We caught up with authors Sandra Wright and Leanna Marrama to find out more about their tea leaf events, what it’s like to be a medium in the age of Zoom, and their new book Reading the Leaves.
Q: Your just-released book Reading the Leaves has generated a lot of buzz, and is already in the Top 10 of the Witchcraft New Release lists on Amazon, which is very exciting! How do you feel about the reception the book has received?
LM: Learning that Reading the Leaves is already in the Top 10 of the New Release list on Amazon has me thrilled. I have such gratitude for everyone who has supported and purchased this book. I had some initial concerns with how my extended family would receive the book, but one of my favorite reactions came from my “little” cousin, who isn’t so young anymore (married with two beautiful daughters). She responded with awesome reviews. This is the response I dreamed of when the book was first being created. Reading the Leaves is my love child with Sandra. The fact that people are enjoying the spirit of our friendship, is remarkable.
SW: We are over the Moon about it. We hit number one in a few different categories, like Wicca and Divination & Personal Growth. We are also getting wonderful reviews, which is especially gratifying because we love to hear how what we’ve written is helping people. That’s why we wrote it.
Q: What inspired you to write a book specifically on the art of tea leaf reading?
LM: One of the inspirations for Reading the Leaves came from years of hosting events in Salem. Sandra and I wanted to bring the magic of Salem to those who have yet to sample in its magical energy.
But for me, this book is a tribute to my nana who read tea leaves. Not as a profession, but as folk magic. It was also inspired by my departed friend, Shawn Poirier. He taught me how to read tea leaves. It was him who first put a cup in my hand and told me to look and see the possibilities. My greatest hope is that readers will take away not just the gift of psychic power, but a relationship with those they build their abilities with. Tea is all about communication. Tea brings people together. Tea heals.
SW: Leanne and I have been doing tea leaf events since 2007, teaching people a simple way to read the leaves to connect with their beloved dead, to get insight and guidance regarding their love lives, careers, family relationships, health, and other concerns. Tea leaf reading opens up the imagination and fires up the intuition! It is the perfect way for a beginner to approach divination. It’s not scary, it’s comforting! What could be more cozy than to curl up with a cup of tea and witch up a more positive future?
Q: Outside of your author life you are also two very busy witches! You both have an impressive list of media appearances (which we’re sure will only increase with the release of Reading the Leaves!). Can you talk a little bit about those experiences and what it’s like to be a professional witch appearing in mainstream media?
LM: Sandra and I are busy witches! We host many tea leaf reading events throughout the year. We have both been blessed to have mainstream media give us opportunities. At different times of the year, we host the Mourning Tea, The Holiday Tea, The Mother’s Tea, and The Mystic Tea. I work at Hex Old World Witchery in Salem as a psychic and medium, hosting weekly seances and teaching workshops. I was blessed to be on What Not to Wear. It was an amazing experience. Stacy and Clinton were lovely and gave me confidence in my look. The show was well-received by both witch and non-witch alike. People were very kind.
Being a public witch can be a challenge. It isn’t easy balancing a public persona and a spiritual life. Many other occultists will disregard my devotion to my gods and the craft. Witchcraft isn’t our hobby: it’s our religion, it’s our life.
SW: I have been doing media as a public witch since I was 19 years old when I appeared on film with Laurie Cabot, and that was a while ago. Since Salem started embracing its association with witches as something beyond the Witch Trials of 1692, we have been educating the public about the beliefs and practices of the Modern Witch. That’s the most important part, in my opinion, about being out of the “broom closet.” We have been making it safer for witches to be open about their spirituality for decades, and we plan to keep doing that, despite the political climate we are currently subjected to.
Q: You also host an annual event called Mourning Tea. Can you tell us more about that?
LM: The Mourning Tea is my favorite event I do and have ever done. It is a moving and uplifting event, that Sandra and I host every October with The Festival of the Dead at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem, Mass. Several guests even arrive dressed in gorgeous Victorian mourning attire! It seems the hats that are trimmed with lace and veils get more elaborate every year. Then there is the scrumptious food. Attendees are treated to a three-course meal. We included select recipes of the delicious scones, sandwiches, and desserts in the book. While a harpist serenades, guests are invited to create a scrap book page and share stories of their beloved dead. Many guests share stories of those who they loved and lost. They can take their hand made scrap book page home or place it within The Salem Witches’ Book of the Dead, which is honored at the Dumb Supper (a silent dinner in honor of the dead) and The Salem Witches’ Magic Circle. Finally, once the music has silenced and everyone has eaten their food; Sandra and I help the guests read their tea leaves, looking for messages from their beloved dead. This event makes friends and creates bonds. We have guests that have been attending for over 10 years. They come to heal from grief and to share with new and old friends the magic of the season.
SW: Tea leaf reading has always been associated with fortune telling, and we always get messages about what the future holds… but we host the Mourning Tea to connect with the past. The Mourning Tea is a Victorian-inspired tea event, complete with a three-course meal, live music, and the stories of the loved ones of our guests who have passed over. Those who are inspired to share are encouraged to introduce us to their beloved dead. They say what is remembered lives. We do our best to carry the memories of our friends and family forward by telling their stories and listening to others. We lead everyone in a tea leaf reading as a form of Mediumship. Originally when we started doing The Mourning Tea, we believed we were recreating a practice from Victorian times; when I went to find a record of it, I came up with nothing. So, we have come to the surprising conclusion that we invented the practice, and Reading the Leaves is the first book that describes it. We have a whole chapter devoted to Mediumship.
Q: Leanne, you have been offering Mediumship readings via Zoom, since the current COVID-19 pandemic has made it necessary to practice physical distancing. How has that experience been? Do you find it trickier to connect with people this way, or is it simply a different experience?
LM: COVID-19 pushed me out of my comfort zone as a Medium. I am used to being able to hold my client’s hands as I connect with those who wish to communicate with their dead. During the current pandemic, I have been doing phone and video readings remotely from my home. I have read Tarot for people over the phone for years by connecting to the energy in the person’s voice, but mediumship was always done face to face. When it came time to do Zoom, I was overly concerned with the mundane aspects, such as what I looked and sounded like, what the room looked like, and would I be able to master the platform. This was all ego. I reminded myself why I do what I do. Then once the reading happened, it clicked immediately. It was like I was having an intimate moment with my client. It just worked. I felt the presence of the dead. I saw them. The intimacy of a private reading was preserved the minute I looked into their eyes.
Q: Do you have any upcoming or ongoing appearances, classes, or other offerings that you can share with our readers?
LM: Some of our appearances are currently being rescheduled. We will be hosting a Reading the Leaves Book Launch: Author’s Party, where we sign books, do readings and have guest enjoy the recipes from the book. Sandra and I are both presenters at HexFest. This year it will be virtual, so guests can enjoy the magic and the classes safely from home. August 7 to 9 2020. I will be teaching Developing your Mediumship Skills, Unlock the Secret Powers of the Italian Saints and Dream Interpretation. Sandra will teach Amulets and Talismans, as well as Knot and Cord Magick. Currently the Hex Education Network on Crowdcast offers online classes that allows the viewer to watch past events. I have classes available there and will be adding more.
SW: I will be teaching a class on Amulets & Talismans on the Hex Education Network via Crowdcast. Leanne and I have been hosting a daily Zoom: it begins with me leading everyone in a grounding and centering meditation followed by an Oracle card reading to set the tone for the day, then Leanne pulls a Tarot card for the day with her interpretation, I teach about a crystal/stone/metal of the day and how to use it, Leanne teaches an herb/ingredient of the day to cook or work with and how to use it, and then we have a bit of time for kinship and discussion. It is our way of connecting with and supporting our community and it is free for all to join. 11am Eastern time, and the updated details to get in are on our Instagrams. This will change to a couple of days a week once the stores are back open (Hex and Omen in Salem). But we have been doing this since March.
Q: Since we just launched Witch With Books, we would love to know: who is your favorite witchy author, and what is your favorite witchy book of all time?
LM: Doreen Valiente is my favorite witch author. Her book Witchcraft for Tomorrow was one of the first books that illuminated the mysteries of witchcraftand aided my spiritual path. Doreen’s The Charge of the Goddess – The Poetry of Doreen Valiente helps me to connect with the divine and guides my witchysoul.
SW: I always recommend Natural Magick by Doreen Valiente. She’s easy to read, but don’t mistake that for baby food. The concepts are integral to a solid magickal practice. It’s too hard for me to choose just one author as a favorite because I appreciate the work so many people have done to ensure that the Craft survives.
Q: As many of our followers are new witches, what advice do you have for them as they begin to walk their own witchy path?
LM: First, create a sacred space for yourself. A place that you can meditate and communicate to the universe. Make that a temple for your soul to grow and discover. If you are new to walking a magical path, read everything, listen to those who have come before you. Learn from them. Dare to believe the magic and power within yourself.
SW: Avoid the trap that says you have to choose between studying a time-tested tradition with a group and being an eclectic solitary Witch. There’s no need to pick one over the other: you can do both. You can find a teacher, a coven, or a working group that will nudge you to explore things you wouldn’t otherwise (and discover strengths you never knew you had) and you can still always, always listen to your heart and Work the way that is yours alone. If someone tries to say you cannot, that’s a big red flag. And don’t equate views on YouTube with expertise. There are a ton of people out there spreading misinformation. Go deeper, and the mysteries will show themselves to you, again and again. They have been with you all along.
Thank you, Sandra and Leanne!