Writer, Fashion Alchemist, and Venus devotee Gabriela Herstik has conjured up a potent guide for solitary witches that infuses disparate practices with a feminist punch. Her newly released book, Craft: How To Be A Modern Witch, is empowering without being trite or preachy, witty without losing reverence for the subject matter, and equal parts style and substance. This juicy grimoire covers the basics of candle magic, sigil magic, herbal magic, faery magic, sex magic, crystal magic, tarot and more — with a particularly powerful section on fashion magic, which is clearly Herstik’s forte. (If you haven’t drawn sigils on the soles of your shoes or charged lingerie on your altar yet, Gaby is here to guide you.)
After meeting this young powerhouse undressing for Venus at Cheetah’s during the LA Sex Witch Talent Show last summer, we knew she was a mystic with an illustrious future. To celebrate the UK release of Craft: How To Be A Modern Witch, Gabriela shared some of her writing rituals, fashion faves, and creative inspo with us. (The US version of her book drops September 4th!)
You get intimate about certain aspects of your practice in Craft, but would you be open to sharing a few of the writing rituals or spells that were part of your creation process? As a fellow writer I’m curious to know: what does your writing space look like, what crystals or talismans did you use to guide you, which goddesses did you work with, and how did the Moon play a part in bringing this book into the world?
Absolutely! Honestly, sometimes the ritual of writing was just the writing itself. Since I was working full time and balancing other freelance work with this book, I wasn’t always able to do a deep ritual each time I sat down to write. I’ve been working with Venus as my matron goddess for over a year, and I love to write so I really felt like I was honoring her whenever I worked on Craft. My grandmother Rose was also a writer and I feel a very close connection to her with this process, especially since I incorporate roses into so many of my rituals (and the book!) Taking time to breathe, talk to my guides, close my eyes and connect to myself, goddess and my ancestors was a constant ritual that I carried with me throughout writing this book. I love rose quartz, and always have that by my side, but labradorite, clear quartz, and fluorite were also my allies. I had different spells going on throughout the process of writing the book for the book, so often I would also light whatever spell candle before I sat down to write, focusing my energy on that before I began to type. The moon plays a part in my day-to-day life because I tend to keep track of her phase and what sign she’s in. I wrote a chapter of the book at a time, and broke it down by section based more on my schedule than the moon, but whenever I started a spell for the book I would plan it according to her phases, and I’m always aware of what she’s in and how she’s feeling.
One thing that really shifted my relationship to writing the book, however, was getting a desk! I bought myself a beautiful glass desk and the comfiest computer chair ever. My desk is in my room and it really shifted the energy of the space. Having a dedicated place to sit down and write helped put me in the zone and really reaffirmed the work I was doing.
What I like most about Craft is that it really offers itself up as a guide for anyone on any path. You continually affirm how each practitioner really needs to discover what works for them, individually. One could follow your chapters to the letter or merely gain nourishment from some parts and skip over others. There’s really something for everyone. Why do you think this approach is important, as opposed to a more prescriptive style that you see in certain witchcraft traditions?
Thank you so much for noticing that, as it’s something that is super important to me with my work and this book. First of all, I’m super super Aquarius. If someone tells me to do something and that it’s the only way to do it, I’m super turned off. As my practice with witchcraft has evolved, I’ve learned that the most intense, visceral and tangible magick is that which fits into my own life and is influenced by my own interests and background. I think a lot of us who grew up in patriarchal religions (I grew up Jewish with a father who’s a reform rabbi) feel like there’s no place for ourselves in the religion. To me, that just feels icky. Magick is so many things, it’s energy and intention and action, but it’s also supposed to be fun and bring a sense of joy into our lives. That’s not going to look the same for everyone! Witchcraft is also a spiritual path and it doesn’t have to be a religion. It’s a way to filter the rest of your life, not something that is only legitimate if it looks a certain way. I think it’s really classist to say that to be a witch you have to practice a certain way, use certain tools and be initiated into a coven. Not only is that, to me, missing the point of a personal connection to the craft, but that’s not something that’s accessible or possible for everyone. Magick is strongest when there’s a personal connection! I think it’s so important for each witch to find what makes their soul sing, and that isn’t the same song for everyone.
The idea of the fashion chakra is so powerful and relatable. Who are your go-to designers? (Bonus points if they happen to be witches and/or fashion magicians, too, of course.)
My OG love is Vivienne Westwood. She may not be a self-proclaimed witch but she uses fashion as a vehicle for activism, self-expression, reflection and art. I totally think she’s a fashion magician! Vivienne is honestly one of my icons and I love her clothing, her story and the way she sees fashion. Both her and her husband Andreas Kronthaler create worlds and stories with their collections, each tied to a message bigger than just the clothing. I’m also such a fan of what Alessandro Michele has been doing for Gucci; the tarot card inspired editorial that Gucci did for Another: Man makes my metaphysical and fashion panties wet. Alexander McQueen and Ann Demeulemeester are some of my other favorite designers! McQueen is such a fashion magician and I think Sarah Burton is carrying on his legacy in such an incredible way.
Who are some of your favorite fashion witches on IG?
Oh, I love this!! I love Corinne Dodenhoff and Haleigh Schiafo of Babe Coven. My best friend Ivory Woods (@forgottenfeathervtg) runs a vintage shop and posts her clothing in a really cool way. She uses fashion as a way of honoring the divine feminine, and her feed is super inspiring. Vivienne Westwood’s feed is also killer. Iris Apfel is SO incredible and I love that she’s a kick ass crone. Fecal Matter is this duo of alien looking fashion kids that is one of my current inspirations as well. There are so many- I just love anyone who’s weird and doing their own thing. Also Gryffindior mashes up Harry Potter scenes with Dior shows and that is LITERALLY my shit.
What’s in your purse right now?
My favorite sunglasses, Fenty Lipstick, a condom, a pen and highlighter, a matching vinyl wallet (that came with the purse)… I just had a joint in there too. Nothing crazy exciting!!
Craft covers a variety of practices, from candle magic to crystal magic to sigil magic to fashion magic. Was there anything new that you added to your magical repertoire as a result of researching and writing the book?
Yes, absolutely! I definitely had to dive deeper into astrology and a wider variety of crystals than are usually in my arsenal, as well as working with herbs. I’m new to making elixirs and being super intimate with earth magick (I have a black thumb) so that chapter really asked me to grow and bloom (pun intended!)
And more to that point, how did writing this book impact or change or enhance your practice?
It really asked me to witness my practice from an outside view and to deepen it. I feel like I’ve transformed so much since I began the journey of writing this book. I’ve really had to step into my power, which comes with responsibility! It’s asked me to be more conscious of my own energy. I’ve been taking more salt baths, meditating more, having a deeper and more deliberate daily practice. It’s also asked me to see what feels good to share with the world and “promote” on social media ( I love Instagram!) and what is really too personal to share. I think more than anything this book has asked me to unapologetically step into my power and to truly believe in it as well. It’s asked me to stop playing small, it’s shown me that I couldn’t not be a witch, even if I wanted to. Also, it really reminded me of how huge it is that I get to be open with my practice. I’m ethnically Jewish and had many members of my family in the holocaust, including my paternal grandparents. It’s not lost on me how lucky I am to be able to share this spiritual (and for me, religious) practice with the world. It’s huge. It’s karmic. And it’s something I don’t want to ever take for granted.
For so many of us, our witchcraft is inseparable from our activism. What do you feel is your particular style of activism, and what are the political issues you are most passionate about that you approach through magic?
I love this question! I think my style of activism is super small scale- supporting those voices that don’t have as much privilege as me. Elevating them by sharing their stories through my writing. Holding space for others, going out of my way to tell them how much I appreciate them, doing what I can to support them and their work. I’m super passionate about women’s issues, elevating the stories and voices of women of color, trans women, disabled women, poor women, fat women, indigenous women … anyone who is constantly ignored and ostracized by the patriarchy. I often feel guilty that I’m not doing enough, and I’m going to make an effort to volunteer more regularly to be in direct support of these women.
How are you celebrating the book’s release? Is there a book tour or any IRL events in the works you can share?
On my books release I played Edith Piaf on vinyl with the windows down as I made breakfast. I got myself my favorite iced coffee, a pastry and a joint, ate at my favorite taco stand, went to an event to see someone in my coven speak, spent time with one of my best friends and got In and Out! And worked on this interview. It was great! I’m celebrating the release by basking in my power, by taking time to appreciate my hard work and own it- which is always easier said than done. And by eating yummy food… cause duh.
As far as events, I’ll be reading at Dum Dum Zine’s release party at Stories Café in Echo Park in LA on March 29th, which I’m super excited about! My book will be released under the title Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft in the US on September 4th, so I’m going to be planning many more events when that’s out, and hopefully a book tour as well!
Photo Credits: Alexandra Herstik