An interview with Ian Allan about Appalachian folk lore, magic and witchcraft.
Ian Allan is a psychic and intuitive Witch living in Johnson City, TN. He owns and operates Appalachian Witchery, where he teaches classes on Appalachian Folk Lore and Magic, he offers tarot and psychic readings, as well as magical consultations and spell creation.
Rumours - Fleetwood Mac
Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler
The Spiral Dance by Starhawk
Talking Appalachian by Amy Clark
Power of the Witch by Laurie Cabot with Tom Cowan
Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner by Scott Cunningham
The Witches' Voice
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My name is Ian Allan. I live in Johnson City, Tennessee, was originally raised in a small coal-mining town in southwest Virginia. Not West Virginia, but Virginia, the southwest corner called Wise. Grew up in a kind of traditional Appalachian family. Became more knowledgeable, I guess would be the world I would use about dreams that I was having and feelings I would be getting about people I would meet at churches or in public atmospheres that would start becoming true.
And so I became pretty obsessed with occult sort of ideas from a very young age and it just kind of started developing from there, around the age of 13, is probably when I really started working on developing certain gifts or abilities, if you want to use that word. And it just kind of went on from there.
I became a public tarot reader in which I, about 11 years ago, I have been doing all of that for over 20 years at this point now, but really stepped in to the public sphere about 11 years ago and started reading for the public and offering classes on different topics relating to witchcraft as well as, specifically, Appalachian folk magic.
Okay, so I'm just curious when you meet someone for the first time in real life and they ask you what you do, what do you say?
Um, well, previous to March, I would pretty much say I teach Appalachian folk lore and magic. I also read tarot cards. It's not something I've ever really been shy about telling people.
I... Just last October, had an interview with the local newspaper and my picture's in it and it's titled Appalacian Witchery. So if people have read the paper, they saw my face, they read an article about me. It's not something I've ever really hidden.
It does, obviously, get a lot of weird looks or eye rolls sometimes, but that just kind of comes with that whole idea of being a witch. People don't want to think that we exist sometimes or that we're just crazy people.
So it's something I've gotten used to. I've gotten a thicker skin over the years.
One of the reasons I ask that question, and I've started asking it of a lot of the people that I interview is because so many of the people who listen to this show and the people that I work with in particular, are in some kind of process of sort of coming out of the broom closet, or coming out of the psychic closet. Coming out of some kind of closet, right?
It's helpful to hear other people's stories and also hear sometimes that we don't all just walk around, you know, like carrying a sign, you know?
You know, there's a very, varied nuances to how we answer that question and how we go about in the public.
And you've been confronted with the very real reality of having the local newspaper feature you, whereas I'm kind of anonymous locally but yet more globally visible, you know what I mean?
So it must be a little bit different being like, but you're the town witch, you know! Everyone's gotta have one, right?
Historically, yeah. Every village had a witch or shaman who could do herbalism, who would also do magic on the side. So yeah, every village, every town, usually had someone that they would go to, and I'm okay with being that.
And I'm not the only one here in Johnson City. Believe me. There are plenty of witches here. I guess I am probably one of the more outspoken ones who hasn't hid himself away, or herself away.
So with that does a certain lack of anonymity within the public locally. And I'm okay with that. I like taking care of my community. People who you wouldn't suspect would come to me for readings, for discussion of spell creation and that sort of thing.
People who are, you know, ministers' wives, ministers themselves, but, that's days... kind of like, I always view it as a... almost like a psychologist sort of thing where, if you come to me, you come to me and it doesn't leave this room. No one's going to know your name, no one's going to know what we talked about.
It's definitely helped word of mouth, I guess, for my business, if you want to look at it that way, but it's more of a, I like taking care of my local community. Not that I don't care about my global community, I do care about them but, growing up in the 90s, there was that whole 'think locally'.. 'think globally, act locally', adage, so I've always kind of tried to live by that adage.
If I can affect my small town in some way, then they'll start affecting the world at a larger rate than I could by myself.
Yeah, well listen, there are people who listen to this show from all over the world. I mean, Australia, Singapore (I have a lot of fans in Singapore for some reason - hey guys!), Europe... You know, places where, even maybe there's people in Canada who don't really know about the Appalachian region and culture that we're talking about.
You are from a city called Johnson City, which is in northeast Tennessee, kind of in the corner with North Carolina and Virginia.
So if you would, just kind of explain for everybody a little bit about what Appalachian magic and folk lore is, as, you know, how you would sum it up.
Okay, well, the first thing that I always do in my classes is discuss the word that you're pronouncing. You're saying, Appa-LAY-chia, I pronounce it Appa-LATCH-a.
And there's a reason for that.
There's kind of an imaginary line, like the Mason/Dixon line, about the pronunciation of the word of the mountains that we live in. And below this imaginary line, so probably somewhere below Washington DC, northern Virginia, sort of area, you're going to hear it pronounced Appalachia. Above that they're going to say Appalachia.
And part of that is, you know, it's just dialect. But it was a way for people back in the 1800s into the early 1900s to know who was an outsider and who could be trusted.
Because the carpet baggers who would come down to the south, into the Appalachian mountains, or the coal miners or the coal companies who would send in people from the north, they would say Appalachia and we learned they weren't fully to be trusted because were exploiting us. They were stealing our land, they were stealing our property. Stealing our coal, taking our trees and then leaving us in poverty.
And so, words, first off, have a lot of power. They have a lot of meaning, so... and it's not wrong to say Appalachia, because the people in the Appalachian mountains into Pennslyvania, Vermont and Maine, they DO pronounce it Appalachia. So their pronunciation is right for them, but when you're talking southern Appalachia, it's more proper to use that pronunciation of Appalachia.
So I sound like a carpet bagger! What the hell. I'm from Tennessee!
Actually, you know what would be funny is if I wasn't looking at that word written down and I was surrounded by my family (because my dialect changes depending on who I'm speaking with) I wonder which way I would say it if I wasn't thinking about it.
I'm going to be listening for it now and like, how my family says it.
Anyway. I didn't mean to interrupt. But go ahead.
Oh no, that's perfectly fine because what you just talked about is like, if you were hanging out with your family, how would you say it? That's what we call code switching. We all have different ways of talking and different words that we use, depending on who we're talking to and what event's going on.
There's a great book by a great professor of mine who I, from the University of Virginia's college at Wise. Her name's Amy Clark. She wrote, or she edited a book called Talking Appalachia, and it's a book of collected essays about, or people from around the Appalachian region who wrote about code switching, basically, how they talk and why they talked the way they did.
It's a fascinating thing if you're into linguistics.
I was a linguistics major originally in college, yeah! Yes I am interested in that!
Yeah, so, that's a good thing and I've totally rambled off of your first question.
So, your question was more about Appalachian magic and folk lore, correct?
Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, a lot of people... So we've identified a little bit of the area physically, geographically, that we're talking about.
Why don't you tell us where the magic part comes from, or maybe what's unique about Appalachian magic? Where did this fusion of stuff come from?
So Appalachian folk magic is really kind of a conglomeration of Scot beliefs, Irish beliefs, English beliefs, German, and a little bit of Turkey, practices, as within this area because it was pretty isolated and even to this day, they consider the Appalachians isolated, from the rest of the larger United States.
But, these groups of people started settling here in these mountains and they would share some of their beliefs with one another and they kind of just created a mixing pot, a nice mix in a cauldron, if you want to keep good doing the witch stuff, beliefs and culture and created something that was more unique.
I think it's probably the most American of practices. Because I mean, you do have folk magic in New England, but it was very much colonial English practices that they continued because that was who settled there.
In the mountains, you had more, more people who came from sort of the lower echelons of society, so to speak, come in to the mountains because they said, 'Oh! No one settled here. There's plenty of land. Let's move here and create our own wealth, not realizing how rocky and sandy the mountains were, not really fit for a lot of farming.
So then their life, the hard scrabble life, created different myths, different practices, different folk lores... Things like the wampus cat are definitely Appalachian in origin.
That's sort of how all this came about was. Different people from different, but similar backgrounds, coming together to live and then just having to share with one another because of how isolated the area actually was at the time.
Hmm... Okay, okay.
So you mentioned the wampus cat. What are some of the topics that you teach classes about when you teach Appalachian folk lore? Just kind of tell us, what are some of the topics?
The first one that I always like to teach, and I usually teach it maybe twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, as just kind of an introduction to Appalachian folk lore and magic, and that just covers a broad series of topics, such as who settled the area, where do we get it, some folk remedies.
I discuss some of the legends like the wampus cat or, as he's now become named, the Wood Booger, which is not the most flattering of a name for a creature in Appalachia, but, you know, whatever. Call it whatever you want. It's a big hairy man, kind of like a big foot running around in our woods.
And then we talk about divination techniques and in some of the other classes I do a class just on divination techniques that are unique here to this area, which, of course, are also similar to other things that people do in the broader world, like dowsing is a big thing within the mountains, especially what they call water witching, and that's where a person has a special ability to find water would take a specific type of wood, and the wood varied, depending on the family.
My grandfather used peach tree wood to dowse for water to dig a well. Whereas other families I've known, they use ash or even elder to dowse with. But then of course, water witching is, has been done all over the world and also pendulum, using things like a wedding band on the woman's... taking a piece of hair from the woman's head and dangling her wedding band over her pregnant belly would indicate male or female.
I teach a class on just specifically Appalachian techniques.
I also teach classes on how to read playing cards as a divination tool and tarot cards. I teach some modern witchcraft classes.
Well, let me take you back into the past a little bit and come back up to where your knowledge is now, but...
So for a long time I've really been wanting to talk to someone on the show about witchcraft and magic because I come to all of this new age stuff from an identification as a witch at a really young age and so my family is very much Appalachian and I've got some Appalachian witchery, you know, a few steps back, like grandparents, but I very much grew up in suburbia.
So for the most part, I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, so, you know, a decent sized city suburbia, so my identification as a witch (I have to tell you this story because i haven't told it to other people), but I was probably about 8 or 9 years old because I actually looked it up to see when the Fleetwood Mac album Rumours came, because that was 1977. I loved that album.
I remember, it must have been soon after that because my family was going on a car trip somewhere, like maybe to Florida or something long like that and I think my mom had told me that I could buy a magazine at the grocery store. So I got her to buy me a Rolling Stone magazine which she was kind of like, Why do you want a Rolling Stone magazine, you know, you're 8!
But it was because there was a feature on Stevie Nicks, and in that magazine, I got it because it was just HER and it was cool pictures of her and I was like, Oh, Stevie!
So I'm in the back of the car driving through Georgia in 1970-something and I'm reading Stevie Nicks talking about white witchcraft and how, you know, she's a white witch and all this stuff. And I had this total epiphany of like, Ohmygod, I'm a white witch, that's what I am!
From that point on, I was always interested in wicca as a teenager and in college, I kind of discovered... I did a Women's Studies certificate in college, just because it was like you could take these more interesting cool kind of classes that were feminists but they were within different things, like some kind of feminist history or something like that and...
After you took so many of them, they actually will give you a certificate in Women's Studies and sometimes I was the only guy in these classes but I just liked the topics. I would the syllabus, or the class listed in the roster and be like, Oh that sounds amazing!
So anyway, I got turned on through this Irish women's studies teacher of mine to all this really modern feminist paganism, right? So I was reading, one of my favorite books is, there was an NPR reported named Margot Adler who wrote a book called Drawing Down the Moon. It's kind of a collection of all the various different types of modern witchcraft in America, or modern neopaganism.
And then probably the big one for me, a big game changer was The Spiral Dance by Starhawk. That was when I kind of connected the whole feminine principle of the goddess, you know, like the lifeforce in the Universe as being a feminine thing, which was instinctively true for me and she kind of made that intellectual connection for me, in a way.
So anyway, I'm wondering, what is your version of that? What were your... How did you come to this? Were there other people in your family or did you just.. you know, were you encouraged? Discouraged?
What was your story of how you discovered this part of yourself?
I guess the easiest way to explain it, I have to go back to the 80s, when I was first... Because I was only born in '83, so... It was a weird time, being born in '83 or the late 80s in the area of the Appalachians that I grew up in. Because I grew up, like I said, in Wise, Virginia, and that is on the very tail end of Virginia. It's about 20 minute drive to Kentucky.
Coal had started to fail. It was no longer king in the area, and so people were starting to lose jobs. Mines were closing down. The world there was trying to figure out what to do next. Sadly, they still haven't figured it out. But that's a whole other podcast...
...to talk about the devastation of coal companies on the people within Appalachia.
That area was very stuck, trying to figure out, how do we move in to a sort of modern mindset when we don't want to? We still want to be very old-fashioned, very traditional, in our community, and I kind of got swept up in that as I was coming of age, thinking, there's nothing here for me. Watching MTV and thinking, Oh, I'm going to be on Real World or Road Rules and that's how I'm going to see the world.
Trying to get away from it but very deeply still wanting to connect with where I was being born.
And the word 'witch' was never used in my family as far as describing my aunts, or my great aunts, or my great uncles, or any of that. Because they were very Christian, and that's also something I try to stress in my classes is, I use the word 'witch' because I think it's the most apt word, and witchcraft is the most apt word for describing the practices people did here.
But they were very staunchly Christian.
And so, everything they did came through the power of prayer to Jesus or to God. They weren't real hip on the Catholics either.
There are many a sermon I sat through connecting Catholicism basically to Satanism. So growing up, they weren't real hip on Catholics, even though my dad is from, well, he's an army brat but his family ended up settling in the Fairfax area and they ARE Catholic, so half of my family is Catholic and the other half is very traditional southern and Free Will Baptists in the mountains.
But everyone in my family still did things. They would interpret dreams, they would talk about ghost stories. The professor I mentioned earlier, Amy Clark, in her English composition class, I think it was Composition 102, she made us do an oral history report and I went and interviewed my great aunt Fern, and collected all sorts of folk lore and stories about the road I grew up on. Because growing up, it was mostly all my family that lived on this road.
She shared a story about how my grandmother and her cousin Ione used to go stay with this lady out on this back road called Red Wine. And everyone thought she was a witch. Things would move in her house without her touching them, and my aunt Fern didn't really know a whole lot because she was never invited to go sleepover there, so she just got second-handed stories..
There were definitely stories growing up that I would hear and then there were also the herbal remedies that my grandmother would make, or other people in the family would make for people being sick.
I started having dreams from a very young age, where I was like, Oh, this is actually real. This is happening. And they were more literal dreams. They weren't the ones I would have to go interpret like, Oh, there were three cows in my dream. What does that mean?
It was like, Oh, I'm walking into a church and here's someone that hasn't been in church sitting there and they're getting ready to give a testimony about how they've been sick and then that Sunday we'd go to church and that would happen.
And I was like, Oh, this is interesting.
And I also just really loved stories about witches, about vampires, about the monsters... That was where my interest as a very young child was at. Like, I remember specifically in second grade, my best friend Ashley had wore her mother's winter cloak to school and we went to library. I took her cloak and put it on like a cape and was running around like I was a vampire. I very specifically remember that because I got in trouble for that. Because it was a library and I was not supposed to be running around having all this fun.
While everyone else was there checking out the Hardy Boys books, I was in the weird section checking out the children's versions of Frankenstein or Dracula, those sorts of books.
So I would try to watch anything on TV that my mother would allow me to watch about witchcraft or whatever and I became... obsessed is probably the best word for it. Kind of became obsessed with it, especially the Salem Witch Trials.
Halloween is still my favorite holiday to this day so I always looked forward to the fall and specifically, October, because then, you know, when Discovery channel and the History channel were actually about science and history, they would show specials about the history of witchcraft, or the history of vampirism. Even if they repeated the same thing ten times that month, I would watch it every time it came on.
And then when I was 13, we took a trip to... It was a whole big family trip. We drove with the entire family, some uncles, some aunts, up to Gettysburg to see the re-enactment, probably on 4th of July, around the 4th of July because I think that's when they do all their re-enactments.
So we went there and then we were following my mom's brother on up to Connecticut where him and his wife had moved to, and I realized that Connecticut was very close to Massachusetts. I convinced my family to take a day trip to Salem.
So one day we all piled in the car, drove I think 5 - 6 hours to Salem. And I was... I guess awestruck is probably the best word for it. Because I was like, Wow they're talking about witchcraft like it's something that anyone can do. That it's actually real and tangible and I remember seeing this woman walking down the street in long black robes with her staff and black hair flowing.
And then I discovered who that was, and it's a woman named Laurie Cabot, the official witch of Salem. I was like, Wow, witches are real!
I bought my first deck of tarot cards when I was there and then we came home and I just started reading tarot cards with the little white book that came with it, for friends and family.
That slowly started to develop more and more, and then I purchased a couple of books on wicca and witchcraft, one being Laurie Cabot's book, The Power of the Witch. And then a book by Scott Cunningham, I think it was Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. And then I discovered, Oh! There's a shop in Kingsport called Dilly's Curiosity Shop. And they had books and herbs and candles. It wasn't JUST a witch shop.
They had tons of stuff on the New Age movement, on Hinduism. It was just kind of a hippie, new age sort of store, and once I became old enough to drive, you could usually find me there every weekend or every other weekend, spending my hard-saved allowance on books and candles and things that I needed.
So it really started from there, was when I really discovered, Oh wow... So about 13. Wow, witchcraft is real and, you know, this is what my family's been doing and what I've been doing naturally for years.
Starting to study it from there just kind of helped develop it more into something that wasn't just an occasional, Oh I'm having a dream, or I'm getting a sensation from meeting this person, or I feel like I need to leave some food outside for whatever gunk might be creeping around outside to protect the house. That sort of thing.
It wasn't just something that I did spontaneously anymore. It became more of a honed practice.
Yeah... Yeah I was going to ask you, actually, let's see, I'm going to come back to that and ask you a little bit about your personal practice but...
I'm interested in, first of all, all those books were taking me back. I used to work in one of those stores, like your're talking about. It was called The New Moon. I basically was the person who chose the books for the magic section.
All the people who worked there, we all kind of had our different area of expertise. There was somebody who did all the crystals and stones. There was a guy who was a Druid and he did all of that. There was a guy who was into Buddhism, so all that section of the store, he would advise the owner what to buy.
My thing was goddess spirituality, wicca, this whole thing. So the books that you're naming off, I'm like, Yeah, yeah we had that book, we had that book.
I'm interested, you know, when I was talking about Starhawk. Starhawk always defined magic, which she took from someone named Dion Fortune, as the art of changing consciousness at will. So I kind of wonder, what's your definition of magic? What is that, to you? How does it work?
Yeah. It's a question that, you know, most people want to know a definition too. And as I said, I've studied and practiced for 20-something years, so I've read all the definitions, Dion Fortune, Starhawk, Aleister Crowley, and I think, yes, they're all pretty accurate.
The art of changing consciousness at will - I like to take it a little step further and it's more than just changing your consciousness. It's also... Because changing your consciousness is one thing. But being able to change physical reality is a whole other, and I know they...
As you get deeper into the magic conversations and topics, we talk about micro and macrocosms and how if you change your consciousness and you are changing physical reality but being able to literally change your physical reality is part of my definition of magic.
So it would be more like the art of changing physical reality and your consciousness at will, in alignment with natural forces. Because I don't believe that there is anything really supernatural about anything that witches do. We are using natural energies and natural forces. We're just using it in a way that most people aren't aware of the ability of how to manipulate those energies to effect the change we want to see.
She goes on in her definition, she talks about the art part as using sensory imagery and symbols that evoke emotions and then the will is kind of directed energy and intention, and together, those things sort of mix and shift, because we're kind of swimming around in this emotional-thought-energy soup, or whatever.
You know what's interesting to me, see, is that sounds like people talking about Law of Attraction and talking about manifesting. I started blogging 12 or 13 years ago and the vocabulary that was popularized by The Secret sort of eclipsed some of what we call magic. It was like, no longer fashionable to use the word 'magic', now it's 'manifesting'.
Do you have any observations about the relationship between those things? Is that something that you notice as well?
Okay. So yeah.
I definitely believe that there is validity in the Law of Attraction in its relation to magic. I am definitely not going to be your love and light person when it comes to this conversation because I think most of what we get with Law of Attraction is bullshit for the most part.
When it comes down to - you have cancer because you wanted cancer - you wanted to be sick, I think it's especially (and I don't want to name names because I don't want to start any internet wars with anyone), but there are people who purport this Law of Attraction and about being in alignment with it, or stepping out of it, and you have to step out of it to know when you're in alignment with your Law of Attraction.
It's very victim-blaming to me.
The way that they discuss it sometimes. And it's not helpful. And it's not been official, for the people who were in crisis mode, because then they think, Oh well I did this to myself.
And yes, there is a part of it that I believe we do to ourselves. We make choices, whether they're conscious or subconscious choices, we make them, that create our realities. I mean, that's true. If I choose not to do something, I'm going to have the consequences of that action.
But the manifestation of magic is definitely, you do certain things to attract what you're trying to get in your life.
If I'm trying to get a job, I'm going to put my energy into my resume of attracting the job I want. And as a witch, I will take it a step further and anoint the edge of my resume with an oil blend I've made to attract a good job for me. Or the best job for my highest good.
I'm going to do that and send the resume in and I guess now, most things are electronic. I know some witches who, electronically, they have a very faint... what's the word that I'm looking for... it's on the back of paper that you put on... a watermark! A very faint watermark of a sigil that they created.
And, a sigil, you know, is just an image that you create and you imbue with a certain energy. So they would create a job sigil and put that onto the back of their resume before they emailed it out.
And so, for me, that's more how the Law of Attraction works. It kind of goes back to the ideas that I grew up with. Being raised in a Christian home, but a magical Christian home. You know. God helps those who help themselves.
So if you're acting in alignment with something that you want, then the Universe is going to provide that. But you have to do it in the accurate way.
And so, for me, I don't like using the term Law of Attraction just because of all of that baggage that I feel comes with it. And how simplified things like The Secret made it. It's not just, Ooo I'm going to sit in my house and make a pretty dream board and hang it up and it's going to manifest. At least in my experience, it's been, You can do that, but if you don't put in the work to try to manifest it, the Universe isn't going to give it to you.
I think the Law of Attraction has been simplified and that it has... Because the new age movement has a lot of money behind it, especially when you're being published by people like Harper Collins or the bigger publishing companies. They can definitely get you more exposure than Llewellyn could get you. I don't think you'll see many Llewellyn books on the best seller's list the way that you will, you know, Penguin or Harper Collins. Those sorts of publishing companies.
So definitely if it's going to feed the capitalist society, then they're going to pounce on it. And so, yeah, I guess that's my answer for your question on Law of Attraction!
I'm very happy to hear your take on all that because it does... I think it always sort of... I feel the contrast in it and I'm always aware, kind of, of the intersection of that terminology, so... I'm one of those people who I use other people's vocabulary in order to reach them. Like you were saying, for instance, there are a lot of really Christian people who use Christian vocabulary to talk about magic, so if I'm going to talk about magic to them, I'm going to use their vocabulary because otherwise you shut them down if you start coming at them with, you know, like calling it the 'goddess'.
If you're talking to a 90-year old woman about folk lore and she's talking about Jesus, just call it Jesus. You know what I mean?
Just keep on going.
So, to me, it's always a language thing. It's interesting. Your whole thing about the word 'Appalachia', I did not know that specifically, so that was a huge epiphany for me to hear that about the idea of how it identified someone from being somewhere else.
I was a linguistics major and I'm always interested in language and, to me, as a writer, magic and spell-crafting is very much, sort of rooted in a lot of language and when I do assessments of my mentoring students, I actually listen for the way in which they speak about these things.
And that doesn't mean the obvious stuff like the symbolism and the archetypes and the buzzwords. I actually am listening for the actual words that they use, like, are they using passive language, are they using a lot of visual language, do they speak emotionally, those kind of things sometimes tell you a lot.
To shorten the story.
So I'm interested... you touched on a couple of things. The whole thing about the resume was interesting.
What other kind of... not the things you necessarily do for your clients that you teach, but just in your own personal life, what kind of rituals do you observe? Or what kinds of magic do you do every day, kind of household magic?
So household magic. That's always been kind of a big part of most folk magic. I always like calling it 'folk' magic instead of calling it 'low' magic because it makes it seem like it's something less worthy, because by definition, 'high magic' is like super occulty sort of things where you have to have a special robe and special pentograms painted on the floor.
And then, I don't know who popularized the terms 'high' and 'low' magic but low magic was what the common folk did, and you know what? I'm a common folk. I like being a common folk. I don't want all the responsibility of being John Dee and deciphering things for Queen Elizabeth.
That's not my interest area. I don't want to go and sit in the White House, especially this White House, and manifest messages for any political figure, especially what we have now.
So my daily practice, there is, and this is something that people from almost all backgrounds, culturally, they have, if they dig deep enough, is ancestor veneration. Ancestors play a big part in my practice, and in the practice of the Appalachian people, as well as other cultures as well. I'm not forgetting them.
It's big in hoodoo and voodoo as well, in African American and African traditions. But it's also big in European traditions.
And so I definitely try to make sure I light a candle for my ancestor's altar every day and just kind of say hello to them. Let them know that I'm still thinking of them and, thanks for being who you were because then I can't be who I am if it wasn't for you.
And that's not to say that all my ancestors were great people because they weren't. We all have those rotten branches and the rotten fruit on our family trees, and so, in classes, I do teach ways to kind of, you know, you don't want to invite all of your entire ancestry into your home because you might have a child molester or murderer or serial rapist in your family and that's definitely not what you want to invite into your home. So I teach ways to kind of try to helpfully, try to hopefully help them along on the other side to get to where they need to be.
In my practice, I try to light a candle for them every day, just saying thank you, because sometimes, my magic is just me going to the alter and saying, I really need your help. This is the situation.
And I'll bring them food. I'll cook them a special meal of whatever it is that they specifically like. Usually it's cornbread or something very southern. Cornbread, soup beans, pork chops, really salty country ham that I can't try to eat because it's too salty, but I will set it at their alter and light the candles and kind of say a prayer to them.
It's sort of like the idea of Catholics asking saints for help. That's how a lot of witches use ancestors, and sometimes that's all you need to do to get help. You might get answers in your dreams from one of your ancestors. And it might be even someone that you don't know is your ancestor. A random person will pop up in your dream and give you the answer.
Or things just start magically happening in your life, like I was really needing help to get this job and then suddenly you get 4 job offers. That sort of thing.
I try to bless my food before I eat it. I do a lot of garden work. So I definitely try to take care of the plant spirits. In my belief structure, every ... I'm what you would consider an animist, so I definitely believe that every plant has its own very specific spirit, the dirt has it's own spirit, so I try to get to know that spirit, talk to it, learn about it.
I am the crazy person in my condos that's seen outside mumbling to themselves and I think that's where the idea of witches, you know, muttering to themselves came from, is that we talk to everything. Things that no one else would see, we would be talking to the trees, to the plants, to the birds that were up in the trees, and also muttering spells under our breath for, usually for the good.
Not all witches do things for the good of all, but I mean, that's usually my general practice. I don't a daily spell. I'm not... mostly because my life doesn't dictate that I need it. My life isn't that hectic that, I have to put it back together, always!
I do magically craft things. I make what's now commonly referred to as Books of Shadows, you know, spell books. I tea-stain pages with special herbs for special meanings, like keeping secrets and keeping power in the book and I'll bind them and add in special pictures and I try to sell them. Sometimes I just give them as gifts.
I do magical crafts pretty much on the regular, making witches' cords, which is kind of a braided cord with special items like oak leaves or tarot cards, feathers, generally I have a very specific purpose in mind for each of them. I will make one for protection of the house, one to get a job, one to be enchanting, to have enchantments over people to make you feel... kind of like a glamour.. make yourself look more appealing and you just kind of really hang these in your home or your office for whatever purpose it is that you..
I would create it for you and, just looking at it, kind of helps imbue you with that energy because all the energy is there and kind of just drips down, like a rain cord..
And so, that's pretty much basically my daily practice. Like I said, I don't do spells every day just because my life doesn't dictate it, that I need to do a spell every day.
But I do sit in communication with the spirit world almost every day. Whether that's plant spirits or my ancestor spirits or both.
You are like me, you're like a like-minded soul in that you want this to be normal and part of your every day life. Like, it doesn't have to be some high ritual, like there's something almost off-putting about that, to me. Whereas something that I can incorporate into my daily existence, I'm a big sweeper. I sweep a lot.
You were talking about, that's where the images of witches outside, you know, crazy people muttering spells to themselves, I'm outside sweeping all the time. I'm that weird little old person who's like, I'm practicing for when I'm a little old man out there sweeping the sidewalk.
So you've talked a little bit about these magical crafts. Now how does that play into, you do professional magical consultations and you create spells for people. So is there something similar in what you do for your clients?
Just to get back to the brooms, I'm obsessed with brooms. I have... I don't know how many brooms I have hanging in the house, but I love brooms. I love the magic of sweeping. I have a specific broom for sweeping my front lawn, and then I have a specific broom that I use if I go to a client's house to clean out energy or angry ghosts or that sort of thing, that I only use for that specific purpose.
Magical consultations might involve my broom, depends on what they come to me for. A client will, you know, usually contact me on my Facebook page or my number is on my Facebook page too, or they'll call me. And they will set up an appointment time.
Sometimes I know beforehand because they want to share a little bit over phone about, this is why I need to come meet you. I'm having a hard time in my marriage, or I'm having a hard time finding a job.
In the meeting, I take a lot of notes. I know that's off-putting for some clients. Like, why are you writing this down? And I'll write it down because, while I will remember most of things, I don't remember everything when I go back home, and start creating a spell or ritual for the person.
And so, they'll bring me their issue, or their troubles, or what they're trying to magically create in their life. And, the consultation usually involves a reading of some sort. I'll get my cards out and see if there's some, if there is a block to what you're trying to do. Because sometimes we do create blocks for ourselves. Or there are people in our life that are blocks.
Like if you're trying to save your marriage but your partner is not wanting to save your marriage and they're completely over that marriage, you don't want to try to force a marriage with someone who's really trying to escape it.
And so, it's important for me to do these readings that I'm doing, consultations, because I don't want to trap someone into a marriage that will eventually make both people completely miserable.
Or, the job that they're trying to get, we will look at that specific job and kind of look at the future and be like, Oh, you will be happy here so I'll craft something to help you be more enchanting in your interviews, or just draw the energy to you specifically for this job.
Or if it's the other way, this job is going to be a terrible fit for you. You will like it for a bit but then it's going to be super draining. I would do something more like a road opener, so to speak, to make them more open to more offers of jobs, to a bigger spectrum of jobs, where they might need to take that job initially, but continuing to be open and going out and try to attract the job that's going to be most beneficial for them.
So I will sit down and talk with the person, do a reading, and then I usually try to bring so many different herbs and things with me, so I can create little baths the person can take if they need a cleansing bath, or a bath to make them have more self-esteem, that sort of thing.
I can create that on the spot and give it to them. But if it's something that requires more work, like if I have to go purchase certain items that I don't have on hand, then we set up another time to meet.
If it's something that I need them to do, because for me, magic is most potent if the person that needs the magic is involved in it in some physical way. Whereas if I'm just at my house, doing a spell for you, I'm not going to have as much emotion in it as you are going to be able to manifest for yourself. Because it's affecting you more than it is me. I can pull up as much emotion as I possibly can, and I do, and I send it out.
Not every spell is going to work. It's kind of a 70, 80% chance that it's going to manifest the way you want it to. Because... I'm a big advocate when I talk about magic is, magic is going to take the path of least resistance.
So you need to be specific and general at the same time in what you're trying to manifest. I know that sounds like a contradiction, to be general and specific, but if you're just, Oh, I need money, and we do a money spell, you might get an inheritance but your mother might die. And that's not what you're trying to manifest.
So you want money, but what do you want that money for? So you want that money because you want to go on vacation. So let's do a spell for that vacation instead of just money.
And that's where the consultation come in handy instead of someone just sending me a message saying, hey I need a spell for this, and me sitting down, okay cool. I'll just write you the spell and do all the stuff in the instructions and you do it. Because it might manifest in a way they aren't expecting or wanting.
And so, getting... And that's why I take so many notes. Getting down to the nitty gritty, exactly what the person is trying to create with their lives, dictates exactly what type of spell or magical ritual, if I feel it needs to get to that point would dictate.
Is this something that you always have to do in person or can you do it over the phone and send people things?
I can do it over the phone and then mail all the stuff out. Sometimes there are things that I will do on my end. And then I'll just send pictures of my work as I'm going along so they know I'm actually doing it.
Instead of, you know, there are crooks out there who, I would do a spell for you, send me $400!
And then they sit at home and eat popcorn and watch Netflix. And then send you a message, I've done it!
You should see it happening.
I try to keep things on the up and up as much as possible. So I will send people pictures as much as I can. I do think sometimes taking pictures and documenting it can sometimes zap a bit of the energy out of it because... that's my own personal belief. I'm kind of going back to the idea of electronics pulling energy, but...
Well, I think that, well one thing that electronics does do is it allows us to reach people that aren't here. It takes away the distance somewhat, so that you can, you know, speak to somebody that's on the other side of the country.
But I would think that, the fact that there is this sort of physical object that you often create, you know, like the cords or a little grimoire or something like that, there's something, you know, the reason I can never be a Buddhist is because I like attaching energy and emotion to things.
I find objects that have been imbued with power and emotion and association and intention to be extremely delicious and I want them sitting around on my shelves and stuff, you know?
I think that's one of the ways in which magic really differs, but I would think that there would be something to that sort of crafted item that is uniquely special, to the way that you do readings and healings.
In working with people who do different kinds of readings or healings, I usually talk to them about the idea that there's a diagnostic part of their session and there's a healing active part of the session.
For me, it's all language. It's all words. It's basically, I'm an enabler and I can give you a big pep talk and that is the way that I heal.
For other people, it might be something like, doing reiki, or like you said, it might be going clearing spirits or it might be crafting this item, spell, and then you use the intuitive part as a kind of diagnosis. Like, what's really going on here before I go messing with it? What's underneath the layers?
I think that your practice is really kind of cool and unique and the reason why I asked about if you could do it at a distance because I know that there are a lot of people listening who are going to want you to now, and you know, gonna contact you and say, Wait a minute! Can you do this over the phone because I really want one.
Let me... Before we talk about how people can get in touch with you, I just want to ask you a couple of questions.
One is... Are we doing okay on time for you?
Okay cool. I'm loving this conversation. I could talk to you all day. You can come back once a month.
So what do you most hope to contribute to the sort of greater conversation about spirituality and new age stuff? You touched on the idea that, of course, being published by a major publisher can sometimes falsely put those ideas forward. I'm very much a proud indie author, podcaster, and...
If you can put your work out there into the world, what is something that you kind of hope to maybe change about everybody's perception about magic.
Well, I guess it's two-fold.
My main goal, when I started Appalachian Witchery, was to try to preserve Appalachian culture, at least an aspect of Appalachian culture that has kind of been pushed into the dark corners.
Even people who do Appalachian studies, they don't really, or at least in my experience, because I haven't read every Appalachian studies paper or book known to man, but they don't really discuss a lot of the witch folklore, or the magic that they would do.
So I was very worried that it was a part that was kind of being lost in the conversation when we were talking about Appalachia. And so, I kind of wanted to bring that to the forefront because I'm very proud of where I'm from.
I'm not ashamed to say I was born in a very small town. I think we had 2000 people in it, and I think the county may have had 6000 people altogether.
And then when it comes to witchcraft and magic, just that, I want to de-myst... not really demystify it, because there is power in it being kind of a sacred, hidden spooky sort of thing, but that it is something that... I can sit down and craft you this spell but you are going to be the one that... I need you to actually do part of it for me.
So that everyone can kind of understand that everybody has the ability. Everyone has the ability to tap in to these natural forces and kind of take charge of their own life in the process.
Because, I mean, we live in the quick-fix prescription society where, I have a problem. Give me a pill. Let's fix it. And I think that kind of correlates into the occult world, the new age world at large. People come to healers and workers and think that we can fix them in one session. And they don't have to go home and do any work on their own.
And that's sadly not the case.
If you go and get reiki, yeah you're going to feel better. But when you go home, you need to take some of the things that you've learned in your session and start applying them to your life. If you're not applying them, then you're not actually doing the work and you'll start making those decisions again and ending up in the same place.
So it kind of goes back to that whole, idea of power of attraction. If you're not willing to make the changes, then you just keep attracting the same thing that you've been doing.
And so, for me, when I do the consultations or I do the readings, I really try to embed that idea that, it's good that you're coming to me for getting an outsider's perspective. Because you're getting some advice, some knowledge that you wouldn't have had otherwise, but ultimately the work lies with you in order to make those changes.
I can assist you and I can help you at that, but it is mostly personal responsibility. And I guess that's really what I try to stress most. Is preservation of a culture and personal responsibility for your life.
If someone's listening to this and realizing for the first time that they might be a witch because of our conversation, which will happen. What would you advise them to do first? Like, if they feel this real flush of like, Ohmygod, this is amazing, this is the thing for me.
Where would a new person go to kind of begin learning about this? Do you have any particular resources or books or things that you would recommend?
The first thing I would say is, if you're kind of acknowledging, Oh wow, I might be a witch, is not to go running through the streets announcing that to everyone. Because that...
And we do that sometimes when we discover something new that we're very passionate about. We're like, Oh this is what I am, this is who I am.
And it's off-putting, especially when you're, if we're talking, I might be a witch, is, you will encounter a lot of those people that are going to try to extinguish that light. Tell you you're crazy, it doesn't work, it's just nonsense, so that's my first advice is, don't run out telling everyone what you think unless they're someone you can really trust.
And so, finding those people is the next step. And there are resources like The Witch's Voice online, I think it's www.WitchVox.com
And they have a dropdown menu on one of the, either the right or left hand side, I haven't been to the website in awhile, and you can select your state or your country of where you're living, and then narrow it down. People post group meetups there, they post kind of personals. Years ago I had one on there myself. Trying just to meet like-minded people to talk and discuss...
Facebook is a great resource. I'm a member of a lot of groups, like Pagans of the Northeast, which is all situated north-east Tennessee. There's Friends of TC, which is Friends of the Tri-City, which is what we call the area I live in. Johnson City, Bristol, Kingsport, is a Tri-City area. And then anyone who is any sort of pagan or witch, can post their events, can post meetups there.
So finding those people, and you can just go into like, Facebook and type in "San Diego witchcraft" and you're going probably going to find a ton of options, groups, that sort of thing there.
Books-wise, I always like to start people out with the basics. One being, I am a Cabot Witch. I've trained with Laurie Cabot and I'm actually going for my second degree in two weeks.
I forgot to ask you about that - yes take a second and explain what that is. The Cabot Tradition.
So the Cabot Tradition is created by Laurie Cabot. It's known as the Cabot Kent Tradition and Laurie Cabot is just a fascinating woman. She was one of the first to be a public witch in America in the early '70s. And she had been initiated and trained by some witches in Boston, I believe, back when she was, I think, 15. They came from Kent, England.
When she started teaching publicly, she titled her tradition the Cabot Kent Tradition because she had added some of her own flavour into things, which is always so important to me, when people are trying to teach witchcraft, I'm like, you need to have done it long enough, for one, to teach it, and two, to have your own, sort of ideas and structure and traditions that you've created to teach.
Because witchcraft is a very personal thing, and that's something that Laurie brought to it, was that she had spent all these years crafting herself as a witch and had all these years of knowledge.
So she started teaching in Salem in the mid-70s and I think by the late 70s, Dukakis, Governer Dukakis I think he was at the time, gave her the official title of Official Witch of Salem.
Since then, she has been on Oprah, a bunch of other talk shows, teaching about witchcraft and her tradition.
And she, to this day, she's 85 now, and she's still teaching the classes and being present at the rituals, the 8 Sabbats that they follow. The 8 high holidays for her tradition, and for kind of witchcraft at large. We have 8 holidays that we usually follow. Some traditions are a little different than others and they don't do all 8, but...
About 2 years ago, I had the availability, the time and the money to go and study in her Witchcraft 1 class and got my first degree in the Cabot Kent tradition, which, when I was 13, that is who I saw walking down the streets of Salem. I was like, Oh!
And so, as I studied more from the time I was 13 on, I realized who that had been who I had seen. I was like, I have to study with this woman. And then 20 years later, it manifested!
I had put it out into the Universe all those years ago.
And sometimes that's how magic works. I would love magic to be like Bewitched, and we could wiggle our nose and it manifests on the spot, but sometimes magic takes a long time to actually manifest into your life.
So I studied with her back in 2016, and then coming up, July 15th I'm going back up to Salem for my second degree in her tradition.
So yup, that's a fascinating little very rough history of her that I gave you.
No, that's cool. I intended to ask you about it earlier. It was something that, because the whole tradition thing is an avenue that a lot of people explore. There are different lines of witchcraft, different types of traditions... I'm really speaking from kind of a lone practitioner, eclectic sort of person, which you also do, kind of in your every day life.
But I think one of the takeaways for me for someone if they're new is to... like you said, well good on Facebook. There are some things that Facebook does really, really well, and that could be one of them. Is to connect with people locally.
There is a lot about, when I go back to my interests in these subjects and where they came from, a lot of what I learned was physically in a certain location, or, you know, was a certain kind of shop, like you talked about. Most cities have that cool little store where there are people working there who are a resource, there are people putting flyers up for events.
It is kind of, there is something about the power of where it takes place, you know what I mean? Like, different parts of the world, different parts of the country, have different energy, have different... Because this is so connected to nature.
Even though you can use the internet as a tool to kind of find some resources, if you can ground that in people where you are, I think that would be my advice based on your advice, you know?
Oh yeah, yeah.
That's perfect advice because, like you said, the way that someone's going to connect to their place is going to be different depending on where they're at. Someone in Singapore is definitely going to have a different sort of, probably even different definition of witchcraft, and practice of witchcraft in Singapore, as compared to me, sitting here in Johnson City, Tennessee.
We're probably going to go about it 2 different ways.
So yes, if you can find a local spot, then definitely capitalize on that. Read the flyers. Talk to the store owners. Talk to the people that are working there. Because I did, as well, work at a sort of a metaphysical shop for about 8 years when I moved out here to Johnson City. And people definitely talk to the shop workers about what they're doing, what they're looking for, any sort of meet-up or ritual, gathering, that's going on. So they are a plethora of information.
But you have to talk to them. You have to ask them.
They're like metaphysical librarians.
But you're right. A lot of people who work in those stores are not just retail employees. They're there because they have knowledge about herbalism or knowledge about crystals or they're specifically involved in the community in something like a local circle or coven, something like that. That's where you'll find them, if you want to meet them.
And, you know, they're often identified by their jewellry.
Yeah, yeah. We witches love our very large pieces of jewellry.
Listen, I know it always kind of puts you on the spot a little bit when somebody asks you to recommend books or something in the middle of a conversation, so I'm thinking, after we have this conversation, you're probably going to think of things like, Oh! I should have mentioned this book or this website, or whatever.
So you can send those to me if they come to you and you think of something you want me to put in the show notes. Because I'll put all the stuff that we've talked about in the show notes and links to different books and sites and stuff so if you want to add to that, we'll have some time here from the time we're recording 'til it goes out.
I'll be working on that and you can...
It's also interesting that you'll be going on your trip to study with Laurie again probably around the same time that everyone is listening to this.
Oh, wow! Okay!
Yeah, that same week!
So yeah, there's going to be a lot of energy behind you. A lot of people are going to be thinking about you and what you're doing up there. And then when you get back, they're probably going to want to contact you.
It's been really fantastic capturing this conversation with you. I feel like I'm kind of running long on time. We'll have to have you come back at some point and go down some specific rabbit holes. Because this is a...
You're the FIRST witch to be on this show and given the fact that I identify with that word as well, it's kind of like, Dang, why haven't I talked about this? So you're representing for a big canopy of topics here and I appreciate what a good job that you did in making it kind of specific, and unique to you and your practice.
But also introducing the topic at large to a lot of different people. This is a big, big topic. There used to be statistics out there about neopaganism and sort of the growth of that spiritual tradition statistically, in this country. And there's a lot of people interested in this and wanting to learn more about it.
Tell everyone the best place they can go to find you online. What's your Facebook page?
The best place is going to be my Facebook page. It is just titled Appalachian Witchery and there is a picture of the Blue Ridge mountains, so the mountains are going to look kind of blue and it's going to say 'Appalachian Witchery' in red font.
I used to have a website but that is a whole other story about that, that I'm not going to get into, because it was cancelled by the people that owned Square.
Yeah. There's a whole thing about occult business and how they don't support them. And they cancelled my website...
That's basically the story. I made them quite a bit of money.
And then they decided to delete me and a bunch of other people, based on the content of their website, which was really just me selling my crafts and my classes.
You could buy a seat to my class on that website, which made it so much easier for me, because I could say, I can seat 30 people and put 30 tickets up on the website and then they would sell and I wouldn't have to worry about trying to send out emails letting people know that I'd gotten their money and the seat had been saved, which is what I've had to go back to, at this point.
So everybody can definitely see what you're doing on your Facebook page, because I saw where you'd posted some stuff talking about the upcoming class that you're going to do with Laurie and so, I mean, it can do a lot of things for you, and it's good enough for people to go and check out what you're doing.
Like you said, you have your number there, so they can email you and call you and set up a consultation. And of course, I'll link to it. It'll be easy to find.
This was really great, Ian. I've wanted to talk to you for awhile. I've enjoyed following you on Facebook for so many reasons.
I really want to thank you for coming on the show.
Thank you for inviting me. I've enjoyed being able to talk about my practice and things.
So definitely, I'm very much interested in coming back and talking more about things. Because I'm not JUST a solitary practitioner. I actually have a group here in the mountains and we've kind of crafted our own tradition here that I would love to talk about.
About what we do and how we've kind of crafted this tradition.
Yeah! Maybe we can time it with one of the holidays or something, and put some intention around some of those traditional witch points in the year, you know what I mean, like...
That would be really cool to do some content around some of those. Or maybe we'll have you come back for Halloween, since that's your favorite. We'll do some stuff around that.
The witches' busiest month. October.
That would be great!
I very much look forward to it.