5 Questions

Alice Tarbuck

25 September 2020

1) Poet, academic, editor, teacher, witch - is there something that connects all these interests and activities?

All of my activities and interests relate to understanding the relationship between the broad world and the language we use to describe it. We engage with the world so often using language, and that fascinates me. How can we do it better, what does it mean to speak language into the world? My work in all its forms pushes against the margin where words can no longer quite reach out into the wide world. I'm interested in what happens there.

2) What sort of spells do 21st-century witches cast, and is it true they can be cast using emojis?

Twenty-first century witches need the same things as all historic practitioners of magic have needed - protection, health, for the planet to be healthy, to make sure people they love are as well provided for as possible, to connect outwards toward the world and all the complicated glory that dwells within it. Magic, like any practice concerned with humans in the world, has fundamental tenets of seasonal celebration, and work into the world.

Spells can be cast using symbols - think of traditional symbols, from the 'running man' of Exit signs to the peace symbol - they communicate meaning without words. Emoji are part of that tradition of visual symbolism, so I see no reason why they couldn't be!

3) Is witchcraft for women only or do you teach men on your courses?

The idea that witchcraft is gendered is nonsense. We have heard more, historically, about accused witches who were women, but the innocent people executed during the witch trials were not witches as we would understand the term today. Magical practitioners have always been of all genders. Gerald Gardner, who revivified witchcraft tradition in Britain and who founded contemporary Wicca in the 1950s, would certainly be shocked to hear it wasn't for men! Witchcraft exists beyond the bounds of binary gender divisions, and the traditional association of witchcraft exclusively with women is one that didn't hold true even in the medieval period.

4) How have perceptions of witchcraft changed - it still seems to cause fear and alarm in some parts of the world.

In a high number of countries, indigenous folk practices are condemned as witchcraft and are outlawed. Saudi Arabia, for example, has edicts against witchcraft, and there are numerous countries where it is not safe to do. But witchcraft is a culturally located term - the witchcraft people are accused of in one country may not look like witchcraft to someone else. It's often a blanket term for diverse spiritual and magical practices which deviate from the dominant religion in the country.

5) How might people use your book?

The book walks the reader through the months of the year - beginning, like a school term, in September, and provides a year's worth of history, theory and practical witchcraft. It's hopefully a gentle and encouraging book which will provide interest for those moved toward magical practice, and just a good read about seasons, folk-custom and history for others!