Light Magic for Dark Times is an inspired and accessible collection of practices, rituals, and spells for the modern conjurer, creator, rebel, and dreamer. You’ll map a road toward healing and regeneration, find your creativity and resilience, and explore your shadow side. From self-care rituals to sex magic to practices for recharging after a protest, the book includes prompts for self-reflection and crisis care. It’s also got a chapter devoted to writing magic—with magical poetry writing practices, as well.
The book comes out on September 11th, via Fair Winds Press.
Andrew Byrds: Did the genesis for this book stem from a creative/spiritual exploration, or was it more of an altruistic intention to share with others what you’ve come to learn since your delving into witchcraft?
Lisa Marie Basile: Hmm, that’s a great question. Its impetus really came from a few areas. The first is that I’m deeply interested in ritual and magical living and I’ve always written in such a way that brings a certain sense of magic or liminality to my work, whether metaphorically or literally. In poetry I have always had this sense that my poetry was also a conjuring.
I had a publisher (Jess Haberman, who is wonderful, at Fair Winds Press/Quarto) reach out to me after she read some articles about ritual I’d written over at Luna Luna. She said she wanted to do a modern grimoire and so we developed the idea. I told her I really wanted to ensure everyone from atheists to religious folks could use it in tandem with their practices, whether that’s secular mindfulness or prayer to angels. I also wanted to make sure it was accessible and didn’t feel exclusive or that the practices required expensive materials to pull off.
It was a way for me to share my love of kindness and light (and my tendency to explore the dark) with people, like the readers of Luna Luna.
So I would suppose the book was born from many seedlings. It was wild to be asked to write it!
AB: One of my initial takeaways from your book after a first read was how much it galvanized my desire to write. Reading the introduction alone sparked some creative wires and shot out a flame, and I found myself wanting to write out my own incantations even though I hadn’t had much on my mind. This belief that your poetry is also a conjuring, what do you mean by that exactly?
LMB: That’s so amazing to hear, and quite humbling. I’m so happy that something I created makes you want to create! I guess that’s the cycle at work. What did you write about???
I know what you mean about writing when you don’t have anything ON your mind. Sometimes I just quit at that point because I’m thinking in empty circles. But sometimes I keep going, because at the emptiness is something, maybe.
I have always approached poetry in a way that I feel comes from intimicy, I think? Each poem is a look through a doorway or past a veil, always a small confession, a snapshot of a memory, a hunger. So it’s like a spell, either conjuring a past moment or a summoning of something I want. I know this sounds crazy but I often write poems about things I want and then, at times, they come true. I guess all my work is about wanting and remembering. I think that’s probably true in some way for all of us.
Do you think I’m ridiculous yet?
AB: I’ve been doing these little one line poem deals on Twitter, usually when I have writer’s block I can sometimes come up with a pretty strong line but nothing to follow it up with. The way I look at it, though, they’ve been inspired from the peals of nature I see staring out the window at work and they come off as a culling to those individual moments whenever I want them back. Either the day after, or a month after, or even longer. Like an incantation for a quiet moment in the past in those times when my thoughts are reamed by the noise of current emotional struggles.
That doesn’t sound ridiculous at all, writing about things that often come true. In fact I remember you bringing it up a couple times in your book. Would you say that your acts of writing spin themselves into acts of perseverance/tenacity in wanting something new to happen, or in wanting to conjure up a means of letting go of the past?
LMB: I love that you’re using Twitter for poetry. And that you’re projecting your mind and body outward, out of the office, and into a place of beauty. That’s the hardest thing about being an adult, haha — swimming in all these thoughts and emotions and feelings but having to sit in a chair and pretend you’re not 90% thinking about a poem or the way a rose blooms.
But that’s a good question. The writing itself, whether it’s a poem or, say, a mantra or incantation, is all part of a manifestation process. If I write it, it’s true, in some way. If I want to write it goodbye, it vanishes. If it write it hello, it comes. I also think that I’ve fallen in love with characters I’ve written, or written characters into existence, simply by existing in that place and funneling all of myself into that idea or thing…and then one day, that person you’ve spent a month conjuring is standing before you. Managing energy, no matter how, makes shit happen.
Obviously, I don’t mean literally. I just mean, what you give, you get in some way that is possible. What you envision blossoms, in some way, somehow, in line with your vision. It’s not a perfect facsimile, though, of course. Nothing could be. (I also don’t mean that if you manifest hard enough, you won’t face social ills or poverty. That is not the way it works, and it is irresponsible to blame people for their circumstances!)
I just mean, writing and ritual involving writing gives you a certain sense of autonomy and power. And it can be an effective way to bring little dreams into reality.
AB: So if you look at it that way, do you believe writing is an act of adapting reality in your favor to better understand the circumstances? As in, when I’m feeling depressed or scared about a situation, I write it out into a way I can understand it and it helps me cope better than if I were to just let it happen without writing at all. Or would that technically constitute as a fiction?
LMB: I guess I would look at it that way, yeah. Writing, at least for me, always comes from hunger. So when I write, I create and deconstruct and build outward or inward to some sort of satiety. At least I hope. When writing doesn’t fill me, I won’t need it anymore. I guess everything is a fiction and not a fiction at the same time, depending on how you look at it. And sometimes, something that exists on the page is just as real as it the “real.”
I love this quote by Anais Nin: “Reality doesn’t impress me. I only believe in intoxication, in ecstasy, and when ordinary life shackles me, I escape, one way or another. No more walls.” I think that’s why I write—maybe to be caught somewhere between capturing reality and inventing a new one? Like magic. Using the possibility of anything to create it.
Right now I’m sitting on a balcony looking at the ocean in Miami. It’s a pretty gawdy ridiculous city but I feel like whenever I’m here (family down here), I write a fucking ton. Do you have a space or place or time that inspires you?
AB: I don’t have a concrete place that usually inspires me, usually what happens is I’m walking around the neighborhood and I see a piece of trash jawing from a storm drain and it reminds me of something beautiful, so I go home and write about it. It’s incredibly important to conjure up beauty in even the most infinitesimal of things, it keeps one going–to remember beauty exists. That idea entered my mind a lot when reading your book, it had me asking a lot of questions to myself as well and so I’ll ask you this: what are you hoping your book achieves from the reader?
LMB: That’s lovely—and you’re right. Beauty and goodness may not always be grand, but they’re there, I like to think.
I hope my reader would come away feeling that someone empathizes and understands their feelings, fears, hopes. That introspection can pave the way toward something beautiful or honest. That magic is the will to make growth or change—and it’s within us all, that capability. Anyone can be a witch. You don’t need permission to be your most radical, magical, actualized self. You also don’t need to be afraid of vulnerability and making change and fucking up and using ritual to help you clear the path.
AB: I’m glad you brought that up, because I was about to bring up gender essentialism. One of the key differences I noticed between your book and the general canon of witchcraft/magic that is rampant in history is you make a point of being accepting and open to breaking against the traditional mindset that exists when others may think of what it means to be a witch. Was the process of writing your book one galvanized by wanting to eliminate that essentialism? And how do you think modern works on witchcraft have combated essentialism?
LMB: I love this question. I know that a lot of people tap into some of that essentialism, proliferated both by society at large and its obsession with binary and the canon of magical/witchy works. Some people find real empowerment in the traditional idea (and maybe some not so traditional ideas) of, say, the divine feminine.
I don’t want to knock that. However, I think a lot of people these days are entering into witchcraft and /or magical practices (like maybe using tarot or crystals regularly) because it provides not only a sense of autonomy but also a cyclical, ritualized, habitual space and way to explore the self, the shadow self, one’s inner magic. And that magic may be found, by some, in eliminating barriers, definitions, labels, and, yep–gender essentialism. Like, one should be able to connect with the divine feminine without having to have a womb/want children, etc.
While the book I wrote definitely was inspired by the women, femmes, and nonbinary folks I know, I tried to be cognizant of the language so that the spells and practices weren’t steeped in notions of what femininity (for example) “should be” or what bodies should be. I didn’t write my book from any one perspective or practice or path, simply because it’s not instructional. It’s written to be more accessible, easy-to-perform, inspirational, inclusive and uplifting—for the modern reader who wants to experiment or grow their practice. All that said, I respect that many cultural paths DO embrace gendered magic, and I respect people who want to eliminate it from their practice.
Also: A newish witchy book that I think tries to deconstruct the gender essentialist narrative in magic is Basic Witches by Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman. It’s a great foundation for everyday practices (some magical and some not) that aren’t bound by traditional notions of gender and magic.
AB: Are there any preconceptions or trends you see in modern witchcraft that you feel are detrimental to allowing inclusivity for those wanting to try it for the first time?
LMB: In general, there are some ideas around the law of attraction that I find exceptionally gross and problematic. There are a lot of people selling this idea that if you manifest hard enough, that the universe will reward you. Embedded there is the idea that you may be too “low-vibe” or not manifesting hard enough—not really putting enough effort into intention, and therefore, it won’t be actualized. These ideas are irresponsible and illogical.
Magic is one thing, but privileges in especially class and race do have a real hand in shaping a person’s life outcome. Lots of people offer abundance spells and rituals and practices, and I don’t knock that (abundance work, whether financially or metaphorically, is a huge part of some people’s magical paths), I just think that people need to have more inclusive language around the reality of abundance and intention. When we talk about having high-vibes, we need to think in context of life, you know? An exhausted, overworked single mother who can’t afford to buy her kids new clothes for school….she is going to interpret an abundance ritual differently than someone who has the odds in their favor. There shouldn’t be an underlying wave of shame around not putting yourself into your magic enough; magic and politic and society often go hand in hand and that should be discussed more.
AB: How has your work as a poet shaped the way you approach witchcraft. Do you think poetry offers a perspective that may otherwise by overlooked by prose?
LMB: I love how liminal poetry is. I have always strived to write poetry that exists half in the light, half in the shadow, as we are as people. Poetry is an in-between. It moves and slides and breaks rules. A line is like a little incantation; a poem is a ritual. I like to think of witchcraft as poetry, and poetry as magic: it breaks rules, it forces us to stretch our imaginations, get out of our comfort zones. Poetry offers a glimpse-of something that one might never see or realize or pay attention to, and it begs for eternal interpretations and flexibility. I think that is fucking magical.
Lisa Marie Basile is the founding creative director of Luna Luna Magazine, and the author of “Light Magic for Dark Times,” a modern grimoire of inspired rituals and daily practices. She’s also the author of a few poetry collections, including the forthcoming “Nympholepsy” (Inside The Castle). Her work can be seen in The New York Times, Narratively, Entropy, Sabat Magazine, The Atlas Review, and more. Lisa Marie earned a Masters degree in Writing from The New School.