In This Episode
Amanda Yates-Garcia: I feel like magic. It’s like, a dive into the mysterious force of being where you dance with it and move with it and work with it.
Phillip Picardi: From Crooked Media, this is Unholier Than Thou, I’m your host, Phillip Picardi. For the past few weeks, we’ve been pretty focused here on keeping you informed about the upcoming election and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. And while it’s so important to stay on top of the monstrosities of 2020, it’s also important to take a damn break once in a while, you know? So this week we’re doing just that, we are taking a break from all of the Trump bullshit this week. We’re focused instead on Halloween, and what better way to do so than dedicating this episode to the witches. But instead of the witches you may see in the typical Halloween movies.
[song: I Put a Spell On You]
Phillip Picardi: We’re bringing you actual witches. We have a whole slate of guests today, who are going to explain everything from hexes to binding spells. But first, let’s start with some basic facts about witches and debunking the myths you may have been taught about them. For that, I’m honored to have Sabina Magliocco, a scholar who’s an expert in witchcraft and folklore. Sabina, thanks for joining me.
Sabina Magliocco: Thank you, Phillip. It’s a pleasure to be here this morning.
Phillip Picardi: So I’m curious, how do you define witch and what does that word really mean?
Sabina Magliocco: Well, the word witch has a number of different definitions and those definitions are contextual. So let me talk briefly about three types of definitions of the word witch. The first type I’m going to talk about is the anthropological definition of witch. For anthropologists witchcraft is a belief system in which certain people are thought to have the power to hurt others through spiritual or supernatural means. The belief in witchcraft is very widespread. It occurs in all kinds of different societies, and usually there are methods built into the society to control witches. Then there’s the religious definition of witchcraft. And this is the definition that you find, for example, in religion such as Catholicism and other brands of Christianity. During the Middle Ages, not only were witches able to harm others supernaturally, but they were in league with the devil and engaging in a conspiracy to overthrow Christianity. So this diabolical definition of witchcraft is probably the one that you grew up with if you grew up Catholic.
Phillip Picardi: Yes, exactly. That’s what I thought, that witches of the bride of Satan.
Sabina Magliocco: So this belief system, we can find it in any area in which there are Christians in the world. And the final definition of witchcraft that I’m going to talk about is the modern pagan definition of witchcraft. So modern pagan witchcraft or Wicca is a religion in which people see the world as sacred and see everything in the world as imbued with divinity and meaning. Modern witches are polytheistic. They worship multiple goddesses and gods, but especially goddesses. There’s a lot of focus on the divine feminine. And this modern religion was essentially created in the mid-20th century by a British civil servant named Gerald Gardner.
Phillip Picardi: A man.
Sabina Magliocco: A man, exactly. He worked with newer interpretations of witchcraft and created this ritual system, which then diffused widely throughout the English speaking world, throughout the Western world in the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s, and is now one of the fastest growing new religious movements in the world.
Phillip Picardi: That’s so fascinating. So how is Gardner able to kind of assemble this modern witchcraft known as Wicca?
Sabina Magliocco: By the time the Gardner was practicing in England, in the period I would say after World War II, he had a number of things at his disposal. The first was a new interpretation of witches. The idea that the people who were persecuted for witchcraft during the early modern period, the Middle Ages and the early modern period, were people who had preserved practices of an ancient pre-Christian religion. And when medieval inquisitors came across these unusual practices, they could only understand them as diabolical witchcraft and therefore they persecuted these people. Now, there’s not a whole lot of truth to this. There’s a number of problems with this. First of all, we don’t have any evidence of the continuous practice of anything since Neolithic times. That’s a big stretch. That’s a big question. The second problem is that now that we have a lot of evidence from the trials, the witch trials during the Middle Ages and in the early modern period, we know that witch prosecutions didn’t just focus on people with unusual beliefs. There are a few cases like that. But the majority of cases were really neighborly disputes. Many of the victims were women because women were very vulnerable. Women without the protection of fathers, sons or husbands were economically vulnerable. Nonetheless, in the early 1900s, when Gardner was a young man, that explanation was popular and so he was inspired by this explanation. And finally Gardner had spent much of his life in Indonesia, where he hung out with a lot of the indigenous people of Indonesia who had religious practices that were very different from the ones that Gardner had known as a young man growing up in England. And so these are some of the elements that Gardner brought together, along with a long tradition of European Western magic. He kind of cooked all of these elements up together and created Wicca, or modern pagan witchcraft.
Phillip Picardi: Now, the 1350s are a time of immense conformity, especially, you know, the reinforcement of gender roles and stereotypes for women. I’m wondering, with witchcraft being born or Wicca being born more specifically at this time, do you think that there was maybe a political interest for a lot of these women to defy the conventions of society that they felt they were being pushed into?
Sabina Magliocco: Remember, Wicca is really small at the beginning of the 1950s. There’s just a few covens practicing in England. But certainly the women who were practicing with Gerald Gardner were quite eccentric. They were very nonconformist, as was Gardner himself. And actually, it’s funny because in general, the stereotype holds the types of people who get attracted to modern pagan witchcraft are often intelligent, nonconformist, geeky people who are in the sciences and the arts.
Phillip Picardi: I’m wondering about the relationship that Wicca plays to this more traditional idea of witchcraft and the history of witchcraft, maybe that of being intertwined with midwifery, herbal healing, you know, worship of nature remedies. And, you know, a lot of women essentially helping other women have autonomy of their own bodies and the feminist roots, of course, of that. Do you see that often in your research? Do you feel like modern Wicca is connected to those maybe more feminist historical roots?
Sabina Magliocco: That feminist thread is strong in many branches of modern pagan witchcraft. There are many denominations of modern Wicca. It’s not just Gardner’s Wicca anymore. During the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, I mean, even today, there are new branches of Wicca and modern witchcraft that are forming all the time because there’s no central authority. But there’s a very strong feminist influence that entered into modern craft during the second wave feminism in the late 1960s and early 70s. And that was all about women reclaiming their power. And that’s still very strong. That was second wave feminism, and both second wave feminism and environmentalism, and the civil rights movement had a huge impact on the way that modern craft is practiced, especially in North America. So it really went from this small group, esoteric religion, focused on these magical rites, to a much more political movement that embraced feminism and environmentalism as some of its main core tenets.
Phillip Picardi: That’s fascinating because I recently read the rise in witchcraft in the United States has been linked to a decrease in trust of establishment ideas and also the increase in social instability. But of course, we’ve encountered this year, right? So this is historical. People are coming in embracing the ideas of witchcraft at times when the government and certainly society seems to be failing them.
Sabina Magliocco: Generally, people are attracted to magic and witchcraft when they feel that they do not have power in other avenues in society. This religion is more attractive to women on the whole because of the kind of power that it, the power and self-determination that it provides and the presence of the divine feminine, the revaluing of the feminine body and feminine characteristics that have been devalued by the dominant culture. But then there are men who are witches, and I would say it’s also very open to people who identify as non -binary.
Phillip Picardi: I think that makes a lot of sense. So it’s a movement oriented towards gender justice, but with the specific focus on elevating the divine feminine.
Sabina Magliocco: Yep.
Phillip Picardi: It seems like so many people these days are calling themselves witches. I remember when I worked at Teen Vogue, we had to commission a number of articles about witchcraft because teenagers were so interested in it. And on Instagram, I’m told there are over five million posts with the hashtag “witches of Instagram.” So a lot of these things are accompanied by a very familiar esthetic, which is a popularized image of what a modern which may be. We’re talking tarot cards, crystals, lots of black clothes. I wonder what you make of this popularization of witchcraft to a new generation into this particular moment in time.
Sabina Magliocco: Hello! Teenagers are some of the most disempowered people in society, so they’ve always been attracted to magic and the supernatural. Now, let’s bring in popular culture, a lot of the esthetic that’s associated with witches of Instagram and a lot of the young people who are attracted to this stuff really comes from popular culture television shows, including new versions of television shows like Sabrina and Charmed, that have kind of this goth esthetic, right? So young people reproduce that because it becomes a form of identity.
Phillip Picardi: I have also been struck by the ways in which witchcraft has been intertwined with religion and mainstream religion. So I’m Italian, you’re Italian, and Catholicism seems to have drawn a lot from paganism in terms of its celebrations, costuming, the theatrics of Catholicism, the mysticism that surrounds a lot of Catholicism, or in Saints. It reminds me a lot of when I read about witchcraft, I don’t know, it seems like they’re more cousins than they are enemies. Do you have any thoughts on that?
Sabina Magliocco: Catholicism was successful as a new religious movement because at least at the very beginning, it’s spread by coopting customs rather than campaigning against them. I’m talking about 300, 400 AD, 500 A.D. They didn’t come in and slaughter anybody who didn’t believe the way they did. They came in and they said, oh, you know, you’re worshiping at this deity’s shrine. Well, let’s build a church there and instead of celebrating the special day for this deity, let’s go ahead and call this the feast of Saint So-and-so. What we see in Roman Catholicism in particular is a lot of the structure of the Roman Empire and many of the same customs and traditions that people practiced in late antiquity, only with a very different belief system as the core.
Phillip Picardi: Well, Sabina, you’ve studied people who believe magic, who practice magic and I’m just wondering, as we close, could I ask you if you believe in magic? And if you do, how do you define magic?
Sabina Magliocco: I think, again, it depends on how you define it. Do I believe in magic the way it exists in Harry Potter books where you wave a wand and go ‘alla-hamara’ and something happens? No, magic doesn’t work like that. Do I believe that magic is a set of techniques that people can learn, a discipline that people can learn to, as Dion Fortune defined it, change consciousness at will? Yes. If what you’re trying to do is change your consciousness and the consciousness of people around you, then yes, absolutely magic can work. But for magic to be effective in the real world, it has to be accompanied by real world actions.
Phillip Picardi: Well, Sabina, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate your time and all of the information that you offered. Thank you for a truly lovely conversation.
Sabina Magliocco: Thank you. It’s been a pleasure talking with you.
Phillip Picardi: So now that we understand a little bit more about witchcraft and its origins, I wanted to talk to someone who’s been quite well known for using witchcraft to her advantage. Amanda Yates-Garcia is a witch who became semi famous after appearing on Fox News to discuss her plans for a binding spell against President Donald Trump. Amanda, thanks for your work and thanks for being here.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: It’s my great pleasure to be here. Thank you for having me.
Phillip Picardi: Of course. So I understand that your mother was a witch and a member of a moon coven. So I’m wondering if we can start going back to the beginning. Can you tell me what it was like to grow up with a witch and maybe a little bit about how you were initiated into the spiritual path?
Amanda Yates-Garcia: I think it feels very exotic for a lot of people. You know, especially most people are brought up like Christian or Catholic. But, you know, just like any kid, like, I thought it was something that, you know, my mom did and I wasn’t that interested, really when I was a kid. I was just like, OK, my mom, you know, meets with her coven once a month on the full moons, and she celebrated the pagan holidays, the wheel of the year, there are eight major holidays in the pagan traditions, in most of them. And I celebrated them and I enjoyed them. But it really wasn’t until I kind of started to come into my own power in my late teens and early twenties that I started to reconnect with the practice. I did have an initiation ceremony when I was 13, and that’s when all the women who formed my mother’s coven came over, and, you know, we did chanting and you brush your cheeks with roses—it’s called the Rite of Roses—and you have a cord that ties, a red cord that you tie from your own waist our wrist to your mother’s and then you say the name of the women in your lineage back as far as you can remember, and then you cut the cord. And oftentimes it’ll involve getting a new and sacred name or any number of symbols of empowerment and separation and coming into your own womanhood, or witchhood, as they might say.
Phillip Picardi: Let’s actually dig into that a little bit, because I understand that the witchcraft path that you follow is called the West Coast Tradition of Reclaiming. So can you tell me what that means?
Amanda Yates-Garcia: So that tradition is based on what’s called Feri magic, which is spelled “f e r i” and also the folk traditions of the Appalachia, so Appalachian folk magic. And I was also influenced, of course, by the Order of the Golden Dawn, which is which is a British mid-century tradition. Witchcraft is essentially syncretic, so it’s drawing on a bunch of different practices. And of course, California has its own spiritual lineage and legacy.
Phillip Picardi: It’s not following the rules of religion as maybe I know it, and so it’s challenging, right? But I’m wondering, is this path or the West Coast Tradition of Reclaiming? Does it hinge on something? Is there a central element of the faith?
Amanda Yates-Garcia: So I can speak to what witchcraft means to me.
Phillip Picardi: OK.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: Witchcraft recognizes and honors the sacred in nature. It’s a it’s an earth-based religion. It recognizes the practitioner as part of nature. So not separate from nature. We can’t really talk about that in our language because English necessarily separates human beings from nature, but witches don’t see a separation. Also witches see themselves as co-creators with what you might call the anima mundi, which is the life force of the world or the universe, right? So it’s not just like they are subject to the forces of the universe, or subject to the forces of the anima mundi, the world’s soul, but are in fact working in concert or co creation with it. I see witches as actively working towards justice for all beings, especially those who’ve been most impacted by capitalism and colonialist violence. I also think witch is someone who takes responsibility for her own power and for her own authority, and she shares that power with others. She’s working to empower her community. And then, of course, you know, one of the things that’s often said about witchcraft is that witchcraft is a practice, it’s not a belief system. So but most importantly, I feel like a witch’s purpose, certainly my purpose, is to reenchant the world. In other words, to make the world sacred again through her actions, words, deeds and practices.
Phillip Picardi: Right. Can you tell me a little bit what reinventing the world looks like? Like what does your, how do you, how do you practice.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: Through the history of white supremacist, capitalist, colonialism, patriarchy, over the past several thousand years, but certainly since the medieval period and the industrial revolutions, we’ve seen that the world has been undergoing this process of disenchantment. Which is to say that under capitalism, all relationship to the land and relationships between people are essentially severed, and that relationship is created through ownership and if you own it, then you can do what you want with it. In other words, the world is no longer sacred. Places are no longer sacred. Relationships are no longer sacred. People, animals, plants—none of this is sacred and therefore it’s all available for exploitation. So a witch’s practice is to re-enchant the world is to make the world sacred again. And for me, as a person who is white and is a settler on this land, Tongva land, which is where I’m living, what I’m trying to do is find ways to work in relationship and harmony and connection with the land that I live on while still honoring that it isn’t my land, that I’m a settler on this land. And, um, I’m trying to reconnect or reclaim, as the reclaiming collective talk about, my connection to my own traditions and ancestral lineage as while also recognizing and honoring that I, you know, I’m seventh generation Californian. I’m not from that place anymore. And in fact, those practices, those storylines have been really destroyed. We don’t really know what they were. So it’s yeah, it’s really about reclaiming power, reclaiming connection and reclaiming solidarity with other beings who are working towards liberation on this planet.
Phillip Picardi: You’re a professional, witch.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: I am, yeah.
Phillip Picardi: So can you tell me what kinds of things people come to seek you for?
Amanda Yates-Garcia: Yeah. So I have, uh, I have three main kinds of sessions that I do. I do divination sessions where I use tarot and sometimes runes and um, intuitive mediumship to help people connect to their own intuition and access the part of themselves that already knows the answer. Essentially what they’re doing or what they’re coming to me for in that situation is clarity on whatever issue that they’re working on. And then I also do ritual sessions or spell sessions, and that’s for when people have like a specific thing that they’re working on or that they want to achieve. And then we’re doing witch ritual around that. So that could be anything from, you know, wanting to, uh, get a new job or wanting to let go of an old lover, or wanting to call new love in, or connect to their ancestors, or let go of blocks that they have around abundance, for instance. So all of that is stuff that we could work through ritually. And I also do healing sessions. So those are working mostly energetically and I use breath and trance and other forms of energy work to help people really tune into their bodies and to also help people increase their capacity for aliveness. It’s usually best if you can, before you come in for your appointment, to take a week off from upsetting or disturbing things that interfere with your own thought processes and energies. So, for instance, like don’t watch a lot of violent movies, like try and kind of keep away from the news or other upsetting things. You really want to kind of let the dust and the like vitriol inside yourself kind of settle down so we can get a clearer picture of what’s really going on for you organically when you’re not being completely influenced or harassed by the rest of the world.
Phillip Picardi: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. If you’re planning to do internal work, you shut out the external for a little bit to get in touch with yourself.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
Phillip Picardi: I’m wondering if there’s anything that magic can’t cure or heal in these sessions.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: So, you know, when people come to me or any other witch because, for instance, let’s say they’re struggling financially. That’s not just their problem, like that’s not just a problem that we can solve on an individual level, because the reason that people are struggling financially or that they can’t pay their rent or that they can’t afford health insurance is a political and systemic issue. Similarly, you know, if someone is depressed, let’s say a person of color comes to me and they’re depressed and they feel vulnerable or they feel like they’re having difficulty getting ahead, you know, that’s not just a personal problem that they or we could solve through meditation or ritual—that takes all of us working collectively to change the systems in which we live. But I think that we have to hold our actions, you know, hold our intentions in both hands. On one hand, we have to work collectively in order to change the system so that all beings can thrive, particularly people, Black and indigenous, people of color, and the natural world. And on the other hand, we do have power within our lives and we do have agency within our lives. And we can, there are a lot of things that we can change through magic and ritual and through breath and through trance. There are a lot of ways that we can find power. There are a lot of ways that we can find ourselves, that we can connect to who we truly are authentically, and what we’re supposed to be doing here and what our work is here in this world.
Phillip Picardi: An interesting way that that kind of manifested itself was, and what I mean by that is the political element of what you’re talking about, but also the idea of the empowerment of action and encouraging people to take an investment in their own power, that is intrinsic within them was about, you know, the binding spells that were placed on President Trump. And I know that in 2017, you went on Fox News to talk more about this. I’m wondering if you feel like that’s a really good example of how magic built community, but also encouraged this idea of empowerment. But that that wasn’t just where magic stopped, right? That magic had to also be accompanied by an investment in our political futures, which require civic action as well.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: We’re essentially taking what is in our imagination, what is in our hearts and minds, which is something that we can’t see unless it comes out, like unless we create a physical representation of it, and we’re doing it collectively, right? So we’re all doing this together and saying this is what is important to us. What’s important to us is that we stop this person and his administration from harming and destroying the things that we love, and we’re all going to come out collectively and say our intention is to stop this from happening. And so then we’re all talking about it, so we can’t really say, oh, that doesn’t have an effect. It does have an effect, because when we come out, as you know, when we come out and say that we are resisting, that matters. And what ritual does, what ceremony does is make manifest our systems of belief. And it, and by doing it, we create it, right? So it’s something that’s, it’s a fiat. It’s making it happen as we do it. And that is exactly why the powers that be, for instance, colonialist powers immediately make it so that the the people who they’re colonizing can’t practice their traditional practices because those practices are so powerful in creating a communal identity and they’re so powerful in keeping people’s spirits alive.
Phillip Picardi: They’re trying to take your magic away.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: Exactly. Exactly.
Phillip Picardi: I’m wondering on that note, and as we bring this conversation to a close, I know it seems impossible, I’m just wondering how you personally define magic.
Amanda Yates-Garcia: I feel like magic, it’s like a dive into the mysterious force of being where you dance with it and move with it and work with it, it’s kind of like entering into a mythopoetic space in your life, which I never want to leave.
Phillip Picardi: Amanda, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate it.
Phillip Picardi: One of the things that should be clear by now from both Amanda and Sabina is that witchcraft has serious ties to counterculture and to fighting the patriarchy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that witchcraft is exempt from the same pitfalls of patriarchy or white supremacy that are so well-known in other major religions. La Loba Loca, a queer educator and herbalist, has built a practice that encourages new witches and healers to think critically about everything from the land they live on to the herbs or ingredients sourced for their magic. As witchcraft has grown more and more popular on, say, Instagram, Loba has been a force fighting against appropriation and rallying witches to join the fight for racial justice. Loba, thanks for joining us.
La Loba Loca: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Phillip Picardi: So can you tell me a little bit about your journey to becoming a witch? When were you first introduced to the practice?
La Loba Loca: When I first started to identify as a witch was when I started to learn more and more about the actual origins of the word witch, and what that means. Also, for me, as somebody coming from what now is considered Peru to be called a witch, like in Spanish with ‘bruja’ and the connotation that bruja has in my community and specifically my family, is very much negative, right, very much associated like anti-Catholicism and just kind of being a pagan and just doing all of those things that are considered to be non Catholic.
Phillip Picardi: Yes, I was raised Catholic. And that is also my experience of understanding witches and the word witch.
La Loba Loca: I started learning more about it. And I was like, wow, we’re talking about when the Spaniards first started kind of like taking over what is now considered South America, they would name witches, specifically like indigenous women and Black women, Afro-indigenous women that practice their own traditional medicine and their own traditional religion, right? So those were the witches. In a way, like the people that were directly kind of resisting colonization, resisting this imposed Catholicism, also the people that were quote unquote, sodomites or like the people that were transvestites, the ones that were seen by the eyes of the colonizer as kind of breaking the gender roles and breaking the heterosexual regime—like those people were also considered to be witches.
Phillip Picardi: My people.
La Loba Loca: Exactly.
Phillip Picardi: OK, OK.
La Loba Loca: Also those people are we’re kind of like outside of the confines. I feel like to me that’s when I started identifying as a witch, when I started to learn more about kind of like the political resistance behind that word, that it was just something, you know, it wasn’t just something like, oh, I have a [roast course] I’m burning white sage, right. Because that’s also super problematic, too, you know.
Phillip Picardi: So you found like witch was a way for you to not just have a spiritual proclamation, but also a political reclamation?
La Loba Loca: Mm hmm. Definitely.
Phillip Picardi: Is witchcraft in your I guess in your ancestry? Is it in your, is it in your lineage or is this something that you discovered that maybe your Catholic family was horrified to find out that you discovered?
La Loba Loca: A lot of our grandparents carry a lot of Andean tradition, like traditional tradition to the area, which would be considered witchcraft.
Phillip Picardi: Tell me about these practices.
La Loba Loca: There is just so, so some of the things that my family continues to do for, for example, is there is this tradition called [Spanish] or “payment to the Earth” which is a specifically tradition to like the Andean region in which we basically feed the earth, right? So one of my one of my uncles is very much somebody that is a practitioner. So he goes around Peru and he actually does this specific ritual for people. There is also like coca reading, like you read the actual coca leaf, it’s sacred for us, and the coca leaf, we use it to kind of read the future, read the past to talk to Earth in a way. So it’s considered to be like the plant that we use to talk to Earth, even the coca plant at some point during the Conquista, doing the first stage of the conquest of our territories, the coca plan was made illegal because it was considered to be like the devil plant, because it was such a, it’s such a nutritive and such an energizing and such important plan for our spirituality. So I think that definitely my family has a lot of healing traditions, a lot of like traditional like beliefs and customs from our area of the world, but they’re very Catholic.
Phillip Picardi: I understand. You know, it’s like looked at as some sort of complement to their Catholicism. They don’t necessarily look at it as a betrayal of their Catholicism or, you know, it’s a complicated legacy of colonialism, I think.
La Loba Loca: Yeah, definitely.
Phillip Picardi: You’ve taken it upon yourself to lead the charge in terms of educating people about the real history of who these women who were burned by the colonizers were. Can you tell me more about them?
La Loba Loca: You know, how a lot of times people forget about kind of like the political history behind the witch hunts or people we just think about witch as this, this cute hashtag, but they don’t realize when we’re talking about witches and we’re talking about witch hunts, we’re also talking about rape. We’re also talking about people literally being hunted down. We’re talking about like sexual assault. We’re talking about like racism. The goal is to really kind of get people thinking more about the politics behind the witch hunts and like, what is it that we’re doing. You know medicinal plants in our homes, how can we do that without hurting people and hurting the environment? So, for instance, white sage has become one of those plants that people have been using and taking pictures of. And I think that lately, in the past couple of years, there has been a lot more information around why we have to stop using white sage. But that’s a huge issue that directly affects Native Californian folks or Native folks that have been working with a plant traditionally that can’t even access the plant when they go up into the mountains because these white sages just are being wild crafted in ways that are literally killing them.
Phillip Picardi: Right. So what you’re saying is indigenous people use white sage as a part of their religious rites and ceremonies and essentially the mainstreaming of like burning sage in your apartment to clear out that energy has led to the overharvesting of this plant, which means that the very people who made it, the very people who need it can now not access it. Is that accurate?
La Loba Loca: Yes, exactly. That’s happening, yeah, and that’s happening a lot with just herbalism in general, right. Some I also on herbalism. That’s something that we talk a lot about, too, because there is one plant that becomes like the ‘it’ plant that everybody wants to get access to, like ayahuasca, for instance, another great example. And that we, like I think people don’t really understand like how we are living in relation, right? So if we go out there and try to, like, use up all of this plant, then the people who, whose birthright is to use that plant, right, because they have been having a connection with that plan for hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years, can’t even access it. Is that healing? Is that witchcraft or is that just appropriation? You know?
Phillip Picardi: Absolutely.
La Loba Loca: But in the case of ayahuasca, I feel like it’s complicated. Because people love ayahuasca and people love doing ayahuasca, and I think that a lot of that comes from just the advertisement that has been, you know, that is around ayahuasca, when there are so many other ways that we can connect to plant medicine. Like I mean, I’m not saying go do shrooms, but also go do shrooms. Like, I feel like shrooms, are— [laughs]
Phillip Picardi: I’m mean, seems pretty logical and also a lot less of a commitment, no?
La Loba Loca: So I feel like there are so many ways that people can really experience healing, and deep healing, without appropriating or without causing harm to communities and to the environment.
Phillip Picardi: One thing I learned about you and your practice is that you have clients who come to you for healing. So I’m wondering what kinds of things you encounter and what kinds of things you can help with.
La Loba Loca: So I think that I mean, so many things. I tattoo sometimes, I do specific, like Stick and Poke, I do a lot of wound-related care. But I feel like the last couple of years have been kind of focusing more on education, just like teaching folks how to do these things instead of having folks come to me. So usually people come to me, I mean, now because of COVID, it’s all online, but through consultations to talk about these topics. A lot of folks sometimes have a hard time understanding, like, you know, what cultural appropriation is like. So like, I get to talk to them about this. I feel like a lot of the healing work that I’m doing is very much like political in a way, just kind of making folks understand alternatives to a specific plan that is in danger, or like why it’s not OK for us to be just taking over other people’s cultural and traditional medicines. My focus has been more and more on really just disseminating information.
Phillip Picardi: So and your practice, I understand is overwhelmingly comprised of queer, trans and gender nonconforming people of color or indigenous folks. Can you tell me why it’s important for you to make that distinction with who you are extending your healing to?
La Loba Loca: Well, I think I’m not necessarily, so, I mean, of course for like the free medicine that I make, for me it’s very important to focus specifically on POC. But for just, for the services that I offer, I do get a lot of white herbalist or like white healers that are interested in figuring out how to move in the world, how to like relearn and how to show up in like the healing world. So I think it just I think it depends. I just, I make sure, I just make sure to always mention that because there is such a need for specific care when it comes to queer and trans people and then like a very specific need for queer and trans people of color, right?
Phillip Picardi: Right.
La Loba Loca: So I think that in the healing world, I think it tends to be, it’s been changed in the last couple of years, but it used to be very, very white, very, very cis and very, very hetero.
Phillip Picardi: Are you feeling like anyone who is asking questions and investigating and exploring their identity and exploring witchcraft? Are you feeling like all of that is net positive or do you have specific pieces of advice or areas of wisdom that you would like them to heed?
Amanda Yates-Garcia: I feel like definitely having like a strong foundation on like structures of power, power structures, like how to break them down, for folks to really kind of go deep into studying like where the witch hunts come from/, right? So even if folks are focusing just on Europe, just read up. And if you are from other areas of the world, like also see if you can find and I’m sure you can find stories of witches in your own community. So like the way that I learned that there were witches in my own community is because my grandma actually told me. She one day she just, I was talking to her about witches. And then she looked at me and she’s like, oh, I saw witch being burned when I was 10 years old. And I was like, what? And then she started telling me.
Phillip Picardi: wow.
La Loba Loca: Yeah, she told me about it and I was like, Oh, my God, I cannot believe that in my head, I had only pictured the witch hunts happening in Europe or in what is now considered the US. Such a painful history. So I think that is really important for folks to read up on that and to really kind of realize the ways that, you know, like all of this systemic nonsense that we’re dealing with right now is very much part of the witch hunts and very much part of that history. And to really kind of understand also politically where are you at, like in what ways are you supporting folks that are being directly impacted by systemic racism, by homelessness, folks that don’t have access to medicine—how are you supporting folks that are doing all that really beautiful work to keep the world, to keep the world rolling? So I feel like that will be my main advice.
Phillip Picardi: Piece of advice. Do you feel like this current sociopolitical moment that we are all living in together, do you feel like it’s also forced witchcraft to face its own reckoning at this point?
La Loba Loca: Yeah, definitely. I think that, I mean, something that I find super beautiful is that when the uprising was happening, for instance, a lot of non-Black verbalized starting offering up free medicine for Black folks. These last couple of months have been a mess, but something that I’ve been seeing that I think it’s beautiful is the ways in which people have been showing up, and specifically like herbalists, healers, you know witches, people are just kind of like doing tarot sessions for free, for, you know, for Black folks or for indigenous folks or for POC. People that are like making care packages for unhoused people or like people that are going through COVID, or that tested COVID positive. So like just seeing that kind of the mutual aid be something that people are talking about and supporting each other like without necessarily waiting for the government to do anything for us, because we all know that the government is not going to do anything for us, specifically, for people that are impacted by systemic terror. But just seeing that, just like the mutual aid that has been created and the ways in which healers and herbalist and massage therapists and witches and all of these like beautiful folks are using like their magic to either like, you know, like give healing to folks or to fundraise for folks. I think it’s beautiful.
Phillip Picardi: Loba, I have just one more question for you. I would love to ask you how we can all tap into our own magic the same way that you did.
La Loba Loca: For me, it has been through stories. Like stories that my grandmothers would tell me about family members or about their own lives or about what they were interested in when they were younger, and then being able to kind of like from there, like through that foundation, get into gardening and get into taking care of plants. I honestly think that I found so much like magic and also just I think I’ve seen so much magic in like the natural world that at least for me, that’s kind of how I’ve been able to, kind of like funnel magic and learn about my own magic.
Phillip Picardi: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us and to sharing your magic with us. I appreciate it.
La Loba Loca: Of course. Thank you.
Phillip Picardi: All right, that’s all for our show today, if you like what you hear, please subscribe, leave a review, give us five stars or: I’ll put a spell on you. Just kidding. Or am I? Have a happy Halloween, y’all. We’ll see you next week.
Unholier Than Thou is a Crooked Media production. Brian Semel is our associate producer, and Sydney Rap is our assistant producer, with production support from Reuben Davis. The theme song is by Taka Yasuzawa, and the show is executive produced by me, Lyra Smith and Sarah Geismer. Thanks for listening.