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Interview with Loretta Ledesma of Mile High Conjure Gala

October 3, 2017

Loretta Ledesma talks to Ritualcravt owner Missy Luxe Rhysing about Conjure, organizing Denver's first annual Mile High Conjure Gala on Oct 28th this year, and what her personal spiritual practice means to her.

Loretta Ledesma has become one of Ritualcravt's most sought after instructors in the short time she has been teaching at Ritualcravt. In a class she was teaching last evening, she asked everyone to go around the circle and discuss why they are in the class. Everyone had a few reasons but all had one reason in common: to learn directly from Loretta and from her wealth of experience. This year, beyond her personal practice and teaching, Loretta has organized Denver's first annual Mile High Conjure Gala- a one of kind event bringing the world of Conjure to the Mile High City. I sat down with Loretta to discuss what this extraordinary event is, and why it is so unique to the Mile High City.

MISSY RHYSING: Thank you for this opportunity Loretta! So tell us, what is Conjure?   LORETTA LEDESMA: That is a very, very deep question! Conjure is very at-home, use what you have kind of spiritual Work, that comes from a mixture of African American tradition, traditional African religion, mixed with Native American religion, mixed with Appalachian religion. It's this really beautiful mixture of things that work!

MR: Why did you decide to organize the Conjure Gala?   LL: The Gala is something I've wanted to do for years. I feel there's this really large community of people that are rootworkers, people that incorporate rootwork and conjure into their practice, even if they don't know what to call it. But it's not a very widely represented community in Colorado. And not everyone can make it out to the event Cat Yronwode puts on in Forestville, to the Lucky Mojo event, including myself- although its something I've always wanted to attend. So I thought why not see if I can bring those teachers here! And bring community together especially in time where community is so important. Even if we don't realize it, as a community we are all conjuring.

MR: Tell us about Conjure Gala. What is it exactly?   LL:  It's gonna be amazing!! Well, first we will be doing the Conjure, then we will be doing the Gala! We are going to start that morning at 9am, let everyone come in, get familiar with the building, the teachers, and each other. We're going to do a brief history of the Inn (The Lumber Baron Inn) and why it's the perfect place for this event. We will then be doing an opening ceremony Mesa Blanca, ancestor work is done, ancestors are brought in, any type of messages that need to go out to attendees or any of us who will be there working, will go out through several of the mediums that will be present. I was talking to Ambrozine LeGare about the last time she did a Mesa Blanca and she said there was 120 people there and over 900 spirits came down! Then after opening ceremony we'll go straight into classes and workshops. There will be 6 workshops that day so it will be a day of a lot of learning! 3 of the workshops will be hands-on so we will be actually crafting as we are learning. 3 will be in more of a lecture form because it will be a lot of information to take in! We will have a little lunch in between those, and then after classes we will be doing The Dinner of the Dead. Traditionally it is a silent dinner, no salt, it's an ancestral celebration. Because a silent dinner on a large scale might be tricky, I have a friend who is going to be playing a harp during the dinner. It's going to be beautiful! Then after the dinner will be the Gala- a party, hors d' oeuvres, themed drinks, I have a couple of friends, Blondetourage, that will be DJ-ing for us!

MR:  So what kinds of things will be taught at Conjure Gala?   LL:  All the best things!! (laughs) The morning class is going to be doll babies, which people are sometimes unfamiliar with. It is working with figures that are constructed out of moss, sticks, corn husks... A lot of people have this idea of what a doll is- Hollywood has put forth this idea that it's a negative thing for cursing a baneful work. And while that is true as a part of traditions that we do honor, but it's also use for healing, love work, self love, all sorts of beautiful work. So Co.Meadows, who's lineage goes back to Vudoun, will be teaching Doll Babies. Then Michelle Jackson, this amazing powerful woman, she is the most sought-after bone reader in the world! She will be teaching an introduction to bone reading, which normally you have to be invited in to learn about. It is a secretive, respected form of divination- so to even have her here is just amazing, we are so honored! Ambrozine LeGare does a radio show on LMC called Liquid Libations, and at the Gala she will be teaching Spiritual Bathing. She is our Master of Ceremony, Candelo's, Goddaughter, so she is also baptized in Palo Mayombe. She will teach about Protection and Bathing- Spiritual Bathing goes so far back and is done in so many traditions to cleanse, to bring in, to bless. Then Professor Ames, who lives in Colorado, will be teaching Mojo Bags. Ames is a funny, esteemed professor, highly knowledgeable Rootworker, yet very approachable. So we are so excited to hear about his very traditional way of building the Mojo. And we can all use a little mojo! (laughs)   MR:  All of these classes are so amazing, it's all the things I want to be learning.. Just.. thank you!! Thank you so much for doing this!!   LL:  (laughs) So then after Ames we have Professor Porterfield, he has his own radio show called Now You Know on LMC. He will be teaching Playing Cards, which is also not very widely known or taught. Divination with playing cards, but also how to use them in your conjure work. And to be honest I don't know a lot about playing cards so I'm going to be a student just like everybody else! And then Candelo Kimbisa... Candelo is going to be teaching Spirit Work. Crossing With Spirits. There are so many traditions that Candelo is initiated into- Palo Mayombe, Ifa... he is very well known in the community. Crossing With Spirits will be all about how to work with spirits to work with you, and to help you in your work, to get past road blocks, to get things out of your way. And he will be the Master of Ceremonies!

MR: Can you tell us a little bit about your personal spiritual practice?   LL:  Yeah! My personal spiritual practice is a bit more eclectic. I work mostly with the Santa Muerte- she is a somewhat misunderstood deity, but she dates back to the Aztec religions. She is technically a death deity, she is who we all meet, and she aides us in our transition from this life to the next. Death has always been close, I lost my sister when I was 12 and it was a very public event- there was reporters, it was all over the news, and being at that age I didn't really want to deal with it. So I asked to be able to be hidden and I was able to call this very comfortable cloud up whenever I needed to, especially in those weeks following my sister's death. I didn't really realize what it was until I was about 15, and I saw an image of Her and I knew instantly that is who it was. So in my work with the Muerte I have really learned how to embrace death, and not in the morbid sense, but in the sense of it just being the flip side of the coin. Within my work with Her, I have been able to build this romance with death which really helped me when my father passed away when I was 18. After that is when I became really deep into the work, and then She opened roads for me to other paths that I needed. And that's where rootwork and conjure came in. I also had just had my daughter when I was 18, and I didn't always have access to the botanica, and there was no Ritualcravt then, and it was really hard to get things that were needed. So finding rootwork- it really is about finding what's in your kitchen, what's in your yard, what can you find to help you get this task done. There are things that I incorporate into my every day- from the mojo bag that I hide in my kid's backpack, that I wear, pieces of jewelry that speak to me, and I really believe that part of my purpose in this life is to be able to use these spiritual paths to help other people.   MR:  Well, you do. You totally do.

MR:  So how do you recharge? From teaching, practicing, all that you do?   LL:  That's a good question... Honestly, I do it more. There's something about sitting in front of the altar and allowing yourself to go into that other space that is recharging. There's something about looking at someone's face when you're telling someone things that are helpful, and seeing that hope in their eyes, that's recharging. Or walking into the store and seeing everyone at Ritualcravt... it's recharging. The magic itself- it's a cycle of energy that is constantly giving and that's really what I see this community and this family that you've build as being- it's all very recharging.

MR:   Do you have any recommendations for folks beginning to learn about magic and these spiritual paths?   LL:  Yes. Definitely go to the Conjure Gala! (laughs) And don't ever be discouraged, it's something that even now, 20 years in.... Sometimes I feel that I don't always understand things or that I'm not good enough for this or that I'm not going to have these talents... But eventually we all get there. Be open to seeing the magic in everything. It really is everywhere. And it's ok if you can't buy a certain book or if you don't understand a deck of cards, or if you don't memorize every stone, or don't know the use of every herb. If you remember one- that's huge! And get into walking around at night under the full moon, take walks in your neighborhood and you will start to see plants growing, signs in everything. The second that you're open to magic, magic will find you.

MR:   Last question! What are your six month goals? Where do you see yourself, where do you go from where you are now?   LL:  Six months from now I'd like to have my conjure oils package and out, ready to go. I would like to be planning the next Gala! There's so many things I'd like to be doing! One really important thing would be traveling- I want to get to New Orleans and Salem, Los Angeles... I think those are the big things. I would like the Gala to be twice a year... That's honestly what I'm really pushing for which will be a full time job, as I'm currently learning!! (laughs)  MR:  Well if you're saying that in the middle of planning this one, then you must be doing something you love!  LL: Yeah, I love it so much!! There's nothing more in life, outside of my family, that I love more than this work. <3

View the full schedule, descriptions, teacher bios, ticket purchasing options, and more for The Mile High Conjure Gala taking place on Oct 28th, 2017 at www.conjuregala.com. View Loretta Ledesma’s teaching schedule at www.ritualcravt.com/learn, and find her on Instagram at @thedeathwitch. Ritualcravt is a proud sponsor and vendor at the first annual Mile High Conjure Gala.

Author: Missy Luxe Rhysing is the owner of Ritualcravt and a Hekate devotee.

Find her on Instagram at @ritualcravt and learn about her shop at www.ritualcravt.com