Avalonia Author Interviews
Mysterious and soft-spoken, Kala Trobe is a very magickal lady, and her books reflect her spirituality and magickal experiences. Kala also often gives lectures and workshops at many Pagan events. We asked her about her books, experiences, influences and her own path.
( December 2004 : KT indicates answers by Kala Trobe, Q indicates question posed by Sorita)
Q : Your books “Invoke the Goddess” and “Invoke the Gods” contain many creative and interesting rituals that can be done with the various Deities. What inspired you to write these books?
KT: It really began when I was travelling in India in 1997. I knew I wanted to write a book on working with various deities, as I’d been very much involved with the Greek and Egyptian pantheons before I left (particularly Artemis, Hecate and Isis) – then I got to the Hindu temples, and was introduced in style to Durga, Laxmi and Kali particularly. That made me focus on Hindu deities. I worked with some Godforms too, such as Ganesha and Siva, but ‘Invoke the Gods’ came later, pretty much on demand from my male friends who regretted that there were so few books and references on the subject of invoking specifically male godforms.
Q: In many books on paganism the emphasis is placed on working with the Goddess(es). How important do you feel it is to work with both male and female Deities?
KT: Well, it’s up to the practitioner(s) really. I know some female witches who never work with male Godforms, though personally it’s always been natural to me to focus on the energy rather than the ‘gender’ of the deity.
Q: You seem to have an interest in a wide range of pantheons and cultures. Do you have a favourite?
KT: Hindu, and of course Egyptian. I also love the Greeks as they epitomise certain philosophies and intellectual wavelenths (like Apollo and Athene) – they’re also historically and politically interesting. A different wavelength altogether to the more ‘primal’ deities.
Q: I very much enjoyed reading your book “The Magick Bookshop” and I know from speaking to you about this that much of the material in the book is based on events which really did take place in your own life. Is there anything that you would change about the events you recount in this book, if you could have it all over again?
KT: Well, there’s a big question! Obviously if I could live my whole life again from a more advanced angle, I’d act differently in some scenarios, but then, these experiences, even if seemingly ‘negative’, are part of what’s informed me and made me who I am today. As I recount in the story ‘Thus Spake Ron’, and the follow-up story, ‘Witch in the City’, I had some pretty dodgy experiences during my early magickal training – to say the least – but it certainly banged any naivety out of me. As I see it, Magick isn’t an easy path – I talk about this in ‘The Witch’s Guide to Life’ too – it challenges every aspect of one’s preconceptions, and is a path of dissolution, resurrection and epiphany. As such, it follows that some of the experiences and initiations one undergoes will be deeply unpleasant. Others, of course, are joyful, and I do think the ‘Suffer to Learn’ clause, though valuable in that it encourages us to transmute adversity into power, can be deeply misinterpreted. As I see it now, Magick is like a psychological growth hormone, but it’s possible to take it as an ‘upper’ rather than a ‘downer’, and to receive the same end results. I see my own early training as ‘old school’. But it did the trick at the time.
Q: The style in which you wrote The Magick Bookshop very much reminded me of Dion Fortune’s fictional works, was she someone who inspired you?
KT: Actually, stylistically I don’t think we have much in common although we’re both preoccupied by very British scenarios, antiquarian bookshops, and of course the occult. The great DF’s descriptions (sometimes very lengthy – see ‘The Sea Priestess’) and syntax are much more ‘classical’ than my own. I experiment with words a lot – my main literary influences include Jeanette Winterson, Angela Carter and a whole raft of poetry, particularly French Symbolist.
Content-wise, ‘The Secrets of Doctor Taverner’ did indeed influence me – the idea of a young female working with a bastion of the occult arts – though the scenarios are greatly updated and, as you point out, orientated around real experiences I’ve had. I would say that Dion Fortune was the biggest magickal authorial influence on my early years, and I consider her works to be of immense value – the fiction and ‘Mystical Qabalah’ especially.
Q: You regulary do Tarot readings at Watkins Bookshop in London, which Tarot deck do you use and why?
KT: I have about 60 Tarot decks, but by far my favourite for reading for the general public is my trusty old Rider-Waite. I’ve been using that pack since I was 17, and absolutely love them. The designs, by Pamela Coleman-Smith, have so much depth to them, and they ‘shift’ according to their position in the reading. The artist herself was ‘synaesthetic’, i.e. was able to ‘see’ music and ‘hear’ colour. This makes them brilliant material for psychic comprehension – each card has so many nuances when viewed in conjunction with its neighbours and the client’s energies.
I’m not too keen though on the modern reprints of this deck – the colours and even the expressions on the faces of the characters have been changed, and much has been lost I think. The King of Cups looks like a moron, and the woman in the Two of Swords can see under her blindfold!! The deck I favour is much more svelte, though it’s pretty beaten up now.
I also love the Tarot of the Old Path, the Nigel Jackson deck, and the Dion Fortune/Gareth Knight pack. I used to carry all of them to work so that the client could select the deck that felt right, but it got a bit much, lugging 4 decks around with me, so I defaulted to the truly ‘original’ Rider-Waite.
Q: Was there a turning point in your life at which you decided to devote your life to the magickal?
KT: It was always there, but when I was 13, I was confirmed into the Anglican church. I was a very religious child. This process made me think deeply about orthodox religions and their pitfalls. I started to study Buddhism and Qabalah and to practise my first practical magick. I began to spontaneously astrally travel around about the time of my first period – and became extremely aware of ‘lunar’ energies and wavelengths. So I guess I could say that menstruation kicked off my conscious interest in things magickal, and made it into something tenable. It took me years to learn to control it though, and at first the experiences, or my interpretations of them, were often scary. I thought that I was perhaps going mad, or that I was under ‘evil’ influences. The confidence that came with my new knowledge overrode these doubts, however. I found out years later that involement with the esoteric arts runs in certain branches of the family, but I was brought up by a stepfather in the middle of nowhere, and didn’t have a clue about my genetic proclivities at the time. All I knew was that I wanted to get fully involved wih Witchcraft a.s.a.p, and be trained so that I could assimilate it all, which I did.
Q: What, for you, is the best thing about being a writer?
KT: The process of writing. The inspiration. The juxtaposition of two words or more that create a vivid, unique image, or elevate consciousness. I also enjoy getting feed-back from my readers. I get a lot of letters and emails now, and am always fascinated to hear how my patterns of consciousness have affected others, when put into print.
Q: What are you currently working on? and/or/ Any forthcoming books you can tell us about?
KT: A follow-up to ‘The Magick Bookshop’ will emerge in November 2005 (the delay is down to my publishers, not me. I actually completed it in May 2004. But these processes can be slow…)
I’m also writing a book for Hay House, due out in Sept 2005, on women’s spirituality.
Q: London can be a very dreary place at times, do you have somewhere you like to escape to when the weather is wet and the skies are grey?
KT: I run a lot – about 11k a day – so whether it’s grey or sunny, I get my interaction with the nature devas! (There are some wonderful parks near to me). I also love to travel, and have spent much time in Thailand and Asia in general – am also a big fan of the U S of A, and frequently visit there, especially New Orleans. France is a handy get-away spot from here – a friend has a sixteenth century house in the South, so I like to pop over there to write, relax, and visit the Knights Templar burial grounds etc (she says cheerfully). Not exactly sunny, but I’m off to Amsterdam in January, which I’m really looking forward to, and to a friend’s handfasting in Maui in April. Essentially, I travel whenever I can – I love experiencing new places and cultures. There are photos of some of my travels, and details on my books on my website at: http://www.witchguide.com
Thank you to Kala Trobe for allowing us to probe into her life for this interview! For permission to reproduce this article please contact us first – (c) Kala Trobe & Avalonia
For those of you wanting to find out more about Kala Trobe and her work and writings, as well as many great photographs, visit her website: http://www.witchguide.com