After non-stop discussion of the importance of small business, I’m grateful to take a pause to chat about something completely different in today’s Tending the Hedge, a series of features highlighting herbalists, artists, educators, and activists who engage in a practice of “magical stewardship,” all bravely sharing their magic with the world, living and working with intention. I see this as a form of mutual aid and raising each other up, as a rejection of competition and scarcity culture, and an opportunity to highlight ways in which folks are tending the hedges of their communities, so to speak!
This week, I am proud to feature my friend Briana Johnson, aka, the Sunlit Witch. As a tarot reader and content creator, Bri works to demystify the mystical, emphasizing ways in which folks might bring witchcraft into their everyday, with a special focus on supporting “baby witches” on their newfound paths. Having started our businesses around the same time, I can say that it has been an absolute joy watching Bri come out of the broom closet, so to speak. Here we chatted about showing up as our authentic selves and bringing magic to our work, whatever it may be.
What are your pronouns and what is your sign?
My pronouns are she/them! I am a very proud Aries sun, Virgo moon, and Sagittarius rising (with a whole lot Pisces stellium on the side).
Are you a witch? If so, what does that word mean to you?
I am a witch! It has been a pretty long road allowing myself to accept and embrace that word if I’m being honest. Ever since I was little, there has been something marvelous and powerful about the word “witch” that hasn’t always felt openly accessible in the environments I found myself in. Growing up in the south, in conservative and Christian areas, with skeptical and discouraging parents, as the moody kid who kept to themself, “witch” often felt like the butt of a joke. It felt like something I wasn’t allowed to take seriously, despite the word resonating somewhere deep within me. Years later, reclaiming the word has been a part of a tumultuous shadow work journey, and with it has come the reclaiming of my own power, confidence, and sense of purpose. It’s helped me reclaim an authentic sense of identity and the ability to explore the act of creating in a more fulfilling way.
At the end of the day, “witch” means taking matters into your own hands. It means not allowing yourself to let other people force narratives onto you. It means taking every nasty, derogatory word thrown at me and spitting it back while baring my teeth. It means knowing myself and knowing where I stand, what I fight for, and who I’m aiming to become. It’s hard to define the word in one blanket statement, because a witch can be so many things and take on so many different shapes. The only real defining factor in being a witch, of course, is being someone who practices witchcraft—whether it be witchcraft in the kitchen, in the home, in the garden, in the community, in the church, etc. The flexibility and freedom of it are some of the most brilliant things about it.
What drew you to your work? Why is it important?
This question is so important, and it’s actually one that I’ve been considering for the past few months as I have been evaluating my role in the online community. I suppose I direct my content towards beginners because I believe that what you learn as a beginner is inevitably part of your foundation, and your foundation is undeniably important when it comes to witchcraft, or any other spiritual beliefs. It’s a lot more difficult to re-learn what you thought were truths after the fact, as opposed to laying down a more open and inclusive foundation to begin with. Online content has made information more accessible than ever, but a lot of what’s easy to click and like and follow is overly simplified for the purpose of easy consumption and encouraging engagement for the algorithm. It’s not always meant to be helpful. I see a lot of hot takes or blanket statements that gloss over some of the more nuanced parts of a good foundation. That’s kind of become my keyword as I’ve grown online: nuance.
I want to challenge beginners to think for themselves, to question what influencers are saying, to not take things at face value because we tend to associate large followings with accuracy. Which isn’t to say large followings mean someone isn’t authentic either—I follow plenty of larger accounts. But I think it’s important to be a voice for beginners who might be afraid to question popular content, and to sort of play devil’s advocate to curb any weird cult leader-types from growing too quickly—because they’re absolutely around. And though my little community is relatively smaller, this absolutely applies to myself as well! I want to help beginners find and build community with me, not feel as though they necessarily need to listen to everything I say. Ultimately, we’re all learning, and I want beginners to know that we’re always a part of that together.
How can others engage with this work and tend the hedge in their own communities?
One of the most precious things about magic, and something that I’d really like to emphasize in the work I do, is that you can bring it to your life in just about any way. It’s easy to emphasize the things that look and feel inherently witchy, of course. Building altars, doing spells, and having a million beautiful tools obviously feels witchy. But there is so much power in bringing magic to your life in mundane ways—which might sound contradictory at first, when in actuality, it isn’t! You can bring magic into your life through anything you love: food, music, art, gaming, family, sex, fashion…you name it, magic belongs there.
It’s one of the reasons I’ve branched into YouTube recently. I want to show the less obvious ways we can use magic in our practice. We often say, “Anyone you know could be a witch and you’d never know.” Except with the recent emphasis on aesthetics, this becomes much easier to forget, and we can feel pressured to emulate what we see influencers who look the part best are doing—without considering whether that lifestyle suits our needs.
For myself, I’ve recently been using magic as a means to express my voice, something that I’ve spent most of my life stifling. I bring magic into my life, and to my community, through the words that I write, the way that I support those who need it, and the stories I find myself wanting to tell. Right now, most of my time is split between directing the crowdfunding campaign for A Sparrow Cries at Night—a short film that explores the devastating effects trauma can have on family and memory, with a heavy dose of candle magic sprinkled in—and learning to share my own personal experiences casually with an online community. Neither are inherently about witchcraft specifically, but the energy I bring to them makes them magical nonetheless. I guess what I’m saying is that the best ways we can tend to our hedges and bring magic to our communities is to learn how to live authentically, to be ourselves, and to not be so concerned with fitting ourselves into a pretty box.
Did you enjoy this feature? Check out other magic-makers in the Tending the Hedge series!