Witches overcome. They use magick to shape and change not only the world around them but also what resides within the depths of their being. A Witch knows that magick isn’t all spell casting and moon rituals. It is often mundane work as well. Magick is everything from therapy to pulling our faces out of the screen in front of us. It is honoring ourselves and setting boundaries. Magick is not being afraid to sit in our shadows. Magick is about loving ourselves.
When I think about the idea of self-improvement through shadow work and overcoming trauma, many Witches come to mind. Most recently Rachel Laforest is at the forefront of my thoughts in this matter. As Rachel found her way into healing she developed a course that is designed for even the most ProWitch to be able to get something out of it. I was recently able to reach out to Rachel and ask her some questions about her trauma, living in the darkness it created and finding her way back into the light.
This interview covers things that even Witches could be triggered by. Proceed with the warning that this interview tackles the issue of sexual assault and the magick and shadow work it takes to come through the other side.
Magick IRL: Rachel, thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview. I’d like to start by asking you to tell the readers a little about yourself.
Rachel Laforest: Your readers will know what I mean when I say I’m a Reflector with a Scorpio sun/rising, and an Aries moon. But for the muggles out there I’ll explain what that looks like: what you see is what you get with me; I’m a deep feeler and speaker of Truth who’s here to lead others through reflecting.
I’m here to show the world what’s not working, and illuminate alternative paths that most people don’t realize are available. I’m an empath with psychic dreams and I believe I’m here to help the oppressed overcome their oppressors. I’m currently fighting the patriarchy in that very aim through my magickal, comedy podcast Basic Witches (and really through every project or move I make).
MIRL: And you call yourself a Witch right?
RL: Absolutely I call myself a witch! The coolest thing about witchcraft is that anyone can own it and decide, “I’m a witch!” And to say you’re a witch is a real statement. To call yourself a witch is a very powerful thing; in doing so you’re declaring that you have power. That’s why people are scared of the word “witch”! That’s why capitalism and the patriarchy exist and speak out against witchcraft–they know how powerful self-empowered people are and they fear us!
MIRL: What led you to Witchcraft?
RL: Being told so much that “the world isn’t fair” as an excuse for anything difficult I went through as a kid drove me to search for an ounce of my own control and power. I remember feeling like if I could just get some power, I could use it to try and make the world a little more fair!
So when I started watching things like Sabrina: The Teenage Witch and even The Wizard of Oz (which paints witches as evil, scary, and bad) what I took from it subconsciously was an example of women being independent and powerful. So that combination of searching for power and seeing magick as an example of self-empowerment set me up to quickly accept witchcraft as an adult fighting against the patriarchy.
MIRL: Do you stick to any particular magickal practices?
RL: I’m a sucker for sigil magick! I’m a junkie for oracle decks! And, being the double Scorpio I am, all of my magick involves my emotions, deep shadow work, and being brutally honest with myself and everyone in my life. Oh and … I think I’m addicted to sex magick! I mean, I can stop anytime I want, but it’s been working so well for me, why would I?
MIRL: So, recently you have become rather public on Instagram about a trauma you experienced last year. Could you tell us a little bit about that?
RL: Yes. It’s so wild how real PTSD is because just reading this question makes my heart physically beat faster, my palms sweat, and my stomach clench. Thankfully I’ve largely integrated my traumatic memory through rigorous EMDR therapy and I can remind myself “I am safe, and I’ve got me” to calm down.
Almost exactly one year ago, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I came home alone, thinking I would work on a marketing campaign I was writing for a new dating app.
Instead, I was attacked by a stranger who had broken into my home and laid a trap for me to fall into, while he waited naked and masked under my bed. He planned to rape me and, I would find out later, had been targeting women in my neighborhood for months to escalating degrees but hadn’t been caught …YET! That’s where I come in, with my cape on. I really do feel like a superhero for getting him arrested and saving his future victims from enduring what I did.
I made it out alive with (all things considered) minor physical injuries, but extreme trauma to my brain and spirit.
As witches know, our light is forged in the darkness. What followed the assault was the darkest path I’ve ever walked. As survivors of sexual assault know, a part of you does die when you’re assaulted, and also a new version of you is born. Being a newborn as an adult is a wild thing, and as a witch I knew that my rebirth, as painful and dark and INSANE as it was to be, would allow me to eventually gain more light than ever before. That’s something I held onto through my whole healing journey and I’m so happy to share that I now feel I’m in the light again.
MIRL: I remember you saying something about it in the opening for an episode of your Podcast. Y’all recorded like the next day, didn’t you? What was that next day like?
RL: This is so funny I actually can’t answer that question … because I don’t remember! I have a hole in my memories of about three months from the day after the attack onward. It’s really wild because of course I can crystal-clear remember the trauma, but I can’t even remember how or if I slept that night. And then it’s just black with tiny blips of memories here and there until, like I said, about three or four months later. I couldn’t look in mirrors during that time either, or take pictures. I was between worlds in the depth of carrying my dead “me”, while trying to grow a whole new me who now has a history of sexual assault.
When the brain is processing a trauma, I’ve learned–which by the way, eventually in my healing journey learning the science of trauma was really helpful. I wouldn’t recommend this until you’ve healed enough to really absorb it, but when you’re ready the book The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel van der Kolk is incredibly validating for survivors–anyways! I’ve learned that when the brain is processing a new trauma the memory center, and the language center, get messed. And for some people they stop forming new memories for a time, which happened to me. This is also what makes trauma so difficult to talk about it … it’s literally hard to speak about your trauma because Broca’s area (our language center) goes offline causing aphasia, or the inability to speak.
So I can tell you that I was in shock that day. I was in what I call “Soldier Mode” in my book I’m writing (Sex and the Synchronicity, hopefully releasing in 2021), which to me means being hyper-alert and on edge, for several weeks following the attack. I remember the guest was international so we kind of needed to record because they were leaving the country the next day. I think after that episode we took a couple weeks off of recording.
MIRL: How were you affected emotionally and spiritually by this trauma?
RL: I’m so glad I have the Basic Witches podcast, and that I’ve been writing my book throughout my healing journey, because I was able to reflect and speak and process my trauma in bits and pieces on air and on the pages. Listeners know the darkness I had to go through; I was honest about it the whole way. They heard how I was going to therapy two to three times a week and really putting in the emotional and spiritual work.
During the assault I left my body. It was in that moment that I feel my emotional and spiritual self both died and was reborn. Of course this is clear in hindsight, but it took many months of darkness and processing that something horrible had happened to even realize I had “died”. When I did finally realize it, during an EMDR therapy session, it clarified for me that I had been carrying the ghost of myself and that I had to do some serious grieving. She, my ghost self, wanted my respect and she needed me to grieve more than I already had in order for her to move on.
From that therapy session onward, I had the awareness that I had also been reborn. And no wonder why I couldn’t eat, sleep, or sometimes even bathe on my own! I was just a newborn! I’ll tell you this, though, “growing up” as an adult is an amazing thing because you have consciousness and you get to see yourself grow! And, of course, growth and pain cannot be separated, so, it hurts but it’s worth it.
MIRL: I know from being a big fan of your Podcast that you are an advocate for therapy. Sometimes therapy can be about really feeling all of our emotions first in order to process them. Did you take time to sit with the effects of the trauma?
RL: Oh yeah. There was a moment early on … I actually think it might have been after recording that episode the day after the attack! Can’t be sure because of the memory hole, but I think so, where all of a sudden I started crying. This was a whole new way of crying I had never experienced before, and I write about it in Sex and the Synchronicity. No sound, just tears silently pouring out of my eyes and it felt like I was crying from the inside out. It felt like my entire internal soul-world was flooded with tears to the point that it overflowed out of my face in the physical world. I literally couldn’t stop it.
And that phenomenon didn’t stop for months.
Maybe it’s my Scorpio nature but none of the emotional feeling felt like a choice, it just happened, there was no avoiding it for me. I think it’s not in my nature to spiritually bypass anymore so with such an intense trauma came the most intense emotions I’ve ever had to feel. But as a watery being I knew I had to feel them. I knew if I didn’t feel all the dark, I couldn’t ever expect to find the light again.
There was no part of this healing journey that was easy. That should be made clear. Healing is absolutely possible. And it is absolutely not easy work.
MIRL: You’ve mentioned EDMR a couple times. Can you explain for the readers what that is?
RL: EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Just like the name suggests, EMDR is meant to help you desensitize and reprocess traumatic memories. The technique was popularized after its use on soldiers returning from war with severe PTSD. The “Eye Movement” in the name refers to the physical aspect implemented called “BLS” or Bilateral Stimulation. This means moving your eyes back and forth, usually following your therapist’s finger, though tapping the body left, right, left, right, also works.
What happens when you do this is that the right and left brain alternate between getting stimulated, much like REM (rapid eye movement) when you sleep and process dreams! When the two sides of your brain are in alternating states of stimulation your brain has the ability to literally rewire. So in a session this can look like talking to your therapist about the traumatic memory, then performing a short set of BLS, then talking again about what came up, then doing BLS, and so on.
It’s amazing how your brain will just spit up things for you to process when you do this work. Your body will too! It’s normal to burp and yawn a lot while doing EMDR, also to laugh and to cry. Sometimes it feels like a dishwasher sloshing around soap in my head. My therapist calls it “cleaning the dirt out of the wound” of your traumatic memory. In summary I have two words for you: EMDR WORKS.
MIRL: What were the first steps you took to begin healing?
RL: I got into therapy right away. Two days after the assault I had a therapist who, synchronistically of course, ends up being the best therapist I’ve ever had. I really feel like my worst nightmare had to happen to lead me to my dream therapist.
I’m so privileged. I have a support system of family and chosen family that folded around me and helped to facilitate getting me the care I needed. People raised money for me and the Victims of Crime Board of California covers my treatment.
To circle back to the previous question on therapy: It infuriates and saddens me that our western world is not treatment focused. Its Big Pharma focused, punishment focused, and money focused. Capitalism kills.
Everyone deserves therapy. I’ve been raising money for The Loveland Foundation wherever possible as just one good example of a mental health charity (they provide the means for black women and girls to seek mental health services).
My attacker wasn’t as privileged as me. He was living on the streets, with a mental disorder, without treatment or money, and he is Hispanic in a racist world. In the trial I gave a statement and advocated for him to be sent to a prison with a mental health program (only two exist in California! ARG!!!). The judge listened to me so I’m hopeful that he’ll have some help to heal, however I know how messed up the Prison Industrial Complex is, and I know his chances are slim.
MIRL: Did you turn to magick to help deal with the trauma?
RL: Yes. One of my strongest magickal powers is my keen intuition. It’s part of what helped me survive the attack and run for my life. So magick has been a part of this journey from the moment it happened, and before of course.
I’ve used plant magick in my healing by surrounding myself with plants to take care of. Especially in the beginning it was helpful to have a little something living that needed me. It forced me to at least stand up out of bed that day, because I had to water the plants.
Eventually when I had healed enough to start having sex again, I used sex magick to release ANGER and to start to bring pleasure and enjoyment back into my life. I think the first time I got back into it I yelled so loud I lost my voice a little the next day. There was so much angry energy that needed to *cum* out! And that’s a lot of what Sex and the Synchronicity is about. The ways that my sexuality saved my life before, during, and after the assault and how magickal all the synchronicities (and boy are there a LOT of synchronicities in my life!) have been along the way.
The magick of helping others has been hugely healing for me, too. Whether that’s doing card readings through Basic Witches or coaching clients with a trauma history, there’s something so magickally fulfilling in service work. I’m starting to see how the more I help other people feel empowered, the more powerful my magick becomes! And like the plants, taking care of others helps me take care of myself.
MIRL: When do you think you started to feel like you were coming out of the darkness?
RL: This is such a good question and the answer is kind of messed up, but I’m able to laugh at it so don’t worry too much. I started to feel like I had landed back in the light about a week before COVID-19 Quarantine! HA. HA. HA!
MIRL: That was some excellent timing to step back into the light. When I read your answers I am reminded of shadow work. Do you identify this process of healing as shadow work personally?
RL: Great question. Yes. Trauma uproots your deepest darkest shadows because when your life is threatened, in the aftermath your brain and body resort to your most rooted survival mechanisms. And oftentimes our ways we’ve developed to survive are fear-based, lack-based, and shadow-based.
The beauty of this is that I got to heal on new deeper levels than ever before. My money wounds feel like they skyrocketed in healing because after the attack I saw how supported I was by friends, family, and chosen family so I was able to heal this false belief of “I don’t have a safety net because my family is poor.”
I’ve also had to face the shadows of our WORLD in this process. The shadows of the Prison Industrial Complex my attacker is now in and will be for many, many years, the shadows of Capitalism and how it forces innocent people into homelessness, and the shadows of racism to name a few.
The attack really highlighted all those shadows and set me on an even more clear path of trying to help the oppressed, even when they might be the one who hurt me, because ultimately it is the SYSTEMIC problems and shadows that need to be healed.
MIRL: Do you feel like you have grown after this experience?
RL: Yes. I’ve grown immensely, and “grown” is just one way to put it. Above all, I’ve changed. When you live in a world post-trauma, you see everything differently. I think one author describes it as “coming back from war”. Only other soldiers who were in the war with you will really “get” it. So, truly, every single aspect of my life is different because my lens is completely new. I’ve changed in so many ways.
One of my favorite ways I’ve grown or changed since the attack is that my BS meter is OFF THE HOOK, Y’ALL! I think when you face death and live to tell the tale you start to see so crystal clear. Little things that used to stress me out or scare me before the attack? I can laugh at those now. I’m not wasting time. I’m being brutally honest. I’m making boss moves and I’m not giving or taking any more bullshit! Life could end at any second, that’s what I learned by the attack happening on an innocent, sunny Saturday afternoon. I don’t want to waste any more seconds ever.
MIRL: You have a class you have just created, Learn to F.L.Y. What can you tell our readers about this class?
RL: Oh my goodness, funny we’re talking about death because when I put out Learn to F’ing Love Yourself I felt like ok, I can die now. This program is my BABY! It is the thing I’m most proud of, and if that’s all that lives on beyond me I’ll die happy. If my baby had a pronoun, it would be “they” because it’s definitely non-binary and open to all beings!
So, at a certain point in my healing, I had had so many people say, “You’re so strong!” that I finally asked myself: why am I so strong? And what I realized was that it was precisely my self-love that made me strong. I suddenly saw my life’s timeline so clearly and what it was that got me through each hurdle. What saved me when I lost my eyesight (unsolved medical mystery to this day!) for a month and half? How did I get through an eight-year relationship ending suddenly? And, really, why did I fight back and save my own life when I was assaulted?
Because I loved myself enough.
And so Learn to F.L.Y. came through me in a matter of weeks from download to delivery. The program is completely virtual and designed to be repeated as often as you like or need. I’m in your inbox every day for fifteen days with a quick video lesson explaining why the homework for that day is important to your self-love, and then a tactical exercise for you to practice.
Every technique I teach you in F.L.Y. is something that worked for me, and was sustainable. It’s practical magick that will have you F*ing Loving Yourself in an embodied way. Folks that have been through the program all say pretty much the same thing: it’s harder than they thought it would be, and they feel better than they could have imagined.
I truly believe that when you learn to love yourself you make the world a better place so I always thank my clients for the good work they’re doing to better this place we call home.
MIRL: How does this class pertain to your practice of Witchcraft?
RL: I think it’s no coincidence that witches ride brooms and I had a self-love course come through me called Learn to F.L.Y. As I talk about on my website, self-love is the first step to every other first step out there and that totally goes for witchcraft.
Witchcraft is all about transmuting energies and seeking fulfillment of your desires. Well, in order to successfully do either you must get on your own team and F.L.Y. teaches you to do just that. I’ve had clients notice their manifesting skills increase as they’ve learned to love themselves more! And in my own practices my powers have grown the stronger and stronger I stand in my self-love.
MIRL: Do you think your experience with this trauma led you to developing your class?
RL: If you could hear me right now you’d hear me laughing for ten seconds straight. That’s a hell yeah. 100 percent. I’ve even had Dragons tell me in a meditation that I had to go through the trauma so that I could create Learn to F.L.Y., which would end up saving their lives and help save the world.
MIRL: You work with Dragons? I know, because I listen to your podcast and watch you on Instagram, what you’re talking about, but for those who are unfamiliar can you explain this for our readers?
RL: I’ll keep this brief, because if you’re intrigued by Dragon Magick or Dragon Energy you should follow that, and I couldn’t possibly explain it all here. I’ll say this, everything I’ve learned and practiced with Dragons started with Teddy Longordo and continued with a combo of her resources and my intuition. The Dragon Mindset = An Absolute Abundance Mindset. Teddy is also a great teacher on deep shadow work, and manifesting through the seven stages of conscious creating. To learn more, seek that witch out! She’s got lots of great offerings.
MIRL: Where can readers find you and sign up for your class?
OnlyFans: @GoodassGoddess where I practice sensual self-care and experimental sexual art!
You can get to everything you need, very clearly, from there.
MIRL: Can you think of anything else you would like readers to know?
RL: Know that you have all the power you need within YOU. Any human or institution trying to tell you need them as a source of power is lying. Life is short, follow your passion and turn towards your feelings, whether they be light or dark today. Ask for help. Be vulnerable. F*ck the patriarchy and be a witch if you want!
Follow me on Instagram to keep up with my blogs, daily workouts, and information on my forthcoming book, How Witchcraft Saved My Life: Practical Advice for Transformative Magick.