What is witchcraft? What is it to be a witch? Popular culture leads us to believe witches live for an eternity, fly on broomsticks, and control others with the cast of a spell. Such a supernatural take on witchcraft leads many to question the merits or reality of this culture and practice at all. However, witchcraft dates back centuries and is far from the mainstream interpretation of the practice.
Sabel Santa is a visual artist and astrologer living in Miami, Florida who recently opened the Brujx School to help educate brujx of color, like herself, on ways to access witchcraft and harness power from the energies around us. On August 22, (F)empower teams up with Sabel to hold a class that covers the decolonized history of witchcraft and its roots in African and indigenous spirituality at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach.
"My focus is bringing spirituality to groups of color in Miami. It’s something that belongs to us on a very ancestral plane, but throughout the centuries has been lost."
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice?
My specialty is natal charts, which is astrology based on the time and place of where you were born. I also create visual art that incorporates many witchy aspects. My focus is bringing spirituality to groups of color in Miami. It’s something that belongs to us on a very ancestral plane, but throughout the centuries has been lost.
How long have you been working on natal charts and visual art?
I’ve been doing astrology my whole life. Two years ago, I gave it structure and made it into a business rather than just working with people I know. I’ve been working as an artist for the past 10 years.
What was your childhood like? Did you grow up in a household that was spiritual and taught you these practices and histories? Or was it something you connected with outside of your family life?I grew up in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is an interesting place because it’s both extremely Catholic and at the same time very spiritual and witchy. Growing up, my grandmother’s neighbor was a practicing bruja, so different aspects of spirituality were all around us, but not directly in my family. I have always been enamored by the idea of female independence and strength, and I always loved the weirdos! Around the time I left elementary school to go to middle school, I created my own little coven with my friends and started getting interested in the practice. There was a little bit of a disconnect with my family because they just viewed it as a hobby or a childhood interest. When I started asking for spell books, it got a bit weird, but my mom always encouraged me to be an independent thinker.
A lot of people might only know about witch culture, witchcraft, spells and magic from popular culture. I don’t think there’s been a huge deal of education on a mass scale, so maybe you can tell us a little bit about what witchcraft is?
The concept of brujaria—witchcraft—is being able to manipulate the energies around you in order to manifest your desires. The pop culture idea of witchcraft sees it as very magical and impossible like witches flying; these are very science fiction versions of what witchcraft is. In reality, it’s about tapping into this power and being able to focus so hard into an intention that you’re actually able to make it into something physical. A lot of religions, starting from indigenous religions, native religions, and African religions, used that manipulation of energy in their spiritual practices. My practice is about losing the dogma and the doctrine when it comes to approaching witchcraft. You don’t have to have a specific belief in a religion, whether it’s Christianity or Santería, in order to tap into this. What I’m trying to show people is that the energies around us can be manipulated by anyone; it’s just about how strong minded and open you can be with your spirit, your heart, and your mind. Everyone can be tapped into this, starting with the CEO who is very focused and gets a successful career. That’s its own version of witchcraft!
What are the ways in which you can manifest the energy in order to accomplish what you want?
I consider myself a cosmic witch, which means I use the energies of the cosmos and the planets to give myself a boost. I go by the lunar calendar and the lunar phases. Each lunar phase represents a different state of being. When the moon is full, it’s all about creation and implementing action. When the moon is new, it’s all about getting clear about your intentions. If you want to create something like a job opportunity, you can use tools that are energetically fused with abundance and financial wellbeing, like crystals. You can also use things like rosemary, which is an herb that’s about manifesting abundance. It’s a lot like cooking, where you find natural elements that are already infused with that energy and put them together to boost that desire. And then using the timing of astrology and cosmos to find a time that can work in your favor.
How does this all intersect and apply to relationships both platonic and romantic? Is there a way to manifest a relationship?
Yes, but it’s touchy. You can do things to hype up an energy, and that’s where love spells and binding spells come from. You can almost sweeten the energy of another person by introducing elements that heighten that love feeling, but in witchcraft there’s a very important rule that you don’t interfere with another person’s will. I think there are ways to connect with the energy other people are giving, but I don’t believe I can make someone fall in love with you if there already hasn’t been a seed planted. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, so you cannot create an energy in a person.
"The whole idea that individual ways of managing power is wrong came from colonialism because it gave individuals power."
You opened your school in Miami. Can you tell us about the philosophy of the organization and what your goals are for the school?
Brujx School is an educational program for those in the community to tap into different types of magic, energies, and practices and learn how to apply them to their daily lives. We have workshops with a different focus each month. Right now, we’re doing monthly workshops, but ideally, I want it to have a base where we can host workshops constantly. Where we can actually do a program that lasts a few months or we can do retreats and be an addition to whatever formal education they’re receiving.
Do you find there are a lot of misconceptions about what it means to be a brujx?
Definitely! Especially being here in Miami. We’re all first or second generation, so we come from very religious backgrounds, regardless of whether we practice or not. The whole idea that individual ways of managing power is wrong came from colonialism because it gave individuals power. And that is still a residue in our minds. It’s still radical to call yourself a brujx. When I talk to people, even about the school, they’re like, “oh, are you worshiping the devil?” This question sounds silly, but it comes from a very intense place for them. A lot of people don’t understand or think it’s taboo to have this idea that you can change everything around you.
How do you combat that? Colonialism is hundreds of years old and long with a very powerful influence on so many cultures in the world.
Luckily, we’re in a time right now where these structures are crumbling. In order to hold the colonizer on a pedestal, things have to be going well and right now everything is being exposed—racism, nationalism, going against women, going against the LGBT. These cultures are showing their cracks, and that sparks a fire in people and they start being a bit more open about, “what am I missing, what am I not being told?”
Could you tell us a little bit more about what you’re doing at The Standard Spa, Miami Beach?
The class is Brujeria 101. It’s an introduction into witchcraft; what the energies are that are influencing us all the time, and how we can manipulate them. I’m also going to talk about ritual magic because it is very important that we connect to rituals. Ritual is something that allows us to touch on our spiritual values and our spiritual sense of being. We’ll go over rituals that we already participate in—dancing, club culture, going to restaurants, eating together, cooking together. I’m going to touch on how to honor our ancestors and how to harness the connection to our spirit guides. I’m going to talk a little bit about spell casting and the elements that can be used in spells like herbs, crystals, oils.
Thurday, August 22, 7.30-9PM