Spells for the Modern-Day Sorceress - OZY | A Modern Media Company

Spells for the Modern-Day Sorceress

Spells for the Modern-Day Sorceress

By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu


Because this is #BlackGirlMagic.

By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu

Weary from a long day of gray skies, I began my magic ritual while huddling away from the rain. Grains of salt tickled my fingers; cool water washed over my hands. Then a quick pass over a warm candle flame and incense to cap things off. Earth, water, fire and air — so the cleansing process goes. My spirits are lifted already — just like magic.

But this is not a hex. These mystical practices, drawn from centuries — and probably dusty tomes — of witchcraft today arrive in my inbox via a digital newsletter called “My Feminism Involves Witchcraft.” It’s courtesy of 23-year-old Haylin Belay, a modern-day witch in New York. Her diary-like writings each revolve around a spell or ritual, all made fuss-free with ingredients you can find in your home, including mint, salt, oils and spices. Belay, who works with healing crystals and frequents apothecaries, calls her brand of magic “a place to reclaim your personal power” when things are falling apart, times are tough or you’re in a rut. Even if you think magic is hogwash, her musings are a short and sweet respite from the heavy humdrum of work, life and even love.

The sorcery is spreading fast.

To be clear, her witchcraft involves no necromancy, dark arts or Vodou. Rather, feast your eyes on a poetic ritual for “love in loveless times” when you’re feeling cold, alone and lost: Soak in a bath with a potion of vanilla, cinnamon oil and rose petals. Don’t forget to “add your gratitude” and let a teaspoon of fresh honey “melt on your tongue as you sink into the hot water.” Or cast this special spell to attract more money: First, bake discs of baking soda, sea salt, thyme, basil and mint and then allow them to slowly dissolve in your shower — a “serious cleanser for those stressed by rent checks and unexpected bills,” says Belay. Other suggestions revolve around banishing winter woes, forming feminist covens of witches and harnessing the moon’s energy.

The sorcery is spreading fast. The newsletter already boasts 1,000 subscribers. And beyond that, others are rushing to meet the growing demand from an oft-ignored community inside the world of modern magic. Mainstream conceptions of witchcraft usually conjure up images of white witches in Western Europe and New England “dancing around naked in moonlight and pouring potions into cauldrons,” says Belay, who credits her first forays in kitchen magic to her Ethiopian upbringing. But a more inclusive movement is afoot: Blogs and forums are humming with novice witches of color trading tips while Black Witch University prepares to open its doors in 2017.

Granted, if you’re looking for truly mind-bending hocus-pocus, you may come up empty-handed. This witchcraft is no cure-all for your money problems or magic bullet for your dating life, and it likely won’t work like the fancy wands at Hogwarts. But if these rituals help banish your feelings of powerlessness and give you agency in your life, then Belay believes the spell has worked. Apparently, that’s where the real magic happens.

Video by Nat Roe

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