Bay Area witch Casey Zabala is the creator of the Wanderer’s Tarot, a deep and dreamy deck with a Feminist perspective (she’s also the cosmic mind behind our weekly Tarotscopes). Inspired by nature, womanhood, and a longing for cosmic adventure, the hand drawn deck is a favorite of tarot fans and readers alike. We got swept away with Zabala in San Francisco’s Sutro Heights Park to talk about feminism, mystical stereotypes, and why the Strength card is her favorite.
What was your entry point into spirituality?
I was gifted my first tarot deck at 13, and it cracked me open to psychic experiences and fueled my interest in the occult. It was the summer before high school, and it could not have been a better gift. I remember opening the package and feeling something shift. The first card I drew was The Moon, and in that moment the tarot spoke to me in a way that no one else had (I was a super shy, introverted girl). It accessed a part of me that I had never shared with anyone else, the part of me that knew I was a witch. There was magick there, and it was also a deeply healing experience. I was finally feeling seen and heard – and it was Spirit who was holding space for me. I became interested in eastern religions, meditation, and shamanism around the same time. These practices all informed my understanding of tarot, and its magical symbolic world.
Where or how did you learn or train in your areas of focus?
I also became totally attached to my local metaphysical shop when I was 13. It had the kindest owner who would pull cards for me and let me lay on her incredible crystal healing table for free. I haunted used bookshops and read everything I could about tarot, mythology, hermetic philosophy, and different healing modalities. I was totally voracious and I still haven’t lost my appetite, which is one of the reasons why I love the occult – you can always journey deeper. I would give my friends readings and delight in their fear/awe that the cards could read them so accurately. I am totally self-taught tarot reader, and I’m simply grateful that I was guided to the cards at such an early age.
What changes or movements have you noticed the most within space/community of alternative spirituality?
When I was growing up, my heroines and mentors where my elders, my beloved crones, who held the wisdom of the craft and disseminated their knowledge through books and during gatherings. In the past 5-7 years, more of my peers in the community have been coming forward, confident in their practices and wisdom enough to become the mentors and guides of our generation. It’s been an inspiring time for me to witness and participate in this shift. Not only does it feel like there are more learning opportunities available, but there is a larger conversation happening about how different cultures operate magically, and how to be a socially responsible witch.
What is your approach to those who are wary or skeptical of mystical subjects?
I am often confronted by skeptics of my craft, since tarot readers have been negatively stereotyped for centuries. I tell skeptics who are willing to listen that tarot cards are a powerful healing tool, not necessarily used to reveal your future. If they are truly interested they’ll ask me more, but you can always tell when a skeptic is simply trying to win or oppress you with their energy and attitude. With those types of people, I will generally walk away. I used to want to fight for my craft, attempting to convince people of the reality of magic. I now know that you cannot convince anyone of the reality of magic with words – they must experience it for themselves.
How has your spirituality developed or changed over time?
My spirituality was majorly influence by Eastern religions and practices in my teens. I felt called to study the Tibetan Book of the Dead, practice Kundalini meditation, and felt a kinship with the role of Bodhisattva. Over time, I began to realize the richness of my imagination, the wealth of knowledge I hold in my blood, and the rituals and beliefs of my own culture which truly resonate with me. During my time at Naropa University, I had an epiphany about my identity as a faerie loving witch, as well as fully realizing where I was being called to study – the Western Mystery tradition.
What’s your favorite tarot card?
My favorite card is Strength. Fairly cliche for a Leo, but I’m okay with it! I love the courage the card emanates. It’s a reminder that any obstacle can be overcome. It’s a reminder that fear is our greatest challenge. I resonate with the fire inherent in the card, fire that can be handled so delicately that the maiden has her hands tenderly within the lion’s jaws. It’s a card for me that is deeply feminist. It’s a reminder that women are truly fierce and can be strong in the world however they damn well please! If we establish true connection with our spirit, and maintain connection with the soul of the earth, we can accomplish anything. The Strength card helps us identify the moments when we need to dig deeply within to overcome external challenge.
Who is your favorite pop culture witch?
I totally resonate with the Aunts in Practical Magic (the film as well as in Alice Hoffman’s books). Frances and Jet take no nonsense, they know what’s happening always, and will eat cake for breakfast after dancing naked under the Full Moon.
How do you integrate ritual into your daily life?
Ritual is a crucial grounding tool for me. Ritual is my daily practice. Every morning I wake up, make myself tea, and write out my dreams, which usually bleed into stream of conscious journaling. I work ritualistically with my altar, which usually involves symbolic representations of water, air, fire, and earth, as well as specific tarot cards. I will work with certain cards intentionally over days, weeks, or months. I change the tarot cards when I feel that the lesson I am moving through, and the energy that the tarot card evokes, is shifting. I work most ritualistically with the changing of seasons, and the 8 Sabbats of the wheel of the year. By tapping into the magical energy of these seasonal shifts, I am more connected with the Earth’s cycle, as well as with my body’s cycles. Ritual gives me space to honor the unseen but real. It’s an opportunity to drop into a moment, while experiencing the depth of time itself. I think ritual can be serious and studied, or casual and spontaneous.
What are you working on right now?
I am very excited to be organizing a witchy gathering for October of 2018 called Modern Witches Confluence, which will be held in San Francisco. I am being guided by spirit to create this container for a host of magicians and healers, and I could not be more excited to see how the inaugural gathering unfolds. I’m also working on many creative projects right now, from writing projects to a few new oracle/tarot decks. More generally, I am working on prioritizing my creativity and giving myself the freedom to create for the pure joy of it.
What’s your go-to spiritual tool?
Tarot cards and oracle cards will always be my number one spiritual love. But I have to say that I have been working with crystals for just as long as I have been connecting with my tarot guides. Crystals have taught me so much about my intuition, and about the magical planet we inhabit. It’s important to be intuitively guided when working with your crystal allies, so if they aren’t speaking to you yet, get quiet and be ready to listen. It’s powerful to embrace crystals because they teach you so much about your own energy, and the energy of non-human beings.
What is your sign, and how do you embody it?
I am a Leo Sun and an Aquarius Moon lady. The two signs oppose and magnetize each other. My Leo sun lends me an inner confidence that I am truly grateful for. My Aquarius moon causes me to be constantly dreaming and challenging myself to grow.
All photos by Sylvie Rosokoff.