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Witch Ayesha Tan Jones talks herbs, spells, and their coven Shadow Sistxrs


TextAlex PetersPhotographyHazel Gaskin

The activist who shut the Gucci catwalk down in protest is also a witch, creative and founder of self-defence collective Shadow Sxsters, photographed by Hazel Gaskin

Welcome to Witch Week, a campaign dedicated to exploring how witchcraft, magick and beauty intersect. Discover photo stories shot featuring real witches in NYC, a modern reimagining of the witch, and one witch’s mission to get a tan, as well as in-depth features exploring herbology, science and alchemy, and male witches. Elsewhere, we’ve created four special covers to celebrate the campaign and our one year anniversary – something wicked this way comes.

Artist, musician, model, and witch Ayesha Tan Jones grew up with magic. With their mother’s encouragements in their ear, as they got older they honed their intuitions, incorporating magic into their everyday life and work. The video for their song “Grandchildren,” for example, sees Ayesha (under their musical alias Yaya Bones) invite their queer family to dance and cast spells with their bodies. While self-defence collective ‘Shadow Sistxrs Fight Club’ gives a space for womxn, non-binary, queer people, and people of colour to learn self-defence, cast spells and meditate. 

Here, photographed by Hazel Gaskin, we speak to Ayesha about their craft, rituals, and what magick means to them.

Did you grow up with magic? When did you know you were a witch?

Ayesha Tan Jones: Both my parents are pretty spiritual, and my mother always affirmed to me that I am capable of magic. I used to stare at spoons to try and make them move with my mind. She would encourage me and say, ‘Ayesha, we are all witches, we are part of a lineage, we just have to train ourselves.’ I remember this daily, because magic and witchcraft is an eternal practise, a lifelong dedication, and each day we learn more and delve deeper – we’re eternal students. 

What does it mean to be a witch?

Ayesha Tan Jones: To me, being a witch is being someone in total acknowledgement of their actions, knowing what you give out, you receive back tenfold. So, being an ally to the communities that need your support, speaking the truth and fighting for justice is all witchcraft. Someone who is in tune with nature and the connection of all things, not only the cycles of nature, but also the systems which connect and also neglect communities, and doing the work to help care for the planet and marginalised communities. It’s important to acknowledge that it is a western privilege to identify as a witch, even though there is a huge documented history of atrocities to European witches during the witch craze of the 1600s, still to this day there are many parts of the world where people/women are still being branded and tortured for witchcraft. 

Growing up did you identify with or were you influenced by witches you saw in pop culture/books etc?

Ayesha Tan Jones: Obviously I was obsessed with pop culture witches like Sabrina, Matilda, Harry Potter, The Craft... but I never saw witches that looked like me. I am currently on a journey of reconnecting to my Chinese/Malaysian heritage, and incorporating the myths, medicine and magic of my history into my craft, my art and my music, as well as learning the power of Qi/Ki/Chi through Reiki healing, Qi Gong, Tai Chi, and Kung Fu.

How do you prepare yourself before a spell? What is your ritual?

Ayesha Tan Jones: I like cleansing the space with local herbs like rosemary, bay leaves, journal, possibly bathe or shower, meditating and focusing on my intention. Then I sit at my altar and light candles (the colour of candles with be determined by the spell). 

Do you have a specific beauty/body ritual or look?

Ayesha Tan Jones: I often paint a blue portal on my throat, as this is the colour of the throat chakra – it helps me connect to my words, to speak my truth, to share wisdom and be more caring with my words. 

How does performing magick make you feel?

Ayesha Tan Jones: It reminds me that I’m a part of the universal magick web really. I feel very beautiful and it helps me feel more connected to every living thing. I am able to create my own realities, and with hard work, dedicating visualisation and understanding, I can achieve my dreams.

Do you feel beautiful when you do spells? Strong?

Ayesha Tan Jones: Sometimes I feel strong, often I feel grounded, sometimes I feel at mercy to the power of the moon, sometimes I feel messy, magic and spiritual work is not always beautiful. It can be hectic, you are confronting your shadow self, the darkest parts of your being, it isn’t all ‘The sun’ tarot cards, rose water, and crystal balls. There’s fermenting swamps to wade through, fires to control, towers falling, and rubble to re-build with. 

Tell us about Shadow Sistxrs Fight Club. What is it? How did it come about?

Ayesha Tan Jones: Shadow Sistxrs Fight Club is a donation-based self-defence class for QTIBIPOC and allies, which myself and Monique Ettiene founded in 2016. We learn karate, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and medicinal and magical herbalism, as well as exploring movement meditation and breathing exercises, always approaching self-defence on a holistic level.  

Does it incorporate magick? 

Ayesha Tan Jones: Yes, coming together as a collective of queer black and brown bodies and focusing our intentions to learn the tools to protect and heal ourselves is an immensely powerful thing. The class runs like a ritual. It’s one big protection spell and Shadow Sistxrs acts like an ephemeral roaming coven.

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