Lexa Roséan is a priestess, psychic, and leading pagan author – not to mention NYC’s best witch, according to The Village Voice. We talk Tarot, magick, dance, and the difference between witchcraft, Wicca, and paganism.
PYN: Your web bio lists you as a priestess and pagan. Can you tell us the difference between paganism, witchcraft and Wicca? (And how they relate to each other)?
Lexa: I think many people may consider themselves pagan without considering themselves witches or part of the Wicca. Maybe they believe in pantheism, maybe they’re naturists or hedonists. And paganism also just refers to a pre-Judeo, Pre-Christian, pre-Islamic time when there were many gods. But I’ve also heard people use the term “pagan” to explain themselves as not believing in God, or believing in nature instead. So it’s a wide term.
The word “witchcraft” is still in the process of being cleaned up. Many people think it has negative connotations because of the witch trials and witch burnings. It’s often associated with black magick, or evil or negativity, though I don’t think that’s correct.
Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente were really responsible for the Modern Wicca movement. And where people say “Wicca,” most people have an awareness that this is a reconstructionalist religion based on the ancient matriarchal religions, and it does have more of a religious connotation – sometimes even a little goody two-shoes, where Wicca is squeaky clean and the witchcraft word is dirty. The difference is many people will use the word “witch” and be talking about either a hereditary religion or traditions that has been passed down, whereas when they refer to Wicca, they’re referring to a tradition they trained in or adopted as a new faith or practice. That’s changing, however. I now know children who have been born into Wicca rather than training into it. That wasn’t really the case 30 years ago, when I got started.
PYN: You authored a book on Tarot magick, Tarot Power: 22 Keys to Unlock Magick, Spellcraft, and Kabbalistic Meditation. Can you tell us a bit about the connection between Tarot and spell casting?
Lexa: I work in a unique way with the Tarot. Absolutely, Tarot is used for divination but some of my early training to read the Tarot had to do with meditative and magickal work, for example putting the cards one by one under my pillow and recording my dreams. There are many symbols, both astrological and Kabbalistic, that correspond to the Tarot cards. Some decks have them written on them, some are more coded.
For me, the Tarot is not only predictive or divinatory, it’s also a tool that we can use to right something that’s gone out of whack [Tweet this!], to guide us to where we want to be. I’m not a fortune teller. I consider myself more a counselor or guide, someone who points the way to help people make decisions about which way to travel.
There’s also a tradition among the witches to use the Tarot. “Witchcraft” or “Wicca” means “to bend or shape”, and there’s a way of working magick with the Tarot cards. You can ask a question about whether something will happen and see what the cards say, which is divinatory. Or you could ask, “how can I make this happen?” “How can I facilitate this going smoothly?” How you ask and when you ask is key in terms of the types of answers that Tarot will give you.
A third way witches use Tarot is to lay out a spread to create an outcome. You pick the cards, lay them out in a certain way, and leave them out on the table to vibrate. The book deals a lot with that, and also with incorporating the cards and the principles of the different cards into other forms of magick, e.g. herb or candle burning. And there’s also a section on each card that’s a meditation, to help you align yourself with the principles of that card.
PYN: What was your favorite book to write? Why?
Lexa: I guess I’d have to say the first one, the Supermarket Sorceress, because it was all so new and wonderful and magickal. My chosen profession was as a writer. First I wrote a book of poetry, which was a wonderful experience and inspired by Walt Whitman, I put together 100 copies of the book bound by twigs. It was called Elements and it was really a piece of art, a book of poetry divided into the four elements. It was a very magickal poetry book. I also wrote many plays. But I found it difficult to pay the rent just writing poetry and plays. So I got a job in an occult shop and at the time I was studying Wicca, working toward my initiation, learning astrology, learning Tarot. Then I got the opportunity to be a reader, and found I was very successful with this. And the writing, something I wanted to do professionally, became more of an artistic thing. I was successful at it but it was difficult to make a decent living.
Then I hit a snag, where I realized that running this occult shop had become more about retail than magick. I petitioned the god Hermes, the god of writing and communication, and I asked for an answer to this dilemma – how can I be happy with my magick and happy with my writing and also be able to make a good living? After I completed this ritual, my agent called and said, “Did you ever think about writing books about this magick that you do?” The thought had never occurred to me. I agreed. And then we did a proposal and everything came together. So I think that was the most exciting thing to me, because it was a marriage between two parts of my life that I really loved.
PYN: Do you ever use dance in your magick? If so, how? What’s the connection?
Lexa: First, I’ll say that for the witches, dance is a huge part of the ritual. There are many dances, like the spiral dance – probably the biggest and grandest dance traditionally done by the witches on Samhain, the witch’s New Year. Any kind of raising energy that’s done in a circle is done with chanting, and usually with movement and dance. There’s also dancing and jumping the fires and jumping the broom when there’s a hand fasting or wedding. So there’s a big tradition with pagans and witches and Wicca involving dance movement.
Dance was something that was always kind of peripherally in my life. When I was younger, I was told I was a dancer, not a writer. So I managed to get a scholarship in my early twenties, 40 hours a week, jazz, ballet, tap, I loved it. Then after a certain point, my peers were auditioning for shows. But it wasn’t for me, and I dropped out of that scene. Years later, I got involved with country line dancing, folk dancing, and I loved it, but it wasn’t until Argentine Tango entered my life that I realized what I love about dance is the social aspect. I want to be a social dancer, not a performer on the stage. Performance isn’t that interesting to me, though I understand it can be. What’s magickal about Tango, and akin to raising energy and the magick that happens in witches circles, is that it’s improvisational. It generates a connection to the partner, to the music, and raises energy in the moment. It’s very Zen. It’s my meditation, the only thing I do in my life where I don’t think. Some people can do that in meditation, sitting still, but if I sit still, my mind races. When I move, my mind stills.
But the way that I found Argentine Tango was also magickal. From time to time I do these huge petitions to different gods and goddesses, and the year when I petitioned Hermes, I also petitioned Chango, one of the Orishas from Santeria. Chango is the god of good character and strength and energy – the energy is somewhat sexual but more the life force in a person. I had been feeling there was no magick in the occult store. I wasn’t reading the books; I was just writing down the ISBN numbers so we could order more. So I petitioned Chango and asked if he’d help me find my good character, my life force, my life energy. Shortly after that, I stumbled upon Argentine Tango. At the time, I didn’t make any connection to the petition, but I became very passionate about this dance. About a month after I started lessons, one of the teachers said, “You know, nobody really knows about the origin of the Tango. But some people say that it is connected to or comes out of the name of this Afro-Cuban-Brazillian god, named Chango.” That was in 1995 and I’m still going strong with Tango. It’s is a huge part of my life, and there’s a lot of magick in it.
PYN: I noticed you have a Kabbalistic Tree of Life (TOL) on your website. Can you explain pathworking on the TOL?
Lexa: I did a lot of work personally with the TOL and with pathworking on the TOL. I grew up in a Jewish home and then a very Hassidic home. My family basically became born-again Jews, so I was exposed to the mysticism at an early age. It’s forbidden for women to study the Kabbalah, so that’s one of the first things I decided to do when I became a young adult. I moved away from Kabbalah in my 30s and moved back into it in my 40s, because after 40, a person has a kind of grounding and sense of self so you can come into this mystical world and not lose your way in it.
When I was young, our Rabbi began giving Kaballah lectures to women, which was unheard of in the seventies. I have an understanding that it’s very connected to the verses of the Old Testament, an interpretive way of opening up and getting more out of biblical passages. As a young adult, I began as a ceremonial magickian, a solo studying more ceremonial magick and Kaballah, and became introduced to this sort of western, occult aspect of the Kaballah. At the time, I did a lot of work on the tree and the paths of the tree.
Of course, this is very connected to Tarot and astrology. When I work Kaballistically with clients, I like to keep it very simple, because pathworkings can become very complex. For example, if I’m doing a reading for myself or for a querent, the first thing I take a look at is the number of major arcana cards in the spread. These are the higher cards, and for me, this is an indication of what sphere you’re in – not what path – but what sphere of the tree. For example three major arcana cards in a spread means you’re in Binah, the 3rd sphere. The querent and I would then talk about what that means and what it represents. It’s a very simple and powerful way of working. And you’re usually not going to have over ten major arcane cards in a spread. If you did for some reason, I’d reduce the number. We could go deeper into the pathworking, but it would have to be with someone I’m working consistently with. For someone I’m seeing only once, I might not talk about the tree but just about the principle of the sphere. I always find the discussion resonates.
But I prefer to work with people with some type of consistency, because witchcraft is something that all kinds of people turn to when there’s nowhere else to go. And I so wish that people would come to us before that, before they hit that point, because there’s so much that the Goddess can do, and that spiritual practitioners and readers and counselors can do. Once you’re in the ditch, most of the work is pulling you up out of the ditch. But if you seek out this work when you’re on level ground, you’ll end up flying. Some people know and respect that, and it’s amazing and a pleasure to work with them.