LMB: What are some of your favorite books and resources for beginners and seasoned practitioners?
Gabriela Herstik: “Light Magic for Dark Times”, “Witches, Sluts, Feminists,” The Witch Wave Podcast, The Hoodwitch, “Crystal Healing and Sacred Pleasure” my book “Inner Witch,” the local occult section of the library or bookstore, the internet, The School of Witchery online, HOI TV (house of intuitions platform) !!
LMB: Aw, thank you! Can you tell us one secret about the writing process for your book? (I love, as a writer, knowing these little tidbits).
Gabriela Herstik: EXCELL SPREADSHEETS! Figuring out how many chapters I needed to write a month, breaking that down to what each chapter needed to include, and then literally having a spreadsheet of what I needed to write each day to meet my goal. It sounds like a lot but it’s what helped me schedule and have a social life! Like I could go to brunch but knew I had to write the rest of the day and knew what I needed to get done.
LMB: Where is your book available, and what are your figure plans? Do you have any events coming up?
Gabriela Herstik: It’s available everywhere in the US, UK and Spain! I’m doing an event with Laser Kitten on Halloween, and have an event on November 17th in honor of the dark goddess, which I’ll be releasing details for soon. I just had a bunch of events in NYC so I have to plan more for this upcoming season!