Hair and Healing the Spirit with Julia Inglis

The more I learn about hair and culture and ancestry, the more interested I find myself in the question of hair and spirit. A few months ago, I asked a question about Hair and Spirit. I was curious about the stories out there that illustrate the link between our hair and our spirits and identities, stories that bring the truth of this link to the surface.

A dear woman healer that I know of and admire very much named Julia Inglis of Sacred Familiar raised her hand over the internet and said, “I may have something to share.”

Julia is an ancestral healer through folklore, storytelling and mythology. She lives in the forest in Australia where she makes medicine dolls, woven and felted characters containing natural elements and found fibers created to assist in the healing journey of an individual.


Julia Inglis clearly spends a lot of time thinking about the energetics of fiber and the spirit within, and she offers today her thoughts and a beautifully woven story on a topic that sits deeply in her heart, on hair and spirit and healing, and the women of the Magdalene Laundries.

The Magdalene laundries were Asylums set up by the Catholic
Church in the 18-20th centuries in England, Ireland, Canada, Australia and the US for what they considered ‘ Wayward Women’…….Unwed, pregnant out of wedlock, women who lived alternatively to the normal standards of the day. Much like persecution of the Witches, the Magdelene Laundries served to enslave women who wouldn’t submit to the patriarchal oppression of the Catholic Church.

Julia Inglis has made it a mission to honor these women in her work, through story and creation of dolls to commemorate the lives of those effected. Here are her words on Hair, Spirit and Healing, through the experience of the Women of the Magdelene Laundries. Lets all take a moment to make room for these stories in our hearts so that we may never forget.


Hmmm hair and spirit feel forever linked to me. As if the tendrils of our hair are always in constant contact with spirit, moving and communicating with the atmosphere around us and holding ancient memory and DNA. Our hair can feel so electric, it can be a way to sense energy and spirit in a room – the hairs on arms stand up, the hairs on our head prickle and become alert. I watch this a lot in animals too – the way hairs stand up on a dog’s back when it becomes aware of needing to be alert, to investigate or when danger is near. I see hair more like our own personal fiber, our fur, our fleece. It is alive and full of creative possibility. I see the work you do Roxie and it reminds me of weaving with fibres. The braiding is perhaps a way of us to connect to and remember  ancestral arts like weaving and feeling the living and creative spark that lives in our hair.

And there is so much in our hair that is familiar, people can recognise our own individual scent by smelling our hair, we can remember them. When someone we love is returned to us we hug them tight and often without thinking, smell their hair. On the day a baby is born they are passed through the arms of those who love them, each relative taking turns to hold the baby and smell their hair. We do it without thinking but I believe this is very old, that we are taking this moment to imprint the memory of their smell so that we will always know them, we will always recognise them and know how to find them again.

This ritual and deep memory of hair and it’s connection to us runs through a lot of my work. I create spirit dolls as companions and friends to anyone in need and I make an effort to work with fleece and fiber from loving farms. I like to the know the people gathered the fiber and how much they love their animals. My own ancestors, for many generations were spinners and weavers and wool workers in Scotland but I only began to work with fibre 4 years ago when I moved to Sherbrooke Forest.

The forest began to heal my own pain, and anxiety and as my mind quietened, my hands had an urge to craft. A friend showed me how to needle felt a woollen and from the moment I began, I have never stopped. And the first thing I did was bend my head and smell the wool. It was just as important to smell as to feel it, it still feels the only true way to recognise it. From the moment I held the fibre in my hand, it was as if I already knew what to do. And it was as if my hands had been longing to return to this ancestral craft.

I became obsessed with learning about fibre and ancestral textiles. I began sourcing all kind of fibers – plant fibres such as nettle and ramie dyed naturally with ancient dye plants such as woad and madder. And fiber from wool workers and farmers from around the world that were working to bring rare breeds of ancestral sheep and goats back from the brink of extinction. The same animals that had lived on the land with our ancestors, and provided them with fleece for clothing and blankets and fine weaving were now in danger.

I became aware of this movement of preserving and caring for ‘rare breeds’ and when I could I created dolls with this wool and fiber, so happy that in a small way I could help to assist in their preservation and I was also aware of this ancient memory in the fiber and the hair of this ancient bloodline living on in a doll and bringing the magic of that land and it’s stories to the doll’s new keepers.

Rare breeds. I thought about this a lot as I made the dolls and carried on the work I had been dedicating my time to for the last 10 years, the work of Swan Blessing. Swan Blessing is the name of the personal and group sessions I hold for women to heal the memory of shame and fear from times of persecution of the women for working as healers, witches, midwives, herbalists. This ceremony works to clear the trauma in the female lineage of the Burning Times and the asylums and institutions that patriarchy built to contain, jail and silence the outspoken and wild women, the orphans and outcast, and the misdiagnosed psychics and mentally ill. The ceremony works not only to heal past life memories but also the collective memory of what happens to women who speak out, are different, are natural healers or unmarried mothers or women who have a healthy relationship to their own sexuality.  Over the years of travelling and offering this ceremony to hundreds of women I kept hearing again and again how it was believed it was safer to be hidden, to work undercover and to not be found.

In 2013, six months after making my first doll, I began to dream about the women of the Magdalene Laundries. I had known about these Catholic institutions where women and children were locked up and forced to wash laundry from morning to night without pay, poor food and very little if any education. This was their punishment for being too outspoken, too attractive and bringing too much attention to themselves, for being homeless and for being pregnant without a husband. 

The Magdalene Laundries named for Mary Magdalene the redeemed prostitute and sinner in the eyes of the church were meant to be places of penitence for ‘fallen women’. Ah yes, you may say, well this happened in the Victorian years and you are right – but did you know that the last Magdalene Laundry in Ireland only closed it’s doors in 1996? Many survivors of these cruel and damaging institutions are living among us now.

The dreams about these institutions grew stronger and stronger until one day I knew that I must gather at the site of the old Magdalene Laundry at the Abbotsford Convent here in my home in Melbourne, Australia and hold a ceremony to not only let the spirits of the women who were abused there know that they were loved but to also heal ourselves of the invisible chains that are still keeping us quiet, unseen, and afraid.

One of the first things that was taken from you when you were incarcerated in the Laundries was your hair. It was cut roughly and as punishment – hair was seen as women’s vanity – another sin. There is a history of women having their heads shaved before entering prison, asylums, during wartime as punishment and even when women became sick.

I once made a doll for a grandmother in her 80s and the doll had long, long plaits. She told her granddaughter that she cried when she saw her because it reminded her of her own hair that had been cut because it was seen as ‘draining her health’ when she was a little girl and she’d never really gotten over it.

I have spoken to survivors of the Laundries and they have all spoken about the huge trauma and degradation of having their hair removed or even changed without their permission and under force. It is almost one of the strongest memories of their time there. It was a way to break the spirit of a wild young woman the moment she stepped through the door and it was affective.

Hair and the way we choose to wear it is so personal. It is not like clothing or fashion. It grows from us. It carries our DNA and ancient memory from our great grandmothers. The church did everything it could to cut ties and family bonds. A sure way to help break a familiar bond is to tell a family a lie about their daughter and how evil she is and then present to them (if they were actually allowed to visit), a child that no longer resembled their daughter in any way.

It is much easier to disconnect when we can no longer recognise the one we used to love. When a baby animal is born to a sick or grieving mother, it doesn’t get enough nutrients for it’s hair and it is born with what is called a ‘fever coat’. The fever coat is dull and lifeless and usually lacks vitality and colour. I think of these young girls ripped away from their families and away from their own mothers and many of them pregnant with their own babies, terrified and worked into the ground and fed so little. 

I imagine their families finally getting a visit with their daughters in the Magdalene institutions and hugging these abused unrecognisable girls and leaning in to smell their chopped off hair and instead smelling not their child but a fever coat. Another link and memory lost. Not your daughter any longer but a different creature entirely who no longer looks like your own or even smiles like it. In her place an unfamiliar and sickly creature that has no trace of the wild spirited girl that once lived inside.

A couple of years ago I began a project called Dolls for the Outcast – travelling to places of trauma neglect and leaving a spirit doll made from pure and loved fibers for the spirits who had lived through those events and also dolls for the living survivors. I have gifted dolls to survivors here in Australia and travelled to the Cross Bones Graveyard in London, once known as a Magdalene Grave for the prostitutes of Southwark who were not allowed to be buried in consecrated ground even though they had to pay the Bishop to work on the streets of his borough.

It was a huge joy to see a doll I made for the women of the Magdalene Laundries in Ireland come to live with survivor, activist of Forgotten Mothers, Terri Harrison. In the video I received of Terri holding the doll she is constantly caressing and smoothing down the doll’s hair with great affection. Nothing could have made me happier than to see this moment.

I am now going even deeper with this theme of returning hair to the women and children of the Magdalene Laundries by beginning a new project called the Memory Shawl. It is my intention that it heals the Fever Coat of so many women who lost their mothers and then had their babies stolen from them. Over the last year as I have travelled and shared the Swan Blessing ceremony around the world, women have gifted me strands of their hair to spin on a spindle with fibers from rare ancestral breeds of animals lovingly being brought back from extinction and also fiber created from the nettle plant.

Nettle I see is our Grandmother guardian and protector of women. From the nettle plant comes a strong and beautiful fiber. I am weaving our human hair or fiber with plant and animal fibers, making a shawl that like a great spider web, connects all of our families and lineages – human and animal and plant. My wish is that this ‘hair shawl’ will help to reconnect us all to the Great Mother and heal the sickness of the fever coat. So that we remember and find ourselves again by connecting to the ancestral spirits and grow strong in our communities respecting all life forms.  By healing the broken lineages of the past the memory shawl can provide warmth and comfort and new dreams – a gift from our ancestral DNA to the outcast living and dead.

By sharing our own hair we are sharing our own stories and families with the women of the Magdalene Laundries we are warming them so that the fever coat heals in ourselves too. We do not see them as fallen women but as rare and sacred and we speak up, let ourselves be seen and found again.

The human spirit is some of the strongest fiber of all. In my communications with some of the Magdalene Laundry survivors I have been amazed at their fight, their fire and resilience. Some of have become powerful activists, teachers, artists and writers who are now standing up and speaking for the sisters who can not. They are taking on governments and the church that terrorised them as young women. This has shown me that the ‘fever coat’ is temporary and that the human spirit is more resilient than any institution, that bonds of sisterhood can replace the loss of family and that voices once silenced can become a roar.

Thanks Julia. The tears are flowing and heart is swelling. Deepest gratitude and the biggest hug to you, Dear Sister of Scotland.

On Going Natural, with Patrina AKA Natural Hair Queen


The way we wear our hair isn’t just about self-expression. Our kinky hairdos and our coily locks are beautiful and unique, but it’s never just about you as an individual. How we style our hair goes way beyond that. It’s almost as if we’re representing the entire race. African-American hair is woven into a traumatic history of cultural discrimination, political turmoil, and fighting for basic human rights.

African-American hair bonds and unites us as a people. However, the scars of having been ignored, shunned, and frowned upon still exist. Managing African hair takes time, patience, and dedication. Whether you have natural, relaxed, or a protective style like braids, you are undoubtedly going to spend hours doing your hair. Yet, I feel that is the main reason our hair is beautiful and unique. We can create any and transform our hair into many different styles.

Our hair connects us. It’s the internet that brings sisters together. Now we can freely discuss and exchange ideas about how to take care of our complex hair, something we haven’t had since before slavery. Yes, we always had casual conversations with friends and strangers alike, but You Tube and blogs made our connections stronger and more frequent.

  • Patrina, Natural hair blogger and consultant


Patrina, where are you from originally?

I’m from Battle Creek, Michigan

What was your hair like as a kid? How did you wear it and what was your care ritual like?

As a child I always had a perm; my first perm was at 5 years old. I remember hating the process of my Mom perming my hair because it used to always burn. My hair care ritual consisted of a wash and condition and the use of hair grease called Blue Magic.

What beliefs/wisdom around hair were passed to you from your family?

Since I only knew straight hair I thought that was normal, and beautiful.

What were your feelings about your hair?

I only knew my hair straight so I felt my hair looked better straightened. Everyone I grew up with had permed hair.

At what point did you decide to go natural?

I decided to natural in my last year of graduate school. I was searching for hairstyles on You tube and came across Dominique Banks page AKA: Longhairdon’tcare2011 and was floored by her long hair. Up until that point I had never seen a Black woman with long hair that was real. I was captivated and binged watch natural hair videos of women who had long hair.

Did you experience any negativity when you decided to go natural? I did from family members. Did anyone try to talk you out of it?

I didn’t tell anyone about my decision I just did it.

How did it feel for you to take that leap?

When I took the leap it felt really great but, I must say I still permed my edges for a while. Once I went all in and stopped using the creamy crack reality set in and I panicked. When I look back at my hair diary I laugh but at the time the pain of dealing with two different hair textures and my natural curl pattern was difficult.

What was the process like? Did you go really short and then grow out, or?????

I was very afraid to do the big chop so I just grew my hair out and cut off the permed ends little by little. Once my hair got to the level of armpit length I cut off the remaining permed ends.

Any unexpected challenges/ victories along the way?

The biggest unexpected challenge was how long my wash day routine lasts. When I would perm my hair I was done from beginning to end in 30 minutes. I would say a victory along the way is the feeling you get when you find a product or an entire line that works with your hair and makes your hair feel like butter and retain moisture feels like you won the lottery; the hair lottery.

What would you tell someone who is considering going natural?

When you go natural you will need to re learn what your hair likes and dislikes. This goes for products, tension on the hair, and styles. You will need to be patience as you re learn how to care for your new texture. Learn as much as you possibly can from others who have long natural hair (if that is your goal).

How do you feel now, with your hair long and natural?

I feel great; now that I’ve taken the time to learn about my hair and which products work well and help my hair to thrive. However, I do receive the occasional question of: “where did you get that hair piece from”, or when my hair is straight: “Which company did you buy your hair from”.

What is your care ritual like now?

I wash my hair every week. I deep condition under a hooded dryer with my essential oils and a moisture rich deep conditioner, followed by a sulfate free shampoo, light protein treatment, and I detangle my hair with conditioner under running water in the shower. Then I use the LOC method and depending on my hair style I will add a curling custard to set my hair.

What is your go-to product/tool/trick that you use most often in your hair care? My go to product for

deep conditioning is Shea Moisture superfruit complex hair masque 10 in 1. This product melts my tangles away. This is a product that I stock up on every time it’s on sale.

If your hair had a spirit animal, what would it be and why.

My spirit animal would be the humming bird, I like to enjoy my hair and have fun with it. I feel it’s just hair and you don’t have to be so serious or boring with it. It’s ok to switch up your look and put on wigs, color your hair, and play with different hairstyles and textures. Once you have the basic foundation down on how to care for your hair; you will be able to test out more styles and know how to keep your hair safe and protected.



Patrina is the founder of; a blog to educate and inspire women with natural hair. Patrina just celebrated her 10-year natural hair anniversary, and achieved her goal of waist length hair. With the knowledge she has learned over the years she is dedicated to share her knowledge, and experience to educate women who wish to have moisturized, healthy natural long hair.

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Queen of Color Transformation and the Rainbow Afro, Words with Leysa Carrillo

Leysa Carrillo is a incredibly talented Cuban-American hairstylist whose work has really caught my attention this year. She works at Atelier by Square Salon in Las Vegas, where she weaves her magic with natural curls and rainbow colors into the most beauteous hair transformations. 

I found her on Instagram, and have been following her ever since, excitedly watching her crank out incredible work. Then, at the BTC One Shot Hair Awards in Austin last month, I happily watched her win an award in her category alongside Chita Beseau, another incredible hair artist for Collab of the Year. I reached out soon after to see if she would let me feature her here on HTHG, and she agreed. Thanks Leysa for sharing words with us!

Where are you originally from? where do you live now?

I’m originally from Varadero a little Beach town in Cuba. I live in Las Vegas now.

Why did you leave and how did you end up where you are now? 

I was a part of a show called “Havana Night” and we used to travel all around the world.  Siegfried and Roy discovered our show back in Cuba and fell in love with it so they offered us a contract here in Las Vegas at an old hotel and casino called the Stardust. The Cuban government gave us an ultimatum and said we could no longer perform and go back-and-forth between the US and Cuba…….There were a lot of political things going on between the countries so we decided to come to the United States as political asylum’s.

How has the journey of moving to this country as a very young person shaped you?

It was very hard at first.. I came without knowing when I was gonna see my family again, new culture, no knowing English but now I feel like I’m living the American dream. Somebody. pinch me. I’m grateful.

What ideas/wisdom/beliefs around hair were you raised with?

I wasn’t really raised with any believes around hair/beauty.

I think the fact my mom never knew how to deal with my Afro made me have to get really good at hair at the early age!

How did you find your interest in hair, and when did you start dabbling in hairstyling?

My show ended and I didn’t want to continue traveling and going to different auditions, so I was looking at what was available for me knowing that my English wasn’t the best and having had no college experience, I went to school for interior design and then Beauty School.

What is it about working with hair that inspires you the most?

I’m so inspired to create! I love everything about textured hair, colorful hair, anything having to do with fashion!! Seeing people’s faces at the end of any services…

What is your favorite kind of hair to work with? why?

My favorite kind of hair to work with is definitely textured hair. I love everything about the curl of hair and curl pattern specifically because I can relate to it, I feel like a lot of people need help with it because they don’t understand it.

What tips/tricks/ products do you swear by?

My best tip that I can give is definitely a good diet and drinking lots of water.

What is your own hair care ritual like? 

I wash my hair once a week, I use a mask as my conditioner. I use a lot of product in my hair and I love to enhance my natural curl I don’t use any heat with my hair.

Have you always worn your hair natural? If not, tell us about your natural hair journey……

I have always worn my hair natural. Of course I have straightened it as a girl a few times,  but 90% of the time my hair is natural and it always has been. I was too poor to afford wigs and stuff as a kid!

Tell us something that we may not know about what it is like to have such dynamic and beautiful hair with such deep history and roots?

I brush my hair just with my hair mask in it.

I think when people see my hair first they always think it’s complicated or difficult but when you get to know it and understand it, and when you truly love curly hair it’s one of the easiest to work with.

what do you love most about your hair?

I love my routine. It is super simple and I wear it natural and what can be better than bracing your natural hair?

If your hair had a spirit animal what would it be?

A Lion, of course

What would you tell a woman who just came to this country and wants to work with hair?

Go to school, don’t stop learning, continue your education even after school. Don’t give up. Anything is possible.

What could this industry do a better job of?

I would say that the industry can do a much better job of uniting all of us. I think in the past couple years social media has started to make that happen but I would like to see more of it.

Tell us a little bit about the salon you work in, and what a day behind the chair is like.

My salon is very innovative and  very modern. We are always keeping up with the new trends, continuing all of our education taking lots of classes with stylists and educators coming through here to keep us all updated. We are like a big family, always helping each other and also we take care of the community. I do find myself always busy no matter what..For some reason, I can’t figure out why I never go home when the sun is still out. I do a lot of transformations, so my days are usually filled with multiple sessions of each appointment so I stay very very busy.

Leysa, thank you for sharing a little look inside your hair life! We love your work, and can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

Be sure to check out more of Leysa’s magical hair creations on Instagram!


xo, RJH

A Journey to Surf Babe Hair with Shelby Wild

Hello my dears. A while back, a woman named Shelby Wild reached out to me, wanting to introduce me to herself and her company Playa, conscious haircare inspired by a surf life, for that free and beautiful surfer babe hair. I was intrigued by Shelby’s story, a former NYC fashion stylist turned Venice based surfer & herbalist, and her intention with Playa, to create a haircare line for easy, carefree style using streamlined, non toxic products.

She sent me some products, which I enjoyed trying out and I wanted to know more…….She agreed to let me ask her some questions about her own hair journey and her brand journey as well, as I am feeling very compelled to share the experiences of others who take an Idea and turn it into a Reality because I feel like it helps inspire and elevate everyone who reads it to do the same on many different levels…..Taking steps towards creating the reality that we want to be living in. Fruition!

Here she is, Shelby Wild, and here is her story. 

Where do you live and where did you grow up?

I live on the beach in Venice, CA and I grew up in a small costal town outside of New Orleans called Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.


Have you surfed your whole life?

Growing up I lived close to Florida and would surf recreationally, but the waves in the Gulf of Mexico aren’t that great. I really started surfing when I graduated high school. When I lived in New York I would surf in the summers at Ditch Plains in Montauk and would take one or two long trips to Costa Rica in the winters. I really began surfing frequently when I moved to Los Angeles. There is a great break in front of my house so I usually go out 3 times a week or so. My boyfriend and I are also building a small surf cabin at Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara, so we have been spending the weekends in the water there recently.

Tell me about your journey with your own hair? What is your weekly ritual?

I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to my hair, which ultimately is why I created Playa.

Most days I either exercise or am in the water so I generally need to wash my hair every day. I also just hate to feel dirty. I use our Supernatural Conditioner (after shampooing) 3 days a week. On these days I take a long bath, apply about two quarters of Supernatural Conditioner all over, put my hair in a bun, and chill out for about 20 minutes. I may or may not attempt to apply a face mask (haha).


Wether I am washing or washing/conditioning I will next towel dry, apply our Ritual Oil, then spray about 15 pumps of Endless Summer Spray all over my hair and mess it up with my fingertips. If I am at home for another 30 minutes ill wait for my hair to air dry then spray our Pure Dry Shampoo on the roots. My hair is very fine so I find this to be the step that really transforms the look without having to do much work. No matter where I am or what what I am doing, this is my go to weekly hair routine.

How has surfing effected your own hair journey?

The idea or surfer girl hair or beach hair has become so popular, but I have never seen anyone get out of the water and have these blown out curls that you see all over Instagram and Youtube. When I created Playa, the idea was to replicate what your hair actually looks like after a day at the beach or surfing.


Additionally, the salt in the water (or chlorine if you are in a pool) really dries out your hair, so that influenced the creation of our Ritual Oil quite a bit. I put our oil all over my hair to protect any time I get in the water. It also contains lycopene which naturally helps with UV protection.

When did you realize that you wanted to create hair products?

It was something that happened organically over time. Since I was a child, I have always loved making things and that initially transpired to me working in fashion. To be honest, there is nothing more painful to me than having to sit inside an office all day and when my job inevitably became more corporate, I found that I really needed a creative outlet. I have also always loved beauty products and it was around this time that I opened my small new york apartment sized vanity and about 10 bottles of half used salt spray fell on top of me and spilled all over the floor. It was then that I asked myself why I a) had so many products and b) wasn’t using any of them. I then spent a few years trying to figure out what essential products women used on a daily basis and I set out to try to create (in my opinion) the best versions of them. That project eventually became Playa.


What was that process like for you?

It definitely wasn’t easy, and for a long time I was doing it on the side while I had the worst office job on the planet. For a few years I was working on Playa at night and on the weekends which was really tough. I went through about 7 chemists until I found our current formulator, and together we created about 20 variations of each product. You will inevitably have days where you question what you are doing, and these days are what really makes or breaks a startup. I truly love and believe in what we are creating with Playa, and that love got me through some of the hard times in the beginning. Now it has become such a big part of my life that it almost feels like a child of mine where I have created this thing, launched it, and now spend my days trying to nurture it to its fullest potential.

Tell me about your experience with herbalism?

My father is a scientist and I have loved science and chemistry since I was a child. As I grew I became really interested in organic foods, yoga, and ayurveda. I studied yoga when I lived in New York and when I moved to California and began to study herbalism. With Playa I wanted to make products that worked for everyone, and we did this by balancing science and nature, clinical and botanical ingredients. Studying the medicinal and therapeutic properties of plants was incredibly beneficial when formulating our products, as it allowed me to determine which botanicals we could use to replace the more toxic synthetics you usually find in salon products. It also allowed for enough knowledge to determine how far botanicals would take us with performance, and when we needed to supplement the products with safer clinicals.


What are your favorite 3 ingredients used in the line and why?

Every Day Shampoo

Coco glucoside is a natural, non-ionic, surfactant that is ultra mild. This gives a light lather without stripping the hair like harmful detergents would.


Ritual Oil

Broccoli Seed Oil or Brassica Oleraceae contains a fatty acid profile that allows for excellent absorption while also offering significant film forming properties on the hair, resulting in a natural shine and smoothing of the hair cuticle. The amazing anti-oxidant profile makes it an easy substitute for harmful silicones, which are often found in hair oils.


Pure Dry Shampoo

The Rose Petal Powder in our dry shampoo absorbs oil at the root and due to its weight, shakes out on its own preventing the buildup you often experience. It also acts as an emollient, helping to keep your hair soft and shiny- like you actually did just wash it.

Rad. We love it. Check out Playa here, and follow them on IG @playa to keep up on the goods. Thanks, Shelby, for sharing about your journey!

xo, Roxie Jane Hunt

Season of the Witch: Natalia Karoway

 Welcome back to our next edition of this series. A few months back, after publishing our first 4 interviews, an outpouring of interest came in from women in this community who wanted to contribute by sharing their words, experience and perspective. Holding a space for these women to tell their stories felt like a real honor to me.

I am continuing to publish the words of some of my favorite Witches that I have personally reached out to, as well as readers of HTHG that I have not yet personally met, because it feels IMPORTANT and I will keep doing it until it leads to something else.

HTHG started out about simply DIY HAIR and has taken us down a portal deeper into identity and empowerment. The question of what it means to be a WITCH is simply a facet and a stop along the journey, a moment to dive into a subject that obviously touches many of us.

The process of producing content that is authentic and meaningful has been very much like following a single firefly deep into a big dark cave. Occasionally, the firefly enters a small chamber, and illuminates every aspect of its surroundings. There, we stop to look around.

Please enjoy this interview with Natalia Karoway on the topic of what it means to be a witch. 

What does the term Witch mean to you?

To me, a witch is someone who is tapped into the magic of existence and is devoted to assisting in the healing of mother earth and all of her children—human, animal, plant and beyond. A witch is deeply connected to the natural world — and she collaborates with the energy of earth and spirit to instigate transformations for herself and for those who call upon her. She is a space holder, knowing that she does not provide “healings” yet she uses her wisdom, power, and magic to set a stage for what is possible around her.

How would one know that one was a witch? 🙂

I think that it is simply a resonance and an alignment with the magical energetics of living in service to the earth and your community. It doesn’t have to be a strict definition. There are many other definitions than my personal thoughts above. I don’t believe you need to be initiated or called upon… but you do need to choose to walk the path and live it in action—not just in a sense of fashion or collecting crystals. I view it as stepping into a position of service.

Talk about intention and manifestation…..How do they work together, Can you recall the first time you experienced their power in action?

I love working with intention and manifestation. I do believe that committed action on an intention absolutely manifests experiences into being. But it’s the action that is critical. It’s not just holding on to a thought. You begin with the vision and foundation for the intention. You can hold it in your heart, write it out, meditate on it and bring it into ceremony. And then you begin to notice… the places where you can take inspired action… the opportunities that arise where you can take the path needed… stoking the fire of the intention, bringing it to life. That’s where I see the magic happening.

I used to work with vision boards a lot and found this process to be incredibly powerful. The action piece was always included after creating my collage of dream photos and words, but when I would look back at them after a year or even a few, I was always pleasantly surprised at how much I had brought into being. Sometimes the photos were just beautiful scenes I found online not even knowing where they may have been snapped, but I found myself visiting some of the exact locations without consciously thinking planning it. It’s really exciting, magical, and mind blowing!!

These days I work more in ceremony, bringing the intention, amplifying it with prayer, making heartfelt offerings, and then walking through the doors that open afterwards. Ceremony brings the awareness and plants the seeds of opportunity, but we still must walk through that door, answer that phone call, take that left turn.

How do you think that a collection of witches is magnified in power to an individual witch?

As with anything, I see collective energy always surpassing the individual. In the shamanic tradition I’ve studied with, the goal is to always live as a collective entity. The individual path is where we have the most challenges and the most suffering. When we dream together, come together with a common goal, plant that seed, and we all water and nourish it… it does not get more powerful than that!

Where would you direct a woman who is interested in exploring her inner witch for the first time? (books? Plants? etc)

I would first gently nudge her to venture into nature as much as possible. To listen to the forests, the plants, the water, the sky. There’s so much to be discovered in our deep connection with the earth.

I also have loved having teachers on my path. I find nothing more nurturing and fulfilling than being mentored in these realms. Sure there are wonderful books, but there is still much of this magical path that is an oral tradition. Learning from our wise elders has always built the strongest foundation for me and it carries forth a tradition unbroken.

I love the books of Scott Cunningham and my absolute favorite plant book is “Herbal Rituals” by Judith Berger. I also wrote a book called “Living Sacred Ceremony” for those who wish for inspiration in the realm of transformational ceremony practices.

How do the facets of our souls (shadow side, sun-lit side, good, evil) effect the process of owning our power?

Those of us who choose to walk this path must be willing to dance in the shadows. I actually love shadow work. Looking in these dark spaces certainly isn’t the most comfortable, but for me, it is the space in which I have the most growth. When we explore and find some understanding of our shadow self, I believe there is less to fear. And the less fear we have, the more powerful we can become.

Why do you think it is so hard for some of us to own our power, speak to the woman who knows she has it but is afraid to use it.

I think there are so many factors here. First of all, we have a collective wound as women who know our ancestors have literally been burned at the stake for using our power. It’s not something that we want to see happen ever again. There is a still a huge collective of dark masculine who fear the power of the divine feminine and will do anything to keep us from rising. It can be incredibly scary to rise into our full and powerful potential. But I see us as having no choice. Our time is now and if we don’t rise up, we are literally risking the extinction of our entire planet.

So to the women who feel the power within rising and the fear dancing with it, I say you are not alone in this. Find your sisters and rise to power together. We will walk this path side by side.

Tell us a little bit about your personal witch journey. ( if you want:)

My mom lived in Salem during college and took classes with Laurie Cabot, one of our most famous modern witches. So in my early teen years, there were books on the shelf that piqued my curiosity. At around 14 or 15, I visited a local metaphysical shop and I was blown away when the owner popped out, spoke a few words to me, and asked if I was an Aquarius. Um, yes!! I wanted what she had! I grabbed one of Scott Cunningham’s books on Wicca and a deck of tarot cards. The first spell I cast was of course for love. And let me tell you, IT WORKED. It was at that time that I felt connected to a power that I had never experienced or even thought possible. Like woah, you can change things about your life and your path. It was amazing and empowering for a young woman.

But it wasn’t all goodness. There was a darkness, too. And I learned what happens when you harness that power for things that are not so beneficial for all involved. And that’s how I understood which path not to walk and who I actually wanted to be in this world.

I lost the connection for a time in college while pursuing academics and a more traditional job path. But I could’t stay away for long. Once a witch, always a witch. I stepped on to the shamanic path in my 20’s and the herbal path in the more recent years. All the pieces have been coming together and adding up. And I am honored and proud to use my magic and medicine to assist my community.

What is our role now, as witches of the world, and how would you like to see us collectively using our powers to heal?

The role of the witch is growing in these changing times. I think that it is imperative that we step into our communities (and even outside of our communities and comfort zones) to educate and empower each other.

For example, with our recent governmental upheaval, women are fearing the loss of our reproductive rights. Others are worried about losing complete access to healthcare. But who took care of the reproductive health of women before these modern times? The witches—the herbalists + the midwives. Who made medicine when there was no modern healthcare? The witches. And they risked themselves to share their medicine.

We are perhaps coming full circle and returning to times like these. So I see our role becoming crucial and that role is one of empowering our sisters in health sovereignty and sharing our knowledge and medicine far and wide. And I don’t mean to leave out the men or those who don’t identify as women! This is just my present example. There are many places where this same sharing of education, empowerment, and support can be applied. We all have different strengths and bodies of knowledge. We can be pillars in our community so people know who to turn to when they need a specific type of support. So this means being loud and proud of what we have to offer!


Natalia Karoway is a lover and practitioner of shamanism, herbalism, and sacred ceremony. She has trained extensively in Andean shamanism and Western herbalism and merges the wisdom of the two lineages in her offerings. These days, you can find her whipping up plant magic goods for ceremony, healing, and beauty at Sacred Botanica.

Instagram @sacredbotanica

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