I’ve been waiting for my letter from Hogwarts for 15 years. I remember the agonizing anticipation of sifting through the mail each night, my 11-year-old self whole-heartedly believing that one day the wax-sealed envelope would arrive and finally set me free from muggle mundanity. But the letter never came, and I was forced to swallow the harsh reality that I was just a regular, degular, shmegular girl (not from the Bronx). That is, until I stumbled upon Gabriela Herstik’s Instagram account.
The writer and self-described “Witch Carrie Bradshaw of L.A.” is here to make you believe in magic. Not the Wingardium Leviosa kind, but your own personal magick. In her first-ever book, Craft: How to Be a Modern Witch, Herstik completely demystifies modern-day witchcraft with a fresh, emboldened, and hyper-relatable voice. She transforms the often intimidating and arcane subject into an approachable form of self-care that can be practiced by anyone willing to learn. In fact, you could almost swap out “witch” for “empowered, liberated woman” and the book would still read seamlessly.
Flipping through the pages of Craft made me realize I no longer had to wait for that dusty letter. I’m a witch! And you probably are too.
We sat down with Herstik to dive into the meaning of modern-day witchcraft and unpack the ways we can all start harnessing our energy and inner witch—muggles included.
Describe what it means to be a Millennial witch, especially to those who may not be as familiar with the occult.
Being a millennial witch means practicing witchcraft in the modern age. It means being a young wo/man in tune with their inner divinity in the 21st century. Witchcraft is a nature-based spiritual path that works with magick and ritual, and honors the earth and her cycles (as well as honoring the cosmos). It often honors the divine feminine as well, though since witchcraft isn’t a religion for everyone, it doesn’t always. Being a Millennial witch means growing up in the modern age—social media and all—and using esoteric practices and magick to find connection to the seen and unseen. It means reclaiming our power as wise women, as healers, as magicians, as creators. In a heavily politicized society, witchcraft means reclaiming our bodies, sexuality and selves; it means reclaiming our magick. We do this through spells, through working with energy and the subtle body, through meditation and cleansings, through being conscious of the energy we give and receive, among many other things. Being a millennial witch means being unapologetic of your magick in the age of Trump—it means weaving a new paradigm that honors women, minorities, and those who are often ignored by society at large.
When did you realize you were a witch and what was it like telling your family?
I’ve always been spiritual, even when I was really little. But I consciously realized I was a witch when I was 12, right before my bat mitzvah. I had received a deck of oracle cards that led me to a book on the craft, and I was hooked. I had gone to Salem a few years before on Halloween and had been to the witchcraft museum where I learned about witchcraft. Finding this book took me back to that, and more than anything, witchcraft automatically felt like coming home. I had already decided I was a witch when I was sent to a month-long Jewish sleepaway camp before I entered the seventh grade, where I cried every day for the first week. When I was there I read about different Goddesses, wrote letters to Bastet and found magick in the natural world. I think I told my parents I was a witch on the way back home, but they don’t remember me telling them. I think they thought it was just a phase. There were actually a few years when my mom wouldn’t let me buy books with the word “witch” in the title. For a long time they were worried that if I wrote about my practice publicly, people would think I worshipped Satan or that I was “evil.” Now, they understand more of what witchcraft is, that it’s why I’m here and that it’s who I am. They’re both incredibly supportive and really did their best understanding where I was coming from, even when I was a teenager.
You’re originally from the South. When did you decide to move to L.A. and can you describe what the witch community is like here?
So, I was actually born in San Diego and lived in Woodland Hills until I was six. My family moved to Buffalo, New York, for a few years before settling outside Atlanta, where I went to school from fifth grade up until I graduated. I went to the University of South Carolina, and was honestly convinced I was going to move to NYC when I was done. By then, my parents had moved back to San Diego. I always said the only way I would move back to Los Angeles was if I got a job with Vivienne Westwood. Then I landed a PR internship in her U.S. headquarters in West Hollywood and moved back here!
The witch community is steadily growing. There’s definitely more of an emphasis on the wellness side of spirituality than there is on magick and witchcraft, but even since I moved here almost two years ago, the witchy community has been growing and growing. Now you can find multiple new and full moon rituals each month, spell and candle craft classes and workshops and other like-minded witches pretty easily. The witch community here is super diverse, and I think it’s now really starting to spread and grow.
What’s your favorite part about living in L.A.?
The romance! There’s something so special about it here, I really think the spirit of the land of California is so special. I used to dream about it all the time after I moved away. Personally, I love Hollywood. I always say that there’s a million downtowns, and cool trendy areas, but there’s only one Hollywood. The spirit of Hollywood is so strong; I really love it. I love that I can drive an hour to Malibu, I love that I can drive a mile down the road and end up on a hike that leads me to a secluded field where I can bask in the sunshine. I love that there’s an emphasis on relaxation and wellness. I don’t think I can pick just one thing. I think I just love L.A.
You’re both Jewish and Mexican and have said before, “I’m too Mexican for the Jews and too Jewish for the Mexicans.” How do you view your identity from both a cultural and ethnic lens? And how has this identity shaped your perspective and your witchcraft?
So, I’m first-generation American, to an Israeli father, who’s a reform Rabbi, and a Mexican mother. My mom grew up in the Jewish community in Mexico City and her whole side of the family is still there. I grew up surrounded by her culture; speaking Spanish, eating Mexican food, and visiting Mexico regularly. I have always been so drawn and connected to Mexico; the energy of the country, the color, the smells, it’s such a special place. But the Jewish community there is very tight. It’s like its own little world; you’re kind of already considered an “other.” It’s very different to be Mexican than it is to be a Mexican Jew. In the South, there weren’t a lot of Latinx families in my dad’s synagogue. All the Jewish kids my age felt different than I did. Ethnically, I’m Jewish. Culturally, I’m Jewish and Mexican. When I discovered witchcraft I really distanced myself from Judaism; it was something that surrounded me consistently until I graduated high school and went away to college. But my Mexican identity has always been something I’m super connected to. It’s confusing because it’s my culture, but not my ethnicity so I still struggle with claiming it, but it’s a big part of who I am.
It wasn’t until the past six months that I’ve even felt comfortable learning about Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, but now I finally am. As far as my magick being viewed through a Mexican lens, I work with herbs from Mexico as well as some folk magick customs, like using an egg (or huevo) to cleanse of sickness. More than anything, my mixed identities and growing up in the South have taught me about who I am. My practice with witchcraft feels somewhat separate to these cultures in many ways, but at the same time they’re one in the same because they’re how I live and view the world around me. Something I really love about both cultures, though, is that we celebrate and party; we party hard!
Along with being a witchy queen, you’re a fashion critic and a self-described “fashion alchemist,” which is so great. Can you talk about the role fashion plays in shaping who you are and reclaiming your feminine energy and power?
Oh, thank you for calling me a witchy queen! What a compliment! Fashion is my first love. It’s a huge part of who I am. Both sides of my family worked in the garment industry. My paternal grandma survived over three years of concentration camps because she was a seamstress and was able to stay in the seamstress’s quarters of Auschwitz and sew uniforms, alongside her sister. My paternal grandfather was a master weaver; they met when he was teaching her how to load anti-missile tanks and said that her fly was unbuttoned.
For me, fashion is a glamour. It’s a way to reclaim the way I’m seen. It’s a veil in which I allow to be draped over myself. I decided I wanted to be a fashion writer when I was 14, started a fashion blog (Breathing Fashion) the following year, and worked toward that goal up through college, where I had multiple internships and freelance jobs with fashion magazines and sites. Fashion is what gave me purpose; it’s what colored my world and inspired me, and it’s what still does that to this day (with a little more magick involved).
I love being ultra-feminine in my style, and I love to wear bondage and kink-inspired accessories. My favorite glamour, or style spell, is red or orange lipstick and a fresh shaved side. Fashion is my spiritual armor, my protection and a way in which I connect to the world around me. I’ll match my outfit or makeup to the tarot card I pull in the morning, to where the moon is in the zodiac, to flowers or crystals. Taking time to feel the energy of the day and ask myself what I need to feel the most centered or passionate or energetic, (whatever I need that day) and wearing colors or an outfit to compliment that is super powerful and a really potent form of practical magick. Fashion is fun for me; it adds magick to my life, and brings in color. I use fashion as a form of physical manifestation, which is why I call myself a fashion alchemist. Being ultra-feminine and unapologetic in my style is a way I get back at hetero-patriarchal norms.
Describe your style in three words.
This was way harder than expected, but I have to go with kinky-glam, feminine, wild.
Who are your fashion muses?
Vivienne Westwood is my number one! Venus, the Roman goddess of sex, love, beauty, and pleasure, is my other muse. Iris Apfel, Rihanna (THE QUEEN), Madonna, Lady Gaga, Yeha Leung, Michele Lamy, Dita Von Teese, Mother Earth, my coven—I have many. Honestly, I’m my own muse too!
Music-wise, who are you currently listening to?
Edith Piaf, Amy Winehouse, Willow, True Widow, the Strokes, the Cramps, Envy on the Coast, 1st Vows, Creepoid—and a bunch of embarrassing music from high school because I love a stroll through memory lane.
Best witch stores in town?
Any advice for budding witches?
Ask your family about any folk magick customs. See what kind of magick is in your lineage. Go to your local bookstore, or used bookstore, and spend time in the metaphysical/occult section, looking at all the books on witchcraft. Read and see what you’re drawn to. Your magick doesn’t have to look a certain way to be valid! Use the internet! The Hoodwitch is a great online resource. I also have a witch 101 column called “Ask A Witch” on Nylon where I talk about everything from tarot to moon magick to witchcraft’s most confusing sayings. Listen to podcasts—I love The Witch Wave. Go to your local metaphysical store and ask if they have classes. Use Instagram and Twitter (and #witchesofinstagram) and start connecting to your own energy. Gaze at the moon, learn about what it means when she waxes and wanes, talk to the natural world, listen to your intuition, and believe in your own magick!
Do you have a favorite excerpt from your book Craft: How to Be a Modern Witch that you can share with us?
Sure! These are from two different sections, but some of my favorite passages. You can read more from Craft: How To Be A Modern Witch by ordering it too!
“A witch is many things: the medicine woman, the slut, the one without children, the activist, the outcast; the witch has always lived and will always live. A witch is a healer, a woman in tune with her sexuality, someone who works with the Earth, anyone who abides by her own rules. Very often, witches were the protestors, the catalysts, the ones calling for justice and using all their tools, physical and otherwise, to create change. A witch has always been someone who refuses to abide by the societal constructs of the time. She is an outsider, rooted in her own decisiveness; the witch has always been a threat.”
“During the medieval witch hunts, women who were even the least bit comfortable with their sexuality were often deemed witches. A sexually liberated woman has always been seen as a threat to the patriarchy. However, witchcraft has always been sex-positive. Sexual energy is some of the most potent energy out there—connecting us to our Higher Self, the Universe and love.”
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