I think I got my start on magic like everyone else – as a child I was fascinated with fantasy and devoured books about witches, elves, fairies, dragons, and anything else with a hint of otherworldly sparkle. Like many others, fairy tales were my introduction to the world of magic, and I do believe I just never grew out of it. Instead, I kept looking for ways that magic seeps into the mundane. I knew pumpkins couldn’t become carriages, but I wanted to find out where the “real” magic was hiding. How did fantasy manifest as reality?
I grew up in the bible belt of North Carolina, but my family wasn’t particularly religious. So while I didn’t get a lot of spirituality in my everyday life, I did get my share of churches and sermons from attending with friends throughout the years. None of it really stuck with me, except perhaps as unconscious seeds of impending doom at the threat of burning in Hell for eternity. All things considered, I have to speculate that having had somewhat of an outsider’s perspective on religion, with no steady indoctrination of one specific belief system, led me to be questioning, yet open-minded on the subject.
As I grew up and began learning about the broader world around me, I started thinking about the nature of reality and (mainly internally) asking the big questions. Once, when I was around 12, I remember asking a friend if they ever thought about death. “No, not really.” I’m pretty sure I weirded her out. At the time, I had just recovered from pneumonia and my only hospitalization. And another memory, at maybe 14 or 15, in the backseat of a car watching the landscape go by I thought to myself, “Maybe we’re God and we worship ourselves by loving each other.”
Around this time I was in the throes of full-blown puberty – a teenager encountering fluctuating hormones and my first romantic relationship. Maybe it was the hormones or my first broken heart, or maybe those pesky unconscious seeds of doom were starting to bloom, but it wasn’t long before I started having panic attacks and received a diagnosis for depression. I had a chronic dissatisfaction with reality and an existential dread that the material world was too much. Or not enough.
I was prescribed a small series of pills, the last of which was a benzo intended to ameliorate the anxiety that had been aggravated by the previous prescription for Adderall (despite not having ADHD) – I was prescribed a stimulant just so I could “get going in the morning and go to school.” Like many, I wanted to go to the doctor because I believed that there was something wrong with me, that these inherent feelings were indicative of an imbalance, in my brain, or maybe in my endocrine system. I attempted recreationally self-medicating, but I began to understand that substances often made my mood swings more extreme. By the time I turned 21, I’d quit taking any external substances that would affect my mind or mood, including the fun ones like cannabis and caffeine. For several years, I developed what was, in retrospect, an unhealthy obsession with purity that was ultimately fueled by my anxieties. I constantly analyzed how I was feeling and what could have caused it.
The desire to self-medicate evolved into a genuine desire for healing through herbalism. Searching for natural remedies and alternatives to all the toxic chemicals I was desperate to avoid, set the stage for a lifelong learning journey through plants. I started drinking herbal teas and visiting a local (Christian) herb shop that introduced me to Ayurveda and Mountain Rose Herbs. Everything I learned during this time provided a kind of background noise for building my familiarity with alternative healing modalities. When I encountered these things after I got older, my previous run-ins allowed me to feel comfortable with learning even more and going deeper.
I have had the best results in treating my anxiety with herbs and breathing exercises. Over time I have developed an ability to manage my anxiety almost entirely with no instance of panic attacks. I still struggle with depression and over the years my symptoms have improved, worsened, and improved again, as they often do in cycles triggered by hormones and circumstance.
As an emotionally volatile young woman with no particular spiritual direction, I was strongly drawn to the rebellion and feminism that I saw in witchcraft. I would describe most of my interest in the subject as noncommittal dabbling – I had tarot cards and several books I'd ordered used online, but I honestly don’t remember any moment that turned me onto it. From the time I was a teenager until early 2012, witchcraft continued to play a steady background note in my life. I was living in Denver at that point and used to shop at a small metaphysical pet store called Quantum Alchemy. It was there that I bought a pair of silver pentagram earrings that I still own. A coffee shop I worked at also hosted a pagan meet up, which I never actually attended, but I believe the exposure to other practitioners and communities in a bigger city lead me to take my spirituality more seriously. At some point, I discovered chaos magick, which really clicked for me and has continued to inform my magical philosophy. It is only within the last couple of years that I have developed actual skill with tarot and learned to trust my own intuitive nature. Lately, I have had my interest piqued in the study of Theosophy, Gnosticism, Enochian magick, and lucid dreaming.
In February 2015, after a series of moves, I decided to settle in Austin and immediately got to work on brewing up herbals in order to start my business. I had decided 4 years prior (while still in Denver) that I knew I wanted to be self-employed by making all-natural products, but it took a couple more years, during which time I became more heavily focused on herbalism, to start coming up with ideas. I still didn’t have the money to start investing and making things, so I spent a couple more years making plans and designing products. Being deeply delighted by Discordianism and the Goddess of Chaos, I initially named my herbal business Eris Apothecary. In 2019, I rebranded to Sage Craft Botanicals and have recently merged my herbalism brand with the Austin Witches Circle platform in order to simplify and streamline my work life.
While working part-time in the service industry, I began to attend local art markets and other pop-ups in an attempt to peddle my potions but didn't quite hit a stride with sales. Because I was so new to town, I couldn't really figure out where my niche was, or if maybe Austin just wasn't into my style of offerings (untrue!). Among the other artists and vendors I met, I noticed that several of them were also magical or gothic makers. So being the independent self-starter that I am (Sun|Libra + Rising|Capricorn = double cardinal signs), I began thinking I could get something together and had an idea to host the first Austin Witches' Market. I'd already been having a vague thought in the back of my head about how cool it would be to start a collective, but what I didn't know at the time is how popular it would become!
I scoured the internet for similar markets and learned about the most famous witches' market in the world - El Mercado de las Brujas in Bolivia. I also learned that there wasn't a regular event that I could easily find online called a witches' market in the US. Overnight, the Facebook event I had created for the first New Moon Witches' Market (hosted by Drinks Lounge in December 2015) gained more followers than I could have anticipated and I quickly realized that I had hit on something with this idea. I made an official Facebook page and website, including drafting a statement of intent complete with collective principles, intentions, and goals, which I have been working on improving ever since. Our second market was hosted at The VORTEX and things really took off when we started hosting the Full Moon Witches' Market, originally at Badlands (RIP).
“As a primary principle, we promote Unity among witches, pagans, and magickal practitioners. Our community is nondenominational and welcoming to followers of any or no religion. We are in full support of Feminism and utilize witchcraft as an empowering practice that seeks to destabilize the patriarchy. Acceptance & encouragement of LGBTQAI+ identities are vital to us, and we strive to care for the Earth in all of its offerings. We are unable to support people & paths which promote racism, nationalism, ableism, or the exclusion of trans people in their ideologies or practices. We ask that members Honor these principles in their lives & interactions.”
The Facebook community group was started in the following months and has now grown to over 3.5k members. We've been having weekly markets for the last few years, settling into monthly rotations at Drinks Lounge, The VORTEX, and Buzz Mill, as well as our most recent collaborations with Spider House and Cosmic Coffee. We've enjoyed brief pop-ups at spaces like Elysium, Sahara Lounge, Kitty Cohen's, Stardust Vintage, The Lost Well, Hard Luck Lounge, The White Horse, Zucchini Kill Bakery, and even a BDSM dungeon. Over time we’ve learned that our most compatible venues have ample outdoor space, along with plenty of offerings for food and drinks – including coffee, full bar, and vegetarian options.
During the many months of trekking weekly to markets while hauling bins, tables, displays, and products, the idea for a storefront soon began stirring. Having done research on collective and cooperative business models, I knew that if I was going to start anything it would be by following some kind of collaborative model. I truly believe and have learned through experience that where one may fail, many will succeed together - especially in an increasingly expensive city like Austin! The issue of exactly where this magical space could manifest was the biggest obstacle and I wasn't really actively searching.
Then one day in 2018 I was at Possum Park (where Zucchini Kill Bakery is located), and I was supposed to be setting up for a 4th of July pop-up. It was one of those days where it was sunny, but kind of raining on and off, and the event didn't end up happening. None of the other vendors arrived and nothing was set up, so I went inside Zucchini Kill to restock a few items I had on consignment there while I waited to see if the rain would stop. I remember saying to Cece, the owner of the bakery, that I wasn’t sure why I had even come today! It seemed kind of obvious that nothing would end up happening because of the rain, but then the landlord at Possum Park, Tim, walked in to chat. He mentioned to Cece that the adjoining space behind Zucchini Kill was going to become available in a couple of months and to let him know if she knew of anybody interested. I quietly stocked my shelf until he left then immediately turned and locked eyes with Cece. We were both excited because we knew this was the perfect opportunity. Truth be told, I’d had my mind on that exact space since Zucchini Kill moved in about 10 months prior. I didn’t expect the shop that inhabited it to move on so soon though! It was a 90s vintage shop, which thankfully didn’t close down, but simply moved on to a larger location. The vibes were all good and I was dead set on making it happen.
With the obstacle of location resolved and having spent a few years networking with magical makers, I was confident that I had the community to draw from that could help breathe this store into life. My first step was researching and drawing up a model proposal to pitch to my fellow vendors. I first reached out to a couple of people who I knew shared similar desires to open a shop - Kristi of Foxtrot jewelry, and Kayla of SOVRIN apparel. Luckily for me, they both got on board and with a few tweaks to the business model, we approached the others!
Almost everyone we approached to join initially became members – with a monthly fee of $80 plus working only 1 shift a month, it really is a functional model for many independent artists. If it weren’t for being able to share overhead costs and labor in this way, we never would have been able to open in the first place. Our startup costs were easily covered by a GoFundMe campaign combined with a loan from one of the initial members (which we paid back within a few months). We got the keys on September 1st, spent two weeks working our butts off and promoting like hell, then launched a soft opening in mid-September. Our grand opening party was closer to Halloween. Essentially, I learned on July 4th that the space would become available and we opened the doors on September 19th (2018). I've been told by people that this was crazy fast - but to me, it just proves exactly what can be accomplished when magical people work together.
About six months ago I began to think of 2020 as The Year of Crystal Vision. Clarity, focus, direction – are all things that would become a top priority this year. As these last 4 months have unfolded, it is apparent that an opportunity, if not outright demand, has been given to us – as individuals and a collective, to take a look at where we have been, where we are now, and where we are headed. I am grateful for this chance to take a look back, before moving forward into what I hope will be an inspiring future.
With the massive shift to online platforms, I wanted to work to further build our spheres of connection. The topics for this blog will include various aspects of magick, witchcraft, metaphysics, and spirituality – with as many contributions from our community as possible! In time, this may grow to be a place where we can continue to share ideas and learn together, even though we are apart.
Welcome to Astral Castles.
Jessica Beauvoir | May 11th, 2020Subscribe to this blog's RSS feed by using an RSS reader with http://austinwitchescircle.com/blogs/astral-castles.atom.