Popaganda: The Feminist Beauty Secrets of Witches

In the second episode of Popaganda’s GLAMOUR season, host Carmen Rios explores the powerful potential of witchy beauty rituals—like hexing the patriarchy, carrying empowering talismans and invoking the names of powerful goddesses alone to yourself in your room. 

A group of magical experts in witchcraft and its intersections with beauty culture guide Carmen’s investigation: Pam Grossman, the host of The Witch Wave podcast and the author of Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power and What Is A Witch; Gabriela Herstik, the author of Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft and the forthcoming Bewitching the Elements: Finding Empowerment through Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit; Dianca London, the former online editor of Well-Read Black Girl and prose editor of LIT magazine; and Maria Vashakidze, the owner and formulator behind the Portland-based values-driven apothecary Seagrape bath+body.

Witches have long led the feminist resistance—and they even helped shape our contemporary definition of “glamour.” Through conversations and visits with her panel of witchperts, Carmen learns about the closely connected histories of witchy feminist movements and patriarchy-smashing glamour magic, how to cast spells for self-love and social change, and what makes a bar of soap into a magically political self-care device. She also realizes that the real beauty secret of witchy women is a feminist consciousness, and an unwillingness to cave to societal expectations about their bodies and behavior.


Photo via Columbia Pictures

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[a brew bubbling, spooky ambient music]
CARMEN RIOS: Double, double toil and trouble!
Fire burn and cauldron bubble!
With a tube of red lipstick and an eyeliner pen.
We’ll topple the beauty culture created by sexist men.
[pop, then bubbling fades away]
Oh! Hi! Sorry, I didn’t see you there. I’m Carmen Rios, feminist digital media superstar and host of Bitch Media’s Popaganda podcast. And once I’m done mixing up this eye of Newt Gingrich, toe of Photoshopped model, wool of bad-for-me beauty standards, and tongue of Trump, I’m gonna walk you through the beauty rituals of witchy women and the powerful potential they have to smash patriarchy.
[recorded clip from the film Hocus Pocus plays with dramatic orchestral music]
WITCH 1: Sisters, behold!!
WITCHES: [All gasp.]
WITCH 2: Am beautiful! [Gasps.] Boys will love me!
WITCH 1: We’re young! [Laughs.]
WITCH 3: Well…younger. But! It’s a start! Ah, sisters!
WITCHES: [Laughing.]
CARMEN: Many feminists know well that there are two kinds of witches: the myth made in the minds of men and the women living their own damn lives who claim the title for themselves. And there’s a reason that men have been so afraid of the former for the last few centuries.
Perhaps the best, and most distressing, example of these two polarities are the Salem Witch Trials, wherein women were tortured and killed for so-called crimes against a patriarchal and deeply puritanical world order. The designation of women who didn’t play by the rules of God and other patriarchs as “witches” turned them into public enemies, even though looking back, they served a public good. Men turned “witch” into an insult leveled at women for failing to be docile, submissive, subordinate, silent, when in actuality, witches were women who laughed too loud, had sex too much, and otherwise claimed too much power. For these offenses, they were hunted down and killed.
But nevertheless, they persisted. Both of them. The pop culture representation of an ugly, haggard woman who was not to be trusted, who was so power-hungry she would destroy and kill, who was very bad and un-redeemably unruly, lives on this day in fairy tales, in Broadway plays and feature films, in books and in Party City’s Halloween costume aisles. But so, too, does the actuality of a witch, the icon of female resistance and feminist uprising. That exact duality is what turned Dianca London on to witchcraft, centuries after Salem.
DIANCA: I guess a very early starting point would be as a kid watching Disney movies and seeing witches depicted in, I guess in movies like Little Mermaid or Sleeping Beauty, and always sort of rooting for the witch and kind of being sort of drawn to how they were unlikable and they were the villain. But they also had this power about them where me as a kid, I wanted to kind of be more like them than the princesses or the heroines of the story. Because even though they weren’t necessarily included in community in the narratives, even though they weren’t the heroines, they still had their own thing going on. And I kind of felt that was really interesting and kind of cool in a way.
And then I guess I saw, I don’t know, what is it, Teen Witch. I don’t know what year that came out. I think it was probably like in the mid-early ’80s. And that movie seemed to always be on TV when I was a kid, and I would watch it. And I just thought it was really cool how the main character, Louise, is able to sort of conjure all these things and try out these different versions of herself throughout the movie. And then ultimately, yes, she realizes that she just wants to be herself, and that’s the magic that will help her get forward in life. But I just always liked the idea of being able to set something into motion and then maybe using that as a way to either kind of fake it till you make it kind of confidence or to even just create something on your own and then grow into that and see where that journey takes you.
CARMEN: Dianca has racked up a ton of literary credentials. She was a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee, a Kimbilio fiction fellow, and a Callaloo creative writing workshop participant. She’s a VONA Voices alumna, the former online editor of Well-Read Black Girl, and the former prose editor of LIT magazine, as well as the author of a forthcoming memoir. And the notion of a witch as a fierce feminist icon who refuses to let religious extremists design her destiny is incredible personal for Dianca because she emerged from a deeply religious background. And fighting back against what she learned from being conditioned inside of that culture is at the core of her own witchy practice.
DIANCA: I feel like as a person, I’ve always sort of not quite fit into the right boxes that people think I should fit into. And I feel like when it comes, so like a lot of witches, some witches are fine with saying, yes, this is my religion. This is my faith. This is my practice. But then some witches are outside of that construct, and I totally support that too. So, I’m not, I always feel like I’m fumbling around the right language to kind of talk about this ‘cause I’m so indoctrinated in like Jesus stuff from growing up in my childhood. But I do feel that even in the way that I have sort of become a part of communities that identify as witches and even the rituals that I’ve partaken in with my coven and also on my own, I feel like there’s ways in which the lines between this box would be not a witch and this box would be a witch, that I feel like I’m always kind of like standing between two things. Which I feel like works really well with what witchcraft is supposed to be and also what feminism is supposed to be. That there can be many modalities for it as long as you’re not throwing over someone else in a way that is perpetuating the systems that are already sort of oppressing us.
So I don’t know. I feel like I tend to be a pretty open-minded person. I also feel like the way that I was raised, I grew up, like I said, evangelical Christian, but I went to a white fundamentalist Baptist school. But then I went to a Mennonite high school. And meanwhile, my parents were taking me down to the city with them to go to any derivative of Black charismatic, whether it was Baptist, Pentecostal, or a nondenominational church. So, I feel like even then, in the way that I inhabited that type of religion and faith and spirituality was always kind of not necessarily following the quote-unquote “rules.” So, I feel like I’ve always been really open to seeing what can we benefit from seeing various worldviews or perspectives on a certain thing or a particular narrative or a particular history?
And so, I feel like with my feminism and also with the ways in which I’m kind of coming to terms with my history as a person in relation to religion and then also becoming comfortable with embracing the idea of what it is to be a witch, that someone like me who still is at the crossroads, in many ways, of reckoning with my past as what my mom would probably not say to my face, but definitely probably maybe say in her prayers is a lapsed Christian. That I can find ways where maybe I do a ritual that is maybe stemming back from my past of how I use to connect to divinity, but very much so aligned with either a lunar cycle or maybe doing a cleansing ritual or something like that. Because I think a lot of my hesitance to be more overt about claiming the name “witch” or the term “witch” is that I feel like a lot of people will be like, well, but you grew up super Christian. And are you the kind of Christian that believes you’re Christian forever? And if so, are you a Christian witch? Are there Christian witches? And then that’ll make a lot of people upset on both sides of the divide. So, I feel like I’m trying to learn to be comfortable in that liminal space where many things can coexist.
So I guess it’s kind of like intersectionality through ritual or through faith or through maybe just sitting down in a circle with a bunch of really awesome people who you trust and seeing what happens. ‘Cause I really feel like a lot of the old modalities of how we used to embody politics and embody spirituality and solidarity aren’t working, and we have to think of new ways. And we can’t just box ourselves in anymore because people are really complex. And that’s a good thing! Because it gives us an opportunity of maybe seeing what new things we can all conjure up, I guess. But sometimes, that calls for us to be brave as well and to be vulnerable about it, which is hard but possible.
CARMEN: Most recently, witches have burst back onto the political scene as leaders of the fight to unseat the president and his many corrupt cronies. W.I.T.C.H. PDX, a group that defines itself as an “intersectional feminist coven fighting injustice through protest, performance art & ritual,” appears at Women’s Marches and other social justice rallies in all black, faces obscured, pointy hats standing tall, with signs in-hand that read “Witches for Black Lives” and “Hex Fascism.” Witches across the country came together to wish the worst on Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation hearings, hexing him publicly and en masse on the streets of New York City. And troupes of witches have done the same for Donald Trump over the last three years.
[recorded clip plays of witches performing a mass hex, chanting in unison]
WITCHES: …and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned, and let his prayer become sin. Let his days be few, and let another take his office….
CARMEN: These protests, of course, aren’t the first examples of public acts of witchy resistance. In 1968, the feminist organization W.I.T.C.H.—which stood, in that moment, for Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, but changed according to the occasion into an acronym that stood for “Women Inspired to Tell their Collective History,” or even “Women Interested in Toppling Consumer Holidays”—convened in New York City to hex Wall Street on Halloween, causing the market to plunge by 13 points.
Appropriately enough, 13 was also the number of witches that that group encouraged other women to bring into their own covens in some of their earliest literature. “If you are a woman and dare to look within yourself,” W.I.T.C.H. declared in one of their leaflets, “You are a Witch. You make your own rules. You are free and beautiful. You can be invisible or evident in how you choose to make your witch-self known. You can form your own Coven of sister Witches and do your own actions…. You are a Witch by saying aloud, “I am a Witch” three times, and thinking about that. You are a Witch by being female, untamed, angry, joyous, and immortal.”
W.I.T.C.H. went on to protest political corruption, the Vietnam war, and the trappings of gender norms that were seen in images of blushing brides and the girls next door. In fact, the roots of W.I.T.C.H. trace back to the 1968 feminist protests outside of the Miss America pageant. And that, too, is an act of divine coincidence. Because the histories of sexist policies and sexist beauty standards have long intersected.
[recorded clip of an early ’60s Hidden Magic Hair Spray commercial featuring Wanda the Witch, bright music in the background]
CHORUS: ♪ “Here comes Wanda!” [harps emote] “The wonderful witch.” ♪
WANDA: Hi, I’m Wanda. Come on! I have some bewitching news for you about Hidden Magic, a wizardly new hairspray from Proctor & Gamble. It holds, yet loves to be combed!
PAM GROSSMAN: I think we have to start with unpacking what exactly a witch even is and what a witch might look like. So, of course, there have been witches of all genders that have existed in every culture that you can imagine throughout time. But when we think of witches today, we’re usually thinking of a being that comes straight out of the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries during the time of the witch hunts of Europe. And certainly, this is a reaction to a lot of fears that Christianity at the time was stoking. So, the witch would have been, back then, either a woman who was young and sexy and therefore associated with diabolism and the devil because she was so attractive that of course she would lead men astray to the path of sin. Or she was hideous and old and haggard and actually still sexy! If you look at a lot of the engravings by artists such as Albrecht Dürer, the witches are both young and old. So you kind of can’t win. If you are a female who is naked and desirous, you are an aberration, according to the social mores of the time.
And certainly, we still have that binary with us today, right? That if you are too sexy, you’re considered slutty. Or if you’re too buttoned up, you’re frigid. You kind of still can’t win as a woman in [chuckles] today’s day and age. Nonetheless, you know, what we’ve have seen also is that a lot of the witchy fashions that are so popular today still seem to be in dialogue with those binaries. So, a lot of people, when they’re dressing in quote-unquote “witchy wear” are often swathed in fabrics and have diaphanous textiles, and there’s a lot of notions of concealment and control over how much people can see of our bodies. And I think that’s really, really interesting in light of where the image of the witch comes from.
CARMEN: That’s Pam Grossman, a writer, curator and teacher of magical practice and history. Pam is the host of The Witch Wave podcast; the author of Waking the Witch: Reflections on Women, Magic, and Power and What Is A Witch; the co-organizer of the biennial Occult Humanities Conference at NYU; associate editor of Abraxas: International Journal of Esoteric Studies; cofounder of the Brooklyn arts and lecture space Observatory, which offered programming exploring mysticism with a scholarly bent; and she’s the woman who, in 2017, gave us all the gift of WitchEmoji. I reached out to Pam for some insight into the historic intersections of witch culture and beauty culture, I and learned that they’ve been bound together for centuries.
PAM: Sure. So, a lot of the fashions that we’re seeing, they seem to be a rebellious stance against what standards of beauty tend to have us imagine is perfect or attractive, right? And that is always true of the witch. The witch is a figure who is the antidote or the rebellion against patriarchal norms. And I should say cis, white, heteronormative, patriarchal norms. And because of this, anything that has to do with feminine power either is seen as a complete threat to stasis and to what is acceptable and what is attractive, or is reclaimed by people like myself, or perhaps you, who actively want to rebel or lash out against that oppression. And so, we see that time and time again.
Certainly we’ve seen it since the 19th century with the first wave of feminism, when people like the suffragist Matilda Joslyn Gage reclaimed the witch as this figure that was anti-patriarchal. And she romanticized the figure of the witch. Because really, before the 19th century, a witch is not something that someone would want to identify as. It was almost always a negative epithet that you would call someone else to blame them, shame them, silence them, punish them somehow. Whereas, those of us who use the moniker of the witch or the spirituality of the witch or yes, even the fashion of the witch since the 19th century are doing so in direct dialogue and retaliation against that oppression that has been put upon women and queer people and people of color since time in memoriam, really.
CARMEN: Witches are still fighting back on both fronts. They’re refusing to surrender the image of a witch to the patriarchy, and they won’t resign themselves to the male gaze or other normative ideas about beauty.
DIANCA: I feel like it’s like this is very cross to say, so it’s like a big F-you, like a finger to the world. Because I feel like even within my own community, and I don’t mean that in terms of witches or in terms of adult goths [chuckles], but I mean within the Black community, there is a certain threshold of what’s acceptable, what can still be seen as, in the terms of respectability politics, what’s palatable when it comes to Black femininity. And even when it comes to alternative ideas of what Black femininity looks like, I feel like I always get frustrated. I tell my friends, I’m like, when we’re all hanging out, I’m just like, “Wow, HBO could never imagine this. Insecure would never represent us because we don’t exist to them.” I just feel like there’s ways in which kind of embracing gothic subculture or even other music subcultures that have kind of dipped into fashion as well, whether you’re thinking about punk or even like metal, anything like that, there’s this idea that people of color aren’t a part of that, which is like the complete opposite. And I feel like there’s something that I always wanna, I don’t know, I feel like I always wanna remind people like, I’m here, and there are many other people just like me who are totally holding it down and have been for years. And no, we’re not the expectation of what a non-person of color might think of when it comes to a Black woman. But we’re also not the expectation of what another Black person might think we would be. And that it’s fine that we’re into the stuff that we’re into and that we can be sort of cultivating our own definitions of beauty and strength and desirability through that. And that there’s a narrative that we carry with that and a history.
I feel like there’s a book that just came out called Darkly, and it explores the history of Gothic, the Gothic in terms of the musical subculture, and the counterculture, but then also the idea of Gothic narratives, Gothic aesthetics going all the way back, all the way, all the way back in historical times and then charting it to the future. And then also this conversation of race and Blackness and identity. And I just feel like it’s so frustrating that if I go to the mall or if I go to Sephora, I mean, in New York you’re lucky, right? ‘Cause there’s a lot of different types of people. There’s lots of different iterations of beauty that are supported and seen as inclusive here. But if I go to like the Montgomery Mall on Pennsylvania where I’m from, maybe later, when I’m home for the holidays or whatever, I go to the Clinique counter, and they’ll try to quote-unquote “fix my face.” If I tell them I want a certain type of eyebrow, they won’t give it to me because they’ll give me the thing that’s seen as more palatable, more beautiful. And if I’m lucky, they’ll match my foundation. And if there is a woman there who knows how to match my foundation, and she’s a woman of color, she’ll likely tell me to use a different color lip for lip color if I ask for something really dark. So, I feel like there’s just ways in which I just get really frustrated by the ways that even people who think they’re inclusive, even people who are maybe alternative or people who are witchy are boxing in their own expectation of what beauty, of what their identity could look like through the lens of someone else.
PAM: I have an altar in our apartment and it’s the space in our home where I’m very actively connecting to spirit and doing spells and all kinds of rituals. And on that altar, I’m often charging up my rings and certain special pieces of jewelry. And so, when I adorn myself in those items, I feel like I have this extra layer of magic on me that I can take with me throughout the day. Son that’s a big piece of it, is intentionally wearing those jewels and certain symbols. I’m also very intentional about the perfume I wear. I take a lot of magical baths, which is both a self-care and cleansing ritual for me, but is also a way that I can kind of shift my consciousness. And especially before a ritual, if you take a magical bath, it’s a great way to get into a more immaterial space where you can more easily interface with spirit. And so, that’s a big part of it. And then I still absolutely wear makeup. I am someone who, I wear bright red lipstick a lot of the time, and I have for many, many years. And I’m sure there’s a part of that that is about power, right? Red lipstick is such a symbol of kind of the divine feminine. You could talk about Venus energy. It also feels, I suppose, seductive, but seductive on my own terms. It’s not necessarily about pleasing other people. And I think a lot of the beauty rituals and the ways in which I dress myself over the years have evolved to come more about making me feel like an enhanced version of myself or the strongest or best version of myself, as opposed to trying to meet some standard or please some outward gaze.
CARMEN: Glamour magick is centered on these notions of resistance, of embracing our bodies and doing with them what we please. Of showing the world what we want to show them, not what they want to see from us. And of seeing ourselves as we want to, not as others want us to. That practice has magical impacts on our self-image and the cultures that build those boxes around us, and it has deep historical ties to the world of witches.
GABRIELA HERSTIK: So, our definition of glamour as this kind of really intense, specific, and intentional beauty is rooted in mysticism. So, glamour itself is something that veils what lies beneath it. Back in the days where people were scared of fairies, there was idea of a changeling, where a fairy would come and kidnap the human baby and then put a fairy baby in place of the human baby and cast a glamour on top of the baby so the parents wouldn’t be the wiser and wouldn’t know that this is not actually human baby, but a fairy baby. So, we can kind of think of glamour as that, right? Like the clothing we wear conceals our body. The makeup we wear conceals our face. The scents we wear, the aura that we present, all of this kind of, in a way, conceals are our bare truth.
CARMEN: That’s Gabriela Herstik, an author, columnist, and witch who met up with me at The Wing in Los Angeles to school me on glamour magic. She’s the perfect person to have done it, too: Gabriela is the author of Inner Witch: A Modern Guide to the Ancient Craft and the forthcoming Bewitching the Elements: Finding Empowerment through Earth, Air, Fire, Water and Spirit. She also writes on all things mystic and witchy for publications like Allure, Glamour, Dazed Beauty, HelloGiggles and The Hoodwitch. She answers questions about witchcraft in her “Ask A Witch” column for Nylon, writes on the intersections of plant medicine and magic at High Times magazine as the “High Priestess” columnist, and every month shares some sexy rituals in her “Goddess Column” with Chakrubs.
GABRIELA: For me, glamour magick is being intentional with that. It’s using color. It’s using correspondences like maybe certain crystals or scents. It can be anything from channeling a certain archetype or figure who was passed on in your clothing or praying over your clothing. It’s really just using fashion and beauty as a path for intention and for magic. So, that’s kind of what I definitely consider myself a glamour witch, and I really, really am passionate about glamour magick because again, I think that whether you recognize it or not, there’s, you have probably some kind of ritual that you perform every day with your clothing, right? Maybe you put your clothing on the same way, or if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, you might wear a certain kind of clothing. And that’s all glamour magick. And I really believe in the power of ritual, of repetitively doing something to connect us to something bigger. And fashion is already just something that we kind of have that relationship with already, right?
I think that as a Latina woman from, growing up going to Mexico City and seeing my mom and my grandma really taking the time to connect with glamour, that’s been a really big inspiration ‘cause that’s when you go to Mexico or in the Latin community, it’s such a ritual to really care about how you look and take that into consideration. And I think that it can be really empowering for us to be intentional about how we’re perceived and how we move through the world. Even if it’s like you’re stressed, so you’re gonna wear a leather jacket for protection, or you’re gonna wear all black, or you’re gonna wear oversized. Or if you’re really sensitive and wanna channel your heart, maybe you’re gonna wear something soft or something pink or put on some rose perfume. It’s just a really easy and powerful way to kind of shift the everyday into something a little bit more fun and special.
DIANCA: So, I guess for context for me getting into witchy stuff, I’m probably the poster child of everything any evangelical Christian was afraid would happen to their child if they listened to rock music or watched anything [laughs] on TV that depicted the occult or witches or anything like that. But I think for me, I grew up super Christian. There’s so much about Christianity that still baffles me. But one thing that always felt really real was just the idea of prayer or something that you can say something. And if you think about a certain thing in a certain way, then maybe you can set certain things into motion or find the support, whether that’s through God or through your community to get through something difficult. And so, even though I don’t necessarily…I’m still figuring out my connection to those things because I’m going through this whole process of deconstructing from being a person who grew up in evangelical Christianity. But at the same time, I think a lot of those same intentions and ideas are there that also appear in ritual that people who consider themselves witches or identify as witches or maybe as hybrids of various other sort of saints or religions use. So, I think for me, when it comes to beauty and even fashion or the aesthetics that I’ve somehow cobbled together for myself, and then also with rituals that I do outside of that, it’s all kind of one in the same.
So, I guess general things for me is that every time I leave the house, I have on all of my rings. I have on my necklaces. I have always usually have a crystal quartz necklace. Sometimes when I feel like I need to love myself more, then I’ll wear a rose quartz necklace ‘cause that’s really good for self-love and empathy and openness for the heart. And I used to struggle with that a lot as someone who’s the survivor of a lot of random, not random, but different traumas but also someone who’s forever kind of grappling with the impact of having been someone that was—not like I have to say a trigger warning or something—but I was a cutter in high school, and so healing from that. But just ways of keeping myself guarded and keeping myself protected and being sort of in the best head space or spiritual space or vibe space that I possibly can be.
So, in addition to making sure that my jewelry’s all there, then I also always have on eyeliner, like black eyeliner. And I feel like I date myself, but you can figure out what wave of hipster I was a part of [chuckles] or what my age is because I’m all about the black cat eye. Even if it’s dated, I just love it so much because it was something that I wanted to do so much when I was younger, and now I can do it all the time. And I have gotten to the point where if I don’t do that and I don’t put on my eyebrows, I usually draw on Suzie Su-esque eyebrows that my mom says looks just like I draw marker on my face. And she can’t stand them, but it makes me feel more powerful. And they definitely look like kind of intense eyebrows that any Disney villainess would have in cartoons or in films.
But all of those things make me feel more grounded, more protected, especially in a city like New York. Rose water spray helps a lot too. And I always have so many crystals in my pockets. And I don’t even really know fully sometimes if I believe in the actual powers of the crystals or just me reminding myself of the intentions that each of them represent. But they definitely help me kind of like feel guarded and sort of supported and ready to go out and do whatever, whether it’s getting errands or trying to survive Trader Joe’s on a Sunday or teaching for four hours back to back. So, I don’t know. I feel like there’s, I also wear all black, which I don’t know if that’s more of me not wanting to grow up from being a teen Goth or also thinking about the idea of how black is a color that is for protection that oftentimes can dispel negative energy. So, there’s a lot of things that I’m like, I don’t know if it’s like, ‘cause I graduated from high school in 2005, or is it witchcraft? But maybe it’s both, if that makes sense.
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
GABRIELA: For a long time, witchcraft was something that made me feel really othered and really ostracized and very different. Again, growing up in the deep South already as a rabbi’s daughter and a Mexican Jew, lots—
CARMEN: And a witch. [Laugh.]
CARMEN: It’s just a lot!
GABRIELA: I know. It was definitely intense.
CARMEN: Very classical Southern gal, yeah.
GABRIELA: I know, right. Totally lost me.
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
GABRIELA: So, then it didn’t, but now, I can’t really imagine, like, I can’t separate my life from my magic, from my witchcraft. Witchcraft isn’t something that I do. It’s not just something that’s— I’m not just a witch when I cast a spell. It’s really the way I move through the world and the lens in which I move through the world. And I fucking love being a witch. I think it’s so fun and so magical. And sometimes I definitely am like, wow, I wish that I didn’t feel things as deeply or I wasn’t as connected because living on the surface is, I think, easier in a lot of ways. But at the same time, I can’t imagine living that kind of life without depth. And witches have been some of the most glamorous people to ever exist.
CARMEN: Glamour magick is also where many witches enter the craft. It’s where Pam’s earliest memories of mysticism, for example, are rooted, and where many of her contemporary practices are too.
PAM: I think a lot of this starts with us when we’re teenagers because that’s the time when we’re becoming more aware of our bodies. And also, our bodies are doing things that are out of our control, right? There’s suddenly desires. There’s literal shape shifting. There’s also this double consciousness you suddenly get where you are aware of being looked at; you’re not just using your body to look. And because of that, you’re almost becoming this new creature. And there’s a lot to negotiate there, especially when you are born in a girl’s body or a woman’s body and getting the attention that that inevitably attracts, for better and for worse, right? And so, I think so much of fashion and so much of beauty, for young people, is about trying to negotiate your own power. Because you are A, trying to please this outside gaze, or you’re trying to protect yourself from it. And you have these new tools that you can wield, you know, whether it’s makeup or fashion. And certainly, magical aspects of that definitely became relevant to me and I think are to a lot of people.
So, in my case, some of it was literally dressing more witchy. I definitely went through a Gothy phase. I was more of an art Goth, so I wasn’t only just wearing black. I was wearing a lot of glittery, iridescent metallic-y kind of colors too. But definitely a lot of dark makeup and purple eye shadow and all of those cloaking devices that yes, made me feel pretty I suppose, but also made me feel a little bit threatening, I think, a little bit like I was taking back my own control during a time in life where I think you feel like you’re losing control sometimes. So, that was certainly a big part of it for me.
The other thing that I did that I still do is starting to wear jewelry in a much more intentional, what I would call talismanic manner. And so, I would, and I still do this, adorn myself with certain symbols that have deep, magical meaning for me or make me feel connected to certain deities or energies that I want to conjure into my life. You know, it’s funny. If you look at pictures of me when I was 13 years old, I was often wearing either a crescent moon around my neck or a skeleton key. And fast forward, I’m now in my late 30s, and you will still often see me wearing a moon or a skeleton key! So, I haven’t really changed that much. Although certainly, my style has evolved a little bit, but a lot of that is about, yes, adorning yourself and looking beautiful. But I think it’s also a devotional orientation where you are, as I said, connecting to these forces that feel greater than just oneself. And I think there’s also some armoring and protective devices that a lot of us are doing whether with makeup, with fashion, with jewelry, where, by adorning ourselves in these symbols, we are fortifying ourselves too.
CARMEN: The same goes for Dianca.
DIANCA: Well, I think that it all kind of started even in junior high, I think, in a way. I was very much someone that was under the persuasion of Hot Topic and all of the things that that entails, for better or worse. And I think again, a part of being a teenager and being told, no, this isn’t what you should do either by your parents or your school or your community. And then also, internally as an adolescent being told by pop culture what it is to look like a quote-unquote “cute teen” or what it is to be quote-unquote “desirable.” And these ideas of what popular culture tells you to do, I’ve always sort of wanted to do the opposite. And so, a lot of the things that I wanted to do or tried to do when I was younger but didn’t do well just because when you’re a teenager you don’t really know how to use eyeliner or you use it too much or you just don’t have access to the things that you want in order to control the way that you look, I just do those things now.
And it does give me a sense of power in the sense that I kind of feel like I have more control over my own narrative, but it also feels like a way of reclaiming what I wasn’t able to do when I was younger. And also a way of paying homage to my younger self, as a reminder of like, hey, yeah, you’re still here. You can wear this very offensive t-shirt and wear black lipstick and hang out with your friends and still go out in the world and do good things. So, I feel like there’s a way in which maybe it’s kind of like a, I don’t know, like a sort of perpetual adolescence or willing to let go of these things that I was very cranky about as a teenager. But I do think there’s power that can be found in kind of embodying who you wanted to be and who you already were in the past.
CARMEN: The reverberations of these acts of mysticism also happen to be hella feminist and very fabulous.
PAM: Well, I think it’s important to even unpack the word “glamour” because the words “glamour” and “grimoire,” which is a word for spell book, and “grammar” are all to each other. In other words, they all have to do with language and using symbols to shift perception and change reality. These are transformational words and words about transformation. And so, I think it’s important to realize that we all have the ability to constantly remake ourselves and that we are fluid beings who are always evolving. And so, if one day, you suddenly wake up and you wanna try dressing a different way or you want to make a change in your life and there’s some kind of symbol or jewelry or even a bit of lipstick or outfit that you can wear that can help you feel more intentional about the direction you wanna walk towards, go for it. And that is a language that you are speaking. That is a magical language.
I think symbolism and really understanding the associations that color has, that shape has, that different elements have such as air, fire, water, earth, and how you might want to incorporate those into your outfit or into the way you decorate your home or even a certain symbol that you might draw, I don’t know, on the cover of a notebook right before you start a big project. These are all intentional activities that can help shift our consciousness. And when we shift things inside ourselves, we can then shift the world around us. It really is the root of what magic is: to take an internal change and then have it have outward resonances. And so, I think for anybody who’s just starting out and they’re like, how can I incorporate magic into the way I’m constructing my own image or the way I’m shifting my energy as I go about my day? I would say just start studying symbolism, start getting into color theory and color magic and different color associations. There are certainly certain gemstones and crystals that people can wear that can help shift some of their energy a little bit. But even more than that, I think the language of signs and symbols can become this secret way that you’re communicating with yourself and perhaps with capital-S spirit to really conjure the change that you want to be and see.
GABRIELA: I think that glamor magick is a really, really powerful way for you to cultivate a sense, or to cultivate a sense of self-love and self-compassion and self-acceptance because for me, it’s like really kind of just seeing your body as a canvas and really just treating yourself as art and embracing what you’ve been given, right? And it doesn’t have to be buying a whole new wardrobe. It can be painting your nails a certain color. It can be putting a flower in your hair. I think that when you see yourself as a conduit of magic and then you approach yourself as this kind of like this powerful being, it’s really, really special and really transformative. And I know for, glamour magick and even getting my nose pierced and my ears pierced and my nipples pierced too. ‘Cause I was super self-conscious about my small boobs.
Like those are all kind of like more powerful rituals for me to reclaim these things that I was uncomfortable with. And I have both sides of my nostrils pierced. And the left side of my nostril, I got pierced about a year ago, and it was a ritual and dedication of this archetype goddess that I was working with. So, and I was self-conscious about my big nose, so that’s part of the reason I got my nose pierced! So, you don’t have to do anything that extreme, but I think that fashion and glamour can be a way for us to kind of reclaim the way we’re seen and also give ourselves the opportunity to see ourselves as divine and as magic and remember that we’re worth seeing ourselves that way.
It is important to love yourself and start from the inside, but sometimes you gotta work from the outside in. When we dress ourselves as goddesses or gods or as these divine, magical creatures on the outside, then we’re able to kind of internalize that. So, you know, sometimes if you don’t feel beautiful inside, dressing yourself on the outside, you can kind of start that alchemical process. So, I would recommend having some kind of beauty ritual that you could do every day. Maybe in your bathroom you have a couple crystals, and you can create a beauty altar.
I have little statues of different gods and goddesses and crystals in my bathroom, and it’s arranged in a way that I like to look at and that I feel really calm and peaceful when I look at. And maybe you have a candle in a color that you know, if you’re cultivating inner beauty, maybe you wanna do pink, which is like one of the colors of love, or green, which is the color of the heart chakra and also abundance. And who doesn’t wanna feel abundant? And maybe you light that candle in the morning, and you just ask yourself what you feel like that day, and really take a few minutes—it doesn’t have to be a long time—to kind of just connect and see what the energy is of the day and then decide on what you’re gonna dress, how you’re gonna dress or the makeup you’re gonna use to complement that.
And then going through your day and doing that, maybe you pull, I love pulling a tarot card or an Oracle card as part of my inspiration for what I’m gonna wear. And you can do that, or you can simply just, again, like be your own kind of divinatory activity and just really think about what you need. And then thinking, I love working with color as part of fashion magic. I think that’s a really powerful way to go about figuring out kind of like what you need. And you can Google color magic correspondences or color correspondences to help. And then maybe you say a little prayer, whether that’s to a goddess like Venus or Isis or Lakshmi, who are goddesses of abundance and beauty. Maybe it’s to your higher power. Maybe it is to somebody who’s like a role model for you with glamour. Like maybe it’s Morticia Addams or, I don’t know Coco Chanel or something. And you can create altars in honor of that too.
And just having this place to come back to where you can connect to yourself and really figure out what you need is probably gonna be my biggest piece of advice. And then also thinking about the senses. So, maybe working with a scent you really like or an oil and putting that on each of your wrists and maybe your collarbone and your third eye and connecting to your inner radiance and just really taking the time to embrace that. And I personally really believe in the power of a red lipstick. I actually, for Girlboss a year or two ago, wrote a red lipstick spell where you just pretty much hold your lipstick in your hand and charge it with an intention. And then each time you put it on, it kind of reaffirms that intention. So, you can create your own kind of personalized, magical beauty items in that way, whether it’s a facial roller or lipstick or perfume. And again, it’s all about an intention. So, really just being conscious of what you feel like you need to cultivate more of. And again, you don’t have to dress feminine or be a woman or identify as any gender to work with glamour in this way. You know, for me it’s less about the clothing and more about the intention: an oversized band t-shirt or leather or work slacks are just as powerful as red lipstick and lingerie. It’s just how you feel in it and the energy that you’re bringing to it.
DIANCA: If I look back maybe even just in the past year, I think I had a lot of ways where I knew what I needed to do to be healthy and care for myself and also just feel good about myself, but I was afraid of feeling good. And that sounds really messed up. But I think we all do that sometimes where we’re just like, oh, I didn’t work hard enough. I don’t deserve this. So, I feel like there are ways that I was looking away from embodying self-care in a sustainable way that also meant that I was loving myself and being responsible for taking care of myself in ways that would benefit me later. I feel like in a lot of ways, I was afraid to feel joy or to feel safe in my body. So, a lot of the things that I’ve started doing, like on Sundays, which is funny ‘cause I feel like I get this from when I was younger and going to church all Sunday. And it didn’t matter what anybody else wanted to do in terms of family members, Sunday was church and hanging out with family and being calm. And I feel like I’ve kind of reclaimed that in a way where now every Sunday, I’ll sit, and I’ll do tarot. And I’ll do a face mask ‘cause I feel like it. I’ll light a candle, pull a card, and listen to my favorite podcasts that make me feel sane, which are usually witchy podcasts.
And then I make sure I do something for myself, whether that’s washing my hair—and I usually wash my hair with rose water and other things as well—or taking a bath soak with salt and sage or anything like that. And I like putting rose petals in water. It looks really cool, but also, rose as a flower, kind of helps you be softer and open, but also, it’s a flower that has thorns. So, it’s really good for boundary building as well and protection. And then just being more real with myself about what I want. Like if I want my eyebrows not to become a way of knowing that the day has passed because one’s disappearing, I’m gonna pay more money to get better eyebrow gel. And then also perfumes and things like that just ‘cause I’m adorning my body and protecting my body and also being more in control of what I look like and what I present in the world.
And also allowing myself to be mutable or malleable with it too. So, for instance, I teach at two different universities, but I also teach out of a high school through a nonprofit college readiness program. And of course I’m not gonna roll up [chuckles] to class to teach wearing the same face that I wear when I go to a Goth show with my friends. but also knowing that that’s part of who I am too. There’s many parts of who I am. There’s the me with the really intense eyebrows, and then there’s the me just with the eyeliner and a smile, trying to get people to listen to me [laughs] while we read through an essay instead of being on their cell phones. So, I feel like there’s also ways in which being aware of how I’m choosing to adorn my body. Like, what lipstick do I choose to wear, if I’m using a matte lip gloss or a lipstick. If I choose to do my eyeliner, really, really dark and really heavy or just really light and subtle, to know that those are notes inside of who I am. I still don’t wear color. I have a lot of friends and my cousin who are all about color magic, but I’ve started wearing colorful socks, which they told me is how it starts. And they’re like, you’ll probably be wearing color by the end of the year. But I’m like, no, I will never wear color.
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
DIANCA: But there are ways in which I am trying to be more open, and it’s been interesting. Because again, ‘cause I grew up super Christian and I also feel like my mom just really wasn’t into dealing with makeup and trends and stuff. She was a kind of very pragmatic, straightforward lady. And I feel like I never really was taught this is how you do makeup and all those things. And I also went to a school where they kind of policed what we wore and the way we wear our makeup. And to this day, the school that I went to from Kindergarten to eighth grade still has a rule that you’re not allowed to wear black nail polish or black lipstick. So, I felt like the things that I wanted to do, I couldn’t do anyway. So, I think as an adult, trying to let go of that shame of not knowing and being open to experimentation.
And yeah, I probably don’t know how to put on highlighter, but I’m gonna wear it anyway ‘cause it makes me feel like it shows my inner glow, you know. Or on days where I feel really just dull, it helps me feel more vibrant, more present. So, just being open to that journey and kind of, again, being in between things and figuring it out and also knowing that if you figure it out one way, you have the power to change that and be something else if you want to. But yeah, I definitely should probably watch more eyebrow tutorials ‘cause I still haven’t figured it out. And one’s always shorter than the other, but my friends had been very kind to me about it.
CARMEN: I wanted to find out: How could I start manifesting some seriously glamorous magic of my own? How could I leverage the witchy instincts I might have to dismantle the patriarchal voices that sound off in my head whenever I look in the mirror? I got some very hands-on help in my search for an answer in Portland, when I stopped in to Seagrape Bath and Body during my Thanksgiving travels. I had all but lost my voice by the time I visited. But I did as most girlbosses do and carried a bag of cough drops inside with me in order to ask all my questions at light speed.
CARMEN: Okay. Walking around. So, show me some of your favorite things or some of your most beautifying things.
MARIA VASHAKIDZE: Mm! So, the store has a lot of different categories. So, right now, we are standing in front of the body care wall. [Laughs.] So, one of my favorite things, like I said, Birth of Venus is a really beautiful bar. So, here, you can smell it while we do this. So, it’s cedar wood cypress, a little bit of cysts, indigo, black lava salt. So, utilizing really beautiful ingredients and figuring out a way to make a really aesthetically pleasing and also energetically powerful item is one of my favorite things of all time.
CARMEN: Seagrape is a values-driven shop-turned-occasional-casual-community-space stuffed to the gills with handmade products from indie makers, teachers, and farmers. And it’s driven by a calling to lift up queer, immigrant, and nonwhite makers and mystics, and play a part in building a world where self-care is seen as a critical part of our self-maintenance and not a bougie luxury only meant for some of us. Inside the store, you’ll find a lounge area in the front for every member of your coven to chill on plush furniture, a tarot reading room and a workspace in the back, and a tremendous amount of magic sandwiched in between on wooden shelves and coffee tables. Seagrape specializes in bath and body products, but they also sell lunar calendars, prints and altar cloths, jewelry, and other crafty items that anyone can use to infuse their lives with a little more glamour magick.
MARIA: I also, so, that’s made in-house, and then this line of body oils is also made here. And so, that’s really what I recommend for people that are coming in looking to create a little bit of a self-care ritual that’s really approachable. Because body oiling and moisturizing is something that generally we do pretty regularly, and it’s a really easy way to incorporate smell and to really connect back to yourself. I also carry lots of other brands in the store that I love dearly. Linnea who is one of my only Canadian makers, is a really amazing witch. Do you know her work?
MARIA: You’ll have to smell some of her things like that.
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
MARIA: And then Mother Mountain is also a really rad witch who makes infused oils for facial care. And she makes this really beautiful mugwort oil for opening up the psychic centers, which you can use in a bath or as a moisturizer as well. And then there are a ton of really cool prints, zines, publications, and ritual tools in the store as well. So, we produce a lunar calendar every year. So, this is our 2020 design based on the emperor, which is the energy of next year.
CARMEN: Oh my god, I love it. I’m like, just in case, for those who cannot see it, there’s a list down it of things not to give a fuck about. [Laughs.]
MARIA: Yes. A very good reminder for 2020. The design is also based on Baba Yaga, who I work with closely as a deity. So, just about standing in your power and really reminding herself, these are things that I don’t need to give a fuck about because there are more important things to do in my world, like cultivate my pleasure and beauty and whatever else you’re working on in your life. So, we work with a local coop to print those, and it’s a really fun kinda collaboration. So, I design those and then get those printed locally as well.
We also produce altar cloths and get those screen-printed here locally in Portland. So, just really kind of beautiful and approachable tools all around the store that can be used. You know, the altar cloths can be used as tea towels. The calendars are a really practical way of keeping track of the days and the signs that the moon is in every day of the year. So, they’re potent medicines, but they’re also just really approachable. And then the rest of the store, we have a Magic Hour’s full line of ritual candles here, and those are definitely one of our favorite ritual tools. So, Bran is a friend, and her magic is really potent. Are you familiar with the Magic Hour candles?
MARIA: Yes, I feel like everybody should be familiar with those. Yeah. So, we just basically, you know, all of the items stocked at the shop are things that I personally use or have used in my practice and my ritual. And so, I really like to support people who are in line with my personal values and the shop’s values. So, all of these people are doing really rad work in the world. And a lot of them are also cultivating community and pleasure and beauty in the world, which I really like.
CARMEN: Oh my god, I love it. Maria Vashakidze, the owner and formulator behind Seagrape, started selling her products online 11 years ago and later opened the brick-and-mortar space when she relocated to Portland. She named her naturally-scented line of products after a plant used to control shorelines, a functional weed that she invoked by way of intuition when she first set off on her journey towards being a badass, business-owning, queer immigrant witch. Today, Maria lives that mission of putting pleasure and beauty into the hands of other magical babes every single day. We explored the witchy roots of Maria’s work more in-depth before my tour in her tarot room, where I challenged my weary vocal cords to muster up the strength for an interview in the middle of her busiest season.
MARIA: Yeah, I like the word “witch.” I think it means something completely different to everybody. You know, there’s not just one definition of it. I really like it in the same way I really like the word “queer.” My family—I’m a Russian Jewish, Georgian immigrant—and so, my family, you know, I watched my mom do some witchy shit when I was little.
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
MARIA: And she would never admit to it, now that I’m an adult. We used to read coffee grounds every single day, multiple times a day. I watched her do candle wax magic and divination work. And she, as an adult, she’s like, “Oh no. That didn’t happen. You imagined that. You were four. You couldn’t possibly remember.”
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
MARIA: But it’s like ingrained. So I think the magic of the land I was born on and my family, even though they’re in denial about it, runs really strongly through me. And the city where I was born, which is called Tbilisi, translates to “a warm place.” It’s on a hot spring. And my family wants nothing to do with bathing. And so, my entire life I was like, why am I so drawn to bathing? What is this? And I went back to Georgia last year visit my childhood home and just went bathing all around and was like, oh, there is this really strong connection to water and to the sulfuric hot springs in the city. And my family’s just out of touch. They just are in denial about this really strong connection to the land, but I can feel it, and I’m following it, you know? So, I think “witch” is a great word. It’s being used quite a bit and reclaimed, and it’s controversial the way that people are using it as a little bit more trendy now. But I think if it suits you, use it.
CARMEN: How would you say that this idea of beauty and sort of taking care of the body meets up with your interest in magical sort of witchy things?
MARIA: Yeah. I think seeking pleasure is a spell, right? We’re encouraged not to be our full, authentic selves and to seek the things that create and cultivate desire in our lives actively. And so, I think having created a space where pleasure is celebrated and encouraged, and people come in here ready to slather themselves in good smells and just put really luscious oils on their skin and sit for hours on end reading through magical zines that people have written: all of that is cultivating pleasure in my eyes. And I think that creates space for beauty in everyone’s lives. People that come in here not thinking like, oh, I deserve to sit here for two hours and do this really pleasurable thing walk out feeling like, oh, I should do this every day. I should create a space like this at my house where I can just relax and have a cup of tea, which we’ll often make for people that are walking through here, and just read a magical thing and be inspired and maybe do journaling. You know, people will often make friends while they’re just shopping in the store because we have such deep conversations, just in passing, being really real, asking people, “How are you doing? How are you cultivating pleasure and beauty and desire in your life?” And I feel like those conversations themselves are spells. We’re really encouraging open dialogue around what it’s like to cultivate those things in our lives actively.
CARMEN: Oh my god. I love that.
MARIA: Yeah.
CARMEN: And what was your own journey toward starting to make apothecary products?
MARIA: So, I’m super allergic to fragrances, to chemically made fragrances. And so, I’ve always kind of blended my own scents and body products. I’m really minimal. I don’t make anything for wrinkles or weight loss. That’s not my jam. I just really love luscious smells. My sun is in Taurus, and so everything I make has to feel and smell really delicious.
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
MARIA: And so, that’s kind of what I’ve done for the last 11 years. You know, things that really bring me a lot of joy or scents I come across that I’m just smitten by, I work with them regularly. I work with them like plant allies or spirit guides. And so, scent has been really huge in my life for the last 11 years just because there are a limited number of products that I can use since I have this allergy. I get migraines from fragrances. And so, I just have been creating my own things this entire time. And that’s kind of led to conversations around well, what do other people find really beautiful and pleasurable? And what are other people smitten by? And I’m really driven to help people have that experience in their lives.
CARMEN: Do you feel like you’re infusing a little bit of mysticism into it? Is that part of the process?
MARIA: I think magic can be anything and everything. And in a culture where we’re really taught not to take up space as queer folks, as marginalized folks, having people really pause and call in beauty is totally, totally magic.
I think the beauty secret of witches is standing in our power. There’s really nothing sexier than saying, “This is my true, authentic self, and I’m a badass.” That’s the glamour magick. I feel like saying, there’s nothing wrong with me, and there’s actually nothing here that needs to be fixed. Which we spend so much of our time and attention trying to fix something about ourselves that society says is wrong. But if we can just pivot away from that and utilize our resources after we’ve kind of stepped into our own individual power of I’m a bad ass, clearly, then we can pivot away from that and say, well, how can I help other people with whatever individual magic I run through the world? Whether it’s helping people self-care, which is what I do, or calling in beauty into people’s lives or helping other people live their authentic selves. I think all of that, that stems from just kind of stepping into whatever your gem in the world is, just owning it.
CARMEN: Yeah. And what are some of your own beauty rituals, beauty practices?
MARIA: So, I really love scent. Scent is my number one go to, which is kind of a weird beauty practice, I feel. But it’s not. Because plant allies show up for us really differently. And sometimes that could be pigmentation in makeup, right? This is how some people will use makeup to call in spirit and plant allies into their own lives. But for me, scent and working with botanicals and plants is really the way that I connect back to myself and to the earth and feel really grounded. So, depending on what I’m looking for or where I’m at, I’ll choose different plant allies to wear as a scent to carry around with me. And so, I’m always really drawn to perfumery and anointing for grounding and calling in, whether I’m working on an abundance spell or a soothing spell. If I’m anxious during the holidays, for example, I’ll use a lot of lavender, a lot of clary sage in my work.
And then the other beauty ritual that I practice every day is body oiling. So, after I take a shower or bath, I’ll moisturize with a really beautiful, beautifully-scented body oil. And so, I like that for the practice of self-massage ‘cause then that helps me if I’m disassociating, which happens quite often for the holidays, if I’m really anxious. It really helps me come back to my skin and to my body and to feel like, okay, what are the different parts of my body doing, and how can I just show up for myself wherever I am? It’s a really beautiful practice. And I think I smell good after I’m done—
CARMEN: [Laughs.]
MARIA: —and it feels really luscious, which are all things I really love.
CARMEN: Yeah, that sounds very luxurious.
CARMEN: And walk me through the process of making some of these products. What do you have to do as a practitioner to make these sorts of experiences possible?
MARIA: So, I think I really like approachable magic and approachable body care. So, I use really simple ingredients. Like I said, I only use botanicals in my work. And so, a lot of the plants that I use, people are familiar with, like lavender and clary sage and clove and things like that. So, I really like to use things that will cause people to have a memory. ‘Cause I think that association between scent and memory is really powerful and a really good way to help people feel embodied and come back to their body. And so, I have my perfume organ is set up in a different space than the shop that’s less scented. And so, when I go to sit down to create a different scent or a new scent, it’s quite a process. It usually takes about six months and is often based on my travels.
So, the most recent soap the shop released is called Birth of Venus. And that was based on my trip to Greece from two years ago, which I went and bathed for two weeks, all around Greece and had this kind of experience where I felt like I really met Aphrodite and really sat in the ocean feeling the energy and collecting all of the scents. I would walk around and make notes on things that I smelled in the air and all the different places I visited and what they felt like to me. And so, then when I came back, it took about two years to come up with a scent for that specific experience. But it’s just a lot of note taking, a lot of experimentation. And then I usually let perfume age for about six months. So, every time I tried a new blend, I would let it sit and age. So, it’s quite a really slow process. And people don’t see kind of the back end of it when they go to use a product. If they’re sensitive, they’ll kind of feel it when they go to use a bar of soap. Most people think like, oh, a bar of soap. It’s not a big deal. But for people that are energetically sensitive, they feel those two years of dedication and that practice of, okay, I have to devote myself to capturing the scent in this experience. So, it’s really, it’s really special.
CARMEN: Practices may vary, and outcomes may be myriad, but one thing is clear: The real beauty secret of every witchy woman is hexing the patriarchy with every single decision we make about how we adorn our bodies. And that begins with just doing what we want and not what we think is prescribed or required of us.
DIANCA: For anyone who feels like glamor magick has to be some specific type of systematic checklist, make sure you have all these things kind of thing, know that it can be whatever you want it to be and very intuitive and just whatever works for you. Because I think that’s what magic is supposed to be. And I feel like even to some extent, yes, there are certain things that equal feminism, but the thing that we always forget is that we all bring something to the table that’s helpful. And I feel like it’s important for us to not forsake our own identities and our own autonomy and the way that we navigate witchcraft or navigate feminism.
So, I feel like, at least when I was starting off, I always felt like, well, I don’t have this thing, or I don’t know how to do this particular thing, so maybe I’m doing the magic wrong. And it’s just like, you have to trust your body and trust your intuition and trust yourself. If glamour magick is wearing Chapstick, or if glamour magick is buying whatever highlighter makes you happy or getting that boy brow that everyone’s obsessed with in glossier, whatever it is, that’s it. That’s the magic. Figure out a way that works for you, and that’s the way that will work. That’s the magic.
CARMEN: It’s an enchanting and enticing challenge to the systems that rule our world. And in this moment of feminist resistance, it’s exactly the kind of spell all of us would do well to begin casting.
[“Sorcerer” by Stevie Nicks plays]
♪ “Sorcerer/
Who is the master/
A man and woman on a star stream/
In the middle of a snow dream/
Show me the high life/
Come over/
Let me put you on ice….” ♪
CARMEN: Okay, folks. That’s all for this installment of Popaganda by Bitch Media. This episode was edited by Emily Boghossian and produced and hosted by me—feminist media-maker and movement-builder, Carmen Rios—as part of our GLAMOUR season. Our jingle is by Mucks & Owen Wuerker. Today’s guests were Pam Grossman, Gabriela Herstik, Dianca London, and Maria Vashakidze.
The conversation doesn’t stop here. Use the hashtag #Popaganda on social media to share your thoughts and feelings on the show. Follow Bitch @BitchMedia on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to get more feminist stuff like it in your feed (algorithm willing), and find me @carmenriosss (with three s’s) for behind-the-scenes selfies and unsolicited excerpts from my secret Tumblr. You can also send me hate mail at carmenfuckingrios.com.
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Stay tuned for our next episode on January 16, when we’ll go shopping for adornments for our witchy bodies that doesn’t destroy the planet. Till then, I’ll see you on the internet.


by Carmen Rios
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Carmen Rios is the host of Bitch’s Popaganda podcast. She’s also the Managing Digital Editor at Ms. magazine and co-host of Trigger Happy, a weekly webseries about women’s issues on Binge Network. She has been described as “petulant and idiotic,” “intimidating to some,” “vapid and uninteresting” and “brazenly misandrist.”