Jackie Juno is a writer, painter, performer, singer, radio presenter, comedian and celebrant. She runs workshops in Devon and beyond, including writing and creative workshops and A Course in Goddesses. She guides people on shamanic journeys and meditations in groups and on a one-to-one basis. She's been featured on Ted and is an amazing poet as well as the Grand Bard of Exeter who holds a grand Witches tea party, in commemoration of the anniversary of the deaths of the Bideford Witches, who were the last women in England to be hanged for witchcraft in 1682.
“I place great importance on following my heart and my art; my creative life is absolutely vital to me”.
Thank you Jackie for the honor of getting to ask you some questions as well as taking the time out of your very busy schedule.
Before I ever met you I had seen you on Ted. How many witches can say they have been on Ted. How did that come about?
Jackie-Ha ha! There may have been many of course though they wouldn't necessarily come out of the broom closet and say they are a witch. There is still huge prejudice and stigma towards those who call themselves witches. As a fairly well-known performance poet in this area of SW England, I was recommended to the organizer of the TEDx event. She came to a gig of mine to see if I would be suitable and booked me afterward. It was a wonderful experience to be involved.
Jackie you do so much, write, paint, you are a performer, singer with a beautiful voice, radio presenter, comedian, celebrant, you run workshops, and you do a course on goddesses. How do you find the time to do all that you do?
Jackie-I'm not entirely sure! It can be a bit like plate-spinning! I often feel a bit stretched and sometimes overwhelmed, especially if I am not sleeping well. But I have a good support system in the shape of my husband and daughter supporting my endeavors! And somehow I still manage to while away the hours on facebook...
On your blog you said “When I was a teenager I was astounded to discover that there were once many Goddess-centered cultures around the world of which I knew nothing! I was shocked, outraged, and excited, keen to know more. This was the beginning of a detective mission to unearth this hidden information and reclaim my birthright, my power, my inspiration.” What keeps you inspired?
Jackie-Inspiration comes from all corners, for me. The pure inspiration of being in nature; the injustices and inequalities in the world and wanting to help in some way; these crazy times in which we live, being able to find humor within it all; and so many other creative folks doing their thing, I am continually amazed by human endeavor.
You also said “I had always thought of myself as a witch without really knowing what it was all about.” What is your definition of a Witch?
Jackie-This answer may change from year to year, so try not to pin me down with my current answer! One who reveres nature and all within it... one who is aware of other worlds beyond this one... one who honors all life in its many guises... one who communes directly with nature and spirit, not following any dogma or set ideas from anyone else.
You have said and I quote “my creative life is absolutely vital to me”. I love that and totally resonate with it and agree.
Last year you invited hundreds of to take part in a record attempt for the biggest number ever to break the world record for the largest gathering of witches in the country. What was the inspiration for that?
Jackie-Having been given the title of Grand Bard of Exeter, I discovered that each ancient Bardic Seat has an associated sacred hill – the one for Exeter is Rougemont Castle. This was where the last three women who were killed for witchcraft in England were held in terrible conditions before being taken to a different part of Exeter and hanged. There is a plaque honoring the women, and another whose fate was not recorded, on the ruins of the tower in Rougemont Gardens. I have always felt moved by this plaque, and the place's history. So when I became Grand Bard I wanted to do something to remember those women; and all those before them and after them who were victims of terrible prejudice and misogyny. Last year Selkie and I are put on another event which we called The Grand Witches Ball at the Arts Centre, which backs onto Rougemont Gardens. There was a ceremony, talks, shows, stalls, music and poetry exploring witchcraft and celebrating our comparative freedom nowadays in this country.
You and and Selkie Shell, pioneered a campaign to gain pardons from the government for the last three people hanged for witchcraft in the UK. Temperance Lloyd, Susannah Edwards and Mary Trembles, the so-called Bideford witches, who were hanged in August 1682 at Exeter Prison. What is the outcome of that?
Jackie-This petition has not been presented yet, we are still gaining signatures.
You have said you had lots of psychic experiences, can you tell us about one?
Jackie-Many are very personal but I have had quite a few encounters with ghosts which have later been verified. For example, they have told me their names and who they are and the facts have later been verified by those who knew them. I have also received information in dreams, such as names and addresses, and have been shown places which I have never been to, but later in my life have found myself there.
Your poetry is so filled with emotion. One of them, 'I Have Pen and Paper' goes “I am one of the lucky ones. I have pen and paper, food and warmth and time.” How do you stay thankful every day Jackie?
Jackie-Just by being aware of so many far worse off than I am. By putting myself in the shoes of those suffering.
How do you keep finding the magic in every day?
Jackie-Sometimes it can be hard when difficulties arise, but an attitude of gratitude certainly helps! There is always so much to be grateful for. And if you can take time to tune in... to your own nature, or to the natural world, you will find magic there.
It's better in the UK I think, for witches, you are so close to so many sacred sites, stone circles. Do you agree? We always want what we don't have.
Jackie-I have spent a fair amount of time away from the UK and I have to admit I did miss the ancient sacred sites and the very land itself. But I think it is purely personal; all the earth is sacred and each land has its indigenous cultures who honored the land in their different ways, it just depends on one's own connections I think.
What would you say is the most mystical, sacred, magical place that you've ever been in your journeys?
Jackie-Ha! What a difficult question! I have had such strong experiences in Halligye Fogou (ancient underground ritual chamber on the Lizard peninsula, Cornwall) and Sancreed Holy Well, Boscawen Un and many other places in West Penwith, Cornwall; as well as stone circles on Dartmoor where I live in Devon, UK. But being in Taos, NM had a profound effect on me, as did Sedona AZ, Teotihuacan in Mexico and many places in SW USA! I think spending time at these sites and really tuning in can bring huge rewards and surprising gifts.
What is your favorite thing about being a witch?
Jackie-Feeling connected with LIFE in its many forms.
I have several poetry books in print: Outspoken! History's Whispers, and This Much I Know - and one in the pipeline (poetry and short stories). Jackie's Website
The comedy dvd of my mystical soap opera set in Totnes, Devon:
My band's website: http://invisibleoperacompany.soundawesome.com/