Contributor Interview: Rachel Ballard

Rachel is the curiosity gathering, cauldron stirring, magic summoner behind Below the Oak and Magical Poison. She lives in the high desert mountains with her family, and dreams of moving someplace with seasons.


W&W: Do you consider yourself a witch? 

Yes, without a doubt. Probably since childhood, before I had a word for it. Early on there was no need to announce it, but as a young teen the word got thrown at me in a negative way quite a bit (as people began to “find me out”) and honestly I embraced it. I was no stranger to it- my mother was interested in the occult during my childhood. I love the word. The way it is at once smooth and sharp on the tongue. The way it makes you engage your teeth. People meant to offend me, of course, but I like to absorb negativity and forge it. They were only empowering me. 

W&W: What drew you to working with Poisonous Plants?

Curiosity. I was fortunate to have grandmothers that were a little witchy. They talked about the poisons early on- to keep me safe. I was intrigued by how something so beautiful could be so dangerous. As I got older I noticed how the plants were often connected to evil or wrongdoing in books and I became fascinated by that type of lore. The idea of poisonous plants, specifically the flowering variety, intrigues me on a far more personal level as well- but as yet I find that part difficult to articulate. 

W&W: What does your magical practice look like? (i.e. Solitary, Coven, etc.)

I’ve always been solitary, but I do have a handful of ladies I’d happily coven up with. 

I enjoy brewing potions to burn or consume on seasonal holidays, and I work most of my magic during the dark of the moon (although I love a full moon as much as the next witch). I include my children in simple practices, such as lighting candles, and making moon water. I tend to get a bit dirty when I work specific magic. I’m a crawl around on the ground and bury things kind of witch. 

W&W: How do you feel about the rise of witchcraft as a popular trend? 

I have very complex feelings about this. I can’t help but feel possessive of my craft since I’ve been reading cards, throwing bones and practicing magic for nearly 30 years.  I like that there is more access to the practicing- more knowledge for everyone to pursue if that is what they’re called to. But it’s also difficult to see witchcraft or occultism commercialized. When I see a tarot card image on the t-shirt of someone that may have never even touched an actual tarot deck- or when I see bright and happy images of crystals and ‘magic’ bath salt on instagram, my initial reaction is to let out a big sigh. Then I realize that those who actually feel drawn to witchcraft or magic will stick with it, and the high vibe faux practitioners will eventually fall away. 

W&W: What influences your creative process? 

Dreams, nature, pain... those are just a few. I tend to have ridiculously vivid and mostly terrifying dreams. They can be inspiring. Nature is simply part of me. I grew up always outdoors, always exploring. I live with a lot of chronic physical pain, and levels of inner pain. I find that on days when I feel it the most, I need to get it down in some physical form, be that writing, drawing, mixing herbs and so on. 

W&W: Who is your favorite writer and why?

I absolutely can not answer that. I do enjoy Baudelaire and Goethe quite a bit, but I find that I read more antique books about plants than anything recently. I really enjoy research- I actually rent botany textbooks.   It’s ok, you can laugh. 

So other than being Witchy As Fuck, what do you do in the world of Muggles?

I have four children- one of whom is now out of the house and in college. So I spend a great deal of time attempting to create magic in the mundane moments. I drive my daughter to and from high school every day (which is a two hour task) and I use that time to conjure new ideas, to daydream, or to try very hard not to collide with hundreds of wild animals. I write, I draw. I take more photographs than my hard drive can handle, and I assemble little collections of curiosities whenever I can. 

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