Witchcraft saved Shawn Engel’s life. Or at least that’s how she describes the effect it’s had on her and her mental health. Engel uses witchcraft, like tarot reading, to gauge people’s emotions and help them heal whatever is wrong, instead of using it as a purely magical tool.
Her Instagram (@witchywisdoms) has just under 45,000 followers; she posts advice for different types of witchcraft and a lot of inspirational quotes (often times from her own Twitter account).
She’s also published several books on witchcraft covering subjects including love spells, mushrooms and more. Engel credits her social media presence for her success and her ability to pursue new areas like writing her books. “My social media following — I have to thank for every opportunity I’ve gotten.”
Engel got her start in witchcraft when she was 13. She would go to her local Barnes & Noble and buy books on astrology or other mystic teachings. This was when she initially taught herself palmistry.
Though she distanced herself from witchcraft in her early twenties, she came back to it after a bad breakup. Tarot specifically is what helped center herself and look inward during an uncertain time.
Now she is bringing herself to the James NoMad Hotel located, unsurprisingly, two blocks north of Madison Square Park on East 29th Street. For the month of October she is working at the hotel offering tarot readings, spell lessons and more. You can find Engel at the James NoMad Hotel until the end of October, to get all your spooks in before Halloween.
The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Why do you think so many people online seek out witchcraft?
A lot of people seek out witchcraft, we’ve just never been this connected before. We’ve been shoved away into the broom closet and just called “that weird kid at school” or whatever. But we’ve always been out here. And now that we have the ability to clap for ourselves. We can connect with other people and teach other people.
What is one of the hardest parts about practicing witchcraft?
I mean, all of it, because you really have to know yourself. You really have to wrestle with your feelings. There’s a lot of self awareness. It’s a lot of healing. It’s tough work, but it’s so rewarding.
What do you think people misunderstand about your work the most?
It’s a parlor trick. Yes, tarot cards are a deck of playing cards, but it’s also a very dense system that can be used for self-awareness or healing in conjunction with therapy. I think that’s number one: not a parlor trick. And number two ... it’s actually a really helpful experience.
Tell us a little bit about what you are doing at the James NoMad Hotel this month.
I have an on demand scheduler that has four different offerings that you can choose from. One is crafting your love spell, there was one for hexing your ex, there’s something for everybody. I sit with clients for about 30 to 45 minutes, and we’re just using magic to guide our time together and it’s wonderful.
And you’ve been doing it for a few weeks, how has it been so far?
Wonderful. Everybody that I’ve connected with has been so kind and so excited and really got a lot out of it.
What has been one of your best experiences so far?
Honestly, I think it’s talking about love with all the girlies. I’ve had a lot of women come in looking for the love spell; there’s a lot of camaraderie that happens in those sessions. How many women lower their standards for dating? I’ve just had woman after woman come in and just make the room completely glow by the time we were done.
And what are you looking forward to most about this current job that you’re doing for the next couple of weeks?
I just love being in the atmosphere. On the 27th I’m doing free readings from five to seven to anybody in the lobby. And I just I love that kind of fast paced chatty energy and that for that, I’ll be reading three tarot cards per person.
What do you most want people to get out of your work?
I think my biggest goal with my work is to provide clarity to people. There’s so much struggle in this world and there’s so much just that no one pays attention to — mental health and wellness. By using witchcraft, by using this like magical modicum to be able to connect with people and I just want people to be more self-aware. I think the world would be a better place if that were the case.