the ethical love witch
Rachael, aka 'The Love Witch', is an Australian witch based in Melbourne. As a night-owl, she refines her practice during the 'witching hours'.
Rachael specialises in unbindings, divination and, of course love magic! She practises eclectic witchcraft and her work is based on an understanding of gender existing on a spectrum. She also loves working with queer and polyamorous people and supporting these communities with her work. To get to know Rachael more you can hear her interview on the Magic and Mediums podcast about love magic and ethics. To get to know her even further I asked her some questions about her work as a witch, shadow work and how love magic works.
Rachael, how long have you been practicing magic and how did you get started?
When I think about where my journey with magic began I think first of my upbringing. I was surrounded by psychology, sociology and therapy books as a kid. I’ve been my father’s long time philosophical confidant and consultant on all matters feminist and shadow work (in the realm of counselling). As well as walked beside my mother in our mutual interest in spirit guides and psychic skills. They provided me with a basis in traditional psychotherapy which I still use and draw from.
Nice start! Sounds like they have certainly influenced your start in life!
Absolutely. My mother is a light worker who uses art therapy and a mix of traditional and alternative therapies to offer healing to people. My father is a counsellor who gets into the gritty, tough guts of people’s pain and addictions through his business as a therapist. So, I feel I’ve been involved in the healing arts ever since I picked up books on parenting at thirteen.
Nice! So what was the next step for you?
Tarot and crystals were my gateway into the occult! I started off doing tarot readings for myself and my girlfriend. If I had to put a date on it, it would have been around 2012 when I got my Wild Unknown tarot deck and started doing simple readings for myself and her.
I’ve been witching-for-a-fee through my small business, The Love Witch since October 2017. The intervening years involved a lot of study and reading (I’m a huge bookworm). I read a lot of Wiccan books and then moved beyond that framework and found my own blend of eclectic witchcraft traditions that suited me. I made a lot of altars, did small spells, wore a lot of crystals and discussed things like the enduring essentialism in neo paganism with my partner.
So, in the midst of all this amazing input you've had to your life and focus, what would you say are some of the important markers in your journey to the present?
Moving to Melbourne was a big milestone in my life and kick-started me into setting up my own business. I would never have done that in Canberra. Melbourne has grown me tremendously, given me confidence I couldn’t have imagined and opened me up to a glittering realm of vast, glorious, awesome-scary possibilities. The magical community here is so much bigger and more advanced. I’m continually inspired by the local witchy business here in Melbourne.
It’s good to have that kind of support and community on your doorstep.
It really is.
Another huge moment for me has been realising I’m a shadow worker like my dad. It’s given my life and work as a witch such clarity and added drive. Shadow work is magical and shamanistic practises that delves into and seeks to heal the suppressed, hidden, broken shadow parts of ourselves (and our culture). This is my focus, especially when doing love magic for people.
Often there is healing that needs to happen for people asking for love spells so that they can function at a higher level. A lot of people feel that all their problems, their boredom and they pain will be fixed if they get their girlfriend or boyfriend back, but that’s not the case.
Rachael, on Magick and Mediums, you used the phrase “unethical magick” a number of times. What do you mean by this? What does that look like and can you give an example?
Unethical magic to me is magic that is selfish and used by people who don’t want to take into account the needs, desires and sovereignty of other human beings.
I see my magic within the framework of intersectional feminism and Marxism so I acknowledge the way humans are all interconnected and our actions can be for the benefit of the collective or to their detriment. When people focus just on themselves and their own petty desire with no further introspection or analysis they can cause harm to those they are trying to lure. Or they can stay stuck functioning on a pretty low frequency and remain caught up in selfish patterns, which doesn’t lead to fulfilling relationships and connections.
The better you know yourself, have integrated your shadow side and don’t hide from the truth of why you want what you want, the better your chances of not being surprised or crept up on by an unconscious side of yourself. It’s a careful balance of having your own back, feeling good about changing the outcomes of things, seeking, for example, work that you love, emotional and financial abundance and great connections with other people and the kind of freedom that doesn’t impinge on other’s rights.
It can take time and the maturing of moving through life and its lessons to find a philosophical place that isn’t the self-sacrificing resignation of a Puritanism nor unhealthy, unthinking hedonism of consumer capitalism. I’m aiming for an ethical hedonism – an enjoyment of life that harms other people, animals and the earth as little as possible. Not so I can feel ‘good’ about it but for the sake of these elements and their wellbeing.
I like that, 'ethical hedonism'!
Thanks! I encounter plenty of clients who just want what they want and aren’t open to other options or personal growth. They are convinced everything will get better if they just have their ex back and if they just pay enough it will happen. Their outlook is rather capitalist and neglects working on themselves and their issues. Which there are always plenty of, for us human beings.
I’ve had plenty of clients ask me for spells that are guaranteed to work and make their ex back. These types of people are pretty oblivious to concepts of ethics and seem befuddled when I explain how I work and why I don’t take away people’s free will. They seem to be genuinely surprised by these concepts. I take issue with this for so many reasons. The most important being that unethical magic creates unethical outcomes and that’s not what love is – having it all no matter the cost.
So, in that light, how do you define ethics?
My definition of ‘ethics’ is intertwined with a number of equality movements that are close to my heart. These include veganism, intersectional feminism, Marxism and queer politics. Each in their own way, not only gives me a global, as well as macro outlook, but these movements all have equality at their heart. They value putting aside your privileges and sometimes your personal goals to work towards common ones to the benefit of all (humans, animals, the earth). This is what Wiccan, witchcraft and neopaganism are also concerned with.
Witchcraft gave me a deeper love and respect for the earth. It’s one of the most precious things I have learnt and come to feel. From this I’ve come to know that love is not selfish, it is not consumer culture, it is not trashing the earth, killing its critters and ruining habitats because you want a McDonalds burger. It’s not contributing to the institutionalised degradation and marginalisation of women, trans people and people of colour. It’s not passively benefiting from the poverty of other nations so you can buy cheap jeans. Love is patient, it is kind, it is not self-seeking.
Love needs to go beyond our circle of friends and family and so do our ethics. Otherwise we find ourselves treating the world like a drive-in and wanting unconditional, passionate love with other human beings. But one undermines the other so totally, it’s ridiculous.
Ethics seem to be such a high theme for you – why not ‘the Ethical Witch’?
Love and respect are so intertwined with ethics they become inseparable. So by being a love witch in the way that I am, I’m also ‘The Ethical Witch’.
I chose the name The Love Witch because I started off offering people love spells when I first set up my business. The Love Witch seemed the most obvious name for me. Plus it really stuck. My housemates know me by that name! I also love the American horror comedy film written and directed by Anna Biller of that name too.
When I first heard you on the podcast, I remember finding it quite striking that you so strongly expressed your value of ethics and responsibility.
I think part of it is my personality that drives me to consider ethics in all things and partly my upbringing. My parents live to high standard of ethics so as to not cause unnecessary harm to others. They consider their actions as part of a global and community context. They were a great example in that way.
But also growing up Christian with my family deeply embedded in missionary work taught me a lot, good and bad. Living in accordance to Jesus’ standards seemed a good enough thing to me growing up. But I witnessed the crass evil perpetuated by the same people who were meant to be spreading love but were intolerant, afraid, closed minded, aggressively ignorant and hypocritical. They spread a violently homogeneous outlook that punished difference and closed-down critical thinking. Critical thinking is at the heart of ethics for me.
What does a typical week look like for The Love Witch?
Making a lot of things with clay first off. It’s been my saviour through dark times and given my life a lot of meaning and comfort. I’m developing altar crafts and clay magical items so my clients can better connect with their goals and deities and hopefully assist in alleviating their worry and anxiety (as clay has done for me).
I also do a lot of tarot readings and formal spell work at either my large main altar table or my smaller one by my window enshrouded by a lovely, leafy hedge. If you could see what I get up to as The Love Witch you’d also see me answering questions and spell-work requests late at night (I’m a night owl) and I get emails and Instagram PMs/DMs at all hours. I like that aspect a lot. It’s exciting to get a question about spell work at 1am from a person in Ireland or the US!
How do you approach the work for a new client? What are your steps?
First off, I ask a new person or potential client a few questions about their situation and context. This gives me tons of clues and intuitive information to work with. Through their answers, I can work out what kinds of services to offer them but also how they answer and what they say (and don’t say) tells me a lot about their attitude, their beliefs and what their personal problems might be. This kind of psychic detective work gives me the most understanding regarding what kind of spell work and resources they need.
I always consider my client’s context, their problems (what they present to me as an issue and what I pick up on my own), their limitations, their class, gender etc. their family history. All the while holding in mind how they fit within a broader societal context and how I can work to help them while having the best effect on their community and indeed our global one.
I usually like to get the first name, age and star sign of everyone who’s going be involved in a spell, tarot reading or divination session. It’s important to me that I establish a bond with the people I work with and explain to them what I can and can’t offer them. This is especially crucial when working with people who are desperate for guarantees or to get their ex back no matter what.
From there I let them know what my prices are and how we will go ahead from there. I love sending my clients photos of the work I do and sending them updates or insights I gathered during the tarot reading or spell-work I do on their behalf.
Hollywood would have us believe in the idea of ‘The One’ who we’re destined to meet and fall helplessly for, what do you think of these notions?
It’s a bullshit idea that makes a lot of people unhappy and cripplingly dependent on some loser because they think only one person can make them happy. Yes, other people are part of the context of our happiness but we have to find our purpose in life and that can’t be being in a relationship with someone. We need love and connection as well as our own goals and a compelling reason to continue living. But this monosexual-centric belief in ‘the one’ traps people into feeling helpless and incomplete.
There are multiple chances at love and they don’t run out. There are multiple people at any one moment that could make you happy in bed and in a relationship. It’s not always easy to find those people but we are not limited to one great love or having to seek out ‘the one’.
Thanks for your time Rachael. It’s been really good talking with you.