LA-based witch, author and magical human Gabriela Herstik is a positive bundle of inspiration for many. Sharing weekly affirmations, ritual guides and mantras that soothe the soul and enlighten the spirit, the self-loving goddess has us transfixed. Gabriela is also an open advocate for sexuality, sacred eroticism and sex magick, and often discusses how to “cultivate a healthy relationship with pleasure and sensuality”, with musings such as “loving my body and honoring and embracing my sexuality is an offering of devotion to Goddess”. Absolutely in love.
We had an opportunity to chat with the powerful goddess about her journey into witchcraft, her latest book Embody Your Magick and the forecast of change for 2021. Read on, magical beings.
How did your journey into witchcraft begin?
Although I have always been deeply fascinated by the unknown, and an adorer of Mother Nature for as long as I remember, my journey with witchcraft began officially when I was about 12-years-old. I had received Brian Froud’s Faery Oracle deck for Hanukkah and became obsessed with Faeries; the spirits of nature enchanted me and literally changed my life. I later read a book by Edain McCoy called A Witch’s Guide to Faery Folk which is when I learned (or rather, remembered) about witchcraft, and that witches and magick were real. I immediately felt a sense of similarity, a sense of coming home- something many witches who discover this path on their own share. It was so comforting and beautiful and even as a pre-pubescent pre-teen, I knew I had found something special.
I had traveled to Salem, MA a few years before this discovery when I was about 9 with my Grandma, twin sister, and my Aunt for my Aunt’s birthday which was on Halloween and that was when I experienced my first encounter with witchcraft in real life. We went to a ritual, and Laurie Cabot’s store (the official witch of Salem), and also the Witchcraft Museum. I stood in front of wax figures that told me about witchcraft, specifically Wicca, and I remember being in awe, and being transfixed, wide eyed and inspired.
Years later when I discovered witchcraft once again, I remembered this visit. I learned that I had been in Salem during Samhain, the Witch’s New Year, and one of the most important holidays of the witch. I also learned about Wicca, and soon after this began to identify as both a witch and Wiccan. Wicca is a neo-Pagan religion that worships the God and Goddess, the cycles of nature, and the magick and sensuality of the self and the Earth. Although I no longer identify as Wiccan, I still identify as a neo-Pagan witch, as I believe in multiple Gods and Goddesses and practice witchcraft.
I have been a witch since and haven’t looked back. I’m still so thankful I found this path so young, though it wasn’t easy as a Mexican-JeWitch growing up in the Deep South. It gave me purpose and it gave me something to focus on during the trials and tribulations of middle school and high school and I am forever thankful for that, and for my devotion to Goddess and the craft.
Your Instagram page is such a positive space of support, love and community, with many people commenting on how your books and teachings have changed their life. Are there any people who had a similar role in your life and growth as a witch and muse?
Thank you so much for saying this! It is still something I am in shock over, being able to help people find magick for themselves is the greatest gift, and I have to pinch myself because it still feels so surreal to do what I do. I am so thankful for it, and it’s never something I want to take for granted.
There have been many people who have been influential in my life and work! Ruby Warrington of the Numinous was a huge catalyst for my journey with spirituality and making it part of my career. She runs a website called The Numinous that I was obsessed with, which at the time focused on the intersection of the material and mystical- it was all spiritual style and conscious living and sexuality, and I was obsessed. I wrote my first ever freelance piece for the site and would go on to be an editorial intern with them. Ruby has always been a huge supporter of my work and I am so thankful for her and it! I met Alexandra Roxo through Ruby, and she has been a big catalyst in my exploration of sexuality and kink from a conscious perspective. She’s also been so inspiring in my journey with the Goddess and the sensual. She wrote the foreword for my latest full-length book, Bewitching the Elements and I am so grateful for her and her love.
Another huge advocate of my work whose own work inspires me deeply is Theresa Reed, The Tarot Lady. I call her my spiritual mom because she’s a punk witch icon who has been a staunch supporter of my work since my first book came out. Having her as a colleague and a part of my spirit family is super special. My best friend and one of my favorite astrologers Amelia Quint is another person who has changed my life for the better. We met when I was also living in Columbia, South Carolina, when we both realized we wrote for the Numinous after our hair stylist introduced us! Last year we started performing rituals together and went from having a soulship- a term we coined to describe our soul level best friendship- to being magical partners, and it’s one of the most special things to ever happen to me.
And someone I don’t have enough words to express my gratitude for is Naha Armady, whose school of Hermetic Sciences and Magical Arts, 22 Teachings, has changed my life. Naha’s support of my work has been such a bright flame in my life, and her own commitment to magick her knowledge is truly incredible. Through 22 Teachings I have grown so much as an occultist and found the most amazing magical community ever. The weekly convergence of the occult lodge I attend- called the AM Lodge- has been a backbone in helping me survive this pandemic. I highly recommend attending to anyone interested in Hermetic Qabalah and High Magick- plus it’s on Zoom so you don’t have to be in LA to attend (though the brick-and-mortar school here is absolutely incredible.)
You recently posted about finishing up a 27 week working with 22 Teachings. Can you tell us more about your work with the school?
Ha, I love that I was writing about the school before I saw this! Absolutely. 22 Teachings has a weekly convergence of its occult lodge called the Arboretum Mysticum. Each week, we come together as a lodge to perform ceremonial magick and study together all in honor of the Divine within each of us. There’s theurgy, alchemy, tarot, and astrology involved- it’s the real deal. Confusing the first few times you attend but once you get it, it’s incredible.
For this 27 week working, we went through the occult classic “Mystical Qabalah” by Dion Fortune chapter by chapter and discussed it and then did ritual workings based on the text. The ritual is a combination of intoning Hebrew letters and doing meditation in what’s called the interior temple. We went through the ten spheres on the Tree of Life and did specific workings based on each of these, so there was a level of doing a set of rituals within another set of rituals. It’s one of the most special, powerful and magical things I’ve ever done.
I could talk about how thankful I am for everyone at 22 teachings- Naha, Whitney, Frank, Vanessa and Ann- it’s such a special team and school. Having a magical community that I get to see every week is the biggest gift, and I really can’t explain how much it’s helped me through this pandemic. It’s donation based to attend the lodge right now, and all the past workings are on the 22 Techings website. I can’t recommend the school, all the classes, and the lodge enough.
Happy almost birthday! As an Aquarius sun do you have any birthday rituals that you plan on engaging in this year?
Thank you so much! My birthday falls the day after Imbolc (or on Imbolc depending on your practice) which is the halfway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox. Imbolc is when the earth begins to wake up, an energetic reminder of the potential of spring, and of light being around the corner. It’s a Celtic holiday that celebrates the Goddess Brighid, patroness of poets, healers and artists. I usually celebrate by incorporating some candle magick into my daily ritual practice and doing a small spell or ritual to go with it.
This year I kept it simple and did a simple candle spell during my morning meditation practice and then celebrated my birthday. I combine gratitude and celebration for a new year with my reflection on the winter so far, and excitement for what’s to come. One of my favorite birthday traditions is spending time at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, my favorite place in LA, and this year was no different! I spent time social distancing with friends before getting a phone tarot reading, eating cake with my pod, and feeling loved and adored. It was a really special birthday.
What is your favorite part about Aquarius season?
I love both of the lunations during Aquarius season! We have the Leo Full Moon and the Aquarius New Moon during Aquarius this season, and this year we have five planets in Aquarius during Aquarius season! I love the Leo Full Moon because it adds a solar fire to the Full Moon, since Leo is ruled by the Sun. It’s playful and erotic and creative and joyous- all of my favorite things- and I feel like it’s such a good time to really charge up whatever it is that fuels your magick and desires. The Aquarius New Moon, which falls on Friday February 11th, feels like a spaceship to the future through the realm of the spirit and the mind. It’s so fun and feels different from other New Moons because of the expansive energy Aquarius lends to it.
It’s a time that feels like anything is possible- and as I write this two tiny little hummingbirds came and sat right in front of me! Confirmation! I think Aquarius season is a really powerful time to dream big. To indulge in what makes us unique without letting our ego get inflated- Aquarius energy knows how to balance love for the self with that of the collective. It’s when we can envision powerful new futures for ourselves as well as the earth and all Her children.
Your latest book Embody Your Magick is a guided journal created to help readers develop a deeper connection to themselves through the written word. Can you share your process into discovering the power of the written word?
Absolutely! So I have been a huge journaler on and off since I was in high school, but it’s really since I started a daily ritual practice in November of 2018 that I noticed how important journaling is for my mental health. I am super Aquarius, with my Sun/ Venus/ Mars there, with a Libra Rising, Scorpio Moon and a Pisces Mercury, so not only does my mind go a million miles an hour, but I am also very sensitive and deeply emotional. I think a lot and I feel a lot, and besides weekly talk therapy, one way I noticed that I was able to move through my anxiety and process my feelings and thoughts was through journaling.
Having a journaling practice throughout this pandemic has helped me get out of anxiety spirals, and has helped me keep my head above water. Because journaling is a way of moving my thoughts from my interior world in my brain to my exterior world on paper, it helps me feel safe. It allows me to stay sane. I always say that your journal is a literal safe space. It’s a space where you can be as honest, as petty, as dramatic, as ridiculous as you want. Having self-compassion and not judging yourself are vital, but I think that allowing yourself the freedom to say what’s on your mind is super important.
Between being a professional writer and author, writing poetry for fun and journaling, I already had a connection to words. But when I became a witch, when I realized the magick and potential of words to create, to charm, to create, to protect, to banish, I really began to have reverence for the written word. Embody Your Magick is an extension of my own work, of my own journaling practice, and of my own love of magick.
You’re a big advocate for the cannabis community. What are some of your favorite cannabis products?
I absolutely love Wyld edibles, they are my favorite edibles hands down and as I only smoke on super special occasions, they’ve been a saving grace through quarantine. Their peach gummies have 10mg of CBD and 5mg of THC in each piece and are my favorite. If I am smoking on a rare occasion, I love Sublime Cannabis’s Fuzzies Wedding Cake pre-rolls. I also love Lagunitas Hi-Fi Hops as an alternative to alcohol. I really want to try Pure Beauty pre-rolls and the Miss Grass mini pre-rolls as well…one day!
I also love what Last Prisoner Project is doing and think they are a really important group- they are reimagining a future where people aren’t imprisoned for cannabis charges, and are committed to freeing those who are. I also wrote this roundup for my High Times column about Black-owned businesses to support, and highly recommend all of the ones listed!
2021 is a year signifying hope and potential change, with the possibility of growth from 2020. Can you share with us any important astrological moments that will mark 2021?
Yes! We have Saturn and Jupiter in Aquarius, and they will be there together for most of the year. This is big, a potential for things to change and transform in a way that supports the collective, though this is never usually in the way that’s expected. But a major moment is the three squares we have between Saturn- the planet of time, structure and boundaries- and Uranus- the planet of transformation, upheaval, and innovation.
The squares fall on February 17, June 24th, and November 26th. This is a time when unpredicted shit may happen, and as my wise astrologer Goddess Amelia Quint says in her latest astrology forecast for her podcast Bad Astrologers, the best thing we can do is be prepared for the unexpected by looking to see where Saturn is in our chart and caring for ourselves in a way that supports this. I think that’s really just 2021 in general- figuring out what structures can help us feel safe and committing to that. Astrology is definitely less tense and difficult than last year, but it’s still intense. Making sure that you find ways to nurture your soul and spirit, making sure to find ways that help you feel pleasure, making sure to find ways to feel gratitude for what you have are all important.
Photography: Alexandra Herstik @alexyael
Interview: Sahar Nicolette
Gabriela’s Vision Lightning Peak bong from Puffco