Now is a time to turn inward and focus on healing the mind, body, and spirit. Here, we’ve compiled tips from our in-house witches to help you navigate these uncertain times.
Cleanse your altars, as well as your home.
“Now is an important time to cleanse your home, both literally and metaphorically,” says witch Carmen Pouerie. Since many of us are stuck inside, energy can get pretty stagnant. Clean your space thoroughly using your regular products, paying special attention to your altars. Afterwards, set an intention and bathe your surroundings in the sacred smoke of your choice.
Rededicate or ask your deities/ guides to be closer to you.
It’s a good time to turn inwards and also ask for guidance from our ancestors, spirit guides, deities, angels, gods/goddesses, saints, the universe, etc. Ask them to assist you with raising your vibrations (so you can be truly present for others, yourself, and focus on love/compassion) and ask for protection during these uncertain times. Set out offerings, if that’s in your practice, light a white candle, and talk to them directly.
Create a “wellness station” at home.
Transform a small corner of your apartment/house into a place for reflection, meditation, spells, and turning inward. “Rearrange your furniture (even temporarily, until all this is over) to make space for spiritual healing,” says Amber Snider. “Add a yoga mat (if that’s in your practice), pillows, blankets, candles, and anything else to make you feel cozy. Let this space be a screen-free zone unless you’re using your phone or computer for meditation and visualizations.”
Use cooking herbs with intention.
If you don’t already own a copy of Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, there’s a lot of information already out there on the web regarding the magickal and healing properties of herbs. Each time you use basil, thyme, rosemary, pepper, salt, oregano, and any other herb, focus on the power of the herb to heal and bring that energy into your food (which you then consume into your body). Cooking can become a sacred ritual at this time, especially when done with intention.
Visualizations are key to calming the breath and re-centering yourself.
Start integrating light visualizations and meditations into your daily routine several times a day. “I’ve found I need to take breaks to ground and calm myself. I’ve been imagining that I’m standing under a golden waterfall. I’ll do the exercise with my arms up in the air. At the same time, it helps me calm my breathing,” says Enchantments’ photographer and witch Victor Castro.
Burn incense in your home to uplift your senses.
“Good Earth is super effective, especially since I'm a high-frequency water sign,” says Castro. Other options include House Blessing and any kind of “love” incense to raise vibrations. If you don’t already have these hand-blended incenses at home, you can burn your regular stick incense like nag champa.
Draw daily oracle cards to keep a mood for the day.
Carmen Pouerie recommends drawing an oracle card or tarot card for the day to help your inward focus. This practice can add profound insight into our life and show us what we need to work on, what may be missing, and what we’re not seeing. Use them as a meditation tool throughout the day. Ask yourself: What is this card trying to show me that I wasn’t seeing before? What insights can it offer? What lessons can I gain from it?
Cloves for the cure – even spiritually
Victor Castro says that using cloves during this time has been super helpful for him. “I’ll take the clove in my fingers and crush the bud into powder and tap my forehead and temples with it.” It instantly calms him, he says. You can also add clove to your teas, especially since they’re rich in antioxidants.
A message from Enchantments: With New York State on PAUSE, we must extend our closing to early April. We’re hoping to reactivate online orders by April 7th. This is subject to change as we continue to learn more. In the meanwhile, the Enchantmments coven sends everyone love & vibrational bear hugs.
By Amber C. Snider, with recommendations by Enchantments' staff
We've rounded up our very favorite tarot decks – perfect for gifting or adding to your own collection.
There are two kinds of witches in the world: those who believe that a tarot deck should be given or received as a gift – and those who don't. Whichever kind you are, we've got you covered with these 12 handpicked beauties; perfect gifting for your astrology-obsessed cousin, art-loving bestie, or even yourself.
Decks are available for purchase at the Enchantments' brick-and-mortar shop or by clicking on the purple links. Happy divining, witches!
Ethereal Visions Tarot –– For your artistic, ultra-creative friend
Drawing its inspiration from the Art Nouveau movement, this beautifully illuminated 80-card deck designed by Matt Hughes is an artistic wonder. Complete with elegant gold foil stamping, the aesthetic harkens back to the “Golden Age of Illustration” and comes with a 48-page booklet.
Game of Thrones Tarot –– For the GOT lover in your life
Game of Thrones may be over, but the legacy of Westeros lives on. Fans of HBO’s mega-hit show will love this 78-card deck, complete with illustrations of your favorite characters. Written by tarot expert Liz Dean and illustrated by Craig Cross, the deluxe deck blends Major and Minor Arcana cards with the deep archetypes of GOT. It also comes with a hardcover booklet that explains both the symbolism and how to use the cards. Who will be the Empress, who will be the Fool?
Image © 2017 Home Box Office, Inc. All rights reserved. Game of Thrones and related trademarks are the property of Home Box Office, Inc.
Otherkin Tarot –– For your mythical creature loving sister (or that cousin who's always talking about their animal spirit guide)
Calling all Otherkin: this sublime, ethereal deck based on the Rider-Waite-Smith system features creatures both strange and familiar. With mythical animal-human hybrids (like a wise old owl as the Hierophant), Otherkin Tarot is a beautifully designed deck with a pastel color scheme that wants to “be left out in the moonlight.”
The Herbcrafter’s Tarot –– Perfect for the kitchen witch in your life
Using herbs as archetypes and the suits as elements, this botanical tarot deck is a great introduction to herbalism and plant spirit magic. The 78-card deck comes with a 124-page book filled with herbal inspiration, and uncovers the symbolism of plants as medicine. The deck is intended to explore the unique, magical messages plants can offer us.
Smith-Waite Centennial Tarot Deck –– For that co-worker who obsessively reads her horoscope out loud in the office
One of the most well-known and popular decks in the world, the Smith-Waite deck is great for both beginners and advanced readers. The Centennial Tarot Deck is a richly illustrated reproduction of the original deck by Pamela Colman Smith and Arthur E. Waite. Includes the standard 78-card set, plus four samples of Smith’s non-tarot artworks.
Spiritsong Tarot –– Perfect for the little wee witch in your life
Spiritsong merges the spirit world and animal spirit guides together to form a whimsical creation that has become a favorite in the magickal community. This award-winning tarot deck by Paulina Cassidy includes 78 Spiritsong animals as “mentors of divine guidance” with designs based on Shamanic and Native American symbolism. It’s a great deck for adults and younger people alike.
The Starman Tarot Deck –– For David Bowie lovers (obviously)
Inspired by David Bowie, this collector’s deck was one of the most “eagerly anticipated tarot kits” of 2018. Designed by Davide De Angelis (who worked on the album art for Bowie's album Outside), this psychedelic deck is a favorite amongst Bowie lovers and weaves together an electrifying fusion of alchemy, sacred geometry, and a vibrant color pattern.
Morgan-Tarot Greer –– For deep, intimately bold souls
The Morgan-Greer Tarot features a bold, jeweled tone color palette with magical imagery based on the Rider-Waite system. The borderless cards feature up-close perspectives in a beautiful and richly saturated design that is meant to evoke an emotional response with each spread.
Tarot Z Deck –– For the undying “Walking Dead” fan (or your apocalypse buddy)
Designed by Alejandro Colucci (you’ve probably seen his work on the cover of Anne Rice books), Tarot Z Deck is a richly illustrated deck with primal, visceral imagery. This 78-card deck is perfect for collectors, those already familiar with the Rider-Waite-Smith tradition, or your favorite apocalypse-obsessed buddy.
Santa Muerte Tarot –– For the edgy Latinx in your life
If you love celebrating Dia de Los Muertos and revere Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte, this deck is for you. Designed by Fabio Listrani, the Sante Muerte Tarot features a series of skeleton figures, as well as the Lady of Holy Death herself.
Golden Tarot of Klimt –– For the lusty lovers out there (great as a couples' gift, too)
Gustav Klimt’s vibrant, gold-gilded imagery often evokes a visceral reaction in many viewers. This tarot deck is “teeming with impressions...that recount love, death, sensuality, and regeneration” and is perfect for art lovers and romantic souls everywhere.
The Aquarian Tarot – For the person who never missed a single Ren Faire
One of the best-selling decks on the market, the Aquarian Deck is sure to please nearly all diviners. Combining Art Deco and Art Nouveau styles, artist David Palladini brings the major and minor arcanas alive with vivid, magickal imagery.
Each deck can be purchase at the Enchantments' brick-and-mortar shop located at 424 East 9th street. For our roundup on the best books on Tarot, click here.
By Amber C. Snider
Maybe you really can have it all? We spoke to color magick expert, tarot reader, and medium Sarah Potter on how to visualize your future and manifest your dreams.
Sarah Potter is a woman who knows what she wants, goes after it, and helps others do the same. Whimsical in her fuzzy white winter coat, celestial nails, pink-blonde hair and cherry-red shoes, Sarah is not only a color magick expert, but a friendly force of nature. We get to chatting about how to manifest your dreams – a theme that struck me as apropos for this new decade. (It’s 2020 baby, we have arrived).
“Color is a tool to amplify your intentions. Anything you desire can be manifest – and I feel like people don’t say that enough to each other,” Sarah tells me. She believes we truly can get everything we want in life. But if you don’t know what you want, how do you go after it?
The first step is getting clear about what you truly want. The Universe can’t help you if you’re flipping back and forth between life goals and mindlessly sifting through all the countless options out there. You have to quiet the mind and find that elusive answer within. Defining our desires is half the battle in manifestation – especially because most of us don’t really know what it is we want.
“If you swing really big, you can miss really hard. Taking a risk is challenging. I think the attention that can come from shining so brightly can be uncomfortable,” says Sarah. It becomes even more arduous when we’re energetically blocked in some way (and trust me, most of us are blocked in various ways at different levels). Sarah recommends using color magick and visualizations to release those blocks and raise your vibrations: “It’s such an active energy to get what you want and accept it and feel like you’re the best at something or feel proud of yourself,” she says. You also must believe you’re worthy of the good things to come.
Battling your self-worth
One way to raise vibrations is to stop with the negative self-talk: “A lot of the harshest criticism comes from within. It’s not really the outside world, it’s this striving and pushing ourselves to be better. Right now so much of the wellness industry is about ‘How can I be better?’
But if we’re always pushing ourselves forward, it can also be debilitating. Like, where are we going, what’s the end result? Death? Sometimes you have to stop and enjoy where you’re at right now. Take that moment and appreciate where you’re at instead of ‘Oh there’s so many other places I need to go.’ Constant self-improvement can just be exhausting,” says Sarah.
Ah, the backlash of self-improvement. Plus, there’s the added kickback of comparison with others. There’s always going to be someone out there with more authority, more clout, more glamour, more Insta followers, more money, a seemingly ‘cooler’ life. So how do we get to the core of what we want, rather than what society tells us we should be doing?
“One thing is self-love and self-care,” Sarah says. “A lot of self-care can be read as ‘selfish’, but if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one else will. You have to fill up your cup before you can help others. Raising your self-esteem and your vibrations, and truly loving yourself is a way to do that,” she tells me. “Also just spending time reflecting and mining the depths of yourself to figure [it] out and get to the root of what you want to do, separate from everything else.”
And where does that leave fear? Isn’t there fear associated with actually getting the thing – or things – you’ve always wanted? Sarah agrees: “Everyone talks about fear of failure, but fear of success is just as real. Acceptance, going with the flow, and easing up on ourselves really helps.
Everyone can benefit from reflection and meditation. It might be uncomfortable in the moment, but it’s going to be so much better for my future self. Realize not everything is going to happen overnight.”
Benefits of color magick
As a color advocate, Sarah uses color magick mixed with beauty and self-care rituals to manifest her desires. “Color magick completely changed my life. I live a life that is so beyond my wildest dreams that I never thought was possible. And I did it through the power of color.”
Color is accessible and we deal with it all the time – consciously and subconsciously. “It’s not this intimidating power source that we don’t know how to harness, we’re already using it. For me, the first thing was really amplifying my communication and working a lot with the color blue and activating the throat chakra. That was through a lot of blue visualization.
It was also really figuring out where my blocks were in communication. A lot of these issues we have with love and money, they’re really not about love or money – they’re about communicating our desires. That’s normally where we need to start. I realized my communication skills really needed work and I needed to feel worthy of using this voice,” Sarah adds.
One helpful practice is to “visualize breathing in a blue cloud of air and sending it through your nose and right into your throat and imagining it activating and opening up that chakra point,” she says. “I love lapis, it’s a great crystal to work with when amplifying communication skills.”
It’s okay to take up space
Believing that the Universe will open up to you and support you is radical thinking – but it’s a necessary soul awareness. “I do believe that people want to be helpful and give us what we want, especially in partnerships. Whether it’s a work collaboration or love or friendship or family. People want to be there in the ways we need them, we just have to let them know,” says Sarah.
The Queens of Wands (in the Tarot) makes her way into our conversation on worthiness. “If you look at Pixie Coleman Smith’s depiction of the Queen of Wands in the Rider-Waite deck, she’s taking up a lot of space on her throne. She’s sitting with her legs spread with a fiery, active energy. When she comes up in readings, it offers up this opportunity to [ask]: ‘How do you feel about taking up space? How do you feel about shining really brightly?’ ”
Because the Queen of Wands is the Witch of the tarot and is all about living a creatively fueled life, Sarah says that a lot of people have a hard time with this card. It goes back to this idea of not feeling like they deserve their desires. But you can “follow your passion and make your money through your passions,” she says. “You can take up space, you can ask for what you want, and receive what you want.”
Sarah Potter is available as a tarot reader, medium, and color magic consultant. She also hosts events, workshops, lectures, and facilitates Moon Circles through Spirit House Collective's Brooklyn branch. You can contact her via IG and Twitter @iamsarahpotter.
By Amber C. Snider
Clear away negative energies, purify your space, and relax your mind using sage alternatives.
In her latest book, Sacred Smoke, Amy Blackthorn explores the various ways plants, resins, and flowers form a "connection to the earth under our feet" and how we can use that connection to strengthen our bond with the self, Spirit, and mystical energies around us. In her signature no-nonsense, conversational style, Blackthorn's book opens up new ways of looking at the plant world, while offering practical advice on how to harness their clarifying power.
Smudging has been used as a ritualistic tool for centuries in Indigenous cultures around the world (perhaps even shortly after the discovery of the fire element). But Blackthorn prefers to call the practices within her book "Smoke Cleansing" or "Smoke Bathing" – an important distinction few authors make when discussing this topic – rather than use the blanket term "smudging." She wisely points out that there is "room for respect and growth without appropriation" when using these healing tools.
Here are 10 ways to use plants, resins, and oils to clear out dull, stagnant energy in your home and welcome in abundance – with a few "sage" tips directly from Blackthorn's new book.
Burn Your Own Blends (BYOB)
Making your own incense blends is actually pretty easy. All you need is some colored wood-base (which you can get at Enchantments), a few drops of your favorite essential oils, and herbs. When mixing up your blend, you don't want the incense to be too "wet" or "dry" – so it may take some practice to get the exact measurements down. By using a wood-base incense, you don't need to use charcoal at all – simply touch fire to the incense and stamp out the flame with a spoon.
"When it comes to measuring the results of our intentions, the only yardstick that matters is your own," writes Amy Blackthorn in Sacred Smoke. The power of intention is real – and it makes all the difference in your magickal work.
It's not necessarily about what you use (witches have always used whatever was available to them), but how you use it. And that "how" is primarily rooted in your specific intention and will. As above, so below.
Blackthorn recommends grinding up a bit of clove (yes, you can use the kind you already have in the kitchen) using your mortar and pestle and burning it as a hex breaker. Remember to be specific with your intention.
Pure As Myrrh
Oh, wonderful myrrh. Another fan favorite going way back to ancient times, myrrh is "restorative, attuned to success, happiness, good luck, and increases confidence," according to Blackthorn. It's an uplifting scent that can help restore compassion for yourself and others, too.
"Myrrh is also the guardian of gratitude, so feel free to burn myrrh while journaling a regular gratitude practice to cement those feelings for the long term," Blackthorn says.
One way to enhance your psychic and cleansing/clearing work is to actively utilize your breath. Amy Blackthorn recommends using the sacred "square breathing technique" to help focus your intention and meditation. This basic breath technique involves inhaling in on a four-count – holding for four – and exhaling to the count of four.
"...What we're doing is allowing the brain to relax and find its own rhythm, called a trance state," she writes. By using intentional breathwork while you burn your resins and herbs, you can then use the smoke curls as visual stimuli to invoke a deeper meditative state.
The Power of Scent
There are countless combinations of herbs and plants you can burn to cleanse and clear your space, but of course it helps when the aroma produced is especially delicious. Many people love the scent of lavender and it's often used to calm, soothe, and balance your spirit and body. According to Blackthorn, lavender can also be burned to enhance "divination, clairvoyance, psychic development, and strength." It's associated with "secrets (and their retention), balance, harmony," and more.
Simply add a teaspoon or less of lavender directly onto burning charcoal (in a fire-safe dish or small cauldron) and fill each corner, closet, and cupboard around your home with a touch of smoke. If you're clearing out negative energy (rather than invoking abundance or attracting positivity), keep the windows open and "shoo out" the smoke afterwards.
Ready-Made Magickal Blends
If making your own incense is too much work, you can also pick up ready-made, hand-blended incenses in half or full ounces. Enchantments recipes include everything from House Blessing, Sun, and Happiness to Van Van (a New Orleans blend), Kyphi (and ancient Egyptian formula), Uncrossing, and more.
Burn amber resin for happiness and love, as well as to transform negative energies into positive one. Grind up a bit of resin in your mortar and pestle, and slowly add pieces to your burning charcoal (again, in a fire-safe dish). Amber is particularly good for meditating and enhancing psychic awareness, too.
If resins aren't really your thing, you can also buy amber as an essential or fragrance oil and add a few drops to your soap stone oil burner (remember to purchase separate tea light candles for that) or an essential oil diffuser.
For a chiller mood and little anti-anxiety remedy, burn essential and fragrance oils like bergamot, lavender, and neroli.
Burn some basil to encourage love in the home or as an "offering to Aphrodite and other love goddesses," writes Blackthorn. Mmm, yes, we'll take it – and just in time for Valentine's Day, too.
To purchase Amy Blackthorn's book Sacred Smoke, visit the Enchantments' shop or click here to buy directly from the publisher. Click here for 9 spells to cure the winter blues, and more.
By Amber C. Snider w/ recommendations from Enchantments’ witches
Spellwork doesn’t always have to be elaborate ceremonies with extensive rituals. Sometimes a little kitchen magick can do the trick, especially if you don’t have the space, time, or money to go all out. You can add practical magick to your everyday life in small, but powerful ways.
Practicing intention-based magick helps raise your consciousness and energetic vibrations, welcomes in more self-love, and heightens your intuition and respect for the earth. January is a time for inner reflection and hibernation (the natural world around you does the same), especially as you prepare for big things to come throughout the rest of the year. So give yourself permission to turn inwards, get cozy, and try a little kitchen magick to uplift your spirit during these colder months.
Here are 9 spells, recipes, and tips to help cure the winter blues and enchant your home.
Simmer warming winter herbs on the stove for an uplifting aroma around the home.
You can include a mix of the following herbs: Cloves, Cinnamon sticks, Star anise, Galangal root, All spice.
*Afterwards, you can also add the herbs to a bath. For easier clean up, simply place the herbs in a piece of cheesecloth or cloth tea strainer and soak in your magic.
Burn frankincense resin
Frankincense resin has also been used in a variety of cleansing, purification, and holy rituals for centuries. The beautifully aromatic scent can help relieve feelings of anxiety and depression, and offer a spiritual boost.
Use your mortar and pestle to grind up a bit of the resin and place it on a bit of burning charcoal in a fire-safe dish. Carry the dish around the house to purify your space or keep it burning next to you during meditations, incantations, and other spellwork. ($2.50 per half ounce at Enchantments)
Wear Sun Oil or burn Sun Incense with intention
Hand-blended at Enchantments, Sun Oil ($14 for half ounce) invokes the energy of the sun and helps promote energy, growth, positivity, joy, self-confidence, and happiness. Wear with intention or add a few drops to an essential oil diffuser. You can also get Sun Incense ($9 for half ounce) and use it to cleanse your space and attract good fortune.
Do a candle ritual and with the intention of shining light in the darkness.
You can use either a white, yellow, or gold candle. Begin your ritual by taking a cleansing sea salt bath to remove negative energy and focus your intention before lighting your candle. You can also carve a personal sigil (or simply a circle to represent the sun, heart for self-love, etc) and also add your initials. You can also anoint your candle with any of the oils listed above and roll in magickal herbs. For more on candle magick, check out this story.
Has No Hannah oil
A custom recipe at Enchantments, Has No Hannah Oil brings good luck and fortune. You can wear the oil (as you would a perfume) with intention, anoint a candle with it, or add a few drops to your bath. Minimum ½ ounce for orders ($14 for half ounce, not for ingestion).
Make a cup of St. John’s Wort tea
St. John’s Wort is known to help treat depression and anxiety, as well promote healing and repair wounds. Add a bit of it to your regular tea blends or buy ready-made tea bags. The healing effects of St. John’s Wort are more apparent with regular use, so add it to your daily routine during the winter months.
Add a little hyssop (herb) to your bath and steep in its cleansing powers.
Hyssop is used in many uncrossing formulas, so it’s a good herb to use in your magick bath rituals. It’s been used for centuries in purification rituals and to consecrate holy spaces. Add a tablespoon or more to a bath (or wrap the herb in cheesecloth for easier clean up) and envision the herb cleansing away any negativity or bad vibes. You can also chant, pray, or say an incantation spell during your bath. As the water drains from the tub, imagine the water taking away any iky energy with it. ($3.25 for half ounce here).
Make yourself a cup of golden turmeric tea
Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory and antioxidant that can aid in depression. It can also ease PMS symptoms, help fight viruses, ease joint stiffness, and help detoxify the body.
Boil a cup or two of oat milk (if you are lactose intolerant) on the stove and stir in a tablespoon of turmeric. Add in honey to taste. When you make teas with intention, offer gratitude to the herb/spice for its healing powers.
Burn or diffuse the following invigorating and uplifting essential oils to aid in happiness:
––Orange essential oil ($19 for a half ounce)
––Tangerine essential oil ($25 for half ounce)
––Lemongrass essential oil ($19 for half ounce)
By Amber C. Snider
Plant medicine and herbal rituals for the new year to help you heal and restore.
The holidays came and went, but now you’re left feeling sluggish, unmotivated (despite those #2020goals), and still wondering what day it is. All your self-care and magick rituals are truly put to the test in the month of January, especially after the cheer and hype of the season has died down. But this ‘slow down’ period is actually great for manifesting your desires and intentions because you’re not so distracted and can focus on getting what you want.
But in order to do get your spirit right, you gotta get your body right, too. That’s why we’re sharing some magickal tips and plant medicine elixirs from The Herbal Kitchen to help you heal, restore, and rejuvenate.
Break out the chamomile
Tea time for the win! Chamomile is great for calming the body’s nervous system (especially after a stressful day) and it’s also great mixed with other herbs for an ultra-healing tea blend. Author Kami McBride recommends the following recipe:
Mix chamomile with fennel to help “settle an upset stomach caused by anxiety and exasperated by stress” or try a chamomile-cinnamon tea to “relax the uterus and alleviate painful menstrual cramps.”
Try a “Longevity Elixir”
Kami McBride’s Longevity Elixir is the “perfect after-dinner tea on a cold night” – so if you’re in the northeast right now and officially over these frigid temperatures, this warming concoction may be just want you need. It’s simple, effective, and includes that calming chamomile we love.
Recipe: 2 cups (500 ml) fennel, chamomile, and coriander tea.
1 teaspoon (8ml) nutmeg honey
Warming Winter Brew
“This is a warm, full-bodied tea that has a revitalizing effect on a cold winter day,” writes McBride in The Herbal Kitchen.
1 cup (250 ml) ginger-cinnamon tea
1 teaspoon (7 ml) molasses/treacle
1 teaspoon star anise honey
Chamomile-ginger tea can also help “reduce stress-induced inflammation that causes headaches, heartburn, gastritis, and stomach irritations,” according to McBride. And after all that holiday indulgence, this Warming Winter Brew should offer some much-needed relief.
Soak in a herbal-infused vinegar bath
Give Kami McBride’s “Body and Bath Vinegar” recipe a whirl to help rejuvenate your skin and promote relaxation during winter’s harshest months. After making the recipe (see below), it’s probably best to store the rest in a large mason jar until your next soak (you'll only need one cup per bath). When possible/available, try to use fresh herbs and flowers.
Add 1 cup (250 ml) of this healing vinegar to your bath:
1 cup (96 g) chopped fresh lavender
1 cup (48 g) chopped fresh lemon balm
1 cup (48 g) fresh rose petals
½ cup (48 g) chopped fresh rose geranium
¼ cup (30 g) chopped fresh burdock
5 cups (1 1/4L) apple cider vinegar
*Enchantments herbs are not for ingestion
Add some burdock to your pantry
“Burdock root is a cooling, nutrient-dense herbal food,” writes McBride. “This revitalizing root is teeming with healing properties. Scientists continue to examine its anticancer and antitumor effects,” writes McBride. “[It’s] also known for its aptitude in supporting sluggish digestion and relieving lymph stagnation.”
Consider adding burdock root to your teas, smoothies, salad dressings (herbal vinegar), or your bath.
Power up with flower water
Making herbal and flower water is super easy and it’s a great way to detox after the holidays. We’re especially loving Kami McBride’s suggestion of calendula and rose petal water. Simply fill a pitcher with water and add just a touch of (previously rinsed) calendula and rose petals. “Herbal water is subtle; you don’t need a lot of ingredients. Just a few sprigs of herbs and a few slices or small scoops of fruit will do,” she writes in The Herbal Kitchen.
Calendula (also known as marigold) is an anti-inflammatory and assists with tissue regeneration, encourages a healthy lymph system, and is great for the skin; while rose is an “all-around beauty treatment herb...as well as an effective nerve tonic.”
Recipes published with permission by publisher Red Wheel/ Weiser. You can purchase The Herbal Kitchen by Kami McBride at the Enchantments shop or anywhere books are sold (including the internet).
Editor’s note: These herbal and plant remedies are not substitutes or replacements for proper medical or psychological care. They're meant to add to and enhance your self-care rituals and routines. Also note that Enchantments' shop herbs are not for ingestion, but for magickal use only. Do your due diligence, know thyself (including your allergies), and use only what works for you.
By Amber C. Snider
Standing at the aged counter of New York’s oldest pagan store on a recent cold night in December, I found myself suddenly overwhelmed with emotion. A kind of nostalgia poured over me as I silently flipped through the pages of the new children’s book Wee Witches. A bright-eyed, curly haired girl stared back from the cover and I couldn’t help but ask myself: What if I had this book when I was growing up?
I’d been on the hunt for age-appropriate witchy books ever since we started this site earlier this year. It’s hard to find (and recommend) magic books for young people: books that teach a reverence for Mother Earth and the mystical world around us; books that honor our Spirit, our ancestors, and the elements – and do it with a sense of play, without all the serious spells.
So when the owner of the Enchantments excitedly handed me this book (“You’re gonna love it,” she remarked), I was hopeful. But I wasn’t expecting to find such wonder hidden in its pages – that hard-to-articulate something that so rarely occurs in our busy, dollar-driven lives. Was it joy? Innocence? A remembering?
As the employees smudged, cleansed, and closed up the shop for the night, I stood fixated – transfixed – on this book. Too often, as a practicing witch and journalist, I can get caught up in the “representation” of things. I’m here to share ideas, tell stories, help others. But what about the singular joyful rapture that got me interested in magic in the first place? That sense of curiosity? The sense that – aside from the rent bills, the NY hustle, Insta-mania, and Trumpisms – the world is really, truly magical.
Folks, this book threw me. It threw me across the counter and into the seat of the soul and back to a memory of the little girl I once was. To the girl who would talk to trees and carry stones in her “magic pouch” and felt the spirit of the Old Crone everywhere. The tiny girl with a growing psychic ability but without the language to understand it; the girl who heard music in the wind and sometimes felt a little different for being "sensitive". Maybe this book would’ve helped me acknowledge my pagan-witchy side a lot sooner had I had it read as a child. I mean, the closest thing I had on my shelves in the '90s was The Witch Has An Itch – and I wouldn’t exactly call that a spiritually-woke text.
I knew I had to meet the creators in-person. And lucky for me, they were down to indulge my curiosity – and they carried a big sense of magic, too.
Illustrator Ted Enik (known for the wildly successful Fancy Nancy series) and author Beth Roth have been friends for nearly 50 years. They met as theater kids in college and continued their friendship over the years, marking the holidays with pagan rituals and communal plays, exploring cross-pantheon gods and goddesses along the way. After noticing their unusual creative spark, they began a nine year journey to write Wee Witches together.
Wee Witches depicts various young witches (one with tadpole eggs clinging to her red locks and another with glittering fairy-like charm in her gaze) in various seasonal scenes surrounded by witchy accoutrements (wooden pentacles, charms, brooms, bubbling cauldrons, fireflies, crescent moons, Goddess statues). The book uses the ABCs as an anchor for earth-based teachings, with the four elements loosely represented on the corner of each page (a nod to the work of one of America’s leading feminist Neopagans Starhawk).
It’s a playful series of poems about nature that beautifully explains the symbolism behind the Craft. There’s even a secret message to uncover: the secret name all witches are given. The co-creators described writing the book as “a golden 9 years...like a kaleidoscope. A joyous process.”
“The book is a celebration of the earth,” Beth says. Donning a black turtleneck, her soft blue eyes (not unlike the bright-eyed cover girl) convey a nurturing, yet sprightly energy. And that sense of playfulness really heats up when she and Ted (witty and humorous in his vintage button up and a cardigan complete with witch buttons) get to talking about the past together. Their bantering ease makes it clear how this book was born: through a dynamic give and take, constant play and revision, and an intuitive, trusting collaborative effort.
“For me personally, [the book] is about connecting to something that is innate –– you feel it within you. It doesn't come from an outside source, but a ‘knowing’ inside that life is full of magic....if we allow ourselves to open, captivated by the simplest beauty of life,” Beth says.
The creative choice of also including a little girl of color in the book also felt refreshing – especially when so much of modern witch imagery (including tarot cards and iconography) often only depicts the white body. We’re at a unique place in society (and within the magical community) where inclusivity not only possible, but necessary. Children especially should be able to see themselves depicted not only in literary characters, but within the magical landscape, too.
To me, it seems this book couldn’t have come at a better time. A time to reawaken and rekindle our innate magic: “Magic is everywhere if we choose to embrace it. Unfortunately we live in a culture that teaches us to turn away from our sixth sense which is our inner knowing. I want young girls to trust what they know to be true,” Beth continued.
We all carry our little old “self” inside us, whether we let them shine or not. And sometimes we forget them entirely. But they’re still there, waiting for us to remember. Over this past year, countless pagan families and little witches have asked for book suggestions, but only one has stopped me in my own tracks and made me remember the magical girl I was and always will be.
Scroll through slide show below for never-before-published, original sketches of the book by illustrator Ted Enik
Limited edition signed copies available at Enchantments. For more magical children's book, check out our roundup here.
Doing some last minute gift shopping? Our official holiday guide is here with the best Pagan-friendly gifts ideas to make your Yuletide season a little more joyful and a lot less stressful.
Female Empowerment Kit – Perfect gift for your femme friend who’s looking to invite more positive empowerment back into their life. The kit includes our Goddess of Love Incense, Venus Oil, Bad Ass Bath, and a copy of the classic tome Women Who Run With the Wolves. ($30)
Earthy Essential and Fragrance Oils –– Cedar, Oak Moss, Patchouli, Cinnamon, Bay, and Frankincense are all good oils to mix and blend for the Yuletide season. Available in the shop in drams, ½ ounce bottles, or full ounce bottles. (Price varies according to size. $10 and up).
Yule Incense – Hand-blended in the shop, the Yule incense brings in warm, inviting vibes and welcomes in abundance and joy. Keep burning during parties, during the Winter Solstice, or anytime you want to add a touch of winter wonder magick in your home. ($1.25 – $9)
Wee Witches Children’s Book –– Hands down the most delightfully perfect children’s book on the market, Wee Witches is richly illustrated ABCs book complete with pagan symbolism and earth-loving messages for the little witch in your life. Limited autographed author copies available in-store. ($14.95)
Witchy Jewelry by Sarah Sparkles –– Handmade exclusively for Enchantments by jewelry designer Sarah Sparkles (known for her spectacular window displays at Bergdorf Goodman), each one-of-a-kind piece features magickal gemstones and Swarovski crystals. Only available in-store. Prices vary ($28 and up).
Spell Kits –– These intention-based, DIY spell kits are perfect for Yuletide giving. If you’re not ready to commit to a large custom-carved candle, these spell kits come with two carved 120 candles, a dram of hand-blended oil, mini incense, and a packet of sea salt. Choose from Uncrossing, House Blessing, Success, Money Draw, Love Healing, and more. ($16)
Tarot for Troubled Times – Let’s face it: Sometimes the holiday season brings more stress than cheer. With all that pressure to “be happy,” awkward family exchanges, crowded shopping areas, and non-stop travel, it’s okay to not feel your best. Tarot for Troubled Times teaches you how to work with your shadow side, empower yourself, and cope with these crazy modern times. Hang in there, 2019 is almost over ($16.95) (Bonus: Read our interview with the authors here.)
Frankincense, Myrrh, and Copal Resin –– These sacred holy resins produce an earthy, rich aroma and aid in purification, cleansing, healing, and welcoming in good spirits ($2.50 and up, depending on size).
Oil and Incense burners –– With all that incense and sacred oil, you're gonna need something to burn it in. We have a variety of soap stone oil burners, mini-to-large cauldrons, and small porcelain dishes to help. Our iron cauldrons also come with pentagram or triple moon symbols. ($6-50).
Runes –– Runes are the perfect "throwback" divination gift for your Norse mythology loving friend or family member. We have a variety to choose from, including hand-carved wooden runes and gemstone runes. Available online or in the shop. ($25 and up)
Tarot Decks –– Gift the gift of divination. Need help deciding which deck to choose? We’ve made it easier with a roundup of our favorites here (each deck can be purchased in-store). What good luck and fortune will 2020 bring? (Decks start at $16)
For more gift guides on the best books for the Yuletide season, check out this link.
Interview by Ana Vice
Kristen J. Sollée’s most recent book, Cat Call, explores the cat archetype, feral feminine, and the allure of the cat throughout history. Here, in an intimate interview, she discusses the power of feline glamour magic, female sexuality and cat kink, as well as demystifying the so-called “cat lady” trope.
Ana Vice: Why name your book Cat Call and what can readers expect to get out of this book?
Kristin J. Sollée: Two reasons: First, to reclaim something negative from patriarchal clutches. The “cat call” is most often an utterance on the street directed towards female bodies that lauds, critiques, and polices those bodies. Second, it’s like the way cats call to me. It is the pull of the feral feminine and the magic of cats and feline energy. I wanted to play on those two things. It is definitely a feminist book, but also a magical book – and those things go hand in hand for me.
Ana: Could you tell us more about the politics of liberation and the cat archetype?
Kristen: You can’t separate this new wave of feminism and the popularity of the witch archetype from our ideas about cats and cat ladies. Cats and witches are inextricably tied to women and femininity, and feminism is the best theoretical framework we have to address the associations between cats, witches, and women and the political implications at play when you’re talking about this trifecta. Cat iconography has been used in Leftist and liberal politics for decades, from the Industrial Workers of the World’s “sabo-tabby” to the pussy hat. It makes sense that movements looking to liberate people from class or gender oppression or the chains of capitalism would think of the feline as a model of aspirational defiance given that cats pretty much have no gods and no masters.
Ana: How do you define the “feral feminine”?
Kristen: The feral feminine is a nebulous concept. It’s slippery. It’s a femininity that is not necessarily attached to any one kind of human body, but is definitely linked to feline bodies for sure. The feral feminine is a femininity that is not controlled; it’s bodily autonomy, freedom of sexual expression, it’s a response to the way femininity has been denigrated throughout history. It’s taking femininity back on our own terms by looking to the cat for inspiration.
I think we can look to Catwoman as an icon of the feral feminine, or the shape-shifting vampiress Carmilla and the female protagonists of the classic Japanese horror film Kuroneko. It’s basically femininity with bite and women who aren’t afraid to engage their claws.
Ana: Which Goddesses are associated with cats?
Kristen: Bast (Bastet), Isis, Freya, Durga. Also possibly Artemis who was once said to shapeshift into a cat. And then – this is not a goddess but more of a fairy or witch – the Cat Sidhe of Celtic mythology. There could be a whole second book about the magical and spiritual workings you can do with cats and feline deities, since Cat Call is not a how-to per se.
Ana: I perceive Cat Call as a definite gateway into deeper insights and spiritual workings with cats and feline deities.
Kristen: I’m glad! I’m honored because I wanted that and I also wanted to appeal to people who just were into intellectual stimulation without the spiritual aspect. As far as what you can do to work with these goddesses or energies, I think using cat amulets, charms or figurines as jewelry or magical objects on your altar is one simple way.
I personally have a little black obsidian cat in my home watching over me from a high place. I have all kinds of cat jewelry. I think even doing simple sympathetic magic (by having these things on you or in your home) can draw powerful feline energy in.
The power of wearing something that mimics feline coats allows you to take on feline power.
Ana: In the book you discuss transformation by way of appearance and make mention of the cat as a shapeshifter. Could you tell us more about the significance of this?
Kristen: For me, I’m an animal prints wearer, particularly leopard or tiger prints. They make you feel powerful! I quote Jo Weldon in the book (who wrote Fierce: The History of Leopard Print) about how leopard print signifies you’re definitely not prey. You may not be a predator, but you’re not prey either.
Then you take that a step further and there’s the magical aspect, again going back to sympathetic magic. The power of wearing something that mimics feline coats allows you to take on feline power. You don’t need to literally wear cat skin to take that energy on (although many of our ancestors might have for magical practices long ago), but it can be really transformative if you do it with intention.
Ana: What was your fascination with Catwoman from the Batman series growing up and how did it shape you into the person you are today?
Kristen: In the book I talk about wanting to dress as up Catwoman when I was about nine years old, and my interest in Catwoman inspired my interest in kink many years later. I went to my first fetish shop when I was in high school and saw all these “cat costumes” but knew they weren’t exactly that. So I wondered, 'why is there so much cat stuff here?' I would buy Skin Two and Marquis and see all the catsuits and cat ‘o’ nine tails and wonder why. So I looked into it further and besides the fact that cats are sensual creatures on a cursory level, early BDSM literature by the Marquis de Sade and Leopold Sacher-Masoch positions cats as the grand dame of dommes.
Cats are so elegant and powerful and brutal in the ways they dominate their prey – and so that’s used metaphorically in all kinds of power play relationships and easily fits into kink. Fast forward to today and we have these large communities built around people’s identities that are cat and kink-related.
Ana: I like that you brought up Toxoplasma Gondii and the science behind how it plays a role in human-cat interactions. Please elaborate?
Kristen: There are so many aspects to this and it’s great you bring up the science. So there are cultural stereotypes based in religion and culture and gender, and [then there's the science aspect]: the quantifiable thing that might make you attracted to cats (i.e. toxoplasma gondii, a parasite found in cat feces that is always trying to get back into a cat’s body) and makes the people infected by it driven to be near cats.
Ana: Where does the archetype of the cat come from?
Kristin: It has origins well before the early modern witch trials in Europe and America, with Aristotle beginning this negative association between femininity and cats with his History of Animals in the 4th century B.C. Then you have early Christians equating Satan with cats. Then the early modern witch trials cement this cat-witch-woman connection, so by the 1700s you’re starting to see Old Maids and cats. But of course, even in the 1300s, nuns (another type of “old maid”) were keeping cats.
Ana: Is there a way to demystify, debunk, or defy the so-called “cat lady” trope?
Kristin: If you really look back into history you see witches are the archetypal hated woman, and the cat and witch are a total pair, so if you remove the supernatural element you’re kind of left with the cat lady. The “cat lady” is reviled because of her refusal to be sexual in certain ways, and because she doesn’t care for children as a woman is “supposed” to. She is devoted to cats rather than to children or a husband, etc.
Not every cat is a super wise crone out to take you to different realms, but we can all absolutely learn something from the history and magic of cats.
Ana: How does this differ from the “queer cat lady” and “sexy cat lady”?
Kristin: But when you talk about the queer cat lady it’s totally different. People aren’t mad at the queer cat lady. If you’re a lesbian and you have cats you’re not wasting time with cats that you could be dedicating to a man. It’s celebrated instead of denigrated in lesbian and queer culture. Just learning the history of this pejorative archetype is how we can begin to embrace updated ideas about cat ladies. BriAnne Wills’ Girls and Their Cats book and photographic series, and CatCon, for example, are both doing their part to demystify and modernize the way we look at the archetypal cat lady.
Ana: Could you describe feline glamour (magic) and the allure of the cat?
Kristen: I feel naked today because I don’t have my cat’s eye makeup on! But as far as glamour magic goes, the more we can paint ourselves to become cat-like creatures the better. Going back to our discussion about wearing leopard prints, that’s powerful glamour magic there, too.
I’ve done intentional spells by creating sigils about embodying feline grace and power and then carrying them with me, drawing them on my skin with oils, and the like. Those also helped me throughout the writing process, as did staging a ritual with my cat to bring the power of Bast into my life. Everywhere I go now, strange cats seem to be a bit nicer and more attentive in ways they never were before. I did a reading where a black cat literally ran up to me purring while I was signing books!
Ana: In folklore about witches there is the concept of a familiar. Would you go into more detail about this?
Kristen: In the book I also write about ailuromancy and divination with cats. I write about a tarot reading I got with my cat and the strange things that happened. So many people I interviewed for Cat Call said that every time they pull cards their cat is turning them over. Every time they cleanse their space their cat is there.
Some people have lucid dreams where they communicate with their cat. Almost every practitioner I interviewed for this book had a wild story about doing magic and their cat involving themselves. But every cat relationship is different. Sometimes a cat is a familiar and sometimes it’s just your buddy. Not every cat is a super wise crone out to take you to different realms, but we can all absolutely learn something from the history and magic of cats.
Ana: How does Cat Call differ from your previous book Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive?
Kristen: Cat Call delves into a lot of the same issues as Witches, Sluts, Feminists, but through a different lens. There’s an emphasis on bodily autonomy, gender politics, and sexual politics, but of course cats are at the forefront instead of witches. I talk about fashion and film in both books, but the focus is different. There’s also a bit of spellwork in both books, as well as interviews with magical practitioners.
Ana: What will you write next?
Kristen: I have a new book coming out in fall of 2020. It’s a travel guide to significant sites from the early modern witch hunts in Europe and America. I’ve always wanted to write a book combining myth, history, art, culture, and my love of travel. The book will delve into a lot of the same issues addressed in Witches, Sluts, Feminists and Cat Call, but through the lens of place.
In addition to being a writer, educator, and curator, Kristen J. Sollée is the founder of Slutist and teaches a course called "The Legacy of the Witch" at the New School here in NYC. Her previous book Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive was released in 2017. To purchase Cat Call: Reclaiming the Feral Feminine (An Untamed History of the Cat Archetype in Myth and Magic) click here or visit the Enchantments store in New York City to pick up a copy.
By Amber C. Snider
In our new series, we uncover the origins and mysteries of cross-pantheon Gods and Goddesses from around the world.
Hecate (alternatively spelled “Hekate") is associated with the crossroads, witchcraft, serpents, dogs, graveyards, sorcery, and the moon. She’s known as the Triple Moon Goddess and considered part of the holy female trinity comprising of the Mother, Maiden, and Crone. She presides over the earth, sea, and the heavens and is often referred to as the “Torchbearer,” as she guides people on their journey through the dark night, keeping them from harm.
Hecate first appears in Hesiod’s Homeric Hymns, which most scholars believe was written some time between the 8th and 7th centuries. These Ancient Greek invocations were composed in an Old Epic style and the Dark Mother Goddess features prominently in the “Hymn to Demeter” (which recounts the tale of Persephone’s capture by Hades – which we’ll get to in a bit). Hesiod’s text is recognized as the first written account of the Goddess, but it’s most likely her presence extends much further back in time, pre-dating literature and even the Ancient Greeks themselves. Like many mythical Gods and Goddesses, Hecate’s true geographical and historical origins have always been shrouded in mystery.
Since scholars cannot definitively know the correct pronunciation of Ancient Greek as a language, the pronunciation of Hecate’s name is also up for debate. In contemporary scholarly or magical circles, her name is either pronounced “He-KAH-tay,” “HEK-ut,” “HEK-ah-tee,” or “he-KAH-tee.”
In "Hymn to Demeter" (one of the longest and most powerful of all the epics), Hecate assists the grieving Mother Goddess Demeter (Goddess of the Earth, Fertility, Barley, and Harvest) in the futile search for her lost daughter Persephone. Taking pity on Demeter, Hecate helps petition the sun God Helios for answers on Persephone’s whereabouts only to learn of the young goddess' abduction by Hades, the God of the Underworld.
Much later in the myth, when mother and daughter are reunited, Hecate is close by to witness the occasion and offers her blessing: “Then bright-coiffed Hecate came near to them, and often did she embrace the daughter of holy Demeter: and from that time the lady Hecate was minister and companion to Persephone.” Here, rather than being portrayed as a dark mother figure, Hecate is referred to as “bright-coiffed,” which could relate to a shining headband, veil, or her hair. It’s from this image of the three women joyously reunited that we have the Mother, Maiden, and Crone (Persephone as the maiden, Demeter as the mother, and Hecate as the crone).
Today, in many spiritual practices, Hecate is considered a distinctly feminine, protective force – but she’s also known as a destroyer. Since she’s associated with torches (or the fire element), Hecate’s powers, like the fire element itself, have the capacity to both purify and destroy.
Since she’s associated with Persephone (as her minister and companion), her connection to the underworld is undeniable. Many believe that it is Hecate herself that stands at the gateway between the underworld and earth, and because of this, her contemporary image has often been associated with ghosts, graveyards, and necromancy.
Hecate can be invoked to help those going through a deep transformation or those undergoing a long journey with an uncertain, precarious, or even dangerous destination ahead of them. She also comes to the aid of those who find themselves at a crossroad of some kind. The moon – symbolic of the emotional underworld, psyche or subconscious – is associated with Hecate. In this sense, she can also help “shine a light” on our shadow selves (or the dark aspects of ourselves that are no longer serving us ), as well as aid those needing to banish long buried traumas. Hecate’s presence commands respect, so be warned: like many other Mother Goddesses, her wrath is never too far behind should you cross her.
As an archetype, Hecate presides over our “shadow side” and aids in transformation – particularly when it comes to psychic or subconscious realms (or the underworld of the soul). Bold, brave, and unrelenting, her archetype provides us with the necessary strength to venture into the unknown without fear, for her ignited torches and presence will guide the way.
*Editor’s Note: This is not a definitive guide to the Goddess Hecate, but rather a brief, summarized history.
To read more about Hecate, check out these recommended books. To purchase a devotional Hecate candle from the Enchantments store, click here.
By Amber C. Snider
Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in the United States, but its roots go back to an ancient Celtic Harvest festival known as Samhain.
Samhain, also referred to as the Witches’ New Year and pronounced “sow-win,” was a major festival in the Celtic tradition that took place on the night of October 31st through November 1st. The holiday marks the end of the harvest season and the approaching winter. It was believed to be a time when the veil between the living and the dead was at its thinnest, which meant spirits were not only free to roam the earth, but also communicate with the living.
Humans could call upon their ancestors for guidance and used this midpoint between the seasons to honor the spirits through a series of rituals and festivities (including bonfires, feasts, sacrifices) that often lasted for three days and three nights. The Celts often set out offerings in the form of food, drinks, and beloved tokens to honor their dead.
But with all those ghostly souls freely roaming around the earth, some may have been unwanted or even malevolent – and that’s where the tradition of dressing up came in. “According to the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, Celts began the Halloween tradition of wearing costumes, often animal skin to hide themselves from spirits, and masks to impersonate ancestors who had preceded them to the spirit world,” reports National Geographic editor Debra Adams Simmons. It’s this practice that led to our current tradition of dressing up in scary costumes to ward away any malicious spooks.
Early texts and evidence shows us that not only was this an important holiday for the Celts, it was also mandatory for the community. While the other seasonal holidays celebrated rebirth and the renewal of life, Samhain was a festival for the dead. Despite the desecration of many ancient pagan practices over the centuries, Samhain has survived as “Halloween” in our secular, modern culture.
In another region of the world, in what is now modern day Mexico, the ancient peoples’ also conducted rituals and held festivals to honor their dead. Dia de los Muertos (also known as the Day of the Dead) is a syncretization of Indigenous American beliefs with those of the Roman Catholic Church, culminating in All Saints’ Day (November 1st) and All Souls’ Day (November 2nd) on the Catholic calendar – just as Samhain coincides with Halloween.
So while you’re bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, and donning your scariest mask this week, remember to take some time out to also honor those who have passed on and all those ancestors who’ve shaped you into the person you are today.
Blessings to all this Samhain!
Enchantments’ writer and staff member Ana Vice reports on New York University’s Occult Humanities Conference.
This year’s NYU Occult Humanities Conference (OHC) – presented by Pam Grossman and Jesse Bransford – offered a series of tantalizing lectures, panel discussions, and events on all things esoterica. Held biennially since 2013, the event provides a platform for artists, academics and specialists to present on a variety of spiritual and academic topics, while also celebrating those who've incorporated occultism in their work.
Over the course of two days in October, the conference quickly became a think tank for new ideas on the evolution of spirituality in modern times. "Art as magic” and “magic as art” was an underlining theme throughout the weekend, beginning with Brian Cotnoir’s presentation on Alchemy and the Arts. The importance of elevating marginalized groups was also a key motif, (see Nectar Knuckles and Dianca London below), as well as technology's global impact on spiritual exchange.
One major takeaway? We are most definitely in the midst of another occult revival.
Here are some highlights from OHC’s 2019 conference:
Moon Marked and Touched by the Sun: Black Women Writers and the Reclamation of the Witch
Dianca London (writer, editor, and Kimbilio Fiction Fellow) took a closer look at the role of the witch, seer, and conjurer in black women’s writing during her thought-provoking presentation on the work of Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, Rita Dove, and Luisah Teish. Selected poems by these remarkable women were used to show how within the black literary canon the “divine feminine” has been used as an impetus for self-expression, empowerment and to promote social justice. London offered an in-depth look into each writer’s embodiment of the “witch archetype” and how it purposefully enfeebles colonialism, white supremacy, and misogyny. Every poem was like spellwork and riveting to the core. “won't you celebrate with me” (a must-read from the Book of Light by Lucille Clifton) was an exemplary poem included in this talk.
Alchemy and the Arts of Creation: or what I learned in 50 Years of Alchemical Obsession
Brian Cotnoir (filmmaker, writer, and artist) works with alchemical concepts and processes in order to remake the work of some of the early alchemists in order to gain insight into their cosmological perspective. He has come to the conclusion that any act of creation is, at its core, alchemical. His presentation focused on how physical materials utilized for a creative process (as part of “outer practice”) can be united with the “inner practice” of transmutation on a spiritual level.
In Alchemy, transmutation is the act of converting base elements (e.g. lead) into precious metals (e.g. gold). For example, the base metal lead is the lowest of base metals and could represent an imbalance of the four elements (earth, air, fire, water), whilst gold is superior and represents a perfect balance of all four elements. By linking such a “natural” process to an ideology, one may find a way towards inner spiritual “ascent” by way of outer physical practice. It was a highly enjoyable lecture with clear examples of how one can achieve spiritual enlightenment through the act of creating. Even though the context was Alchemy, the gist can be applied to all the arts.
Cotnoir's newest book Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter has recently been released by Khepri Press.
Terrapolis: Chimerical Geometry
Laurel Sparks (artist, teacher, and MacDowell Colony Fellow) held an insightful talk on her adaptation and superimposition of esoteric symbology within her artistic process. Laurel incorporates various principles of Chaos Magic, Kabbalistic theory, and a range of divinatory methodologies to produce a geometric and physical lexicon through mixed media – which is largely inspired by the music of Psychic TV and Einstürzende Neubauten. Her conceptual paintings are often made of woven stained canvas strips embedded with tiny found objects, trinkets, and sometimes glitter. Although the artwork might – at first – come across as abstract and (at times) devoid of feeling, the body of work as a whole was conceptually fascinating and full of esoteric splendor.
Betye Saar and the "Ethnic Occult"
Nectar Knuckles (recently a Curatorial Fellow for The Studio Museum in Harlem and The Museum of Modern Art) gave an in-depth talk on the renowned artist Betye Saar, a notable figure in the Los Angeles Assemblage scene and Black Arts Movement in the 1970s. Saar’s early mystical work is infused with political, spiritual, and sometimes surreal imagery that mixes occult symbolism with folk art elements.
The term “Ethnic Occult” refers to use of both ethnic and occult motifs that echo so profoundly in Saar's art. This included, but was not limited to, her incorporation of occult symbols, gris gris bags, mojos and African fetishes. A profound depth is apparent at every level, including spiritually, psychologically, socially, and artistically.
Tarot as Spiritual Psychology
Rachel Pollack (writer, poet, tarot specialist, and author of Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom), sees the tarot as a way to paint a spiritual and psychological portrait of an individual. During her presentation, Rachel gave examples of both Major and Minor Arcana from the Rider-Waite tarot in order to show that Tarot is more than a list of symbols or correspondences. For Pollack, a psychological approach can help us see “the links between our inner selves to the outer world, including the world of spirit.” She explained many of the archetypes found in the Major Arcana, in addition to the underlying system that the Rider Waite tarot embodies, as well as Minor Arcana symbology.
Her most recent book The Beatrix Gates is now available via PM Press.
Panel Discussion: Tarot Today, Tarot Tomorrow
In this informative panel discussion, Pam Grossman (writer and co-organizer of the podcast “Witch Wave” and author of Waking the Witch) spoke with Courtney Alexander (artist, writer, and creator of the “Dust II Onyx: A Melanated Tarot Deck”), Rachel Pollack (writer, poet, and creator of “The Shining Tribe Tarot”), and Cristy C. Road (artist, writer, musician, and creator of the “Next World Tarot”). Each of these women created and designed their own unique tarot deck and offered up their individual perspectives on tarot – as well as its rise in popularity and potential impact in the future.
Courtney Alexander’s experience of creating the "Dust II Onyx: A Melanated Tarot" (which sublimely incorporates original artwork, a loosely Rider-Waite based paradigm, and African Diaspora) was particularly enrapturing – and the deck is as powerful as it is beautiful.
The Giantness’s Apronful
Judith Noble (witch, artist, teacher, co-ordinator of the Black Mirror International Research Network) gave a presentation on a series of magical experiences she had at the ancient megalithic sites of Barclodiad Y Gawres (The Giantess’ Apronful) and Dowth (The Place of Darkness) in County Meath, Ireland. Both ancient sites had been originally used for burial rituals and rites.
Noble's work is about contacting spirits whilst dreaming/asleep (a.k.a. dream incubation) in these places and she believes that art and magic arise from the stones, earth, moon, and sea. She also spoke about making art during eclipses and how special it can be. I've also visited many "spiritual" megalithic sites in the British Isles when I lived in Scotland and perceived a strong connection to the land, sea, moon, and nature. I found Noble's presentation enchanting and the perfect end to a rigorous and heartfelt series of talks and presentations.
For more Enchantments' stories, click here.
By Amber C. Snider
Authors of Tarot for Troubled Times discuss ways we can use the tarot as a vehicle for healing and socially-conscious change.
In an exclusive interview, authors Shaheen Miro and Theresa Reed (Tarot for Troubled Times) get real about the many uses of tarot – including how to work with your shadow self, personal year cards, archetypes, energy as currency, light meditations, and more.
Amber C. Snider: Why is thinking of the Tarot in terms of archetypes useful on a practical level?
Theresa Reed: The archetypes in tarot reflect our daily life and spiritual journey. When we connect with those archetypes, we can check in on our own path. Where are we now? How are we showing up at this time? What can we do to deepen our understanding – or shift gears? Simple reflection (which leads to conscious living) is one of my favorite ways to work with the archetypes.
When we bring awareness to any part of our journey, we can make better, healthier decisions going forward.
Amber: What exactly is the shadow self?
Theresa: The shadow self is the side of ourselves that we tend to hide away from the world. This shadow can be many things, including emotions like anger, fear, grief, and jealousy – or anything that makes us feel ashamed. Often, that’s how the shadow is formed - we do something when we are younger and are told it’s ‘bad’. We’re made to feel defective or unloved if we act a particular way. So we repress those parts of ourselves and this forms the shadow.
This can cause great pain and trauma - and can lead to behaviors that undermine our sense of self. The way to work with the shadow is to befriend, embrace, and, most of all, face it. When we acknowledge the so-called ‘dark’ parts of our persona, real healing can begin.
Amber: How can we work with our shadow to help heal past traumas, behavioral patterns, and negative cycles?
Shaheen Miro: I’ve come to see the shadow as an ally, a teacher, and a dear friend. It is the part of each of us that has been obscured from our vision…we swallow it down, lock it away and try to banish it from our awareness. Yet, it’s like a ghostly visitor bumping around in the night trying to get some attention.
Early life experiences are the breeding grounds of the shadow. You go through a series of experiences that either fortify your 'authentic' self or disconnect you from it. It might sound simplistic, but you either become who you are or who you’re told to be. This means your shadow is created when you are robbed of some essential part of yourself and your personal power.
Begin by asking yourself:
What was once a gift of your identity becomes a mutated, shadowy part of yourself: Turning your self-confidence into vulnerability, your passion into anger, your empathy into sadness or oversensitivity. None of these things are negative or bad, they are just misunderstood or out of focus.
What does your shadow want? It wants to be acknowledged. It seeks life, color and expression. When you learn to befriend the disconnected parts of yourself you can move into expression – a clear, focused, intentional use of your power – rather than an exaggeration. Begin by asking yourself: Does this grow my light or feed my shadow?
Amber: In one section of the book, you discuss 'personal year cards' and 'birth cards,' which are forms of tarot numerology. How can people can figure out their personal year cards and use them to find deeper meaning?
Theresa: The birth cards are based on the work of Angeles Arrien and Mary K Greer. It involves adding up your birthdate and reducing the number until you come down to a number that corresponds to a Major Arcana. For a yearly number, you would take your birth month and day and add it up with the current year.
For example, let’s say you’re born on January 22 and you want to know your number for 2020. You would add up 1 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 0 +2 + 0 = 9. Nine is the number of The Hermit so you would be in a Hermit year, which means 2020 would be an ideal time for introspection. You might want to focus on inner work. Meditation would be an excellent spiritual practice for this year.
Shaheen: I see the personal year card as a guide throughout the year. You can use the power and wisdom of your personal year card to help you navigate the terrain. If your personal year card is the Empress you might ask yourself when faced with a situation…what would the Empress do?
Amber: How can people use the Major Arcana as archetypes (in their personal lives, to help others, and promote progressive social change)?
Theresa: This earth is inhabited by billions of people and creatures. We are not alone and we’re all in this together. It’s not enough to heal ourselves. We must look at what is happening out there in the world and do our part to ensure that the earth is healthy and everyone is cared for.
The yearly archetypes can tell us what needs to be done so all can flourish. For example, next year we are globally in an Emperor year. (2 + 0 + 2 + 0 = 4). The Emperor in its highest form protects. In the lowest nature, it becomes a dictator. How do we ensure that the latter doesn’t happen? By finding our voice and taking right actions to fight oppression. We need to be brave next year or we risk heading into a dark place.
Amber: I loved reading this affirmation in your book: 'Create change through empathy, not force.' Can you talk a little bit more about this idea of empathy, especially when it comes to energy work?
Shaheen: I truly believe we are in a time of great change…change that is happening faster than we can ever wrap our heads around. When faced with change it is natural for us to become defensive. We want to puff ourselves up, draw lines in the sand, and dig our heels in the dirt. We go kicking and screaming into the unknown. In those moments, force feels much easier than empathy. It is easier to point the finger of blame or call out the enemy. But nothing and no one is one dimensional.
If we really want to get through the turbulent times of life we need to feel into things. We need to lean into our empathy. Walk awhile in the other person’s shoes. It takes work…it is a practice. The only way to navigate change is to lean into the current, feel the ebb and flow of the tides.
It’s not enough to heal ourselves. We must look at what is happening out there in the world and do our part to ensure that the earth is healthy and everyone is cared for.
Amber: In part two of the book, you discuss the tarot as a 'mirror on the self.' How can the tarot help us heal?
Theresa: Tarot isn’t just for divination. It can be a remarkable tool for introspection. As we peer at the images in the cards, we can see parts of ourselves, parts that may need to be healed. Tarot cards give us something to ponder and a chance to see where we need to be compassionate with ourselves and others. Interestingly, many therapists are now using tarot in their practices!
Amber: What are some self-care practices that you find the most useful?
Theresa: In Tarot For Troubled Times, we cover a lot of rituals and practices that we’ve both used in our own healing and shadow work. Meditation is my favorite tool, hands down. It can be done anytime, anywhere, and doesn’t cost a dime or require any tool except tuning in. It’s simple, effective, and has changed my own life. Lately, I’ve been getting into self-hypnosis, which has been altering my life in a major way. I’ve been using it to change my habits, moods, and mindset.
Shaheen: Self-care has become somewhat of a buzzword, but it is such an integral part of healing and personal growth. It seems like we’re all seeking a way to navigate through the world and find some semblance of understanding, and that has to begin with yourself.
In the book we discuss practices, simple, and more complex, but approachable for anyone, on any path.The best self-care practice I have found is journaling, doing an inventory of what I am feeling, what I am struggling with and what I am dreaming into life. I also like to go for a walk in nature – it feels like stepping outside of time for awhile.
Amber: In the book, you write about 'energy as currency,' saying that 'everything begins on the energetic level.' Can you talk a little bit about how we can grow, empower, and shift our energy and dispel previously limiting belief systems, including past traumas, and negative self-talk?
Theresa: To make any change, you must begin by bringing awareness to how you feel. Once you start there, you can unravel how you got there and what you need to do to create change. Becoming conscious doesn’t happen overnight. It takes real time and dedication. I recommend paying close attention to how you feel in any given situation. That high level of awareness can help you to see when a situation is traumatic, unhelpful, or positive. From there, you can make change.
Shaheen: We are always trying to prove what we believe to be true, whether or not that belief feels good and empowering, or completely limiting. Most of us are stuck in chronic cycles of belief because we keep choosing the same thing…hoping that it will be different this time. But the truth is, you get to choose what you believe. I encourage you to challenge any of the negative thoughts, ideas, beliefs or feelings you’re experiencing. Really dig deep, excavate your soul to find the truth for you. Rather than holding onto some worn-out perspective, see what happens when you look at life differently.
You came here to be magic! Be empathetic with yourself. That self-care will pour out into the world around you.
Amber: What is EFT and how can people do it?
Shaheen: EFT or Emotional Freedom Technique is a method of releasing negative beliefs and stuck energies through a series of ‘tapping points’ on the body. I find EFT to be very helpful because you begin right where you are. There’s no covering up those feelings with some saccharin affirmation about love and light (though I think that can be helpful as well). As you go through a series of tapping gestures you disrupt the energy circuit in your body and consciousness, which allows you to release blocks until you can find a better feeling.
If you’re feeling angry because of your broken relationship, then you start with that. You would begin with a statement, such as, “Even though my relationship is failing…I honor and accept myself fully and completely.” While repeating this statement you tap key points of the body for a few rounds, or until you no longer feel the emotional charge of that feeling.
Amber: You also discuss energy cords and psychic vampires in the book. How can people effectively deal with them and recover any energy loss?
Shaheen: Psychic Vampires sound far scarier than they really are. Folklore tells us that Vampires are creatures that feed on life force. Psychic vampires siphon away energy as a survival mechanism – usually this is a person that you interact with intimately, but even a casual encounter or acquaintance can take on the role of a psychic vampire.
Sometimes this can be very subtle and without any malice at all. Other times it can seem very obvious and may tread into abusive territory. Often you see this in a codependent relationship; Think about the partner that gaslights their spouse. Or, the parent that berates their child into submission. Or, the boss that belittles their employees to feel superior.
One of the simplest ways to identify a psychic vampire is to notice when you feel drained around certain people. The remedy to this is disengaging from the person and situation and setting strong boundaries. NO is the magic word against Psychic Vampires.
Tarot has endless possibilities, but the magic of tarot lies in its ability to show us things from a different perspective. It gives us a chance to have deep conversations, to break down walls and barriers, to look beyond the boundaries of our own box with expanded awareness.
Amber: Spiritual hygiene and cleansing your aura is an important part of everyday life. Do you have any personal anecdotes associated with times when you’ve used either the white light visualization, ultraviolet light visualization, or cloak of black velvet visualization? If so, can you describe it?
Theresa: When I first began my career as a tarot reader, I would often get depleted from the work. It’s like I was absorbing all of my clients’ energy and holding on to it. I didn’t realize how vital spiritual hygiene was for myself at the time and this lead to burn out as well as major boundary issues with ne’er do wells. I began using a white light visualization every day and that changed everything for me. Don’t get me wrong: I still have days where the work gets under my skin. But the white light shield helps to deflect most of it - and a quick visualization after work helps to reboot the light - and me.
Shaheen: I began working with the black velvet visualization as a teenager when I would find myself in threatening situations like walking into a place that might not be LGBTQ+ friendly or where some sort of conflict was taking place. I would imagine myself wrapped in black velvet as a way to obscure me from harm, almost like becoming invisible to anyone or thing that might target me. At the same time the energy of black absorbs and transmutes negative energy… I believe this is why mystics, witches and people on the fringe gravitate toward the color black.
Amber: How can we use the tarot to become a more socially conscious force in this world, a vehicle for change, an ally, an activist?
Theresa: Understanding the energy of the world – and how you might be most effective – can make you a force for good. We are living in troubled times and the world is not all ‘love and light.’ Tarot helps us to see what may be going on from both the positive and the negative – and hopefully, that inspires us to take action.
Shaheen: Through the tarot you can remove yourself, even just a little, from a situation so you can find possibilities and connections that you might have otherwise overlooked. I believe tarot encapsulates a profound truth…we are far more connected than we know! What I do to you, I am doing to myself and vice versa. Tarot becomes the bridge between chasms of disconnection, and through those connections we can heal individually and collectively.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
To purchase Tarot for Troubled Times, click here or visit Enchantments' brick-and-mortar store in New York City.
By Amber C. Snider
An enchanting new spells deck debuted this month and we’re over the moon about it. Here, we speak to author Cat Cabral about ways to use her wonderfully witchy creation.
Cat Cabral, a once familiar face behind the Enchantments’ apothecary counter, has been honing her Craft for over 20 years. Her debut spells deck (appropriately called The Spells Deck) is jam-packed with 78 charms, remedies, and rituals for witches everywhere. Not only is it a cross-pantheon resource for both seasoned practitioners and newcomers to witchcraft, it’s also a beautifully designed work of art.
As a witch’s divination tool and intuitive guide, The Spells Deck is broken down into eight thoughtfully-curated categories based on intention and ritual. There is the Witch’s Tools category (insight into all the witchy paraphernalia we love), Language of Magic (an overview of symbols and sigils), Bonds of Love (rituals for healing hearts and self-love), Abundance and Good Fortune (‘cause we can all use a little extra dough). There’s also Rites of Purification and Renewal (for cleansing, protection, and connecting with the earth), Fires of Passion and Creativity (rituals for passion and courage), Intuitive Awareness (for enhancing divination), and Witch’s Familiars (animals guides and mythology).
“I wanted it to be a guide for witchcraft. I wanted to set it up as ‘here are the tools you need to practice and here's how you can map it out,’” Cat Cabral tells me over coffee in Park Slope one early autumn afternoon. “And then there are the different categories that – universally speaking – all humans want to connect with, whether it's love, success, intuition, feeling,” she says.
Cat’s passion for witchcraft (and the generous sharing of her expertise) is palpable not only in real life, but also within the soft flip of the impeccably designed deck. It features a minimalist, abstract card design using a mix of soft beige-pinks, bleeding black strokes, hushed greys, and muted yellow tones. There are exclusive recipes for incense and magical oil blends, and each card contains a symbol that can be carved into a candle to enhance your spellwork.
But you can also use the card like a tarot deck: “I want people to mix them up, play with them, spread them out and then just kind of feel it out and see, 'Oh, I've picked Queen of Torches...this is a recipe about confidence.’ Whether or not you feel inclined to make this exact recipe, maybe tapping into your confidence is something you want to think about,” Cat says.
“The Queen of Torches spell is wonderful,” she muses. “I make this oil for myself and I love it. But you could also just buy frankincense and that will work for confidence. Rose is really good to heal the heart and orange helps with depression.”
“These are my suggestions, but at the end of the day, I don't want people to think they have to spend an elaborate amount of money to be a witch, you know?”
So what exactly is ritual? And why is it so important in magical work? “For me, ritual is about creating a separate and sacred moment in time where you can connect to Divine Spirit, God/Goddess, Ancestors, whatever you want to call ‘It’ – and also connecting to yourself,” Cat says. “Ritual is also a really good way of connecting with other people.” Cat regularly conducts magical circles, especially around pagan holidays, some of which are open to the public.
Ritual doesn’t have to be an elaborately performed ceremony, but anything that allows us to get centered and ready ourselves for encounters with the Divine Spirit. “We have rituals every day...the way we comb our hair or brush our teeth. In doing a ritual [with intention], you're sending out certain signals to the Universe that this is what you want to happen on an energetic level,” Cat says. “I'm a witch that does believe in a higher power – but some don't. Intention coupled with action is really the key to how magic works."
Cat says ritual can also include language in the form of chanting, or dancing, or visualization, or even sex – but the most important thing is to raise energy. “Anything that heightens your senses [can help in a] variety of spell work.”
Using The Spells Deck as an intuitive guide to manifest intention was one of Cat’s goals in the deck’s creation: “Your intention could be, ‘I feel really stuck right now, nothing seems to be working, I really want to do a ritual for clarity.’ So I have a spell in here called ‘Lucidity.’ There’s a chant you can do and it also involves carving a big cross on the top of a white skull candle to open up roads, as well as plants and oils that traditionally have to do with clarity.”
The hardest part of spell work, Cat admits, is letting it go after you’ve performed the spell: “At the height of it, (when you've raised your energy and it affects the chant and you keep repeating it), you then just have to let it go. You just have to see what happens next.
And that's the most difficult part with magic because so many people are results-oriented only. People ask me, ‘How do I know if the spell works? Did I do it properly?’ There is always an outcome to a magical action –yet it may not appear the way you expect or bring about the result you initially imagined. But that's part of the journey, learning lessons and interpreting messages, it's all part of the craft."
To purchase Cat Cabral’s The Spells Deck, which debuted on October 17th from Chronicle Books, click here.
By Ana Vice
Here are five ways you can use the “power of the cat” in your attraction and healing candle spells.
Cat candles look, well...just like a cat. These image candles come in white, black, green, and red. They are traditionally used for luck, attraction, or healing pets (usually cats but some people have used them for dogs). But they can also be used for human needs and desires, too.
Here are five ways you can work magic with cat candles:
Purification or healing ritual for a pet
Use a white cat candle. First, begin by taking a cleansing bath, such as Uncrossing or Obatala Healing sea salt bath (or smudging yourself and space with sage). Then, set your intention for purification or healing, and light the white cat candle with your pet’s name and astrological sign carved into it. Focus your energy on clearing away any and all negativity. Uncrossing or Kyphi are good oils for this purpose.
For healing, Asclepius Healing oil can be used. Optional: Burn some Uncrossing or Asclepius Healing incense as the candle burns (depending on which candle spell you choose).
Send a message of love to a deceased pet or bring a lost pet to come home
Use a white cat candle. After taking a sea salt cleansing bath (or smudging yourself and space with sage), set your intention for sending a message of love. Next, light the white cat candle with your pet’s name and astrological sign carved into it. Love’s Messenger is a good oil for this purpose or you can use Come to Me oil in order to bring a lost pet home focus your energy on the pet finding its way home. The intention would be to call the lost pet safely home asap.
Sexual attraction ritual for humans using a cat image candle
Use a red cat candle. After taking a cleansing bath with Siren's Seduction or Bad Ass!, set your intention for sexual attraction. Then, light the red cat candle with your name and astrological sign carved into it. This can be for heterosexuals, transsexuals, homosexuals, and genderqueer individuals.
For example, Cat’s Night Love oil can be used for gay women, Oscar Wilde Oil or Hyakintos Lover Oil for gay men, or Great Sex could be good in general for this. We also carry other sensual blends. Like with other rituals mentioned here, you can also burn intention-specific incense during the time of the ritual.
Double fast luck or prosperity ritual
Use a green cat candle. After taking a cleansing bath, (a Fast Luck sea salt bath is great here), smudge yourself and space with sage or incense. Then set your intention for good luck and/or prosperity, and light the candle with your name and astrological sign carved into it.
Double Fast Luck or Prosperity are good oils to use for this.
Use a black cat candle. After taking a cleansing bath with the Rebirth sea salt bath blend, set your intention to remove bad luck as you light the candle. You can carve your name and astrological sign directly onto the candle. Banishing is a good oil for this purpose, but be very careful about your intention here (and be as specific as possible) so you don't banish the good (positivity) or your spirit guides. Optional: burn some Banishing incense as the candle burns.
To learn more about wax image candle spells, check out this article.
By Coleman Drew
A Witch went into the woods of Vermont in search of answers and instead discovered the beauty of living inside the questions.
As a queer artist living and witching in NYC, I realized I needed “someplace without any trouble” for a spell. I had no idea one would appear in the form of a Faerie Sanctuary. You might even say it was my destiny to discover it.
Nancy the Girl, my friend and Faerie Goddess Mother, has been apart of the Fae community for years. She’d been trying to get me to join in the fun and the stars aligned – quote literally with Mercury going stationary and a new Moon – to bring me into the fold just in time for Lammas. Now you might be asking yourself: What is a Faerie, let alone a Faerie Camp? And what does it mean to be Fae? Well quite simply, it’s a way of life. And it’s unlike anything you’ve ever experienced until you’ve lived it – but we’ll get to that in a bit.
I figured time in the woods without the bright, glowing distraction of computer screens that will never love me back would be the perfect place to answer some pressing life questions: What are you working towards? Are you living life as you want to create it? And if home is suppose to come from inside, why do I feel so lost? Ya know, all those summertime-sadness-seasonal-depression-kinda-existential-quandaries.
I think everyone in the LGBTQ+ community has a friend or a friend of a friend who is a Fae, so I’d heard of the radical faeries before. But being a Virgo rising, I of course, did some Googling before deciding that this was the place for my answer-seeking-pilgrimage.
Here’s what I found: The Radical Faerie movement began amongst gay men around the time of the Sexual Revolution in the ‘70s. Since then it’s become a larger counter-cultural movement that seeks to “redefine queer consciousness through secular spirituality,” including modern Paganism, environmentalism, and anarchism. Thank you, Wikipedia. Big ‘fuck the patriarchy’ and ‘help the environment’ energy, while still maintaining their grassroots in LGBTQ+ circles.
Located on 166 acres of reforested farmland in southern Vermont, this co-created, co-working queer community also helps people “cope and heal from a hostile Default World” through a series of gatherings and workshops. Think wellness classes, chainsaw workshops, gardening and permaculture methods, and sexual health workshops for queer and trans folk – you know, all the stuff they rarely teach you about in the “hetero” public school system.
Today, Destiny is also open to men, women and everything in between, and Faeries come in from all backgrounds, all walks of life, and all over the world. The community that resides in the sanctuary works together doing chores, preparing meals, building and tending gardens, and holding spiritual space for one another. The idea is that by giving your time you honor those who are also giving their energy for the good of the community. Essentially it’s about co-creating a home of love for all to share – in hopes that you feel a divine connection to the space that you're helping to provide for.
Before I took the 5-five hour ride up to Faerie country, I had no idea what to expect other than a vague outline of stories. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was ready to check out of the city for a week. Standing at the bus stop on East 42nd Street, I watched as scads of people rushed onto their Monday morning obligations. All these people trying their damndest not to connect with anyone; trying to stay hermetically sealed in their own energetic bubble. Stephen Sondheim’s “Another Hundred People” from Company played in my earbuds, and I took one more drag from my one-hitter before boarding the Dartmouth Coach.
It was probably the fanciest bus I’ve ever been on; style and efficiency are a Capricorn’s wet dream.
So here I was going to Faerie camp. I set some intentions along the way: to make time for recalibrating and grounding, to refine dreams, reaffirm goals. I also wanted to address some growing feelings of anxiety and depression. Oftentimes when things seem to be spiraling out of control, the impulse is to dig in and regain the power we have seemingly lost. But I was looking for the opposite.
Being a child who grew up in the country I was really jazzed to take the trip up to Vermont, especially to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. Once in Vermont, I was scooped up by my guide – my Sherpa and host – Nancy, and after a few last minute stops to get provisions for the adventures to come, into the forest we went! As soon as we drove onto the dirt road that leads to Destiny I was hit with a powerful wave of nostalgia, almost like I’d been there before.
We noticed various campsites and tents set up along the driveway and forest, including a yurt, cute cabin, and shed overflowing with odds and ends, costumes and props. “That's the art shed. Everything is up for grabs there,” Nancy said, gently gesturing to the shack teeming with possibilities. The main building stood near a large clearing where the meadow stretched above and beyond our line of vision.
I was taken aback by the beautiful gardens bursting with wildflowers. Purple-blue bee balm, black-eyed Susans, zinnias and echinacea exploded like colorful fireworks. I would later pick some of these wildflowers in the middle of the night to make flower crowns by the fire with Faerie friends. Aesthetic wise, yes there were strong Midsommar vibes but without any of the horror aspects.
There was also an outdoor shower perched on a hill with breathtaking views of the mountainside. Atop the meadow, the forest hid a path that led up to the Crown’s circle where the community holds spiritual space for group rituals and fire gatherings. Deeper into the forest is also the Dead Faerie Circle: a place of remembrance, honoring those Faeries who’ve crossed on, some of whom have chosen this spot as their final resting place. And lastly, the Hecate Circle: another sacred fire space and the stage for where our ritual theatre would later come to life.
Before we could unload everything from the car, we were immediately greeted by a stream of Faeries. The common greeting for faeries upon arrival is simple but effective: “Welcome home.” Now, being a best friend of Dorothy I was giddy inside and soon fashioned a response to nearly everyone I met the first day. Whenever someone welcomed me home, I replied: “There's no place like it…” in my best Garland vibrato. My joke was not lost on many. I will say I have never kissed so many people I just met before on the mouth – and this form of affection and intimacy had a profound effect on me. It perhaps woke me up from a Sleeping Beauty spell I didn't even know I was under.
Over the course of the week, the sanctuary would welcome over 200 faeries.
At the edge of the garden a family of chickens happily clucked behind their electric fence side note: nobody was harmed, but I did get to chase and catch a chicken who had flown over the fence trying to escape to the compost pile . Later on in the week, I caught the same hen out of the pen and said to her, “You have two choices, you can either fly over the fence yourself or I’m going to have to pick you up and put you back myself.” With a cluck as if to say, “I get it”, she flew back into pen with the other chicks. This Witch can, apparently also, talk to birds.
In the beautiful timber frame main structure, a straw bale kitchen (all hand-built by the Faeries), it would have been difficult to not feel at home. It also doesn’t hurt that there are many attractive faeries wearing – or shall I say not wearing – whatever they please. A most wondrous thing to see so many people unburden themselves from societal constraints, no shame here. Because after all, shame can’t live in the light.
The first day we settled into camp, I was able to wander around the gardens and got very comfortable peeing outside. A lot of mouth kissing hellos, faerie welcomes and introductions. I chatted with new friends around the circle’s, there are many, and got to play dress up in the woods. But more than anything, I was able to just breathe deeply. There’s nothing more important than that feeling of security, a place safe enough to call home. It’s one thing people in the LGBTQ+ community understand all too well – having grown up in a world that is, for the most part, girded towards a more hetero experience. Being able to be your most authentic self in a beautiful environment calls for a delicious sigh of relief.
Once I had spent 24 hours in faerie space I finally felt I had landed. I began to get my faerie legs, or wings as it were, under the guidance of Nancy. I was encouraged to get involved in the daily routine of the faeries. I helped prepare our breakfast and dinners in the magickally witchy kitchen and was also convinced to join in on the ritual theater.
Each year, the Faeries celebrate Lammas with an original theatrical performance. Lammas, “loaf-mass” or Lughnasadh as it’s sometimes called, is the first of the harvests celebrated on the wheel of the year in many Wiccan, Neopagon and Celtic traditions. Like Samhain, Imbolc, and Beltane, Lammas is one of the four main cross-quarter holidays, coinciding with the changes of season and highlights the sacrifices made for the greater good. “God” or male energy is represented as the grain being cut down by the Goddess or Divine femine in service for sustaining humanity. It’s a time of recognizing and honoring the sacrifices that had to be made for the beautiful things that feed us and help us to grow. So yeah, no big deal, right?
Every year a new “Magician” is selected to write and direct an original work for the ritual of honoring Lammas. Kaitlyn Tikkun, a strikingly breathtaking character who gave me strong Diana Artemis vibes, was the magician for this year and crafted an adaptation of the graphic novel and cartoon Watership Down. Kaitlyn’s version highlighted the horrors of the AIDS crisis that would later inspire queer liberation in the form of the radical faeries movement.
The play was performed in the middle of the woods at the end of the week – in the black of night lit by torches. It was pure magick – organic, radical, and unapologetically mystical. A performer myself, I’ve never gotten to celebrate the magick of theatre coming together seemingly out of nothing quite like this before. It felt like I was connecting with my roots in a way I'd long forgotten.
Even outside of the ritual theater, the entire week was jam-packed with magick. One of the rituals included each of us bringing a small totem or writing down what we wished to be free of, posing the question, “What did we wish to uncross?’ Uncrossing is anything that no longer serves our higher power and our highest good. During the ritual we asked to remove anything that was holding us back from our activism, anything blocking us from answering our call to service.
We gathered at the lowest fire space called the Crown Circle. After the circle was cast and our intentions named, our items and petitions were deposited into the vessel that was to be buried. Fifty plus faeries moved as a group through the darkness on a torchless path. We raised energy chanting along the way, it was wild and electric. Emotions were high and coming fast. There was an immense feeling of release, relief and with every ending, a bit of heartache. It was our moment of mourning that which no longer served us – all those things that would no longer hold us back.
Like all magick, I believe it belongs to those who’ve created and crafted it together in a sacred space during a specific time. I went to Faerie camp because I needed a safe place to surrender. Of course, there’s nothing stopping you from finding your own way to Faerie space or any other magickal place that beckons you. Your reasons might be different, but the important thing with all magick is to be willing to answer the call when you receive it. Go see for yourself what adventures await you on the other side. Maybe you’ll come face to face, or mouth to mouth as it were, with a new kind of shared intimacy. Or your concept of home might expand. At the very least connecting to nature and community isn’t bad on the soul either. Wherever you find yourself on your journey, I hope there are people to greet you when you arrive, ”Welcome home.”
If you’re interested in learning more about Faerie space and/or donating to the Faerie sanctuary please follow the link here.
By Amber C. Snider
Bad energy is just stagnant energy. Here's how to get things moving and open up space for positivity. From Uncrossing to New Orleans incense blends and light meditation rituals, here are some tips from your favorite witches at Enchantments.
Herb it up
The ancient art form of smudging can be found in nearly every culture and religion around the world. The type of herbs used, however, can vary from culture to culture. For instance, Palo Santo (which translates to “Holy Wood”) is considered sacred in South America and is used widely in that region for a variety of cleansing and clearing rituals. White sage, on the other hand, was primarily used by native North Americans. Others cleanse with resins (frankincense, myrrh, copal) or a combination of herbs ranging from rue and basil to lemongrass.
Here’s the key: Use what you have and use what works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to smudge.
Whatever you use for smudging, it is good to be conscious of the cultural, geographical, and spiritual origins of herbs (especially Palo Santo and sage). There has been a shortage in white sage over recent years due to over-harvesting, so creating your own herb bundle and personalizing it with your intention is just as effective. You can try herbs like rosemary, basil, lemon balm, cedar, pine, mugwort, cinnamon, and bay.
Uncrossing vs Cleansing
There’s a difference between cleansing your space and doing an Uncrossing. Here’s what head witch Stacy Rapp has to say on the matter:
“Clearing negative energy from your space is different from Uncrossing because Uncrossing will clear your space by default. However cleansing your space doesn’t clear your own energy,” she says. “The purpose of an Uncrossing [candle] is it’s kind of like...you walk around all day and you deal with people. And because none of us live in a vacuum sometimes you’re going to pick up bits and pieces of negative energy from other people, and sometimes from your own negative tendencies and self-doubt. It can kind of build up around you in a sort of greyishness.”
“And if you walk around all day, especially in a city, you need a shower. So I describe it as a shower for your energy,” Rapp says.
The Tower of Light meditation is one of the most powerful, effective techniques you can perform. A great description of this technique can be found in “A Practical Guide to Psychic Self-Defense: Strengthen Your Aura” by Osborne Phillips and Melita Denning.” The technique is used to cleanse, shield, and protect the spirit or aura, as well as assist in general spiritual "tiredness" or fatigue. It's a transformative practice and helps strengthen your psychic shield and aura over time. Click here to read more about it.
Raise energy (get wild)
Rituals are all about raising energy. Herbs, candles, and oils are tools to help you achieve your intention, but it essentially comes down to your own energy. You can raise energy by singing, dancing, writing, chanting, even a long meditative soak in a bath.
“The idea is to find a balance. So you clean out and you bring in. You clear out and you bring in. And these things take time,” says Stacy Rapp. “Everyone has to find a system that works for them. There’s not a right or wrong system, but everyone needs to find a system.”
Use an essential oil diffuser
Essential oil diffusers are an effective (easy) way to invite positivity and attraction back into your space. Simply add a few drops of your favorite oils (rose for self-love, lavender for relaxation, bay for money, lemon for invigoration and new activity) and concentrate on your intention while the aroma fills your space. If you don't have a diffuser at home, a regular oil burner works just as well. They're normally made of soap stone and cost less than $20.
Incense represent the element of air (coupled with fire) and can help spiritually charge your space with a specific intention. There are many stick incenses (nag champa is perhaps the best known), but at Enchantments, there’s also a curated menu of hand-blended cleansing/clearing incense, ranging from Uncrossing to House Blessing, Van Van (a New Orleans blend), and Kyphi (an Egyptian blend). It all depends on your preference and what works for you.
Get out in nature (and get grounded)
Reconnecting with nature is key. Getting grounded is essential to your spiritual health and overall wellbeing. Magic is best performed outside, but even a languid, meditative walk in the park or woods, just noticing the trees, the wind, the sun above, the fleeting song of birds, the crunchy grass below can help you get grounded. Paying closer attention to the natural world around us “resets” our spirit and conjures a sense of gratitude, wellbeing, and wonder. Especially after any highly charged spiritual work, it’s important to “return back to earth” and get grounded.
Add attraction or positivity back into your space
After any good cleansing/clearing ritual, it’s very important to invite positivity and attraction back into your space. To do so, you can use any of the “tools” mentioned above (herbs, incense, oils, candles) to help you achieve your specific, desired positive intention.
“There is such a thing as too much Uncrossing. If you take 20 showers a day, your skin is going to get dry. You’re going to have to put moisture back in. If you do nothing but Uncrossing, you’re going to end up wiping out all your energy and creating a void –– which will then attract more negative,” says head witch Stacy Rapp.
“The idea is to find a balance. So you clean out and you bring in. You clear out and you bring in. And these things take time.”
Happy cleansing, witches! To read more about Uncrossing, click here.
Photo credits from the top: ©Annie Spratt/ Unsplash; ©Enchantments/Herbs; ©Jay Dantinne/Unsplash; ©Gena Okami/Unsplash
By Amber C. Snider
If you’ve ever been curious about the deep magical roots of the American South, look no further than Jake Richard’s book Backwoods Witchcraft. Here, the author recounts family anecdotes, omens, spirit signs, and the remarkable regional folklore of Appalachia.
Jake Richard’s new book Backwoods Witchcraft is not only an exploration of Appalachian culture, but also a deeply moving personal narrative and soulful tribute to the wild mountain terrain of the region. As a geographically isolated population, the ingenious spirit of the Appalachian people has led them to develop not only their own way of life, but also a unique understanding of the spirit world.
Here, Richards discusses the power of storytelling in Appalachian culture, including its Baptist roots, and shares practical omens, signs, and a few haunting tales.
Amber C. Snider: There aren’t many books out there specifically focused on Appalachian folk magic. I was immediately intrigued when I read that you wouldn't just rehash variations of Wicca. Because Appalachian folk magic is really a hybrid of several traditions (specifically Scottish, Irish, German and Cherokee) that span across multiple time periods and geographical locations, how would you sum it up as a whole for our readers?
Jake Richards: That's a big question. I think through the history and oppressions of the Appalachian region that this tradition has become an entity of its own. It’s so distilled with the independent spirit that pervades Appalachian culture. It can be compared to our immigrant ancestors, but it is still very distinct and unique to the region.
ACS: By independent spirit, are you also referring to the fact that the Appalachian people – as people of the Earth, of the soil – had to use what was available to them?
JR: Exactly. Appalachia was so isolated for so long, especially from the rest of the country as well as the general outside world. Everything took on its own distinct flavor or form, whether it be our religion and the way we practice our spirituality to our economics and our general cultural home life.
ACS: What is one distinct feature that makes it particularly unique from the rest of the States?
JR: A lot of times, back in the day, we didn't have a church built up so there was a circuit rider (preachers who would travel around from community to community and stay there for about a week preaching the Gospel). Not having a preacher nearby to do marriages or baptisms removed the middle man between the normal folk and God.
That's why there's never been really a hierarchy here. It’s similar to the independent spirit that was grown because we did everything else by ourselves. We had to. God became as close as our next breath.
ACS: You write about how this folk magic uses the Bible not only as a family heirloom (to record births and keep hair clippings) and sacred household text, but also as a magical resource. Can you tell me a little bit more about this lack of concrete separation between folk magic and modern day Christianity?
JR: The bible was mostly used because that was the majority faith here. Everybody points out that the Bible condemns witchcraft or divination, but going back to the independent spirit in Appalachia, what you do here is your business – it's between you and God.
So if we take it biblically, magic has never been divorced from mankind at any time in history. It's evident that what the Egyptians did, the Israelites also did magically. We see it throughout the Bible: Moses parting the seas, Jesus cursing the fig tree, people of the temple casting lots to see which heifer God would prefer, etc.
The only distinction was that the Egyptians' magic and religion was considered 'evil' because anything that was 'other' or unknown was evil. So my realization was that the people of Appalachia (as well as the general attitude about witchcraft in modern times) have always relied on the communal attitude.
ACS: What do you mean by communal attitude?
JR: In certain communities you would have folk healers and conjure men and the community would look good upon them because their powers came from God. But there were also 'evil witches,' like Witch Magal down in Gatlinburg who was supposed to consult with the Devil. I've received a lot of [kickback for the book’s title] because the word 'witchcraft' in Appalachia has always been so taboo. But coming from a family that does this work, there's really no distinction between witchcraft or whatever is accepted by the community – whether it's folk healing or conjure work. In my family, we never really made a distinction.
That's why there's never been really a hierarchy here. It’s similar to the independent spirit that was grown because we did everything else by ourselves. God became as close as our next breath.
ACS: Why do you think there is a reluctance to call it witchcraft? Do you think that that's something particular in the culture or with the word it itself?
JR: Witchcraft has always been taboo because anybody who practiced witchcraft was supposed to have gotten their power from the Devil, or selling their soul, or some other deal that they had. But in all reality, what they were doing in the stories can be connected to the same thing conjure healers or folk healers were doing. It's all based on the attitude of the community from eyes of the beholder.
ACS: Also the power of storytelling, yes?
JR: One of the biggest Appalachian traditions still today is storytelling. I think a lot of the old witchcraft stories can't really be relied upon for finding formulas because 90% of the time they're exaggerated than what actually occurred.
ACS: You talk a lot about God in the book. You say that for the people of Appalachia, God is not this figure in the sky, but more like a father figure at the table. He's just part of the community. Can you talk a little bit about that?
JR: Essentially we were isolated for so long we had to make do with what we were given on the land. We didn't really have the option to leave because trains back then would only come every couple weeks or every couple of months – especially the trains that went from like the deep South to far up North wouldn't even really stop here. All you really had in little mountain communities was yourself, your family, your neighbors and God.
God became a large part of people's daily lives. God played a large role in the folk healing practices here because doctors were scarce. We didn't actually start getting licensed medical doctors until the beginning of the 1900s. And even then that was only one type of doctor.
ACS: What other types of doctors were there?
JR: There were three types of doctors: those who actually went to school and got their license. And then there were those who were 'book learned' who simply read a lot of medical texts and were self-taught. And then there were the other doctors who were folk healers or those who used herbal remedies. Even today, there's a big suspicion against [modern medicine] and it's not really seen as reliable here.
People still do folk remedies and take certain herbs – even against the doctor's wishes. The only difference between what was certain and uncertain was God. So they’d pray for healing or a speedy recovery. But it also crossed other areas of life: praying to find love or a good marriage and with many kids. That's really all you had to get out of life because that's all life really offered.
And so God became a familiar figure. A lot more familiar than people would account for him in other places in the world. My Aunt Marie simply called him "Papa." She didn't call on God or Lord or Jesus. And a lot of people still do that.
ACS: You also bring up the Devil a lot in the book as a kind of trickster character and in conjunction to "getting him out" or ways to circumvent him. Can you talk a little bit about this idea?
JR: Since Appalachian Christianity took on its own certain flavor here, the Devil also went from being this tyrant, all-powerful evil spirit to more like a trickster. Appalachian folk tales are filled with the Devil being outsmarted or tricked himself, so he kind of became a local resident in the folklore. He went from being a “Father of All Lies” to assembling tricks for the spirit that lives at the crossroads. He’s kind of like a black jack dealer that nobody really wants to deal with unless they have to, more or less.
Especially in Appalachian folklore, he simply brings bad luck or he tries tricking people but then they just trick him right back. If you compare it with other European folklore stories of evil spirits, he takes on those same traits – whether it's being obsessed with counting things like words, letters, grains, or sesame seeds, as well as not necessarily thinking things through.
I've always grown up in the woods and in the creeks, playing with bugs and animals – there's never been a disconnection between me and nature.
ACS: Can you give me an example of that in your family folklore?
JR: I can't remember if I included this story in the book or not, but it was one that my grandmother told me. My Mamaw Hope has lived up in North Carolina and her husband was a real bad drunk. He apparently always told this story saying that it happened to a friend, but she thinks it really happened to him because his situation was too similar.
The story goes that one of his ‘friend’ always went down to a tavern down the road – down the mountain – to get drunk. Well then one night he was apparently walking back and he heard footsteps behind him. And he turned around and there was nothing there.
So he kept on walking. But then he heard footsteps and chains dragging on the ground. He turned around again and there was nothing there. So he kept on walking and heard something running up behind him.
And he turned around again and still there was nothing there.
Well there was a big boulder just off the walking path in the mountains and when he turned back around there was a shadow on the rock. It jumped down and tackled him to the ground, so he started wrestling with the [thing] and chains were smacking around everywhere. He never really got a good look at the shadow or whatever it was, but it simply whispered in his ear, ‘You start being being good to your wife and kid, otherwise I'll come back and drag you down to hell.’
ACS: Oh wow, that’s quite the story...and then what happened?
JR: The shadow thing just disappeared. Apparently the ‘friend’ went back out the next day to see that there were, indeed, prints of chains where they had smacked the ground – as well as cloven footprints. The story goes that it was the devil himself tackling the old drunk and telling him to be nice to his wife and kids. But the friend, of course, was never identified 'cause we're pretty sure it actually happened to Papaw.
ACS: You also you talk a lot about Cherokee traditions and your Native American ancestry. In one section of the book, you mention the mysterious Moon-Eyed People. Who are they and where did they come from?
JR: There are multiple speculations about who the Moon-Eyed people were. They're often described as being light or pale skinned with blonde, brown hair and big blue eyes. The story goes that the Cherokees had to run them out West, but no one really knows where they came from or exactly who they were. They apparently spoke a different language when the colonizers came upon them, but I read that they spoke English, too. They had different, distinct facial features, but not many people know about them anymore. They could be a section of a tribe that was here before the Cherokees and other Iroquois started moving down here from the Great Lakes.
ACS: In the book you mention that after your Papaw Trivett passed that white feathers kept showing up and you could smell his spicy cologne. What are other signs that spirits are trying to connect or communicate with us? What should we pay attention to?
JR: My family has always paid attention to our dreams. If you see one of your deceased relatives in a dream, especially just after their passing, we always pay attention to what they're doing in the dream. If they're running around frantically or if they're scared or angry then that means their spirit [is not at peace]. But if they're calm and collected that means that they are at peace and they are simply letting you know that they are okay.
My grandmother still has a bag full of pennies that my Papaw Trivett's spirit left going from her front door to the passenger side of her car – just simply laid out one by one in a row. We also used to have this box filled with all these white feathers that we found around the house one day [after he passed away].
ACS: The pennies and feathers just showed up out of nowhere?
JR: In my family, we always try and rationalize something before we accept it as a spiritual sign and we could not figure out for the life of us why somebody would just do that. I still find feathers and I don't own anything that has feathers in it. I have jars with bird feathers around but those are from crows and blue jays. But these are little white goose down feathers that you'd find in a pillow or bed.
I'll still find them places – like I'll sometimes be driving and the windows are rolled down and one will fly right into my car and just circulate or drop to the floorboard. Spirits can communicate with the living in a multitude of ways. It’s not like there are definite signs or anything like that. I've known people who get signs from their ancestors or their deceased relatives through yellow mark butterflies or certain birds. There's one bird – it's a deep cobalt blue bird with an orange chest, kind of like a robin.
ACS: Yes, I've seen them. I tried to find the name of that bird too because it came to my window right after my aunt passed away...
JR: Those birds and the broad red cardinals and sometimes the yellow finches are used a lot for spiritual messages from the dead in Appalachia. We take them as messages from spirits, as well finding feathers laid out weirdly. It also happened to my grandmother on my dad's side of the family. When my Papa John passed, she found three, white down feathers in her fridge and had no idea how they got there.
Spirits can communicate with the living in a multitude of ways. It’s not like there are definite signs or anything like that. I've known people who get signs from their ancestors or their deceased relatives through yellow mark butterflies or certain birds.
ACS: What are some other signs of good omen or good luck?
JR: The yellow finch is considered to be good luck and obviously finding a penny on heads instead of tails. Whenever we found a spider nesting or laying a web in the kitchen we always left it because it was a sign that the house would never go hungry or the cabinets would never be bare.
If you see trails of ants in your house and they don't really have a directive or if they're not really going anywhere (like they're just crawling all over the place) – that's a sign that somebody in the house was restless, like their mind isn't right or they're uneasy or just not wanting to be there. That especially happens a lot during big life decisions and big life stages. I've seen that happen a lot with houses that have teenagers in them.
ACS: What led you to put together this hybrid collection of family history and folklore and Appalachian culture?
JR: Honestly, I don't remember deciding to write the book. I think my spirit simply led me to do it because the next thing I knew I had a table of contents laid out. I was also getting tired about all the misinformation online about what Appalachian folk magic really is. Most of the time, everything that I had seen online came from people who simply say that their grandparents are from here, so it’s really just a bunch of outsiders. And some of the books that have been written on this subject were simply too mixed up with modern magic and modern techniques.
So I finally just said, you know, screw it. You gonna write about it, you gonna write about it!
The entire process was directed by the spirits. Even while I was writing the book, I was remembering things to include: I would have dreams of my ancestors coming to me saying, 'Don't put that in there just yet. Don't forget to talk about this...' I'm glad that's over 'cause I don't think I had one night of sleep with a normal dream! I was like 'Damn y'all get off my ass!'
ACS: What was the community's reaction to the book?
JR: I haven't really had any resistance when it comes to people here with the work, but sometimes they do get a bit confused and a bit paranoid.
ACS: Paranoid, how so? As in, it will bring too much attention to the community?
JR: Well there's also the taboo against witchcraft. They are a bit suspicious as to exactly who is really in control. Just recently I was in Lee County, Virginia to help a little older woman in her 60s with a haunting in her house. The entire time I was cleansing the house, she was constantly asking questions – which I get that's a normal thing, 'cause it's not really normalized anymore. But she just had this feeling about her that she didn't really trust me.
She'd be like, 'What are you saying? Are you praying? What are you doing?' But then by the end, she felt so much better. I mean, this woman's house had been haunted so bad to the point to where she hadn't left her house since last November. And by the time me and a couple of other colleagues were done cleansing the house, she was actually able to leave. Her five friends took her down to her Aunt's grave because she hadn't been able to go down there because she had been stuck in the house. [Afterwards] she was a totally different woman than the one that I had met about four or five hours prior.
ACS: So she more relaxed and calm and confident after you performed the ritual?
JR: Oh definitely. When we first met her, this woman is a nervous wreck 'cause she hadn't been able to get any sleep. Her kids initially brought it to her attention saying, 'That mean old witch spirit keeps pinching our toes until they bleed.' There was also a big sinkhole that had appeared on the property and one of the kids (while sleepwalking) kept being led to that sinkhole. So I can understand why that would've been nerve wracking. She just had this demeanor of defeat, like a dog tied up.
ACS: Any chance for a second book?
JR: The second book has already started, but before we start heading down that road, I want to see if the world is ready and if the people of Appalachia today are ready.
To read more about Appalachian culture, check out Jake Richard's premiere book Backwoods Witchcraft on sale at Enchantments or online here.
You wash your body and clean your house – why wouldn’t you regularly cleanse your spirit?
We regularly come into contact with unsavory things, especially if you happen to be a city dweller. Whether it’s bad vibes at the office, a heavy talk with a particularly needy friend, negative self-talk, or an unwanted aggressive encounter with a stranger, all these things can leave a negative imprint or residue on our aura/spirit – or at the very least, leave us feeling totally drained.
Over time, just like an unkempt household, negativity can build up around us and block us from our higher self – as well as block positive things all around us that are meant for us. If we’re blocked, not only can we not see the good, we also can’t accept it; that’s because it’s too murky around us and we’re clouded with all the negative junk.
With Uncrossing or unblocking spells, the goal is to clear out and cleanse away anything that’s holding you back from your higher self and your true calling. It’s like sweeping away heavy cobwebs, clearing away all the negative self-doubt and cloudiness to reveal your life path. As with all magic, it’s about taking back control of your life – and this includes taking control of your spiritual hygiene.
So how often should you do an Uncrossing? The short answer is, it depends on what you do in your everyday life. “Obviously people have different professions that bring them in contact with various kinds of energy, and everyone’s different. I definitely don’t recommend doing an Uncrossing everyday, but doing some kind of cleansing ritual on a semi-regular basis,” says Stacy Rapp, owner of Enchantments.
“If you work at a hospital, for instance, you’re going to want to do more Uncrossings than someone who works from home,” Rapp continues. “But the one thing we do recommend to everyone is you balance the Uncrossing with an Attraction. So it’s like, if you do an Uncrossing, you want to follow it with something to attract positive energy into your life and space.”
Before we can invite positive change into our lives (love, money, career success, etc), we have to make room for it. You wouldn’t buy all new expensive furniture before you’ve given your house a good sweeping, right? Uncrossing does exactly that: it removes negativity in your space and aura, and unblocks anything holding you back from your highest potential, including people, ideas, and things that are no longer serving you.
Sometimes a thorough clearing out/cleansing can be a bit uncomfortable: you’re getting rid of all the shit that’s just not for you, that doesn’t resonate with you anymore, that isn’t serving you – and that can sometimes make us feel uneasy. It’s all too easy to stay in the same routine, to build walls, to block out people, to “protect” ourselves from what's “out there.” But building walls never really works and when it comes to magic, a good cleanse and Uncrossing is the first step.
There are many ways to do Uncrossing and as with all magic, you should do what works best for you. Whether it’s using candles, herbs, incense, prayer, chants, baths, or meditation techniques, pick and choose what resonates with you and go from there.
For a step-by-step guide on how to clear out negative energy, check out this story.
Written by Amber C. Snider
Contributors: Stacy Rapp
By Ana Vice
Skull candles come in multiple colors (including white, black, green, and red) and can be used to represent the human cranium and the thoughts within. Here’s a brief history of skull candles and how to use them in your ritual work.
In the Celtic tradition the skull was believed to be the place where the soul resided. The Celts would place skulls into sacred wells because they were thought to be associated with the water element. In this way, the soul of the deceased was cleansed and renewed, making a person ready for eternity in the afterlife. In India, skulls adorned ancient gods and goddesses in the form of necklaces or bracelets. This was meant to show their divine ability in conquering death. Nataraja (an incarnation of Shiva), for instance, wears a necklace of skulls around his neck as he dances the dance of creation. This garland of skulls in Hindu culture represented the passing of time and the life/death cycle for all mortal beings.
For the Mexica (indigenous Nahuatl-speaking people during the pre-Columbian era), the Lady of the Land of the Dead was revered and respected. Today, she is better known as La Santa Muerte (Holy Death). When wishing to gain favor from La Santa Muerte, skull candles (also known as muerte contra mis enemigos or “death against mine enemies”) can be used. In Hoodoo, skull candles are used similarly to poppets or Vodou dolls, and are often utilized to effect an individual's mind. Sometimes this can be your own mind and that is what we will focus on here.
Three Skull Rituals For Clarity, Motivation, and Banishing
Clarity ritual: Use a white skull candle. After taking a cleansing bath, set the intention to clear away all negative thoughts, change maladaptive thinking to positive thinking, and gain mental clarity. Either Kyphi or sage essential oil would be good oils to use to anoint your candle.
Optional: Burn a bit of Kyphi incense or sage (you can also add other herbs along with a written intention folded into the space under the base of the candle). Carving your name and astrological sign into the candle makes the spell more personalized to you and your intention.
Motivation ritual: Use a red skull candle. After taking a cleansing bath with sea salt, set the intention to incite passion and mental motivation. Motivation oil can also be used on the candle to help invoke energy.
Optional: Burn some Motivation incense or mint leaves. You can also put other herbs (along with a folded written intention) into the space under the base of the candle. If you look underneath the base of the candle, you’ll notice a little groove where you can add your herbs; otherwise, a space can be carved. Carving your name and astrological sign into the candle personalizes your spell.
Banishing ritual: Use a black skull candle. After taking a cleansing bath with sea salt, set the intention to banish only negative thoughts and/or to overcome bad habits. Banishing oil can help with this intention. Be sure to be very specific in your intention about what you’d like to banish – especially because you don’t want to wipe out any positive energy.
Optional: Burn some Banishing incense or Angelica root alongside the candle. You can also add other herbs along with a written intention folded into the space under the base of the candle. Carving your name and astrological sign into the candle will make the spell more personalized.
For more spells and rituals using wax image figures, check out this story.