Right now, whether you live in the US or somewhere else in the world, it’s a scary time, but especially for women, people of color, people with disabilities, trans people and queer people — basically the people who throughout history have often been called witches. It can be hard out there, but now more than ever we can connect to each other, share care and power with and for one another, and fight together to reverse this ugly wave against the progress of history. More than ever before, I want this month’s Witch Hunt to be about sharing, healing, and strengthening each other. So, if you know of any healing or strengthening spells or rituals, please share them in the comments. Be kind to one another out there.
In Autostraddle land, this month we published my gift guide for if you want to maybe scare people just a little bit so they know you’re fun, but don’t fuck with you (but might want to fuck you). We also published this very cool and interesting article about Queer Nuns from the Past and, of course, Fool’s Journey, our monthly Tarot column.
If you’re not already watching Bob’s Burgers, get on this. Episode 703, “Teen-a-Witch” is a super-charming episode. You can watch it on Hulu (and you definitely should).
My witchbride Cecelia showed me this music video by Princess Nokia and it’s so amazing and empowering. I watched this over and over again; as a Latina Bruja this is my new theme song. Please check it out. In this time when White Supremacy is becoming openly mainstream again, it’s great to see some Afro-Latinx witches show their strength.
Playlist: You Can’t Keep a Bad Witch Down
Magical Potion of the Month: The Scorpio Mesquite
Hello! The month of Scorpio is my favorite, in part because I am a Scorpio and self-interested, and in part because I live in Texas and this is one of the first months when everything isn’t deathly hot.
For this month, I’ve created a cocktail in my own honor (sorry) that I’ve named The Scorpio Mesquite. (Get it?) It’s a twist on the Campari Spritz, with a dash of my Texan roots. I’ll tell you right now, this might be an adventurous one for y’all: this cocktail, like the Scorpios it’s named for, is both intense and strange (but, I hope, will still feel really good in your mouth). :wink: Anyway!
As a reminder, I believe in experimentation, adjustment, and what-the-hell winging it. Take every instruction as a suggestion, add more or less alcohol to taste (warning: I tend to like things strong), and please, especially on this one, let me know if you’ve improved upon what I’ve given you!
The Scorpio Mesquite
2 shots of Campari
2 oz seltzer water
1+ oz of ginger beer to taste
several dashes of mesquite liquid smoke, to taste (I did about three)
2 Luxardo (or any bar-quality) maraschino cherries
2 cubes of ice
a dash of angostura bitters
Mix equal parts Campari and seltzer water/ginger beer (the amount of ginger beer depending on your taste—I like my drinks very gingery, but this one is already full of some pretty intense flavors). Once you’re satisfied, mix in the mesquite liquid smoke and a dash of the angostura bitters.
At this point, you may want to do a little give and take to balance the smokey taste and the ginger with the campari. My best amount was 2 shots of campari, 2 oz of seltzer, and 1 oz of ginger beer with about three dashes of the mesquite liquid smoke.
Drop 2-3 maraschino cherries into a low drink glass with a couple ice cubes. Pour in the campari/seltzer/ginger mix, drizzle some of the maraschino syrup on top, and enjoy.
When you sip, consider thinking about how ginger is sharp and can prick you, but is delicious with something sweet and helps your body to be healthy and to heal. Think how the smooth Campari rolls down your throat, and how the bubbles of seltzer pop on the tip of your tongue. This is a drink of delicious contradictions. Consider how the mesquite liquid smoke came from campfires and stories and faraway plains. Imagine being in power and at peace.
(P.S.Apologies for the lack of photos / good photos on these first two. I will do better next month, so you can actually see what the cocktail’s meant to look like!)
My Favorite Witch(es): The Clayr
I have a lot of favorite witches, but my very favorite ones at this very moment are The Clayr. They’re an integral part of The Old Kingdom in Garth Nix’s Abhorsen Trilogy (and yes, I know he’s written two books about The Old Kingdom since the trilogy, but I didn’t care for one and haven’t yet read the other, it just came out). The Clayr live in and under a frozen glacier where they use their powers of Sight to help guide the rulers of the Kingdom. When they blossom into adolescence, they are granted admission into adult Clayr ranks because the adult Clayr See them getting their Sight—it’s wonderfully meta and cyclical, and such things delight me. They also get their whens mixed up because they’re constantly being bombarded with pieces of possible futures. So they say things like “We saw it yesterday, or was it tomorrow?” Ugh, I love it.
But the best part of The Clayr, the real reason they’re my favorite witches at THIS moment, is because every single Clayr we meet and who gets to speak and act in all of the books I read is a woman. All the heads of Clayr society are women. In the book Lirael, we learn that there are some male Clayr, but they’re VERY rare and we as readers never encounter one. Women don’t even marry men, they just sleep with people traveling through whenever they feel like it. The Clayr have built a society where the men truly don’t matter, and they are integral to the functioning of the Kingdom. I love when books make a strong correction in favor of women, and also tell me that’s not a glacier full of queers. Brilliant. Thank you, Garth Nix, for The Clayr.
Words with Witches
My First New Moon Ritual
I’ve never really been much into magic in real life, or tarot or anything like that, and especially I am not into people telling me what a Sagittarius I am. But the writing I have revisited the most this year is Rachel’s essay on the Salem Witch Trials called “Who Is It That Afflicts You?” It’s a truly brilliant piece of work; every time I reread it I learn something new about myself or the world. Rachel told me once that is doesn’t matter why the woo-woo works; it only matters that it works, for the person who believes in it. It’s a thing my sister believes too, and we both grew up in a Baptist church that told us the horoscopes in the back of Seventeen magazine were a portal to hell.
I’ve been hanging onto some specific anger in my life for several years now, and it was aimed particularly at a person who quite frankly deserved it. But what good does that do? Every time this person entered my sphere of consciousness it brought so much negativity bubbling to the surface of my spirit. I couldn’t think about them or talk about them or hear about them without experiencing a fight-or-flight furor, a primitive brain function designed to make me extra anxious! on purpose! They arrived again in my world, unwelcome, in the middle of October and I called my sister and said, “I have to let this go. You have to help me figure out how to let this go.” And she said, “Write down every single thing you want to let go and then burn the pieces of paper, one-by-one. I’ll send you a New Moon ritual.”
Step one: Set up your sacred space
I don’t have a sacred space or an altar because I have four cats and everything is a toy or a bed. So I went outside into my tiny asphalt backyard and sat at my rickety old picnic table with the anti-anxiety stones Jenn had sent me earlier in the fall. Lepidolite to ground me. Amazonite for healing. And Rose Quartz because she’s the leader of the Crystal Gems. I also lit my Headmaster’s Office-scented candle because that seemed like the thing to do.
Step two: Set your intentions
I said out loud, “My intention is to let go of the anger and all the nasty little weeds of bitterness and regret it has sewn into my heart and completely forgive this human who hurt me.” And then I surprised myself by saying, “And even though I don’t want a relationship with them I would like to heal the rift we made.” (I was surprised I wanted to heal them too, and surprised I said “we” made the rift.) And then I wrote down all the things I wanted to let go. Allll of them. My hand cramped up. But it felt good to get them all out of my brain like that and down onto paper. It was kind of like using a Pensieve; I was able to trace some patterns I hadn’t been able to see when my thoughts were all jumbled up inside my noggin.
Step three: Light it up!
I don’t have a cauldron so I used a frying pan. I lit each of the papers on fire, one-by-one, and said, “I don’t need these feelings anymore. I release them. I want to fill the spaces they leave behind with love.” And with each paper, I felt lighter and lighter! Like I really was physically releasing the negativity out of my body and the smoke from my little fire was breathing them out into the universe to be absorbed and recycled into something Good!
One week after the October New Moon, the person emailed me and we were able to speak kindly to each other and admit our mistakes, to forgive each other and wish each other the best.
It’s weird for me to think back to the end of October. In so many ways, the world feels like it split onto a different, darker timeline after the election. But tonight is another New Moon and so I’ll try again to consciously release the things I don’t need and embrace the things I do. And I’ll keep meditating on this passage from Rachel’s essay:
I don’t disagree with this assertion [that the essence of the witch is political resistance], and I think I actually embrace it, personally — regardless of whether “magic” “works,” I think my friends who have rituals and mystical protections on their side seem happier and healthier than when they didn’t, and it’s appealing to me in the sense that it sort of declares “You think I’m scary and evil, you want to persecute me for power I’ve never even been granted? Fine, I’ll inhabit this identity — you’re going to castigate me either way, aren’t you?”
“And Rose Quartz because she’s the leader of the Crystal Gems.” This is the kind of magic symbolism I can get behind. XD
Pop Culture Magic is real and amazing. <3
I LOVE this column so much!!! I would read a whole book on everyone’s witchy thoughts, it would be so lovely and great! <3 Thank you for this beautiful column, it makes me so happy every month
Heather I’m definitely buying one of those candles this instant.
(MINOR SPOILER FOR GOLDENHAND) The most recent book in the Old Kingdom / Abhorsen series, while unfortunately lacking in explicitly queer characters, did in fact confirm that the Clayr’s Glacier is a glacier full of queers.
I <3 that series. And I <3 the phrase 'glacier full of queers'.
I FLIPPING KNEW IT GONNA READ GOLDENHAND ASAP.
H E A T H E R !
https://www.etsy.com/listing/468509995/medusa-lapel-pin I love wearing pins because they convey my mood for me, they’re magical and grow stronger with every time I wear them, and because they’re a relatively cheap form of self care that gives me something to look forward to all week. This medusa pin is totally going to help me turn everyone I don’t want to talk to into stone.
HEATHER i love you and this was so special to read! you are very strong and brave and i am proud of you for trying things that don’t make any sense. your ritual was really beautiful to read about and now i am thinking about the rifts in my life and what purpose they do or don’t serve, and what that means. thank you!
What a lovely Witch Hunt this was, and they’re always pretty lovely.
I want to hard ditto the Heather appreciation.
And also suggest a thing that I keep meaning to do re: altar/altar-like aggregations of objects and cat cohabitation: populate an old breadboxes with the accordion/writing desk style lift-up front.
Yeye omo eja
Mother whose children are like fish, your children are as strong as your love. Their wrath is like your yours. Erupting righteously like a volcano, with the force of a hurricane, the force of the 7 seas.
I um don’t feel proper about my feelings of connection to specific Orishas and Loas, so of it its A) I’m white B) Not an initiate to Santeria or Vodou
But I respect them highly and don’t try to smush Yorbua and Benin descended stuff together because West Africa isn’t a monolith.
Appreciated, Don’t Appropriate
Um I got distracted…yeah ok the Brujas – Princess Nokia.
It’s very fitting to me that this edition is focused on Healing and Strengthening has a music video with a bit in beginning featuring Yemaya, and some Oshun in the middle.
Yemaya is a mother, a nurturing life giving figure yeah, but she will fuck shit up for her children.
Protective she is, people forget mothers are protective and can be destroyers just as much as a war
god. I remember some of her caminos are SA survivors, fighters and absolute spiteful bitches.
She’s no soft spoken wet blanket mommy.
Oshun is length and breath of womanhood, from girlhood to grannyhood. She is the sweetness and sensuality of life. She dances out her sorrows, I remember there was something special with her and some specific drums.
Don’t roast me, just trying to illustrate further why that song and music videos is so fucking awesome.
Mey your playlist is fire
OMG! LIRAEL! THANK YOU! I’ve been looking for the name of this book forever!!!
It was in my elementary school library, and every time I was there I would lovingly pull it off the shelves to admire the woman on the cover.
But I never checked it out. I thought about doing so every time I picked it up, but felt like I wasn’t ready for it yet.
DOES THIS MEAN I’M READY?
YOU BET IT DOES.
I love this column – and most especially when folks share their rituals and practices. Heather – this was beautiful. I also loved the video – thank you!! And everything, as always.
This column appeals so much to my 12 year old self.
I think i need to do a new moon ritual.
Also Heather I loved what you said and the quote from Rachel is so so true
This video introduces one of the most effective tools I have ever come across for healing painful emotions:
The practice is called the “Tonglen of guilt and shame” (a variation of Tonglen buddhist meditation)