The Art of Reclaiming

Events, Mundane Magic

It has been my experience that most (if not all) people have opinions about Valentines Day. To some, it’s a frantic search for a date and a gift: the pressure to perform when expectations are high. To others, it’s a spotlight on their loneliness or a ploy of Capitalist society to suckle the bank accounts of romantic souls. Whether reservations are made or heads are low, this day carries a charge.

Witches Know that energy is a real thing and use it for channeling purposes to produce desired results: the more potent the charge, the more dynamic the results. There are countless sources of energy, but a common one is holidays and it’s safe to say that there will be many people participating in various types of “ritual” today.

Reclaiming witches recognize and honor the power of names/sacred days/life on this planet that is often taken for granted. This is the reason we call ourselves “witches”: there is a charge to this word that ranges from “scary, old, green hag” to “wise woman with plant-knowledge” to “the devil who will rid your body of an unwanted child” to “a person that will do the forbidden.” We reclaim the word “witch” for it contains a rich legacy of Wisdom and doing what Must Be Done. In calling that word ours, we give back to it with our thoughts and actions: knowing that both are enriched by the energetic current also known as “meaning.”

I believe that we have the right to reclaim words from toxic roots, so long as we have true knowledge of the source, integrity supporting our intention of its use and full awareness of the communities that have been impacted by said word (and whether or not it’s ours to claim.) I also believe that Valentines Day is an opportunity to practice the Art of Reclaiming: from consumerism, from gas-lighting and guilt-trips, from sexual violence as well as from hopelessness.

This tradition began during the Roman Empire when marriage was banned by Emperor Claudius II because he believed it made soldiers reluctant to leave for battle. A priest known as Saint Valentine married couples in secret and was later put to death for violating this law, though the lore reveals that he valued empathy and connection more than domination and obedience… An act, some might say, of True Love.

A wise witch once said “Don’t deny the gift just because you don’t like the package it came in.” There is an allegory present in Valentines Day, and humans have been feeding energy into it for centuries. While there is use in creating new words and philosophies to represent something important, why not use something that is already available? Does Valentines Day (or a pre-planned, widely known occasion to dedicated to expressing Love) deserve to remain hijacked by consumer culture or a bitter attitude?

So today, I challenge the willing: tap into the currents of love in whatever way feels right to you. Maybe it’s choosing to cook a nice meal for a beloved. Maybe it’s being clear with an employer about what you need as an act of self-care. Maybe it’s scheduling time to have coffee with a friend you haven’t seen in a while. Maybe it’s something that isn’t listed here, but feels right for this day. Regardless of what it is (as long as there is consent if another person is involved!) I hope everyone chooses to have a wonderful Valentines Day. I know that’s my intention.

Becoming Unbound

Mundane Magic

Last night I had a vivid dream that I was laying in my childhood bed. The lights were dim and the room felt quiet, but there was a bustling around me. People I knew were interacting as they normally would. The atmosphere was not threatening. The bed I occupied turned into a warm bath and my body was completely submerged. I felt comfort. But then the moment came for me to rise up and out of the water and I began to wail. It was a loud siren of a howl that was filled with such despair and mourning. I kept screaming and moaning with tear-soaked cheeks…. it continued until I awoke.

This dream is the best description of what life feels like to me right now, minus the sobs and shrieks. I find myself coiled within my Self, repeating old feedback loops that don’t really *seem* to be relevant or useful anymore.

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IMAGE: VasalisaTheWitch

I feel bound up and immobile. The joy that life still kindly offers me does not have the same impact. Sometimes eating overwhelms me and all I want to do is sleep the day away. Panic attacks have begun to pop up at random times. People around me (even those that I wouldn’t consider close friends) notice that I am “not myself” and ask what is wrong, which leads to shame for not being able to hold up my wall with a smile. On top of everything, my mind scolds me for taking the wonderful life I have created for granted: “there’s nothing actually wrong,” it taunts. “You need to get it together.”

As a rational person, I understand that these sorts of things happen to most human beings. As a witch, I recognize that I have many tools at my disposal. I can do a tarot reading to see what’s actually going on energetically. I can do Kala to heal the parts of my Self that are in distress. I can use the skills that I have learned to willfully change my circumstances (MAGIC!)

The energy to do these things exists within me, but it’s caught up in the battle of just trying to stay above the surface. So while I do have options, I am not able to shift my situation into anything “useful.”

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IMAGE: VasalisaTheWitch

In the past, this would be the point where I curl into a ball and hide out under my duvet until I feel the storm pass or numb myself to a point where life feels tolerable. This time however, I managed to do one of the most radical, magical acts of self care to date:

I asked for help.

I asked a close friend to listen to me when I was in a lot of pain. It was this conversation that helped me to realize that it’s time to go back to therapy. I asked another good friend to refer me to a trusted therapist, which (two weeks in) has felt like exactly the right choice. We have a plan in place to work through what’s going on and her insight is a gift that I could not have given myself at this time.

It can be easy to let the Ego to get in the way when we have already learned so much from life and done a tremendous amount of personal Work. There was a point not too long ago that I would have perceived the act of asking someone outside of myself to help me with my emotional state as weakness. The Self-hater within me would aggressively ask: Can I really call myself an experienced witch if I am unable to take on the intense difficulties of life on my own? How can I be of service to the world if I can’t even handle my own shit?

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IMAGE: VasalisaTheWitch

A powerful witch is a channel for Universal energy, not a permanent storehouse. I still think back to my intention for 2016: “I surrender to the flow” and realize that I can surrender to the Universe, while also refusing to let what is happening steamroll my spirit into submission. I can choose to notice my experience, decide whether or not I want to feel it at it’s full potency and do my best to direct the energy where it needs to go. I can also thank the Gods for the resources I have around me that help me when they are able and willing to do so.

We don’t get to escape being a human through witchcraft, but we can use our heightened awareness to do our best to live a life we can enjoy. What if one way to do begin doing just that is to release the expectation that we have to do everything all on our own?

Growing Sharper

Art, Mundane Magic, Tarot

Of all the divination tools out there, I really have quite an affection for the tarot deck.

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IMAGE: VasalisaTheWitch

 

Even before I had any inkling of what it was, the beauty of the cards called to me. After years of training and self-guided study, I have found the 78 cards of the tarot deck to be the complete set of archetypes that visually express what happens during life as a human being. These experiences occur in everyone’s lives and we cannot escape these happenings, no matter our sex, race, class, or creed. When paired with intuition and the humor of our fair Universe, I find them to be an invaluable tool of navigation.

Last April, I did a 12-card reading for my year. I laid out one card per month, to give me an idea of what energies will be present and pulsing. As October arrived, this guy showed up:

 

9 of wands

IMAGE: VasalisaTheWitch

 

While there is no handbook to the original set of cards, I interpret the 9 of Wands as: on guard, anxious, defensive, prepared, ready to engage, challenges, showing some backbone, and courage. If this archetype is what I can expect from my month, it will be a time of being on constant alert. Nothing is actively happening and the opponent has yet to show up, but the air is charged and the armor has been applied. Ready, steady… wait.

So how can a tarot card that depicts a guarded warrior prepared for battle serve as a source of magic after I’ve put the deck away?

One way is to open up and explore this specific energy during daily check-ins with the Self. I can notice the thoughts that scurry around in my head or witness how I am reacting emotionally to the day’s events. Using this card as a lens for my month means consciously experiencing all of the nuances that are present within this energy, and making decisions for myself from this perspective. If I knew that a strong odor of defensiveness was present within my center, should I choose to discuss an issue with my boss this week? Am I really able to give unbiased feedback to a friend soliciting advice regarding how to deal with her unmotivated partner?

Another way is to embrace and express this energy; not change it into something different, but recognize it’s significance and apply it’s power. I can allow these nine wands to flow through me as I prepare for a long run or a busy night at work. I can be honest with myself and gently suggest that maybe meditation is just going to be difficult right now. I could choose to engage in some social justice work in the field. Giving this energy permission to guide me at this point in time allows me to celebrate it’s existence and understand who I am when I embody it. I often use this insight to inspire collage, which is my personal process of fitting the parts together to create a complete picture:

 

"Stand By"

“Stand By” collage by VasalisaTheWitch

It can be really difficult to *see* everything that’s happening when thoughts, feelings, energy and the physical world collide in complex ways. Tarot cards (and all tools of divination) give us the opportunity to pick a very decorated whole apart to be observed and understood. Just like a paint-by-number portrait, each color is necessary to create the image and make it complete. Even if one part is missing, the entire whole is affected.

The name of this magic is awareness, which is our ability to perceive and act from a place of conscious knowing. It is this separation, exploration, opening, embracing and expression that allows each of us to create our desired life while the mysterious hooded figure called The Unknown perches in the corner of our eye…

“The Universe Is Full of Magical Things Patiently Waiting for Our Wits to Grow Sharper.” – Eden Phillpotts

 

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IMAGE: VasalisaTheWitch