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The Modern Witch: An Interview With Marty Windahl

The Modern Witch An Interview With Marty Windahl

Marty Windahl has a very special practice. She is an interdisciplinary artist whose current body of work is a marriage of many, many of her interests. It’s part writing project, part clairvoyant performance. It’s part lifestyle assistance, part metaphysical forecasting. It’s part public service, part benevolent future gazing witchcraft. Her current project is Tarotscopes, a weekly guide to life based on her readings of horoscope and tarot cards. It’s a very cool public project that seeks to help you navigate your every day by way of a little magic.

Marty is a little lady who lives in Silver Lake. She recently moved into a glowing white space that is where she makes the weekly Tarotscopes. The space has a very nice connection to the outdoors, something that is very important to Marty. You actually hear about her tie to nature very much in her writing.

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“I grew up in Iowa. I don’t really know what to say about that but I felt like I was very tied to the land,” she explains. “It wasn’t totally rural: it was a city–but my house was in the woods. That had a huge impact on me now, even in a big city like Los Angeles. There’s still some part of that that I carry with me.”

“My parents are huge travelers. They decided to settle in Iowa because that’s what they thought you should do if you’re a good parent: you should settle in one area and raise your kids. They did that for my first fifteen years and, even during that time, they were always inviting exchange students over from universities for dinner. They still had this international bend.”

“We moved to Brazil when I was fifteen,” she continues. “My parents decided that they couldn’t take it any more and that it wasn’t enough to live vicariously through dinner guests. I feel like in my life it is very important to have new experiences. Traveling has been huge for that, too. There’s something about it that gives you a perspective that I think is really important, to see things that are completely different than you are used to seeing. Then, when you come back home, everything looks fresh and new. Living in Brazil, I feel like I got a lot of that perspective that I hadn’t had. Many of the people that I grew up with in Iowa were born there, lived there, have families there, die there.”

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Marty moved back to Iowa after two years in Brazil. She started high school and felt strangely alien in her former home. “I came back for a year and went to an American high school. I was so horrified that I graduated early and I went back to Brazil as an exchange student. There was a lot of shuffling but I ended up in Oakland at Mills College. I was there, then I dropped out for a few years, and then I went back and I ended up graduating.”

“I always wanted to come to California,” she says, reflecting on her most recent setting. “That was really important to me. My brother moved out here after college so I already had some family. Also, my aunt is a psychic and does what she calls ‘energy medicine’ which are psychic readings. She lived out here, too.”

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“Coming to Los Angeles was a leap. I was done with San Francisco and I had lived there for five or six years. It started to feel like a small town: I was ready to come to Los Angeles. San Francisco feels very set in a certain way. It has an amazing history but, for example, there are really strict rules for architecture, which have to fall into to a certain look that promotes this idea of what San Francisco is.”

“Coming to LA, I was really blown away by this openness in every sense of the word open.”

“There’s expanse and space but also this way people can come and create things and really live the way that they’ve wanted to live. People come here for all these different reasons–and they’re really weird. It’s what I thought San Francisco would be: it’s really interesting and weird. I feel like there is something very steady about San Francisco. There’s also a space in Los Angeles to be a weirdo. San Francisco is a very weird place too but sometimes it can feel like there’s a little less space for that.”

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Marty has been in Los Angeles for three and a half years and has found it to be quite perfect for her. There is something about the environment that suits her. That’s why she came here and why she considered a Westward move from Iowa. “I think part of it was what I was talking about with Iowa: nature. I wanted that. My idea of California was that it was gorgeous and there was land and I wanted to be around other queer people. San Francisco can be like that idea for me. Being in Iowa, there was a community of queer people but it was very small and sometimes difficult to access. That was really important to me.”

“I saw California in general as more progressive and open minded. The West coast feels like an expansive place. There’s land and nature and that really appealed to me.”

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Her work with Tarotscopes is a passion project that has always been a part of her life. It is only very recently that she has been able to tie up her interests together to include writing, art making, tarot, horoscope, and engaging like minded people. “It’s always been something I did. I got my first tarot deck–and I’ll probably get in trouble for saying this–when I was living in my aunt and uncle’s basement in Iowa and I found this tarot deck and I started playing with it and then I took it.”

She lets out a big laugh, some of the guilt from when she was eighteen creeping back in. “That’s the tarot deck I have now!”

The deck is a worn circular deck that is weathered from constant use. It has a very confident and wise personality to it despite being a little difficult to handle at points because of the slight awkwardness of circular cards. They’re very close to her and are what she uses during readings and to make her Tarotscopes.

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“That was my first experience,” she says as she begins to describe an early interaction with tarot. “My aunt and uncle are super into motorcycles and they wanted to take me for a ride. I was playing with the cards in the basement waiting for them and I pulled the Death card. They called down that they were getting on their motorcycles and, since I was new to tarot, I didn’t think that was a good idea because apparently I was going to die.”

She lets out another big laugh reflecting on how absurd the idea was. Marty has an expansive imagination and ties to the spiritual. This shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise. “When I was a kid I was super into anything fantastical and I was always romping around the woods behind our house. It’s been a weird process. There are two things that I think about in relationship to what I do now: one is a creative, art background and the other is from being a feminist and queer. The art background is where I started. That has always been something. I’ve talked about this in my Tarotscopes but being a creative artist means more than just making a physical art object: it’s the way you live your life. When I moved here, I had to get creative with what I was going to do with my life and how I was going to make a go of it.”

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“My whole life I read horoscopes and it was always a ritual for me to read all of them. I feel like the Tarotscopes became that part of myself plus the creative, artist part of myself and then the feminist/queer part of myself connected.”

“Being creative, there’s this openness. You don’t need concrete answers to things.”

Los Angeles has fed into her work and has pushed her to do what she does. The city demands that you be some sort of artistic person. “It gets back to LA being open and being an artist and being creative and how that is a way you live your life. Los Angeles lends itself to you living your life in a creative way. I feel like a lot of people do that and it is built in to the Industry. It’s more accepted and expected that you have this hodgepodge, ragtag existence because there is so much gig work here.”

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“Los Angeles also lends itself to having new experiences that I draw from when I’m writing. I feel like my life has been less routine here and I don’t know if that’s me or the city. I feel like there are more surprises here than any other city I’ve lived in. At the same time, the car culture adds an interesting element because there is a more intentional interaction with people.”

“I feel like I talk to strangers more because people don’t have these interactions. The percentage of weirdos here has been really awesome.”

Being a “weirdo” is important and very wonderfully LA. People do what they want out here–and they make a life out of it. “One thing that’s really important to me is the idea of people ‘doing them,’ as my friend Dylan says. They’re being whoever it is they are in whatever way they are. For me, that’s an idea I always try to come back to. That’s different with every person. Los Angeles really allows for that.”

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Since the landscape is very tolerant, a hybrid tarot/horoscope lifestyle guide is very much accepted by locals. Although different, it is in no means weird to us. “California in general is very accepting of [what I do]. I think that’s why my aunt settled here. In my family, they’re very supportive but I’m not sure they totally understand what it is I’m doing. They’re like, ‘We’re so glad you’re writing!’ The other piece of it they’re like, ‘What?'”

She laughs and begins to bring back the relationship of the land on a person. Spirituality is embedded into any and every landscape. “There’s something about the landscape in California. There’s something with the land. I remember going to Colorado, to the Rockies, and thinking it was gorgeous but that I could never live there because of the fundamentalist Christian thing happening. I think those heavy religious attitudes happen in beautiful places like the mountains of Colorado because people have this desire to connect with something bigger than themselves.”

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“Religion really provides that but, in California, there’s a more radical history. When you are met with that, when those things come together, it doesn’t have to fall into the strict structure of an organized religion. There is an understanding that there is something bigger than ourselves and that we as humans connect with it in a way that we can’t see or isn’t as concrete.”

Marty plans on growing Tarotscopes and evolving her work into more than writing. It’s going to become quite an interdisciplinary activity. “I’m going to keep doing this. I’m going to keep writing,” she says. “I have ideas of adding more: I have the music component now but I would like to add a video component. My friend Rhys [Ernst] and I have talked about collaborating and doing a little Tarotscopes show. That’s one thing I’m thinking about. My other secret dream is to be a weather person so I kind of see the show as me being an astrological weather person.”

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She laughs but, boy, would that be a wonderful idea. “My art background is video so that would be a perfect way to incorporate it. I want to keep doing individual readings and expanding that–and getting creative with the readings themselves, too.”

Marty has a lot of ideas for varying her practice and expanding the scope of her readings beyond two people meeting and analyzing the past, present, and future. She wants to introduce an element of traditional oddity into her work. “One thing I think I’m going to offer is doing a reading at The Bonaventure since it takes a full hour to rotate around. I was thinking of doing an hour reading where you start in one place and then an hour later, after one full rotation over cocktails, that would be the reading.”

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“I want to be more creative with how I package the readings,” she says. “I’m also thinking of setting up at Trails a few days a week and doing readings there. I’ve done readings there a few times and it’s just really nice to be in nature.”

For more on Marty, check out her Tarotscopes (which she updates weekly) and Like her on Facebook and give her a follow on Twitter and Instagram. Marty also has an upcoming collaboration with Otherwild in addition to a Tarotscopes forecast in an upcoming Spring Portland Apothecary zine. If you would like to contact Marty for a reading, her rates are $65 to $100 an hour in addition to shorter readers for reduced prices. She also does events, too. Email her at [email protected] to set something up.

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