‘The Naked Witch’ by Fiona Horne: A Review

Australia is well known for their disproportionate share of A-List celebrities: Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Chris Hemsworth, Margot Robbie to name a few. So it is too on the Celebrity BNP (Big Name Pagan) list: I could name some characters such as Rosaleen Norton, Vali Meyers, Wendy Rule, and of course, Fiona Horne.  Is there something in the water here, to produce so many intriguing figures to represent our pagan community, whether we ‘elect’ them or not?

Most Aussie witches who were witching in the late 90s or early 2000s will remember the impact her book Witch: A Personal Journey made, and for some people like myself it was one of our first introductions to pagan spirituality. I had battered copies of nearly all of her books; the second title, A Magical Year I purchased from a library second-hand, and I remember finding in the back of the book a shopping list that read: ‘olive oil, parsley, incense, flowy skirt’. It was in that moment I felt an odd link to a fellow wannabe witchling. We were all united as Fiona connected us to something so very 90s: Girls Just Wanna Be Wiccans. It was the era of The Craft and Charmed, of Gwen Stefani belting out that she was Just a Girl. It felt like anything was possible. With enough ‘flowy skirts’, butterfly hairclips and the badass, witchy cool that Fiona Horne was peddling, we too could make magick happen. And we did.

Known as a television personality in Australia for her rock-chick glamour combined with the mystery and intrigue of casting love spells, Fiona Horne was featured in the classic Aussie witchy magazines Witchcraft and Spellcraft, posed for Playboy editorials and photographed with witchy paraphernalia such as her famous white pentagram jumpsuit, wielding intriguing knives or pet snakes.  When other books on witchcraft and Wicca often felt dry and instructional, her books were edgy, accessible, biographical and fun.

Later, I decided I had outgrown Fiona Horne (perhaps I was influenced by “pagan web nerds” as Fiona calls them), I moved titles such as 7 Days to a Magickal New You on as I trimmed my witchy library of anything too beginner, too fluffy (I now really regret that particular cull.) The pagan sphere online had decided that Fiona Horne was to be dumped in the fluffy bunny category – pages were dedicated to her brand of witchcraft on websites like Why Wiccans Suck and Wicca: For the Rest of Us. A few semantic inaccuracies, a sprinkle of celebrity name dropping, and crime of crimes, claiming to be an atheist witch (now perfectly acceptable) cemented her place. Horne is no longer atheist, and while the celeb name dropping is still there (and perhaps more cringey than before), the history in The Naked Witch is purely her own. 

Reading The Naked Witch we realise Fiona Horne has changed and grown, just like her readers. From her troubled childhood and teen years right through to her rollercoaster life fronting a rock band and moving to Hollywood to become the ‘World’s Favourite Witch’, she writes of battling with her personal demons and barely scraping to make ends meet. The stories she tells reveal suitably shocking revelations that you’d expect out of a celeb autobiography such as a brief affair with Tom Jones, but what is poignant about The Naked Witch is her raw honesty about her desperation to be loved and accepted. It is sad, in hindsight, to consider how much criticism she often received, a victim of classic Tall Poppy Syndrome perhaps. If you’re looking for more details about witchcraft, whether her own brand or anything in general – you won’t find it here, as her spirituality feels like a footnote to a larger narrative as she deals with failed relationships and the journey to self acceptance. She writes of enlightenment achieved via AA meetings and Vipassana retreats rather than calling the quarters on Hollywood hilltops under a full moon. Equally fascinating and heartbreaking, I devoured it from cover to cover just as I did when I read her first books over a decade ago. This time, I wasn’t looking for helpful advice on how to become a witchier version of myself. I simply enjoyed learning about how this flawed, beautiful human made her way through the world, tripping up along the way, and learning to be authentic and to find gratitude and peace within herself. Everything 90s is cool again, and I suspect this isn’t the last we have heard from The Naked Witch.

Paperback, 224 pages
Published July 2017 by Rockpool Publishing

We Are the Wild – Magic and Action in Modern, Urban Witchcraft

One of the things that drew me to the pagan mindset is the espousement of the inherent divinity of all things. Animism advocates that there is spirit in that tree, this rock, there is a spirit in the river, there are spirits in the land.

When I took on these ideas, I embraced them fully. If a rock contains the spark of divinity, then there must be divinity in a pen, in a car, in a knife, in a sick child dying of hunger, in a serial rapist sitting in a jail cell. The beautiful spark that flows through a majestic river untouched by human garbage must also flow through the arteries that carry pollution and traffic through our cities. If it does not, and there is a distinction, who draws it? What defines the distinction – the invisible line in the sand that valorises the Starhawk’s Californian redwoods and the red dirt of Australia’s Pilbara but places carbon pollution and the plastic islands floating on the Pacific ocean on the other side?

There is death, destruction and ill feeling everywhere you turn. Humanity is seen as a blight on the planet, but Mother Nature can be a bitch. She created us, after all. She creates tsunamis that wreak total annihilation, tidal waves that make no distinction between ramshackle human civilisations clinging to polluted islands or the pristine coral reefs below the ocean surface that are utterly destroyed by the power of waves and washes of sediment. She creates otters that brutally rape and kill baby seals. She gives with one hand, and brutalises and terrorises with the other. Who are we to distinguish ourselves from our Mother? We are creating a fucking mess, it’s true. But no amount of hand-wringing or lovely walks in the forest interspersed with a bit of tree-hugging will fix it. It is easy to feel that any attempt to curb our runaway addiction to materialism and capitalism which is destroying natural habitats is futile.

So what to do? There will be no revolution that will reverse the clock. We are royally fucked – Peter Grey’s treatise scolds us for taming our witchcraft, and we witches should be ashamed. Harming none and waving feathered crystals about the place while singing ‘We All Come From the Goddess’ is not going to be a catalyst for meaningful change – but an interrogation of what coming from the Goddess truly means is due. Caking ourselves in mud and hiding in the forest, cooking up salves and shaking our fists at big polluters whilst we chain ourselves to trees to defend what is left – is this putting us more in tune with the Goddess, or is this another means of escapement and denial? We will melt away with the rest of the ‘nature’ that we have worshiped in an outdated, Romantic Era-styled fashion. Neo-pagans love to dream misty-eyed about a past that was untouched by industrialisation, but the medieval era was bloody, short-lived and brutal. They weren’t called the dark ages for nothing. In ancient cultures, people died young from disease and resorted to superstition in the form of human sacrifice to solve political and personal troubles. Was the fabled Sabbat on the hill really a deep, dark religious mystery, or was it simply a matter of YOLO for a bunch of people who were chained by an oppressive church and had not much else to do if the harvest failed? Today, we scrape about to make meaning as we observe that consequences of our comfortable lives in the first world aren’t so pretty for everywhere else. Keep calm, carry on and buy the new iPhone anyway, because we know that the green will always grow back – and who will be left?

Harmony and chaos, nature and humanity, black and white… these are false dichotomies. The wild is not other. The wild is in us, and in everything we have created. We are nature. There are wild animals living in our walls, in the eaves, in our back alleyways, in the waters of runoff trenches, in the sewers, in our landfill. There are spirits there, too – spirits of our own making, new spirits who have been spawned by our reckless junk, new spirits who have evolved and recycled from the old. Evolution often invisible to the human eye, more so in the spirit realm. The urban centres are jungles, a palimpsest of century after century, a history inscribed and lost in the darkness of rewritten histories. The land is ready to tell us stories, and they are not all of illness and outrage – some of it is of renewal, of adaptation, and the mightiest primordial beings will shrug as if we are but the slightest itch to scratch.

A witch snarls at the notions of good versus evil. She strides the in between and does not, or should not favour the country over the city. To elevate human action and its consequences to something that is beyond nature itself is simple hubris. There are energy centres everywhere, there are places that can be sung to everywhere you look. Do something meaningful – something for the future, not regression to the past. Listen to the rhythm that underpins the city. Place your ear to the asphalt and hear the hum of radiation as it pulses into our homes, into our lives. It can harm and heal – just like the poisonous plants of the green wilds can. Get to know what is making us sick, and what can make us better. If we are not actively engaging and challenging, and fairly evaluating every meme or viral notion that we come across, we are simply passive receptors.

There is a heartbeat that runs through everything. The city has a spirit, and so does the suburb. The digital worlds are riddled with magic, in the symbols and the graphics and nodes that connect emotions, peoples and ideas. Social media makers know this and are experimenting with us – the forces are at work everywhere and you should weave with it all. It is our task to listen to that heartbeat, to inject it with a colour that makes it meaningful, sustainable, something we can make magic with. We should be greening our urban areas with guerilla seeds, encouraging the resilience of urban weeds, and nourishing that resilience in ourselves. We should be arming ourselves with apocalyptic skill sets. Can you start a fire, can you grow your own food? Do you know how to purify water, can you make charms for good luck from plastic toys? Do you know who grows fruit trees in your neighbourhood, and can you barter with them for handmade soaps or labour work? Can you organise a rally or start a viral hashtag? A chaos witch can make do with just about anything. She draws from an arsenal that makes no distinction between pop culture icons and ancient gods, modernity and classicism, country mouse and city mouse. All is chaos. A witch can be a healer, an acitivist, a teacher, an artist, a medium – or none of these, just make yourself useful. A witch knows that every action makes an impact but if you’re wanting to stick around for the apocalypse, get busy! Broaden your vision and embrace it all. Dirty eclecticism is here to stay as ‘tradition’ in the context of witchcraft becomes more and more meaningless as the traditionless reclaim it.

The spiral winds ever open – join the dance, no matter where you are.

Featured image is ‘Urban Magic’ by Nicole Cardiff.
This is an archived post originally posted at The Chaos Witch on the 10th July, 2014.

Full Moon Report: Darkness Rising to Meet the Light

Or, the care and feeding of gremlins. 

Sometimes we get the New Year we need, not the New Year we wanted.

2017 was a battle for me. And I’ve heard so many tell of the challenging years they have faced; my challenge was finding a way to rebuild my self esteem and ego after an incident of heartbreak and destruction at the end of 2016.

And while I was attempting this, I also experienced several career changes. I had close family members pass away so grief was always by my side. I was a new transfer in a new roller derby league, a sport that has seized my heart and soul and now I was committed to commuting for countless hours to see if I could push myself a little further in a strange new environment where I was no-one’s hero and the only thing I had to worry about was my own progress (and constantly refuelling my car).

All of this, was freaking hard. I cried a lot, in front of people – not something that’s necessarily in character for me. I proved that I was strong and that I could grow. But 2017 had one last little surprise for me.

We all have light inside of us. It’s the shining beacon that shows what we got to others – this Jedi-esque part of me is a teacher and an artist, a kickass witch, an amazing skater and team member, a powerful priestess, a decent friend.

But there is also another little gremlin inside of me that does it’s best to match that light – a Sith Gremlin, if you will, of self-destruction, self-loathing and what appears to be gleeful comforting negativity. My inner critic grew to a towering height to match the part of me that shone, and at many times last year, it won the battle and kept things grey and murky. What would happen, this gremlin says, if I completely self-sabotage by encouraging you to retreat under the doona covers and cry yourself to sleep, while negative thoughts spiral you into a loop that goes nowhere? This gremlin made me do all sorts of things, many of them subtle, but mostly it was a weight on my back that stopped me from shining. For much of the year I felt dull, like I was simply going through the motions. This gremlin would stick its finger into sore spots and stir around  little until whatever was in there would erupt. This is the work, no? And I had one last big blister to burst, and boy did it hurt.

I’ve got all sorts of intentions for 2018, and I articulated these in an end of year ritual. And you know what it’s like. We innocently move about in circle and write things down and do little witchy bits and fiddle with tarot cards, and we underestimate the power these gestures can have. Spirit, believe it or not, is listening if you’re plugged in. And I didn’t quite realise what might happen. It was fast, it was powerful, it felt ridiculous and I felt just a little mad. But we’re all mad here. It’s not the first time I’ve been hit by a broom on the back of the head, and it probably won’t be the last. 

Cancer Full Moon! The water works were a thing. And I think I’m done now. Nailed it.

The gremlin isn’t fully vanquished, nor will it ever be. One of my friends suggested a strategy, of building it a spot to live in, where it can be fed things it likes – she did something similar for her inner child, and we think this might just work as she has a gremlin of her own. So I might give it a go. This little beastie has been inside of me since I was a primary school overachiever in the style of Lisa Simpson.

And it’s way past time to do something about it.

 

The Artist, the Witch and the Website – An Introduction

'Juicy' by Eris Elizabeth, copic marker sketch, 2017
‘Juicy’, copic marker sketch, 2017

My name is Eris. I’m an artist, a witch and I like to write. Also, I’m a webaholic.

I’ve always loved having a website. From a very young age back in the late 90’s I took a high school extension course in HTML and I never looked back. I always had some sort of online home – whether it was various fantastical, midi and animated gif-laden creations hosted on Geocities, to my TMI Livejournal, to being hosted by others on their domains, to finally getting my own domain mostly for my artworks. Then of course there was my carefully curated MySpace profile, and my various blogs mostly hosted on WordPress.

I loved having somewhere to be creative, to share my art, and gradually, share my spiritual practice. I’ve got feelings y’all, and I just need to write about them. I enjoy sharing my life, and having something to reflect back on as I journey down the path.

2017 was a year of me mostly being absent from having a ‘web presence’. I was also rather absent from the pagan community as well. It was a time of great change in my personal life, my career, and my spiritual world. But the itch to blog and also rejoin my community became a rash and this is my balm. I’m back, baby.

So what to expect?

My Spiritual Musings

I am looking to deepen my spiritual practice in 2018 and this blog will be a vehicle for some of my thoughts and musings on different pagan and witchy subjects. Whether it’s about articulating my craft as an Aussie witch, giving tips for beginners and students of the craft, reviews, or simply ranting about the topic of the day, I plan to bare it all – warts, toads, newts and all.

I am currently creating a tarot deck and I’m about a third of the way there. I plan to share my works in progress, my thoughts on different cards, and finished artworks. You can check out some images from the deck here.

The Chaos Witch Archives

I’ve got some writings from my old website, The Chaos Witch, that I plan to rejig, dig out and republish, so keep an eye out for those.

And Other Stuff, Probably…

But that’s mostly it. Art Witchery is what I do, and I am really excited to be able to share it once more! If you’d like to get to know me a little better, you can check out my About page.

Thanks for reading! Hopefully I will see you around again soon.