Amid the surging popularity of witchcraft, a community of writers and practitioners are opening up about their personal engagement with these ancient traditions. In Initiated: Memoir of a Witch (Grand Central, Oct.), Amanda Yates Garcia, the self-proclaimed Oracle of Los Angeles and host of the popular Strange Magic podcast, invites readers to discover their own connection to the sacred through stories from her journey, interwoven with Goddess myths from a number of cultures.
How do you account for contemporary interest in witchcraft?
There’s a spontaneous impulse towards healing, creativity, and connection that can’t be suppressed. The main problem is that the structures created for us funnel us into a certain way of living, and if we don’t capitulate, our lives are made so much harder. We have to remember that only 50 years ago, even meditation wasn’t taken seriously. Through scientific studies emphasizing its healing properties, it’s now an accepted practice. Witchcraft is a practice, not a belief system. So it’s not necessarily something you believe, it’s something you do, and by doing it, it helps you, it changes and empowers you.
You say magic is less about potions, and more “a shift in perception.” How does witchcraft create this shift?
Even scents have an amazing power to shift our mood; when we smell fresh baked bread, we’re instantly transported. So we’re using the sensory to effect change within ourselves. By doing a ritual, I feel better, and it changes the course of what I then end up doing. If our psychologist tells us to do a breathing technique, we give it all kinds of credibility because it’s legitimized through the halls of power. But witchcraft is personal; one of the things I love about witchcraft is that you’re choosing things that have meaning for you. When you set something on your altar, like a photograph, you’re choosing it through your own agency and imagination, so it’s essentially a very personal religious or sacred ceremony. That’s why my clients leave feeling empowered and energized, because we’re doing work that connects them to their own sense of power and authority, through activities and rituals that affect the way you perceive things.
Why then do you frame this personal practice as a call for collective action?
The ways I feel connected to the spirits of plants and animals help me remember that I have agency to bring not only myself back to a state of balance and healing, but help other people do the same. I’m not at the mercy of the world; I can create the realities I want to live in, and that’s really what the book is about. The book is saying we don’t have to accept the reality presented to us, which isn’t to say I don’t believe in science or objective reality. We are participating in the creation of this reality. How do we want to do that? I want to live in a reality where witches exist, so I became one. It’s not about authority that someone gives you. It’s about authority we claim ourselves and then share within our communities. The imaginations of powerful people with credibility created this world, but it’s our imaginations that will create the next.