When I hear the phrase “sexual healing”, it’s hard to imagine anything besides the lyrics to that one Marvin Gaye song. 

In fact, prior to chatting with Gabriela Herstik, an LA-based witch who writes Nylon’s monthly “Ask A Witch” column, I’d never even realized how necessary sexual healing is, much less that spells could be involved. 

Gabriela has bylines across the internet covering topics like spirituality, crystal magic, and astrology. She is known for her contemporary approach to witchcraft through an intersectional feminist lens, and also for her killer fashion sense. Plus, she’s releasing a book next March titled, “Craft: How To Be a Modern Witch” which promises to guide new witches looking for a place to start.

“If we’re not having sex, we’re prudes, but if we are having sex we’re whores”

Beyond her work, Gabriela uses magic to celebrate her sexuality and unlearn the sexual shame we are taught culturally. Women struggle against narratives that are objectifying, deny us ownership of our bodies, and prohibit us from being sexual beings. Cisheteropatriarchy not only creates space for us to be subjugated and experience sexual violence, but it enforces a purity culture by assigning social consequences to sexual women. This has historically always been the case -- the witch trials even specifically targeted and murdered sexual women.

“If we’re not having sex, we’re prudes, but if we are having sex we’re whores,” Gabriela said. “We’ve been taught that we’re not allowed to have it, and that we’re not allowed to take pleasure in it or be proud of it.”

It’s about honouring the body, loving it exactly as is, and masturbating

Witchcraft is valuable for sexual healing because it reconnects you with your body. It returns you to a place of love. Many of the practices that fall under the umbrella of witchcraft are centered on empowerment and reclaiming ownership of the physical self. And each person’s practice will look different -- for example, Gabriela was raised in the Jewish faith, and therefore Judaism informs her practice to this day. As a writer, getting her thoughts out onto paper can be a deeply healing aspect of her practice, but it may not be helpful to everyone.

“Witchcraft isn’t just one thing,” Gabriela said. “There’s definitely a space to create a container that honours your needs.”

At its core, witchcraft utilizes energy to manifest or banish. One way Gabriela does this is through sex magic, which involves honouring the body, loving it exactly as is, and masturbating. The energy released when she orgasms is powerful for boosting her intentions, getting part of a spell to work, and as a vehicle for honouring the divinity within herself.

“Focus on something you want to attract or heal by using that moment of energy release,” she explained. “Even if it’s ‘I want to love my body more’ or ‘heal more’ or ‘attract a partner that makes me feel good’, it’s very potent.”

Try using rose quartz, candles, and saying mantras

When she masturbates, she has even used a rose quartz dildo, which she describes as not only healing but heart-opening. She turns masturbation into a ritual by lighting a candle after, but she also notes that sex magic extends beyond just orgasms.

“Sexual energy is more of a subtle energy that’s with us all the time,” she said. “Anything that makes me feel alive and connects me to my pleasure, I consider sexual energy.”

Sometimes, utilizing this energy is as simple as putting her favorite song on and dancing around, or putting different herbs in honey jars that correspond with her intentions around sex and love. Other times, she wears lingerie, or sits in front of her mirror and says mantras to her reflection.

Therapy and embracing every emotion (even the uncomfortable ones) are important

Being compassionate with herself, refusing to put a time frame on her healing, and creating a safe container to express herself are other important aspects of her practice. She recalls crying in her bathtub a year ago, allowing herself to feel every uncomfortable feeling about someone she was interested in, and then using magic to help her heal and attract someone new. She has also incorporated therapy into her spiritual practice.

“One of our biggest problems is trying to intellectualize our feelings,” she said. “So learning to feel my feelings through body work like breathing, making noises, dancing, is important.”

Gabriela uses other forms of magic like sympathetic magic, which involves focusing on what she wants to see grow in her life as the moon grows, and focusing on what she wants to banish as the moon shrinks. Focusing on banishing sexual shame and trauma would therefore be ideal during a waning moon.

Wear what makes you feel beautiful and powerful

Through the practice of fashion magic, Gabriela worships her body by wearing things that make her feel beautiful and powerful. According to her, self-expression is important because it means taking how you’re perceived into your own hands.

“When you pick how you want to portray yourself to people, it’s a glamour,” she explained. “I know when I’m feeling very sensitive, I might wear something very pink or silvery. Or I’ll wear a lot leather and a choker and black to protect myself.”

Witchcraft is a nature-based path so Gabriela allows nature to assist her. She rubs rose quartz crystals, which represent unconditional love, and actual roses, all over her body. She burns palo santo to clear outside energies from her space.

“Taking salt baths is healing too,” she said. “A lot of us are empathic and pick up on other people’s energy. Salt is the smallest crystal, it helps to ground and clear our energy.”

Embracing kinks (like BDSM) can be healing 

I even learned about an erotic rope bondage retreat she attended earlier this year. She explained that kink can be healing, and it can contribute to reclaiming body ownership, considering the importance of consent within the kink and BDSM community. Her experience involved a lot of embodiment work and partner work and building trust, and ended with a suspension that left her feeling super connected within her body. Unsurprisingly, within witchcraft, sexuality is one of the most powerful connective energies there is.

“One of the cool things about witchcraft is we don’t think sex is evil,” she told me. “It is truly a connection to God and to Source.”

Witchcraft celebrates consensual pleasure

This reframing of sex and sexuality is perhaps the only aspect of witchcraft that stands far opposite Christianity. Where Christianity shames sex outside of marriage, lust in general, and homosexuality, witchcraft celebrates pleasure, as long as it doesn’t cause harm to anyone. 

“For a while, I heard that witchcraft meant evil and worshipping Satan,” she said. “But I think there’s been such a surplus of information that recently, the idea of witchcraft has really evolved.”

This perception that witchcraft is evil has led to the brutalization of women across countries and generations. In India, women are still being labeled as witches, raped, and murdered. For Gabriela, witchcraft isn’t a trend she can discard later on in life, it’s a privilege she is grateful to have.

“I know I’ve had a lot of lives where I’ve been lynched or pressed to death, so coming into this space as a witch now is very scary,” Gabriela said. “Thousands of people have died for us to embrace the title. We have to honor those who came before us. It’s time for us to rise up and heal.”