I first became aware of Amanda Yates Garcia after she was interviewed on the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News back in September of 2018. I was instantly a fan. When I got the opportunity to interview near the release of her memoir Initiated: Memoir of a Witch I jumped at the chance.
Jason: Your memoir doesn’t hold anything back, and is one of the most raw and revealing books I’ve read in several years. Just how hard was this book to write? Were there any moments when you thought you might be sharing too much?
Amanda Yates Garcia: In fact, I think that a lot of the media we consume reveals too little. We see that “bombs were dropped” or “protestors were arrested” or “aid was withheld” but we don’t see the personal and very real consequences of these actions. Witches are often treated as fantasists by the broader culture, but for many of us we turn to witchcraft because we have felt in our bodies the grief, hurt, and frustration that comes with living in a post-colonialist, capitalist civilization. Unless those serious consequences are made vivid and real, the turn towards magic just seems like a game, an escape, and not the act of resistance most witches understand it to be. So, I never thought I was revealing too much. Acts of resistance demand the truth; I was attempting to get as close to that truth as possible.
Initiated is full of magickal advice and ideas for spellwork. In your experience, what’s the most important step or ingredient when doing magical work? What’s your process for creating a spell for yourself or a client?
Magic is the act of bringing what is in your imagination into material reality. It’s a co-creative act. It’s about collaboration with the numinous powers of the universe. It’s important we don’t forget that. When you’re doing a magical act, it has to feel creative. You can’t just go through the motions. You have to take pleasure in it. Be fully present for it. Make it yours. When you do that, any act can be a magical act. The most powerful witch is the witch that’s having the most fun.
Witchcraft is exploding across the United States, why do think that is? Are we doing enough to welcome new Witches into the greater Witchcraft community? What should we be doing? What can we do better?
This is a great question. Witchcraft certainly is gaining in popularity — for two reasons I think. 1) Because the Goddess (i.e. the earth) is angry, and witches are powerful, and they are her defenders, so witchcraft is on the rise because the Goddess wants her defenders to rise up and take a stand to protect her. And 2) Because a lot of people are feeling disenchanted with institutions in general, and institutionalized religions in particular. We’ve seen how corrupt and hypocritical the authorities barking their orders actually are. So it’s natural people want to turn to spiritual practices that don’t rely on institutionalized forms of authority.
In general though, I see a lot of criticism of these new witches. People saying things like, “I liked witchcraft before it was cool.” Or worrying that the new witches just like it because crystals and pentacles make great fashion accessories. But if the elders in our communities are concerned about this, then we have to respond as true elders and help the new witches find their voices, their integrity in the practice, and to bring with that a new vitality – which the young always do.
You’ve lived in London and Amsterdam, and have travelled to places such as Greece. Out of all the places you’ve visited what’s your favorite “ancient site?” What did you feel or experience there that made it so memorable?
I have been to many ancient sites, and have many more I’d like to explore. But what I’m really interested in right now is paying attention to and celebrating the sacred sites of my homeland. Right now the one I’m most hopelessly in love with is the grove of sacred redwood trees at Big Trees National Park in Calaveras County, California. The trees are thousands of years old, they were here before Caesar invaded my Celtic homelands and destroyed the temples there, and since before my ancestors invaded North America and destroyed the temples here. These trees have a lot to teach us about staying where we are and tending to the sacred that is living right beneath our feet. They’re like grandfather/grandmother cathedrals.
These ancient redwoods are the some of the oldest living beings on earth. I would also like to do more to honor the First Nations people who are the historic guardians of this land. It’s important to me not just to be a tourist at sacred sites, to just go and absorb the atmosphere. In order to honor what is sacred, we really have to participate and give back. If something is sacred to us, then we have to protect it and make sure that it thrives.
A lot of us first became familiar with you and your work due to your appearance on Tucker Carlson’s Faux News program. What were your thoughts going into that interview? Is there anything about that experience that might surprise us to find out?
I have to admit that I was afraid to go on that program and said no several times before my guides finally convinced me to go on it. They kept waking me up in the middle of the night telling me that I had to speak up for what I believed in, but I was worried that people would threaten to murder me — which they did! When I told the producers of the show that I was afraid that if I went on people would threaten me with violence, they said, “Yes, we hate it when that happens. But the threats usually stop after about a week.” Which was also true.
What was strangest about my appearance is that, behind the scenes, I got the sense that the whole show is really just a performance. I got the sense that no one working on it, even Tucker himself, actually believes what they’re saying and that it’s almost like some kind of Colbert Report send up. But what’s terrifying about that of course is that, even if they don’t believe it, the people who are watching it DO believe and there are serious consequences. I mean, children are being locked in cages and people of color and queer folks are being harassed and even killed because of the opinions fomented on that show. Being on that show really taught me how much media representation matters and how important it is that we amplify the voices of the most vulnerable.
Jason’s Two Minute Review of “Initiated: Memoir of a Witch” by Amanda Yates Garcia
The best Witchcraft memoirs are more than just recollections of past events, they share wisdom, knowledge, and the practical nuts and bolts of the Craft. Yates Garcia’s book falls into this category. While her life story is more than interesting enough to merit a memoir, I was probably most intrigued by how she operates as a Witch in day to day life. “Initiated” is the story of someone finding their place as a Witch, and continually finding space in their life for magick and mystery.
Initiated is the one of the few Witchcraft memoirs written by someone in Generation X, and because of that, a lot of it felt very familiar to me (and will probably feel familiar to other Gen X’ers and Millennials too!). The 1990’s especially were a pivotal time for Witchcraft, reading about Yates Garcia’s experiences back then will resonate with a lot of people.
The armchair historian in me has a few quibbles on some of the Pagan and Witch history included in the book (that too reminded me of the 1990’s), but overall that didn’t impact my enjoyment of the book too much. And enjoy this book I did! Not knowing Yates Garcia’s story I found myself in a rush to get through with my own writing and back to reading “Initiated.”
There’s a lot to love in this book for anyone looking to expand their magickal practice and step into a captivating life. Yates Garcia’s prose is also a joy to read, and she knows how to tell a story. If you want to get a handle on Witchcraft both then and now, I recommend this book.
I figured the book would end with that particular story, but you left that out of Initiated. Was there a particular reason for that?
Yes, I didn’t want to end the story of my coming into my power as a witch by talking about Tucker Carlson. As it is, it ends with something far more sacred to me, thank goodness.
Your mother practices Witchcraft, and used to lead a circle in the Reclaiming Tradition. How is your own Witchcraft different from hers? How has her practice influenced and informed your own?
Well, my mother’s life when I was growing up was very different than mine is now. I think people’s schedules were more regular then. Having a consistent monthly circle while living in the city and being self-employed is really challenging. Everyone is so busy! I still utilize a lot of the practices she taught me as a child, and whenever I get stuck I call her up and ask her for help. But I think witches today often favor smaller magical acts more often, because we don’t have as much time to plan and organize big monthly gatherings.
I felt like your book documented several different instances which might count as an initiation. Was there any one particular experience that you felt was more important than the others in helping you embrace Witchcraft?
Yes, I think that one of the most powerful was also the most simple. I’d been initiated by my mother when I was a teenager, and then I had a lot of spontaneous initiations throughout my life, but the one that really “sealed the deal” was a self-initiation of sorts, when I held my own circle for the first time at age 30. It was clumsy, but very sincere and it helped me see that I didn’t need to keep seeking permission outside myself. I had everything I needed to create my own spiritual practices, all I needed to do was… begin.
You mention several different goddesses in your book, is there any one particular goddess you have an extremely close relationship with?
At different times of my life I’ve found myself claimed by different Goddesses. When I was younger, and traveling through the underworld, I worked a lot with Persephone. In my late 20s, all full of ardor and desire, I worked with a lot of Venusian goddesses: Aphrodite, Freja, Brigit. Right now I have Hecate on my altar. I’m older now, I feel more empowered. I also feel less relational at the moment, and more focused on my work. My work is witchcraft, I’m very focused on it, on traveling that moonlit path and carrying the torch for others, and so I need Hecate, Goddess of Witches and Guardian of the Crossroads by my side.
If people want to find out more about your work or how to get a reading with you how should they do that? Any upcoming appearances you want to share with us before this interview is over?
After the book, I’m taking a few months off events in order to regroup and plan what I want to do next. But I do hope folks want to stay in touch! To do that, or if they want to book a reading, they can head over to my website and subscribe to my newsletter, where I send out magical tips and musings about twice a month. They can also follow me on Instagram @OracleofLA or Facebook @Oracle.of.LA and subscribe to my podcast, Strange Magic, where we talk about magic, tarot and all sorts of great stuff, which I host with Sarah Faith Gottesdiener and our producer Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs.
Amanda Yates Garcia is a writer, artist, witch, and the Oracle of Los Angeles. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The LA Times, The London Times, The SF Chronicle, Glamor, CNN, Salon, as well as a viral appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight. She has led classes and workshops on magic and witchcraft at UCLA, UC Irvine, MOCA Los Angeles, The Hammer Museum, LACMA, The Getty and many other venues. Co-host of the popular Strange Magic podcast, her first book, Initiated: Memoir of a Witch, came out this October through Grand Central / Hachette.