Below you will find an interview with Manuel Ignacio Martínez. Manuel is a tarot reader, witch, lawyer and also the proprietor of Keeping Tarot Real. Manuel hails from Venezuela where he lives with his boyfriend.
Q: What do you consider your greatest magical achievement?
A: Helping others.
Yes, being a witch has its perks: it has given me a greater degree of independence and control over my own life that I never thought I’d have, it has helped me heal many of my emotional wounds (Shadow Working is a necessity, honestly), and it has allowed me the means to manifest ensure I can provide for myself and even indulge in luxury (something I like to do a LOT, admittedly), even thought I live in a country where the economy pretty much collapsed (Venezuela). It has allowed me to peek at the Other Side, see worlds I never imagined possible, commune with Entities of disparate natures and bring about my Will into this world.
And yet, what I feel most important about magick is how it allows me to be there for others, provide for them and aid them in their path. My greatest achievement is this chance to ensure others will carry on and be the best version of themselves they can be: be it by giving them the messages the Universe has for them through my readings or helping them see what the actual issue is and how to handle it; or by soothing and healing those I can, give a little extra “oomph” to the factors surrounding them so the best course happens. Even in more material terms, that I now have manifested the opportunity to not only survive but thrive means that I can share, provide and give to those who need it, that I can build a platform through which help them climb back up. Paraphrasing Cupcakke: what’s the point of having resources and power (material and spiritual) if I can’t share them? And personally I’ve always seen my spells and workings give better results when I do them for someone else.
Thus, to me, my greatest achievement I’ve had in magick is the opportunity and blessing to aid those who need it as much as I possibly can. I may not always be able to do enough, and I always want to do more; but it makes me glad to help, and I am thankful for this live I have where I can do it.
Q: Who are your personal heroes, those who most inspired you on your own journey?
A: The list is LONG; some for their works, some for their attitudes, some for the inspiration they give me without knowing. H.P. Lovecraft, for example, figures as my favorite author of all times, given his style and imagination, and his hand in creating one of the most pervasive and (ironic given how bigoted he was in life) INCLUSIVE shared fictional universes of all time (we have queer authors like W. H. Pugmire contributing to the Cthulhu Mythos, and there’s even a Venezuelan author who wrote a story set in Caracas regarding the typical trappings of it). I am more of a fan of his Dreamlands cycle, tho.
J.K. Rowling, as well, and I should throw in Terry Pratchett, of course. Neil Gaiman, Grant Morrison, Alan Moore, Kieron Gillen, the entirety of Marvel and Image comics: all of them, through their fiction and their real life demeanors have inspired my craft and my sense of looking at the world; hell, what Harry Potter was to my youth, The Wicked + The Divine has been for my young adult years. Madonna also figures there, the idea of reinventing yourself, taking on a new (figurative, in my case) sound and style while staying true to your roots is something that has stayed with me, and learning that she originally planned to have a tour embodying the Whore of Babylon and having dancers confess to their sins (which eventually morphed into the Re-Invention and Confessions Tours) was a bit of a turning point for me. And the drag world in many ways: Divine, Lady Bunny, RuPaul obviously, Bianca del Rio, Trixie Mattel, Katya, Miz Cracker, Peaches Christ, Miss Coco Peru, Violet Chachki, Virgin Xtravaganzah, Hellvetika, Hungry, just to name a few.
On a more esoteric side, of course, Papi Crowley has to be one of my biggest inspirations. Not so much what he did, I never jived well with Thelema, but the unabashed GLEE he had in making people queasy, and knowing exactly what to say and how much to withhold (not that he kept too silent, admittedly, but oh well). Doreen Valiente, Pamela “Pixie” Colman Smith, Migene Gonzalez-Wippler (who wrote one of the first actual books on magick and Wicca that I read), Jack Parsons (the fact that he was simultaneously Crowley’s pupil AND a leading researcher in NASA’s precursor is fascinating and fuel to my musings). On more modern terms, Tommie Kelly, who created one of my FAVORITE magical tech to work with, the Forty Servants; Alexis Mincolla from 3TEETH; and a huge number of people I’ve met through CMG and DKMU and similar (Tori, Ashleigh, Alice, Beth, Elis, Lisa, Ricardo, Alex, Clinton, Felicia, Jacob, Jo, Isa, Morgan, Ursa, Adam, Stephanie, you and SO MANY MORE). I’m blessed to be surrounded by awesome people in my life, on and offline.
Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without Lilith. I know, everyone has their own opinion on Her, and many would be far more accurate than mine given context and studies; but there is something in Her legend that has always drawn me: The idea of independence, of being stubborn enough to be granted wings and fly away, and the sorrow. My take on it may be different than everybody else’s (UPGs are fun), and it is that version that I identify with.
And last but not least, my family and friends. My mom, who manages to be the greatest witch I know while being a devout catholic, and whose view of God, the Heavens, and life in general has been an unending inspiration; my dad, with whom I’ve been debating Kabbalah, Angels, Santeria and Tarot since I was little (and who bought me my first Tarot deck and taught me my go-to 21-card spread… before having me learn on my own, because he is kind of a sink-or-swim teacher). My grandfathers, one of which was a freemason and the other a rosacrucian. My grandmother, a very devoted catholic who always prayed in front of her statue of La Rosa Mistica, and who had dabbled in espiritismo earlier in life and never quite let go of it, and who is practically revered by a cadre of people she helped raise. And so much more.
I did say it was a long list, after all.
Oh, and before I forget: Samael Aun Weor. Not because I admire him or follow his teachings, quite the opposite in fact: much of what he says irritates me to no end, and learning that his view that homosexual men are the “henchmen of Lilith” in spreading wanton destruction and death in this world when I was a teen was one of my first impressions of homophobia within the occult community I found, which pushed me to go against that sort of thinking. Funnily enough, it DID inspire me to come closer to said figure after years of already being too drawn to Her, so he has inspired me even if I hate him.
Q: What importance, if any, do you place on full visual manifestation of a spirit during evocation?
A: None, really. It is rather neat if you can have Them come through and appear so you can talk face-to-whatever-passes-for-a-face-in-Their-case, but it doesn’t always happen. However, They always make Their presence KNOWN, and sometimes that is not just enough, but everything you need: that tingling sensation, the resonant voice suddenly beckoning you, the whiff of perfume that shouldn’t be there, the sudden intrusive thought, visuals of forests with things wearing deer’s skulls as masks and the sudden knowledge of what I need to do. I actually consider that more important to actually seeing Them in the flesh, because I can doubt my eyes (with this myopia, who wouldn’t) but I never doubt what my intuition says. I’m very driven by synchronicity as well.
Having said that, I main means of communication in those cases is usually either thinking out loud, or helping me with divinatory tools (mostly Tarot, of course). It’s fairly straightforward communication, it works, and we can focus on what’s important more than the theatrics of it.
Q: What was your first “oh fuck, this shit is real” moment in your personal magical practice?
A: Here in Venezuela we have a saying: “De que vuelan, vuelan”. Latin America in general is prone to a far more superstitious and mystical view of things, thanks to Catholicism (both Canon and Folk), and Venezuela in particular can be regarded as Witch Country. We never had a real desegregation of any kind, and cultures and traditions mixed heavily during the centuries; and syncretism led to the rise of our particular brand of magico-religious spirituality, Espiritismo Mariolincero, centered on Maria Lionza (the attempted syncretism between the Virgin Mary and Yara, an indigenous Goddess, which only ended giving the old Goddess a new name and face) and Her Courts, whole pantheons of Spirits taken from folklore and history. Thus, even if the country is officially catholic, there’s no shortage of people going to a witch to have them read the cards or the cigar, channel spirits, everything. Santeria has also gained traction in recent decades, to the point that places that have been sacred to Maria Lionza also have santeros praising and channeling the Orishas in them.
Thus, I was always surrounded by a sense of either openness to the occult or outright superstition, and I never quite doubted magick and the supernatural from being real; I had some degree of skepticism for the most part, but remained open to it. However, two main events stand out to me as the moments I felt it was notably closer to home than I expected.
The first was when I was “possessed”. 2011-2012 was a weird time in my life where I had to deal with an archetypal edgelord magician who believed himself to be a wolf trying to turn me and some of my friends into his “pack” by subduing us with hauntings and binding us to him with demons. People like their drama, you know. So, it was dealt with and it was over, and months later I go with some friends (including some of those involved) on a small camping trip, we had all forgotten about that issue, until shit turned weird at the camping. Shadows everywhere, men in turn-of-the-century military uniforms, eyes that shouldn’t be there; it was fascinating and I tried to take it all in as just another new experience. And then I felt like I was there and not at the same time, felt very light and next thing I knew I was on the floor being held down by a couple of friends because I started talking weird, moving aggressively and speaking out names of Entities.I chalked it out to alcohol, at least until it happened again, me being completely sober, in the middle of a mall a week or so after getting back home. It took me going to consult with a friend’s mother who happens to be a santera, espiritista, practicioner of palo, metaphysician, and a slew of others things to help me make sense of things; and apparently what happened was that something clung to me the times with that freaky wolf guy and attempted to attack me when my defenses were down, only to be thrown out by a Guardian of mine who was the one that ended up manifesting, and the whole negativity of the situation brought out the worst of Her. Funsies. This taught me not just that the supernatural was real, regardless of how we look at it; it is also dangerous, and there are too many people who disregard the damage they do to others (and themselves) through it.
The second time was a bit later, during a reading for someone who has become a good friend of mine. There was this moment that spoke of a woman wanting to speak to my friend, and I described her to him and I saw the color drain from his face. He told me that the woman was his mother, and that she was dead. And suddenly I noticed that SHE WAS THERE. I saw her, I felt her, I was overcome by her presence and I felt everything she wanted to tell him, from instructions to warnings to blessings and everything; and she was such a marvelous spirit, so kind and nice that I felt this rush of positivity. If magic, the occult, the supernatural is real, and dangerous, then that moment proved to me that it is also beautiful; and that you can do a lot of good through it.
There was also a third time, when I noticed I had turned some of my stories into hypersigils. Some had rather interesting and amazing results, and the other led me to relive the very same cycle over and over again until I called it off. Quite the necessary lesson: PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT YOU’RE DOING, KIDDO, and know when to fold it.
Q: What is one piece of magical tech you could not live without?
A: Meditation and visualization, mainly. Learning to meditate has made me a lot better as a practitioner and as a person in general, because it allows me to shut up all the little voices telling me YOU’LL NEVER BE GOOD ENOUGH and such and actually BE for a moment; and given I’ve always had a vivid imagination, learning to put it to good use has been a godsend. I was taught that everything is mental, and if everything is done with the mind, then every external focus is mainly there to help you get the right state of mind; while I do recognize the value and power of tools and objects outside of myself, the idea that everything has as much power as I allow it to have has helped me gain a greater clarity and control over my circumstances, and my mind is the only thing I need to work magick.
However, tools are fun, and very useful. If I am to choose, I’d say my cellphone (I can use it to scry, I can find someone’s photo and send some mojo their way, I can draw sigils, I can look up any grimoire up, I CAN DO ANYTHING) and my Tarot cards (self-reflection, and quite a great aide when it comes to divination; besides, Tarot is my passion and how I started in this whole thing).
Q: At what age did you start practicing magic and why?
A: This one is tricky, because magic and I have been dancing around for quite a while, but it’s relatively recently that I have been practicing as it is. My first contact with the occult came through fiction: Harry Potter was an obsession of mine growing up, and along with the canon books there were a few books produced which kinda explained real world occultism and concepts that one could catch in the series which my dad bought me at the time; Scooby Doo and the Witch’s Ghost and Final Fantasy Tactics Advance were the first to drop the word “Wicca” (even if the context was weird in either case), and such. There was also this latinamerican channel, “Infinito”, dedicated solely to shows about the paranormal, new age, and all that jazz. All of this in succession while I was between 11 and 12, having something of a crisis of faith due to understanding what being gay entails (especially in a latin country) and the Church’s usual position about it; and thus, starting to look at other paradigms and points of view.
At 13, after watching a miniseries on Tarot running on Infinito, my dad bought me my first deck: the Mythical Tarot, based on greek mythology. I was rather keen on greek mythology at the time, partly due to how some of the Gods and heroes expressed same sex relationships, and partly because information about it was far easier to come by than any other form of mythology, so it was easy to associate the Arcana to the legends they were expressed through. Then I read up about Angels, about Lilith, and I ended up buying a few more decks along the years and mostly stuck to reading the cards during my teenage years, while reading up on Wicca, Ceremonial Magick, Thelema, and Santeria (the latter facilitated by my dad becoming a santero around that time) while watching my mom lighting candles and preparing concoctions with plants and such while praying to the Virgin Mary, without really feeling myself as any of that. I became something of an armchair magician for a while, doing small spells or drawing charms while trying to see it as something outside of my range, thinking that some day I would fully immerse myself in it but that I didn’t want to go that crazy yet. I even read a bit about chaos magick, but didn’t think much of it at the time (and most of what I read pertained to Scarlet Witch anyways).
That day did come for me, though, during the period right after my aforementioned possession, about 6 years ago. My friend’s mother had me apply things I had read about but never really tried, such as butting candles or reading the cigar (not something I enjoyed, admittedly), crossing and uncrossing myself, banishing and transmuting energies. My friend, on the other hand, started showing me his own approach to chaos magick, and taught me to move and recognize energies as well as banishing and setting up barriers. I eventually had to stop the “lessons” after a few months, but it helped me gain a little confidence in myself and I kept studying on my own, as I had started doing with Tarot all those years before. Thus I started actually practicing all the theoretical stuff I had been collecting for years.
Q: What is your advice to the young aspiring magician just getting started today?
A: First of all, learn how to meditate. Much of the work you are going to do is entirely within your mind, and thus it’s important you know how to keep your cool, stay in control of it, and above all, WHAT is in there. Don’t be afraid of prying open doors within yourself, but be ready for a lot of crying even if you are ready to go there.
Second, learn how to cleanse, banish and ground. As I always say, magick is all about mucking without with both the physical and astral sides of reality, and you never know what may cling to you if you’re not careful. Be careful; not all Spirits want to be your friends, and even if They do, it’s not always a good idea to let Them all in. Know your boundaries, know when to say NO, and know who you can trust (both mundanely and spiritually) and who you don’t feel like getting too close to. This also means, keep a good balance with your mundane, material life: yes, we can experience the astral, we can experience worlds beyond this one, but this is the one we live in for a reason, so don’t disregard its wonders and its necessities. Take care of your body’s needs, respect other people’s boundaries and time (not everyone cares or wants to do or know about magick, AND THAT IS OK), and remember that your truth isn’t necessarily everyone else’s; some magicians decide to live off in the woods from Mother Earth’s gifts, others live jet-set socialite life in restaurants, some are rough-and-tumble blue collar workers who love steak. Magic is diverse, and so are its practitioners. Don’t disregard your mundane life, ultimately it’s what you objectively know it’s true; and don’t disregard those who are not into magick as well, because everyone has knowledge and wisdom even if it is not overtly magical. Some of the best revelations I’ve had about my craft has been thanks to listening intently while my non-magician friends share their wisdom; and one does need balance in their life.
Third, study something that gives you structure before you go all “NOTHING IS TRUE”. As a witch and a chaote I am a firm believer in “as long as it works”, but before that you need to at least have a proper functioning system, and it’s hard to start without some basis or rules. Reading up on Wicca (outer-court stuff, admittedly) helped me develop a sense for, as TV Tropes put it, “Magic A is Magic A”; then learning about Espìritismo and Santeria was Magic B, and so on before I started picking and choosing and forming syllables and words. I have formed my own system and it works for me, but only because I already stood on the shoulders of giants; you shouldn’t try to run before you can at least walk. On this same point, try to remember that not everyone is going to hold the same idea about magick and the occult as you, and you will develop your own turns and twists on the lore; UPGs are fun and an important part of witch work, but don’t impose it as the actual, objective truth for everyone to follow, and remember the original lore is there for a reason.
Fourth, magick doesn’t belong to any particular group, so don’t think it denotes a certain specialness. Everybody does magick even if they don’t know; but a lot of people claim that you need to say, inherit it or whatever. Yes, there are those with a natural aptitude for it; but so there are people who have a natural aptitude for dancing or singing or playing piano. And raw talent will get you nowhere if you don’t train it; while training can turn someone who has the motivation and desire but lacks the aptitude at first into an expert; the difference always lies in practice, and practice is what makes you good at it. Now, there ARE traditions that do place a high emphasis on legacy, on considering you hold a specific spark or such, witch blood; that’s fine, that is their truth, if you feel called to that by all means start it, but remember that magic isn’t restricted to any one group. This, both to remind yourself that YOU CAN DO IT, and to remind yourself to respect others’ paths and decisions, because some people end up having this “I’m sooooooo much woker than you, muggle cowan” attitude, and it can be a deterrent to people who got into magick and may even have the aptitude for it from pursuing it further.
Fifth, HAVE A BLAST. While a degree of seriousness is advice in moments, magic should never be boring, because then, what would be the point, really? Life is to be enjoyed, and magic is an important part of life. Have fun. Do what makes you happy, so long as you don’t hurt others (and/or yourself, if possible) then do as thou wilt.
Q: What are your current magical endeavors?
A: Back in law school I was taught that a good lawyer is someone who keeps studying, because society evolves and law changes as a result; and the same applies to any path, but I feel it applies a lot with magick. I tend to define myself as “writer, lawyer, witch”, and all three things are rather similar (dealing with nebulous Entities to manifest a change into the world, sometimes on behalf of someone else) so I apply the same in all three tenures, and thus, I’ve mostly been reading and studying once again. Some things I already had a basis on to get back to my roots, such as rereading Migene Gonzalez-Wippler’s “El Libro de las Sombras” (the first book I got on witchcraft and Wicca) and getting the Chaos Protocols; and some I had never really looked into and that I decided to make a small paradigm shift (or “dipping my toes into the water” in this case), such as the Feri/Faery Tradition (Storm Faerywolf’s “Betwixt and Between” was a rather comprehensive and good read about it, and I’m waiting to get his next book soon) and the Santa Muerte cult (my boyfriend is naturally drawn to Her and She has been playing up in some synchronicities I’ve had, so I wanted to learn). I’m not the type of person to fully integrate myself into any system outside my own, but it’s always good to look at the world from other people’s positions.
This also helps me in getting in tune with the part of me that loves writing. I want to start writing again: both fiction and non-fiction and those points the two intersect. Get that novel series I always wanted to write out of my system, do some short stories, and research about themes that could use a new twist and turn. Espiritismo Mariolincero in particular is something I want to write about to show the world our little homegrown brand of witchcraft, and since it really has no “and keep silent” clause attached to the contract I can expound at length about without compromising anyone’s integrity, especially since it always gets overshadowed, confused with or disregarded in favor of Santeria, and while I do love the latter, I want to give Maria Lionza and Her Courts some time to shine.
I also am planning on eventually contacting the concept of the Mother as embodied by the Mitochondrial Eve, the oldest female all humans have as a common ancestor. It’s one of those “I’ll do it at the right time” kinda goals, partly because I have a procrastination issue and partly because I want to ensure it won’t go all Parasite Eve, but it is one of my pet projects.
And of course, keep on doing what I can to help those I can, in every way I can do so. I have manifested means and ways to aid those around me, give them a little hope and support them in their endeavors; and I will keep on doing so. I can do it, so I HAVE to do it, and I am happy in doing so.
Q: How do you respond to Christian evangelists knocking on your door at dinner time?
A: I live in a closed neighborhood (rather common in here) so we don’t get that kinda evangelists; but it’s funny because I have run into some of them at times. One of my best friends, a rather lax catholic, used to work in this evangelical Christian library and I frequently went to visit him with a t-shirt sporting a huge Baphomet print on it and my trusty Necronomicon Tarot deck in tow. Most of the people there ignored me, but I ended up having quite a few interesting conversations with some of them who did. Other times I’ve mostly tried to avoid them. Once in college while I was reading the cards for a friend of mine I actually had someone approach me and tell me that what I was doing was the Devil’s work and that he could see the Devil moving inside me and I actually felt flattered.
The most annoying time was back when I had to take a taxi ride home. My city is VERY insecure at night (ok, let’s be honest; there’s no place in Venezuela that is safe), I had no cash since it’s one of the shortages we have, and options such as Uber and Lyft aren’t really en vogue here, at least in my city (not everyone has a smartphone, and it hasn’t really broken through for those who do). I usually have a few taxi drivers I can work with bank transfers and all, but none of them were available. I did get to have one that accepted me doing the transfer once I was home, but on the way home it devolved into him trying to evangelize me by asking me questions about my life, how often I read the Bible, testing my knowledge and faith.
Surprisingly, though, apparently I passed the test with flying colors because he seemed very satisfied with the conversation. That or as they say, the Devil can appear as an Angel of Light after all.
Q: What effect and focus do you think magic should have upon politics and world events?
A: A better one than they’re already having; after all, everything we do to affect this world is magick, and we should be affecting the world in a much better way than we are. Magick permeates even the most mundane aspects of life, it is everywhere, and elections are as much mass rituals as parishioners praying guided by church leaders to pray for Trump and the collective hexing sessions every waning moon made against him can be. People let populism and Us vs. Them rhethoric get ahold of them entirely, making them forego the more optimal options in favor of the one who yells loudest, motivated entirely by resentment. I saw it happen here in Venezuela when Chavez was elected, starting the downward spiral that by now has become a free fall; I saw it happen in Mexico recently, saw it almost happening in Colombia, and of course, we ALL saw it happening in the USA elections. They are all demonstrations of the same ideas taking hold, even if ideologically speaking Trump is right wing and Chavez is left wing they are two sides of the very same coin; the idea of authoritarianism given form, the worst excesses of either country with none of the good parts, chosen by presenting themselves as messianic figures and appealing to those who want to be led rather than heard. If this Egregore has such strength is because we allowed it to, as a species, and it is our duty to banish it.
Magick has always been linked to politics, and many politicians partake on it be it subtly or not. Here in Venezuela at least it’s something of an open secret; members of Accion Democratica (a socialist democratic party which helped end the tenure of caudillistic dictator Marcos Perez Jimenez in the 50s, and established a bipartisan democracy along with socialist Christian COPEI) were known to consult witches frequently and have at least a passing knowledge about it; on the other side, among the many ties to Cuba that Chavez was a very overt interested in Santeria, including frequent visits to Babalawos in the island and even bringing them here to Venezuela, and he and many of those he put in positions of power were initiated into Santeria, including his successor in both ideology and presidency, Maduro (it should be noted though that, along with everyone else, Santeros in the country and those who’ve had to fled given the recent upheaval are strongly against the government). It’s no different from kings having court magicians or consulting the local Sybil; thus, if we are using our magick to affect politics, we should do it knowing the ramifications of it. We may not know everything, but normally we at least have a fairly good grasp on what the future might be; so we should at least be aware of what will happen.
And we should by all means care. Many magicians don’t even care about politics; they are too busy trying to cross the Abyss or contact the Platonic Ideal of Cheese or whatever, and WE HAVE TO CARE. We live in this world, we are affected by it as much as we affect it, and we need to do the work in both fronts. The witch work to ensure our Will comes through, and the mundane work: going to vote, doing the activism, fighting for what’s right and fair. Maybe I’m too much of an idealist, but I think we can do things better than this, and I exhort everyone who can to go out and do something. Don’t allow what happened in my country to happen all over again in different places; take it as the cautionary tale it is, not against one band or the other, but against the bigger monsters: dehumanization, ignorance, indifference and the echo chamber they breed.