[This issue, we sit down with Raechel Henderson. A witch and sewist, Henderson here discusses her personal spiritual practices; her book, Sew Witchy; and her forthcoming projects.]
ev0ke: How do you define your personal spiritual tradition? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Raechel Henderson: Broadly speaking I’m a pagan witch. I tend to tune into the passage of the seasons, the land around me, and the natural world. I often use the label “hedgewitch” which feels a little more in line with how I practice magick rather than other labels like “green witch” or “cottage witch,” but I also tend to think that those labels are fluid and can really encompass a variety of paths that might differ in specifics, but are rooted in the same broad description of a witch who interacts most often with nature.
ev0ke: What Deities, powers, or other spirits do you honor?
RA: Currently I work with Hestia. She’s an ancient Greek goddess of the hearth. I also have a helper spirit, Turtle, who has been with me since I was a teenager. I work with both in different ways. With Hestia I tend to focus on my magick and home life, while Turtle and I have worked together on inner, personal issues.
I’m aware of the various genus loci and other spirits around me, but our interactions are pretty limited, mostly because where I am living now is a temporary home, so I haven’t pursued any relationships with them beyond neighborly hellos.
ev0ke: You released Sew Witchy: Tools, Techniques, and Projects for Sewing Magick through Llewellyn in 2019. First, congratulations! Second, how did this project come about? Why a book on magic and needlework?
RA: Thank you. I didn’t start out intending to write a witchy sewing book. I worked for several years as a sewist as a way to support my family. I would incorporate my magick practice into my sewing: things like drawing runes on my sewing machines to keep them running smoothly, or using pins with green heads to infuse my projects with prosperity/money energies to help them sell at events. I did all this sort of organically and then I started writing down what I was doing kind of like a book of shadows. It wasn’t until around 2016 or so that I thought about putting it together into an actual book.
As for the why, I feel there is a great overlap between crafting — whether it is sewing or knitting or painting or the like — and witchcraft. Both involve will and intent, both require focus and determination, and both are viewed as special by non-practitioners. And there’s a lot of magick in making a thing. When you knit a scarf for a friend or when you sew a quilt for your child, you are putting your intentions into the finished product. You want your item to convey certain feelings — to make your child feel loved — or to accomplish a certain task — to keep your friend warm. It seems natural to want to weave spellcraft into your making.
ev0ke: What sort of research went into Sew Witchy? Lots of books and craft supplies piled around you? Hours at the library?
RA: I read, a lot. I love research and I had access to a great interlibrary loan department through the library. I actually compiled a list of the main books I read specifically for Sew Witchy on my website. Of course the problem with research is that the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know anything! I think if I hadn’t had a deadline I would probably still be researching today.
There was a practical side to the research, too. I had to test out all the projects in the second half of the book. There’s a good dozen projects that didn’t make it in because they ended up not working or not turning out how I wanted them to. And there were countless pattern drafts and so much math. I ended up going through several bolts of fabric just working through the cape project.
ev0ke: What odd or unusual bit of information did you uncover in your research that you absolutely had to include?
RA: I tried to include as much folklore and information as I could on how sewing tools like pins and needles and scissors were used by generations. A lot of folk magick makes use of everyday items because people weren’t in a position to go out and obtain items solely for spellwork. And I think it is important for witches to be aware of folk magick because it lets us know that anything can be a tool for magick. The power comes from us, not from our accoutrements or tools. Which is one of the theses of Sew Witchy: that anyone can sew, anyone can be a witch, and anyone can do both.
ev0ke: How did you decide which projects to include in Sew Witchy? Were there some you had to leave out?
RA: Some of the projects in Sew Witchy (like the robe and cape) were suggested by my editor. A couple that were in the first draft of the book were left out because it was decided they didn’t really fit in with the overall theme of the book. And besides the ones that never made the cut because they just didn’t work out, there were several that didn’t make it in because I just didn’t have time to properly test them. I’ve been working through those projects and putting them up on my website.
ev0ke: You recently published The Scent of Lemon and Rosemary: Working Domestic Magick with Hestia. What draws you to Hestia? What do you find so compelling about her?
RA: Hestia has been a part of my life from just about the beginning of my pagan path. I was vaguely aware of her before as I was a big mythology nerd when I was a kid, but when I started reading about paganism and witchcraft and learning about different deities there was this immediate spark of recognition with Hestia. I spent the first thirty years of my life in unhappy home environments, so a goddess focused on the home really spoke to me.
ev0ke: You have contributed to several of Llewellyn’s Magical Almanacs. How did that come about? Were you invited or did you answer a call for submissions? And how did you decide what to contribute?
RA: I’ve been invited by Llewellyn’s editors to all the almanacs and their other publications I’ve been published in. It’s been pretty great to know that they think I have insights that are worth sharing. When an editor invited me to submit an article they’d give me some guidance on what they are looking for with regards to general theme and word length. Then I would suggest a couple different article topics and the editor would pick one. Some of the articles are actually projects that didn’t make it into Sew Witchy. Others articles came out of the research I did for The Scent of Lemon & Rosemary.
ev0ke: Where can readers find your work?
RA: My books can be found everywhere books are sold. Buying from your local independent bookstore or occult shop is the best way to get them as it helps support local economies. I also post regularly on my website as well as on Instagram (@idiorhythmic).
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
RA: Currently I’m working on a book about the Wheel of the Year. It covers each sabbat and includes craft and decorating ideas, along with spells and rituals. It’s sort of a middle ground between Sew Witchy and The Scent of Lemon & Rosemary with the focus of creating a magickal atmosphere in the home while connecting with the passage of time throughout the year.