Double, double, toil and trouble. When most people think about witches, black cats, pointy hats and broomsticks spring to mind. But Isobar Creative Director Misty Bell Stiers would like to, uh, dispell the myths. She sat down with Ad Age to break down what it actually means to be a modern-day witch.
From discussing her faith with clients to practicing Wicca with her kids, Stiers says being a witch helps her honor her connections to everything and everyone. This interview has been lightly edited for flow and readability.
I’m assuming you weren’t raised a witch.
I was raised super Catholic and I had a friend who killed himself my senior year. After a few days, I went to church for some solace and the priest said I should pray for my friend’s soul. That didn’t sit well with me. I spent the next couple years exploring different options and beliefs and trying to find a place that felt like home.
So you became a witch?
I was very involved in church and my church community and I like having a way to feel part of something greater. I had a friend who gave me a book called “Drawing Down the Moon” by Margot Adler about modern paganism and I refused to read it for a really long time because I had in my mind that it meant a lot of goth and Renaissance faires. And when I did read the book, I found out that’s actually not it all. The more I read about Wicca, the more it spoke to me and the way I see I world and how I fit into it. It just became a part of my life, so I’ve been practicing for the past 20-plus years and it’s served me well so far.
Where does witchcraft fit in with advertising?
There are a few tenets that are part of my belief in Wicca that I don’t think are exclusive to Wicca. The ideas of no hierarchy, the pursuit and sharing of knowledge and that everything is connected. I use those three things as a foundation for the type of manager and leader I want to be. It’s not my job to have the right idea, and just because I’m the most senior person in the room doesn’t mean things have to be my way. The best ideas often come from discussions and different points of view and things I haven’t experienced that maybe my designers have.
How does this play out? Do you use spells or rituals before a pitch?
I don’t really practice rituals. Spells are no different than prayers or wishes. They’re just sort of pointed in a different direction. Wicca isn’t really what a lot of people imagine it is in the sense that there’s not a lot of hard and strict rules.
So what do you do?
For me, it’s about acknowledging the connectedness of everything and everyone. I like to say one of my strengths is being able to sit in a room and feel when things start to tip one or the other and being able to recognize that and react it and hopefully be proactive about it before it runs too far.
What do you want people to understand about witchcraft?
It’s not what people expect. It’s more about recognizing that everyone has this divine creative power inside of them — and it’s the same creative power that set the world spinning. It deserves respect and openness. My actions have consequence, [but not] because I’ll be punished or rewarded because of them. They have consequence because I have to live with those choices.
Has anyone in the industry ever been weirded out about your Wiccan beliefs?
I don’t think it’s ever been negative. I don’t not talk about it. If it’s relevant I’ll bring it up. I have a pentacle I wear from time to time. I brought cinnamon rolls into a client’s office for solstice last December, and I said, “It’s solstice, and I’m a witch, so you get to celebrate.”
How did that go over?
I’ve been lucky to work with people who’ve been open-minded. I think a lot of it plays to my advantage because I’m a creative, so there’s probably very little I can do that’d be shocking. In a lot of ways, it’s my role in a project to be a little bit different and to have a point of view that’s a little off kilter or away from the norm. I’m paid to think outside the box.
Any funny recent work-related witch stories come to mind?
When a current client — they’re great people and we talk a lot — heard I was writing a book, they were very interested. But when you respond with it being about me going from being super Catholic to practicing Wicca, they were like, “Oh, that’s nice…” with that awkward pause. And I would say this is on par with everyone’s reaction. But now they’re all really invested in the book and I regularly get questions about how far I am or how the illustrations are coming.
Do your husband and kids practice Wicca with you?
My husband is not Wiccan, but he does celebrate with us. He’s not an organized religion person and he’s very eco-conscious, so my nature-based religion with no hierarchy and my little solitary practitioner ways suit him quite well. I have a daughter who is 8 and a son who is 6 and we celebrate together and I’m raising them Wiccan, so I have to have a talk every Christmas about all the holidays being celebrated and what we’re celebrating and why. And we have that around almost every major holiday because rarely is there a major holiday that is not somewhere near a pagan holiday.