Building A Regular Practice

This article was originally published on my Patreon blog.  To see similar updates more quickly as well as receive patron-exclusive content and Tarot readings as perks, become a subscriber.

A daily spiritual practice helps center you for whatever your day may throw at you.  It also exercises your spiritual “muscles,” so that you develop a stronger connection with ancestors and deities and a calm, centered, grounded state becomes familiar to you and easy to access.

I’m going to describe a few possibilities, but you aren’t restricted to my list.  In general, a daily practice should be relatively short and simple, easy to do, and point towards a larger goal that is spiritual in nature (though practical is ok too).  You definitely don’t have to do all of these (that would contradict the “short and simple” directive) but if more than one appeals to you, you can definitely combine or rotate them.  You don’t even have to do it every day, though the repetition and rhythm of it is part of how it benefits you.  (Also if you’re like me, if you let too much time pass you’ll forget about it entirely.  I aim for every day and wind up doing it most days).  Altars generally don’t need tending more than once a week, though you can do devotions any time.

1. Meditation    There are many, many different types of meditation out there, and a few are specific to Pagan practices.  Here’s a basic grounding meditation that is similar to the one in The Spiral Dance by Starhawk.  Alternatives including the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and the Middle Pillar (both part of ceremonial magic and found in Modern Magick by Donald Michael Kraig) and the Three Souls meditation from Faery (I will do that one for an upcoming post).  You can always do a basic “mindfulness breath” where you  focus on your breath, breathing slowly in and out to the count of seven, or a “box breath” where you breathe in four counts, hold four counts, breathe out four counts, and hold four counts, then repeat.  Meditation has proven health benefits as well as spiritual ones, and it is useful for calming, centering, better integration of the self, increased awareness, and many other beneficial effects.

An important form of meditation for Pagans could just be described as “sitting in nature,” though you actually don’t have to sit.  But spending time outdoors and in contact with the earth, paying attention to what the trees and wild creatures are doing, is an important spiritual practice in and of itself.

2. Keep a dream diary   I have mentioned this before; it’s an important but often-neglected step in fostering integration and communication between different layers of the self.  Keep a notebook by your bed and write down whatever you remember of your dreams; if you can’t remember anything, write down how you feel.  Dream diaries help you process your feelings and sharpen your intuition.

3. Set up an altar   An altar isn’t just a “tool” or a place to hold your stuff so you can perform a ritual; creating and maintaining one is a spiritual practice in and of itself.  You can have multiple altars; I typically have a boveda, a separate ancestor altar, and a household altar on the mantel above our fireplace that holds deity figures and “work in progress” spells (including one to bolster my health).  At some points I have had a ritual room with elemental altars as well as a main altar, where the entire room was the same kind of constructed semi-permanent sacred space.   Altars for different purposes are set up differently, but a typical altar might have a pretty cloth, water in a bowl or glass, flowers, a candle, incense or perfume, a bell, stones or other relevant items, candles, images of either ancestors or deities, and/or your magical tools if you have them.  An offering bowl or plate is nice, which brings me to…

4. Offerings.   The purpose of an offering is a kind of gesture of “sharing” with ancestors or deities, to strengthen your connection with them.  In most cases and certainly in this context they are devotional, not transactional.   I frequently put food offerings on my ancestor altar, and incense, clean water, and flowers on my other altars.  You can also go outside and pour offerings onto the ground, or leave them in a specific spot:  at the crossroads for Hecate, for example.  It’s important to realize that the offering isn’t a precursor or prerequisite for a spiritual practice, but a spiritual practice in and of itself, although offerings frequently do go with other practices.

Both altars and offerings help you connect with the divine with all of your senses, by using things you can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.  They are a grounding alternative to some other forms of spiritual practice which can be a little “heady” and abstract.

5. Devotional prayers, chants, blessings   Most of us who were raised in mainstream religions are familiar with the form of spoken devotional practice known as “prayer,” which can be either spontaneous or formulaic.  A chant is basically a prayer on repeat, like singing a round by yourself (you can always, definitely, sing a song!).  You can take a page from Jewish traditions and find a blessing to say while washing your hands (make sure it takes at least 20 seconds to say and then it’s multi-purpose!).  I frequently combine these with my meditations, in that I have written prayers/charms/chants to be said as I’m doing them; one advantage of this approach is that when I’m particularly scattered or freaked out and can’t focus on the meditation very well, just saying the words gets me into the right frame of mind.  I could (and probably should) literally write a book on this topic so I will at least make a post or two with specific blessings you can use.

A way to combine these could look like this:   Choose a day when you have a little more time, set up your altar and regularly tend it on that day (replacing flowers and other offerings, refreshing any water, etc).  Burn incense, meditate, and say a prayer or blessing every day in front of your altar, or alternate with going outside, pouring an offering and meditating.  My advice is to try everything, and let the things that speak to you most or that you get the most out of become the core of your practice.

Your regular practice could look like something else entirely, but I chose these because they are commonly done, easy, and not time-consuming.  If nothing else, I want you to walk away with the conviction that the power to find the strength and resilience you need is right there, like Dorothy’s ruby slippers.  You can find your own way home.

Classes During the Month of April

EVERY Saturday at 2 pm I’m offering an all-levels, pay-what-you can Tarot class via Zoom.   Send me what you can through my PayPal link with your e-mail address and I’ll send you the link for the class.  It has been pretty fun so far, with both advanced readers and total beginners.

I will also be presenting my class “Ditch Witch:  Magical Uses of Common Roadside Plants” as part of Flora, Fauna, and the Witch, sponsored by those fabulous people at Land, Sea, Sky Travel.    My class is scheduled at 5:15 pm on Saturday, and is included in your one or two day pass for the conference.  Vyviane always has the BEST AND COOLEST presenters *ahem* so you will not want to miss any of it.

Welcome

If you’re looking for a reading or consultation with me, book a reading through my calendar.  If you’re interested in upcoming classes and events, scroll down to see my latest updates.  For all other questions, drop me a line through the form below.

 

Coping With Coronavirus the Witchy Way

This was first published as a post on my Patreon blog. To see updates sooner, follow me there or become a subscriber.

First of all, I’m not dispensing medical advice here.  If you’re sick, call your doctor.  If you’re not sick, stay home and wash your hands a lot.  Do all the things people are telling you to do.  When in doubt, believe what Dr. Anthony Fauci and the CDC have to say over random yahoos posting stuff on the internet or talking in front of a White House microphone.  

However, while I’m not a medical doctor, I AM clergy.  And that means my purview isn’t the health of your body per se, but the health of your spirit.  Lots of people are stressed right now…worried about their friends and loved ones, their jobs, their own welfare, how they’re going to pay the bills, et cetera.  Lots of people are in mourning for the world we lived in just a month ago, which got taken away from us abruptly.  That includes a whole lot of denial, and foolish behavior, and anger about both of those in others.  

This is going to get worse before it gets better, and it’s not going to be over any time soon.  Pretty soon some people are going to hit a wall, psychologically.  Our health system in some places has already hit a wall; there are no more ICU beds available in Atlanta, where I live.   We need to learn to how support our own resilience, now.  That’s where spirituality comes in.  That’s what it’s for.

The way witchcraft traditionally deals with those and similar problems is by doing things.   Our mind and body are not separable, and our homes are extensions of ourselves.   This approach is the essence of the folk magic I have been practicing for decades.  Best of all, most of the really traditional approaches are done with stuff you probably have lying around anyway or can find in your yard, so you don’t have to go to a store.

So here are a list of recommendations for getting through this:

1.  Have a daily practice.  If you have one that’s been sitting on a shelf, dust it off.  If you don’t, get one.  This can be as simple as lighting a candle or sitting in meditation for a few minutes every day, chanting, praying, setting up and maintaining an altar…what have you.  It should be simple, easy to do when you don’t feel like doing it, and not too time consuming, so that you’ll be more likely to keep it up.  In the future I will have some more specific recommendations for how to conduct a daily practice, but that’s a full topic in and of itself.

2.  Cleanse your self.   If you’re sensitive at all, you are picking up everyone else’s freakout on top of your own.  That stuff sticks to you like mud.  Salt water and other spiritual baths, egg cleansings, and smoking with incense are all ways to clear that stuff away and regain your sense of calm and peace.  (Note:  Using incense to purify is a worldwide practice, but “smudging” is a specific Native American ceremony.  “Smoking” is what traditional hoodoo practitioners in the South call it, so that’ s what I call it.)   

3. Cleanse your house.   Literally clean your house with disinfectant and good old soap and water, but after you’ve done that also go around and clean and protect the energy of it too.  I’ve written before about crossed conditions (this whole situation certainly counts) and how to do a house blessing.  I can’t recommend this enough, both as a way to motivate you to do the regular cleaning that you should be doing and as a way to bring a peaceful, serene feeling to your household, which some of us sorely need.  (Shout out to all of the suddenly-homeschooling parents out there).

4. Spend time in nature, if you can.   Sit under a tree.  Go for a walk, away from other people.  Listen to the birds.  Realize the world is much, much bigger than us, and touch the earth. (This counts as a daily practice too, but deserves special mention).

4. Write down your dreams.   This is one of my go-to pieces of advice for anyone on the kind of spiritual path I follow.  Keep a notebook by your bed and write down whatever you remember of your dreams.  If you can’t remember anything, write down how you feel.  The reason for this is that the instinctual self…which is connected most deeply both to your body and the Otherworld…speaks in imagery and symbolism, through dreams.  It’s also the way that deities and ancestors sometimes choose to speak to you, and they probably have a lot to say right now.  

In the following days I will write more about how to do some of the things I mentioned, in greater detail.  I’ve also been experimenting with making videos to talk people through meditations and the like.  We are all in this together.  Take heart, and be well.