Your friendly neighborhood Examiner was able to complete an interview with the dynamo known as the Priestess Yvette Willis this February 25. Seemingly everywhere at once, she is impossible to miss. Long flowing locks, a swing in her hips, a strut in her stride, and a laugh on her lips, this forthright woman is on the move. Whether selling her finely crafted jewelry, or enchanting with intoxicating kefs from her extracts and soaps, she is sure to leave an impression on all she meets. So pull up a chair, and maybe pour an industrial sized cup of coffee, and prepare to meet a force of Nature in the Metro Detroit Pagan Community.
So, who is Yvette Willis? Business woman, performer, artist, priestess, Grandmother to the most famous Metro Detroit Mini Me Grandbaby, is there anything we missed?
That pretty much describes me. I wear so many hats that I really don’t think about them. I supposed we can add vegan chef. I’ve catered a few events and they turned out really well. I’ve also given lectures on how to make healthy lifestyle changes. Oh yeah, I’m goal is to be certified in Zumba before summer.
Let’s take these things one by one. First, tell us about your businesses. What area does Divine Lotus, LLC mark as its primary domain?
The Divine Lotus, LLC began after my stint as the Head Priestess in a Kemetic Temple. During that time, I was immersed in the ancient Egyptian teachings and culture, veganism and yoga.
The Divine Lotus, LLC focuses on living a healthy lifestyle.
And where does Motown Witch enter?
I created MotownWitch as an email address back in 2001. The name stuck as somehow I became sort of an internet personality. My friends encouraged me to “push my brand”, so I started marketing myself and my spiritual work using that name.
Now, give us a little insight into Skull Thugery?
Skull Thugery came to be when I made some skull bracelets for me and my boyfriend and someone at his job bought them off his wrist. (Yes, most of the jewelry I wear consists of skulls, spiders and snakes.)
Who are your primary customer bases?
Pagans and rootworkers mostly. But everyone buys my soaps and body butters.
How did these companies come to be?
It all began with an attorney that I used to work. He encouraged me to set up a table a Xmas bizarre. I sold all the soaps, candles and jewelry that brought with me that day.
Your wares are unique. Give us a mini tour of some of your items. What is the merchant menu?
Handmade soaps, bath salts, whipped/scented shea butter, candles, chicken feet, mojo bags, beaded jewelry, dolls/poppets, herbs, incense. I am going to begin selling African themed clothing again as well.
Pictures, the Internet demands pictures! Do you have a virtual online catalog yet, and where could a person go to find it?
My site is up, but my webmaster needs to make updates. It is Motown Witch. Pictures and ordering can also be done at: Motown Witch on Facebook; Dinive Lotus; Skullthugery; and Moonflower Creations
I also need to update my etsy shop.
Now, you KNOW, there is no way that I will be able to ignore those adorable colorful chicken feet. What was the inspiration behind those?
I am an initiated High Priestess in Vodoun and a long time Rootworker, chicken kind of goes along with the territory. They are used to scratch up good luck or for protection.
Skulls are a thing that we see increasing more and more at your booths when you vend. Are we going to see you eventually come out with a product line dedicated exclusively to the Skeletal Sexiness in us all?
That’s Skull Thugery! I’m currently researching more manufacturers of skull themed items. I have a few skull themed lunchbags added to the inventory.
Speaking of creativity and sexiness, when those powers combine, often a performer is not far away. What kind of performer are you?
I have a few local plays under my belt. I’m also a belly dancer. (Learning to play bass guitar is also in my bucket list.)
And how long have you been performing Oriental Dance/Belly Dance?
I’ve been dancing for about 14 years now.
You are with a troupe. What is the name of it and how long have you been together?
I’ve danced with Isis Raks for several years. That group is led my Dee Watkins and I’m not sure when she formed it.
I also have my own group Sekhmet Tribal Fusion that was formed back in 2010.
And how many of you get together and make this wonder happen? What style of the dance do you favor?
Isis Raks is made of several ladies who’ve been dancing with Dee for numerous years. It’s hard to say how many of us will be at any given performance. Sometimes there are as many of 12 women and as few as 3.
Sekhmet began with 3 of us. Currently there are only 2, but I’m always looking to another person. I prefer Tribal Fusion and American Tribal Style (ATS).
Anyone who follows you knows that you and Belly Dance are in love with each other. It is almost scandalous. Do you believe this adoration will continue for a long while?
That’s the beauty of fusion and ATS. These styles of dance are more forgiving to the changes in an woman’s frame and agility and can easily be adapted to accommodate a limited range of movement.
My Granny was shaking her hips until she left the planet in her mid 70s, so yes, I will continue for a long, long, long while.
The punishing sessions of practice seem like part of breathing for you. Do you ever actually get into physical workouts that you had to let go due to being so busy?
I do (not) get to workout as often as I’d like. My day job kind of exhausts all my extra energy, but I’m trying!
Now, I know this is a sensitive subject with you. But, tell us, when did you start this coffee addiction and how serious is the situation? Your coffee posts are legendary.
In my teens it was Turkish Coffee thanks to my Albanian boyfriend. Then somewhere in the 90s I had Community Coffee with Chicory in New Orleans and I was ADDICTED!!! I bought all the bricks they had available in one particular store and had to buy an extra suitcase. LMAO!!!
Does this caffeinated fuel delivery system have anything to do with your legendary sense of humorous insights?
Coffee is my Ritalin. It calms me down. My sick sense of humor is courtesy of my father.
What part does it play in your design session when you are creating your jewelry?
Ironically, making jewelry is my outlet with I have things on my mind.
Where does your talent with colors and design come from and does it have a role in your mundane life as well?
My joke is always “Africans ain’t afraid of color”. But seriously, you know that different colors bring different vibrations and of course different color combinations mean different things in African Traditional Religions.
You are a holy woman, also, yes?
I suppose you can say that.
How long have you served in your calling?
I was ordained as a High Priestess in the Kemetic Temple in 2002.
I was baptized in Ifa in 2008.
I was baptized as a High Priestess in Haitian Vodoun in 2013.
I’ve been an ordained Minister since 2013.
What is the thing most that you find that feeds your soul about your relationship with your faith?
My ancestral rituals! My ancestor altar is one of the first things you see when you enter my home. They are the first people I greet in the morning and the last people I say goodnight to in the evening.
You are a guide to many in the communities. I say communities you are so versatile in your circles. What is that like?
That probably comes from being the only person of color in a Polish, Albanian and Bulgarian community. Also from having snobbish parents who expected me to marry well. Needless to say, I bucked that system, but I can easily go from the opera to the motorcycle club with no problem. I’m used to being different and having a variety of interests. Funny thing is that I’m the same person in all my circles. I’m just me.
Would you use the word “Elder” yet to describe yourself? You are not yet 50, but sometimes age has nothing to do with a number.
I’ve been the “go to” person for so long that yes, I do consider myself an elder, a crone, etc.
Because you do something many do not do, you (gasp) cross 8 Mile Road and don’t have a fainting attack. How does this play a factor in how you function in the Pagan and Cultural worlds of Southeastern Michigan?
I guess a part of my being “different” is that I’ve been hanging across 8 Mile since I was a teenager. It was big deal when I started hanging in Detroit. LMAO! In fact, for years, I was uncomfortable at Detroit events.
Tell us a little about what you feel is the most challenging things you have encountered as a person who travels multiple circuits throughout Michigan.
I think the most challenging thing is that you never know what the particular turnout is going to be. Sometimes you come away selling almost everything and others you make nothing.
And what would you say has been the most unexpectedly rewarding?
Finding out that I have a following and that folks actually listen to my advice. I love helping people, hearing about someone making a life change is very rewarding. A few years ago, I got a letter for a young lady thanking me for saving her Mom’s life. Her Mom heard me speak somewhere and changed her eating habits, which subsequently lowered her blood pressure and she as getting off of meds.
You often pop up at multiple festivals and events, so can you give us a run down of the most popular ones you frequent?
Pagan Pride, The Witches Bazaar, The Cosmic Slop are my main ones. In the past couple of years I’ve added The Dally in the Alley.
I heard a rumor that someone is now a board member of Pagan Pride Detroit, Inc. Is this true?
HAHAHAHA!!! Yes, this is true.
How did this happen?
My arm was twisted a certain person. You and Oya Amakisi are two people that are always signing me up or talking me into things. LOL!
What do you believe you will bring to the event that will put your own twist into it, or are we going to have to wait to find out?
I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
Now the question of the most importance. Where did you get that gorgeous little grandson and what is his name?
I have 3 grandsons, but the one who is always with me is Kaleb.
He has the cutest cheeks! Does he come to all your events with you now? He was at the Yuletide Faire, and he was adorable!
He doesn’t come to all of them. But I get him most weekends (especially now since he is 2 ½ and knows how to call me). I have a hard time telling him “No” when he says he wants to come over to Mama’s house.
What is his favorite part about coming to your house? And did you ever get those batteries in that toy to die?
Shhhhh…Spiderman is still sleeping. I think he likes that he gets unlimited “bonanos” and milk, and stringbeans and chicken and watch(es) unlimited cartoons.
When can we expect to see you out and about next, whether alone or with your tiny companion?
I don’t have a vending gig coming up soon. But me and MiniMe are participating in the Odun Ifa Festival on March 7 (2015).
I hear a cruise is coming up? Shall this be in celebration of a certain event in April?
I usually go on a cruise every winter. There’s nothing like enjoying a warm climate during a Michigan winter. Some years I’ve been the belly dance instructor for a certain group on the ship. This year is still up in the air.
April people are awesome. Which Western Zodiac Sun sign are you born under?
Aries sun and Scorpio moon….A whole lot of Mars and fire!
Are there any things we have not covered that you would like to talk about?
I think you’ve covered all bases. 2015 is a year of change of growth…you are getting married, I’m turning 50, I’m tackling my bucket list…life is good!!!
This interview has been a long time coming, so you know that you are not getting away that easily. So, since I already know that many say your theme song is “Voodoo Woman” as sung by Koko Taylor, you are not getting that easy bonus question. Tell us, if you had to use an Element to describe your personal world, what would it be and why?
Fire baby!!!! I have a whole lot of Mars in my natal chart for a reason. I can be nice and it’s a small, controlled fire that keeps everyone warm and cooks their food. Or I can be pushed into an uncontrollable inferno leaving nothing but ash behind.
But I really am sweet and lovable.
For those readers who would like to hear what Priestess Yvette Willis talks about when not with your local Detroit Paganism Examiner, check out her appearance on Occult Science Radio episode 121 on iTunes. For those who would like to come out and celebrate a great day in the community with her, you can attend the Odun Ifa: Ifa Festival on March 7 at the Cass Corridor Neighborhood Development Corporation, 3535 Cass Ave in Detroit.