Michael Cardenas is a witch. Go on, you can cast a few witchy stereotypes on him. After all, he does own a pointy hat. He drinks out of a cauldron on occasion. And he would have a black cat if he weren’t allergic. (He has a black dog instead.)
“All of the witches I know—and I know quite a few of them—we love the stereotypes,” he says. “The pop culture surrounding it, we embrace it.”
Cardenas lives in North Park and operates Olde Ways, “an internet hub for mystical information, magical services, and apothecary goods.” His job isn’t all broomsticks and potions. It’s a lot of managing expectations—and managing his own emotions, since he’s a clairvoyant and a medium.
“I didn’t want to be a professional psychic. I tried to avoid it,” he says. “It ended up being my destiny because everything led me back to it.”
A San Diego native, Cardenas became aware of his psychic abilities at a young age. “I would see things—people with their grandmother hovering above them—and I would foretell things. My mom thought I needed psychiatric evaluation. My grandmothers, who are super old-school from Mexico, started taking me to a healer to get cleansings every time I would see something disturbing.”
After high school, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in art and fashion but became more involved in spiritual communities there, working in shops that provided readings and guided meditations, and eventually managing the witch shop Cauldron Kitty. As destiny would have it, he was also initiated into two covens.
“It was like going to school,” he says. “We had required reading and tests. We learned about tarot, spellcasting, herbs.”
This all amounted to eight years of formal training, which eventually led to some pretty big opportunities for Cardenas, including coverage in major publications like Cosmopolitan, Teen Vogue, Vogue UK, and O, The Oprah Magazine.
His early press came from a few writers and editors who were following him on social media. “Some of them were really interested in witchcraft or metaphysics, and others became actual clients. Later it evolved to places like Cosmopolitan offering me a monthly column and Hello Giggles having me do monthly Tarotscopes for them.”
While he’s versed in many types of magic, Cardenas homes in on the one closest to his heritage today—brujería, a Mexican folk magic and healing mechanism. As such, he’s a bruja (Spanish for “witch”), providing spellwork, spiritual guide sessions, and tarot readings.
His most sought-after service? Love spells, of course. “Everyone has issues with love because people just don’t act right,” he jests.
But this is one area where he won’t abide stereotypes about his trade. “The misconception is that we’re out here manipulating people. You can’t force anyone to do something. If you force someone to do something, then it won’t last, because you’re not working within the laws of the universe and not playing fair.”
This is why he carefully vets the clients who approach him—and declines about a third of them because he senses malicious intent. Most of the love spell clients he does accept are experiencing problems in an existing relationship.
“People will come to me as a last resort,” Cardenas says, and clarifies: “I am not a therapist. You have to do the real-world work.”
For him, some of that work happens in his home office. The centerpiece is his altar, sporting a bottle of tequila, statues, and an ashtray to burn cigars as an offering to spirits. “It’s unique to each person. The altar to the witch is a home for your divine, sacred objects.”
Just like most who work from home, he has to strike a wise work-life balance, but taking time off is tougher during his busy season: October. Work aside, it’s the time of year he most looks forward to, especially Halloween parties—and there’s one accessory he never forgets. “During witch season, you can guarantee I’m wearing a pointy hat.”