In the aftermath of the shooting here in Pittsburgh, I am still struggling to be my best self while it feels the world is falling apart around me. Yet, I know that our little efforts and acts of kindness, our perseverance to keep trying to figure it out, is what is going to save the world. That love, that kindness, is magic in action. Spells, sometimes I call them prayers, relieve my anxieties and give me an outlet for my emotions.
We are alive in a moment in human history that is unlike any other, and we are carrying wisdom from all the generations that came before us, to help navigate life today. From the big things, down to how do I get my laundry done while the world spins around me, we must lean into that ancestral wisdom now more than ever. And how do we do this? Well, I call on my toolkit in these moments. I call on my own magic, as a modern witch, and on the sacred rituals I have created for myself to continue healing the world. I write, I pray before candlelight, I move my body, I pull oracle cards and read guiding words of wisdom written by other strong spiritual guides in whom I believe, and occasionally I connect with those I admire and love, and we practice these rituals together.
This morning, as I journaled, I wrote the words “ritual is a form of expression,” and then I just stared at the words. That thought, that realization, makes my own practice feel that much more rich. Ritual is expression, and therefore each can look and feel different. As you practice rituals, they will become more your own, more uniquely and distinctly a reflection of your inner world. When you practice with others, you will notice elements of their own unique magic.
Last Friday, my dear friend Jen hosted a Samhain Sisterhood circle for a group of our friends. Seven of us gathered around the bonfire outside, and prayed to the North, East, South & West to open a sacred circle. Samhain was known as the celebration of the closing of harvest season, and is the root of our modern Halloween celebrations. The ‘veil’ between our world and our ancestors past is thought to be thinner than usual on this day. So we followed words of prayer and enchantment to honor our ancestors, and the witches who came before us. We took turns burning small bundles of sage, to which we had tied lists of what intend to release from the year past. As each woman tossed their bundle into the fire, we said together,
“Queen of Wisdom, Queen of Night,
She who has endless sight,
Gaze with us into the fire bright.
In the vapors, let us see the future,
In the smoke, let us heal our past.
These are the wishes we now cast.”
I know, I have really cool friends. Sisterhood, the authentic and magical gathering of feminine energies, has played a poignant part in my own practices. As we closed our circle, and I looked around the smoking bonfire at their smiling faces, huddled under umbrellas in the rain, I was more grateful for each of them than I knew. When we went inside, we drank wine, ate delicious apple crumble, discovered the magic (and fun) in tarot cards, and chatted into the early morning hours.
I awoke the next morning to the quickly unfolding news of the shooting at Tree of Life Synagogue, and the energy within the entire city changed. But still, I held with me the warmth of love and friendship from the night before.
Writing is, of course, my favorite ritual of all. I write daily, sometimes on my computer and sometimes in a journal. I talk about that a lot, though, and I want to use today to give you a few witchier tools! So, here are a few other simple ways you can begin to practice rituals for yourself.
1 | Candles
They don’t need to be fancy, or special, because candles, when lit, are ignited by the element of fire and instantly become magical. They produce heat, more when gathered together and lit in unison, just like humans. Sit down somewhere comfortable, I like to be on the ground but that may be because I’m a yogi. Light a candle, or a few. Watch the flame, breathe, and allow yourself to be free in thought. Your thoughts are your prayers in this moment, and there are no wrong ones. If you find your mind going somewhere unintended, redirect and move forward. That’s it. That can be your ritual.
2 | Altars
My dad is a priest, so when I think of an altar I used to immediately picture an enormous marble table, with ornate designs and laid in beautiful linens. Now, when I think altar, I imagine all of that beauty, but set out on the floor of my studio. An altar is simply an intentional gathering of items, laid out in a pleasing way, intended for sacred connection. You can make your own with just a few small belongings that hold meaning, items you find in nature, an old scarf underneath perhaps, or whatever feels right for you. And of course, altars come alive with the addition of candles!
3 | Oracle Cards
While I’m learning to dabble in Tarot now, I’ve been using oracle cards for a few years, and truly believe in their magical guidance. When I pull cards, I’m not predicting the future, I’m looking for new ways to see and process the present. Each card holds a beautiful message, and some days it feels like the card I’m holding came to me through divine intervention. The Universe wants you to succeed, and wants you to have the knowledge to do so. When I pull cards, I believe I’m telling the Universe, “Ok, I’m listening, and I’m ready to receive your guidance.” My favorite oracle decks are listed below, and truly they speak for themselves for better than I could on their behalf. I hope you’ll give them a shot.
These may be available elsewhere at a better price, but I am linking you directly to the authors’ sites so you can see the source.
Work Your Light Oracle Deck by Rebecca Campbell
Rumi Oracle Deck by Alana Fairchild
The Divine Feminine Oracle Deck by Meggan Watterson
Finally, I hope today, and every day, you are able to find light, and if you cannot, I hope you will reach out to me or to someone else in your life you can rely on to listen.