Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. They are the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (2016, Agape Editions). They received their MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. Joanna is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Civil Coping Mechanisms and Luna Luna Magazine. Some of their writing has appeared in Prelude, BUST, The Atlas Review, The Feminist Wire, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. Joanna also leads workshops at Brooklyn Poets.Read More
Sian Ferguson is a full-time freelance writer based in South Africa. Her work has been featured on various sites, including Ravishly, MassRoots, Matador Network and more. She’s particularly interested in writing about queer issues, misogyny, healing after sexual trauma and rape culture. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Read her articles here.Read More
BY LISA MARIE BASILE
Emily Neie is a witch living in Austin, Texas. Like myself, she grew up Catholic but eventually wandered away from the religion. She missed the ritual and symbolism of Catholicism, though, as many witches do — and so, she began practicing secular magick and writing about it on her blog, The Literateur. Emily will be joining Luna Luna as social media editor in 2017 — and we are so excited to have her.
LMB: Tell us a little about your site, The Literateur! I recently discovered it and love how accessible, kind and welcoming it is. What can other new readers expect from it?
EN: My site, The Literateur, is a magickal lifestyle blog that explores my own personal journey with magick and how it intersects with social norms that influence our understanding of spirituality. I was raised Catholic, and I really embraced Catholicism in my early teens. I loved the sense of community and ritual that was inherent in Catholicism, and I found myself really missing that when I left the religion in favor of intellectual atheism as a young adult. Now, I work really hard to create a site that allows magickal folk to learn rituals and practice how to connect with their spiritual selves without feeling they have to dedicate their practice to a deity.
The name arose as an amalgam of my love of literature and my identity as an spiritual auteur, someone who has such a solid grasp of my individual spiritual and magickal identity that I can make something that is entirely unique to me. I usually post twice a month, once in the Witch on a Budget vertical and once in the Magickal Lifestyle vertical, although that sometimes slows down when my day job and life gets busy--a lot of folks are surprised that I'm a corporate marketing gal Monday through Friday. Witches really are everywhere, folks.
What do you think it is that drives so many people to the Craft? Did you create the site originally for this group of people, or did it morph into that?
Witchcraft has always been about empowerment and respect for the individual. Most people who join the community are alternative in some way, even if their rejection of social norms is very subtle. Witchcraft takes the things about us that capitalist patriarchy says are undesirable and makes them powerful. Capitalist patriarchy values our net worth whereas witchcraft values our spiritual strength; capitalist patriarchy values what we can buy whereas witchcraft exults in what we can make. Witchcraft also mirrors the ebb and flow between community and isolation that the internet has brought, with witches choosing to practice as solitary witches or joining a coven (some of which are now purely virtual).
Even if you are a solitary witch, you don't have to be alone: online communities for witches abound on tumblr and Instagram. The dogma-free, choose-your-own-adventure qualities of witchcraft are very attractive to digital natives, I think, who are accustomed to picking up what serves us well and discarding what feels wrong.
Originally I created the site for myself alone. I didn't really share it with anyone, even though I was writing as if I had an audience. Over time I invited friends to read it, and when I received overwhelmingly positive feedback I started to share it with a slightly more public audience. I am a digital native, eclectic witch myself, and my site certainly encourages people to read what appeals to them and ignore what doesn't. I also try to be pretty vulnerable and honest with my financial fears, doubts about my career, and weird journey through religion so that people who read my blog can get a true understanding that witches can be anybody, from your mythical mysterious woman clad in black to a plain ol' corporate Jane like myself.
I love your Witch on a Budget vertical. What a clever idea! Because I don't know about most people, but buying sage and lavender and candles and other supplies can get expensive. Not to mention, plenty of people don't have access to a local Craft supply shop.
Thanks! At its heart, magick and witchcraft is all about our connection to the earth and using nature as a medium between our human bodies and spiritual selves. I think it is absolutely wonderful to financially support other witches and people who practice by shopping their wares, but spending money you don't have just to "look the part" will only harm your practice. Financial security and wellbeing does wonders to unblock the parts of our mind and spirit that make our practice powerful, so being resourceful and sustainable with your ingredients and tools will serve to make you an even more powerful witch. Besides, scavenging around outside is fun! It makes me feel like a kid living out in the country again.
Your piece on morning energy routines — it was so good! I struggle with waking up, being productive in an efficient way and taking time for myself. Can you tell me a little more about how energy can be manipulated — whether you believe in 'magic' or 'witchcraft' or not?
Energy is a finite resource, like water, but we've stopped thinking of it that way. Witchcraft is immensely useful for mindful allocation of energy and reverence for the energy that we host inside our bodies, minds, and spirits. I also go to therapy, and combining what I learn about in therapy with my practice has helped me gain a good understanding of what my natural energy reserve looks like and how I tend to use energy most efficiently and enjoyably. I think the first step, whether you want to think of this as witchcraft or not, is to take stock of when you feel most naturally productive and happy and see if you can purposefully design your day around that time.
If it's not possible (example: you gets intense bursts of energy from 3-5 am but you have to work a 9-6 job) witchcraft or mindfulness can help you recreate the circumstances and factors that make you most naturally energetic. I love to channel energy, either into my own body or an external vessel, and cast it later. I usually wake up very happy and positive, but my energy wanes around 3 pm every day, so I "channel" my morning energy into a vessel, like jewelry or tea bags or a book.
Then, when I really need that energy later in the day, I release the energy by putting on that piece of jewelry or making tea or taking a five-minute break to read. It creates a pathway to the time of day when accessing that energy was effortless, and, while it doesn't work on the days when I am truly emotionally or physically exhausted, it gets me through the usual afternoon slump at work.
More than anything, energy manipulation is about respect for the resource. If your energy is being totally tapped out by something, give yourself some time and compassion to allow that energy reserve to be refilled. Every day of your life doesn't have to be your best, most productive day. Identify the activities and rituals and thoughts and relationships that refill your energy, and lean heavy on them when you need.
I know this is a very open-ended question, but what do you think is making society so sick? Have we always been sick? Is it something that we're lacking, specifically, right now? And, is witchcraft filling that void in some unexpected way? I always think of the simplicity of it — ritual, intent, light — and how we don't make a space for that in our lives. We just go, go, go.
I think society has always suffered the kinds of social ills we are feeling now, but there were limited ways to discuss them on a global scale. Think of it like your immune system: a virus might sit latent in your body for days, weeks, or months, but you don't experience symptoms until your immune system wakes up and starts attacking it.
I feel strongly that the Internet and globalism is our society's immune system. Suddenly, everywhere we look we see evidence of pain, dissatisfaction, inequality, exhaustion, etc. Our eyes have been opened to it, therefore we feel it in a monumental way. The Internet is working overtime to "catch us up" and get us informed so we can start attacking our social ills on a grand scale, but the Internet does not have a human body and soul that it needs to care for and nourish like we do. Witchcraft steps in to remind us that we can't clear away all the infection at once, that we must do it slowly and purposefully and in a way that is caring towards our human and spiritual selves. So much of witchcraft is focused on healing, and we really need that. We've been rubbed raw by the frenetic energy of the digital age, and while I believe the Internet will ultimately make us a more empathetic society, we need witchcraft to infuse clarity and compassion into that journey.
Where are you located — and how does that impact your craft? Do you feel isolated or are you an out and about practitioner? Would you call yourself a witch?
I live and practice in Austin, Texas. I've lived in Austin for six and a half years, but I've been a native Texan my whole life. I came to college here and formed my first adult friendships here, and I've always felt comfortable being who I am in a fairly public way. I don't hide the face that I practice witchcraft on my social media accounts, and I'm fairly certain that my employers read my blogs and published work before they hired me.
Austin is lauded as an open-minded haven for liberals and weirdos in the sea of conservative Texas, but my experience is that urban centers in Texas all tend to be pretty accepting of most types of people. I have several friends who I practice my craft with--we get together for rituals and pagan holidays and tag each other in witchy Instagram posts. They are so powerful, and they've made me more powerful by sharing their magick with me. I do consider myself a witch, and I usually describe myself as an atheistic eclectic pagan. I don't believe in deity worship, which means I pull from a lot of different sects of paganism and witchcraft to make my own little atheistic but spiritual haven. I definitely don't feel like I could comfortably discuss my beliefs frankly while say, standing in line to check out at Michael's while surrounded by suburban moms, but I've got a "Blessed Be" sticker on my car and so far it hasn't been keyed!
What are some publications creating great spaces for women, the art and magic?
I adore Witch Way Magazine (@witchwaymagazine on Instagram). Their content is so accessible and educational and non-judgmental, which is what I think we all desperately need right now. POMEgranate Magazine (@pomemag on Instagram and Twitter) is a digital mag and small press in Austin for witchy illustrators and internet nerds, which basically blends my two loves. They are also super queer friendly, which is becoming increasingly important as people start to question the more heteronormative aspects of witchcraft. Autostraddle is an incredible publication that has changed the way that I consume pop culture and media, and does a lot to normalize the Craft and alternative identities for women and queer people. I am a loyal fan and avid reader of Bitch Media, from their podcasts to their newsletters and magazine. And of course, Luna Luna Magazine! Luna Luna is probably my favorite witchy publication to turn to when I want dark poetry, gritty personal essays, or interesting tidbits on occult history.
Aw, thank you so much! We blush.
So, what are some of your favorite Instagram accounts — accounts that inspire you, your writing, your craft?
I love to follow witches and naturalists who don't adhere to a traditionally "witchy" aesthetic. I don't look witchy in real life, and I used to be kind of self-conscious about it, like I was a "poser" (very early 2000s of me, I know).
(Us, too! We so get it.)
I love Marlee Grace of @havecompany and her side project @personalpractice. Her commitment to movement and nature and community keeps me going through the drudgery of my week when I find myself questioning my path.
I read tarot, so I love to keep up with @tatiannatarot and @oaklandtarot to challenge my tarot practice. Two of my closest friends practice the Craft in their own ways — @clempossible and @breyasaintjohn — and we all teach and inspire each other.
Clem has been my biggest cheerleader in encouraging me to trust my process and power (she's also a space healer and will work magic on your living space), and Breya has helped me connect with my tarot practice, as well as my identity as a corporate witch (she's a badass MBA student and has done everything from driving a truck cross country to starting her own apothecary line).
They both post super inspiring and thoughtful things all the time, and I draw a lot of writing inspiration from them.
I also love @shopwitchsy because my craft is highly irreverent and colorful and sassy. They stock items from all sorts of artists and witchy makers, so it's really just an infusion of fun in my timeline.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding editor-in-chief of Luna Luna Magazine and moderator of its digital community. Her work has appeared in The Establishment, Bustle, Bust, Hello Giggles, Marie Claire, Good Housekeeping, Cosmopolitan and The Huffington Post, among other sites. She is the author of Apocryphal (Noctuary Press), war/lock (Hyacinth Girl Press), Andalucia (The Poetry Society of New York) and Triste (Dancing Girl Press). Her work can be found in PANK, the Tin House blog, The Nervous Breakdown, The Huffington Post, Best American Poetry, PEN American Center, The Atlas Review, and the Ampersand Review, among others. She has taught or spoken at Brooklyn Brainery, Columbia University, New York University and Emerson College. Lisa Marie Basile holds an MFA from The New School. @lisamariebasile
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To me, that’s the true purpose of the tarot. A spread is an opportunity to shape our lives into a story. I’d fallen out of habit or reading my tarot cards, of pausing to even considering the questions I wanted answered. I stopped believing I was a player in my own story. I was lost in a period of uncertainty in myself and what I wanted to do.Read More
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Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York. She is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (forthcoming 2016, ELJ Publications) & Xenos (forthcoming 2017, Agape Editions). She received her MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, as well as the managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine. Some of her writing has appeared in Prelude, The Atlas Review, The Huffington Post, Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She has lead workshops at Brooklyn Poets. joannavalente.com / Twitter: @joannasaid / IG: joannacvalente