For the 75th episode of The Hermit’s Lamp Podcast we decided to have a little fun. Get to know the guy who runs the show a little better with a fun Ask Andrew Episode led by the wonderful Fabeku Fatunmise! So join us for something a little different this week, see if your question get’s answered and let us know what you think! Thanks to everyone who listens and here’s to 75 more amazing, magick filled episodes, and guests.
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FABEKU: Hey everybody, welcome to the Hermit’s Lamp podcast. I am Fabeku, and I’m here today to interview Andrew MacGregor, episode 75! Hey man, how are you?
ANDREW: I’m doing all right. How are you?
FABEKU: I’m good, thanks for having me in this position. We get to kind of switch it up today. I get to ask you questions, which is kind of awesome.
ANDREW: Yeah, for sure.
ANDREW: Yeah. It’s kind of a once a year thing where I sort of turn the tables and sit in this seat for a change and, you know, get to experience the nervousness and discomfort which is having to speak about myself for an extended period of time.
ANDREW: So, yeah.
FABEKU: Perfect. So, let’s dive into the uncomfortableness, right?
ANDREW: Yeah, exactly.
FABEKU: So, you know, I thought a good starting point might be … So, in the last podcast we did together, we talked a lot about the dead, and the ancestors, and kind of that whole realm and relationships. I’m curious: tell me what … I think, let’s start with, what’s the role that the relationship with the dead plays in your life? Like, tell me where is its place, and why is it such a big thing for you?
ANDREW: Hmm. So, I mean there’s a couple layers to that, right? I mean, one of the things for me that exists with the dead, which is I have very easy access to them, right? If people are dead, and they’re around, or want to be around, I can just converse with them, right? And so, that really changes my relationship to death, right? You know? I remember, a while ago I had this dream where an old roommate of mine showed up in the dream. And you know, in the dream we were hanging out in the kitchen where we lived together, and they said to me, “Hey, I’m dead! I just wanted to come and see if this would work, and if you could actually hear this message from me and know that I was dead.”
ANDREW: Cause we had talked about these things a lot, sort of when we were roommates and stuff, and they were interested but skeptical. And, sure enough, I woke up the next day, and I was like, “Oh man, they died,” and so I went and did some searching and found an obituary listing for them, you know?
ANDREW: And, you know, so stuff like that is very interesting, right? And that changes a lot, you know? When my godmother passed away, I knew she was gone before I got the phone call, because I could see her standing in my living room, right? And I’m just like, “All right! So, it happened, eh? Okay.” You know? So that’s kind of the first piece of it, right? And so, when people slide over to the other side, I don’t lose connection with them in the same way that a lot of people do, you know? And, you know, I have a shrine in the middle of my house which is literally like in the center of our main floor, right? When you walk in the front door, if you turn left, you’d be in the living room, if you go straight you’ll be in the sort of kitchen and dining area and stuff, and right in that space at the bottom of the stairs going up, you know we have a dresser and on top of that are all the ancestors, right?
ANDREW: And so, they’re always there, they’re always included, and they’re not all available, but many of them are always available to me. So that’s one of the things that happens. I mean, the other thing that happens is that a lot of the spirits that I work with, you know when I’m working reading cards or doing magic for people, you know, those are also spirits of the dead, they are people that were alive at one point for the most part. And, you know, so I have these relationships with these spirits that are, you know, super clear and super helpful, and they provide me with guidance and they provide me with skills that I might not otherwise have. A number of them are happy to do work for me, when I need spirit work done, or for clients for that matter, and so there’s this thing where, in that regard, I’m not the one always doing the work, when I sit down to read or when I sit down to, you know, do some spirit stuff for people. I’m actually part of a team of people …
ANDREW: … who show up for this work, and so, you know, that counsel that comes from my one guide who’s been, you know, who was a card reader in their lifetime, and you know, she’s been dead for over 300 years now, right? Kicking around, following her descendants, you know, down to me, and hanging out with the ones that are doing this kind of work, because it’s the work she did when she was alive, right? That is a kind of access that doesn’t really fit a lot of other experiences, you know? It’s different than book learning, it’s different than, you know, other kinds of things, right? So. I don’t know, does that answer the question?
FABEKU: It does, and so what I’m curious about … So, when people start to work with the dead, the ancestors, spirits, it seems like one of the questions that comes up is, how do you know that they’re around, right? So, you said if they want to be around, that you have easy access to them, and it seems like a lot of people struggle to figure out whether the spirits want to be around, or whether they’re bothering the ancestors or not … How does that come through for you? You know, outside of some obvious dream where a roommate shows up and then you realize they’ve passed?
FABEKU: How … What are the signs? What are the clues, for you?
ANDREW: So, I mean, let’s talk about how it started for me. Cause I think that what I do now, that I’ve been doing it for 20 years, isn’t super helpful a lot of the time to people, right?
FABEKU: Right, yeah.
ANDREW: Because what I do now is like, I see them there, and they talk to me, and we have a conversation, and it’s not the same as you and I are having this conversation right now, but it’s not that distant from that either. Right?
ANDREW: But that’s, you know, 20 years of doing explicit ancestor work and 30 years of magic and meditation and other things, right? But when I started doing this work, the thing that I started doing was, I started making space for them, and I started making time for them. And not in an everyday kind of way, but in a like once a week kind of way. And so, I set up a spot in my house, I had some pictures, I put a glass candle, and I would show up and I would say some prayers for them. And mostly I would say prayers that they would have appreciated, you know, I mean, my ancestors were Catholic and Anglican, for the most part, and so, you know. Our Father Who Art In Heaven and all that stuff. It’s not my religion, it’s not my belief, but I’m saying it for them, right?
ANDREW: And so, I would show up and make time, and then I would have a feeling during that window of time. And those feelings, and those experiences I would really prioritize, right? Because at that point, I’m creating a clear space where I’m stepping into sacred time, I’m opening myself up to these spirits, I’m announcing to them, “Hey folks! Every Sunday, 10 a.m., you want to drop in for tea? I will be here.”
ANDREW: And then I kept that, right? And I kept that sort of practice for, you know, I kept that practice until that practice evolved to be every day, right? And I don’t think that everybody needs to do that every day. I think that that is excessive for many people’s lives, right? I mean, you know, I speak to them every day because, you know, five days a week, I’m working cards and spirit and I’m doing a lot of spirit work, right?
But for most people’s lives, once a week is great. Keep it up! Keep showing up! And realize that you’re there to give them something, which is prayers, energy, some light, an offering, whatever. And just let it build, you know? Because a lot of people, you know, the spirits, you’re not going to bother them, right? Unless you’re like showing up every week and being like, “But, but, how come this? and how come that? and why can’t you make this happen for me?” Or whatever, right? Like, it’s the same thing as it is for living people, right? If you’re a bother, it’s cause you’re showing up every day and asking ’em for something, instead of showing up and being like “Hey, how are you? What can I do for you? Do you need anything?” You know, and if you think of it as building a relationship, then you’re going to find that connection flourishes, and you’re going to find over time that you and these spirits find your manner of communication.
FABEKU: I like that. And I like that idea of making like a regular space, establishing that rhythm, like “hey, I’ll be here Sunday at 10,” right? So, they know, you know, that space is there, the bridge is built, the connection is clear, I like that.
ANDREW: Yeah. Well, cause the other thing that happens is a lot of people, I think, get into a lot of trouble, because they’re curious, and they’re open, so then something shows up at 3 a.m., something shows up Tuesday afternoon, something starts whispering to them while they’re on the subway, you know? But like, what is that? Is that your ancestors? Why are they being a jerk and ringing your phone at 3 a.m., you know? Like, what’s up with that, right?
And so, you know, if you have this regular structure, then you can also have this regular expectation, which is, “Hey folks, unless, like, my house is on fire, don’t bug me at other times, show up at that time, and let’s have a really clean, respectful relationship.” And because … If you’re sort of setting up this kind of practice, it will tend to insulate itself against other energies. And, you know, it’s not a perfect guarantee but it’ll be really helpful, and so you’re not going to get random things cruising through your life and whatever, you’re going to get your ancestors that are around. And then they’re going to help hold that space and build it, right?
FABEKU: And how important do you think that rhythm, that regularity is, to that? Because I think that insulation piece you spoke to is important. How much … How big of a part do you think that regularity plays to building that kind of container or that insulation up as opposed to just kind of sitting down and doing it when you want to or when you think of it or whatever?
ANDREW: Well. So. We’ve got to think about how do we reach these spirits, right? You know? And they’re out there doing whatever they’re doing. Right? Like, it’s not like spirit is constantly sitting there, always, waiting for us, right? You know what I mean? They’re not 24/7, you know, like Santa Claus watching us and seeing if we’re good or bad, right? They’re doing stuff. Right? And whether that’s for other people, or for themselves, or things that we don’t even really understand from this level, right?
So, if we have a structure, then they know where to show up, right? We’ve got some coordinates where things are going to happen, right? And, depending on the spirit and its relationship with you, it might be available more often, right? You know, I mean my guides that I work with are sort of continuously available to me for the most part. But that’s an agreement that we’ve made and built over time, and that’s an agreement that they’re actually in part here to support and help me do the work that I do, because the work that I’m doing is the work that is their, part of their destiny to make happen, right?
But, you know, if we just show up randomly, it’s not unlike strolling by somebody’s house and knocking on the door. Are they home? Are they getting groceries? Are they sleeping? Who knows, right? But if we have this sort of regularity, then we can really sort of trust what’s going on. And I also think that in time, it becomes possible to be more casual about connecting, once you really know the feel and the energy of the spirits, once you have ways to really trust who it is that’s showing up. But in the beginning, if you’re not sort of in the space that you’ve set aside to it and saying the prayers and going through that process that opens that door and closes that door, it’s not as guaranteed what’s showing up, right?
ANDREW: And, I think that the timing of that is maybe less important than is the space for that, right? But even at that. Maybe also the timing? Especially if you feel like you walk by five days a week and you don’t feel anything there, you know? Maybe they’re really busy with other stuff, right? So.
FABEKU: Mmmhmm. Yeah. I like that. I like the idea of having a … the words you use, coordinate, I like that. Right? It’s kind of like, they always know where you’ll be, at a certain time, and then they get to show up, and then you get to continue to build that bridge, deepen that relationship, do the work, I like that.
ANDREW: Mmmhmm. You know, and, I think that our job is to show up too, whether or not we feel them, right?
ANDREW: I remember my ancestors wanted my partner and I to go to church before we got married, right? We weren’t getting married in a church but a bunch of them were like, we want you to go to a mass. And we’re all like, “ehhh, okay guys, if that’s what you want,” right? And so, we ended up at this Anglican church, which, had like a 5 p.m. on a Friday mass. Right? There was us and one other person in the space, right?
ANDREW: In this church that probably seats like three or four hundred people, right? And the priest came out and they did the mass, and … And I remember sitting there watching them do the mass, and thinking, they would be doing this mass whether or not we were even here.
ANDREW: That this is an agreement. I could tell that this was an agreement that they had made, in this case with God, what have you, but that they were going to hold this space no matter what, because that was their commitment and their practice. And I think that, you know, there’s something deeply loving and relational about that, as opposed to kind of the more transactional spirit stuff that a lot of people, you know, myself included, started out with, right? Like “I really need a new job guys, you gotta help me out,” 100 percent fair, but the more we find ourselves toward these deep lasting loving relationships with those energies, right? I mean, if they make sense for us to work with, the better, right? Because then, it’s a completely different way of being.
FABEKU: Yeah, I like the relational piece of it, right? Because I think it is easy, to, whether it’s intentional or not, to approach it like a transaction, and, you know, when there’s the desire to dig deeper into these relationships, but yet, we’re not really showing up, we’re not really doing our thing, then to me, that kind of weakens the overall structure. It weakens the access and the experience of it.
ANDREW: Mmmhmm. Yeah. And it might be great, and they might not care, but they might really care, right? Or more still, they might really need something to help them, to help them help us, right?
ANDREW: And if we’re not feeding them in that other direction, then, you know, they may not even be able to help, even if they’re willing.
FABEKU: Right. Yeah.
FABEKU: So, you said that work with the ancestors, that it’s changed your relationship to death. Say more about that. I’m curious.
ANDREW: Well, I mean, I really feel this sort of continuum, right? Like, spirit people die and one hundred percent I miss them, right? One hundred percent I’m sad. But, at the same time, you know, so many of these spirits are just on the other side now, and I can talk to them whenever I want, you know? I got a phone call from the partner of a long, long-standing client, who had an ever-escalating series of really critical health problems, to say that this person had passed away, you know? And, you know, I knew it was coming, and this person knew it was coming, cause he used to come to me, and we used to sit and talk about it, cause most of the people in their lives were in denial about it, right? But they had, you know, they had open brain surgery, you know, to remove stuff. Like, big problems, right? And then, big fallout from that.
And, so, when I heard the news, and when I had some time, I sat down and I’m like, “All right. What are they doing? How are they doing? What do they need?” Right? And, and I could find them, you know, and I could feel them, and really, for the most part, what was going on for them was, they were just laughing their ass off now. Cause they were like, “Aw man, what a crap show that was at the end,” and even despite that, despite their hardships that they had in their life, one of the things that was really quite amazing about this person was, they had a life that few people would understand or believe, and yet they still laughed a lot, right? And when I kind of connected with them, and I felt that laugh from them, I’m like, “Oh yeah, you’re all good now, right? You know you’re done? You’re ready to move on, you’re going to do whatever.” I’m like, “Cool. You don’t need anything from me.” Right?
ANDREW: And so that ability to sort of check, it leads less room or almost no room where regret has to live or where uncertainty has to live. You know, I feel like when it comes to, you know, specific spirits and my relationships to them, that I can know what’s going on with them now in a way that is tremendously healing and brings closure and all that kind of stuff.
FABEKU: Yeah. And how has work with the ancestors, how has it changed your approach to magic? I mean you mentioned the not just you doing it all, which I think is good and important. What else has changed for you in terms of the way you see magic, the way you do magic because of these relationships?
ANDREW: So, I mean, when I started out in ceremonial magic, right? I would be like, okay, I’m going to contact this archangel or that goetic spirit or whatever, and I’m going to get them to do this work for me. Right? And that would involve sorting out a ceremony, figuring out what they need to call them, incense, and candles, and all sorts of patterns, and other things to kind of get to that space where I would go through these elaborate ceremonies to get something done. Right? And, you know, I would time it to the minute with the, you know, with the sun and the moon and the … You know, sometimes I’d wait, I’d be like, “You know what, it’s going to be really good next month when the sun’s here and the moon’s there, right?” And I would do all these things, right? And that stuff worked. You know, and that stuff does work, right?
But, like, so, so I would go through this process and I would do this work and so on, right? And the ceremonies themselves would take a long time, usually. You know, cause you’ve got to, I would do banishings, and then other banishings, and then openings, and then callings, and, you know, and depending on the spirit would depend on how much I had to call to get it there, and you know and so on. So, it could take like an hour or longer to do these things. And, and then I would do what I wanted to do, or ask for what I want to ask, and most of the time it would work well. Occasionally a spirit would be like, “sorry, you called the wrong number, too bad on you.”
ANDREW: Right? And then you got to go back to the drawing board, you know like, okay, you know, I thought that was going to work, but what else can I do? And so, I would have these things where, I’d always be looking for the windows where I could work, and looking for the constructs, and how to refine and elaborate these constructs to get me where I wanted to go.
So, now for the most part, I have a shrine for the spirits that I work with in this way, and generally speaking, a lot of it is very, like, straightforward by comparison. “Hey, is this,” like, you know, I’ll ask them, “Is this possible? Yes? Are you willing to do this work for me? Yes? What do you need?” And then I would get a list or an action or a thing or whatever. And then, and I’m like, “All right, is that it?” and they’re like, “Yup,” and then we’re done, right?
ANDREW: And I will, you know, sometimes I will do more elaborate things, you know, if I’m making powders or like, doing stuff. Sometimes there’s process involved, or if I’m cleaning somebody, sometimes there’s process involved, you know, of doing the cleaning and using the items and so on. But, the kind of work, for like, just straight up to open doors for things, or to consecrate talismans … Generally speaking, it’s like, “Yeah, I’m good, give me these things, burn this incense, you know, leave it here for a day or a week, we’ll be done.” And that’s it and I walk away. You know? And the thing about that that’s different is, even when I was contacting spirits before for things, I was using so much of my energy to make that communication happen, right? But now, there’s no distance between me and the spirit, and there’s none of my energy required for the actual work.
ANDREW: In terms of actually making the work itself happen, right? So, I’m basically just being like, you know, “Hey? will you do this thing? Yeah? Does this work for you? Yeah? Done.” Give ’em the stuff, leave it, walk away, come back, “Is it ready? Did you cook it? All right, let’s go, done.” And that’s it, you know. And that’s such a different level of effort, right?
And the other thing about it is, it also means because I’m relying on the spirit, versus you know sort of these other ways of working, I don’t really care what the moon’s doing, or the sun’s doing, or Mercury’s doing, or whatever, because I’m working specifically with one thing that’s going to do the work. And either it will or it won’t or it can or it can’t, and that’s the end of the conversation. And I’m not worrying about all these other aspects so much. So, I’ve kind of slid completely out of this sort of kind of contemporary Western magic witchcraft way of like, paying attention to all these different pieces, and into a very very direct way of working that is super fruitful and ultimately super easy.
FABEKU: Yeah. I like that. And I think that that totally reflects my experience too, right? It’s not that I don’t acknowledge the importance of magical timing, but I think you’re right. There’s other ways to work where it’s just not, you know, it’s not the deciding factor at all.
ANDREW: Mmmhmm. Yeah.
ANDREW: And ultimately for me, it’s more powerful because it’s more convenient. Right?
FABEKU: Mmmhmm. Yeah.
ANDREW: Because you know, I’ve always been aware that necessity trumps other considerations. Right? and having found my way to a way of working with spirits that I work with, where those other things that are required are no longer required, means that I don’t have to like, you know, double my effort cause the moon’s not full, right? Or, you know, double my effort because this thing’s in that, or be extra careful cause Mercury’s retrograde. I mean, you know, it’s not to say that those energies don’t influence my life in a more general way, but in terms of the actual pieces of work, they don’t seem present at all, you know? It’s like people ask me, you know, they’re like, “Oh, there’s a full moon, no, it was the eclipse,” or “The eclipse is coming up,” you know? “What does that mean in the Orisha tradition?” And I’m like, “Nothing. Doesn’t mean anything.”
ANDREW: I mean, it means that like, the Oshubwa’s got a thing going on, you know? Maybe it might be kind of like this energy from this sign, like this is where we would find it, you know? Like, strange phenomenon in the sky? But it doesn’t actually mean anything and it’s not relevant. You know, it’s not even a consideration, so.
FABEKU: Mmmhmm. Yeah.
FABEKU: So, one of the other things that I wanted to talk about with the magic stuff. Both of us are artists, both of us are magicians, and we both work with art and magic in some kind of clearly interwoven ways. So, talk to me about the way “art as magic” works for you in your world and your practice.
ANDREW: [laughing] That–what else is there to say?–art is magic! It’s the thing! Right?
ANDREW: So, I’ve been working on this deck called the Land of the Sacred Self Oracle. And, I’ve posted bits and pieces of it here and there. It doesn’t exist publicly anywhere that I can kind of point to yet, but, you know, it’s on my Instagram and stuff like that. And, when I started making this deck … So, I was, over the last year, I made an Orisha tarot deck, and that deck was thought out and philosophized about and analyzed and whatever. And, not that it’s not magical, cause I think that it is, but it was very cognitively driven as well. So that’s one way in which I make art.
But when I started working on this Land of the Sacred Self Oracle, I took a more surrealist kind of open-ended dream-driven approach to it, right? And, what I want from this deck is, I want people to feel things, I want people to have experiences, I want them to be moved by it, and I’m not going to say anything about any of it, really. It’s going to be a deck without a book for the most part. Because there’s nothing to say about it. Right?
But when I’m making that work, right? For me, each of these cards comes from a place where I’ve been, and I’m sort of falling through the art back towards the sacredness of myself, and back towards the wholeness of who I am. And so, the process of making each of these cards is a magical act, right? And the actual act of making them is a way of creating magic that returns me back to myself from some kind of distance from that, you know? And I–when I’m feeling super connected, I almost never make these cards, because for me, they’re about finding my way into this land where I am complete and magical and plugged into everything, and where I’m not caught up in taxes, driving around the city, problems with my, you know my kids are having at school, you know, whatever, right? Like all the life stuff, right? That can take us away from that spirit. These cards are gateways back towards that. Both personally in making them, but also, hopefully, as an artifact afterwards then for other people. Right?
ANDREW: So you know, that’s one of the things that I do, and then I mean a lot of the other stuff I do is around self-identity through portraiture, and so I do a lot of portrait work, well for myself and other people, where I am, you know, trying to align myself to a place where I need to be, or trying to shift some part of my ego, or my own actually way of being into a different place. And then I set those up and I have one on the wall right now that I’m sort of looking at, where I look at them all the time until I feel like I occupy that space, you know? And it came out of a conversation that you and I had about something, where we were doing some work together, and there was, the image that you gave me was, “I feel like your future self is very close, but it’s right beside you but covered in a sheet.”
ANDREW: And I was like, all right. So, I’m going to like, imagine myself lifting that sheet and looking at my future self and listening to what it has to say, and then drawing pictures of that, as a way of getting there. You know, as a way of, both sort of subtly, symbolically, nonlinearly, making changes that otherwise might take a very long time if I try to take a sort of more brain-driven talky approach to it. So.
FABEKU: And what is it about art? Why is art that bridge for you as opposed to writing about it, or meditation, or … What is it specifically about art?
ANDREW: Hmm. For me, the act of making art is … My whole system gets into it, right? Like, I can meditate and stuff like that, and I can sort of do spirit journeying, and like, you know I mean like there’s many things that I could do, right? And I do some of those things at other times.
But the thing about making the art is that the process of it absorbs me, and the process of it reveals things to me through the process, right? So, like, I rarely, like when I’m doing these Land of the Sacred Self cards, for example, right? I’m like, what needs to be there? Oh. Giant egg? Okay, there’s a giant egg, okay, it’s floating in space, okay, and, it’s actually hollow inside and there’s a rabbit inside looking at a diamond, and there’s a hole in the roof and there’s a ladder that goes up to the sun, and the sun is throwing these things back down at the earth, and below the earth there’s this cavern, and there’s this journey that happens, right? Where it’s created, and it reveals to me the things that need to be shown, right? The symbols, the patterns, and each step along the way is a process of making a change, you know? It’s a … it reminds me a lot of those sort of Tibetan Book of the Dead type things. It’s like “Okay, so you’re dying. Hey, you’re dying, dude. Good luck. Go down the hall. There’s a green door. Open the green door. Make a left turn. You’re going to see a monkey. Keep walking.” Like, I don’t know. Whatever.
There are these pathways that we can be led, and when I’m making the art itself, some part of that sort of deep eternal part of myself, or other things leans in, and collaboratively we [inaudible] make the stuff happen.
FABEKU: And so, the revelatory piece … tell me, how does that match up for you, being a diviner? Right? So how is that similar to and different from doing a spread of cards and looking at those set of symbols and how those things reveal pieces to us? How does the rabbit and the egg and the sun and the diamond … How does that work?
ANDREW: So, with how I read for people when they’re coming in for readings, with practical questions, it doesn’t line up that much at all. I mean, I’m reading the cards, I’m predicting the future, I’m doing things like that, right? And, you know, I mean, all of that symbol interpretation and exploration is a similar skill, but it’s not really the same. But, you know, and I talked a little bit about this in a Stacking Skulls episode that we just did, right? When I sit down every day, every couple days, and I read cards for myself, I look at the cards, I’m interpreting them, their meaning, I’m making some notes, and then I’m sliding into the symbols of the cards, or the visuals of the cards, and I start to abandon the meaning. Start to abandon the notion that that figure is even a figure. What if they’re just a pattern? Right? You know, I start to look at things like where are there obstacles? Where are there ways through? And I start to slide into a very deeply poetic way of interpreting the cards.
And as I do that journey, it becomes very similar, it takes me into that space, right? And so, in that sense it’s very similar to the process, and often coming out of that, I will end up with symbols or mantras or things that I’m working with, you know? And there’s actually, there are actually sort of set symbols that recur to me when I work through the cards, and those mesh with what comes up in other places, but they’re not the same, right?
ANDREW: You know, there’s this sort of crank arm with a gear attached to it that I see often and I sort of come back to, as I’m looking at the cards, and I find it in all sorts of places where that’s certainly not what the artist of the cards intended, right? And it reminds me of different aspects of the work that I’m doing. You know, that crank arm doesn’t show up anywhere in any of my other work, right? It is a tarot interface symbol for me.
ANDREW: You know? I don’t see, like the rabbit as a recurrent theme in the Land of the Sacred Self cards, it’s not a symbol that usually emerges in card reading for me. You know, I mean, like, number one, there’s no rabbit in the Tarot de Marseilles, but beyond that, I don’t even see them in there, even if I could, right? So. So they overlap in a similar way, and they take me to a similar place, but the art part is more about moving around the internal furniture and shifting ego pieces or rebuilding ego pieces, whereas the divination part is more about getting myself into the zone.
ANDREW: And keeping myself in the zone, you know?
ANDREW: It’s more of a day to day piece and the art is more of a weekly or monthly, depending on how much I’m doing, but like kind of big picture piece.
FABEKU: And how does the art and magic piece come together in terms of the work that you do for other people, for client work and things?
ANDREW: Well, I mean when I’m doing these portraits for people, I do these portraits where I start with a photograph, and I step into the spirit world and see them from that point of view, right? And, you know, so I mean, what happens during that is, people get seen, that bigger vision of themselves, right? It gets revealed to them in a concrete way that they can look at and work with. You know, and when I do these impossible readings, which are sort of art videos that are set to sound and stuff, that are sort of transformational experiences, those pieces translate into a similar sort of shifting of their ego or their sense of self or their way of being in the world, that opens them up to bigger possibilities, deeper connections, and, you know, deeper openings, right? And you know, and then, I mean, secondarily, I mean it’s totally, it totally is art, although not in the same way, I mean, all that stuff translates into my sigil work as well, right? I mean, to me making sigils is art in its own way, so.
FABEKU: And what do you think it is about art and magic that those two things play so well together and have played so well together for so long? What’s the … Why is that for you?
ANDREW: Well, I mean, where … Where haven’t they played well together, right? I mean, if you roll back through, I mean, obviously, maybe it’s just the remembering mystics and magicians and so on, right, but like, you know, look at Crowley, right? He wrote a ton of poetry. You know? Look at Austin Spare, you know? He made so much art. And even the people who weren’t artists, right? or weren’t known for being artists? They, so many of them, made art even if it wasn’t sort of shared or, you know, consumed on a bigger level, right? I mean I think that there is just sort of, there is a direct possibility of a connection that’s there, where the art influences the magic, the magic influences the art, and both open us up to different ways of seeing the world, and it allows us to sort of, kind of like remember and live in dream space …
ANDREW: … while conscious and awake, right? You know, I mean like, look at Carl Jung’s Red Book, right? You know I mean that sort of active imagination piece. It’s there in so many different sources in one way or another, whether literary or, you know, or visual or whatever, and I think that having access to that is a tremendous tool that, you know, if we can get out of our way to allow it to happen is pretty tremendous, you know?
FABEKU: Mmmhmm. Well, and I think there’s something about both art and magic where you … There’s the whole working and thinking symbolically, you know, and to me that’s really an equally important skill when it comes to the practice of magic and the creation of art or the experience of arts or, you know, whatever. It’s this sigil, this candle, this plant, it’s a symbolic proxy for whatever this piece is or there’s the element of, you know, this, like you said, this rabbit, this sun, reveals a certain thing, that becomes a proxy for something. So, it seems that in some ways not only do they interface well but they’re building similar muscles and using similar skills sets.
ANDREW: Yeah. I mean, they build a language for us, right? And they build a way of understanding things, right? And, you know, I mean it’s like, I used to spend a lot of time looking at my dreams and writing down my dreams and analyzing them. And you know, I spent some time doing that with a Jungian analyst, for a few years, and, you know, those symbols very quickly became regular, right? Before they seemed chaotic and random, and I think that they were, right? I think that my unconscious and my shadow was trying to get my attention. And it was like, “All right, let’s try a giant alligator. Okay, let’s try falling. Okay, let’s try shark attack! Okay, let’s try a car accident. Let’s try …” You know, like things, right?
And, but when I started working on it, then the spaces that I was in became regular. You know, there was a smaller rotation of being in the same places, there was a smaller rotation of symbols that would emerge, and as I clarified what those things meant, then those symbols would not necessarily disappear, but they wouldn’t occupy the dream in the same way, and then other symbols would emerge that would further clarify that. And I think that in the way that making art or building a sort of codex with spirits that you work with and stuff, you know, it becomes this thing, right? Where it’s like okay, super super straightforward, and, you know, I mean, I do this and then that will help with this, or you know. This symbol is here, and oh wait, this symbol is emerging more strongly, and it’s related to my anxiety, or my insecurity, or my fear, so I better check that, right? Or, you know, hey, this is warning me that this is a sign that shows up when I’m not paying attention to something that needs attention, maybe. You know, many things, right? But, yeah.
FABEKU: Well, the two things I like about that … in some ways it kind of circles back to the conversation that we started with about the dead. The idea of making space, right? The symbols are initially kind of incoherent and all over the place, but the more we dig in, the more we give them space, the more we work with them, they’re contained and they become increasingly coherent, and, I also like what you said about the language piece, right, because I think that there is something to both art and magic, where it’s this sort of communication, whether it’s communication to the audience, communication with the others, the invisible, and I think the more we understand that, and the more intentionally we build up the language, obviously just like learning any other language, the more skilled and adept we become at it.
ANDREW: Yeah, for sure. Right? I mean, so like, I talk to lots of people who are kind of starting out in magic, and they’re like, “Do I need to learn kabbalah? Do I need to learn this? Do I need to learn anything? Why don’t I just get it all from spirit?” And, if you can genuinely get it all from spirit, cool! Right? But that doesn’t tend to happen very much. And it doesn’t tend to happen in sort of one big revelation where they just download everything to you and now you’re good to go. It takes time and there’s a process, and, if you are working within a system, then it really behooves you to learn the symbols of that system, right? You know, I mean like, there’s … In the Orisha traditions, there’s a proverb, which is, don’t ask what you already know, right? And this proverb has SO many applications. But one of the applications that it has is, there are certain questions that you never ask cause you know that’s just not how it’s done, right? Like, you know what I mean, like if I’m going to give a pigeon to Elegguá, I wouldn’t ask, I would never ask that question, cause it doesn’t happen, right? It’s not what’s done, and so I never need to ask that question, right? But, and the more we know the questions that we can and should ask, or what symbols mean, or what the pattern of symbols are, the more we can remove all those sort of unnecessary questions, and therefore make space for deeper and more genuine connection. Which is kind of the opposite of what a lot of people, I see a lot of people sort of thinking, which is, I can just go to spirit and they can just tell me the things, and I’m like, that’s cool, but that’s a lot of work, right?
ANDREW: It’s a lot of work for spirit, and it’s a lot of work for you, and if you don’t already have a clearly codified relationship, you know … And especially if you’re working within a structure, then how do you know what’s going on? And how do you know when you’re asking a question that you shouldn’t ask? And therefore, whatever answer you get is useless. Right?
FABEKU: Well, and that’s the thing. So, I think in that way it’s almost exactly like learning a language, because, you know, somebody I know is teaching me Romanian right now, I know maybe 30 words, maybe at best. [laughs] And so I could just say, well, you know, why don’t I just intuitively express … I don’t have the vocabulary for it! I don’t know the words! And the amount of effort required to get that to happen, like you said, is enormous. If I have access to 300 words, then that gives me greater ability to transmit what I want. And I think it’s exactly the same thing when it comes to magic. You know? If you have the vocabulary you can use it.
ANDREW: You know … in my mind you’re wearing like a …
ANDREW: … one of those like black artist turtlenecks, and you’re doing interpretive dance!
ANDREW: … to communicate in Romanian to somebody. Right?
FABEKU: [laughing] Exactly! And I think there’s a whole lot of magic that looks a lot like interpretive dance! [laughing]
FABEKU: So, one of the things I’m always curious about when I talk to magicians is, what’s your magical origin story? How did you get into it? What was … and whether it’s the first … they’re the same thing or not, I’m curious, what’s the first act of magic that you did, that really kind of solidified, “Holy shit, this is real,” like “This is really a thing.”
ANDREW: So, I was always into it. Right? Like there was never a time where I was not interested in magical stuff. Right? I mean, when I was a kid, it was colored by kid lenses, wizards and dragons and Dungeons and Dragons and, you know … And, the inroad where I started to find things that were more real was actually through like, 80s ninja movies, right? So, me and my friends were watching these movies, and were like, “You know what’d be cool? We should start meditating like them. We should start learning.” Right? And, so we set up this space in my friend’s suburban basement crawl space, right? We got some paper that was, we thought was rice paper, but whatever it was …
ANDREW: It made this little ninja room in the back, right? And we would crawl in there, and we would light up our incense, and we would sit and meditate. Right? And, then coming out of that, I started doing martial arts, and when I started doing martial arts, I started learning to meditate, right? And the person that I was studying from at the time, you know, he would sleep for four hours and then meditate for four hours every night. That was his deal. And he would do transcendental stuff, and he would do other things, and we did this meditation where, whatever we did to get there, we started to shrink. And he’s like, “Just get smaller, get smaller, notice the mat you’re on getting bigger,” and in the meditation, he led us through to sort of dropping through the pores in the concrete on which we were laying. And looking at other things. And, some of that really started to open me up into other possibilities, you know? And, you know, around that time, I mean I’d already been excited and interested in magic, and I was reading a lot of like fantasy and stuff like that that tied into that, and you know, I found some books by Aleister Crowley, and you know, I found a bunch of other occulty-type books, which, you know, were 80s classics, like The Necromonicon, and …
ANDREW: … the Satanic Bible!
ANDREW: But I started reading all this stuff, right? And, I started trying to think about it, trying to understand it. You know? And so, that was kind of the start of it for me. I don’t really remember, like what the starting of doing magic was as such, you know? I mean, I remember trying to read, in Magic in Theory and Practice, Crowley’s description of the banishing ritual and trying to do something with it, which is horrible. There are no actual instructions, right?
ANDREW: In retrospect, actually knowing what is meant by it, I’m like, “Dude, you’re a horrible technical writer!”
ANDREW: But you know, like, yeah, but like, at that time, I was very interested in a lot of stuff, and mostly, especially because when I was 14, I almost died in an accident, I really just wanted to understand things and know things, you know? And so, I just started reading everything, and talking to people, and, you know, kind of, you know, making art that was sort of heading in that direction. I was always making art, right? Ever since I was a kid, and I look at the art that I made leading into, you know, leading out of high school and into going to art school, and it was all psycho magical surrealist kind of things, right? You know? And, yeah, so.
FABEKU: And what is it about magic that’s kept you doing it for 30 years? What’s the thing that keeps you moving in this direction for three decades?
ANDREW: Cause life is fucking hard!
FABEKU: [chuckles] Yeah.
ANDREW: If you, like, if you have some mechanism through which you can make life easier, and especially if you have some mechanisms where you can up your capacity to cope, or your resilience, then, then that’s the things to keep doing, you know?
ANDREW: Cause, like, life is no joke, right? It is not easy, and even when things are going well, it’s often difficult, you know? I mean, there’s just a challenge to persisting, right? To fighting with entropy all the time. And, for me, magic is that thing that allows me to be resilient, to roll with stuff, to manage things, to keep showing up, right? And, AND, to keep being available to the things that I want, right? And where there’s a distance between the thing that I want, and where I am, you know, it helps me bridge that distance, it helps me get there, so.
FABEKU: I like that, a challenge to persisting. I think that’s an incredibly accurate way of describing it.
ANDREW: Mmmhmm. yeah.
FABEKU: So, one of the questions somebody asked, and this might be a good way to wrap. I’m curious. They asked, “What’s the most challenging thing about being you?”
ANDREW: [chuckles] I mean, the most challenging thing about being me is being me. Right? It’s also one of the great things about being me. I live in a way that other people don’t really understand. Right? I mean, you know.
And I don’t mean, like, woe is me, nobody gets me, and I’m going to sit around and wear my black turtleneck and smoke clove cigarettes, right? and drink, you know, drink port all day, or something, right? Like, you know, it’s not in that like gothy angsty teen way, but my reality is really really different from so many other people’s, right?
Practically speaking, I mean I run my own store; I make my living, you know, reading cards and doing spirit work for people; that in and of itself is different than, you know, 99.99 percent of the population, right? You know, I’m a priest in a Afro-Cuban religion, which is quite different from most of the other people. And even where there’s the appearance of overlap, right? Like, many people are often like, well, like, you’re just a pagan, right? Why don’t you just hang out with pagans? I’m like, well, I mean technically you could see it as a pagan religion, but really it’s a monotheistic religion, and, you know, and it’s not that I have anything against pagans at all. But their relationship to spirit and especially their relationship to Orisha has no real resemblance to mine. And practically speaking doesn’t have any real overlap. It’s very different, right? It’s so different in that regard, right?
And so, in many ways, my challenge is to really be authentic and honor all the stuff that I’m doing, but then to also not let that separate me or isolate me from the world, right? To like continue to be engaged and continue to stay in the world and doing things in the world that keep me connected to people on a more sort of, on other levels, right? You know, and to sort of always be working and looking to understand commonality through, you know, through these things that are pretty radically different, you know? So. Yeah.
ANDREW: Cause it’s easy to start to feel like, oh, I’m the only person like this that I know, and that’s not entirely true, but you know, it’s not that far from being true, in many ways, right? And, you know? So. Yeah.
FABEKU: And how does magic keep you engaged? Say more about that piece.
ANDREW: I mean, so, like my practice of working with my ancestors, and working with, you know, spirits and the Orishas and stuff like that, you know, I mean, those things keep me engaged because the spirits keep being like, “Dude, don’t herm it up! Don’t go, you know, don’t go live in the woods! Don’t disappear!” Right?
And, they also sort of help me keep a perspective on … It’s easy, and I see both myself and other people at different times doing this, right? See things that mark difference, and sort of use that as a way of creating distance. Right?
ANDREW: Or justifying distance or allowing distance to be there, right? And, so, you know, I’m sort of, always sort of leaning on spirits and advice from spirit and guidance from divination and other things to keep myself from what might be a natural inclination to be more distant from the world, you know? And so, it keeps, they keep pushing me back, and then I use things like making art and sharing it and stuff like that as ways of creating connection. Right?
You know, I mean, in some ways this podcast, right, is a way of me creating and sharing connection, because I value the dialogues that come from doing this work and the way in which that keeps me engaged and keeps me connected with people whom I might otherwise not necessarily have a connection with or see a connection with. I create that and even if there’s different ideas or disagreements even, that doesn’t really matter, cause we’re still connecting. You know?
FABEKU: Yeah. I like that. The whole connection piece, it’s a big deal. Yeah.
ANDREW: It is a big deal. You know? And I think that it’s a thing that, you know certainly I saw it in the ceremonial community when I was in that community, right? Lots of people separate themselves from the world by virtue of what they’re doing, but I always go back to, there’s a line from Crowley’s Gnostic Mass, which I used as a mantra for a long time. Which is, “I am just a man amongst men. How will I be worthy to administer the virtues to the brethren?” Right? And like, that sort of piece of making sure I’m keeping myself in check if any arrogance is emerging, making sure that I’m recognizing that I have to both serve people in spirit, you know, cause those things are both part of the equation. You know? And just sort of noticing that my role is to be here on this world and be a part of this world, not just to disappear into the spirit realm, and, you know, wear a fancy hat and fancy robes. As much as I love my fancy robes.
FABEKU: [laughs] Well, you know what I love about that is I think that, to me, that’s an important point that sort of stands out in a lot of conversations about magic. I think there’s … Often, and I’ve done the same thing, there’s a conversation about kind of the outsiderness of magic and magicians, which I get, and I, you know, there’s certainly kind of an Other component to it, but, I, what I like about the way you’re talking about it is the way that the magic reengages you with life, so it decreases the distance instead of increasing it, which I think is … Yeah, I think that’s a different and really important point.
ANDREW: Yeah. And you know, the more I am brave about that, the more I find that people really just engage with it, you know?
ANDREW: And people are just open to it in a way that’s just like, “Oh, okay, cool!” You know? And like … And granted I live in a relatively progressive city, right? You know, I mean I don’t live in a super conservative kind of, you know, negatively religiously judgemental space, right? So, I mean, obviously my circumstance is not everybody’s circumstance. But like, you know, the, I get tremendous support for my business from the city and from the provincial people and you know, like, I’m, and I just, go and engage with those people and they just recognize it as legitimate right from the get go, and just work with us, you know, and, you know, I’m just really open about those things. I try to be really open about what I’m actually doing and so on, and, you know, so many people have all these worries and anxieties about that, right? And, you know, you might find that there are problems. I run into some really weird stuff, you know. I had a cute couple of people sort of yell at me outside the store at different points in time or whatever, but, that’s almost never the outcome that I get, you know?
ANDREW: And, so, I mean again, I live in a progressive city, so there are places where obviously that’s more of a challenge. But you know, I think that, you know, that being open and being engaged and being just like, these are the things, this is what I’m doing. I think that that gets us further than sort of, you know, cloistering in our temple and, you know, reading a lot of books.
ANDREW: Not that there’s anything wrong with books.
FABEKU: [chuckles] Very well said. That seems like a good place to wrap our conversation, yeah?
ANDREW: Yeah, absolutely! Thank you for being the host.
FABEKU: No, thanks for having me. This has been fantastic. Congratulations on 75 episodes! I’m excited to see what’s next for you!
ANDREW: Thanks man.