Exploring Light Magic: An Interview with Lisa Marie Basile

We at Rag Queen Periodical are so excited for our dear friend, Lisa Marie Basile, whose new book Light Magic for Dark Times will be available this September!

Lisa Marie Basile is a poet-witch and founding creative director of Luna Luna magazine—a diary of darkness and light, literature, identity, and magic. Her work encounters the intersection of ritual and wellness, chronic illness, magic, overcoming trauma, and poetry. She is the author of Light Magic for Dark Times and poetry collections Andalucia and Apocryphal, as well as the forthcoming Nympholepsy. She has written for the New York Times, Narratively, Grimoire magazine, Venefica, The Establishment, Refinery 29, Bust, Hello Giggles, and more. Her work has been nominated for the Best American Experimental Writing anthology and for several Pushcart Prizes, and has appeared in The Best Small Fictions, selected by Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Robert Olen Butler. Lisa Marie earned a master's degree in writing from The New School and studied literature and psychology at Pace University. She lives in New York City. Follow her here: @lisamariebasile


Kailey Tedesco, RQP’s co-founder and EIC, had the pleasure of discussing magic, identity, childhood, and inspiration with Lisa. Read the full interview + information on how to purchase Light Magic for Dark Times here! xox

Kailey Tedesco: Thank you so much for discussing light magic with us at Rag Queen Periodical today! Can you tell us a little about your new book, Light Magic for Dark Times?

Lisa Marie Basile: Firstly, thank you so much for having me. I’m honored! Light Magic for Dark Times is a grimoire of not-complicated, adaptable rituals and practices for people (especially women and femmes) who want to actualize their intentions and take inventory of their feelings, dreams, and intuitions. There are chapters on everything from moving through grief and trauma and channeling regeneration to shadow work and finding a kind of magic that speaks to you.

The reader is definitely encouraged to modify steps or objects used or words, too! I wanted to create a book that was compassionate, not pandering, accessible and kind--for modern magic makers or people who are new to the idea of a magical lifestyle. It’s also fully (and beautifully) illustrated by the wonderful Ada Keesler!

And, you know, because I came from poetry, there’s a whole section on writing and poetry magic!

KT: What, for you, differentiates light magic from dark magic? Have you ever found yourself veering towards the dark unintentionally? If so, how do you redirect yourself towards positivity in those situations?

LMB: This is such an important question and I am so glad that you asked. In my mind, light magic is sort of what happens when you want to grow, evolve, heal, divine, or tap into your inner strength. That might mean wading into the darker (or secret, hidden, shadow-y) feelings we have. It’s all hand-in-hand; light can’t exist without dark, and vice versa. More so, darkness isn’t inherently bad. Our shadows are there for a reason. I’m not sure how others might define dark magic, but I believe it’s on the spectrum of all magic, alongside working with light--just coming from a different place with a different purpose.

My book is super rooted in the exploration and honoring of darkness, even though its title is Light Magic for Dark Times. I just think it’s relative--to who is practicing, what their practice or cultural beliefs are, what their goals are, and how they direct their energy. I think that’s the beauty of magic.

KT: I’ve always felt like the archetypes of light and dark can sometimes be intersectional or even conflated altogether, depending on who is approaching them. Do you engage in any practices or rituals that you would consider light that others might consider dark?

LMB: I totally agree! There’s definitely no perfectly-drawn binary (light OR dark, good OR bad, etc--this is reductive). I think part of my answer above applies here. I believe that light and dark are, in essence, one, and that they necessitate one another.

If a hex (sometimes called dark magic), for example, is freeing or healing in some may, that’s a form of light work, to me. If you bind something or someone from harming you, that’s not necessary light or dark. It’s just your reality. I think intention separates all. Our intentions are what drive magic. What is at the root of your intention? I constantly ask myself this.

I think about working with Hecate, who rules the crossroads, and how she is often associated with darkness (and rightfully so, of course). I would maybe say that through my work with her darker energies I’ve emerged into a state of light, healing, truth. That, to me, is the perfect balance of light and dark. That’s sort of also why I created Luna Luna -- to explore the “sides,” light and dark--of the moon, of ourselves.

KT: Many of our readers use light magic in the form of astrology, daily rituals, tarot, intention casting, etc. in order to better understand and examine their identity/sense of self. What has magic, dark or light, taught you about yourself? Did you have any revelations about your own identity while writing this book?

LMB: I love that people use those tools! I often meet people who don’t exactly identify as a witch but that cast spells, draw cards, work with moon cycles, and I love that, too. Magical living is very personal and I think it’s an ever-changing tide. Our paths change, our beliefs change, the way we interact with energy changes, our understandings of our own powers change.

During the book writing process I changed, for sure. In the beginning, I was overwhelmed, I doubted myself. I questioned whether or not I should be writing the book. But over time, and in doing the rituals I write about it, I tapped into a place where I graciously respected my opportunity, and my ability, and all the years of my life (good and bad) that led me to the point at which I began writing it. It was sort of like a ritual shedding; I suddenly felt deeply in tune with the fact that I was alive, and part of this whole world, and that I was simply grateful to being able to add to the narrative.

In writing it, I felt like I became stronger, and that my life’s work was taking shape.

As a poet and essayist, it was transformative to write spells and practices, too. I suddenly was more than the one thing I defined myself as. And it felt good to expand and be fluid.

KT: The title of your book resonates so much with me, as I’m sure it does with so many others. Currently, many of us are experiencing “dark times” on a national level and self-care has, in many ways, been popularized as an antidote for this darkness as well as an act of rebellion against it. Can you tell us about one of your personal practices for self-care in times of darkness? How does this practice empower you?

LMB: When my editor and I were talking about this book, I really think social-cultural issues were the silent throughline. We were always sort of poking at it without being too explicit. People need to take a minute away from the pain and chaos and give back to themselves or their communities. I know I do. The past year has been rough for me personally, on top of the presidential circus sideshow, so I have been using a rose of Jericho a LOT. It’s otherwise called a resurrection plant, and it whithers and shrinks when dry and then unfurls and blooms when watered. It just goes on and on and I am in awe of its resilience. I keep it green and brilliant and watered as a symbol of my own strength. Often I’ll surround it with words I’ve written about things I need to move through. Sometimes I’ll meditate with it.

KT: What inspirations did you draw upon while writing Light Magic for Dark Times? How, if at all, did these inspirations differ from those you veer towards while writing poetry?

LMB: I actually was just talking about this the other day to someone and came to the conclusion that while the form is totally different, the ME-ness is still entirely there. The grimoire is concerned with the same things as my work as a poet and essayist: death, forgiveness, the self as something to be worshipped, sex, creating beauty and honoring the shadow.

I also drew on my work with Luna Luna--people consistently have asked for easier-to-do, not super expensive, accessible rituals and practices that don’t co-opt closed cultural practices and that feel ceremonial in nature but not overwhelmingly or exclusively so. I think people are hungry for ways to find autonomy in magic but often feel deterred by the idea that you must be initiated or that someone else has to grant you your validity as a magical practitioner. We don’t need permission, you know? I think a lot of amazing books right now are sort of moving in that direction--and it’s great that I got to add to that.

That said, I do honor practices of lineage and long-standing tradition. I just wanted to make space for others, too.

KT: In some of your previous essays and interviews, you’ve mentioned finding witchcraft and identifying as a witch at a young age. How do you think that younger version of yourself would feel knowing she will one day write a grimoire? Do you think that younger version of you would read Light Magic for Dark Times?

LMB: Hahaha, oh Kailey….this is so wild! It’s like you read my mind. Here’s what my younger self, maybe 13, is doing right now:

She’s sitting in an overly air-conditioned library in Elizabeth, New Jersey checking out books about wicca and witchcraft (I’m not Wiccan, but there were more books about Wicca back then). She’s trying to figure out build a blog on gurlpages.com where she can share some of what she’s learned. (The Internet wasn’t something we all had then!). She’s in a field with bare feet, listening to the sky and the trees. She’s definitely imaginging a world where she can write and be creative. She’s reading about magic because she feels a pull toward something greater than some of the shit she’s dealing with in her family life.

She would be so happy. I guess I did this for her. She’d LOVE this book. Is that a blurb? Can my past self blurb my book?

KT: The creative director of Rag Queen, Mauve Y. Perle, recently asked each of our staff members how we show love. The answers varied, but they were all completely beautiful. How do you show love? Does magic play a role in the way you give love to others?

LMB: This is an amazing question, and one I find surprisingly hard to answer. I was going to say I show love in Z, Y, or Z ways (all tangible). But really, it’s quieter than that. I think the answer is I hold people in my heart and think good things for them. I think that’s a form of magic. Intent.

KT: Thank you so much again. I recently pre-ordered your book, and I’m so excited to read it. Can you tell our readers how they can also purchase a copy (or two!) of Light Magic for Dark Times?

LMB: Kailey, you’re such a support. Thank youuuu!

There are lots of ways to preorder the book!

For one, Amazon. Then via my Publisher.

Via IndieBound (to support your local indie shops).

You can also purchase in the US, UK, NZ, Cananda and Australia here.

I also created a blog to explore some of what my book explores...from various opinions. It’s called Light Magic :: Dark Times, and I interview people in my column #RitualTalk about their rituals.

And, of course, Luna Luna!