Amanda Yates Garcia has made a name for herself as the Oracle of Los Angeles through public rituals such as Capitalism Exorcism and Devouring Patriarchy. She is on a mission to re-enchant the world through the power of art and magic.
Los Angeles sits at a crossroads.
It is a major metropolitan area built in an unforgiving desert, a diverse global city with as many ethnic enclaves as it has freeway junctions. It is host to the entertainment capital of the world, a city where dreams are born and die in a cycle with no mercy. It sits in a delicate geography—both physical and political—vulnerable to wildfires, earthquakes and citywide corruption. It is a landscape of endless summer and film-noir nights.
The magic is strong in this borderland of consciousness where palm trees point to the stars and the homeless fill the gutter.
At these divergent crossroads, an oracle speaks. In the heart of this wicked city, a witch is brewing strange potions. In this burning desert of liminal spaces, a healer says prayers for the disenchanted.
Her name is Amanda Yates Garcia, a.k.a. The Oracle of Los Angeles. As a divinatrix, witch and healer, she embodies the city’s magical current. Emerging from the shadows at the crossroads of art and magic, her mission is to re-enchant the world so that it may rise above the oppression of the spirit.
“In the [West] there is a disenchantment of the world,” says Yates Garcia of post-Enlightenment hegemony.
“One of the projects of the Enlightenment was to disenchant the world. To remove spirit from matter, so that anything without spirit in it was open for exploitation.” She continues, “Post-Enlightenment, the earth, the spheres, plants and animals, we’re treated as if they were void of spirit. Whereas the wealthy, European males who were busily founding scientific rationalism, our new religion, treated themselves as if they were pure spirit, pure mind, somehow thrust into the ugly world of matter in order to dominate and master it.” Talking about the beginning of her practice as a public oracle she says, “I wanted to live in a world where matter had spirit again. I’m on a mission to re-enchant the world.”
Yates Garcia’s enchantment intersects with her refined credentials, having studied dance in London and later film and writing at the prestigious California Institute of the Arts. To speak with her stimulates your mind and opens your heart. Her brew contains equal parts intellect and intuition: she has lectured on the role of magic and art at UC Irvine, UCLA and Cal State Pomona and has performed public rituals at venues like the Hammer Museum, Side Street Projects, the San Diego Art Institute and Human Resources Los Angeles.
As an oracle, she has sage counsel for those seeking guidance on the spiritual path. As a healer, she has endless compassion to assuage the disenchanted and marginalized. And as a witch, she gives wise words of practical advice for how to re-enchant the world.
But as an artist, she liberates the imagination from the tyranny of mundanity and the banality of oppression…
Becoming the Oracle of Los Angeles
Yates Garcia sailed on magical currents from an early age, being raised in the cunning traditions by her mother. Following the footsteps of wise women, Yates Garcia grew up with a reverence for the Earth as a sacred space, a spirited realm. The dominating hierarchies of organized religion, nascent even in the likes of Wicca, were banished from her upbringing.
“I was brought up practicing magic and witchcraft with my mother,” Yates Garcia reminisces.
“Most people would think of my mother’s practice as Wiccan,” she continues, “but she doesn’t consider herself Wiccan. She considers Wicca to be too hierarchical… even patriarchal. She would consider [her practice] as more of an Earth-based, Goddess-oriented spirituality… So, I was brought up by practicing magic like that.”
During her teens, Yates Garcia drifted from the magical currents she was raised in. As most adolescents are want to do, she lost touch with her roots in a bid to find herself. It wasn’t until college that she reconnected with the traditions of her upbringing.
“Art become my religion,” Yates Garcia reflects on her days as a college student. But it was through art that Yates Garcia reconnected with her magical roots.
“I got really interested in dance,” she continues. “But I was still interested in magic and mythology. I made a dance film about witches. I did my undergraduate thesis on Medusa. I ended up coming back to the states and getting a graduate degree in writing and film at CalArts. I was working with Persephone [at the time] and working on deconstructing the classical narrative through my writing and through my filmmaking.”
Persephone is a perfect patron for Yates Garcia’s brand of intersectional witchcraft. Protected by her mother Demeter, goddess of the harvest, from the courtship by the likes of Hermes and Apollo, Persephone was eventually kidnapped by Hades and brought to the underworld. When Demeter discovered what had happened, she ceased the growing of the crops, leaving the world in famine. When Hades eventually agreed to return Persephone, he tricked the young goddess with pomegranate seeds. Because Persephone had tasted the food of the underworld, she must return there for half the year. Hence, the crops dying off in fall and winter, only to be reborn with Persephone’s return in spring.
The Persephone myth is a great lens through which one can view Yates Garcia’s work as an artist and witch . Being both Goddess of the Spring and Queen of the Underworld, Persephone embodies the power that women have to reclaim their identities against patriarchal oppression. She teaches us of the cyclical nature of time, that everything comes around, and what is reaped must be sown. She knows both the mysteries of the harvest and the secrets of the underworld. Her myth is the key to balancing empowerment and oppression, feminine and masculine, and ultimately life and death.
It was in this harmony of give and take that Yates Garcia reconnected with her magical roots.
“I felt like my work in grad school was really just… sort of angry and, well, anti. Anti-capitalism, anti-patriarchy, anti-colonial,” Yates Garcia says, recollecting her early work.
“As far as my process as an artist, towards the ends of my 20s, I started to recognize how easy it is to point out all the things that are wrong with the world. For instance, it’s really easy to say ‘Oh! I hate capitalism and I wish it was gone’ but it’s not as easy to figure out what system to have instead. But as anyone who seriously studies magic soon discovers, it’s not just about pointing out the things you don’t want… it’s really about focusing on what you DO want and visualizing that and bringing it into being… Let’s say we somehow managed to eradicate capitalism—or get rid of Donald Trump, for instance. Well then do we have Mike Pence? Do we just have some other fascist government or economic system? What is the system we are working towards creating?”
The balance of banishing and invoking led Garcia to insights into her own identity both as who she was, and who she wanted to become. The push-pull between oppression and empowerment led her to identify with her sorcerous power as the antidote to victimhood.
“From a feminist perspective,” continues Yates Garcia , “I felt like I wanted to be empowered. I didn’t just want to focus on the ways that I felt oppressed or disempowered. I feel like the figure of a witch or the oracle is a very empowered position for a woman to occupy. And it’s been that way for millennia. Five hundred years before Christ, Homer wrote about the witch Circe; powerful, magical women called witches have been described in most cultures since the beginning of recorded history. So, as I was developing my oracular witch practice, I felt like I had some ground to stand on—I had something to work with there.”
And so began her weaving of magic into art.
“To begin my endeavor to re-enchant the world,” she recalls, “I started holding ceremonies and public rituals as an artist.”
It was through these public rituals that the Oracle of Los Angeles came into being.
“I was trying to find a way to create a unified theory within my own world and practice,” says Yates Garcia. “[E]verything that I was doing—my will—was applied towards the same ends, which was living this enchanted life. Living in an enchanted world and doing what I could to [enchant] the world around me. To make the world a more magical place. So that’s how the Oracle of Los Angeles was born.”
Healing the Dispirited and Re-enchanting the World
As the Oracle of Los Angeles, Yates Garcia works personally with clients through private ritual, spellwork, shamanic healing, or divinatory sessions.
“Divinatory sessions bring [clients] clarity [and] perspective,” Garcia explains.
“You know, finding out what archetypes or energies or spirits are at work in their lives. It depends on what your perspective is and how you interpret that. But once you figure out which archetypes are at work in your life… then you can predict how things are going to play out or you can recognize the healing you might need—you know, like if you know what snake has bitten you, it’s easier to find the antidote. So that’s how I work with divination. [It’s] really about helping people find clarity, find power, find agency within their lives so that they can know what to do next and feel reenergized, like life is an adventure and they’re excited to go out and tackle it.”
Her work extends beyond archetypes and into the imagination itself.
“I also do ritual magic with people,” she continues, “entering through the porthole of the imagination.”
”The imagination is a porthole to the spirit world. A lot of people say ‘Oh, it’s just your imagination.’ Well it’s not just your imagination. Everything—every human artifact, every building, every film, every novel, every app—started in the human imagination. That’s pretty powerful. Through ceremonial ritual, we jump through the porthole of the imagination, where we can enter the realm of spirit consciousness. [We] sort of rearrange the furniture in our minds so that the feng shui flows a little bit more fluidly within our lives. So, for instance, I might do spells to help someone get art gallery representation or spells to find confidence or spells to find a lover or spells for protection.”
Magic in the real world, however, is not like it is in the movies. There is a responsibility on the client to continue to make space for the effects of the ritual to manifest in their lives. As Yates Garcia points out, quoting magician Jason Miller, first you do the working, then you do the work.
“Anybody who’s ever been married—who’s ever had a wedding—can tell you the power of ceremony and ritual,” she explains.
“Nobody would say, ‘If you get married and have that ceremony, then you’re all done! You can just walk away—you’re done working!’ It’s like, no, that’s when the work starts. You just got married and now your work starts. You don’t just do the magic ceremonial spell and now you have true love forever and all your work is done.”
“Magic is really about finding the power within yourself, seeing things that you haven’t noticed before. It’s a process of unfolding, and there’s always more work to be done. A lot of time when people come to me for love spells, for example, there’s a whole lifetime of obstacles that they’ve been dealing with, within their own psyche, or within their environment, that have been blocking them from finding the one—if such a thing can even be said to exist… Even after performing a spell, they will still need to do work in order to keep themselves open and awake to the possibilities. Keeping your heart open is a full-time job, you never get to retire. But luckily, it’s a lot of fun!”
“First We Do the Working…”
We all have a part to play in re-enchanting the world. Magic is as much an act of activism as it is a tool for personal transformation. The more that one transforms the world within, the more that they change the world without.
“Activism is about taking responsibility for yourself and for creating the world you wish other people would take the responsibility for creating,” Yates Garcia elucidates.
“Ultimately, the agenda of witchcraft and magic is about recognizing one’s own internal authority. Magic is essentially anarchistic—and I don’t mean anarchistic as in chaos and mess and war. I mean it as in [taking] responsibility for creating a civilization that we want to live in. So that we all feel like agents within that culture and that we do not bow down to someone else or force somebody else to bow down to our world, but instead work in collaboration.”
“I feel like the ultimate aim of magic should be activism,” she continues, “It’s not enough just to make life better for ourselves. Ultimately we should be working to improve the lot of all beings, plants, animals, earth, and all the other people now and to come.”
But it is important to remember that first you do the working, then you do the work. True magical activism requires that one spend as much time stuffing envelopes or canvassing neighborhoods as they do yelling catching slogans at protests and rallies.
“A lot of people within spiritual culture and the New Age movement love the idea of a peak experience,” explains Yates Garcia .
“And the younger ones really love this idea of revolution—you know there’s this sort of romance of the revolution. But that is not the way change really happens… [T]here’s a lot of boring labor that goes into those shifts and changes—being able to find power and beauty and enchantment in the ordinary experience of daily life is really important. . You know, so we can stay present to the beauty of stuffing envelopes. As much as we can expect ecstatic experiences on the mountain top talking to the Goddess, the Goddess is just as much present when we are canvassing the neighborhood trying to change votes.”
“…Then We Do the Work”
The reenchantment of the world ultimately begins within the individual—in their very own body. Yates Garcia recommends daily meditation and grounding to reconnect with the physical body in the natural world.
“[Practices] that I advocate everyday are centring, grounding, releasing, and shielding,” she says.
“[You need to] come back into your body—really sensing your body, listening to the sounds that you hear, recognizing the taste that you have, noticing pain, noticing comfort. To be powerful we have to be embodied. The reason why spirits are interested in us is because we have bodies. That’s a powerful thing to have. We are agents, we can take action with this body. As much trouble that it might cause us, it also has a lot of power in it. Most of us are very dissociated from our bodies. We have legacies of trauma go far, far back into our history, into our ancestral history. That make us very dissociative.”
She also recommends constructing an altar in your personal space where Spirit can enter.
“Most of us create [altars] by default,” says Garcia.
“You know, we just have clutter altars all around us, that are naturally occurring. But it’s really important to actually create altars with more intention. And once you start doing that and you create a space for Spirit to enter… with an intention of what you want it to do and what you want it to attract and you sit there and you get in your body in front and just listen. Commit to doing it for months, for ten minutes [a day]. Things will change for you. You will start to hear the message. The important thing to remember is that the message is not going to come to you, at least especially not at first, in this wild and obvious way, shouting directions… [I]t’s a quiet voice and you have to really let yourself be inside your body and calm to really listen to it and hear it.”
When one makes subtle shifts to allow Spirit to enter their world, their world will become more spirited. It just isn’t in the most obvious of ways. One has to be open to receiving the message or at least having an exchange, rather than directing the entire conversation.
“Magic will always push you further down the road towards getting what you want,” Yates Garcia says, “But often times magic can be like plant medicine. You know, it shows rather than tells.”