[This issue, we sit down with actor and author Emily Carding. Here, they discusses their personal spiritual practices, Shakespeare and magic, and their love of the Bard and theater.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spirituality? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Emily Carding: Certainly eclectic, as I find all beliefs and practices fascinating, though obviously on a level of personal practice there are particular areas in which I have specialised. Broadly speaking, I term myself a mystic. I am also a priestess of Hekate (though I have shrines to several other gods in my home) and a practitioner of Faery Craft.
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers do you honor in your practice?
EC: Primarily I work with and honour Hekate in her many aspects, particularly Hekate Soteira (saviour) through which I connect to her as World Soul. Those who have read my work will be familiar with how that ties in to my work with Faery. I also will call upon a number of other deities when the need or inspiration arises, including Hermes/Mercury, Thoth, Isis, Cerridwen, Poseidon, Kali … oh, the list is long!
ev0ke: You recently released So Potent Art: The Magic of Shakespeare. First, congratulations! Second, why a book about magic and Shakespeare? What drew you to this topic?
EC: Thank you! Well, as both Shakespearean actor and magical practitioner, it seemed a natural combination to me. Theatre and magic have common roots in Ancient Greece and Shakespeare lived and worked in a fascinating historical period where the Elizabethan Occult philosophies, as personified by figures such as John Dee (the Queen’s astrologer), started to be replaced by the rational, humanist philosophies taught in the universities during the Jacobean period. Unlike his university-educated peers, Shakespeare seems to cling on to the old beliefs and portrays them often in a positive light. His works are not only a mine of esoteric wisdom and folklore, but there’s also other factors such as the rhythm of his verse working so well as a vehicle for carrying the energy of intent forward, when delivered with the correct focus and energy.
It was a love of Shakespeare’s works that inspired me to train as an actor and after taking a break for over a decade to raise my child (during which time I focused on writing and art, including my Tarot decks and Faery Craft), I was lucky enough to be able to do an MFA in Staging Shakespeare. I knew from the beginning that I wanted the focus of my thesis to be the practical application of the esoteric content of Shakespeare, so a lot of that work became the starting point for So Potent Art.
ev0ke: What is your favorite example of magic in a Shakespearean play or poem?
EC: It’s always tricky to choose a favourite! The title So Potent Art is taken from one of Prospero’s speeches in The Tempest when he is invoking the spirits of the land and I’ve always found it to be a powerful moment. Not only did I choose it for the title of the book, but I also have it tattooed on my foot! The ending of The Winter’s Tale when the statue of Hermione is brought back to life also holds special significance for me, regardless of whether it’s played as genuinely supernatural or that she has been surviving in secret for all those years. That moment of redemption and reunion is truly magical.
ev0ke: What sort of research went into So Potent Art? Large stacks of books? Long hours at the library or online?
EC: Yes, large stacks of books. Many of which I had bought while studying for my MFA, some of which I used the writing of So Potent Art to justify buying, plus online research. Despite all that, new facts or thoughts keep coming to light that I wish I could include, but I had to finish it sometime! Overall, because I was so busy with acting work, the whole project spanned about seven years, on and off.
ev0ke: You also published Faery Craft: Weaving Connections with the Enchanted Realm in 2012, with Seeking Faery: An Introduction to the Hidden World of the Fae coming in 2022. Both books are published through Llewellyn. Did you approach Llewellyn or did they come to you? And is the spelling “faery” significant?
EC: On both occasions Llewellyn approached me with the specific concept in mind. For Faery Craft they wanted a lifestyle book and Seeking Faery started off as one of a series of hardback gift books, but became a stand-alone thing.
I use the spelling Faery simply to differentiate between the real beings that we are working with in the books from the fictional version. There’s no linguistic or historical basis for that, I just hoped it would make things clearer for readers. I’m not sure if it does, but perhaps it’s just a distinction I need to make for myself.
ev0ke: Could you give us an example of one of the visualizations or meditations offered in Faery Craft and Seeking Faery? And are these based on your personal experiences?
EC: “Exercise: Becoming the Faery Tree.”
This exercise is designed to connect you to the energies of the land and to open up your heart centre to increase sensitivity to the presence and communications of Faery beings.
Depending on your physical capabilities, this may be performed standing or sitting, but in either instance you should ideally have your feet bare and on the land outside, in as natural a space as possible, ideally where you won’t be disturbed. Keeping upright and relaxed, with your feet a small distance apart and your hands by your sides, take seven slow deep breaths (in through the nose, hold for three seconds and slowly out through the mouth) as you allow tension and the concerns of the day to melt away.
On your next breath, with your palms at your side facing downwards, imagine your feet slowly turning into tree roots and digging down into the earth beneath you. Feel the strength of the earth and the stability and nourishment that the roots provide you with. Maintain this for seven deep breaths in and out.
Now, for your next seven breaths, maintaining your roots, slowly bring your arms up into a ‘v’ shape and raise your palms to the sky. Imagine that your arms are becoming great branches, reaching for the light of Sun, Moon and Stars. Maintain both roots and branches for a further seven deep breaths.
Keeping your arms upright in the ‘v’ position, now imagine that your roots are drawing emerald green light up from the earth towards your heart. Breathe it in and draw it up with seven deep breaths. Now imagine that your branches are drawing down the silver light of the heavens into your heart. Draw it down with seven deep breaths. The green and silver lights meet in your heart and become golden and swirling, opening your heart to the energies of Earth and connecting you to above and below.
For beginners, maintain this as long as you are comfortable and then release the energies back up through your branches and down through your roots, slowly lower your arms and slowly draw your roots back into your feet and become your normal self again. Seven deep breaths to recover. As you become more used to this exercise, you may find you can do shorter or longer versions as you wish.
For more advanced practitioners, you may experiment with extending this golden light into the space around you, to connect with other parts of the natural world. Guidance on a more advanced use of this technique may be found in Chapter Four, (the ‘walking in awareness’ exercise.) You may also combine this with the ‘finding your voice’ exercise in Chapter Six and use your voice together with the golden light to reach out. Then draw the light back into your centre and release back to above and below, following the same closing steps as above.
It is a good idea to maintain this exercise as a regular practice, and if you are hoping to connect with a particular area, this is a good way to open yourself to the energies of the space and introduce yourself to any beings that might be present and wishing to connect with you, especially when combined with the voice exercise from Chapter Five. Spend some time in quiet contemplation in the area you have been working in after doing this exercise and see what impressions or beings come to you. It’s all about being open and receptive without preconceived ideas of what might happen. An open heart is your gateway into Faery.
The exercises in both books are a mixture of things which have been taught to me by the spirits of the land or Faery beings, by other teachers (always credited), and exercises I’ve devised in order to build the skills, experience, sensitivity and connections needed for the work.
ev0ke: What one bit of folklore or history did you absolutely have to include in your faery books?
EC: “The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer” is more than a great folkloric tale. It has a lot of important imagery and information in it which may be considered initiatory. Therefore it is referred to frequently throughout Seeking Faery.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
EC: All my published work is available to order from any bookstore. To keep up to date with what I’m up to, you can follow me on Twitter @emilycarding and keep an eye on my website emilycarding.com
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
EC: I’m coming to the end of an extremely busy period, after which I am planning a deep rest. Well, we’ll see what the Universe has in store, the gods laugh at our plans! There is a second edition of The Transparent Oracle coming out in the summer of 2022, I have a film role lined up and have been auditioning a fair bit so I’m hoping something will land. Otherwise I might be in danger of actually finishing a novel .…