On Healing and Un-Schooling – Lydia Koku

I want to start off this interview by wishing everyone a happy New Year. For many people I know both digitally and otherwise, 2019 was a year of deep hardship, transformation and learning. Through the struggles that I faced last year, one thing I learned is that there’s no time like the present to dive head-first into whatever I want. There is no “perfect time” to do anything, so why wait? For the past year, year and a half, I’ve toyed with different ways to center other Black and brown folks besides myself on this website. Each of my friends do amazing work, be it professionally, spiritually, through self-education and other avenues. Over the course of 2020, I will be sharing interviews that I’ve conducted both to showcase the brilliant work of others, and to expand my skill set as a writer. 

Who better to start with than Lydia? Lydia Koku is someone who has taught me, pushed me, and truly demonstrated what I can only describe as magic. Lydia is a teacher, a fighter and for real a blessing. I am honored to call them my friend and to share their business with you all, Ashawo Witch Healing Services. With such a hard year under our belts, the work of a diviner such as Lydia can be helpful in making sense of our experiences and beginning the healing process. In offering their services, Lydia is mindful of the particular needs of Black folks and how divination spaces and services often lack an intersectional lens. I can say from my own work with Lydia that their consultation was informative, accurate and generative. We were able to discuss what was challenging while remaining mindful of my unique strengths. Continue reading to learn more about how Lydia may be able to help you and how to connect with them.

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In your own words, what is your work and how did you get into it? What led you to create a business from it?
I run a mostly virtual, astrology-based business called “Ashawo Witch Healing Services.” My business is going to be 1 year old in March 2020. I provide sliding scale oracle card readings, shadow work classes, inner voice amplification exercises, birth chart readings, transit readings, numerology reports, and so on. I do readings through text, voice (phone call/video chat), and in person.

AWHS is all about revealing to people their inner strengths/karmic gifts and educate about how to heal patterns that no longer serve them. Though I offer my services to anybody who wants them, my demographic is queer hood niggas. I started this service for people like me, the black sheeps. The professional whores (ashawos). The witches (ajes). The gays. The hood niggas. The nonbinary bitches.  I also built AWHS to honor the imperfect victims and hurt people who hurt people. I have grown to understand that being a survivor and being a perpetrator are not mutually exclusive roles. WE ALL have the potential to be both. We all deserve to heal from those experiences and create new visions for ourselves.

As a diviner, I was called to start this service for two reasons. First, people get so caught up in fear of being called “toxic” that they avoid the work altogether.  I wanted to offer a compassionate space for Black folks interested in taking accountability for their own healing.

Second, there aren’t many opportunities for Black people across the diaspora to learn about intergenerational healing, especially without access to/desire to go to therapy. Shit, I learned about all of this work in college because I had opportunities to go to therapy, start my work, and explore my spiritual gifts. During college, I received lots of questions about how Black folks actually DO the everyday work of “breaking intergenerational curses” and “healing toxic traits.” These phrases carry a lot of weight in our community but I noticed that without literacy around healing, they don’t mean much.

“Un-schooling” is how I chose to address this issue; Bringing the knowledge that was deliberately hidden from us to light. Many Black people don’t know what ancestral healing practices are. Many of us don’t know what “shadows” are or how to identify the areas of our lives where we need healing. Many of us don’t know where to start or when to start “the work.” Many of us don’t even know we need healing or might benefit from it. Some of us don’t know this shit has been passed down over generations. I went through this process myself at the beginning my own spiritual awakening. Eventually, the more I learned and evolved, the more prepared I felt to work part-time as a guide and rootworker.

AWHS is not an alternative to Western therapy and it is not therapy. It is divination, rootwork, and transformative justice combined. AWHS recognizes the colonialism of Western and non-Western belief systems — Anything associated with Christianity will have oppressive belief systems like homophobia, racism, misogynoir etc. attached to them too. I am not interested in being a traditional therapist. I turn the divination community on its head, combining systems that reveal more information put together than they can possibly hide. I wanted to see what Black folks’ healing could look like when the practice itself is intersectional. 

 

What are some of the challenges and misconceptions about what you do?
The biggest challenge has been the “un-schooling” part of the work — teaching people about reading astrology birth charts (traditional, sidereal, draconic) for divination and healing purposes. Social media has increased folks’ awareness of modern astrology but most people don’t know just HOW MUCH insight they can get with a diviner reading their chart. Most people don’t know how DEEP astrology goes. However, because more people are familiar with traditional astrology I end up using the traditional system for most of my readings though I rely on sidereal and draconic astrology myself. In order to increase clientele for sidereal and draconic services, I have to do more educational classes around astrology in GENERAL, which reduces time for the actual healing work. Figuring out how to balance giving enough background info with spending time on relevant exercises is a big part of the work I do with clients. I try to meet people where they’re at, taking time to gear each reading or class to my client’s individual needs and wants. I didn’t realize how much pedagogy would be involved in my business work, so my Education degree definitely helps!

More generally, stigma/distrust around lightwork and astrology provides another challenge. When I initially started my business, haters and skeptics would troll me in my DMs, trying to debate whether or not astrology is real, whether or not shadow work is therapy, whether or not my work is accurate, etc. Over time, I became less and less interested in arguing with people and feeling like I had to defend not only my business but also my practice. I did my own shadow work around this and adopted a simpler perspective. My ancestors reminded me to protect myself and my energy above all. I am not here to justify, but I am here to build trusting relationships between myself and clients. I addressed this challenge of stigma and distrust by being open to questions, providing ample Q+A time during readings, and reiterating that every service is voluntary and no work will be done without client consent.

Accuracy with oracle card readings is a challenge I am blessed to not worry about as my abilities were confirmed and I became a diviner. I think about my readings as messages from spirit guides and ancestors. Messages for specific individuals always resonate for them and I don’t do card readings for collectives.

What has the process been like to create an online business as a young Black person? How do you develop your courses?
Creating an online service has helped me clarify what I want from my life. I like having the flexibility to design my own schedule and work within my own mental, emotional, and spiritual capacity. I like working for myself…I even prefer it. It’s important to me that everything I do aligns with my beliefs. I didn’t get that experience in college or in grad school, but I received it through constructing Ashawo Witch Healing Services.

I don’t work my business full-time on purpose. I am a hustler and work two other jobs in addition to this one. My intention in starting the business was not to create a FT occupation of it just yet. I wanted to help other young Black folks like me through their healing processes. I wanted to put my divination and mediation gifts to work without relying on my gifts as my primary source of income. Doing readings takes a LOT of spiritual and emotional energy. Especially because I’m still working through my own shit and developing professional boundaries, doing my business 15-20 hours/week is more feasible for me right now. My prices are also purposefully low and advertising works through social media because the intention for the business was to increase Black folks’ access to these services. My prices are based on affordability, not on my skill. I had to learn how to weigh these decisions very early on in my business. If I were to rely on my business for primary income, I would have to raise my prices and thus work more within the capitalist system than push against it…which is counterintuitive to my purpose.

Related to the day-to-day operations of my service, I spend a lot of time developing content and perfecting my craft. I am working on re-branding my social media sites at the moment.

Every class, exercise, reading, etc. I provide is original and takes not only intuitive ability but also psych knowledge! My day job as a medical case manager helps, as I use counseling skills all day, every day, that help me in my business capacity. My shadow work exercises all come from a book I am writing on Black diasporic trauma and healing. I plan to publish the book by the end of 2020, beginning of 2021. I include every exercise given to a client in my book and sometimes use exercises from my book to support a client. For example, I might consult my chapter on “Mental Health Socialization” for exercises on healing shame around asking for help. I might insert an exercise I created for a client dealing with sexual shame into my chapter on “Sex Magick for Survivors.” Creating all content for my service definitely helps me explore my creativity while using my divination skills. Before AND after I write down anything for any reading, any class, any exercise, I meditate on the subject at hand and clear my own energy.

How does your academic background in psychology inform this spiritual approach to healing? How does astrology connect to shadow work – or how are these forms of healing connected?
I studied psychology in school but I am not a psychologist. Psychology helps me in my business not as a MEANS through which I heal, but as GUIDANCE for content and counseling. I use the psychology I learned specifically for theory, clinical skills, and to help me protect my own boundaries in this work. I am not a therapist (yet) and what I do is not traditional, sit-down, 50-minute therapy. I do not diagnose. I am a guide and use spirit, intuition, and mediumship to retrieve and communicate information.

I also use psychology for content creation, especially for online advertisements of my work. I learned about concepts like attachment, triggering, shadows, and inner child work through experiences in traditional and non-traditional psych classes. I also learned about inner child healing from Maryam Hasnaa as a student in her New Earth Mystery School. Like Hasnaa’s work, my own psych knowledge comes to play most frequently when I’m doing shadow work or inner voice amplification classes/exercises. It is important to know what the research says too. The research I’ve read helps me decide which issues / patterns to address. I needed to know and understand the traits of a narcissist before I could work with narcissists and survivors of narcissistic relationships. I needed to learn the signs of manipulation before working with clients around healing from emotional abuse. This knowledge base took years to build and won’t be over, ever. I keep up to date with what’s going on in the psychology and education academic communities though I may not rely on their praxes all the time.

ASTROLOGY is related to shadow work in that your DOB [date of birth], time of birth, and location of birth can tell astrologers what patterns people have that may be toxic and HOW these patterns manifest. I ask clients seeking shadow work help to provide their DOB, time, and location if they do not already have a pattern in mind they want to work on. The positioning of planets Pluto and Saturn and houses 7th, 8th, and 12th specifically help me identify what shadow work needs to be done. Transit charts are useful to read if people have specific questions about patterns to be addressed during a specific TIME period. For example, if I want to create shadow work exercises for someone going through their Saturn Return at age 29, I would look at the placement of Pluto, Saturn, 7H, 8H, and 12H in their own Saturn Return transit chart. I then create original exercises using a combination of what I see revealed in the chart, knowledge from psych classes, and what ancestors tell me during my meditations.

In thinking about who is allowed to heal and why, what is the importance of intergenerational collaboration?
Whew, we could have a whole 2 hour long convo on this question alone. Honestly, because Black folks’ pain is so systemic and most OFTEN intergenerational, we need our elders to participate in the un-schooling. What we know about trauma, pain, love, and healing most often comes from them…  Think about our parents’ generation and that of our grandparents’. Who are you to them? VS. Who are they to you? When you think about what has been passed down in your lineage, what traumas repeat themselves? In my family, it has been the cycle of incarceration and violence. What gifts have been passed down? In my family, it’s been the gift of teaching. What did you learn about appropriate ways to express yourself? What did you learn about inappropriate ways to express yourself?

This work is especially important for people who are black sheeps in their families, who feel like their identities aren’t respected or loved by family. We need to learn that we aren’t unloveable for being authentic about who we are. The ROOTWORK of intergenerational trauma is just as much about accountability as it is about tracing patterns back to their systemic origins (colonialism, capitalism, slavery, genocide, etc). What patterns are possible to break on the most interpersonal level? What patterns will probably not end with you? How can I talk to my children about these patterns? How can I un-school them? How can I love my people better? How can I love me better? How do I survive today? These are some of the questions I explore with clients doing intergenerational work. One of the most important things I learned while I was in academia was that socialization is bidirectional. Just as elders can teach young people the hows and whys and model behavior, they need the same modeling. I am working on how to do lightwork in group circles of people from all ages.

What has been some of the feedback you’ve gotten from clients? What sort of impact does the work have on both your clients and you?
I love feedback and reviews 🙂 The most common threads of feedback note that my readings are very accurate and thorough. You’ll get a LOT of information for a LOW price. My clients see me as intuitive, gifted, insightful, etc. The best comment I ever got was from a friend who said, “Hood niggas need this jawn sometimes.” Hearing someone from my demographic tell me the work was helpful… was amazing. That’s all I ever wanted… for hood niggas to have a compassionate space to heal.
How do you preserve/maintain your boundaries when taking on so much of other people’s stories and emotions?
I don’t offer services when I don’t feel my best self. If I’m not in alignment, if I don’t have the mental or emotional clarity to do this work, there’s no point. I don’t do this to drain myself. I do this work to help. Knowing that my business is not an obligation but a gift and a choice helps relieve any weight that I attach to my work. I am doing this only because I want to…there’s freedom in that. I don’t feel guilty for taking time off or delaying a reading because I am depressed. Many clients understand and want the most accurate read anyway.

I cleanse myself before and after every reading and cleanse every object I use.

I also commit to keeping my business a PART-TIME job until and if I decide to go full-time.

If you could talk to all the Black people in the world for 1 minute, what would you say? What is your mission?
“If no one told you they love you today, just know that I do. I love you.” That’s what I would say.
How can people contact you and follow your work?
Y’all can reach me on Instagram and Twitter: @ashawowitch.

 

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Image Description: A list of Lydia’s prices and services.

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