The Ancestors Speak: In Conversation With Kelly Harcus

Kelly Harcus is an artist who has created the most wonderful deck of oracle cards. After using them a few times, I really wanted to talk to her about their creation and she very kindly agreed to answers a few questions.  
You can read a review of the cards here

Oracle

Tell me a bit about yourself and your creative life
 Sometimes I say I’m a recovering teacher. I loved it, but I burned out a few years ago and it would have been foolish to continue. I’ve always been a maker, but I didn’t feel like an artist until I discovered art journalling in 2005. It gave me permission to pull in all sorts of techniques and influences. I could express all the feelings that I had no words for. Within the pages of a journal, I didn’t have to please anyone but myself and didn’t have to worry about “good” or “pretty’.
In 2007, I discovered artist books and fell hard. They are still my main practice, at least in what can be called fine art. When I need validation, as we all do sometimes, I can remind myself that my books are in artist book collections and one of them even won a prize. 18 months ago, I took the plunge and started renting a studio, about 20 minutes away from my house. It is a refuge and a joy. I think of everything now in terms of studio rent. Sure, I could have that new dress, but it costs a week of studio rent – no thanks!

What inspires you to create?
 The material itself is often my inspiration, especially with clay, yarn or fabric. Exhibitions often inspire me, not to create how like the artist shown, but just to get my hands into paint and clay again. If you saw me, you’d know how inspired I am by a show, by how tightly I’m clenching my hands behind my back. If you hear I’ve been arrested, it will be at a Henry Moore exhibit for touching everything! Otherwise, it’s usually nature, especially my home province of Nova Scotia in Canada. The curve of a beach rock, a bit off drift wood, a bright leaf tucked into green moss. Another big theme for me is the wabi sabi beauty of human creation returning to nature in peeling paint, dripping rust or sea glass. Even typing this, I’m wiggling my fingers the way I do when I can’t wait to get stuck in – my husband calls them my happy paws.

I absolutely love your oracle deck; can you tell me a bit about what inspired this?
 I was fortunate enough to be at a retreat in Glastonbury held by Erin Faith Allen. It was over Halloween, and we were working with intuition. Polly Pring led us in some powerful ancestor meditation and ritual. Erin’s teaching is very process driven rather than result, so everyone’s work turns out differently. We weren’t “supposed” to be making pictures, or to ascribe meaning to our cards, trusting that this would become clear in the future as we used them. On the contrary though, I awoke early one morning, when my cards were just bits of collage on plain cards. In the liminal space of early morning, I suddenly saw all those faces, nearly human, but nearly spirit too. When I went back to the studio, the faces made themselves even more clear and meanings came through strongly from what had just been random collage the day before. They aren’t like anything anyone else created that weekend, or even like anything I’ve created before. They just really wanted to exist.

Why did you choose to create an oracle deck in particular?
 I’ve craved it since I went back to the cards in 2013 after a long absence. I still want to make a tarot deck, but it seems like such a massive undertaking – I’m sneaking up on it. I was lucky enough to be a teacher in Mindy Tsonas’s Wishcraft Tarot course this year and worked with The Hanged Man for that. I never intended to make these public. They were just for my own use. After a year of reliably powerful guidance, and enquiries from a few friends, I looked into how to have them printed. When I am looking after myself properly, oracle cards, meditation and my journal are part of my best morning routine. There’s something extra powerful in using cards you’ve made yourself. Having said that, please don’t stop me buying more decks!

What are your thoughts on the subject of magic? Do you incorporate it in your daily life? If so, how?
Oh, it varies. I believe in a lot, and then my skeptical side comes in. Often with the cards, when I’m doing a reading, I offer this disclaimer, especially if it’s for someone new to cards: “Maybe this is just a bit of fun. Maybe it’s a way for us to access the wisdom of our subconscious. Maybe it is a message from spirit or the universe.” It’s like I need to give myself permission. The thing is, they’ve been spot on too many times to count. What I really believe is that there is a lot beyond what we know, and maybe a hundred years from now we’ll understand it all better. I have a main altar at home, and several small ones. I take part in a Women’s Full Moon dance – such an amazing experience! I arm myself with crystals suitable for whatever situation I need support in. So I can’t really say I don’t believe, can I?

Do you have any projects coming up you would like to share with the readers?
 Early this year, I got a lot of clarity that as well as my own creative work, part of my purpose in the world is to support others with their creative work. So I’ve been supporting other creatives with tech and admin; so many people have so much to offer, but are stopped because making a website or an ebook feels hard. I’m making aprons, journals and sketchbook wraps to sell on Etsy. I’m running art journal playdates in my studio, and a small story-telling group. In my personal work, I’m just diving deep into my own art journals.

The cards available to buy from her Etsy shop

An Interview With Witch Casket

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Let me introduce you to Witch Casket, a company based in the north of England. It is run by two fabulous ladies, a mother and daughter team; Deb and Ella, who bring you magical goodies right to your door every month. From their little magical shop to a witchy mail order company, I was intrigued to find out more about their story.

Let’s begin at the beginning. You opened up your own magical shop in Yorkshire. Tell me, what inspired you to open up Practical Magick?

It was kind of an impulse thing really – I was looking for something to fill the gaps between my filmmaking and since I quit my day job about seven years ago, I’ve always made a living doing the things I love – so when I was looking to start a new business, opening Practical Magick just felt right…there certainly aren’t enough magick shops around, and it was something I knew and felt passionately about. Once I made the decision to do it, within 4 days our doors were open! I’m not one for over-thinking; my gut instinct has always served me well.

From there you went on to close the shop and open up Witch Casket, a subscription service that sends off a box of magical goodies to witches each month. How did that idea come about?

That was Ella’s idea! And it turned out to be a way better idea than either of us had imagined! It started as a way to boost the shop income through the slow winter months, but within 2 months we were shipping our magickal caskets to over 20 countries across the globe! It was then we had to make the decision on where best to focus our energies.

How do you decide what goes into each casket? What gives you inspiration?

That would be gut instinct again! We know there are witches of all religions and it is important to us that our caskets appeal to everyone, so we don’t follow the Sabbats – but we do sometimes take inspiration from the time of year (February’s Witch Casket had a ‘love’ theme running through it for example). Once we’ve (usually impulsively!) decided on the theme, the caskets are then very carefully curated so they flow nicely and present beautifully; as well as the unusual spiritual supplies and altar-ware we source, the caskets also include our own specially created spells, herb blends, rituals, etc. – those are exclusive to us and not available anywhere else.

With your experience in selling witchy wares; tell me more about your history in the magical world.

I’ve always been a very private person about my beliefs. Of course with launch of Practical Magick my knowledge of witchcraft, magick, tarot etc. was made public …but I still like to keep things as private as possible.

Witchcraft and spirituality seems to be very popular at the moment – why do you think this is? Does the success of the Witch Casket show this?

I think there are two things happening right now – firstly, in this fast-paced, materialistic, image-obsessed world, people are (thankfully) seeking out what’s really important and becoming more spiritually aware. I’m happy to see so many people learning that ‘energy’ is all important – that intent and belief are paramount, and that if we do things with the right energy and focus, we can make amazing changes to our world.

And then, going back to the image-obsessed, for some people it’s a fashion statement…and it certainly is very fashionable right now!

We’ve found that our subscribers tend to be genuine witches – and they really appreciate the time, care, and love that goes into the Witch Caskets each month. I’m a huge believer in positive energy, and as we prepare the caskets, they are filled with our very best intentions and love…there’s an authenticity to them, because we ourselves believe in what we’re doing, and that’s very important – and I truly believe the Witch Caskets make a difference to the people receiving them.

If someone was wanting to find out more about the world of witchcraft, which book would you recommend to them? You can pick more than one if you wish.

This is the question I’m probably asked most often – and after giving it a lot of thought, I’d say ‘read nothing – or read everything…and then find your own truth!’ I don’t believe any one book alone is of much use…after all, that’s one person’s view and your chosen path should never be based on any one person’s beliefs.

Do you have anything new coming up? Any future plans for Witch Casket or any other projects you want me to share on the blog?

Our plans for Witch Casket are the same as they were at the very beginning – to sprinkle our magick, love, and light across this beautiful planet of ours! We are very blessed to be able to work together, mother and daughter, doing something we love – and we are incredibly grateful for that!

As for new projects, I’m always working on other things…I daresay you’ll hear about them when the time is right!

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An Interview with WytchenWood

Rowan Cross

Let me introduce you to some very special people. WytchenWood –  cunning-folk based on the Welsh borders who provide witchcraft supplies in the form of talismans, herbal charms, runes and much more. Every piece is handmade with their local ingredients. I was very lucky to be able to ask them a few questions about their work and what magic means to them.


You describe yourselves as English traditional witchcraft cunning-folk – what does this mean to you and how do you incorporate it into your everyday lives?

To us it means the continuation of traditional ways; traditional ways of working magic, of seeing our environment and landscape, of being a part of it as our families have traditionally been for generations.  Of remembering and continuing to tell the stories, legends and folklore of the land we are a part of, the knowledge of where to find certain flora and fauna and the stories that have built up over time concerning the areas in which they grow; these stories add into the ‘personalities’ of the plants and trees in that particular locale.

The term ‘cunning-folk’ is used by us to denote that we cannot be put in a box with a tidy, neat label such as ‘witch’, ‘druid’ or any other definitive and that we owe allegiance to no-one except our spiritual lineage, traditions, the Genii Loci and our familiars. That we do not follow a set doctrine, that our ways are adaptable to time and circumstances and that we will incorporate whatever works.

It is all naturally incorporated into our everyday lives through working as ‘Wytchenwood’,  helping people locally that come to us for either charms, divinations or healing.  It’s also in our way of viewing the world and interacting with it.  Also through spending so much time outside in the landscape in all weathers that determines our magical lives!

Why did you decide to start up your shop Wytchenwood?  What was your vision?

We started it because it had been said to us on quite a few occasions that other people might like to have access to our charms and talismans and then some good friends of ours, Lunaorbis, opened their shop in Tintagel.  They needed to add some unique items as stock and we offered to supply some of ours, which we did and the feedback on them was wonderful.  From there, the whole idea of Wytchenwood was born.  The vision was to keep it as authentic as possible, to keep it true to how we work and to allow a wider community access to what we do if they were interested or needed it.

Tell me a bit about where you find your magical ingredients and how it goes from the wild to your shop.

Thankfully we live in such a wonderful and magical area of the country that we don’t have to go searching for our ingredients; they are just there and because we know this landscape so well, we know exactly what grows where.  We are surrounded by ancient woodlands, open grasslands, dells and also watery marshes, so the proliferation of various flora and fauna is enormous.  Usually when we are out walking we just gather anything that we find interesting and lying on the ground; knowing that at some point, it will have a use.  We harvest wild herbs and plants but in such a way as to encourage further growth, never in a way that would diminish them.  Because we spend so much time in the great outdoors, we are usually near by when the seasonal pruning starts and so we gather up as much of the discarded material as we can carry and bring it home but because we live in a ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ and of  Special Scientific Interest’, all seasonal work is done with the utmost care and respect, thus having no detrimental impact on the indwelling spirit of the materia magica.

For certain charms or talismans, the wood needs to come from a living tree and so we turn to our spirits and tell them what we need and why.  They will then lead us to a particular tree and after due payment and observations have been made, we are then able to take what we need; notice the word ‘need’, nothing more.

In the creation of our works, we work with our spirits from start to finish; they guide the form, the correspondences and the materials.  Once finished, it is left to come to life, charge if you like, in the cauldron; the belly that will gestate it and give birth to the living creation.  It is them ready to include in our shop.

Herb charm

Witchcraft is definitely becoming more popular with those who are sick of the world we live in and want to find magic in their own lives, as traditional cunning-folk, how would you define magic?

We would define it as being both a state of being and a tool to effect a change.  As a state of being, it is gaining knowledge of the patterns of life, the threads of the web, of being a part of something bigger than oneself and being aware of your place within the web.  It is about being a part of the land and the procession of the Mighty Dead; those magical ancestors that preceded you in walking the land, of honouring those same spirits of place, of adding to the corpus of knowledge that you are now tapping into and adding to, to being guided and taught by them and being a part of that magical web that has it’s anchors in the past but continues throughout time to the present through the endeavours and experiences of different people at different times and in different ways but in this same place.  This gives the ability to see through eyes that are looking to the past, the present and the future; enabling us to see the relevant from the irrelevant and enables us to make much more informed choices in our lives.

On a practical level, it enables us to effect changes; either good or bad, attract or repel, heal or hurt, protect or harm.

Winter Queen Blackthorn Goblins Cross

Can you recommend a book on witchcraft?

This is a difficult one!!  Our particular craft does not come from books as such but ones that I have read that I enjoyed because there were elements that strongly resonated with our own ways were:

Call of the Horned Piper by Nigel Aldercroft Jackson published by Capall Bann

Light form the Shadows by Gwynn published by Capall Bann

Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits by Emma Wilby published by Sussex Academic Press

Mystic Sister: An Interview With Jordyn Schwersky

I discovered Mystic Sister a couple of months back and fell in love with it. A site run by the magical Jordyn Schwersky, I decided to reach out and say hello. Whether you want a tarot card reading, buy healing balms and teas or you want to invite some magic into your life via her blog and guidance – Mystic Sister is the place to go. I was really happy when Jordyn agreed to answer a few questions for the blog because I know you will love her.
Mystic Sister
When did you first discover you had an interest in reading cards? (both oracle and tarot)
My mom got me into tarot when I was younger, maybe middle-school aged, and she’d read for me and take me to other readers to get my cards read and teach me about the cards. I didn’t start reading myself until I was about 18, though. My interest in oracle cards is fairly recent. I only got my first oracle deck a year or two ago.
Do you have a preference at all? If so, why?
It depends on the question I’m asking. If I want to get more specific I’ll go to the tarot. If I want a more general idea of what’s going on I’ll break out the oracle cards. I also might read with an oracle deck if I’m wondering about something an oracle deck is based on, like the Wild Unknown Animal Spirit deck or the Black and the Moon Arcana of Astrology. So I don’t really have a preference in regards to tarot vs oracle. I go with what energy feels right.
Why do you think people have such a fear of any sort of card, be it oracle or tarot?
This is a great question, and it has a pretty simple answer. I think it really comes down to not actually understanding what the cards mean. Let’s take the Death card, because that’s one a lot of people are afraid of. This is actually one of my favorite cards in the deck. Often people think it means someone’s literally going to die, or they’re really afraid of losing something. What they don’t see is that this card is also really indicative of rebirth and new growth. So I think the fear just comes from misunderstanding.
Tell me what inspired you to create your amazing site – Mystic Sister.
First of all, thank you! That’s so kind of you to call it amazing. Mystic Sister actually began as a small WordPress blog called Jordyn Myah’s Misadventures. When I was in college getting my Journalism degree, one class I was in actually required us to keep a blog. I focused mine on film and television (I’m a major pop culture junkie). After that class I turned it into a general blog about my life. It slowly grew, and at a certain point I dropped the word Misadventures from the site name so it was just Jordyn Myah, and I began writing more about mental health. It was both a way to cope with my own depression and anxiety as well as a way to educate and reach out to others dealing with mental illness. After a while I decided to start offering tarot readings for money, and shortly after that decided to open the apothecary. (My love of herbalism stemmed from my acne. Homemade herbal skincare products were the first things to actually help my acne, and it grew from there.) When I decided to open the apothecary, I decided to move to more of a brand that went beyond my name, and after months (literally) of agonizing over what to call it, I came up with Mystic Sister. With the name change came a website redesign, and that’s how I got to what you see today!
Is your site your full-time job or do you do other things?
I work part-time for my dad, who is also a small business owner, so that I have a bit of a stable income while I build up Mystic Sister. The goal, though, is to eventually live solely off the income from Mystic Sister.
feel that society has lost its magic in some ways, people are more concerned about material goods so I try and bring as much meaning and magic into my life everyday. In what ways do you make sure you are connected to your calling as a wild woman everyday?
I totally agree with you. As a society we’ve become so disconnected from the Earth and the spirit realm and the magic that used to be a part of everyday life. The good thing is that more and more people are beginning to reconnect to magic, and there are so many ways you can do this. Obviously one thing I try to do is read my cards daily, which is a more overt action. There are also a lot of subtle ways I connect to magic. One thing I do is take greens powder every day. It’s a great way to connect to plants, and I make the action of stirring the powder into orange juice and drinking it a ritual. I also regularly water my plants and see how they’re doing and make that a ritual too rather than a chore. I also light a ton of candles at night and spend time in their light and scent. I also set up an altar in my studio, which is a great way to connect to ritual while making the altar but also to stop and connect to the altar itself whenever I see it without having to do anything. I also read a ton and do a lot of research. I’m really interested in both the magic of the past and in the scientific ways (in terms of herbs) that we’ve come to understand magic today. I also walk my dog everyday and use that time to meditate. I take herbal baths too. I’m also doing ancestral work right now and discovering where my ancestors came from and the magic of their areas. A lot of people think you need to do spells to invite magic into your life, and while spells are fun and often effective, I think the best way to stay magical is to create rituals out of things you do everyday. Just constantly be present and aware of what you’re doing.
You can visit her site right here