Whenever I think of Mai and Grace, I think of a winter evening I spent in their (Mai’s first, Grace’s then) wooden-floored living room, on the second floor of a council building in Whitechapel, East London. Seven women of different age and background, myself included, are gathered around the coffee table, passing around tarot decks, drinking sage tea, talking lunar phases and birth charts.
Being this #TheMysticIssue, I could not think of anyone more suitable than Grace and Mai, modern-day witches, to talk to all things witchy. Please read on to feel soothed by their words and wisdom, and do follow them on Instagram for daily insights @mai_vi and @her_initiate.
Gaia. Hi Mai! Hi Grace! Welcome to #TheWitchyIssue. Introduce yourselves:
Mai. Hello everyone, my name is Mai Vi. I’m 33 and based in the beautiful city of Bologna.
People call me a witch and I go with it. I’m a half Vietnamese and half Italian Aquarius Sun, Taurus Moon, Libra Rising.
Born and raised in the concrete jungle of Rho, I spent a decade of my life in sunny London to then relocate less than a year ago to Bologna. I’m fascinated by the unknown and mysteries of the Soul, by our ethereal consciousness and bodies made of matter.
I work a lot with tarot and oracle cards, I study the motion of the planets in the sky and lose myself in contemplation of the beauty that surrounds us in every corner. I’m also an artisan, I make natural cosmetics and cold processed soaps and will launch my skincare range infused with magic and love in June. I’ve been busy making magic happen, turning a dream into reality.
Last but not least I’m the momma of two black kitties, Frisella and Pomodoro and I’m madly in love with carbs!
Grace. Hello all, I’m Grace “The Community Witch”. Currently based in London, between East and South East, but I do connect with many souls around the world. I’m a biracial black femme, born somewhere near Padua (Italy) from Ghanaian Mother and Italian father. Luckily I was able to grow up between Ghana, Italy and many other countries I’ve been travelling to for the past 7 years. I’m what people would call a Legacy Witch, somebody coming from a lineage of people practicing the craft, but I’m the first one to use the word Witch. I’ve learnt my practice from my Ancestors, the Ones who walked this Earth before me and still are walking by my side, merging their two traditions exactly like the blood that runs in my veins.
I call myself a Community Witch because my role in this life is to teach, specifically to POC.
I am a guide, I am to teach you, give you the tools to learn your magic, your spells, your connection to your Ancestors and your Power. How to read astrology and use it in a practical way, everyday. Using tarot to give voice to your intuition even when you don’t wanna hear it. I’m a student of Sociology of Religion with a background in Anthropology so my practice and my way of teaching are definitely influenced by my academic work, focusing on decolonising spirituality and making space for POC to
re-appropriate it. To finish off, I’m an Aleyoo, a follower of the Orishas of the Lukumi religion and my religious belief shapes me and my decisions in incredible ways. Maferefum!
Gaia. What does it mean, nowadays, to be a witch and to come out as one?
Mai. To be a Witch today means to be a woman or a man fully aware of all of her/his woken power and to be willing to embark on a journey to meet our True Self. It’s about awakening to our fullest potentials and to embody that in our everyday life with pride. It means to be whole and aligned, to heal our broken parts and to find inner harmony, that balance between our own feminine and masculine energies. It means to work on Oneself. Coming out as a Witch was a vow to myself to heal, to do the work, to live life to the fullest and to be true to my heart, to unconditionally love who I am and to always be myself.
Grace. Nowadays, for too many folx, to be a Witch means to smudge some ill bought sage, take some cool pictures of crystals for instagram and preaching about law of attraction and manifestation.There is an assumption that witchcraft is homogenous and so the practitioners. In 2019, in the post colonial white supremacist society that is the majority of the Euro-American world, Witchcraft is a movement of reappropriation of their ancestral practices by POC, with all the nuances and the translations that our power can have. For me, to be a bruja, curandera, doula of life or death, a blitch a rootworker, a witch or strega, is to accept the role of guardian, teacher, protector of our communities. To be able to stand our ground, no matter how much of us has been erased. Often as practitioners of color means to stand against our families and friends and religions, to be true to our soul and spirit and to the call of our Ancestors. Is to decolonise ourselves and our sense of self worth, and try to gently do the same with our loved ones. A Witch will influence and instigate change within people and their communities. They will instigate change in a society that wants us silent and dependant. Our Ancestors have left an incredible amount of knowledge, much of it has been erased and appropriated. As witches of colour, I believe, we should care to collect this knowledge and be the first sprout of our everlasting roots. As for myself, it’s strange because in my head I didn’t have to come out: I am a witch and I cannot escape it, that is my reality and the people around me are a reflection of that. My Ancestors have always been with me, their protection has always been around me and that is my biggest power.
Gaia. How did you first get acquainted with this world and your witchy persona? Was it through friends, family, books or…?
Mai. Since I was a child I believed in magic; for me It was a deep seated knowing that there was a greater force at work and that we could cooperate with this energy to make something magical happen. My parents are Buddhist and had always made me practice yoga and meditation with them. My mum has been some kind of “village healer”, people would come and go from the house to visit her, practice yoga, mindfulness and to get some chinese cupping. I was around ten when I told my dad that I had a lucid dream, he got very excited and started feeding me books on astral traveling and OBE, sharing his experiences with spirit encounters and that prophetic dreaming had been something running in his mother’s line. Since then dream activity has been a focus of mine, I pay great attention to my dreams and their messages. I chose to work with my ancestors in the dream world.
Does Sailor Moon count as an influence on Astrology? Because I got hooked into planets and constellation thanks to the Sailors and I’m pretty sure to not have been the only one.
My favourite is the, of course gender fluid, Sailor Uranus.
Grace. Again an assumption that “witchcraft” is an homogenous practice. I was born within my craft, my experience of it. Rituals were hidden in the names of Saints and Virgins Marys. Libations would be poured to the ground.
Enchanted herbs would be added to food. So many little details that I connected growing up. I received my first tarot deck at the age of 10 and I have not stopped ever since. I stated to study Astrology and herbs for spell making as a teen.
I was naturally drawn to occult in pop culture because it would make me feel less alone in my practice.
Interestingly, I was heavily involved in the online forums and myspace communities so, by the age of 15, I had a group of friends who would be deeply interested in all things occult and the experimentation was…well classic teenage antics: some did alcohol and drugs, we did magic rituals.
Gaia. A certain fascination for the occult and witchcraft is enjoying a wave of interest like never before. Astrology, in particular, is dominating the pop culture discourse, especially on Instagram where astrology memes are ever so popular. How does this make you feel?
Do you feel it’s diminishing your passions and beliefs or do you feel compelled and stimulated by it?
Mai. I love the astrology memes! They’re probably my favourite thing on the internet. I read them exactly like I would read an horoscope! Astrology belongs to the people, it’s ancient and somehow I think that even the most skeptic of people can feel the connection when looking at the starry sky. It’s beautiful to see it spreading so quickly.
Grace. I love astrology memes myself! Whenever I feel a bit drained or tired I always indulge on some memes. Astrology is a language, just as memes are so, they create connections and they depict parts of reality that many can easily relate to, with no commitment to a “belief”. As for the rest, I think my point of view is fairly clear, Dear White People.
Gaia. Reclaiming a space and a voice for witches in the community in 2019 goes hand in hand with a new wave of feminism. In your own experience, are the two connected to each other and if so how?
Mai. They’re certainly connected. The Witch has always been a woman invested with some kind of unseen but forceful power, able to heal with herbs and to live in harmony with nature.
She would be very respected by her community and almost considered sacred. She would assist the delivery of newborns and dispense wisdom when asked. However history has associated the witch with the dark powers of the feminine, twisted its meaning and started a witch hunt. The people that fell under this label became those deemed scary and dangerous by the communities that once loved them, pushed at the edges of societies, tortured and burned. The archetypal Witch is the evil villain, ugly and old.
I think that in some ways women and men alike had started to become aware and breaking subconscious, and sometimes conscious, misogynistic patterns, giving space to a new conscious feminine energy to rise.
There’s still a long way for this change to happen, it’s taking place on many individual and collective levels but I have no doubt that by reclaiming our own power and vulnerability in the first place, we’ll be able to aid this shift of consciousness.
Grace. WHEW! I could write an essay about this. The issue that I personally have with this conjunction of witchcraft and feminism, is the appropriative tactics of modern white feminism: in the age of hyper globalisation, the problem is the lack of acknowledgment of the erasure that POC (and the queer community for a matter of fact, especially individuals of colour) had to go through in order for white spiritualism to thrive. It’s 2019 and not the 80’s anymore, we have to terminate the absolutism of even the word “Witch+Witchcraft=White People” and acknowledge where modern white witchcraft comes from and how it came to form. As I mentioned before, Witchcraft is now re-appropriated on a global level as an umbrella term so that people can connect and share their practice, whatever that is, no matter what language the individuals speak. There are many types of Witchcraft, we are simply not aware (or better, history erased) their indigenous names. When Wicca is considered holy but other forms of craft which are from POC directed to POC are demonised, then I don’t talk about feminist liberation, I talk about the lack of intersection within the practice. The New Wave, in my opinion is fully created by POC reclaiming their ancestral tools, to share and connect and re-appropriate what has been erased of them and their communities since the 60’s and Euro-American spiritual shambles.
Gaia. I know you both to be particularly active in your own community (be it geographical or digital). You have held meditation and astrology workshops at your places and offer tarot and astrology readings on your social channels daily. Why do you feel there is a need for witchcraft in the community?
Mai. I think that there’s a growing urge for spiritual practices that are relatable and free of dogmas, that feel natural to our Spirit and intuition. While in London I held community yoga and meditation classes because I was asked and went with the flow.
Then that very same group of people wanted to learn the basics of astrology and I taught them, we ended up doing full on rituals and ceremonies, tarot readings on full moons… It was an amazing time and an honour. We learnt from and with each other, I am grateful to all of those that have sat in a circle with me and shared their hearts in vulnerability.
I also do simplified daily tarot readings on my IG stories and didn’t realise how much people loved them until the day I stopped and resumed it a few months after: I got flooded with direct messages telling me how helpful they found the readings, despite not being personal at all, they could all relate to my words. Some of my followers keep track of their daily readings on their journals and use them as a tool to become aware of themselves, of their Souls and Hearts. I found myself in this teaching-guiding position but I’m no ways a guru or an all knowing, I’m a happy person that’s deeply connected to her Soul and body,I think that this is what attracts others in wanting to know me more and practice together. I just share my own experience of the co-creation of my life with the Universe.
Grace. My community is made of POC and LGBTQIA+ folx and as such we are displaced and unrooted by default.
We are disconnected and constantly put under threat, excluded and ignored by the wider narrative, in everything and anything. My work is to make space for POC to investigate and discover whatever experience they might have or they might seek or need of the craft. And most of all is to make that space safe. Believing to belong and belonging to believe are intersections that POC and LGBTQIA+ folx cannot explore easily and mass religions/beliefs are incredibly harmful to us. The craft has always been there and because is rooted in the intersections of identity and not in the intersections of society, it’s highly functional and practical.
Gaia. Has the internet and social media aided, or distracted you, from your own path to discovery of the world of witchcraft?
Mai. Witchcraft comes to you, there’s no need to search for it. If this is your time to put on your fancy hat and travel on a broomstick, you’ll know it. Social media has actually been a fantastic place for me to discover, learn and meet in IRL some pretty amazing people and to share my experiences of the magical world we live in. Some of my best gals come from IG.
The internet is an infinite pool of knowledge, there are lots of legit astrology articles to learn from. There are of course a lot of opinions and people on different journeys and level of consciousness, my only recommendation is to feel what resonates best with your path. Also witches recognise each other, we feel one another so go with that primordial gut feeling.
Grace. It’s hard to say, knowledge is so white-washed that for POC, whatever research we might be on, we get distracted and excluded. I had some of the worst cases of “spiritual shambles” coming from people who took training from the internet.
People petitioning entities and deities without context, or others ending up in difficult relationships after they did attraction/love spells with no sense of self, and without knowing how to actually safely do it. I always tell people to get a practitioner to do the work for them rather than google something to just end up in problems.
Gaia. Do you have any suggestion for someone trying to approach the world of witchcraft and wanting to get closer to her/his witchy side?
Mai. You are your very own best teacher and student. Only you know your path and your truth. No one has the answers you search for except yourself. Don’t trust anyone that will want you to depend on them, their readings, their teachings, their lifestyle. Ultimately you’ll have to become Yourself, your very own Goddess and God and this is a very unique expression of who you are, of your Soul. For whichever spiritual practice you approach and practice, please be aware of cultural appropriation.
I would never stress enough on this subject but it’s extremely important to be conscious of what we’re practicing and of its origins. You should always ask yourself questions in order to expand your consciousness and since we live in an interconnected world, even our spiritual actions have an impact on the whole. Sometimes in our search for Enlightenment we may forget others.
We live in a society that thrives on consumption and on turning everything into a commodity, this perpetuates a long ago established oppression, it turns sacred spiritual practices and tools into a washed out trend while putting pressure on endangered plant species and already marginalised communities (read about palo santo and white sage, please).
This is profoundly wrong and disrespectful, in this time in history we can do better.
Act and practice with integrity, start by discovering and reconnecting with your traditions, with the shamanic practices of your family and land. Ancestral healing is part of the work, our ancestors can guide us in this path and I’m very sure that in your family tree you’ll find a mystic woman or man that lived before you, who’s been waiting to connect with you from the other side.
Instead of purchasing and depending on the many magical gadgets, go out in the wild and personally pick your own stones and crystals, your wands, your seeds. Live like the ancient wild women and men that walked this Earth before us and adapt that knowing into our modern times, educate yourself and question everything.
Grace. You are the Last of Theirs and the First of Yours. You are the last of your Ancestors, and the First of the ones to come. Under a full moon, free a table and light a white candle. Pour a glass of water and call the names of the ones who walked this Earth before you. Not just your blood, but all the ones who inspired you, who believed in you, who protected you.
They walk this Earth with you. They will light that path and that candle light will grow with you, call their names, talk to them, ask them questions, protection, power, intuition, inspiration.
Gaia. Tell us one book, one movie and one Instagram account and one movie every witch should be reading, watching and following in 2019.
Mai. A book would be “Italy’s Witches and Medicine Women” by Karyn Crisis. It’s an amazing journey into the shamanic traditions of our territory, Karyn is a wonderful woman that has and continues study the Italian traditions.
She also gives amazing online classes. (karyncrisisheals.com). The OA on Netflix, ain’t spells and shadow books but it’s really worth watching. Its mind bending story is pretty amazing and I saw a lot of my spiritual journey in it.
Well, since we talked about astrology memes then go follow @trashbag_astrology , simply the best account on IG.
Grace. A book would be “Children of Blood and Bone” by Tomi Adeyemy: it has nothing about witchcraft, but it’s a fantasy novel created by a Nigerian American woman based on Nigerian Yoruba mythos, cosmology and traditions. It features only black characters, it’s absolute selfcare for my black siblings. I think the best thing to do for POC is to first create a connection with their Ancestors and then they will light the path to more knowledge. Research “Decolonising Spirituality” it’s always helpful.
Because I don’t have any movie to recommend (yes, The Craft is great fun but so problematic) I’m just going to spoil the series “Siempre Bruja” for everyone out there: IT’S TRASH. She leaves freedom to go back, as a slave, to her slave master’s son for love, and the spells she uses are a disgraceful mock of my religion’s prayers. On IG follow practitioners of colour and queer folx like @baby_reckless and @cianloup.
Gaia. One last question…What should we be expecting from the stars in 2019?
Any major astrological event we should be looking out for or be preparing for?
Mai. I’ve been keeping an eye out for Uranus in Taurus, the principle of chaos and destruction meets solid ground in a luscious garden, this is a punk kid on steroids entering the well mannered royal court. It’s a 7 years transit, a new chapter unfolding in the area of our natal charts ruled by Taurus. It’s uprooting, you may have experienced the shaking ground under your feet, it brings change and chaos and what’s better than a crisis to reinvent oneself?
Creativity flourishes in times of hardbreak, innovation takes place.
The lunar nodes are also some of my favourite elements to look out for, the North node points to where we’re going to, while the South node from where we’re coming from. At the moment they’re on the Cancer-Capricorn axes, so if you have any personal planets or points in this signs, be aware that some major shifts will occur. I would recommend to look at your natal chart to see in which area of your life these transits are taking place. Astrology can become a tool to navigate life and beside learning more and more on how the celestial movements manifest in real life, we become aware, conscious and present. A good starting point to learn astrology is to tune in with the Moon and her phases, how her energy changes when she moves into a different sign every two days or so.
Grace. The year ahead will be all kinds of incredible shifts but I would recommend people to simply take it step by step and just keep up with horoscopes and memes. Get your local astrologer and ask them for some guidance, check them out on social media, don’t get overwhelmed by looking ahead too much. Also, get to know your Sun, Moon and rising Signs and remember that horoscopes are designed for rising signs and not sun signs.
Gaia. Thanks a lot! Anything else you wanted to say?
Mai. Thank you for having me and to the readers for having made it until the end. I’m always very happy to share my journey and to navigate the mystic and unknown realms of our Souls. It was a pleasure to be here
Grace. Thank you for the platform, I hope I’ve been repetitive enough for everyone to get my points!