Q&A with Manuela Arango Ruiz // a modern-day witch

Manuela was born and raised in South Florida and is currently based on Oahu. She is a birth-worker, certified yoga instructor, and lover of natural medicine and esoteric studies. Manu loves connecting with nature, surfing, dancing, hugging, and dreaming. As a modern-day witch, Manu intends to dedicate her life to bridging the gap between the visible and the invisible by honing in on her sensitivities and encouraging others to do so as well.

Can you describe your journey into practicing modern witchcraft? What initially drew you to this path?

My mom has always been very spiritual and my household has always had foundations in sensitivity, connection, and energetic manipulation. All of these, I consider to be crossovers with witchcraft. This was normal for me growing up, but then around high school I seemed to have shut out all that I had learned as it was not “normal.” In my freshman year of college I moved to Hawai’i, where unseen forces are constantly mentioned and venerated nature is personified. I spent a lot of time outdoors and learning about nature, which was very healing and grounding for me.. This drew me back into the spirit world. I soon started practicing yoga and that made me feel like I found my way into magic on my own. Through yoga I met a lot of like-minded people (women, specifically) that reminded me of my gifts and encouraged me to dive deeper. Simultaneously my mom had been going through her own spiritual renaissance and started actually using the word “witch,” often telling me things like “remember you are a witch, do not let your powers die.” 

Can you talk more of your work as a doula and your methods and practices?

A doula is essentially someone who provides physical, mental, and spiritual support to a mother during labor. In a world where we are very disconnected from our bodies and the wisdom they carry, a doula is a good bridge in between a mother’s intuition (which I consider to be a “power”) and the western medical model. This kind of birthwork hinges on the idea that mothers should have autonomy over their body and baby and that birth is an event happening for them rather than to them. After all, the female body was literally MADE to create and birth a child, and although western medicine has provided us with incredible technology, we should not forget the innate knowledge our wombs carry. Childbirth is a natural process that we have become disconnected from. 

As a doula, my biggest goal is that mother’s know their options and make a decision that suits them best, because I believe their intuition is a superpower. No one’s powers are as powerful as a mother’s. Additionally, I try to really root my work in an understanding of birth through a sacred lens. Gestation being a period in which parents (mothers especially, of course) explore their energetic connection to baby and power of creation. There is a lot of spiritual work behind intentional birth.

How do you define modern witchcraft, and how does it differ from traditional or historical practices?

I would define all of witchcraft as heightened and fine-tuned sensitivity as well as complete faith in one’s ability to commune and collaborate with unseen forces. I don’t think there is much difference between modern and traditional witchcraft. The foundations are the same. The practices are what differ from person to person.

What are some of the main principles or beliefs that guide your witchcraft practice?

Mainly, that I am a collaborator with the invisible forces. I think witchcraft is the direct or indirect “manipulation” (for lack of a better word) of these invisible forces. I am able to control or collaborate with them because they exist within me, and you. I know there is a creative force we all share, keeping us connected with everyone and everything.

How do you incorporate witchcraft into your daily life? Are there specific rituals or routines you follow?

Although there are specific rituals and routines that I practice as “witchcraft,” living in the magic is a theme of my life at all times. It is always happening in the background. However, I do have to remain conscious of it. I have had periods in my life where I feel less powerful or connected and almost mute myself. In these moments I have to remind myself to practice presence and tune out the world to return to the magical background noise. 

I’m not a strict practitioner of anything, which some may argue is not ideal. Depends who you ask. 

As far as some rituals, I have a couple examples: I try to talk to the moon as often as possible and get in a body of water on full moons. I smudge my living spaces periodically (to cleanse energies), I write and recite spells for a desired outcome and I always ask plants for permission before I pick them. 

In what ways do you connect with nature and the elements as part of your practice?

This is a hard question to answer concisely but I will try. I guess my understanding of the world and witchcraft is a culmination of many schools of thought that have resonated with me. A lot of them have principles in the elements and their characteristics. Examples of this are astrology and ayurveda. I’ve developed an understanding of how the elements make everything up in different ratios, and how that explains or affects the behavior of those things. It just “makes sense” to me.

On another note, nature is my quickest path to the creative source. Through nature, I get closer to myself and bare witness to the unseen forces. Personally, nature recharges me, inspires me, and proves to me the magic that exists. 

Witchcraft often involves working with energy and intention. Could you explain how you harness these forces in your spellwork or rituals?

Unfortunately I don’t have a more extensive answer than “just try.” I was told that once and it worked. The power lies within us, as well as the instructions to harness it. It is not something I can put into a step-by-step guide, although I would love to. It all comes down to sensitivity. 

Modern witchcraft places emphasis on self-care and personal empowerment. How do these concepts play a role in your practice?

I love this question! For me, self-care entails eating healthy, spending time in nature, drinking enough water, maintaining personal hygiene, spending time meditating, and being active. All of these are important because they allow me to be in a space where I can focus on the “witchcraft” I am doing. If I am sick, it is much harder to tune out the world and focus on my senses. I believe I (we) am most powerful when I feel healthy, when I connect to a higher vibration, when I feel happy and celebratory. That state is very hard to reach if I don’t like the way I look or feel. Self-care allows me to show up to my practice. 

The use of tools such as crystals, herbs, and tarot cards is common in witchcraft. How do these tools contribute to your practice, and what significance do they hold for you?

I believe that crystals, herbs and tarot cards are all great tools but they are just conduits or vessels for magic, and I don’t think that they are completely necessary. I also believe in different strokes for different folks. I, personally, don’t utilize crystals a lot but I love tarot cards. I have other friends who connect deeply with crystals. I think that everything comes down to intention and the faith we have in our tools. I think that tarot cards help me specifically when I feel like I’m in a rut or don’t feel a clear connection to source/spirit. Tarot cards almost feel like a quick call to the other side, lol. They are almost a hack. I also do know the power of herbs and have utilized them as medicine or as vessels to reach a different state of consciousness. Plants, as living things, also carry the invisible forces within them. They are very powerful for me.

Witchcraft can be a solitary practice or involve group activities. Do you typically practice alone, or do you engage with a community of like-minded individuals?

For the most part I practice alone. However, I do share practices with many like-minded people around me. An example of this being having my friends do energetic healings on me, getting together with people on the full moon for intention-setting and moon-bathing, reading tarot for others, or engaging in a group meditation with a specific intention (such as sending healing to an area with a natural disaster), among many other things. Any celebration is an act of witchcraft, in my opinion, so parties are also a time for magic.

In what ways have you faced misconceptions or stereotypes about witchcraft/your practices, and how do you address these misunderstandings?

If I’m fairly honest I am unbothered 90% of the time. I truly believe there is no evidence stronger than experience and no one can take mine away. Some see this as delusion, others as unshakeable faith. I’ve never been met with a true threat, just people who call me silly or scoff at my way of navigating the world. If I feel that someone is curious and willing to listen, I try to break it down in terms that I think they’ll be open to. You can tell when someone is being challenging vs. when someone is expressing genuine curiosity, and I love to see more people waking up. I speak my truth to those who will listen. 

In this current climate, how do you live a life that is healthy and well-balanced?

I think the key is staying connected to my body and the messages it sends me. I am very fortunate to have grown up in a house that recognizes the body as a physical expression of our internal world. I try to constantly check in with my senses, my thoughts, and my feelings. Slowly it becomes very easy to know what nourishes you and what doesn’t. I think that nourishing my heart is just as important as nourishing my body, which is why sometimes a good piece of chocolate and a late night is just as healthy as an early yoga class and a green juice. Maintaining a balance is not always easy but it is a constant effort. Knowing what serves me is my biggest tool.

In short, how would you describe a modern-day witch?

A modern-day witch to me is someone who accepts, embraces, and engages with the invisible. It is like choreographing with spirit; a dance between destiny and free will. I think the transition from acknowledging the invisible to collaborating with it is seamless… it’s just the natural progression. What’s funny is that everyone’s “invisible” looks different, which is why I think this is a good definition. Prayer is just as much witchcraft as is spell-binding. The same is true of taking supplements and “creating potions.” A modern-day witch recognizes the hand she (or he) plays in their existence and makes a conscious effort to utilize it. 

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