ARTIST Margarita Leon, or The Gypsy Goddess as she is known professionally, has had a very busy year.
She has dressed performers for festivals, created custom headpieces for weddings, hosted her first solo exhibition ‘Goddess Rising’ in May, and had four of her headdresses included in an exhibition raising funds for mental health.
The Spanish-born artist has been praised for her unique art form; crafting intricate headpieces from an array of materials often recycled, thrifted or even sometimes just picked up off the ground.
Unable to travel due to Covid, she also has friends from other countries send her materials unavailable in Australia.
What is more unorthodox, however, is her creative process.
Her consultations start with a chat about the customer’s expectations and materials they prefer, but all the while she is reading their “energy”.
“After the interview, I channel what they want the piece for, how they gonna wear it and how they want to feel. And then I create a piece,” she said.
For her own creations, the process is even more extraordinary.
“When I’m sleeping, I have these visions – like I had that headpiece coming into my dream and I had to find it. I had to find material. I had to make it happen. Sometimes I feel like the goddesses are coming to me so I create them so they can find a body to be human.”
The former flight attendant and theatre performer draws her inspiration from a wide range of cultures, often blending several into one piece.
It has only been this past year she has turned her art into a full-time job, and despite the success, it hasn’t come without challenges.
Some, especially online, have taken umbrage at the business name Gypsy Goddess, accusing her of cultural appropriation; she has even been refused entry to Facebook groups for artists unless she changes the name.
Leon, who is descended from Spanish gypsies, or ‘gitanos’ finds it rude and short-sighted.
“They were saying to me that I was racist … but I call myself Gypsy because I am proud of being a gypsy.”
Her grandmother was also a traditional witch, and despite being hesitant to apply the label to herself, Leon has certainly inherited some of these traits.
She has an altar, reads her own tarot every morning and channels goddesses – gods have recently been included as she works on more masculine pieces.
Deities are a strong theme of her work, but there are some witchy rituals.
“I just know that through my creativity I channel and heal women, so I don’t know how we call it … maybe witches do more rituals, but I have my rituals.”
“So, it’s more like I would say some mix between witch, visionary art and creativity.”
A former doyenne of WA’s witchcraft scene says Leon is part of a growing sisterhood around the country.
Tamara von Forslun was known as the Fremantle Witch Doctor when she opened up WA’s first Wiccan shop The Alchemist in the port city in the 80s, and while she’s now grounded in Queensland, before Covid struck had travelled the world as one of the pre-eminent experts on all things witchy.
Ms Forslun says uncertainty in the modern world draws people towards new beliefs.
“The thing with the culture or in witchcraft and things like that is that people are wanting to go back to nature,” she says.
Frank about the lure of witchcraft and paganism, she says people often mistakenly think it will allow them to escape rules.
“There’s always rules, whether it’s the rules of nature, rules of the gods, rules of the place or whatever.
“To be a witch is like a university degree; it takes years and years of training to understand the concepts of what it is.”
Ms Forslun, who was the face of witchcraft in Australia from the 1970s and led the charge to have Wicca recognised as an official religion, said few modern witches really knew where the name came from.
“The actual pronunciation of the word is ‘wish’,” she said, saying early Christian missionaries had mistakenly written down witch, where the ancient spelling had been ‘wicche’.
Witches, goddesses and more will be gathering from November 5 – 7 at the Fairbridge Festival in Pinjarra for the Sistahood Rising Festivals, where The Gypsy Goddess will be running a workshop.
The festival will have more than 60 workshops on everything from craft, dance and yoga to spiritual crystals and drumming.
by GYPSY TREACY