[This issue, we sit down with author Natalia Clarke. Here, she discusses her personal spiritual practices and beliefs; her new book on Baba Yaga; and her upcoming projects.]
Eternal Haunted Summer: How do you define your personal spiritual practice? Does it have a name, or is it more intuitive and eclectic?
Natalia Clarke: Hello and thank you for having me.
My spiritual practice does not have a name, no. My preference has always been to veer away from names, titles and labels of any kind within a personal spiritual practice. I tend not to call myself anything in the outside world even though I might do with myself. A lot of the elements within my practice are also private and hidden. Let’s just say it is more ‘traditional’ in nature rather than very external. My practice is based on ‘being in service’ to myself, others or the planet. What that means is that I work when ‘I am called’ to do something either from within or via a vision or an auditory message.
In my practice I observe the seasons very closely and document things that evolve and ‘upgrade’ for myself, others and the collective on a monthly/yearly basis. Working with the Wheel of the Year traditionally speaking has been at the centre of my practice for many years especially at the very beginning, not so much now. Now I celebrate some festivals, but not others and I work with the Elements and the elementals (spirits of the land). My practice is animistic in nature and highly intuitive. Almost all elements of what I do are intuitive and that covers both how I receive instruction and how I put things into practice, e.g., spells, rituals, writing or readings.
EHS: Which Deities, spirits, or other powers do you honour in your practices?
NC: I work with the four Elements as my prime source, as to me they are deeply rooted in nature. Nature is at the centre of everything I do and as I work with landscapes a lot the elements are to be found everywhere and that speaks to me. I understand it and feel it deeply. I work and honour the deities of the forest, water, mountains and sky. In the book I speak of Baba Yaga corresponding with Cailleach – a Celtic deity that is close to my heart; the queen of winter and the darker part of the year. I resonate with her a lot.
Nature is my main subject of worship in my practice and my life. Honouring Nature to me every day is like breathing. Nature is the main reason I am here, I often say, and the meaning of it all for me.
EHS: You will be releasing Pagan Portals: Baba Yaga through Moon Books in December. First, congratulations! Second, how did this book come about? Why a book about Baba Yaga?
NC: Thank you. I am excited about this book and what it can potentially give to the world. It came about via an intuitive knowing that her voice needed to be heard. One might say ‘she spoke to me’ and I had to put all the material she was offering down on paper. I speak about the journey and the process of how this happened in more detail in the book. This project also aligned with me wanting to write about a deity, which was less known in the context of a Goddess and only presented from one perspective. I’d like to think she came alive in the book where she could have a different way to be. It also fitted well with the Moon Books’ Pagan Portals series.
EHS: Did you approach Moon Books or did they come to you? If the former, how did you pitch the book?
NC: I published Pagan Portals Intuitive Magic practice with Moon books a year before. Baba Yaga was the second completed book I submitted to them and it was received with enthusiasm and excitement. It is about to be released in a few weeks’ time.
EHS: What sort of research went into Pagan Portals: Baba Yaga? Big stacks of book? Long hours conversing with others dedicated to Baba Yaga? Personal experience?
NC: Lots of reading and remembering went into it from my past and my culture. I had to decipher what was out there already on this character and the idea of presenting it differently was a strong one. I am in deep awe of this deity and have always been fascinated by her ambiguous presentation, but I also saw so much more in her, beyond what the culture, literature and folklore had presented to the collective for a very long time. I wanted her to be seen and heard the way I saw her. She gave me permission, so to speak, or rather I was called to write the book. A lot of the book is ‘channelled’ if you want to put a name to it, i.e., she spoke through me and I listened. This book was one of those projects, which was an absolute pleasure and an honour to put together.
EHS: Even within the polytheist/Pagan community, many people only know Baba Yaga from the fairy tale featuring Vasilisa the Wise. Do you see lessons in this old story? If so, what are they?
NC: This is a big topic and the story you mention is one of the most well-known. In terms of lessons, there are many and from all sorts of perspectives be it life-relevant, psychological, spiritual, intellectual. That is a beauty of archetypes and fairy tales. They are coded with so much richness for any of us to uncover. It all depends how you look at it. Those lessons are individual for each woman and I talk about the process of transformation and how subjective and unique it is. I would not want to generalise for that reason, as the journey Vasilisa represents, as an example, is sacred. It is to me first and foremost about reclaiming your voice and self-empowerment via owning your intuition. The book talks about how one can undertake the journey into apprenticing into Baba Yaga’s magic and learn from her. Steps are described along with what might be expected and how to ensure one is received by Baba Yaga.
EHS: At one point, you describe Baba Yaga as a “deity/archetype/energy/Earth Spirit.” In this era of climate change and environmental destruction, what role can devotion to Baba Yaga’s lessons play in our lives? What can we learn from her?
NC: There is a chapter on this in the book. She is profoundly relevant to today’s collective crisis and this was one of the main reasons this book came about when it did, I believe. I speak about Baba Yaga being present during 2020 like in no other year I remember. She had a message for us and it had to be heard. She is the Earth herself in every possible manifestation and a highly valuable energy to engage with if we are to heal ourselves, others and the planet.
EHS: The book includes your poem “What Am I For?” What inspired this poem? How difficult was it to compose, and how long did it take?
NC: Poems come to be intuitively and they are also written intuitively. That means the process is like a flow when words come out in a way they are meant to and put to paper. I write all my poetry that way. Topics and themes also come intuitively. In writing terms, you might want to call it inspiration/muse where no questions asked, materials lands as it is meant to. The reason it is included is one of the main questions Baba Yaga embodies is ‘Who are you?’. Before one is received into her magic you need to know that, at to some degree, or wanting to know. The poem is a musing about who we might be in any given moment.
EHS: You devote an entire chapter to Baba Yaga and mirror magic. What have you found to be one of the most useful magical mirror practices, and why?
NC: Because my practice is intuitive, I do not record anything when and if I do it, therefore I couldn’t tell you. It is different every time for me, however, for the audience whatever is included in the book in terms of how to work with Baba Yaga those practices are the ones whether you work intuitively or not, there is something one can pick out that works for them. The book is aimed at magical practitioners and I wanted to include some types of magic the deity is keen on and offer a way of connecting with her. Mirrors are powerful and ancient tools in terms of their usage in magic. It can also be very simple yet powerful.
EHS: What other projects are you working on?
NC: I have the next book in the second draft. It is all to do with the seasons and personal transformation via working with the seasons. It is both psychological and spiritual in nature based on my own journey and psycho-spiritual process over the last few years. Nature and its cycles have transformed me inside and out and changed my life like nothing else. The book is about that.