Katelan V. Foisy is a visual artist, writer, and occultist who specializes in vintage style mixed media art and photography. Her illustrations are featured in the forthcoming Sibyls Oraculum with Tayannah McQuillar, Destiny Books Spring 2018. Chaos of the Third Mind with Vanessa Sinclair is set for 2018 from Fulgar Ltd, UK. Her art is featured in William Patrick Corgan’s solo album Ogilala and merchandise for the tour, release date October 13th 2017.
She has displayed at The Worcester Art Museum, Ohio History Museum, Mae West Fest, Last Rites, MODA, Museum of Contemporary Art DC, as well as the A&D gallery in London. Katelan’s illustration clients have included, The Grammy Awards, Howling Wolves Wine, Saturn Sisters, Kim Boekbinder, O’death, Gabby Young & Other Animals, Out Magazine, The Progressive, Scholastic, and many others. Her paintings have graced the walls of Young & Rubicam, Que4 Radio, and the stage of Ensemble Studio Theater. Her short films were shown at the Avant-garde Film sessions at the Cinémathèque Française on “Romani Cinema”. A program curated by Nicole Brenez and Jonathan Larcher.
Katelan has been featured in NY Times, Elle Magazine, GQ Italy, Paper Magazine, VICE,and Time Out NY and on WGN for her work as an artist, occultist, and gallery curation.
She has read at the London National Poetry Society, and presented with Atlas Obscura, hosted salons at NYC’s Science House, flash gigs with OVADA in Oxford, and speaks at Pratt Institute regularly on illustration and promotion. Katelan has written for Motherboard/VICE, Electric Literature, Luna Luna, ERIS Magazine, Fenris Wolf, and COILHOUSE.
An occultist with over 20 years experience, Katelan is often called on by companies such as BBC America, Swarovski and the CFDA to participate as a trusted reader for large events. She resides in Chicago and travels regularly.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: My life has been a series of magical moments, portals, and intricate systems. As a child I used to stand on the stone wall of our farm and summon storms. Since then storm magic has been an important part of my practice along with land magic and memory. Understanding land memory and intersections and the relationship to them would be something that I’m very proud of. My art is a part of my magic and unlocks hidden doorways. Some of the paintings have spirits and others are portals themselves. The same goes with my photography, film, and writing. I like to think of them as time travel and visual workings. If you look at one of my photographs it makes you stop for a moment; it places you both in past and present in the same moment creating a slice in time. So my greatest magical achievement would be the ability to understand and work with time, memory, land, and frequency.
Q: Who are your personal heroes, those who most inspired you on your own journey?
A: I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have met and become friends with most of my heroes. Here is the list in no particular order:
Ochani Lele and Jaime Vargas, my godparents in Santeria. They are a wealth of knowledge, insight, support, and a source of inspiration in every wake of life. Ochani Lele’s books are a cornucopia of information.
Jim Caroll was the first person to tell me my writing was good and encouraged me to keep at it. Taylor Mead gave me a piece of NY that no longer existed and I desperately clung to. He once told me I was a female Jack Kerouac. He had been friends with him and loved him dearly, and I knew then we had a kinship for life. Warren Ellis is one of the biggest reasons I have friends and a career. He took me in during a really rough time and made sure I understood my own worth. Also he’s a brilliant writer, as many of you know. Molly Crabapple is a constant source of inspiration. She’s one of the strongest, most talented people I’ve ever met and introduced me to a lot of my social circle.
Kim Boekbinder NOISEWITCH is a genius artist that weaves spells within her music and onstage. Cynthia von Buhler is another incredible artist whose versatility and generosity astounds me. William Patrick Corgan (Billy Corgan) changed my world. Besides being both a musical and business genius, our friendship is like a magical world in itself. I sometimes feel he can see inside my brain. William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin have been huge influences on my art, magic and writing, especially cut-ups and intersections. Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge was an incredible artist and occultist and her thoughts and ideas play into my work heavily. My artistic collaborators, Vanessa Sinclair and Tayannah Lee McQuillar, have been sources of inspiration as well. Both of these women have such a strong command over their art forms that it’s been thrilling working with them. Carl Abrahamsson is a wealth of talent and knowledge. Azra El-Malik Mohammed, a friend that died on death row, taught me that what you are presented publicly is not always the real story.
He also provided me with insight on prison systems. Daniel Knauf’s work with Carnivale really helped me establish my aesthetic. Theda Bara is a huge source of inspiration. I’m in love with silent film and feel that film and acting is a working within itself. Chris Calloway Brooks, grandson of Cab Calloway, is a constant source of inspiration and support. John Ibarra and Que4 Radio from creating the radio programming and space for those making resistance art. Richard Kadrey’s writing and artistic eye have been pivotal. Damien Patrick Williams for all my tech and magical wants and needs. And last but not least, Al Capone. The duality of his person and the history and land memory that follows him is like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Q: What importance, if any, do you place on full visual manifestation of a spirit during evocation?
A: It really depends on what I’m doing. If I’m doing land magic in a place where I need to understand the history down to the layers of soil then it’s very important. I remember once I was helping with a ritual that was not part of my practice on land that I had never been to. I started to feel really sick so I put my hand to the ground and asked the spirits of the land to show me what they needed me to see. Surrounding the land shadows grew until they formed the spirits of the Native Americans who really “owned” the land. They told me the land was very sick and those who were living there were sick, too. They said in a few years time someone would die there because they too had the sickness. I asked them what I could give them for the information and brought them what they needed. Because I didn’t live on the land I could only relay the message hoping they’d listen.
As we were leaving the property I felt one of the spirits next to me and looked over at him. “Look down, there is a gift for you.” On the ground was a perfect little groundhog skull, a symbol of family and community. Years later I got the news someone had committed suicide on the property. In that case it was very important to see the spirits and understand what they and the land needed. There have been times when the land itself shows me the buildings or places that had been there throughout the ages. So that’s been an interesting journey on it’s own. If I’m doing a working in my home, however, it may not be as important. It really depends on the situation.
Q: What was your first “oh fuck, this shit is real” moment in your personal magical practice?
A: This is a hard one. I grew up with magic that I didn’t know was magic. As a kid I thought everyone swept the stairs in the morning and threw water on them, collected plants for bath time, and stuck knives in glasses of water to cure hiccups. I also had a lot of invisible friends that I’d run off into the forest with. As it turns out that was not normal for a small town in Massachusetts so I caught on pretty quickly that what I was doing at my grandmother’s wasn’t the norm. It was always very real to me. When my Pépé died my mother got the phone call, and I looked at her very calmly as she answered and said “Pépé’s dead.” Then went back to coloring. At age six I became sickly, scarlet fever, fifth disease, and chicken pox three times in a matter of three years. And then of course the seizures came. William Burroughs had a theory about scarlet fever, that those who had it opened a portal and sometimes those portals stay open to other worlds. My parents called me “fever baby” and “storm child.” There was a world these things opened, a magical world which I could no longer deny and had no choice but step into.
Q: What is one piece of magical tech you could not live without?
A: The internet. Every day we as humans log into our personal altars and send out frequencies. Our webpages are magical worlds of their own. Our social media accounts create stories and spells. The internet is this incredible magical universe of it’s own but with it comes a warning just like in The Monkeys Paw by W.W. Jacobs. Be careful what you wish for as you might just get it. That being said I work with the internet in my own way. I take images of my workings and add layers to them in photoshop. The layers you see are workings within themselves. The aesthetics of my work is very important as it becomes an art form in itself. When I post it and people like it or look at it they are sending that energy into the working. So the internet becomes a booster for the working itself, but it also gives back. For instance you see a piece of art or a beautiful portion of a candle working and you think wow, that makes me warm or that looks incredibly calming. The working itself is sending out frequency to help shift whatever your blocks are as well.
The other would be cut-ups. They have become incredibly important to all my work and provide answers to things sometimes unseen. I use cut-ups in my art, magic, divination, writing, and film work. They rearrange my thought process. The next time you have writers block, cut up the work and choose at random. I can guarantee the block will be pointed out and you will have a fresh look at what you need to incorporate.
Q: At what age did you start practicing magic and why?
A: Very early on I was doing folk magic without realizing it. My grandmother came to the US after WWII from Austria and a lot was kept secret. I didn’t understand it then, but in order to do what she did she had to keep it secret. When she moved she kept it secret in order to fit in. I didn’t find out until she was on her death bed that we were part Roma, although I always suspected it. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to hide that part of yourself and the family in order to survive. I really started to understand things as I hit puberty. My dreams went from mostly black and white to vibrant colors. The dream work became incredibly important then, too. It was the first time I figured out I could go to bed at night and ask for answers and they would tell me everything I needed to know whether I liked the answers or not.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A: Take your time. Read everything you can. Find a mentor and work with them for a few years before you rush into anything. There’s a lot of people out there that take a class and start a business or take a class and consider themselves experts. Feel things out and find the right teachers for you. It took me years to find my Godfather in Santeria and even then we took our time talking on the phone and getting to know each other before we established a Godparent relationship. If you are working solitary, then experiment but find people to talk to as well. There’s people who jump into things and get themselves into a lot of trouble because they don’t know what they are doing and then don’t want to admit something went wrong. Lose your ego, it allows you to be free. Read mythology, folklore, and fairytales. Study history, know the place you live and well.
Some good companies to gather books from:
Scarlet Imprint, Fulgur Ltd, Ouroboros Press, Trapart, Inner Traditions.
Italian Folk Magic: https://www.italianfolkmagic.com/
About Romani Culture and folklore: https://jessicareidy.com/
Cut-ups and land memory: Chaosofthethirdmind.com
Magic, Art, Esoterica: http://www.wolf-and-goat.com
Q: What are your current magical endeavors?
A: I’m always doing work for clients. That never changes. As far as art works, I just designed the t-shirts and inside album art for William Patrick Corgan’s tour which starts Oct 13. We are also working on another project that should be unveiled shortly. Sibyls Oraculum, an oracle deck and book published by Inner Traditions with Tayannah Lee McQuillar comes out Spring 2018 as does Chaos of the Third Mind, an exploration of magic, art, psychoanalysis, and cut-ups published by Fulgur Ltd with Vanessa Sinclair. Becoming Dangerous published by Fiction and Feeling will be out Feb 2018. You can read more about it and pre-order through Kickstarter here. I’m also launching my new website at the end of October which is a magical world within itself.
Q: How do you respond to Christian evangelists knocking on your door at dinner time?
A: Invite them in for tea later?
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: Right now we are seeing the world really being divided. Between the corrupt politics and the natural disasters it’s really important for people to assess their strengths and work their magic to benefit not only those in need but the land itself and come together unified. You are seeing the divide and conquer method being used successfully here in the US. What needs to happen is for us to look at history and really understand the similarities in what is happening now and what was happening from WWI onward. It’s important to work with ancestral energies and land magic. That’s how you infiltrate systems. You go deep into the underground plumbing and come up through the pipes. Create art. Art is one of the strongest forms of resistance. Art creates movements.
Before WWI African American lit in the US generally depicted blacks having European values and void of their own culture. There was talk of the “New Negro” archetype and those who had fought in the war oversees saw a difference in how they were treated in Europe as opposed to the US. They returned back to the US to Jim Crow laws and segregation. Race riots ensued and all while this was happening something magical was happening in Harlem. The Harlem Renaissance was taking shape, it was the emergence of art, writing, music, and culture. There were workings within the music and writing, just look at Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” This spark in the creative magic of the arts went on to form the protests of the civil rights movement. Fashion can be it’s own magic in resistance. Zoot Suits worn by the likes of Cab Calloway were now a way for Mexican Americans to demand attention.
The US banned the production of wool, pleats, cuffs, and long jackets during WWII to preserve resources while renegade tailors created them anyway. These resistance tailors and those that wore the clothing were deemed unpatriotic. Pachucos and Pachucas used fashion to create identity, play with the idea of gender and hold onto the culture while their very existence posed a threat to whites in America even though over 500,000 Latinos served in the war. The composer Gideon Klein acted as a teacher, pianist, and organizer in Terezín one of the “showcase” camps which allowed the arts, if only to deceive the public of what they were actually doing. For many Terezín was a stop en route to Auschwitz. During those concerts everyone including guards would be quiet and listen. It was a moment of peace and hope. A reminder that there was beauty left in the world and to stay strong. Charlotte Salomon created paintings depicting scenes from her life during the time Nazis prepared to take over France. She created approximately 1,300 paintings – entitled Life? or Theater? Using only three colors of paint depicting her thought process on “the question: whether to take her own life or undertake something wildly unusual”. These works of art should be looked to as guides in a time of uncertainty and possible war.
The goal of resistance art is to preserve the memory and cultures that any dominating regime is trying to erase. Years ago, in 2008, I had a dream that WWIII was underway and they had turned Coney Island into a concentration camp. As people were being walked to the camp, an atomic bomb could be seen from the shore. I was brought into a room where an ex of mine now stood in Nazi attire. I kept grabbing onto him saying, “You can’t do this. You used to love me. You have to remember that you used to love me.” A woman came out when she saw him softening and dragged me out to the beach where I escaped and fell onto piles of bodies. As I lifted myself up, I whispered, “Wake the dead.” And there I knelt back down and whispered something while blowing on the bodies three times. One by one the ancestors rose and the ocean began to part. On one side women warriors dressed in yellow and on the other warriors dressed in blue. They let out the loudest scream I have ever heard and rushed toward the shore in giant yellow and blue waves. I woke up startled and in a cold sweat and promised myself that if this ever became a reality I’d remember what I had said, “Wake the dead. Wake them up. Wake them now.”