This week’s Witch of the Week is a friend, Sister Witch, personal inspiration, and my Boss over at THoT.
Erika Fortner, founder and Head Mistress of The House of Twigs, has been a Tarot reader, Witch, medium and Psychic for 23+ years. She is also the Head Mistress and Curator of THoT: The School of Ritual.
She is an Artist with a BFA from Pratt Institute and has an extensive fine Art background in NYC with one of the top Artists in the world working with museums such as the MOMA and Guggenheim as well as living in Berlin, Germany and Venice, Italy.
She is the owner and main Creator of Keven Craft Rituals lifestyle products including the only maker of their handmade skincare products, organic goods, metaphysical, and home & hearth items.
She is an eclectic energy worker (Reiki master as well as other healing modalities) Shamanic/folklore Witch; specializing in her own style of in-depth Tarot reading, crystal work, and channeling.
She favors the Morrighan, Isis, Hecate, Freya, and Cernnunos. Erika’s inspiration of ritual comes from many areas, including her family lineage which connects to the first Kings of Ireland, Queen Maeb, the King of the Picts, as well as connections with the Welsh Lewellyn family, the Scottish McLaughlins, De Forsythe and McCloud clans.
She has worked for the Psychic Friends network while in Brooklyn before deciding the ethos of the company didn’t align with her practice.
She now has her roots planted in Oregon with her partner and daughter.
Q. You have created a Sacred space known as The House of Twigs; a family of Witches that I am honored and blessed to be a part of. Where did the idea for the brand come from? What made you want to create a space where Witches of all different paths could voice their opinions and experiences? And, where did the name come from? I, of course, love the play on words with the slang word Thot and how you took the power back; was that intentional?
A. “To be honest, I have been a member of Witchvox since 1995 when I started my path. I was pretty computer savvy and found an online community very quickly. It looks almost exactly the same as it did then! It has a ton of information on there, but it is still almost impossible for my brain to navigate. My life and business partner Tad grew up in the mid-west and had very little exposure on where to find information. It led him to attempt working with some pretty advanced and non-recommended books of spells and concepts. Since we both come from a visual background, it made sense to create something visually appealing and content curated; the visual aspect was based on our original idea from a few years before. We did not have the time or the funds to get it off the ground. We wanted to create something that looked more like Vogue for the witchy community, but with more real content; something that had great imagery and great content that was both inspiring and relative to its readers.
“The name was a collaboration between Tad and I. He has been working with the Film and TV world as well as branding since before I met him. He wanted to create something timeless, that expressed the collection of a community but under a “house”, sort of like the Harry Potter world we all love but know isn’t the way this witch world works.
“As for the acronym, THoT, it was something that we saw was a possible issue, but not deterrent. I have always been someone who challenges the mainstream and simultaneously doesn’t follow pop-culture so when I saw the connection with the slang word Thot, I laughed. I laughed hysterically. How ‘simpatico’ as they say.
“A shunned community of predominately women who are both desired and marginalized. Why not take the word back we thought? The word will die-out but this community would not. Occasionally I get messaged about the connection acting like I must not know what it means. But yes, I get it and I don’t care.
“The logo was also inspired and designed by Tad Ericson. It contains a pentacle that forms a house but also contains hidden sigils that make sense for this type of community. He did a great job making a timeless logo and brand of the company and what it represented. It is a collection of individuals that make up a greater community. We have recently made this something that could be monetized through the school but the main concept was never about money as much as it was providing a single place to find people and information. From there each individual has a link to their site so if you resonate with one writer, you know exactly where to find them and get more info.
“The school aspect of the community in the early stages was a concept we didn’t know how to do. We wanted to create a space where people already had this amazing content and we could help connect those people with that content. With the addition of the school we have taken on the tech and financial burden of hosting a complex online school integration where some of the best teachers and writers could share their content.
“This allows the piece for each contributor to be much more accommodating because the structure and e-commerce on every site would be very expensive and spread out onto many sites. It is a much more in-depth process to become an instructor and means a ton more work (as you know with your newest Luciferian Course that is soon to launch).
“What it does is allow us to have an eclectic selection of witchy courses and content that can be accessed no matter what timezone or location you are in. You can take 5 courses on 5 different subjects and allow yourself the ability to learn from all paths and all types of teachers.”
Q. You are a bad ass Tarot reader and teacher, how long have you worked with the cards? What is it about Tarot that you like the most? What do you dislike the most? Since you know the cards so well, what is one misconception that you wish you could erase? What is your favorite card of the deck? What is your least favorite? And, finally, what is your view on reversed cards? I have one deck where I include reversed cards (that deck is associated with a particular Spirit) but my other decks I operate without reversed cards.
A.”I have been a tarot reader since I started in 1995 which is crazy because that seems like a lifetime. I have only in the last few years decided to start teaching tarot. Part of this was because of the unique reading style I have developed but also the fear and “wives tales” associated with tarot. I believe it really does a disservice to both the reader and the person being read.
“I’m an artist at heart with my Venus in Pisces. I love history and mythology and it is what really drew me into the beginnings of the pagan world. I see them as allegorical representations which are similar to mythological stories. They give us the lesson and the underlying archetype of a person or experience. I dislike the entire fear and control over tarot.
“As a teacher, it is insane the amount of rules and expectations people come in with about tarot: ”Your deck has to be given to you. They have to be wrapped in silk, or placed face down so they don’t absorb negative energy. That have to be cleansed with oils…or moonlight…or smudge. Don’t let other people touch your cards.”
“If I could erase one misconception is would be that the Rider-Waite is the only deck to learn from, or somehow the best style of deck (NOPE, its old white dude energy and there are a ton of other cards with deeper meanings that will suit you better!).
“In fact, some of my favorite decks are based on the Rider-Waite, but they never use their original interpretations or direct symbology.
“There is also tons of information out there on this style of deck which is why I am skeptical as to why most instructors require this as the deck to learn from. Many books are written on the subject as well as used in the learning of tarot, so much of this information feels re-hashed and “low-level” if you know what I mean.
“My favorite card of the deck is the Moon. It is the perfect example of why I dislike the original Rider-Waite interpretations. They define it as female hysteria with an unbalanced, pendulum swing of emotions. It is the shadow but perhaps linked with the subconscious. Instead, I find it to be a card for the Witch; The feelers; The knowers. It represents the magical world of energy we can connect with but can also consume us if we don’t search for our balance.
“My least favorite card is the Emperor in reverse. It represents all things that are toxic masculinity. As an Aries/Pisces cusp I resonate with intense energy and fire. In fact, the Emperor card aligns directly with Aries which is perhaps why I have an adverse reaction/feeling to the reverse of it so much. Maybe it’s because when I see it in readings it is often paired with abusive, or manipulative relationships where the other partner is in a toxic situation. This male/female energy is not about gender, but masculine and feminine energy… so yes it is possible for a female identified individual to get the Emperor in reverse to represent them. I don’t like it very much in the upright version either. I mean, I guess he is okay; I just prefer all of the other cards. Usually people hate things like the Tower, or Death. These are painful but transformative cards so I just can’t hate on them.
“I love reversals! I could teach a whole course on reversals. Imagine you have 72 cards in the deck. Adding reversals gives you 144 options of the cards. You can get one card in reverse that means the same as a card upright, but there is a ton more information there. If it is in a suit, it can tell you on what plane this lies in. (Ex. with the Swords suit it would represent an internal battle of the mind.) I have a few decks I don’t read reversals with including my Lenormand, and a few oracle decks. However, I read with 6 or more decks at once, making the decks I use have a very specific purpose and why I choose to use them. Each one has a voice. I like to think of them like our friends who give us advice. Some of them help us to remember to take care of ourselves, some are more pragmatic, and some are more sweet and sensitive even when delivering difficult information. I know all of my decks very well so I look for these nuances in the personalities of the cards and the stories that help shape the details in the readings.
Q. You own a brick and mortar and online Shop called Keven Craft Rituals, have you noticed running a Witchy business is a little more challenging than the average business? Not that running a business at all is easy, but do you think as a Woman (even with your partner) and Witch that you hit more obstacles? What have been some of the obstacles you have faced, and how did you overcome them?
A. “Running a business is challenging. Running a Witchy business, I would consider to be unique and complex but not necessarily more challenging than any other business… Just different. The challenges are less in the 3-D world of what is trending or having to make packaging decisions.
“We still have that happening, but instead it is mixed with a very diverse community of belief systems, and many unbalanced people looking for balance. We also get to hang out with and meet some amazing people. The types of questions people have when they come in you can imagine…
“Usually it starts off with “This might sound crazy but ___ is happening to me”.
“My response is usually “Nope, I have heard crazier.”
“Having a business in Eugene was interesting as well because it has a 20 year Witch war history, an open-minded, but in reality a closed-minded community, as well as 8 secret societies (not which all seem to agree with each other). We have just recently closed our location in Eugene and are currently transitioning to Portland to open our new brick and mortar. This has been really challenging.
“As a normal business we qualify for all of the financials and show a huge growth in the industry with 21+ wholesalers across the US that carry our own brand of skincare and metaphysical goods. However, when we show potential lease locations our website and they seem to find out what type of company we are; the conversation goes silent. We have missed a few amazing locations as if the challenge itself is selling the concept of this business to people in the general population. I guess that does make it more challenging.
“As a woman owned business with my own super pace and intensity, yes, I feel like that is intimidating to many out there. People are always looking for Mr. Fortner, or trying to man-splain things to me. There is also this “mean girls club” thing that happens in the small world of witchy stores and makers. I overcome this the same way I do everything: analyze the shit out of it, and charge full-steam ahead, doing it better and with better ethics than some.
“As a metaphysical business it really matters where you source your items and how energetically you treat and sell those goods. I really avoid imports as building your company on the back of people who are not making a descent wage comes at an energetic cost. I choose quality over quantity and I allow myself to keep that vision.”
Q. As the world is spinning more and more out of control (whether that is the reality or not, it seems that it’s shoved in our faces at all times) we are seeing people turning away from religion and running towards Earth based, and Pagan beliefs; why do you think that is? What do you think it is about Magick, and the Craft that draws people in? What drew you in, initially?
A. “We have all heard of the call of the Goddess, or the age of Aquarius? I see this being as both an energetic and social shift in the balance of energies. The masculine has been weighted to one side for so long I think we are seeing people whom are unsatisfied and looking for more.
“Paganism has always been accepting of the minority and marginalized (or at least it is supposed to) and it is a place that accepts both the strange and the “straight-laced”.
“People are not satisfied with the mainstream religion they grew up with and are searching for answers. They want to know why they feel and perhaps see or even hear something on the back of their mind. Why they are pulled in one direction when there is no explanation for it?
“Living in fear can be exhausting and one of the issues with mainstream religion is the control and dumbing down of the masses. Magick and the Occult are alluring because we have a romanticism about the idea. It allows us to have fantasy and a beauty in our belief system whilst also being a functional practice. Magick is really all about the energy that is put in by the individual so there is no one to blame and you must do your own work to get there.
“I’m not quite sold on the insta-priestess movement that is happening but we all have to start somewhere, right?. We all must walk through the fire and face our own shadow.
“I got into this path because I grew up in a very haunted house in an Evangelical family. I was a very sensitive and a psychic kid. The things I was seeing and feeling were from such a different vibe from what I was surrounded with. Some of the nastiest people I have met were from these Evangelical churches and they were the same people telling me my gifts were evil because they could not explain them.
“As a creative, and especially an Aries, I was meant to create my own path. As a Pisces I need something inspiring and positive to follow; something that is painful from the depth of myself and the karmatic process of moving through it. I needed a place to learn about my own energy and paganism was a start of that exploration. I started with what I was fascinated and drawn to. I followed Isis from the start. I resonated with her and then began exploring Celtic witchcraft. I realized quickly that anything Wiccan or too ridged wasn’t my style. I dislike following rules and rituals based on someone else’s ideas. If I feel no connection with it then it is a meaningless act for me.
“I also needed something that explained my pain and sadness; I’m not saying my life was the worst, but I have trauma and I needed a place I could use that to transform that pain.
“Magick was all of that.
“It was taking something like abuse and not allowing it to be what defines me because I changed it into something else. I used it to empower myself and transform myself into something energetically different. I guess that is the same concept of what The House of Twigs is to me. It is a place for people to empower themselves and level-up, so to speak.”
Q. As a Witchy Mom, do you incorporate your Craft into Motherhood? Do you plan on raising your little one as a Witchling, or do you just go with the flow? Does she show interest? If so, how do you handle that?
A. “Anyone who knows my daughter can immediately see and feel that she is special. She is an 11 in numerology, and resonates at such a different frequency than most children. I try and allow her to choose her toys, not pushing her gender on her. She can play with most of the tarot cards and crystals (minus the super expensive ones) and is very good at reading people with them. She will pass out cards to people or find special little stones in the store that speak to people. She has no judgments and so it is very natural, like a game to her.
“It’s funny to see how people respond and just allow her to do things, hopefully without destroying the store in the process. Many times people would come in and she had dumped out all of my cards onto the floor. All 20+ decks.
“Freya just turned two in July and is a Cancer/Leo cusp. She has attended red tent events, our broom rituals we host, many of the classes I teach or visiting lectures from people that come and teach or speak at our store. Her favorite person is by far our young, Witchy, Trans friend whom has been helping to lead our Queer Craft Circle.
“She intuitively uses a stick as a wand and we talk with her about all the interesting books on the shelves, she gets to meet all the interesting people that come-in and participates as much as she can without distracting others.”
Q. What is one piece of Witchy advice that you were given that you will never forget?
A. “I was at a lower point in my life and was seeing a Shaman/Therapist. She was really adverse to me calling myself a Witch and did not understand really what that entailed.
“She was mostly “love and light” but had studied with some really interesting people and her sessions were very much on point with pushing old energies out.
“She had said to me “The real sin is fear, shame, and guilt. It removes your power and it is how you control someone not empower them”.
“This is my go-to motto for all of the little Witchlings I meet. It gives permission to not be controlled by the past, your own feelings, and allows you to take responsibility for the energy and feelings you decide to hold.
“As a Witch, this is one of the greatest things you can do. It susses out the negative things that can get in the way of your path. It can build your confidence which is essential to really practice the Craft.
“I prefer to be a confident Witch over being a superstitious one, any day.”
Q. What is one piece of advice you wish you were given before you started your path that you would give to someone else (no matter the skill level)?
A. “I would have liked to been told that it’s okay to make mistakes and not like something you do. You can pick and choose what you like and not what you are told to like.
“Just because you read it in a book doesn’t mean it resonates with you.
“Maybe you need to dabble in something that teaches you that you want nothing to do with it. I mean, don’t we do this in life anyways? We learn what we want and definitely what we don’t want.
“I wish I would have been told that this process IS the path. We spend so much time trying to get to where we want to be not realizing we are already there.
“Part of the process is realizing this so we can move forward in the right way. It can be painful and messy but it can also be magical and beautiful. Some of this is perspective and your choice on how to proceed. Magick is what you decide to make it to be.”
Erika is a fierce advocate for the Witch community, and ALL marginalized people; she is a warrior Soul fulfilling her life mission one twig at a time. She pushes me to be better, to do better, and there’s nothing more special than that.
For these reasons and so many more she is The Nephilim Rising’s Witch of the Week.