Mystic Lady: An Interview With Katelan Foisy

Katelan Foisy is a mystic, an artist, a writer and has even been named as ‘A female Jack Kerouac.’ by Taylor Mead. I was very lucky to chat to her and explore her world of creativity and magic.

I would like to start at the beginning. How did you discover the world of magic and mysticism?

I grew up in a small town in MA. My grandmother worked with herbs and was formerly a nurse during WWII. She came over to the US for a better life with her American soldier husband and children from Austria. She taught me some usages of herbs and a little bit of folk remedy. I grew up leaving offerings for fairies and wandering into the forest collecting moss, ferns, and other plants. I thought this was all part of normal living until grade school when I realized the other kids weren’t doing these things, so right away I was in the magical world I just didn’t really know it. As I got older I started to read up a little more and understand that what I knew as every day remedies was also Romani folk magic. In 6th grade I visited Provincetown, MA with a friend and bought my first tarot deck. I know some people say it has to be given to you but this one called to me and I knew it was supposed to be mine. It was used, the box was tattered and the images were faded. I slept with it under my pillow and started to study the meanings. The language of tarot felt natural to me, like it was my first language, the images on the cards formed stories in which past, present, and future unfolded.

What would you call yourself? A mystic? A witch?

Maybe both? The public usually labels me as a witch. I’ve always thought of myself as an artist dealing with time, land, and memory.

How would you define magic?

A language of symbols, ritual, actions, and thought form together to work with both the hidden and visible.

I can see that you are very much a practitioner of the tarot, palm reading and spell work, these are all very traditional practises – how do you view the more modern use of the occult?

I tend to stick to what I know and what feels right to me. I’m unsure of what people are doing as modern uses. I know that for me, tarot’s images become storyboards, the ritual and reading of tasseography becomes a magic interaction itself. Palmistry is a map, one hand shows you what you potential and the other what you’ve accomplished. Spellwork is second nature. Reading cigars and cigarette ash reminds me of beautiful evenings with friends and god family deciphering patterns over coffee and tea. The most modern practices I have worked with would be cut-ups, which were created by Brion Gysin and made popular by William S. Burroughs. My writing partner Vanessa Sinclair and I have been working with various forms of cut-ups. Burroughs believed that bits of future leaked out from passages re-arranged. I’ve gotten some of my best divination from cut-ups and some very good practical advice. It rearranges the brain to see what isn’t there. I’m also a fan of working with technology to increase energy. We are creating magical worlds with our internet presences so when I’m doing a working, I will photograph parts of it, edit the image to enhance the feeling of the work and put it up online. I feel that the love and buoyancy that pours in from that helps to boost the energy within the working. It’s one of the reasons I take so much care in the aesthetics of the working. If each working itself is it’s one piece of art, the care put into each work becomes part of the magic in that particular working. This method is what works best for me but each practitioner will have their own method. For instance I work with land magic a lot. If I’m doing a working for immigration I will take that person with me on a journey and the we will walk the path of those that came before us. I believe we need to know the history of the land before we can work our magic there. That may be one thing that I find odd about some modern day practices and with people in general. We tend to forget our history but the real magic lies underneath the pavement and deep within the soil, it lies in land memory.

If someone wanted to begin a journey into magic and mysticism – what would you recommend they do/read?

My list is somewhat nontraditional, some of it is and some isn’t but I found that they really expanded my sense of magic and opened my brain to other possibilities.
The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs
The Third Mind by Brion Gysin and William Burroughs (It’s out of print but I have found PDFs of it)
My Education: A Book of Dreams by William S. Burroughs
Any book by Scarlett Imprint, Fulgur Ltd., Ouroboros Press, and Trapart is going to be outstanding and filled with wonderful information.
Read up on mythology and the history of the land you live on, especially of the place you live.

Jambalaya by Louisa Teish is great as well as Rootwork by Tayannah Lee McQuillar. Tayannah also came out with a historical fiction book called Creole Fire which is wonderful. I often like to read historical fiction having to do with real life practitioners as bits of truth leak out in fiction. My godfather, Ochani lele’s work is great as well.

For Blogs:

About Romani Culture and writing:
Cut-ups and land memory:
I asked the internet for their lists as well and compiled theirs at the bottom for a more traditional beginners list. It’s a long list but a good one.

You are an amazing artist and I wondered how much your art and magic intermingles –  if at all?

It’s all connected. My art is a portal. It time travels in a way where you’re unsure from which time it came from. For example, when I first made my plan to move from NY to Chicago I made a spell book that showed my journey. It was written as an aspect of me, perhaps a portion of me from another time, writing letters to her lover. They are both traveling and meeting up in different cities. These were all cities I have loved and traveled to over the years. So each page is an ode to a part of that journey. It starts in NY, Coney Island and travels through Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami, LA, Atlantic City and finally settling once again into Chicago. By creating this book I set the spell in motion both through image and the creation, making each page a part of the journey. I created the book for the Psychoanalysis, Art, and the Occult conference. This was before I even knew I would be able to fully move. I knew I needed to, it was where I was supposed to be but I needed that final push. After the conference my plans were well on the way. I made it to Atlantic City, stepping off of the plane in NY after missing my first flight, got on a bus and headed to Atlantic City for my birthday. I then spent the rest of the summer going back and forth from NY to Chicago to AC until it was time to move. I also created a film as a spell to boost it. All of my art contains a bit of magic in it, from dirt of the land, ground up into the paint, to the pages of a magic book to get me to where I needed to be. They all become portals for my and others journeys.
I recently created a paper altar for Treasure of the Sirens as well. I’m finding the more I incorporate magic and art, the more doors begin to open. The art itself works it’s own magic. For instance with both the Treasure of the Sirens piece and my recent piece Deer Woman, mythology was a huge factor and how over years colonialism has taken these stories and demonized many of the key women in them. So in a way my art is a portal revealing original forms.  “Deer Woman” a spirit that helps women during birthing stages but will also enter the tribal ceremonies to lure out the men who disrespect women, who cheat on them or use them in any way and lead them to imminent death. Much mythology has told us that Deer Woman was a spirit to be feared. Upon further research she is the spirit of women who have been raped and left for dead. She comes back to the tribe to save it from the men who have fallen under the spell of colonialism, patriarchy, and brings order back to the tribes matriarchal roots.

What is an average day for Katelan? Talk me through some of your routines and favourites things to do.

I wake up in the morning and brew some coffee. Then I sit in bed drinking coffee and catching up on my emails. I usually make a list of things I need to do for the day. If I have a deadline I’ll start working on those pieces right after I finish my coffee. In between I will get some exercise in by taking a walk to the lake or sometimes going to the Green Mill where I’ll sip coffee and soda water and work on drawings or writing. Sometimes I lose focus and will do something to switch it up. If I’m painting I might work on photographs to get my head space back or if that isn’t working I might write for a bit. When I get home I’ll often cook or clean and do some more painting, write mailing lists, answer more emails, do readings and workings or whatever else is on the to do list. While I’m working I like to watch documentaries or listen to podcasts. I usually work until I’m tired and then relax for a bit with a bath before heading to bed. I don’t have a lot of free time but when I get the chance I like to explore my own city and historical sites. I love what I do so often my work day doesn’t feel like work at all. I also travel quite a bit for work so sometimes I’ll plan out the next trip.

You often post pictures of your beautiful home, a bohemian paradise. What inspires you to create such a beautiful space?

When I first moved to NY I lived in a cheap disheveled apartment. I had no artwork on the walls because I kept thinking, “This is temporary. I’m going to move.” I lived there for four years. I lived in other peoples spaces for many years after and always thought of my living spaces as temporary. Then I moved into a place that I lived for 12 years and started to think. “Okay even if I leave next week, I need somewhere that is going to feel like a home.” So I started to decorate and ad to the walls, I experimented with paints and buying antiques. I slowly started to form what would become my style. When I was planning my move to Chicago I kept thinking I wanted to live in an old hotel by the lake near the Green Mill. My apartment is an old hotel from the 20s by the lake and a ten minute walk from the Green Mill. I felt like I needed to pay homage to that aspect of it but also because I spend so much time in my home, I felt it needed to feel like a sanctuary. I needed to feel like I wanted to be home. So I took everything that I loved and formed it into the space I created. The more I decorate my apartment the more I realize I’m one part Auntie Mame, one part old man decorating his study, part traveling fortune teller, and part early 20th century children’s theater and circus prop artist.

And finally…what is the greatest advice you have ever been given or the greatest advice you can give the readers?

William Patrick Corgan once told me: “All will die and leave. Me, you, the stars. What you fear is not death but that love isn’t real. Because if you knew love cannot die you’d know the serenity you seek”.

There was a time I lived my life in fear because I was afraid everyone would leave. I had a lot of death early on in my life and I struggled to get through the pain of it for a long time. I was tapped in but I was also caught in a loop of thought that wasn’t conducive to my well being.  So this small tidbit of advice has always stuck with me and changed my outlook on the world around me.

List of Books from the people of the Internet:

Psychic Self Defense by Dion Fortune

Secret History of the World by Jonathan Black and Mark Booth

The Healing Wisdom of Africa by Malidoma Some

Training and Work of the Initiate by Dion Fortune

Mystical Qabalah by Dion Fortune

On Becoming an Alchemist by  Catherine MacCoun

Northern Mysteries & Magick  by Freya Aswynn (for Norse and rune-related stuff)

Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner

A Witches Bible by Janet Farrar

The Sea Priestess (Dion Fortune novel)

In Dark Places of Wisdom, Peter Kingsley

The Psychic Pathway by Sonia Choquette

The Book of Results by Ray Sherwin

Oven Ready Chaos by Phil Hine

Liber Null /Psychonaut by Peter Carroll

The Spiral Dance by Starhawk

The Sorceress Crossing by Taisha Abelar

Moonchild by Aleister Crowley

Anything by Jung and Miyazaki

The Invisibles by Grant Morrison

Promethea by Alan Moore, J. H. Williams III and Mick Gray

The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

City Magick by Christopher Penczak

THE INNER SKY by Steven Forrest

Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler

Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig

The Black Unicorn by Audre Lorde

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Lavinia by Ursula K. Leguin

Liber Kaos by  Peter J. Carroll

Mastering Witchcraft by Paul Huson

Apocalyptic Witchcraft by Peter Grey

Basic Magick by Philip Cooper

The Magical Revival by Kenneth Grant

Book of Lies by Crowley

Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede

The Vorrh by Brian Catling

Septumus Heap series by Angie Sage

Staubs and Ditchwater by H Byron Ballard

Anything by Margot Adler and Isaac Bonewits

Please have a look at her website and a gorgeous film she made right here

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