Lou Florez (Awo Ifadunsin Sangobiyi) is an internationally known Spirit worker, medicine maker, priest, activist, and artist who has studied with indigenous communities and elders throughout the globe. Lou grounds his teachings and practice in the idea that connectedness to ourselves and our physical, emotional, spiritual, and environmental landscapes is a fundamental necessity for any long lasting change to occur. He holds that through creating these living, dynamic relationships we become conscious of the inherent power available to us in every second of our lives.
Orisha & Bacongo
In 2015 Lou traveled to Ile Ife, Nigeria to undergo the Itefa initiation, which crowned him as an Awo, full initiate of IFA and High Priest in training. In 2008, Lou was confirmed as an Olorisha and Priest of Shango under Iyanifa Ifalade Ta’Shia Asanti of Ile Ori Ogbe Egun, and is a Tata Nkisi in the Bacongo Tradition. Following the mandates of his Italogun, Lou has also received tutelary initiations to various Orisha and is a senior priest in the Ile. He is currently helping to form an Oakland hub for the Ile. For more information on Ile Ori Ogbe Egun visit: http://www.ileoriteacheslove.com/
Hoodoo, Southern Conjure, and Folk Magic
Conjure has been present in one form or another throughout my entire life and my formal training in these varied traditions lead me all over Texas and Louisiana. Lou is also a graduate of Catherine Yronwode’s Hoodoo Rootwork Correspondence Course, and is a member of The Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers, a gathering of professional practitioners of African American folk magic, hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork, who provide psychic readings and spiritual root doctoring.
Paganism, European Witchcraft, Wicca, Western Herbalism and Energetic Healing Modalities.
At seventeen Lou joined the House of Light, a Neo-Egyptian/ Kemetic Pagan Coven lead by the Presiding Priestesses Mariah Prosper and Sharon Varner. He completed his studies in 2007 and continues to circle with the Coven.
Curanderismo and Latin American Folk Traditions and Herbalism.
These practices are personal and are not taught publicly at this time. Lou has worked with several Elders throughout Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, but his most his most extensive training is with the Rattlesnake Elders in Southern Texas.
To schedule a reading with Lou, book now!
The Association of Independent Readers and Rootworkers (AIRR) is a gathering of professional practitioners of African American folk magic, hoodoo, conjure, and rootwork who provide psychic readings and spiritual root doctoring services to the public.AIRR promotes quality service and ethical conduct by means of accreditation and evaluation of our members. Unlike commercial online psychic reader services, AIRR is a membership-supported organization that receives no fees or kickbacks for referrals.
…Lou is a spiritual reader, artist, and activist, and is based in Oakland, California.
Lou identifies as a queer, working-class, man of color, witch and he has made recent contributions to the Pagan LGBTQI and Gender Activism panel at PACO. Lou is a contributing author to Bringing Race to the Table, an anthology that explores the topics and experiences of race and racism within Paganism. Lou also advocates for radically open spaces which are spaces for dialogues and investigations of the intersectionalities of race, class, gender, and ability within Earth-based communities, rituals, and pedagogy. Lou is deeply invested in visioning sustainable Pagan organizations based on liberation and liberating magics and has given permission to do this interview.
Christopher: What is your background and how did it influence you?
Lou: I locate myself in terms of land and body and interested in the dynamics that occur between two. East Texas chicken ranch and Mexican-American parents in their fifties, background looks like the politics of brown, working class bodies through the language of identity-Hispanic, Mexican-American, Chicano, Latin, what is being named and by who? I can talk about what happens to a brown, gay, witch body that inhabits spaces that are opaque, unreflective.
Simultaneously reading, wondering, thinking, exploring, searching, being captivated.
Christopher: How would you describe yourself?
Lou: Layered. Inquisitive. Stubborn. Witch
What I do as a worker and as a human is a type of crossroads magic, that is a magic of intersections, a magic of holding contradiction, hybridity, connectivity, relationality.
Christopher: How did you begin you explorations and development in magic and in spirituality?
Lou: Bingo parlors and a playground. Memory tries to create themes and narrative, to string together experiences to form a sense of continuity. Magic on the other hand is eruption both into space and into self. It breaks open the possibility of limitless elegant solutions and dynamic, poignant change.
Bataille writes, “The whole business of eroticism is to strike to the inmost core of the living being, so that the heart stands still. The transition from the normal state to that of erotic desire pre- supposes a partial dissolution of the person as he exists in the realm of discontinuity.”
An experience of magic: what is a Southern bingo parlor?
Between six and seven my aesthetics as a worker were in formation. My home now looks like constellations- altars, workings, books, and is like the inside of the memories of my mother’s purse. Memories of nights, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, sometimes in Catholic centers, sometimes at the vets, sometimes in smoke filled halls. Tables piled with charms, rabbits feet, lucky buddhas, troll dolls, how do you name the magic of things held in hands, of prayers, and rubbing, and breath? I would describe what I do as a continuation of these things.
things learned early from rootworkers: the environment holds both the illness and its antidote; work with what you have to create the most poignant change; if its useful do it, if it not work keep on walking; your medicine is not someone else’s.
Touchings of Spirit:
kindergarten, recess, red ball. Spirit erupts into space as ball rolls into a groove of oaks. Feelings of peace and expanse, warmth and weightlessness, sun beams as gold dew on the body. then back to playing.
Christopher: You have studied and practice a variety of paths. What drew you to each and what do you think each gave you?
Lou: There are many ways to enter. It would have been easier to answer before but now being drawn to say something about eruption and a syntax of spiritual experience (the numerous ways in which a moment can be ordered to create meaning, to distill poignancy.)
On Saturday I was at ceremony on a beach. We were holding or rather birthing an emanation of the sea which was deeply tied to our experience of that location- that time, space, and community. Constructing a bird cage through which divinity could enter and perch and leave.
I feel like my cage exploded, the bird is in flight. There are moments and wings and space.
The core instinct- the draw is rooted in healing, that has always been the motivation. To put it another way, how can I thrive? My experiences and teachers are in constellations orbiting those intentions.
bell hooks has been a repeated instructor, Black Feminist theory as Zen Koan, as what does it look like to investigate liberation. The recent transmission is on “Liberating Hospitality,” tactics for decentering “imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” hooks asks what do we give to the other instead of what is taken, how and what do we share?
Talking about sharing is talking about labor. Years of tending, and cleaning, feeding, arranging, praying, constructing, listening, lifting, heaving, moving. for elders, for communities, for shrines, for spirits, for myself.
Listing seems to be the most tangible way of answering this question.
Southern folk magic: connection to land, aesthetics, analysis of resource and its distribution, ways of accessing desire, listening, holding contradiction, connectivity, plant identification, interdependence
Mexican folk traditions: faith, strength, courage, my first spiritual tongue, heat, my first sense of reflection, the color red, hybridity
Witchcraft/Paganism/ Western Mystery Traditions: dialectics, inquisitiveness, feminist and gender inclusive dialogues, the Goddess, community,
Orisha and Diasporic African Traditions: fierceness, the ability to name, rootedness in the earth, tangible sacred, images and reflections of brown bodies, kindness, giving
Christopher: What services do you provide people?
Lou: Readings and rootworking consultations- co-creating ritual & spell craft based on divination, as well as, Dillogun- an Orisha oracle utilizing sixteen cowrie shells. Each of these systems gives a grounding in the circumstances of life or the situation at hand, as well as, prescriptive rites for balance, success, healing, and manifesting the blessings in our hearts.
I also offer artisan condition oils, charms, candles, and ritual supplies designed specifically for the client.
Christopher: How long have you been giving lectures and workshops? Do you always have so much fun while teaching?
Lou: My first public offering was in 2001 with a Pagan student group in Dallas. Time flies. I love facilitating and offering up spaces for investigation. Pedagogy- the way we teach, not just what we teach, must always be a primary consideration in terms of transgressing oppression. We are called in each of our own magical traditions to destabilize the banking method of instruction, meaning challenging models which envision students as clean slates ready to be filled. Those methodologies are not reflective of the teachings themselves and are not indigenous nor progressive.
Christopher: Why and when did you start writing? What type of things have you written and where might people see some of what you have written?
Lou: I don’t feel like I have started writing or maybe it has something to do with not writing into completion. I began as a sex toy reviewer, as well as, an advice columnist for a body positivity site six years ago. I think my name was Adam Pistil if memory is correct. Then came Luxurious Mr. L, a metaphysical advice blog and then a series of experimentation over the years.
My current pilgrimage project is on my website at www.louflorez.com and it’s an exploration of my process before, during, and after.
Christopher: Could you tell us a bit about your pilgrimages?
Lou: How can you articulate that which breaks you open? Pilgrimage is not vacation, it’s an opportunity to meet divinity on the road outside of habituated constructs, a stepping out as a way of stepping through. I am still arriving, coalescing from the experience.
Colonialism have never actually stopped and it continues to be perpetrated on a daily basis. The West has intentionally created institutions and regimes very purposefully to control resources and accessibility.
There is no language for these types of contradictions. How can one hold the juxtaposition of life altering medicine against the lived history of a people who continue to experience devastation? My tongue goes mute.
Christopher: What led you to become an activist within the Pagan community and what are some of the problems which you are encountering?
Lou: The politicized body is just as tangible as the etheric body and they have developed in relationship to each other. When I speak about the practice of liberation magic that is a magic of transgression, a magic that divests itself from the spiritual narrative of the colonizer by saying that my relationship to spirit, my relationship to my body, and my relationship to the world is outside of that consumption and gaze, I am talking about a politics of liberation. How can a working simultaneously address a personal need while combating a real world oppression? How can a love working address the intimate desires of the heart while displacing the patriarchal, sexist, misogynistic, heteronormative, racist narratives of what love is framed to be? If as witches and workers we cannot see the corollaries between the magics on our altars and the intentionally created systems and infrastructures of oppression then what are we doing and what are we working for?
In terms of concrete problems in the Pagan community, my experience is that across the board from age, sex, class, race, gender identity, ability, people are wanting to connect to these traditions but for some reason feel like they are inaccessible, why? If your spiritual community is not reflective of your politics, investigate, what conditions are being created for this to occur, what actions are needed to change it?
Christopher: Are there any similarities when we are talk about race, culture, and gender issues in the Pagan community?
Lou: There is no universality either within or between these groups. What can be extrapolated broadly, thematically, are experiences of underrepresentation; traumatization either directly or indirectly through inherently oppressive discourses, materials, environments, and representations of divinity; instances of both acute and long term aggression and microagressions employed against already underrepresented populations; the list goes on.
Christopher: Is there difference between harm that is committed purposefully or from majority blindness and ignorance? Which is the most frustrating to encounter?
Lou: No matter which harm has been done. Is it any less painful for a knife to be plunged in an inch or a foot? My perspective is to look at what happens after the pain has occurred. Is it addressed? Has there been an accountability for the actions? Will there be behavior modification to ensure that it doesn’t happen again? Those are my concerns.
There is no way to stay clean and not trigger and be trigged emotionally by the intersectionalities of oppression. Presence looks like giving permission for experimentation, trial and error. How can notice the dirty we are carrying if we close our eyes to it? Reparative justice isn’t about punishment, it’s about repairing the schism created by the act that separates, the act that causes harm.
Christopher: Why do people rely on stereotypes and assumptions and so rarely bother to try and make connections? How do you tackle trying to get through?
Lou: What conditions make it possible for people to not be seen as people? Pagans talk about the burning times like it happened in the past. We have never actually stopped the practice just switched the target based on the political agendas of the reigning party. How is gay bashing like misogyny like ableism like living on minimum wage like witch burnings like lynchings like being called other?
It is false that people don’t want to establish connection, establish bonds. A baby will die within seventy two hours if all other needs are provided but they are not held. Humans yearn for relationships and touch but we have to be willing to authentically encounter each other.
Tackling it looks like creating trust, and asking what is your stake in my freedom? What is mine in yours?
Christopher: There is power in numbers so how do various minorities break through the divisions that keep them from working together?
Lou: What is being suggested by experimentation throughout history is that no one person sets the agenda of a sustainable movement. Until a critical mass across these constituent groups form and think and strategize towards this goal, nothing else can be accomplished. Ultimately the need is to see through illusions and manipulations, identify the drives and motivations of its members, and radicalize the world through policy and social engagement.
Christopher: What about the minorities being hurt? Enduring the problem or waiting for change is useless. What can they do in creating mutual support? What are effective forms of activism? What needs to be overcome to win out?
Lou: As witches, rootworkers, magicians, Pagans we know the power of naming and how language can contextualize a world before we enter the conversation. How is being asked if Pagans believe in the devil like the use of the word “minority?” What we are really talking about are historical populations which have been denied access and resource and are continued to be denied access and resource based upon difference and privilege. We have to be comfortable in naming the experience versus having it be named for us.
Support looks like support, all the ways in which we establish genuine connection and show care and concern for another. ask, what do you need, how can I help? Support looks like doing internal work, analyzing accountability, what is your and what is mine. Support looks like fighting internalized colonization, patriarchy, classism, racism, sexism, misogyny, transphobia, ableism.
“What are effective forms of activism?” Not allowing violence and aggression in the room. Advocating for the sovereignty of every individual over the bodies and their lives by physically, fiscally, energetically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, and politically taking actions towards this goal.
Christopher: What do allies need to learn in order to help? What can they do that would be useful? What is not useful?
Lou: Showing up, be willing to listen. Funding organizations lead by the communities they are in allieship with. When triggered: step back, don’t speak, process outside of that group, get clarity, re-enter the conversation.
Things that are not useful: Blame. Shame. Guilt. Advice or opinions or one’s feelings about an oppression that is not one’s own. Intentional privilege blindness.
Christopher: Where can people learn more about both the problems and how to help find the solutions?
Lou: Look at the work of Crystal Blanton, Elena Rose, Xochiquetzal Duti Odinsdottir, Yeshe Rabbit, T. Thorn Coyle, Susan Harper, Maurice Ka, Damon Stang, P Sufenas Virius Lupus, The Wild Hunt, Polytheist.Com
Further Research: bell hooks, Judith Butler, Gloria Anzaldua, Paulo Freire, Foucault, Julia Serano, Angela Davis, James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, to name a few.
Christopher: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
Lou: Thank you for having me and I look forward to continuing these dialogues. What is seen in Paganism as a movement is reflective of what is happening in the great world. We are grappling with institutions and thought forms which were designed to keep us in bondage, this did not happen by chance or coincidence. It was a conscious strategy for domination and imperialism. It is up to us to dismantle it.
“First of all lets not even get to sex, how do we claim the body as a location of delight, pleasure, love.” –bell hooks