Behind the Magic Casey Zabala

Casey Zabala

Can the rational and the unexplainable co-exist? What can we learn from ancient methods of divination and truth-seeking? Can the mystical be used to repair and assist with very real trauma and confusion? Is there room for faith and magic in a world that is constantly testing our collective limits? In this interview series for Violet Online, author and artist Sarah Faith Gottesdiener talks with healers and mystics to explore their work and experiences – and to ask what is behind the magic.
Published: 2021/10/15
Updated: 2021/10/21
Sarah Faith Gottesdiener

Casey Zabala is a San Francisco-based tarot reader, artist, and witch.

Among her creations are the Wanderer's Tarot, a beautiful hand-drawn feminist tarot deck for anyone curious about witchcraft and magic, and the Modern Witches Confluence, a gathering for witches from all walks of life in the Bay Area and beyond to share their wisdom and craft while feeling seen and supported by the community.

Casey is deeply committed to art, magic, and community, all reasons why I was so eager to connect with her. These are all foundational aspects of witchcraft, and it’s inspirational to see someone embody these energies so authentically.

Sarah Faith Gottesdiener: How long have you been a practicing witch, and what kind of witch would you say you are?

Casey Zabala: I have been practicing witchcraft since I was a little one making potions and talking to elemental beings. I became conscious that I was practicing witchcraft when I was about 13 years old, when my world was cracked open by the gift of a tarot deck. I now practise elemental witchcraft, natural magic, and seership.

The witchcraft I practice is rooted in enchantment, which I think many of us engage with unconsciously when we are young. Most of my spiritual practices are best described as folk magic, and I'm continuously uncovering ancestral traditions that inform my workings.

Has the pandemic shifted the way you practice or the types of spells you cast?

While I’ve always been a fairly solitary practitioner, my pre-pandemic practice found me engaging in more group and community-based magical work. The pandemic shifted my practice from community spaces to more internal work and changed how I engage with my magical community. During the pandemic, I moved out of the city to a rural town at the foot of Mount Shasta [in Northern California]. It's been a big shift. My magic is increasingly more about deep listening; listening to the true needs of my magical community, my body, and the Earth. I’m becoming more and more focused on elevating the healing needs of the Earth, specifically through my personal divination work.

Collectively, we are becoming more aware of the precarious situation we have created. It's tough to be a human - witch - these days and not step up to participate in the collective healing spells needed at this time.

You are the founder of the Modern Witches Confluence, one of the most important witches gatherings that currently exist, IMHO. Can you share what inspired you to do so?

That's so kind of you! When I started the Modern Witches Confluence, I had a significant vision that I experienced as a message from spirit. It's a simple sentiment, but the work I'm doing with Modern Witches has been truly spirit-led. I became aware of the need for witches of all walks of life and diverse backgrounds to share sacred space to inspire and learn from one another. Those spaces are the true inspiration for Modern Witches gatherings.

When heeding a call from spirit and listening to our intuition, we have to exercise trust. Modern Witches has been a journey to learning how to trust in a larger vision, even if it seems very large, and especially if there's no one else doing it.

What has the Confluence taught you about what the landscape of witchcraft looks like today?

Starting and running the Confluence has been an incredible learning experience. I've learned how fractured spiritual communities can be, how much harm has been caused by more traditional models of spiritual communities, and the supremacist conditioning that exists in many spiritual spaces. Modern Witches is a community that supports complexity, autonomy, and respect for difference, and it's an evolving project.

The landscape of modern witchcraft is emerging as a radical space for folks to explore their ancestral lineages, cultivate personally empowering practices, and affirm their own magic. Witchcraft today is about trusting the mechanics of your own magick, creating your own group frameworks, and designing your own rituals.

Above all else, I see witchcraft emerging as a political movement as well as a spiritual practice. Modern witches are seeing the collective needs of their communities and working in solidarity with other witches to dismantle systems of oppression. Witches and traditional healers have historically been persecuted for their practices and beliefs by the dominant culture. Witches are picking up that historical thread and healing their own lineages and communities with intentional political spells and rituals.

I know that you’re conscious about creating a space of accessibility, inclusion, and different backgrounds. Are there specific processes or frameworks you use to plan your events? Do you have advice for others wanting to create similarly mindful spaces?

In 2020 the Modern Witches organization initiated an inclusion committee, with a majority BIPOC membership, as a sub-committee to our organizing council. We meet quarterly to discuss programming and organizational practices, as well as any community feedback for the organization. Our inclusion committee shares their experiences and expertise, and we integrate them into our structures—like our reparative ticketing structure, for instance—and vision statements.

As a white cis woman, it's been important for me to step back and centre other identities in the process of programming our events. I would suggest to other business folks from similar backgrounds to institute some sort of paid consulting group specifically for issues of intersectionality, inclusivity, and equity. I'm so grateful for our inclusion committee's commitment to diverse and safe spiritual spaces, and I know that their input shines through all aspects of our work. I believe it's an integral element to cultivating welcoming and actually safe spaces.

However, we don't always get it right. We’re currently working to create a restorative justice accountability framework to support any issue or harm enacted via the Modern Witches organization. We’re excited to share that with the community soon, as we hope it can be something other folks and organizations can adapt to their needs.

What are you particularly excited about for this year's virtual gathering?

Our theme for our 4th annual Modern Witches Confluence is ‘Welcome Mystery’. As someone who romances the unknown as part of my magical work, I’m deeply excited to be gathering collectively around this central spark. We're all navigating immense amounts of uncertainty these days, and as magical folks, there are many ways to encounter, learn from, and heal through the unknown, the void, the mystery, or spirit.

In addition to the confluence, you have created tarot and oracle decks. What drew you to this kind of creation? What do you wish you had known before embarking on these kinds of intense projects?

Art has always been a big part of my life. I started making artwork that referenced tarot when I was a teenager. I've been specifically drawn to art we can interact with, art we can have a relationship with, and art we can use. Tarot is the magical tool that opened me up to witchcraft more consciously. Since my first reading at age 13, it's been my favoured method of divination. So when I told my friends I was considering creating a deck, they encouraged me to dive in. It was the push I needed to commit to the project.

Creating a tarot or oracle deck is an intensely magical undertaking. It opens you up to new levels of awareness and heightened sensitivity. When creating the deck, I was very regimented about the creative process and my magical routine surrounding the creation. What I didn't account for were the subtle shifts in my psychic landscape that resulted from that process. It was another major psychic awakening, which can feel confusing, in my experience. When undertaking the creation of any magical tool or system, it's wise to be extra clear about your energetic and psychic boundaries so you don't become overwhelmed.

You can sign up to take part in the Modern Witches Confluence, which will be held virtually October 28th-31st.

Sarah Faith Gottesdiener is an artist, designer, writer, teacher, and Tarot Reader. Her artwork and designs are based in the spiritual, feminist, and mystical. Her book from St. Martin’s Press, The Moon Book, was published this year.

Find Sarah here: modernwomenprojects.com

IG: @gottesss

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