David Salisbury is an activist, writer, and teacher who co-organizes The Firefly House, the largest witchcraft tradition in the Washington, DC area. He is author of several magical books including The Deep Heart of Witchcraft, Teen Spirit Wicca, and A Mystic Guide to Cleansing & Clearing.
First off David, what is your magickal background? How did you get involved with magick? Did you have any experiences as a child that pre-shadowed your discovery of the Craft?
I first learned that magic, witchcraft, etc were real systems that real people worked with around age 11 through an earlier stepmother of mine who was some kind of eclectic Wiccan / New Ager mix. That’s how I first heard the term “Wicca”, which gave me the tools I needed to search on my own.
A year later in the 7th grade I had a couple of people who came into my life at the same time who opened up that whole world for me, both classmates. One friend was a solitary witch, surprisingly deep in study for a 12 year old! She gave me the book recommendations I needed to start my own solitary studies. Then I made another friend who told me her mother and whole family practiced the Craft! I almost didn’t believe her at first, until I met the family. It turned out her family was part of one of the largest covens (lead by a couple of Cabot witches who were originally based up in New England) in the Charlotte area where we lived. Her mother, who I affectionately call “Miss Tina” become a mentor to me for years. I’m extremely lucky to have had both the resources and trust of adult teachers at such a young age. I devoured every bit of information I could and invested deeply intro my own personal practice and haven’t looked back since.
As for childhood experiences (before the age of 12 anyways), I suppose you could say that I fit the bill for the description of “weird, lonely, outcast kid.” I much preferred the company of the lake and trees that I grew up around to the presence of the mean kids in my neighborhood. I had some experiences I might call “psychic”, but nothing that I would consider very extraordinary.
A Mystic’s Guide To Cleansing & Clearing is probably the best modern guide to energy clearing and cleansing that I’ve come across. What inspired you to write it?
Thank you! Energy clearing has always been one of my favorite topics of esoteric studies. The impact it has on my life and magic just makes so much of a difference, its hard to imagine what my practice would be like without it. I noticed that the books already out on the topic tended to be more on the New Age or eastern side of things so I wanted something that magical practitioners of various stripes could take and adopt into their own practices with ease. I also wanted something practical. It is somewhat colored with my own bent towards witchcraft since that’s my background, although people who would never consider themselves witches have told me they’ve found plenty in it to work with. That was my goal.
Is there a difference between energy cleansing and energy clearing?
Most people consider the two interchangeable but I find it useful to denote a difference. “Cleansing” is something I consider to be very general and can include transmutation (turning one thing into another), banishing, and clearing. Clearing is the term I use to denote something that is being untangled, put in order, and purified. I like using both terms because there are situations where it is more appropriate to use one of them over the other.
Did you learn anything new while researching for this book?
Absolutely! My favorite part of writing is learning new things. In particular, I loved learning about some of the interesting folk methods people have used throughout history to turn their luck around. For example, a folk custom from southern China instructs a cursed person to take a focal point object of the curse (particularly for cursed items) and fry it in oil!
Are there any particular energy clearing and cleansing methods that you personally favor?
Suffumigation (burning smoldering herbs or resins) is my favorite method because I enjoy practices that engage many senses at once. The visual of the rising smoke, the scent of the burning plants, and even the sound of the flame catching all lead to a deep mind-body experience for me. I also like it because there is a lot of creativity potential. Most people are familiar with burning white sage (which actually comes from specific ceremonies from indigenous peoples), but you can burn all kinds of non-toxic plant materials that are associated with cleansing and clearing. My personal favorite is a rosemary and lavender bundle. Not only are the esoteric properties of these simple plants quite potent, but it leaves a gorgeous smell in the process.
One of the things I really liked about the book was the section on diagnosing a curse, hex, or crossed condition. Why do you feel this is important? Wouldn’t any type of major cleansing or clearing remedy the problem?
As with any problem, I like to have an understanding of what I’m dealing with before I begin to work out possible solutions. Generally, I think the best answer is often the simplest one. That’s why I usually recommend that someone start small if they’re not sure what’s ailing them. I’ve not encountered too many harmful conditions that a simple uncrossing bath couldn’t resolve.
Not many modern books on witchcraft discuss the topic of clearing out ghosts or other entities but your book does. Have you had experience in this area? Any particularly interesting stories?
I regularly perform house clearings in my area, which is a service I offer in exchange for donations to my city’s soup kitchen (home clearings, in honor of folks without a home). Doing that work puts me into some very interesting situations, although most often they don’t have anything to do with ghosts. The most interesting situation to me was when I was asked to perform a “crossing over” for a suspected entity in a home. The entity wasn’t harmful, but it was causing quite a shock to the husband of the family, who kept spotting it out of the corner of his eye. It turns out that it was the childhood spirit guide of the husband in the house, making itself known once again as he began to craft his own personal spiritual practice. The family wasn’t being haunted, they were being guarded! That type of situation isn’t likely to make the next episode of “Ghost Adventures” but as a spiritual explorer, those are the cases I find most intriguing.
You have new plans for Teen Spirit Wicca, right? What are they?
I’m working on getting the publishing rights back to Teen Spirit Wicca, although there are a couple more steps I need to finish up when I can grab the time. I’m doing that, all in good spirits with my publisher, so that I can offer it up as a free community resource. I intend to offer it up as a free ebook on my website and perhaps offer it as a low-cost mass paperback for events for folks who want a physical copy.
Both Teen Spirit Wicca (despite “teen” in the title) and The Deep Heart of Witchcraft are fantastic beginner books when it comes to exploring the Craft. What advice would you give to a young person seeking out the Craft? What advice would you give to an adult seeking out the Craft?
Young seekers to the Craft encounter a very sad amount of adult know-it-alls and naysayers when they approach our community, which I hope is changing as younger witches begin to take leadership positions in the community. To them I always say: do not let anyone dampen your search for wisdom or cut away the pull you feel towards this work. We need your thirst for these arts to keep these practices alive and moving.
For adults, I could actually say the same thing in many ways! But specifically, I want to ask the adults among us to be kind to yourselves throughout your journey. Witchcraft can being up all sorts of beautiful things within us, but it can also stir the frightful things within us as well. Remember that all of these parts of yourself are equally valuable and worthy of exploration.
What are you working on now? Any projects or upcoming events from you that we can look forward to?
2018 will be a fairly slow year for me in the wider community, as I continue to pour more of my efforts into my local organization, The Firefly House. If anyone comes through the DC area, drop me a line! Chances are that I’m probably teaching or facilitating something at any given month in my local area. I’m particularly excited about speaking at the Maryland Paranormal Conference this summer on the topic of unfairly blaming occultists for hauntings. There are also a couple of book projects in the works, but those are all hushed for now. And since I live in our nation’s capital, I’m committing to spending more time than ever on resisting and opposing this cruel, fascist administration. If any space truly needs a clearing out, its here.