Friday, February 2, 2018

On Being a Word Witch: A Guest Post by Leza Cantoral

Today in the Madhouse, we're celebrating our second #WomeninHorrorMonth guest writer: Leza Cantoral. Leza is the Editor in Chief of CLASH Books and the host of the Get Lit With Leza podcast. I asked Leza to talk about how her work with ritual and writing influence and intertwine with one another, and her post is not only educational, but magical as well.

This week, I invite you all to write down and check your bias about what you think it means to be a witch, versus what it actually means, because as writers and wordsmiths, our energy is directly in tune with the incantations and stories we're putting on the page, fact or fiction, memoir or poetry. Let's never forget that words have power and so do their creators.

On Being a Word Witch
By Leza Cantoral

I am a writer & I am a witch & I do not see them as separate things. My magical practice is entwined with my writing. To me, magic is focusing the Will to make visions manifest upon the physical plane. Every outline I write is a spell. Every story, an incantation. To me, the Word, is sacred. Because the Word is the Imagination made flesh.

I light candles on my altar and lay out objects, herbs, & crystals, to set my intention. I use Tarot cards to consult during the outline process so I can see my characters as real people with fates, destinies & consequences for their actions.

I summon various spirits to aid me. For example, I conjured the wolf as a spirit animal when I was working on my Cultural History B.A. thesis about Werewolves & the evolution of the Little Red Riding Hood narrative in folklore and fiction. I wanted to see through the eyes of the wolf, while analyzing Werewolf lore and the history of the human & wolf's sociobiological relationship & evolution. Humans learned how to hunt in packs & how to organize social hierarchies from wolves. I learned how alike we are. The spirit of the wolf helped guide my heart through this journey. When I was scared, the wolf gave me courage. When anxiety blinded & froze me, the wolf gave me the eyes to see & the fierceness to finish.

I have recently begun working with Santa Muerte on what will hopefully become a Dark Fantasy YA series. I am working with her to plant the seeds. The way it works is I spend time at her altar, giving her offerings, showing my devotion, & she gives me ideas, either about the project or about other innovative ways to share her energy with the world. She encourages me to share pictures of my altar on Instagram & to tell my friends about how fun she is to work with. She is a smart one. She is probably better at self-promotion than most writers I know!

Here is an incantation for a Death & Rebirth Santa Muerte ritual that I wrote. The purpose of it is to let go of old modes of thinking & behavioral patterns that are no longer serving me.

Death is Rebirth

Death is Rebirth

Death is Rebirth!

I die tonight to be reborn,

I die tonight to let go

Of the person I used to be,

So that I can really be me.

Santa Muerte, bear witness,

Santa Muerte, bury my bones.

I am awake

I am aware

I am the fire & I am the light

Santa Muerte bless this rite tonight!

As an artist, I see myself as a chaos magician. I use all archetypes & energies that speak to me & inspire me. Today it might be Santa Muerte, tomorrow it might be Ganesha, Persephone, Hecate, La Virgen de Guadalupe, or nothing at all. I blow with the wind of my inspiration.
I think of it this way: if my spirit is fulfilled, I will be more able to create meaningful & beautiful art.

Buy Cartoons in the Suicide Forest here
I do yoga, self-guided meditations, ecstatic trance dancing, and ritual baths to get mentally prepared, especially at the beginning of big projects or when I am struggling with mental blocks at critical junctures.

I use my writing as spiritual cleansing. For example, I have two stories in my collection, Cartoons in the Suicide Forest, where chakra meditations are embedded within the stories themselves. With ‘Green Lotus,’ I was letting go of relationship baggage and trauma in my energy body in a scene where the female character is being charged up with magical flowers at a very strange spa.

In the titular story, the protagonist is being attacked by malevolent spirits. The process of writing through the chakras (beginning with the red root chakra) was extremely cathartic for me & I was sobbing as I wrote it. I let go of some deep wounds with this scene & unlike my character, I was able to come out of it alive & a little bit lighter from having exorcized my demons upon the page.

Excerpt from ‘Cartoons in the Suicide Forest’

Soundtrack album for story: Rihanna, Anti

“My colors are bleeding out like a broken rainbow. My heart is an exploding Jackson Pollock painting. My brain is a smear of confused muddy blues and greens swamping up my memories.

My head swims in darkness as the colors explode. I cough and convulse. There is a spinning in my chest like a fiery pinwheel, faster and faster at warp speed. The black wave comes, crashing down like icewater, like oil flooding my lungs. I can’t stop crying. Each deep sob brings out a new shade.

Red tears, like a stone saint in a miracle sign. The red of desire, of pain at its purest and rawest. Meat red. My meat cut up with surgical instruments. My heart, my tongue, uterus chopped sushi. Fuck me harder red. Hit me red. I hate you red. Die for me red. I cut myself red. I bleed to feel alive red. I carved WHORE into my arm red. Abortion red. Guilty red. I am meat red. They nibble on my pain like emo vampires. These pain sluts. These vampire whores. I am the birthday cake at their Pity Party. Carve me up. They all want to be the girls with the most cake.

Live through this, bitch.”

Author Bio: Leza Cantoral is a Xicana writer & editor who lives on the internet. She is the Editor in Chief of CLASH Books & host of the Get Lit With Leza podcast where she talks to cool ass writers. Tragedy Queens: Stories Inspired by Lana Del Rey & Sylvia Plath is an anthology of stories that she edited that’s coming out March 13th from CLASH Books.

Twitter, Instagram, Facebook: @lezacantoral

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