Continuing on with my nosiness where some lovely ladies are concerned, this week we’ll learn a little about Johanna Lawson:
Do you have a favorite book on witchcraft – perhaps one that influenced you? My first book on witchcraft was Starhawk’s “The Spiral Dance”. My mother purchased it for me and it was perhaps the greatest gift she ever gave me. She knew I was in the process of exploring my spirituality and thought it would be helpful. The book opened up a whole new world for me, one in which I knew I belonged, and started me on my path. Its pages are now yellowed and dog-eared, the spine creased and the cover flimsy from my multiple readings, from being stuffed in luggage and handbags, and from being pulled from its familiar place in the shelf for often-needed references.
How long have you been practicing & how did you come to your path? When I was 20 years old, living in my first apartment, I was introduced to a woman who was a witch by a mutual friend who thought she and I had much in common. It turned out we did and she started me on a quest to discover my true path. She has been my best friend and mentor since the first day we met. I have now been practicing witchcraft for 26 years and, with each passing year, each turn of the wheel, my practice evolves and becomes one with my daily life.
What was the hardest lesson you had to learn – one that you credit your path for teaching you? Perhaps the hardest lesson I have learned from this path is to be proud of who and what I am, not to hide. For many years, I was in the broom closet, constantly worrying what others may think of me if they found out that I was a witch. It kept me from so many things, most of all from being true to myself. About 12 years ago, I threw that door open and felt as if I was reborn.
How does being a witch help you in everyday life? This was a really hard question for me and the only answer I have to it is this: Being a witch doesn’t necessarily help me in my everyday life. It just is my everyday life. It permeates all aspects of my life, from housecleaning to cooking to raising my son to my job to being a wife, a sister, an aunt, a daughter, and all the roles of my life. I believe witchcraft is much more than just ritual, ceremony, spells and charms. It’s helping a family member in tough times to see things a bit more positively thus creating more positive outcomes for them. It’s cleaning up the skinned knees of little ones with a healing herbal preparation and gentle words of encouragement. It’s whispering a few words of good energy out into the universe at the same time your son is taking the SAT’s. It’s lighting a green candle for prosperity as you place a call to the electric company when the bill is overdue. It’s thanking the basil plant every time you clip off a few leaves for the pasta sauce you are stirring up in the kitchen. It just is everyday life.
I know you’re a Master Gardener. Did/does that designation & the study that went with it help in your path? Becoming a Master Gardener seemed like the natural progression down my path. In my studies, I learned just how magical the plant world is in and of itself, for example the delicate balances in nature that can cause marvelous growth or destructive diseases and the interdependence of different species of certain plant life while others can be deadly when planted together. It also led me to better understand the healing effects gardening can have for not only the planet but for one’s spirit. For me, gardening is my way of deeply connecting with Mother Earth and is a ritual in itself. Being a Master Gardener has also allowed me to bring that magic to other people through volunteer work with the program.
If you were just starting your own herb garden, which herbs would you plant and why? As I learned in my Master Gardeners courses as well as in my magical studies, so many more plants fall under the category of “Herbs” than I ever imagined. Herbs are any plant with flowers, leaves and seeds used in cooking, flavoring, medicine and perfume. This definition opened a whole new world for me when it came to growing herbs in my own gardens. I would tell a new herb gardener to start with some basic herbs, those that are good for cooking as well as in magic, and to throw in a few “witchy” extras that brighten the landscape, lift the spirits, and bring pollinators to their yards. Rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano/marjoram, sage, lemon balm, mint, and parsley are the ones I started my own herb garden with several years ago. I would then add some yarrow, coneflowers, calendula, catmint/catnip, chives, and lavender. All of these can be used in magic and healing, not to mention they bring bees, birds, and butterflies to the garden. Oh, and garlic! Every garden should have garlic!
What is one piece of advice you’d give someone new to the witchcraft path? The most important thing I would tell anyone beginning to walk the path of witchcraft is that there is no right or wrong way. What works for one person may not work for another. Do not let others dictate how your path should proceed or where it should go. Infuse your witchcraft with yourself, your beliefs, your traditions. Therein is the real magic!
What is one question you wish someone would ask you? Oh that’s an easy one. Can I make dinner? I am the chief meal planner and creator in my household and sometimes it would be nice if, every once in a while, I could just sit back and enjoy a meal that I had nothing to do with and that did not come from a restaurant.
What are two things about you not too many people know? First, I love writing in bad weather. Since I was a teenager, a gray stormy, rainy, or snowy day gets my muse all a flutter and I take to the keyboard. Second, I believe the next step in my path is to become a Master Herbalist and I will be looking into that over the Winter.
And finally, coffee or tea? It depends. I must have coffee in the morning and after dinner. But, the rest of the day is for herbal teas, mostly made from my own herbs, and hot or iced, depending on the season and the weather. I also always have a cup of chamomile tea or my own nighttime blend of herbs before bed.
Johanna Lawson is a longtime solitary-practicing witch and the author of the blog, Village Wise Woman, that documents her journeys on the Pagan path, through the changing seasons of her magical garden, and through the life of her small Pagan family. She has been published in several Pagan anthologies and various magazines and newsletters.