It’s really easy to write-off cultural criticism as a negative thing. In an era when any unqualified person with an opinion has a platform, we can quickly forget that when done well, criticism is the art of defining the difference between the merely good and the truly great. All life’s most pleasurable and hedonistic expressions, whether it be music, sex, or food, can all be technically perfect but lack that “secret sauce” that makes it transcendent. It’s a quality that’s unmistakable yet undefiable. Some people in this world have the power to meld the energy around them—whether effortlessly or willfully—and turn it into gold. Because it has no other name, we call it magic. Since we’ve recorded time, women who choose to conduct that power have made other people uncomfortable. Bri Luna—aka the Hoodwitch—wants femmes to find their power in that discomfort. And it all starts with a "no."

“Saying no is a powerful tool that allows individuals to assert their boundaries and prioritize their well-being," she told me over cheeseburgers and bubbles at Capitol Hill’s Harry's Fine Foods. "This is especially important for women and female-identifying people who have been historically conditioned to prioritize other’s needs over their own. By confidently saying no, they can reclaim their autonomy and advocate for their own happiness and self-care.” 

“Asserting boundaries without fear or guilt of patriarchal standards empowers women to challenge societal expectations, dismantle gender norms that dictate they should be accommodating and self-sacrificing," she added. "It promotes self-respect and paves the way for empowerment ultimately embracing the power of no allows women to live authentically and on their own terms.”

Magic as a concept is everywhere these days. Manifesting memes, astrology girlies, and crystal bitches abound. And while that may make for good magic, great magic happens when it combines with science. Then we call it alchemy. Alchemy is what can make a singular note, a taste of dessert, or a kiss stand up the hair on the back of your neck, shoot a white light directly down your spine, and make your nether regions explode. 

Though I wanted the theme for this piece to be a Muddy Waters “Champagne & Reefer” moment, Harry’s doesn't serve traditional Champagne, which itself is the product of exact science. Beginning with a quality finished wine, new yeasts and sugar are then added to referment and get those carbon dioxide bubbles—the science of its production doesn't leave much to chance, which is why Champagne and sparkling wines can be so expensive.

The babe with the power. And PĂ©t nat. Ma'Chell Duma

Pét nat, which is what Harry’s serves, is a natural wine made by pure alchemy. Grape skin yeast feeds on the sugars of the grape itself producing flavor and fizz. The carbon dioxide bubbles are trapped in the bottling process, making every pour a filmy, one-of-a-kind magic. It’s known as the ancestral method, and people have been catching a bubbly buzz this way since they were constructing Stonehenge.

The bubbles' earthiness lent itself to Harry’s signature burger—a thick beef patty (Impossible versions are available too) with American cheese, pickles, onions, bacon, a potato bun, and Mel’s “secret sauce” that tastes like a fresh tartar and ketchup variation. The burger is only $10 during happy hour, so splurge for the fries. They are served with fried herbs, pecorino, and a tangy housemade 601 sauce. I’m not a fan of fried potatoes but these had me re-reaching over the course of dinner.

Alchemy can also, unfortunately, take a bad turn, and for the first time in my Stoned & Starving efforts I overcooked my subject. My live resin Lilac Sunset from Passion Flower’s Wick’ed line—which bills itself as a hybrid—was too heady for a sensitive smoker. While the flavor palette of lemon, lavender, and pine worked with the meal and bubbles, it made Luna tilt.

“That strain made me feel out of my mind," she said later. "I felt like Craig in Friday. I could hear my own heartbeat. But I'm also a lightweight smoker and a psychic so everything becomes extremely enhanced. This is a very psychoactive strain and my brain is constantly going, so I'm not sure if it was my brain or it's the weed—that was intense. I wouldn't recommend it in a public setting.”

Out October 31. ✨ Courtesy of HarperOne

Before things went wonky, we did get a chance to chat about her debut book Blood Sex Magic—out today, October 31—and its origins. 

She says she cannot recount a time when she was not practicing some form of magic. As a child, she did rudimentary spellwork before she knew what it was and was always conscious of her ability to tap into natural forces. In her time practicing as the Hoodwitch, her work has garnered attention in The New York Times, Vogue, and Playboy.

“After a decade of nurturing my business the Hoodwitch, I felt an unwavering desire to share my perspective, challenge generational curses, embrace my personal power, and delve into my story with authenticity," she said. "The time just felt right.”

Luna gathered a lifetime's worth of spells, wisdom, and all-around hotness, and packaged it with arrestingly modern neon work and erotic imagery in her debut, and she will kiss a copy for you and let you vibe off her energy at Elliott Bay Book Company on All Hallows Eve at 7 pm.