In honor of the Hallowe’en season, Misty Skaggs brings you a special series profiling some of the honest-t’-god granny witches from the Appalachian hills and hollers. Follow along as Misty talks healing and hexing, herbcraft and auguries, with the fierce wise-women who practice mountain magick.
Misty: Can you tell me a little bit about what your spiritual beliefs entail? And do you feel your Appalachian upbringing contributed to the formation of your currently held beliefs? You were the first person to come to mind when I started brainstorming the granny witch list…
Kim: My spiritual beliefs are based on connectedness. We (including nature) are all made of materials that existed before the beginning of time. That is so incredible to me! I like to place a lot of value on us all being “the source” rather than the idea that we come from a source. Meaning, we carry around a lot of power. Magick to me is using my personal energy combined with very intentional rituals to bring about the change I want to see. A witch is a wise woman, healer, naturist, herbalist, a voice for those who don’t have one. My Appalachian roots definitely had influence on my currently held beliefs. I grew up wild and free in the mountains. I spent my entire childhood barefoot, talking to trees and plants, and playing in the creek. I think it was so much time in the woods that helped me come to the realization that nature is sacred. That we are sacred, as we are the same thing as the trees and plants that surround us. My front door is a mile from the largest old growth forest in Kentucky. There is magick there. The connectedness I talk about, the magick, it’s everywhere. You just have to be willing to see it.
Misty: I know that you’re an outspoken feminist and a working class activist. D’you feel like practicing magick/witchery promotes feminism and sorority? I mean it worked in the Witches of Eastwick, right? But how’s about for real live women way out here in the sticks?
Kim: I absolutely believe that practicing magick promotes feminism and a sense of belonging. Being a witch is absolutely political. Resisting the white supremacist capitalist heteropatriarchy is part of my reclaiming witchcraft. In a world where women’s voices are not valued, it is imperative that we take our power back. I do that through reclaiming witchcraft. Society wants us to conform, to consume, to destroy. My practice tells me to be intentional, to respect the land and its people, to always seek the connectedness. To me, that is the biggest threat to current power structures/systems– women reclaiming their space and power. We had it in us all along! I don’t know who said it but when I’m feeling discouraged about it all I remind myself: We are the granddaughters of the witches you could not burn and that’s what we all need to remember. It’s our duty as witches, as women, to honor the struggles of the women in the past because without them we would not be here today. Magick is for everyone.
Misty: Can you share with us a bit about a favorite magick ritual that you’ve performed/conducted? Or maybe tell me about the moment you felt most powerful in your working-class witchery?
Kim: I think the most powerful I’ve ever felt was when I stood on the steps of the state capital giving a speech on I Love Mountains Day. When I first got into activism, I poured myself into manifesting all the change I wanted to see by taking my power back as a working class woman and reclaiming the witchery in my DNA. Standing on those steps talking about protecting the land that I consider so sacred was the physical manifestation of everything I had put all my energy into in the years prior. I feel empowered every day now, but that first time actually seeing how powerful I could be in creating my own reality was incredible. It changed everything. It was then that I began fully living in my own truth.
For more on Kim, check out her fascinating story on Humans of Central Appalachia.
Kimberly Shepherd is a working class activist, welder, and mother from Harlan County, Kentucky. Follow her on Instagram: stay.goldks
Misty Skaggs, Rabble’s Appalachian Features Editor, is an author, artist, and activist from Eastern Kentucky.
Follow her on Twitter @mistymarierae.
Header image: Creative Commons, Public Domain, modified.