MRO: When did you start practicing magic?
Judika: That’s not an easy question to answer, as I’m not sure there is a specific beginning point.
The magical arts have always fascinated me, since early childhood. Although my mother was not a practitioner, she was aware of magic, its reality and power. She found it interesting and so would discuss it with me. My mother introduced me to the concept of magical practice, if not the actual practice itself. Also, I was a very early reader and was permitted by my parents to read whatever I wanted. We had books devoted to esoterica and mystical topics in the home and I was just naturally drawn to them. Essentially I was born this way.
That said, I can, however, pinpoint the moment when I shifted from being a dabbler into an authentic practitioner: the late 1980s, I was in my late twenties, and I had been advised by a physician that my then-spouse and I would never have children without medical assistance. The medical solutions offered to us were totally unsatisfactory. I was sure--- absolutely, unequivocally sure—that magical solutions existed and I went digging for them. Magic went from being just fun and fascinating into a concrete necessity.
I think my experience is true for many people. You hit a crossroads in life---- some crisis, obstacle, or challenge---when the magical route stops being just scenic and interesting and becomes a life changer.
MRO: What was the main influence that led you to that path?
Judika: My own major magical workings have consistently occurred in response to challenges within my own life. There was a scenario or situation that needed to be remedied or avoided. Goals needed to be achieved. I have had a somewhat turbulent life and those experiences have been the prime impetus for my magical path.
But in terms of people who influenced me, there are many. All the botanica and witch- shop proprietors who were kind to me in my youth, who didn’t chase me out of their shops or make me feel unwelcome. The individuals who taught me how to carve and dress candles. I read a ton of books about witchcraft and various magical arts: I can’t say there was one specific book or person. I know people always hope that you will say that such-and-such famous witch trained me, but that wasn’t my case: I learned from a lot of modest, very private, and completely brilliant people, who were generous with their knowledge and traditions.
MRO: Where does your inspiration come from?
Judika: Where doesn’t it come from? From everywhere---- I leave myself open to inspiration. I read compulsively. I talk to strangers, in person and on-line. I try to learn something new every day. I am so blessed to know all kinds of brilliant, insightful, opinionated people. And then there’s music, dreams, visionary experiences, nature, the world of the spirits and the ancestors. There’s no lack of inspiration--- the issue is always finding the time to turn inspiration into concrete reality.
MRO: As a successful author of many books on magic what is the next step?
Judika: In addition to being an author of my own books, since spring 2016, I have been working for the venerable esoteric publisher Weiser Books in book development and editorial. I have a deep sentimental attachment to Weiser: it could be said that my own esoteric path began there. When I was a child, my sister attended art school not far from the old Samuel Weiser’s bookstore, back when there was a brick and mortar shop. That’s where she bought my first tarot cards and esoteric books. So I’ve somewhat come full circle. I am enthusiastic and passionate about bringing more, better metaphysical books to press. Not only my own, but through my work with Weiser, I can help nurture other authors and projects, too.
MRO: Any hints for upcoming books that you are working on?
Judika: I am currently editing the follow-up to The Weiser Book of Horror and the Occult, a compilation of classic esoteric fiction, which I’m very excited about. There will also be a new edition of the book currently known as Pure Magic. I’ve just seen the proposed new cover and it’s beautiful. Both of these will be out in 2016. And I’m working on new material, too. I tend to work on several projects at once, at least until one really asserts itself and claims my attention. Too soon to give too many details, but I’m working on a couple of large books devoted to magic and ritual that will complement my previous encyclopedias. I am also working on some fiction. I’ve written fiction forever, but for myself, not for publication, as I am now, so this is a change for me.
MRO: What's your opinion about the witchcraft community today?
Judika: I am blessed to be a part of it. We should support one another, even if we don’t all believe the same things or are not the same kinds of witches. We are blessed to live in a time when such a thing as a “witchcraft community” can be discussed openly and we should be extremely vigilant of our rights.
I love the moon, the sea, spells cast at the shore or in the bath.
by Judika Illes
MRO: How do you envisage the evolution of witchcraft in the future?
Judika: The response to that questions depends on whether I’m asked on a day I’m feeling optimistic or pessimistic. On a good day, I foresee that the magical renaissance that now exists will continue to evolve, expand, and grow. We are so blessed to live in this time: the Internet has allowed boundaries to fall away, so that more of us can communicate together, regardless of where we find ourselves on Earth. Social media allows us to forge bonds and alliances with each other that distance and language would once have precluded.
More wonderful discussions are being held; more knowledge is being shared; more fantastic books are being published. The possibilities for spiritual and magical growth are limitless. More people are discovering their own inner witch. At best, we will live in a time of increasing tolerance, where people are free to live and worship or venerate as they please.
There are also days, however, when I watch the rapid spread of DAESH--- the fundamentalist organization that the popular media has linked with the name of the beautiful goddess, Isis---and I become very discouraged. I find it very upsetting that so many young people from around the world join them.
On those days, I worry that what we in the Western witchcraft communities are currently experiencing is not a renaissance, but only a brief respite between witch hunts and persecution. It’s important for us to always be extremely vigilant of our rights and liberties. We should not be distracted by petty bickering and infighting within our community, but recognize our common needs and goals.