In ”Ask a Witch,” Gabriela Herstik answers your questions about channeling ancient wisdom in the modern age. From spellcraft to finding your path, explore what it means to be a millennial witch. If you have a question about all things magickal, contact Herstik on Twitter via @gabyherstik or Instagram@gabyherstik
Question: How does your social and political awareness inform your practices as a witch?
Answer: Since witchcraft is a path and not a religion, factors like social and political awareness are a big chunk of a witch's identity. Namely, because in the earth’s eyes and the eyes of the universe, we are the same. We are all connected. So it should go without saying that women, POC, LGBTQIA+ people, Muslims, Jews, witches, immigrants, poor people and so on, deserve equality. They deserve basic human rights; in fact, they deserve more than just basic human rights, as we all do.
As a witch, if you’re serious about this path, you have to take into consideration that although today it may be minorities like people of the Muslim faith who are persecuted for their religious beliefs, some 300 years ago it was witches who were. And witch hunts are still going in many parts of the world. To be a witch is to be inherently socially aware, and to be an ally of women especially, even if they may be different than you, or practice their religions or paths in a different way. Witchcraft, after all, is the connection to the earth and that also means to those who inhabit it.
Your own personal story and social and political background will also affect your practices. For example, my mother is Mexican, and my father is Israeli, who is a reform rabbi. I’m as Jewish as you get (even though I don’t identify with it religiously, it will always be my culture.) My father grew up poor, to parents from what is now Slovakia, who each survived upwards of three years in concentration camps. His mother survived because she had the same name as the head seamstress’ niece, and was also a seamstress; because of this, she had better living conditions, which aided her survival. She met my grandfather, who had been an apprentice to a master weaver before the war, after the camps were liberated; he taught her how to load anti-missile cannons while they were training as soldiers in Prague before later going to Israel. The first thing he ever said to her was: “Cadet, your fly is unbuttoned.” My mother’s grandfather fled from Poland to Mexico City to escape the Nazis. He started a zipper factory, and eventually a family.
Fashion magick is in my blood. It’s what allowed me to survive. It’s what I incorporate into my magick because it literally and figuratively has kept, and will keep, me alive. I grew up surrounded by my Mexican heritage as well, going to Mexico, eating Mexican food, and speaking Spanish. This is something I also incorporate into my magick. The sounds and energy of the Deep South have also influenced me since that's where I grew up.
My practices draw from what I know. One of my friends and fellow witch, Amelia, grew up Christian in the Deep South. Her family is from that area, and her magick is rooted in Southern Conjure and hoodoo, but those are her roots. Even though she and I are both witches, our practices are very different.
Each witch's path is going to look unique. There is no you other than YOU. But taking into consideration where your roots are, and what you feel connected to, and going about learning the sort of magick you’re interested in, is vital. For me, that means recognizing that although I am Jewish and Mexican and a first generation American, I am also a white, able-bodied woman. Those who don’t have the privilege I do may be working their magick differently. It’s not my place to judge.
But what I can tell you is that witchcraft is a way to spiritually support those around you who; and that includes women of color, poor women, sex workers, disabled women, and anyone else who needs help. Although being a witch may be “in style” right now, witches have historically always been persecuted and continue to carry that legacy. We must use our privilege of being able to practice freely to empower each other and ourselves. Here’s to making magick together.