Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder: Science-Based Paganism. I'm one of your hosts Yucca,
Mark: And then the other one, Mark.
Yucca: And today we have a really special episode. This is going to be one of our interview episodes, and we have Sedna Woo with us to talk about atheists witchcraft.
Mark: Yay. Welcome. Sedna.
Sedna Woo: Hello. Thank you. It's good to be here.
Mark: Well, we're really delighted to have you love your YouTube channel. We'll, we'll put a link to it in the episode notes. So folks can go and check out your stuff. But let's just dive right in. And while we're talking, you know, feel free to ask us questions too. This doesn't have to be a one-way process.
So, first, can you tell us a little about yourself and your channel, how you came to atheist witchcraft and what it means to you?
Sedna Woo: Yeah, absolutely. So growing up, I was a Like pretty run of the mill, like Christian family. Also it was the nineties. So there was a lot of like, wacky things going on when you? were growing up Christian, there's less of like strange youth groups and rock bands and like just this all blissed out thing.
And when I got to university and I got exposed to the fact that there was not just one way of thinking about things, it kind of blew my mind and it rocked me around a little bit. But I didn't actually completely deconvert until I was like in my mid twenties. And then it just sort of like, you know, you, you pull through.
And then pretty soon the whole thing just unravels. And then I felt really like, I had been done in, I felt like I had been lied to, so I was really mad about it. So I kind of like fell into that whole angry atheist scene. The anger, atheist YouTubers are like in full force at this time. There's lots of angry atheist books to consume.
There was also some groups and my husband teases me a lot because I jumped from one. To another club. Cause I just don't really social. Like I just love clubs. And it just seems funny to like meet at a bar and just talk about not believing in God, like for many, many weekends. But then, you know, you just sort of cool off of that kind of thing and like.
You just kind of waffle around and you'd look for something to replace that. And I started doing the witchy stuff, cause I just knew people that do the witchy stuff. And I knew that there was nothing supernatural about it and I just kept those two things apart. And and then just one day I was driving to work and I heard an NPR story about somebody a writer and they were using.
Placebos, like open-label placebos to like, get themselves out of writer's block. And I was an artist and I was having a lot of creative, black, and I just, you know, like was listened to it and it just dawned on me. I was like, oh my gosh, that's what I've been doing with this witchcraft the whole time.
Like, that's the science behind what I'm doing. Like, that's why it's working. I've been placebo. And so then I kind of ran home and after work that day, and I like did some research and I just got so excited about it that I wanted to hear what other people were doing. And when I looked around online, I, I couldn't find content creators.
And I like was a big consumer of content. So I thought, Okay, I guess it's going to be me. And so I Slap together a channel and did a really silly, like that video. That first video is just, it's really hard for me to like, know that it's still out there on guitar, but I can't delete it because it's got so many really good comments on it.
It was like a really good conversation underneath it. So I can't like take it down and redo it, but anyway, and that's yeah, that's, I guess we're all got started and it turns out there was a lot of people out there. I just wasn't finding the content because the internet is so big that it just took a loss swirling on my part to.
You're able to like find those resources. And so now I've found lots of content, creators, and resources.
Mark: You know, I had exactly the same experience when I was first, when I kind of dropped out of the pagan community because I had some really bad experiences around fee ism. And and I went hunting for. You know, non theist, paganism, and I didn't find it. And it's, it's my fault. I just, because it was out there, it. John Cleveland host was doing stuff on your orgo was doing stuff. John Halstead was doing stuff there. There were a bunch of people that were doing things, Daniel strain and and I just blew it. I just, I, so I had to invent my own.
Sedna Woo: But yeah, like, isn't it true though, after you invented it, then it's sort of like created this like dynamic for you to be able to find those other
Sedna Woo: content creators or resources. And then when you do find them, you're like, oh my gosh, like you must've just started doing this. And it's like, oh no, I've been doing this for longer than you have like, oh,
Mark: right. Well, I wish I'd known that it would've saved me a lot of effort.
Sedna Woo: I have thought that literal thought.
Yucca: It might be pretty good to have the different voices though, because people connect with different people with different personalities and your particular way of communicating is through video too. So you're not just a voice or just a text. You actually have your videos that you set up and are very intentional with, you know, what's happening on the screen.
And personally, I really love the. It's just really enjoyable to watch your videos and be like, oh, what is that? And, you know, what's that painting in the background and, Ooh,
Mark: what is she wearing?
Yucca: but yes. What is she wearing?
Mark: Yeah, can you, can you talk a little bit about your aesthetic and your wardrobe and stuff? It's it's I mean, this is a podcast, so people won't be able to see, but I hope people really do go to your channel because you're you're aesthetic is so charming and so unique. It's really wonderful.
Sedna Woo: Yeah, absolutely. So. My aesthetic has always been, I mean, like I used to not like the word whimsical, because it was kind of like this like crunchy thing, but I think I'm fully embraced. I've always been kind of, I mean, it's, it's nerdy, like I'm very nerdy in a sort of like alternative. Like decor, alternative fashion.
And I think that that's pretty normal for my demographic of people. Like, I think it's a rejection of like, like cookie cutter lifestyle, I guess is just trying to like, you know, embrace, embrace the weirdness a little bit. I had actually gotten into EGL fashion, which is an acronym, meaning elegant.
Or EGL elegant, Gothic, Lolita fashion. And we use the acronym because in the United States, the term Lolita has a lot of baggage. It's originally a Japanese that, that term doesn't hold the same baggage. And it's not intended to be connected to. The book or the film. It's just supposed to mean it's just supposed to be a fill in for like being cute.
And I had actually, I had recently moved and so I was looking for friends and I love clubs and I love to join social groups. So as soon as I moved into town, I was like, okay, mission, make new friends is on. And so I just found every sort of Like fun activity. And so I met these people who dressed in this style and I was like, I have to learn what this is.
I have to figure this out. Cause I need to be around these people and I have to go do fun things with them and make friends with them. And there's a pretty steep learning curve. Like. There are a lot of rules in the fashion and there are a lot of full pause. So when you're first learning you do a lot of mix ups and wear embarrassing clothing, but it's hard to tell, like what is a foe paw from the outside looking in.
Anyway, it's it's definitely an alternative fashion. It's sort of rejecting social. It is taking things that are feminine and dialing it up to like a thousand and tell it's almost like revoltingly feminine, like, anybody that looks at this sort of fashion with the ruffles and the pedicures. Alleles and things like, oh, that's a, that's a fetish, right?
Like that's for that's for guys. Like, I have never met a guy that like looked at what I was wearing and be like, yeah, that's that's hot. Like it's, that's the opposite. Usually. It's the opposite. And you just, you take up a lot of space when you're really dressed up. So it is, there's definitely attachments to feminism in the, in the fashion, but that's not to say that like the fashion is open to like all, all people and all genders.
Just people that want to be like over the top, roughly in feminine. And so that was sort of happening at this. I was experimenting with that fashion and starting the channel. And so I was like, Well, these clothes are awfully expensive and I'm only wearing them like out and it would be good to get double use.
So I just wear them during the videos that, Hey, my videos will be extra, like lovely. And I won't get more mileage out of these clothes that are kind of expensive because you have to ship them in.
Yucca: Well, and then you get that beautiful, just interesting aesthetic in your, in your video for watching that sets you apart from, you know, the, how many other thousands, literally millions of other YouTube channels that are out.
Sedna Woo: Yeah, absolutely. I also enjoy watching YouTubers that dress like. A certain way and like kind of have us like a fancier presence when they're in front of the camera. Also, I just know that there's like, there might be like a stereotypical which look and some people's heads. And I feel like roughly over the top, Lacy feminine is not.
That. So if we can like break, have to be like, would she, this is for everybody which Innes can mean many different things. Like you don't have to wear all black if you don't want to, but you can.
Mark: Very cool. So you talk sometimes about about naturalism. About the idea of the universe as being a physical place that follows physical laws. How does that fit into your worldview in your practice?
Sedna Woo: Being like using naturalism as sort of a cornerstone of my philosophy is really important to me because I think when you don't have natural laws then, and anything is possible, then like, Did you have no basis for like what's real and what's not real. And I am, I don't get into philosophy and I don't want to like question what's real and what's not real.
I just want to, I don't want to worry about those sorts of things. I'll just worry about what we have evidence for. Like, oh, you go into forums and there are folks who are like, oh, that's such a small minded worldview. Like don't you want there to be like, bigger, amazing things out there, like, you know, souls and interstellar travel and aliens and all these things.
And it's like, no, not really. Not really. I, I don't want, like, I don't want to worry about all that.
Yucca: that's here already is pretty interesting, right?
Sedna Woo: I agree. I agree.
Mark: for sure.
Yucca: So can we circle back around actually, you were talking about your story with being in the car and listening to NPR and hearing this artist talk about open-label placebo. And so most people are probably familiar with the idea of placebo in medic. Right. Whether you're taking a placebo pill or a real pill, but can you talk about what that means in the context of witchcraft or in the context of practices?
Sedna Woo: Yeah. absolutely. Like a placebo is a really important tool for research. And even used in research, it creates so many different kinds of effects that it actually makes clinical trials like really complicated because you really never know what that placebo effect is going to be. Cause there's like placebo effect, there's backlog, placebo effect.
And then there's also open-label placebo effect and that means that I'm in on it. And I think that people. Have a really simple understanding of placebo that it is, you know, maybe you're being fooled and you're falling for something, or like you're just kind of weak minded that you're able to be, you know, that you take a pill and you think that it's a pain reliever.
So your pain is really. And that it's like a weak minded thing. And it's actually, I see the flip side of that is that your mind is so amazing that it can produce like relief. Like even, even if you know that the placebo is a placebo, like, like you're not, you're not being fooled. It's just a tool that your body is using.
Like, it's, it's like it's mind over matter, but not in like the. Like that book, the secret, like it's not a manifestation mind over matter. Like it's just a physical, like body mind over matter, which is pretty cool.
Mark: Yeah. W one of the things that we talk about on the podcast here a lot is suspension of disbelief and how ritual is kind of acting as a. These, these activities have magical powers. And then as far as our psyche is concerned, they absolutely do have magical powers. And so we act as if that's what's happening in the world and we change our behavior and we change our mindset and we change our mood.
And and it's all, as you say, the open-label placebo effect.
Yucca: Yeah. You know, I think it's so amazing. It still works, even when you know that it's placebo, right.
Sedna Woo: Right. Like, and it not, doesn't just work a little bit. Like it works in almost the same way. Like in the clinical trials, the open-label placebo effect group had just as much like pain, elevated pain tolerance as the other placebo group, but there's a big stipulation. And That, is that if you don't explain the benefits of the placebo, it actually works.
It's if there's a backfire and it works worse.
Yucca: It's like the, no, by what they
Sedna Woo: There are no CBO. Yeah.
exactly. Exactly. So if you are doing your witchcraft and I'm like, Hey, that's all placebo. And you're like, oh no, Yeah.
you're right. It is, it is just placebo. Then you could have like the no CBO effect where it makes you feel worse.
Like, you know, or if you're doing something that doesn't really just vibe for you. And so you'd feel silly doing it like, or, you know, like, or you feel like you've done something wrong or you've like hex someone. And they were like, oh no, this has gotten a, like, Come back at me, like, like you have to kind of like understand how placebos work to be able to manage those.
I guess pitfalls that can happen. So if you understand how placebo works and the control group that was explained how placebo works, then it can be as effective as the traditional placebo. So you don't want to just go into a wild west style. You want to have a good understanding of what you're actually doing to yourself.
Yucca: And this is something that isn't just one study. This is well understood throughout many research fields. This is shown over and over and over again that this is, I mean, it's so important that you can't design a clinical study without putting accounting for a placebo. Right.
Mark: Not if it involves the human mind.
Yucca: Yes. That's right. Yeah. If people are in, people are involved in it, then you know, you've got to have that.
Sedna Woo: Right, which is wonderful, which means like, just like you said, that. there is, we have a lot of. Information about it because it is such a big part of our clinical trials. So.
it's not this like, you know, like we don't have a very good handle on acupuncture because there's nobody really doing a lot of studies on acupuncture because nobody's really found any good reason to get in depth with it.
But placebo, we have a ton of research on because, you know, we just have like, incidentally, like research will come up when we use placebo, which is a lot of the.
Mark: Yeah. It's it's fascinating. You know, I, I wonder about mechanisms of the placebo effect a lot, and I think. To some degree, there's this almost desire to please on the part of our brains. It's like, oh, you want this effect here? Okay. We'll do this effect. And I find that in my own atheopagan practice quite a lot that, you know, I do this ritual and my brain goes well, okay.
We're going to start thinking that way. We're going to start acting that way. Yeah. You know, that's, that's okay. We can provide that. And of course there's always that nattering critic, voice that tells you that it's stupid and it's not going to work, but over time you can wear that sucker down.
Sedna Woo: That is so true, but the the imposter syndrome, little voice in the back, like it does quiet down just over time with like practice.
Sedna Woo: Yeah, that's absolutely true. I like it's, it's weird that this placeboing of yourself or like the ritual is just a way, like it's a roundabout way, I guess, to like speak to your own body, like to communicate with your body, because there's so much of ourselves that we're not, I feel like we're not in direct communication.
So it's like, how do I really get in touch with that? You know, like all my hormones and my emotions and like all these processes that are seemingly out of my control, like, how do I like quiet down that like frontal lobe, that's like bossing everybody around all that, like just being really noisy and chaotic.
And it's like, I need to get down. to like this inner part. I'm having a Chitty chat about maybe like feeling a little better or being less stressful.
Mark: Yeah, that's, that's great. That's a great way to describe it. You, in, in your YouTube channels, Make offhand comments sometimes about political issues like colonialism and racism and feminism which I find delightful personally. I mean, I I'm, I I'm a very political person and I think that as people who want the world to be a better place, it's, that's part of our job.
How do you see those values connecting to your witchcraft? How do you, how do you see that as being a part of all that.
Sedna Woo: I think that it would be easy for me to like say, oh, I need to stay in my lane, or this is not related to like the content that I'm putting out. And I don't want to step on any toes or I just don't want to like bring this negativity into my channel, but that all comes from a very privileged clay. I have the flexibility to be able to like, make that. choice.
So I think that because I have the ability. To like put out there positive information about these issues. Like I think it's kind of my responsibility to be really Frank and earnest with my viewers, especially if there's a lot of young people that still get their information from YouTube. And so they might not They might not understand some of the baggage that witchcraft can have. and so it's good for them to just hear about it and that way, when they happen upon it later, they'll be able to see what's going on. There'll be wise to it and don't fall for it, hopefully. But yeah, I just, I think it's like it's a, it's a privilege for me to be able to make the. To actually talk about this stuff in my content.
And I think it's also my responsibility, like as somebody producing content to not skirt around these issues. And it's it's, you know, it's not easy because you don't want to mess up, like it's really intimidating cause you don't want to say the wrong thing. Because I am not the expert on those matters, but I just, I, I think it's my responsibility to do the best that I can. Yes, especially with, you know, witchcraft and I'm sure that well, you, and you said that you were political as well. And I, and I know that you've talked about things that have happened back in your, back in your days of being in a, in a group. But I think that there is just so much woven in baggage and like, I think that oftentimes these.
I guess like a cult things, witchy things, witchcraft things, paganism, Neo paganism, like they're sort of framed as these ancient wisdoms, but really when you like peel back the surface, they were developed and created by like white guys. It like like. Like Allister Crowley is like a Victorian white guy.
And like, the person that invented and developed Wicca was like a 1950s white guy. And so it's like, like they definitely wove there. Yeah. There you go. Yeah.
he definitely woke his bias. Into this like, quote, like ancient wisdom, ancient knowledge. So there's a lot of band translation. There's a lot of, you know, just kind of made up history just to sort of fit this narrative in this worldview of these people.
And so I think that, you know, we. Feminists and, you know, people that are fighting racism and misogyny in contemporary times, like it's our responsibility to call that stuff out and be like, you know, we're not married to this like quote, ancient wisdom. Like we can deconstruct witchcraft. So that way, you know, the, the future, which crafty people don't have to be burdened by that BS.
Cause we're not, we're not here for it. Also, oh Yeah, And since we're like writing our own like witchcraft, right? Like you've created your own like set of beliefs, then you, like, why would you create something fresh and new that has those negative aspects of it? So it's good to like, just be, I guess, aware of that when you are building up a new practice and you're not tied down to the supernatural belief or the tradition that.
You know, you don't have to worry about that sort of thing. It's I think it was somebody on Twitter said that tradition is peer pressure from like people that are dead. And so you don't have to be beholden to that anymore.
Mark: I love that.
Yucca: So for you, it sounds like the choice to use the word witchcraft is very intentional and within the whole context. So we've been talking about, what does that mean to you? What is, what is witchcraft and what is your witchcraft?
Sedna Woo: I choose to use the term witchcraft because I think like, I don't want to skirt around any of the baggage that the term which cached might have like this, the same way, reason that I used the word atheist with my channel is because I know that the word atheist has a lot of negative baggage. it's earned that there was, there was a lot of rough and tumble times there, like in the past 10 years. But I think that, you know, we, we want to like take back those words to mean something positive. And I just feel like it's those are very unapologetic where it's like, I feel like you can, like, people will say, you know, like, oh, I am, I am skeptical.
Or they'll have like a lot of. Dancing around ways to describe. And I think it's the same thing with, with witchcraft. And I'd say witchcraft because Like craft is like producing and doing. And for me, that's what it's about is like the spell making the it's almost like it's like arts and crafts, right? So like it's kind of a work like it's, something's going on. And to me, that's more of like me and my kitchen doing a spell and less of like, you know, it's not this big organized thing. Like for me, like, Like Neo paganism or like new paganism or something. It's just, it's not, I don't know. It doesn't give that same visual for me.
Mark: So, what does your witchcraft look like? You know, how does, how is it during your day or in your life? And what impact does it have on your life?
Sedna Woo: Oh, a big part of my witchcraft is setting intention. Like, So there are different rituals. There's something called glamour magic so that when I'm getting ready in the morning, I'm not just, you know, going through my skincare routine. I can put intentions of like kind of positive day. Sometimes I call it my mindfulness meditation with a little bit of razzle-dazzle to like reset my brain a little bit.
I try to tap into. The senses as much as I can. So I love things that are very smelly, like, I love burning herbs and incense and things like that. Who doesn't love an open flame. There's something really primal about that. You light a candle when you're trying to like work through thoughts. I use ritual a lot for like, nervousness and anxiety and like, For negative thoughts and breaking negative thoughts cycles.
So if I. You know, do the meditation in the form of a ritual. It's more engaged thing. I have a very short attention span. I get bored very easily. And so just mindfulness and meditation and journaling and things like that. Just it's hard for me to stick with. And it's hard for me to keep into a routine because I just get really distracted or bored.
And so when I put that aspect of it's my magic and I'm doing my witchcraft, it really helps me. Stick with what I'm doing. And like, it helps my self improvement be a little bit more powerful. So instead of journaling, you know, I'm writing in my grammar, like, and instead of doing my skincare routine, I'm doing, you know, I'm incorporating moving water.
I'm doing my glamour magic. And instead of managing my intrusive thoughts and calming my anxiety, I'm doing candle magic and I'm working with a candle. So, it's just, it's definitely the self-care that we should all be doing. And it's just adding a little bit of razzle dazzle to it because, you know, like, Religions do that too.
Right? They, we do self care things. Like we just, they add a lot of ceremony and they activate your senses so that your brain is more invested in what's going on to make you more interested. So that's not boring, right? Like you want to make the self care spicy.
Mark: Huh? Huh.
Yucca: I love that.
Mark: Well, and there's something too about the word witchcraft where, you know, if you're doing witchcraft, that means you're a witch and that's a powerful word. It means that you're not subject to these negative forces. Right. It means, you know, you're in charge and you're now going to control the forces of nature in order to make something good happen for yourself.
Sedna Woo: I think that is really tapping into like the spirit of using the word witchcraft. And I feel like that might be why we're currently in sort of a Renaissance of witchcraft. Like you're going to see a lot of young people popping up into the witchcraft community because a lot of things are going on where people are feeling less in control of their own lives.
And so trying to claw back. Control over your own life, I think is a wonderful thing. And then if we can just sort of remove some of the supernatural elements So.
that we're not like blaming, like our lack of belief, you know, like we're not living up to an expectation of belief or like we're blaming the universe or mercury is a richer grade.
Like if we can take out this, some of that stuff, then we can use this witchcraft like to empower ourselves. But yeah, I think that the word witchcraft too, I think that's probably why I like it. I think you hit the nail on. Because it's Yeah. it's like saying, Hey, I'm in control of this. I'm powerful. Like, you know, I'm pulling some strings behind the scenes.
Mark: So, oh, go ahead.
Yucca: the, the young people coming into this where. Hope to see witchcraft and specifically atheist witchcraft going and you know, the next 10 years 20. And do you have a vision or what you'd just like to see happen?
Sedna Woo: Hi. I absolutely. I have some predictions about what's going to be happening with atheist witchcraft. I, I downloaded TikTok when we all first went into lockdown a while back and I was really bored and like desperate for that sweet, sweet, like serotonin. And so. So it was and like so I kind of like saw young people making content about witchcraft and it was like, they were really enjoying it and they're really engaging with it.
There was lots of conversations about like quote shadow work, which is just sort of like personal reflection on, you know, self-improvement and I think that's wonderful that we can do, like we can frame. Personal self-improvement for young people in this empowering fun way, like, and I think that we don't need to be gatekeepers about it, but then the flip side to that is there are going to be a ton of supernatural claims because of this really popular people are springing up with their.
You know, wisdom about how they're like descended from aliens and that's that there's some problematic stuff going on with that. So I think that if we can create these spaces, which you guys are doing, you know, we're creating more spaces for. These folks who don't have that supernatural belief to fall and still be engaged in the community. And like, I think that if that can grow, it can sort of like maybe counterbalance so that it doesn't go too far off the rails, I guess. And I don't know if people who are striving for that supernatural thing. I don't know if they're going to see atheist Witchery or atheopagan ism. I don't know if they're going to see that go, Oh, nevermind.
That's a bunch of better. This more practical. That's for it. Let's do that instead. Like, I don't know about that, but at least the people who are like, Ooh, you know, I don't actually jive with all this star seed. Or like, oh no. Is that person on TikTokactually forming a cult, like that makes me uncomfy that maybe then know, find like atheopagan ism and atheist witchcraft, and they'll be like, oh good.
That's that's for me.
Mark: Yeah. And there's I think that's really well said. And one thing that I've experienced quite a bit is that there are a lot of people that have been, they've been playing along for years. They've been acting as if they believed in gods and spirits and souls and all that kind of stuff. And they're tired.
They're there. They're tired of having to play along in order to be a part of this community. And so, you know, they're coming to me and sort of nudging me and saying, Hey, you know, I, I kind of feel that way too. And then they, then they get engaged with other people who feel the same way and they feel like they've arrived.
Like they're at home.
Yucca: And then it doesn't have to be something about what we're not right. We're oh, we're not, we're not God people, we're not this people, but, but what it is that we are, right. The identity can be around what we are and not what we're against sort of.
Mark: Yes, exactly. So.
Sedna Woo: Yeah, absolutely. I totally agree with that. I think it's really good to give these folks a nice place to come to when, like you said, when they're kind of like, Ooh, I've been faking it and I still don't, I'm still not hearing my. Like dad, talk to me like I'm still not like seeing ghosts, you know? And that way they can still feel like they're engaged with the community, that they don't have to completely give up on what they're doing.
Mark: So I'm Surdna is there a partying message that you have for our listeners? Something that you'd like to say to the folks who listened to the wonder.
Sedna Woo: I let's see I'm going to my, my departing message, I think will be that of a little bit of like optimistic nihilism that you are probably not descended from aliens. There are probably not gods or goddesses speaking to you. The there's not like, there's not angels like watching over you.
But That's okay. And that's a beautiful thing because like we Yucca said it earlier, like the world naturally is amazing and beautiful. And you might find that you don't need all of those things to live a wonderful fulfilled, magical, like mystical life. And if that, if that rings true for you, then come check out my YouTube channel because we have a lot of fun over there.
And I have a lot of really cool people that follow me and believe really rad comments.
Mark: That's perfect. Thank you so much for joining us today said no, it's really been a lot of fun.
Yucca: I had a great time. Thank you. And so folks can find you on YouTube so that Sedna Woo. So S E D N a Neward. Woo. I am. So we'll put the link in the description for that as well, and they can always just type that right into the search bar and you'll come up so wonderful. Thank you.
Sedna Woo: Awesome. Thank you so much. It was lovely to speak to you.
Mark: Really enjoyed it. Thanks so much.