We’ve got our good friend Lisette on to talk about what the living tradition of witchcraft means to them! Bonus points as we talk about how witchcraft varies around the world, how we all want to fight Zak Bagans in the parking lot of Spaghetti Warehouse, and how we can all better serve our communities!
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Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week we pour a drink and learn about a news story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 104, Living Witchcraft with Lisette Alvarez.
Julia: Yes, I was so glad to have Lisette on the show. They are a wonderful human being who creates some amazing, amazing audio drama. And talking about their experience living with witchcraft.
Amanda: We talk all the time about how some of the stories that we learn about are not in history books, and you close them and put them away, but living traditions, that are practiced all over the world every day by lots of people. So it was super cool to take what some people may consider just a historical thing, and learn all about the depths and many, many varieties of witches living today.
Julia: Hell yes. And you know Amanda, you know who I ... We're recording this a couple of days before thanksgiving. You know who I love and am thankful for?
Amanda: Is it our Patreon family?
Julia: Yeah it is. You got it.
Amanda: Especially our newest patron. Rebecca, thank you and welcome. And our supporting producer level patrons, Philip, Julie, Christina, Eeyore, Josie, Omara, Neil, Jessica, Phil Fresh, and Debra. And of course those legend level patrons, for whom we brave the post office every dang month, even in these very gifty months, Steena, Jordan, Jess, Sarah, Zoe, Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jack Marie, and Liam.
Julia: We are just so thankful for you. We will give you the biggest pieces of turkey, or Tofurky, if that's more your style.
Amanda: Man I had like a vegan stuffed cranberry stuffing inside an acorn squash one year at Thanksgiving, when I was vegan. It was so good.
Julia: Dang son.
Amanda: Julia, what were we drinking during this episode?
Julia: That's a great question Amanda. I decided to make something, in my mind, a little bit more witchy. So it was a absinthe infused cocktail of my own creation.
Amanda: It sure was, it was delicious. You can't recreate it, but I enjoyed it at the time.
Julia: Nope. I will try and do something close for our patrons who get our recipe card level, but it won't be the same thing because sometimes you just want to get frisky with your cocktail making.
Amanda: Most definitely. And this week instead of recommending like a podcast or a TV show, obviously Julia and I are both watching a lot of Great British Bake Off, I actually wanted to recommend in this season, whether you are traveling, or doing traditional stuff, or making a new tradition, or just being like no, this is my day, and doing your own thing. I love to take time to do big picture thinking when I'm traveling, especially, or on holidays, or on staycations, or snow days. Something about being outside of my normal routine, really helps me to be creative, and to think about big picture projects, and stuff I otherwise wouldn't think about in the day to day hubbub of life. So this week as I am traveling, I am going to be carving out a little bit of time in my destination city to hang out with my laptop and get some good coffee, and think about what is next for me and the show and Multitude.
Julia: Aw Amanda, that's so sweet. I love that.
Julia: You know what else I love? Our sponsors. We're sponsored this week by Backblaze. You can get a 15 day free trial by going to Backblaze.com/spirits. And we're also sponsored by Calm. Get 25% off a Calm premium subscription at Calm.com/spirits.
Amanda: And every day our art is sponsored by those beautiful lovely human beings who support us on Patreon. And every week we give you another way that you can support the show, or encourage you to check out something that we recommend. But honestly, the fact that Julia and I can be making a living, that we don't have to take days off of our day jobs to try to travel and spend time with our families, it's just all brought to us by those of you on Patreon.
Julia: So thank you patrons, you're all wonderful. And if you're listening to the show, and you have a couple of dollars to spare once a month, maybe consider pledging to our Patreon, at patreon.com/spiritspodcast.
Amanda: Yeah, we are deeply thankful for you. We are thankful to each other, and to Eric, and for all of our Multitude fam, for being in this wild journey with us. So we hope that y'all have a wonderful week if you're celebrating, and if not, that November weather doesn't treat you too bad. But in the meantime, enjoy Spirits Podcast, episode 104, Living Witchcraft, with Lisette Alvarez.
Julia: Amanda, we are joined this week by Lisette Alvarez, who is the producer of Kalila Stormfire's Economical Magick Services. One of my favorite podcast at the moment. You know I'm a sucker for audio drama and also witches, and everything is going on with that whole podcast. And so-
Amanda: And economics.
Lisette: Thank you.
Julia: And economics. Very important. We don't like capitalism, but we do like business.
Lisette: Yes. We all got to makes the monies, right?
Julia: In this capitalistic hell state, yeah.
Lisette: Mm-hmm (affirmative). I'm happy to join you guys. I'm really excited to talk about some of my favorite subjects, including the the occult.
Julia: So do you want to start out with maybe telling us a little bit about yourself, and your background, and then what topic we're going to be talking about this week?
Lisette: Yes. So again, my name is Lisette Alvarez. Among other things, I am a producer of Kalila Stormfire's Economical Magick Services. I am also a voice actor for Magical Kingdom, which also a very magic-y Disney-y type of podcast. An audio drama which has been very much me tapping into my child self, which is a magic of its own.
Julia: You're one of the few people that can get away with sounding like a small child, and it's very impressive.
Lisette: I have a lot of fun doing it. It is tapping into the Disney child that I always am. So another thing about me, is I am actually a practicing witch. I identify as Pagan. I am actually an initiate of what's called a mystery tradition, called The Order of the Elemental Mysteries. And I've been an initiate for about a year and a couple months now actually. But I've been part of this specific group, and engaged in it's specific teachings for about five years now.
Julia: Okay, fascinating. What did you like grow up ... What was your background kind of growing up in the religious sense.
Lisette: Okay, so it's kind of interesting. I am half Canadian, half Cuban. I'm a military kid, so moved around a lot. And honestly, when it came to religious and spiritual upbringing, my mom's family was mostly agnostic atheist, and my dad's family was different. The Cuban's ... So even for Cuban's ... And Cuban's are also super witchy in general. They tend to say that they are Catholic. My family was not Catholic. My grandmother and grandfather were actually part of, and actually ended up being fairly high up in a Catholic adjacent religious tradition called the Rosicrucian Order.
Julia: That is a fantastic name.
Lisette: So they did that for a while. My grandfather is actually currently a Feng shui master, and does a lot of Chinese astrology, and teaches Chinese astrology. My grandmother is just a straight up witch. And both of them actually owned a store, basically your average mystic, mystical store that you'll see, like where you get your crystals, and where you get your weird books.
Julia: Oh yeah, sure, sure.
Lisette: So when I grew up, I basically grew up in this store, and it was called The Fairy's Ring.
Julia: Amazing, excellent. Because that's one fairy ring that you want to step inside.
Lisette: Yes. Yes it was. And of course my grandmother is very much close to doing fae magic and fairy magic. She has a garden of fairy houses that she makes.
Julia: Will you share a photo of that with us, if you have some? Alright, beautiful.
Lisette: So I essentially grew up visiting my family in Miami, Florida, and actually staying in their store while they worked and watching in their backroom where they also did rituals, apparently. KiKi's Delivery Service and Spirited Away, and all sorts of great movies while I was a kid. But also like hanging around the store and reading their books. So yeah, very unconventional grandparents.
Julia: I think you can probably say that, yeah.
Lisette: So I did actually ... I dabbled in Christianity for a little bit.
Julia: Sure, some of us do.
Lisette: And eventually around when I was 16, I got in touch with what I truly felt was my spiritual alignment, which is nature based. I was very much ... I felt the divine in nature. So largely it came from me researching witchy stuff. And I was moving a lot. I lived most of my high school years in a couple of countries in South America. So, South America is also very witchy in a lot of different ways. So moving around in those circles in high school, and online, I picked up a lot of things, knew a lot of things about how to meditate, how to kind of connect with nature and nature spirits. A lot of my work was very unstructured. I'd never had a group that I went to, it was pretty much the stuff that I learned from grandmother and grandfather, and things that I kind of picked up as I went through life. And my current spiritual group is kind of the first formal religious group, or spiritual group that I've been a part of.
Julia: Can I ask about, how you went about finding the group?
Lisette: So, you can find one near you, no. It's really a long the lines of, I came to DC, I moved to Washington, DC for graduate school, and for work. And I decided to go to ... After about eight, nine months, I decided, there's an event every year in a lot of places around, especially the United States, but around the world, called Pagan Pride Day.
Lisette: You can find one probably near you. They are everywhere. And I actually found the group that actually hosted the event, ended up being the group that I was a part of. So we have an interesting structure, where they're the public facing arm. So there's the order which is kind of the religious order. And then the public facing arm is called Connect DC, and we do public ritual, and Pagan Pride Day. We didn't do it this year, but Pagan Pride Day was one of the things that they do as an offering to community. And so I got connected with them, and met my current spiritual teacher, and high priestess, Katrina Messenger, who is a black woman. She says a recovering Marxist, and activist. She's pretty freaking awesome. Electrical engineer, and mystic.
Julia: She sounds amazing.
Lisette: She is amazing. So I got to meet her, and a couple of my current brothers and sisters in the order. And honestly, I basically got started going ... I enrolled in there ... They'd have esoteric classes that focus on personal growth. And that's how I really started focusing, and developing some of the themes that I actually used for Kalila Stormfire. And so the conversations that I bring up and concepts that I work through actually came from my work with the Reflections School within that group.
Julia: That is so cool. With that nice chunk of background in mind. Do you want to tell us what your topic for the week is?
Lisette: So, I am very excited to talk about one of my favorite things, which is, Living Witchcraft. And really I want to kind of cover some of the, not necessarily falsehoods, but like how pop culture views witchcraft, and how actually living and using witchcraft, and kind of the definitions, especially how spirits brings up some really interesting stories that a lot of people really see as part of their spiritual background too. I think those are the main topics of discussion, and I am excited to talk about.
Julia: Awesome. Do you want to get us started off then?
Lisette: Yes. All right, so one of that things that I kind of wanted to do, was definitions. I know this I usually-
Julia: No, very important. I love a good definition.
Amanda: I love a good glossary. I'm ready for it.
Lisette: I am going to be your mystical glossary. Here's my grimoire that I open. I don't have ... If you want to insert freaky book opening.
Julia: Eric, please insert creepy book here.
Amanda: This is the fully sound designed episode of Spirits.
Lisette: So first of all, talking about witchcraft. All of the definitions I'm about to give you, are very broad. Witchcraft is a craft. So it's this idea that there's skills based tools and practices that really have to do with shaping yourself, and shaping the world around you. Aleister Crowley, who a lot of people say is the father of modern witchcraft. And specifically western modern witchcraft.
Amanda: It feels like witchcraft should only have a mother.
Lisette: There is no mother. The earth is our mother.
Amanda: True, true.
Julia: You were starting us off strong with Aleister Crowley, though. I'm very excited.
Amanda: It's a choice.
Lisette: It is a choice. So he's problematic in a lot of ways. But gotta give kudos to him really breaking open what a lot of western witchcraft is. And his definition of magic is something that ... Actually I was recently in a class and we were talking about the definition of magic. And a definition that seems to very relevant, and a lot of people kind of agree with, especially in western tradition, is that magic is defined as the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will. This includes both mundane acts, as well as ritualized magic or witchcraft. So I think that's a pretty solid definition of what western witchcraft is. You can of course define witchcraft in a variety of ways. When it comes to indigenous traditions or folk magic, what's considered folk magic, the problem with defining witchcraft, is that it's not tied to a spirituality, or tradition. It is a practice. It is a craft.
When you talk about, for example folk magic, or folk witchcraft, you can look at Appalachian magic. And most of the people who practice it, will call themselves Christians. Even if you go to West Africa, to like Burkina Faso. A lot of people there will consider themselves aligned with Islam, or Christianity. And they will still practice what we may define as witchcraft, and folk traditions, or magic. So trying to say witchcraft is something that Wiccans do or Pagans do is really a fallacy. And I think that's really important to know, especially when we consider how witchcraft is kind of presented to us in pop culture as well. And I think this also goes to kind of defining witchcraft as something that is like Harry Potter or even like the Hollywood versions of voodoo. Which it has a whole thing behind it.
Julia: Whole other story.
Lisette: A whole other story. I'm not going to get into that just yet. But really when it comes down to showing witchcraft as something that people want to define as a specific religion or specific culture, it really depends on what point of view you're coming at it from. Because a Christian, or like a Baptist who grew up in southern Alabama, is going to have a very different concept of witchcraft than a Cuban, who grew up in Cuba. Especially in areas that have that really weird syncretic tradition of Catholicism.
Amanda: Might it be useful to think of witchcraft, almost as like analogous to prayer in that it can be, like the concept of prayer, what it looks like, how it's used, how it's practiced, depends entirely on the religious framework in which it's being understood.
Lisette: Sometimes. I think that's sometimes useful. And for certain practitioners, it's very close to how they define witchcraft. There are witches who are atheist. There are people who consider themselves Pagan. So using prayer, does have like ... You're sending it out to a greater than you. Some atheists do define as that there is some kind of greater than you function, but they don't necessarily use the term prayer. I would say that this idea that witchcraft is not mundane. There is a lot of things that ... I know my group specifically, we talk often about using witchcraft to change ourselves. And you can use psychological terms to define what we're doing as witchcraft. You can also go to psychology, and like Carl Young. And he was big into the occult. So a lot of those concepts. You know it really is, it's very amorphous, it's very porous. There's a lot of concepts of witchcraft that really defy definition. Unfortunately as I'm trying to give you a definition.
Amanda: All good things do though.
Lisette: Yes. So yeah, I think that covers the definition aspect of witchcraft specifically. And that's of course not to say that every folk tradition, or every indigenous religion has something like witchcraft. A lot of them don't. A lot of them don't have something that they would call witchcraft, or they would accept as being called witchcraft. And it's really important to kind of acknowledge that those variations of how people see the world, those cosmologies are valid in their own way. And like not to belittle them because of that, and not to belittle them because they do have that.
Amanda: How do you define pagan?
Lisette: So pagan is also one of those hard to define-
Amanda: We're just starting off with like the hundred level questions.
Lisette: People like to call it like an umbrella term. So usually you can say that it's a nature based type of spirituality. Unfortunately ... Because pagan is tied to a term that has to do with the hill folk or people who lived on the land. So when people say, pagan is a nature based spirituality, it's also sometimes kind of iffy, because there's a lot of people who call themselves techno pagans. Who do all their magic, and all their spiritual work through technology, various technologies.
Amanda: My brain just started blasting, the girl with the dragon tattoo. Is that correct?
Lisette: Yes. That's essentially like, you can again, take it where you want to. And some people also do balk at the title of pagan. I know some people who practice voodoo and Santeria, who don't want to be called pagans because the concept of paganism is often tied to western magical tradition, or western pagan traditions. And the concept of it being land based doesn't encompass all of the spiritual aspects that they actually pursue. That there's not just land, it's not just nature, but there's also something other than nature that they work with. So paganism's also problematic. The definitions are problematic. But for the large part, pagans are nature centered, or pretty much you can say anything except for the very strict definitions of the Abrahamic religions and the Buddhist, and even Hindu. But again, we've had Hindu religious leaders come to Pagan Pride Day. Sometimes that really does kind of defy definition, and because paganism ... There's people who identify as Pagan and Christian. It's really hard to ... And I think that's for me one of the beautiful things of learning about spirituality and religion, is just how messy it can really get.
Amanda: Yeah, sure.
Jules this week we are sponsored this week by Backblaze. Do you know what a Backblaze is?
Julia: I do. Isn't that a place I can put my things, and I back them up. And then if my computer crashes, they're not just gone.
Amanda: Exactly. It is that little icon in the menu bar of your computer, where if you drop it, or spill a glass of Whisky on it, as I have done in the past to a computer, you are not totally screwed, because Backblaze gives you unlimited cloud backup on Mac's on PC's, for just $5 per month. This genuinely is one of the best things that I pay for every month. Because Backblaze makes sure that my music, my photos, my videos, all the videos that I create, the documents, like all of my Multitude stuff, is all backed up, it is all safe. If I ever had to restore them, I could download them from the web onto any computer, or have them mail or even overnight a hard drive to me, with all of my stuff on it. It is safe. It's amazing. We love Backblaze. And you can try a 15 day free trial at Backblaze.com/spirits.
Julia: Amanda, hasn't Backblaze restored an incredible amount of files too, in the past?
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Julia: That is so cool.
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Julia: We're also sponsored this week by Calm. Amanda, do you get stressed, like me? I know it's a funny question.
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Amanda: Thank you so much Calm and that you to Backblaze. Now let's get back to the show.
Lisette: I did want to eventually touch upon pop culture in witchcraft.
Julia: Yes, please. Because when you suggested this, you talked about ghost hunters, and we talked about how Zak Bagans can fight me in a Spaghetti warehouse parking lot.
Amanda: Anytime Zak, any state.
Julia: Any time Zak, any time.
Lisette: I'll set up the Patreon.
Amanda: That's our final Patreon goal, is just to get Zak Bagans to fight me in a parking lot.
Lisette: So, fun story. I was on vacation, and I don't have cable, so I haven't watched the Travel channel in a while, and I love the Travel channel though.
Julia: Until Ghost Adventures comes on.
Lisette: Until Ghost Adventures come on.
Julia: And then you just want to fight ZaK Bagans.
Lisette: That's exactly it. So when I was in college, I actually loved watching Ghost Adventures. Because it was on Netflix and I just-
Julia: Oh it's very watchable.
Lisette: Yeah. It's very bingeable too. Especially when you're making terrible decisions at 10 p.m., alone in your apartment.
Julia: Aren't we all in college, really?
Lisette: Yeah. So anyway, I'm on vacation. I'm in a Airbnb that has cable. And I decide to watch Ghost Adventures with my partner. And the two of us are watching, and making fun of it. And it is set in Oregon. They are at this kind of abandoned town. So of course they film it at night, and they bring a priest. And they bring in people who say that they've been possessed by the evil spirits who are there. And I'm like, yeah, you know, this is basic Ghost Adventures.
Julia: Make it as spooky as possible. Just do it up. Priest make everything 20% creepier.
Amanda: Most definitely.
Lisette: It's not the exorcist, it's the exorcist if it was in Oregon.
Julia: At an outside, in and abandoned town.
Lisette: Yes. So of course Zak is like doing his whole, like I'm also getting possessed and feeling bad things. And this is all fun and games, until they start talking about, so ... They ask the priest if there's any groups that have been doing stuff, like that they know of. And they're like yeah. So apparently there's these group of witches, and some people say that they've come here directly and done like mysterious rituals. But they said that every year, they have a camp of witches nearby. And they're right nearby, and Zak's like, they're like over there somewhere. So they keep talking about this, and they even say that they tried to interview some of these witches. What are they hiding? What are these witches hiding? And as they're talking about this, I'm like you know what? This sounds ... I'm pretty sure they're not lying about the witches gathering part. Because there's a lot of witches in the pacific northwest.
Julia: Sometimes they gather sometimes.
Lisette: Yeah. So I kind of looked this up. I actually googled it to see if the town was near any event that I was familiar with. And turns out, that something called Reclaiming Witch Camp happens every year, right near this town. And witch camp is basically a spiritual retreat for witches. Specifically people who are actually ... My tradition kind of takes a lot from the reclaiming tradition, which is a lot about ecstatic ritual, and self development, and justice magic, and some pretty cool fun stuff. So when I heard this, I was just laughing. And we actually had to turn off the episode, because I was like, I need to tell everybody that Ghost Adventures did an episode talking about-
Amanda: Hold my beer, I have news.
Julia: There is nothing like going on a retreat with a bunch of your friends, and colleagues, and someone from Ghost Adventures wants to interview you. That would just ruin a retreat.
Amanda: Yeah, or like I don't know, privacy and safety.
Lisette: So apparently there is a article, and I could probably also share it. It's called The Wild Hunt. So it's like a Pagan centered kind of online magazine. And they did an article saying like hey, Ghost Adventures tried to interview the pagans. And of corse the pagans were like, fuck no, we know what you're going to do to us. Or like, we know exactly how you're going to portray us.
Julia: We know the villain edit you're going to put on this. We know what's up.
Lisette: So they kind of like, damned if you do damned if you don't. And yeah. So this kind of goes into the whole pop culture. How the occult is seen in majority culture. So, like I have a lot of feelings about that. Personally I have definitely like struggled against peoples preconceptions of my religion, and my spirituality. From the joking aspect like, do you sacrifice a virgin every Sunday?
Julia: I mean like, someone would probably notice if we did. Not going to lie.
Lisette: And we do have a ... We joke around in my group that we have a specific ... It's hard to find a virgin these days.
Julia: That's true. It really depends on how specific you are with your level of, what makes a virgin a virgin.
Lisette: Exactly. So as long as you haven't done at least one thing, you're considered a virgin. So it can still work. I can still sacrifice anybody on the street.
Julia: That's fair I suppose. That is true.
Amanda: This is sarcastic to be clear.
Julia: We're definitely not talking about actually sacrificing a person. But I could also be like, have you been skydiving before? And someone says no, they're technically a skydiving virgin.
Lisette: Right now we are skydiving because we're hurdling through space, maybe.
Julia: That's true. Aren't we always. We were born skydiving.
Lisette: Anyway, so I have a lot of feelings about the majority culture's view on witchcraft. And a lot of it is tied with the gendered aspect. I mean we could talk about the fact that witches and villains in movies are portrayed in a very antisemitic way. We could talk about how a lot of magic that's associated with black and brown people are seen as demonic and evil. So there's a lot of racial and gendered associations with magic in majority culture and you also have the ones that are seen as, even like the fluffy and loving light. Essentially you have the white woman, who's very calm and loving and then you also have the magical negro trope.
Julia: Yeah, that is a thing.
Amanda: Yeah, there's space Jews. There's fantastic racism. TB tropes actually has a really good breakdown and list of places that these many tropes pop up.
Lisette: Yeah. Honestly you can go through so many of them. And honestly part of it also ... The one thing I did want to talk about is this treatment of witchcraft as either completely tied to the frame of specifically Christianity, but a lot of times Abrahamic traditions. Or on the other hand as something completely fantastical and has no grounding in reality. No actual experiential or group belief in the real world. And this kind of talks about how we talk about mythology and not just mythology in western traditions, but mythology and religious stories from other parts of the world. So even when we say Hindu mythology it's part of an active religion.
Amanda: Living tradition.
Lisette: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So a lot of that is kind of skimmed over or seen as ... And this is the colonialist influence, I think, is that it's savage or inferior or less developed. That these types of traditions are not as sophisticated or not as-
Amanda: Or false.
Lisette: Or not as grounded in reality. One of my favorite things, and actually a really big part of my own spiritual practice, is storytelling. And storytelling as a kind of truth telling magic. And one of the things that I loved to learn when I was ... Actually when I was in college I took a number of classes on non-western religions and one of my favorite classes was on oral traditions and oral storytelling. And some of the things that I think are really interesting is the way that non-western view of time and non-western view of what is fact and what is fiction and what is embellishment is really, again, calling back to our issues with definitions, very amorphous. It's very porous.
So when you have a story that is about a type of hero and how he or she got to a certain place or got a certain skill, in a lot of ways it really does tell the truth about that society or about that culture's heritage. And it doesn't tell the whole story when you just call it a myth.
Julia: I think when it came to when I was studying religion and mythology and folklore in college, that was as a freshman and really starting out early on. That was very much a difficult topic for me to kind of comprehend at the beginning because I was coming from a history background and obviously a western white background because that's how I was raised. So that was one of those things where finally when it clicked into my brain it was this really transformative experience for me and just my understanding of religion in the world. And I love that you brought it up in the conversation here.
Lisette: Yeah. I think it's one of those things I always love to just kind of muse about is how many of what we call these myths or these creation stories actually have some element of truth or understanding that's just being used through many, many years of religious context or spiritual or cultural context that we just don't have because a lot of the time western tradition strips context.
Julia: Yes it does.
Amanda: Yeah, it absolutely does. I mean that's kind of the point of the scientific method right? Is to distill out things like context, like history, like tradition, like metaphor, and to only value those things that can be written down and quantified and abstracted in particular ways. And that's useful for chemistry and for whatever, certain kinds of medical studies. But that's not the whole of how human beings learn and transmit knowledge.
Lisette: Yeah. Absolutely. And my tradition is alongside ... One, because it was created by a black woman and a black woman in America, a lot of the way that we interact with our gods and our traditions and our practices is from a understanding of being aware of cultural appropriation and taking things out of context. One of the things I really appreciate with Katrina is that she constantly calls back to the origins of whatever practice, whatever teaching that she does. And this is something that most oral traditions around the world do, is they call back to what was the origin, who was the person who taught you this? And that's at least a big part of my tradition and it's a big part of a lot of non-western religions. Or non-westernized religions, I think might be a good way to put it.
Also talking about kind of pop culture is one of the things that I like to note is the way that certain, especially TV shows, showcase actual witches. Even if they kind of talk about, yeah, they're pagan or they're Wiccan, is usually the go to. They try to give the actual context behind voodoo or Santeria. On a very shallow level it's almost always through the lens of a western and Christian American view. So this idea that this is weird, it's kind of dark, and often ... In police procedurals it's almost always this person who's like I did this because I felt spiritually compelled to sacrifice this person for-
Amanda: It's criminal. It's demonic. It's anti-Christian. That's often, if not the text, then the implication.
Lisette: Exactly. And as much as part of me still loves it for some reason Supernatural is one of the worst.
Julia: Yep. Like the second episode they have a wendigo as the monster of the week and it's very cringeworthy. It's very, very bad.
Lisette: Oh yeah. And oh, there's also the one episode where one of the witches that they work with has a black woman who turns into a dog as the witches familiar. That was like oh, no, no.
Julia: Just oh no in general. And we can talk about the J.K. Rowling scandal with Nagini. We can talk about the new Charmed reboot where they're supposed to be afro-Latina but they are for some reason tied to Welsh and Celtic mythology. There're a lot of things.
Lisette: There is. And one of the things that ... And I actually did this with Kalila Stormfire, and I had this conversation with one of the sensitivity readers, was a reason behind why Desiree, one of the characters in my show, is a black non-binary person and they are very connected with Aphrodite, a western Greek goddess. And a lot of this is something that I've had a conversation with a lot of people, which is especially in the United States, the primary context with non-Christian religions is western gods. So Celtic gods, anything that, especially if you're a millennial and you look up paganism. I know so many black and brown witches who have western gods as their primary deities. And it's really only until recently including myself where people actually feel comfortable going along their ancestral line or going along other cultures.
And it's one of the big conversations, is ... And I don't necessarily feel fully prepped to be able to talk from this perspective, is the black American connection to religion in the United States. There is voodoo and Santeria but, especially black American, there's not a lot else. There's not much else other than Christianity which was imposed upon black African slaves. So I think there's an important conversation to be made, not only about traditions that are being kind of brought forward, that are brought from the past. Like what we consider dead religions like Greek mythology. Even though the Greeks still do practice.
Julia: Yeah, they still do stuff.
Lisette: The Hellenic tradition is, they've been doing that. That's still part of their culture. So this concept that there's certain gods that are dead are still kind of not quite accurate. But even now one of my favorite online pagans that I follow ... Her name's Bri Luna. And she is the founder of the Hood Witch. And she has really kind of revolutionized the online witchy aesthetic. But also the connection from modern witchcraft to people of color. So there's a lot of witches out there, including my teacher who is not white. And a lot of people who are not straight or not western that are also trying to get a better understanding and bring some more commentary from a point of view that is not western, not white.
And we can also talk about one of my favorite stories coming out of standing rock. The fight against the pipeline there. Is the way that Native Americans and the various tribes that came and centered around that was very much rooted in their spirituality. And it was a very visible view of what an indigenous religion can inspire within their own activism. And my order and a lot of the groups that I've associated with also root their magic in activism. And their witchcraft in activism.
Julia: I love that.
Lisette: I know recently people have popularized the hexing of certain public figures.
Julia: There was just an article out today about a woman being like oh, well it's a rough time to be a republican because witches are cursing Brett Kavanaugh. I'm like ...
Amanda: Yikes. Try again.
Lisette: I have my personal feelings about hexing public figures and part of me does believe it's not going to be very effective.
Julia: That's fair.
Lisette: I have the belief that, especially when it comes to witchcraft and magic, that if you're a public figure things cancel out where you have a lot of people sending you a lot of protection energy. And a lot of people who are trying to tear you down. So it kind of all cancels each other out. So I don't participate in that necessarily. And honestly I think that people who actually are doing magic that will work don't talk about it.
Julia: That's probably true.
Amanda: And that is something that we see in pop culture as well is magic and witchcraft are kind of coded as secretive because they are either illegal or covert or private and the implication is oh, they should be because they are not "normal" or "mainstream". So it kind of surprised me initially to hear you talk about public performances or demonstrations or public good actions that are part of your community's values. So can you talk a little bit about the personal to public split of your personal practice?
Lisette: Yeah. One of the things that we learn in our tradition and that I've actually learned outside of this specific tradition is kind of like the powers of the witch. And I think it's called the witches pyramid. Don't quote me on that. But there's kind of the four powers of the witch. It's to know, to will, to ... something. Sorry.
Julia: No, I love that.
Lisette: And to be silent is actually considered a power of the witch. So this idea that you really do have ... It might be to love. I can't remember. It's something. One of the things that I know that I've worked with my group on is that we have multiple layers to the way that we work. So we have our public arm. Because we believe that you can work on yourself all you want. And this is a very western belief too, this self actualization.
Amanda: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Individuation, stuff like that.
Lisette: Right. But if you do not act with your community, if you do not give back the stuff that you've worked on, if you're not able to then go out in the community and kind of work with that with your community, you're not really fulfilling that aspect of being human. So we do this public arm as a service to our community and the fact that our community in return has already helped us with our own self actualization and development. So there's that aspect of giving gifts to the community and providing services and support.
And then on the other end I am part of what's called a mystery tradition. So I can't talk a lot about it. But it really comes down to being silent and actually holding things ... One of the things I can say, and this is something that my teacher Katrina always says is I can ask anybody what is mystery? What is mystery? Like how do you define mystery? And her answer is waving a hand right in front of your nose and saying it's right there. It's always right there.
Julia: I like that.
Lisette: So the fact that you don't talk about it is because you can't really talk about it. You can only experience it. And a lot of the work that we do is to experience it. And granted, there is a long history of people having secret orders in order to protect themselves and the people around them and having certain types of rituals that are secretive. One of my favorite stories and favorite moments in history, or I guess religious works, is the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Eleusinian Mysteries was one of the longest running communal rituals and it was set in Greece. So it was in ancient Greece. I can't give you a ton of dates, whatever.
Julia: That's fine.
Lisette: But essentially it was a mystery ritual that anyone could participate in. Woman, man, slave, freeman. You just needed to know Greek. You'd have to speak Greek. I can't remember if you had to be a Greek citizen or not. There's very few writings on it because it was so secretive and nobody broke the vow of silence.
Julia: Wow. That's really cool.
Lisette: Yeah. So this idea of silence or mystery or keeping ... It's really actually a way to acknowledge the value of experiencing that instead of just talking about it or writing about it. So that's one of my favorite. And there are some groups now who are trying to revive the Eleusinian Mysteries even though they don't know all of what was in it.
Julia: Don't know exactly what to do but we'll figure it out.
Amanda: I mean that's the spirit of it right?
Lisette: Exactly. That's exactly how I've been told about it. But yeah, this idea of keeping certain things secretive is also ... I don't know. It's something that is, again, depends on how you go at it. This idea that the in group versus out group kind of suspicion can grow out of silence. Or out of making sure you don't talk about it. But I think in my group, and I know a lot of other groups do this too, in having a public arm you're fulfilling both ends. You're fulfilling, you're honoring your own personal experiences or your group experiences that are very personal and very carefully curated in a way. But you're also offering some of that mystery as well or supporting your community's experience of mystery and self development alongside that.
Amanda: You're controlling your own narrative. You're meeting people where they are in a tactical way. Or in a way that will most benefit them. And I think that's awesome. I think mystery is inherently anti-capitalist.
Julia: Hell yeah.
Amanda: Not evangelizing and not having your end goal being the takeover of the entire world. It's anti-colonial. It's anti-capitalist. I think it makes so much sense that that would be a value for people who practice.
Lisette: Yeah. And I really do appreciate the order and the group of people I'm in because most of them are people of color, they're queer, they're women, non-binary. It really is just as focused in a lot of ways. It's understanding that you can't self actualize in a culture that's toxic. You can't actually do that. So what do we do? We do our best to be human and try to encourage other people to be as human as they possibly can. And in some ways that's the magic of it all too. The craft that we curate is to support that type of story. That belief that we're human and our magic and our will is what makes us even more human and allows us to become more human.
Julia: Amazing. I think that's a great thought to kind of leave our listeners on today.
Julia: Lisette, thank you so much. Would you like to plug anymore of your stuff? Maybe just again.
Lisette: Yeah. My very long podcast name is Kalila Stormfire's Economical Magick Services. I'm the producer and I play the main character.
Julia: She does a great job with it. It's very good.
Lisette: I have a lot of fun with it. And the second season is coming out February, 2019. So stay tuned for that. You can also see me at lisettealvarez.com. And follow me on Twitter @lisettewalking. To spell my name, it's L-I-S-E-T-T-E, walking like you're walking down a road. Because I like to travel. I'm a big traveler. So that's why I have my name as @lisettewalking.
Amanda: And we'll have all your links in the description of the episode as well.
Lisette: Awesome. I'll send you all that too. But yeah, thank you so much.
Amanda: Thank you.
Julia: Thank you.
Amanda: Thank you for joining us.
Lisette: Yeah. No, I'm excited to hear the edits and I apologize for any weirdness.
Julia: No worries at all.
Amanda: And remember listeners to stay creepy and stay cool.