I am overjoyed to present to you an interview with author, witch, teacher and all around amazing human being, Judika Illes. Judika is the author of the must have tome “Encyclopedia of 5,000 spells” among many other magical books.
Q: How would you describe your personal magical practice?
A: Eclectic, independent, constant, evolving: those are some key words for my own personal practice. I’m a product of my time and the places where I’ve lived or traveled and the people I’ve met and learned from. I try to learn something new every day, magical or otherwise. Probably the most crucial and constant aspect of my personal practice is interaction with the spirit world, both ancestral and the specific sacred beings who are very dear to me. Also, I find that the older I get, the more I think about the power of place, the actual influence of the land: magical psychogeography.
Q: What are some of your favorite spells from your book “Encyclopedia of 5, 000 Spells”
A: That book was not written in any kind of linear fashion. The first thing I did when I started that manuscript was type up my own personal favorites, spells that I had not been able to include in previous books. I really love long, poetic, complex, multi-step spells that incorporate spiritual interaction. They’re very old-school and completely impractical for the modern age, if only because they’re so time consuming— it’s much easier to implement basic kitchen witchery— but those spells resonate with me so deeply. There are several in Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells— mainly deriving from North African traditions, but there are a couple of Russian spells, too, as well as some others.
I know many people think Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells was my first published book, because it’s the first they knew of from me, but it’s actually my third publication.
I had previously published two regular-sized spell books through Fair Winds Press: Earth Mother Magic and Emergency Magic! (The exclamation mark is part of the title, not me being effusive.) Those books are now out of print, but have been reissued by Weiser Books in new editions with different tiles (The Big Book of Practical Spells and Magic When You Need It, respectively.) When I first contracted to write Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells, it was supposed to be a 450-page book, which sounded luxurious to me: Finally, there would be room for me to include those long beautiful spells. Because they have so many steps and ingredients and may have lengthy invocations, they take up a lot of page space in a book. Once I typed them up, however, it became clear that we had miscalculated and there was no way we could squeeze 5000 spells into 450 pages.
I could have removed those spells and substituted a greater number of short spells instead, but I insisted on leaving them in the manuscript, because I love them and because I wanted readers to be familiar with this style of spell-casting, which is simultaneously leisurely and intense. You’ll know these spells in the book, because they’re the ones that take up half a page each.
Q: Of the books you have written, do you have a favorite? If so, which one?
A: That’s like asking a mother to choose between her children. I love them all. The ones closest to my heart are probably the ones that are still in progress, those that haven’t been published yet. Those are the ones that are constantly in my thoughts and need a lot of attention. Essentially, they’re gestating.
Q: What parallels if any, do you see between the arts of writing and magic?
A: Oh, writing is definitely a magical art or, at least, potentially one. Numerous spells incorporate the act of writing— I’m thinking specifically of those Hoodoo “I cross and cover you” spells, where you write over someone’s name as a controlling device, but there are so many spells with written components for all kinds of reasons and from so many magical traditions. Likewise, you can weave a spell through literature or poetry, whether deliberately or unknowingly.
Words are such a crucial component of the spell-casting process. You must consider them carefully and really comprehend the nuances of each word you choose. Spell-casting really sharpens your ears to the sound, rhythm, and full meanings of words. It’s the equivalent of the Third Eye opening— once your ears have opened, there’s no going back and that spills over into all your other writing, as well. But this applies to more than the written word— the spoken word is equally magical. We learn spells and magic from books now, but, until relatively recently, this knowledge was typically transmitted orally. We weave our spells with words, regardless of context or media.
Q: Who are some of the people that most inspired you on your magical Journey?
A: My mother, foremost. The first famous, public witches to make a deep impression on me were Helena Blavatsky and Sybil Leek. I was a child when I first encountered them. I first read about Blavatsky in McCall’s magazine, of all places, and saw Leek on television talk shows. As an adult, I studied Tarot with Carole Murray in New York City and she really encouraged me and stimulated my magical growth.
Q: What advice do you have for magicians just getting started today?
A: Have fun. Experiment. Read everything you can get your hands on, whether you agree with all of it or not. Support and patronize your local witch shops, if you’re lucky enough to have them. Don’t be afraid to follow your own path.
Q: What place if any, should magic have in global politics?
A: I think magic counts among the means in the phrase ‘by any means necessary.’
Q: What is one piece of magical technology you can’t live without?
A: I don’t know that there is one piece. I treasure my mortars and pestles. I treasure essential oils, which are a large component of my practice, as are candles. But ultimately the most crucial part of magic is the human mind and I don’t know that I would classify that as a technology. The aspects of magic that I can’t live without exist independently— the moon, the sea, the power of the land, the power of the ancestors and other sacred beings. Although I’m attached to some technologies more than others, I think, ultimately, they’re replaceable, even if that might be troublesome and inconvenient, you know?
Q: Are you working on any new books or projects? If so, what can you tell us about them?
A: I’m always working on new books and projects. Typically, I don’t finish anything, until I have a contract and a deadline, which means that there are some books I’ve been working on for decades, for example my manuscript devoted to traditional and magical methods of promoting fertility. I have some works of fiction that I’ve been playing with for years, too. I hope to have another large encyclopedic-type book completed soon, but it’s too soon to divulge what that one’s about. I can tell you that The Weiser Book of Occult Detectives: 13 Stories of Supernatural Sleuthing will be published in October 2017. Similar to its predecessor, The Weiser Book of the Fantastic and Forgotten, I chose the short stories contained in the book and wrote the introductions. I really enjoy working on those compilations and feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to do so.
Q: How did your “defense against the dark arts course” come about?
A: Lady Rhea, a pivotal influence on New York City witchcraft, had a store called Magickal Realms in the Bronx, where I would sometimes teach. During the process of planning a class, Lady Rhea asked people on her Facebook page what they would like me to teach and the hands-down favorite was “Defense Against the Dark Arts.” How could I say no? Since then, I’ve been requested to offer that class at other venues, as well. Much of the core information can be found in my book, Encyclopedia of 5000 Spells.