Welcome to the Witch’s Kitchen! This is the monthly free full version of the newsletter. To have access to everything we post (and allow us to keep paying our spectacular writers), upgrade to a paid subscription now! Here’s a quick preview of what you’re going to miss throughout August: a primer on mugwort, an orchard owner who whispers spells to his apples, making medicine out of elderberry, and more!
Hello wonderful witches!
Two fun tidbits today, which you might already know if you’re following Kitchen Witch on social. First, I was quoted as Kitchen Witch’s editor in Meininger’s Wine Business International for a story about the Benandanti, a group of Italian witches in the 16th century that protected the Friuli region’s wines. It’s a fascinating sip of history; check it out if you haven’t already! Our second fun tidbit is that my creepy ghost photo from New Orleans still doesn’t have an explanation. Go take a look on Twitter and let me know what you think it might be.
Today, I’m thrilled to have a profile of an inspirational kitchen witch, written by an amazing journalist. Ruth Terry introduces us to Nnaus Feratu, an activist, artist, creator, vegan, cosmetics company owner, musician, model… the list goes on. If you don’t know them yet, you should—and this profile is a great introduction!
Meet Nnaus Feratu, Afrogoth Kitchen Witch
By Ruth Terry
It was late June, 1981. Nnaus Feratu was born at 6:30 p.m. to an Igbo-Nigerian Onye Nchụàjà, a high priestess. The doctors used a Cesarean operation to extricate the baby. Released from the crimson darkness of their mother’s womb, they wailed relentlessly, tossing and turning in their basket. But when an ink-black crow alighted on a nearby window ledge, its calming presence soothed them into tranquil slumber. They grew up to be a witch.
Today, Feratu holds multiple identities—Indigenous, non-binary, goth, queer, parent, Black, vegan—that all feed their creative practice of kitchen witchery. They share the results of this culinary alchemy via Goth in the Raw on Instagram.
“Pretty much that’s been my showcase to do a lot of the kitchen wizardry that I do,” says Feratu, referring to the account. Goth in the Raw features exquisite delicacies like ginger and black tea infused ganache truffles and seared romanesco soup with hazelnuts served in mini-cauldrons. Everything is lavishly photographed, a clear aesthetic of everything that makes Nnaus Feratu who they are.
“If you want to know who I am on a plate, you’re looking at it,” they say. “So it encompasses not only my culture, it encompasses me being with the [Goth] subculture for so long, me being an African, me being a kitchen witch… you see it right there on the plate.”
Feratu comes from a family of spiritual practitioners—they believe their grandfather also practiced—and a family of artists. Their brother and sister draw; their father has an interest in architecture. Their mother also creates abstract African-inspired art and masks.
“I was like, well, I can’t draw but not every canvas is paper,” says Feratu. “Food is a canvas.”
They were always destined for the kitchen. At age three, Feratu wrote their first cookbook, a paper bag crayon confection their mother praised.
“I’ve always been one to sneak in the kitchen or be that little… pair of eyes peering into the kitchen,” Feratu remembers. “I’ve always been attracted to cooking…. And the kitchen was a calling to me, but not just being in the kitchen to cook.”
After graduating from high school Feratu moved into their own apartment, expanding their repertoire and exploring the witchy side of cookery. Like solitary Circe on the island of Aeaea, over the next two decades, they deepened their practice of nourishing magical craft.
“It’s a lot of work and everything is trial and error, as well,” says Feratu, now 39. “You have to take it seriously.”
Today, picking up kitchen witchery—and witchcraft in general—presents a shallower curve. For new witches, Feratu recommends websites like KitchenWitchery.net and MumbleandThings.com for recipes, and books like Green Witch and Wiccapedia to broaden general magical knowledge. TikTok and Facebook groups also provide instruction by diverse practitioners, something Feratu values as the world of kitchen witchery continues to expand.
“You have those that practice voodoo, you have those that are brujas, you have those that practice Santería, you have those that are Wiccan, you have those that are pagan,” says Feratu. “It’s really great because you’re getting to hear from all these other people.”
Exposing yourself to diverse voices is key to using any form of magic appropriately, says Feratu, who avoids practicing magical traditions outside their own heritage, which includes African and Indigenous lineage.
When you come from a culture whose legacy is appropriation and colonization, it can be easy to overstep. For example, burning sage, the Millennial equivalent of the hippie generation’s nag champa incense, is actually something sacred within Indigenous American culture.
“Sage burning is part of the Indigenous culture, the Indigenous peoples here on this soil,” Feratu says. “It’s crucial to have an understanding. Don’t feel attacked when they say you cannot practice this. There’s a reason for it.”
Traditional Igbo magic uses three types of stone and cowrie shells. West African traditions also involve deities, which Feratu cautions the uninitiated—and uninvited—not to invoke.
“There’s a big thing where people are conjuring up certain entities or deities [and they] do not know what they’re messing with,” they explain. “[T]he problem is that not only can you be hurting that culture, you can hurt yourself because these are powerful, powerful energies that you don’t want to mess with if you don’t know what you’re doing.”
An avid reader since childhood, Feratu encourages all aspiring kitchen witches to do their homework to find out if traditions are closed, like West African-inspired Voudon, or more open, like nature-based paganism.
The latter dovetails with Feratu’s vegan kitchen witchery, which relies on plants, herbs, flower petals, and spices for power and protection. Plants have multiple uses that can change depending on the individual and their culture. One witch may use basil for protection and to ward off energy while another may use it to engender positive vibes. Thyme invokes loyalty and helps improve psychic abilities. Rosemary is for love, lust and tranquility, while lavender is calming. Clove can help with “silencing gossip,” Feratu says. Feratu also burns bay leaves to access wishes, but this only works if you clear your mind and your space and lean into the intentionality of your desires, they say.
In terms of equipment, Feratu swears by a mortar and pestle and glass jars. The latter’s transparency allows you to “place any intention” on the quickly-identifiable ingredients within. In their kitchen, that’s desiccated ginger, spice-infused sugars, and other dried herbs and spices.
Feratu also incorporates kitchen witching into their line of cosmetics, which they sell through their Etsy shop, HouseOfABili. “Echebe,” their best-selling perfume, features actual juniper berries for protection. (Echebe means “protected” in Igbo.) The formulation includes seven juniper berries, a protective plant, because seven is lucky and “for me odd numbers are specific” and lucky, they say.
Specificity and intention are seminal to their practice of using vegan, magicked food to nourish and protect their family. In the U.S., a nation defined by heavy meat consumption, pre-packaged food, and fast-food dining, this is a radical act. For Feratu, food is not only a vehicle of creative expression but also medicine, something they love about “kitchen wizardry,” they say.
“If I were to go ahead and make a dish with cinnamon, cinnamon is great for love, luck, prosperity, success, and it elevates vibrations,” they say. “But on a health note, it’s also good for the circulation. It’s good for the heart. So I put both the health and the magic aspect into it.”
Ultimately, kitchen witchery, like good cooking, is about using available ingredients with knowledge and intention to improve your life and the lives of those around you.
“You’re using what the universe gives you,” says Feratu. “You’re using what nature gives you. This is Mother Earth and mother is providing for you.”
Ruth Terry is a Black and Puerto Rican American freelancer based in Istanbul, who writes about culture, travel, wellness, and living while Black. Follow her on Twitter.
Coming Up Next Week…
Next week is a special issue; it hits your inboxes on my birthday! We’re going to celebrate by learning about an orchard owner who whispers spells to his apples—and what happened the one time he didn’t.
See you then!