Sabel Santa became interested in witchcraft at the tender age of 8. "I watched Teen Witch, and I was convinced I could manipulate the weather," she says of the '80s film, a female version of Teen Wolf.
Growing up Catholic in Puerto Rico, the now 33-year-old lived in a house that was unfriendly to witchcraft despite being surrounded by neighbors involved in Santería and other occult practices. On her 13th birthday, when a hurricane hit the island, Santa believed the event was her initiation into the magical realms. She soon became obsessed with all things esoteric, buying crystals and spell books and asking for tarot cards for her birthday. She found her focus by teaching herself the complicated system of astrology by reading the works of noteworthy astrologers Susan Miller and Walter Mercado at the library.
Santa is a good cosmic witch who uses her skills to create a better world through her work with the creative activist collective [F]empower. The Miami-based group says it works to dismantle oppressive systems such as capitalism while elevating black and brown femmes and the queer community. [F]empower hosts many projects, one of which is Santa's Brujx School, a series of workshops and community classes educating Miami's black and brown femmes about decolonized magic. "We believe every human being is capable of transforming their environment through their spiritual practice," Santa says.
There were times in Santa's life when she found herself less invested in magic. Coming to South Florida at 18 to attend art school in Fort Lauderdale was one of those times. "I didn't want to be weird. I was already a black Latinx kid in the United States," she says. After a lonely few years of feeling like the people around her were stuck living their lives according to someone else's script, she returned to her passion, and her confidence returned. Magic offers her a sense of autonomy, she says, "that your destiny is in your own hands, that the energy in the universe can be manipulated."
For two years, she's been giving others the tools to do the same as part of her Brujx school. She hosts ongoing Spell Magick classes, offered both online and in person. This week, she's instructing Summer School: Brujeria 101 at the Standard Hotel. Black and brown femmes pay less for classes, but all are welcome. "We believe that to practice magic, all you need is yourself and your willpower," she says. Even so, for some classes, she'll ask students to bring things such as natal charts, ideas on what they want to learn more about, or altar elements.
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Santa emphasizes that her Brujx school offers "decolonized and anti-structure" lessons so students can let go of sometimes oppressive doctrines. "It became difficult to only see dark or evil magic associated with blackness, while all other magic came with a whitewashed perspective. Spiritual and ritual practices are mostly rooted in indigenous and tribal cultures, and it made me very sad that something that belonged to brown and black people was so inaccessible to them. This is what fueled me to create Brujx School as a space for us to relearn and fully own our spirituality and to recenter our stories and experiences as the starting point of our spiritual practice."
Brujx School is just one of [F]empower's many efforts to, well, empower. Others include the Femme Fairy Garden, a community garden where participants grow and harvest produce and herbs for nourishment and connection. The Liberation Book Club offers discussions about decolonized texts of black liberation and intersectional feminism that focus on how to implement ideas into action. This resulted in a huge fundraising effort, Black Mamas Day Bail Out, in which [F]empower bailed black mothers out of jail on Mother's Day — an effort that also included connecting them with jobs and tools to transition. There's also Masisi, a safe space for the black and brown Caribbean queer community. Each September, the collective hosts Sextember, a campaign that includes parties, events, and live teach-ins via Instagram on sex education.
Santa also offers readings through the link in her Instagram bio, and she's a member of the local witch directory by Eleventh House, which presents a monthly full-moon party at the bar Mama Tried. Brujx School is one of many ways she's creating a magical movement to bring safe spaces, awareness, and action to the lives of Miami's black and brown femmes. "We firmly stand by the idea that in order to heal the world, you must heal yourself first," she says.
Summer School: Brujx School. 7:30 p.m. Thursday, August 22, at the Standard Spa, Miami Beach, 40 Island Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-1717; standardhotels.com. Admission is free with RSVP via brujeria101.splashthat.com.