Sacred Arts approach to self-harm

Learning and Community


his post came from a question asked by a member of our community who has (very, very) patiently waited for me to respond.

It took me so long because I wanted to write my response as a post here on Canto for the general public; as this topic warrants more public understanding and discussion.

Right now in 2016  4% of adults self-harm, 15% of teenagers self-harm, and up to 35% of college students self-harm.

This is one form of compulsive behavior that affects so many of us and those we love in different ways.

Now some would say that this is a mental health issue and as such should be left to mental health professionals. Obviously there is truth to that, but I have found that the Sacred Arts speak to our mental health concerns, just as they speak to everything else.

So while seeking treatment and good counsel in this are is absolutely the first step, there are techniques and tools within the sacred arts that we can work with to support people who self-harm and are ready and willing to receive help.

Here are some of the best sacred arts based tools and techniques to address this:

1.) Spiritual Cleansing and ritual bathing – cleansing one’s home and body in an intentional manner has long been believed to have protective qualities as well as the ability to remove negative influences and hardship. Any kind of mental or physical disequilibrium falls into the “negative influence and hardship” category.

One of my favorite ritual bath recipes to employ when you are seeking to stop any kind of damaging compulsive or addictive behavior is made with:

  • one part kosher salt
  • one part olive oil
  • a pinch of dried grapefruit rind
  • three pinches of lemongrass
  • three cardamom seeds
  • a pinch of black pepper.

2.) Working with a lodestone to draw and attract not only greater clarity but the external supports (people and systems) require for the breaking of addictive or compulsory behavior.

3.) Creating a salt jar, which I think of as a ceremonial “reset” button, as well as very protective and cleansing.

4.) Creating a prayer bundle, mojo bag, or medicine bag for the one who is suffering. In this case you want to think about the individual you are making the bag for. If possible, it is a good idea to have them help you in fashioning the bag.

You will want to use your own good judgment and take into account what herbs, roots, and talismans would be appropriate given the specific person and situation, but some of my favorites to include in any work where there needs to be more clarity and a cessation of harmful, compulsory behavior are:

  • small rose quartz and/or clear quartz crystal
  • small piece of black tourmaline (it can even be a black tourmaline bead)
  • soil or dirt from a place where the individual felt healthy and happy
  • a few small kernels of dried corn
  • Archangel root (commonly known as angelica)
  • High John the Conqueror Root
  • Solomon Seal Root
  • a bit of dried grapefruit rind
  • a bit of Juniper or Cedar
  • a sprinkle of pink dried pink rose petals

5.) Prayer and blessing are obviously recommended. Here is one that I wrote for my clients who have self-harmed or who have loved ones who have self-harmed. This was originally written for people to say over themselves but you if you have a loved one caught in this cycle you may bless them with it.

Blessed ones in whom I live and love, move and have my being. Thank you for this day. Thank you for the earth beneath my feet and for the sky above my head. Thank you for the breath running through my body and the blood running through my veins. I ask that you give me eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that knows the right path to follow with wisdom and discernment.

I ask too that you keep me whole, in vital health, and fixed on the fact that I am holy, beloved, and needed in this world in so many ways that are both seen and unseen, known, and unknown to me at this time. Support me in my attempts to stand in sovereignty, just as I am, untouched by the criticisms and harrowing howls, clean and safe here and now.

Bring me back to the place of loving and caring for myself in all good ways as I remember and make room for the sensations of deep pleasure and sincere being that go hand in hand with the health, wholeness, and holiness that are, were, and ever will be my own. So it is, amen.

If you need resources and more information about self-harming, I highly recommend Cornell’s categorized resource list.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Animalia Stellarum ~ Scorpio the Scorpion

Divination and Dreams



I am so delighted to bring a new astrology series to Canto. As my students can attest to, when I teach astrology I always begin with what I call “naked eye” astrology – just looking at the stars and tracking the moon and sun to begin to orient oneself to celestial happenings.

But in our astrological considerations as in all else, the ancient tenet of “As Above, So Below” does apply. For star stories are not only inspired by the heavens; they are at least as much (and perhaps more) inspired by the living creatures, plants, animals, and mythic beings, that each Zodiac sign is based on.

I have always wanted to write a series here that explores the various zodiac signs in depth, but I wanted to give you all something that was not the norm or the boilerplate astro babble you can find so easily in various places.

So I was really delighted when the opportunity arrived to partner with Sara Magnuson of Candlesmoke Chapel who has been incorporating an animist and animal-loving approach into her sacred arts practice for many years. This is the first in what will grow to be a 12 part series, and I hope you enjoy each one of them. It is a long read but worth your time, so sit back with a cup of coffee (or what have you) and sink into all that is of Scorpion. As always you can get more astro goodness in the Free Resources area.

Scorpion brings us into the full power of the autumnal season and exemplifies the balance between the fading harsh Summer Sun and the emergence of the Dark Moon of Winter. For their relatively small size, Scorpion evokes fear and signals danger to most other creatures. Just as those that fall under the sign of Scorpio are often more deep and intense than we realize, Scorpions are surprisingly complex and diverse in their behavior and lifestyle.

scorpions scorpioScorpion As Animal: By Sara Magnuson

Belonging to the class of Arachnids (meaning they have eight legs and are related to Spiders), Scorpions are ancient creatures with fossils dating back 430 million years ago. They are found on all continents but Antarctica and can live in all kinds of places, from deserts to jungles. Their ability to adapt is quite incredible. Scorpions can survive many months without food or water by purposefully controlling their metabolism (kind of like a hibernating Bear). The only constant in Scorpion’s environment is the need for soil or sand. It is their nature to dig and hide under the earth, although they can often be found under rocks and in small crevices. Some Scorpions tunnel elaborate burrows complete with a front porch and various rooms.

They are nocturnal creatures and must have a place to hide during daylight hours. Unlike other nocturnal creatures, such as Owls or Raccoons, Scorpions exhibit photophobia, a physical reaction to light. They don’t choose to be active at night because it fits their lifestyle habits, but rather because it causes physical discomfort to be in the presence of the Sun. It is believed that their sensitivity to the UV spectrum in particular enables them to sense when it is safe to emerge from their lairs and begin hunting or searching for a mate.

Scorpion’s ability to acclimate to its environment as long as it has soil/sand teaches us to focus on the essentials and to understand that everything else can be adapted to. Scorpion’s sensitivity to the Sun teaches us about our relationship to light and dark, what is safe and unsafe. These are the basics of survival, of existing – is there food nearby and am I safe from harm.

The behavior of Scorpion is aggressive and predatory. They have two large front claws that are used to easily crush their prey and this brute force is often their preferred method of killing. Primarily hunting insects and other arachnids, they can also take down small reptiles, amphibians, rodents, and birds. They are most well known, however, for their venomous tail. Scorpion’s venom is made up of neurotoxins and enzyme inhibitors that cause paralysis and internal decay of the victim. Not all Scorpion venom is created equal and the poison of each species is tailored to their environment and preferred type of prey. They will wait in hiding, stalking and ambushing their mark, but they are also known to fearlessly march right into another creature’s living quarters and attack. Whichever method Scorpion uses to kill its prey (force or venom), its lack of teeth means that it is not capable of consuming any solid food. Once its meal is acquired, Scorpion must inject it with venom in order to liquefy its insides and then drinks its feast straight from the source. This is a brutal description, but speaks to the primal nature of Scorpion.

It is these behaviors that teach us to look at our defensive mechanisms, our venom, our poisons. Are our defenses strong enough? As Scorpion has the strength of its claws combined with its venom, do we have more than one defensive option? Scorpion’s aggressive nature also teaches us about bravery and power. They enter a combative situation with surety and confidence, knowing they have the appropriate weapons. Just as Scorpion’s venom is highly specialized to its prey, how can we tailor our defensive actions to the situation at hand? When do we need to be on guard and when do we need to take the kill shot with our poisonous tail?

There also exists a healing nature to Scorpion, however counter-intuitive that may seem. The highly poisonous venom of many creatures, including Scorpions, is often used in creating pharmaceutical medication. Scorpion venom is currently being studied as treatment for all kinds of human ailments – arthritis, lupus, cancer, and non-addictive pain medication. In their natural behavior, Scorpion uses its poison for purposes other than death and knows just the right amount of venom needed to kill or to simply soothe. Those in control of this type of personal spiritual medicine are fully aware of its potency and in the best of cases, they use it with purpose and in just the right way; in the worst of cases, they use it with malicious and manipulative intent. As we will see, Scorpion uses its powerful poison with a great deal of mindfulness.

The unexpectedly complex nature of Scorpion comes through the strongest in its courtship, mating, and parental behaviors. These seemingly vicious creatures exhibit an unusually gentle and beautiful coupling ritual that can take as little as one hour to over a day to complete. Using pheromones and vibrations of the body (called juddering), the male lures the female into a long slow dance aptly named promenade à deux. The male tenderly takes the female’s front claws into his own and guides her around as they search for the perfect spot to mate. During this dance the female often becomes impatient and agitated, to which the male responds by placing a small amount of venom in her mouth to calm her. They mate without touching their bodies together and, once they have found a satisfactory spot, the male deposits his sperm on the surface and guides the female over it. When the dance is complete the pair separates and each goes on their way. This curious act of civility and politeness betrays their outward nature and speaks to us about the importance of discerning when to be hostile and when to be compassionate.

The most exceptional behavior of Scorpion, however, is displayed by the Scorpion Mother. Unlike most arachnids, Scorpion embryos develop inside the mother’s body until hatching rather than laying eggs and leaving them to develop and hatch on their own. The young scorplings (yes, they are really called scorplings!) are carried on the mother’s back to regulate their temperature and moisture levels until their first moulting. Mother Scorpion shows a devotion to her young that is practically unheard of in the world of invertebrate animals.

It is quite amazing that this small, hard-shelled, apparently simple-minded creature contains an extraordinary depth of character that is hidden in their smallest actions. The world of Scorpion is about ensuring that our most basic needs are met – food, safety, sex, nurturing – and defending them with the force of a giant.

ScorpioScorpion as Scorpio: By Briana Saussy

In looking at the tale of Scorpios from ancient Greek myth, what we find is a story that in some ways feels a bit of a let down, especially to those with some astrological knowledge about this sign and those born under its influence. However, as is the case with many myths we must dig a little deeper and move past the obvious in order to find the real medicine that Scorpio carries and this is especially appropriate to the star sign that in many ways is most at home in the darkest depths.

The story of Scorpios and the story of the zodiac sign Scorpio is one of struggle and snags. It is in some ways a cautionary tale in the same style as that of Icharos – beware, for this is what happens when you fly too close to the sun, when you try to move from your mortal coil into mysteries fit only for Gods. However, in deeper ways Scorpio is a story of soul and how the very snags we encounter and the struggles that seem the most drenched in agony are the same that show us beyond all doubt what kind of mettle we are made of.

The tale begins as most tales do with people who were watching the skies and sharing stories of what they saw. In this case the phenomena describes a pursuit during the summer months of the constellation Orion by the constellation Scorpio which is then followed by a waxing of Orion’s strength during the winter months. Across the sky writ large was the story of a chase, conquering, and then apparent resurrection of the one who is conquered. But why is the Scorpion chasing the god-like and beloved giant Orion? What has happened to cause this celestial struggle?

Some say the battle began when Scorpio was called forth by angry Artemis who had heard Orion’s proud boast that he was so powerful and so mighty that he could – and would – destroy all life, all living creatures in order to prove his greatness. Since he wished to prove himself through destruction, so the story goes, Artemis – lover of all wild places, peoples, and creatures, decided that destruction was what he would indeed have, and sent her ally Scorpios to battle with Orion on behalf of all life everywhere.

Here we see one of the primary strengths and weaknesses of the star sign Scorpio and those born under its influence which is the ability to conquer and destroy. There is a martial element to this sign which can be clearly seen when we remember that two planets long associated with the sign are Mars, Saturn, (and, since its discovery, Pluto which is now considered the primary ruling planet of the Scorpion). The Mars influence in Scorpio can be seen in its ability to seek out and destroy whatever threatens its security, safety, and stability. In the first version of the tale this ability is put to profound use as Scorpio’s seek and destroy style is more than a match for the intensity of Orion’s power. (Sun-sign Scorpios and those with strong Scorpio or 8th house tendencies are often labeled as “intense” right out the gate). According to the tale Scorpios is called on as the protector of life itself which can be translated into Scorpio as the protector of those who cannot adequately protect themselves and also Scorpio as the protector of creativity, sex, and fertility — all of the things that lead to and give literal life.

One of the signature qualities of those born under this sign and those who are deeply influenced by it is a desire to protect what is theirs and what is dear to them at all costs. They will go to war, and win, against impossible odds if they feel threatened or if someone they love is threatened. This ability to go to battle is found in the actual animal’s fierce devotion to its young.

At the same time, each of us know that sometimes we are tempted to say “peace, peace, where there is no peace” and deny that certain habits, behaviors, thoughts, and relationships create a stability that is hollow and false. The Scorpio influence shows a more negative side in its ability to encourage one to say stuck in toxic situations because doing otherwise — calling a spade and spade and getting out of dodge — feels like a move that would threaten what is stable and known.

Some say that it was not destruction but its opposite, procreation that caused Orion’s downfall. In this tale the Goddess Artemis appears again but this time in rare form as a lover who has fallen under the spell of handsome and powerful Orion. Artemis’ brother Apollo becomes enraged at his sister’s behavior and so calls the Scorpion to come forward out of the black depths to kill the hero out of malice and revenge.

In this version of the tale we see the association between the Scorpion and eros, love and erotic desire. When you read a horoscope about the sign Scorpio you will often see their sexual prowess and intensity remarked upon. But for a Scorpio sex is never just sex. Sex is the doorway into deeper mysteries, into an ecstasy that often does have a religious or spiritual element (remember that to be in ecstasy is literally to be “standing outside of oneself), and also to deep healing. For the ancient understanding of erotics was not one of mere bed play but of asking and daring to answer the question, what is it you most want and where is it you most lack?

In this “lovers thwarted version” of the tale we also see the flip side of the Scorpio way of love – when they love they love fully and completely and most of the time deeply loyal. However, if Scorpio feels wronged in areas of love then they will seek out revenge on whoever wronged them with their typical and formidable intensity.

A third telling of the tale moves away from the relatively young Olympian Gods Artemis and Apollo into a much older time when Gaia, the earth herself, cried out under the weight of Orion’s hunger and ambition. He wanted…all of it, all of the time; he was ever-famished and no matter how much abundance she provided it was never enough. Sounds familiar, yes? And so, in a desperate bid to save her offspring, creation itself,  she called forth the Scorpion to sting the Giant into submission and stop the ravishing of all the lands once and for all.

Scorpio can wield the energies that are capable of going deeper than deep and preventing destruction on a massive level but that ability also means that Scorpio must in some way understand and relate to the experience of being always hungry and never fully satisfied. (Some of you have heard the saying that the sign Cancer is simply Scorpio in a housecoat – consider the above in light of that). One interpretation of Scorpio is that this is the area of the chart and this is the sign that is most willing to traffic in the occult, to show up and work the corner in the red light district, to run the illegal business, and to transgress in every possible way. But the teaching is more straightforward: Scorpio supports us in dealing with all of the taboos, the third-rail subjects, the unmentionable motivations that everyone has a relationship to: money, power, death, sex, the interior spiritual life.

Each of the tales tells of the struggle, a battle royal that went on for ages, season after season, year after year, as the cosmos continued to spin out more stars and planets and celestial bodies. On one side we have the giant Orion, doomed to lose, for the first time, this struggle against an enemy.

Astrologically wherever Scorpio shows up in the chart is traditionally understood as a place of struggle, a place that carries both wound and medicine, an area that is broken and spilling forth with unique blessing also. Scorpio, as the 8th sign occurs after the sun has been in Libra, the 7th sign. Tradition teaches that the first 6 signs in the Zodiac wheel are concerned with Self while Libra, the point of balance, encourages a turn towards relationship between ourselves and others. Scorpio IS interested in relationships – the deeper and more real the better, so let us consider his partner in the tale – Orion.

Orion has his own set of tales and stories and his greatness must be understood for the fullness of Scorpio’s own teachings to take root. For here is a giant among giants – a hunter and a shaman complete with his ritual belt and club whose very name can mean “light from heaven”. Orion could walk on water, speak to Gods, and he became ritually blinded and then upon making the proper amends at the right time, was able to regain his sight once more. He is huge, more powerful and vast than all of the seas and all of the mountains and all of the deserts combined. And yet. The Scorpion ushers forth out of the blacker than black sky and after many years of struggling so that at one point it seems Orion will vanquish the enemy and at another point he will be vanquished, it all comes to a point. That specific point is the star Rigel, which can still be found today in the constellation of Orion marking his heal, and where all of the tales agree Orion was mortally wounded by Scorpios who was in turn declared the victor.

Scorpio is one of the signs most at home with depth psychology and analysis. Highly psychic, Scorpios are often drawn to the sacred arts because they feel a natural resonance to things like magic, ceremony, alchemy, and ritual. This is also the area of the chart that deals with lineage – your ancestry and your inheritances be they financial and otherwise and many a good investor has serious Scorpio influence in their charts. Scorpio is interested in the ways that severity and punishment are the flip side of generosity and mercy so it is no surprise that all fields dealing with criminals and justice are aligned with the sign as is the field of law.

Each of us carries an inner Orion, the ability to be great coupled with the ability to be overly proud and overly ambitious. And each of us also, no matter what your sun sign might be, carries the gifts of Scorpio – the ability to stun that ambitious overreach, the wisdom to understand that your personal power is in a direct relationship with your willingness to be of service to others. The Scorpion also reminds us, as it did Orion, that it is often the most humble, overlooked, of creatures that at the end of the day carry real power.

The story does not end with the struggle. As it is told, the Gods were so impressed with Orion’s endurance and inability to admit defeat, that they blessed him by removing him from the painful sting of death and placing him up into the heavens where his honor could shine out among the stars.

But the story I know is a bit different. In facing the Scorpion, Orion learned that his true power was not found in his ability to demolish and remove all obstacles standing in his way nor was it his ability to satisfy every craving and hunger. No, rather his true power was demonstrated in his refusal to turn away from struggle, to engage in the battle no matter the cost and in his wisdom to apprehend that the true enemy was not the Scorpion but rather his own inflated and misplaced pride.

This is the teaching of Scorpio, one that applies to and can be of benefit to all.

Call on Scorpion When:

  • You need to be brave in the face of great odds. 
  • A situation or relationship calls for deep devotion and loyalty.
  • The least of things needs to be seen and protected.
  • You are ready to come into right relationship to personal power and service.
  • The superficial and surface no longer persuades and you wish to deepen your understanding in any area.
  • Creative endeavors of all kinds need to be strengthened and given better boundaries.
  • You wish to deepen an erotic relationship and/or take sex seriously.
  • You want to come into right relationship with wealth, money, and your lineage.
  • You want to master your own poison and learn to discern when and how to take action.
  • It is time to get to know your own potential to poison as well as to heal the places that have been poisoned.

Be Wary Of:

  • Acting from a place of revenge or malice or any desire to “get back at someone.
  • Hidden motivations that place your welfare before that of your loved ones.
  • A tendency to invite conflict and drama.
  • Over seriousness and intensity.
  • Addictive behaviors that are hard to address because doing so threatens your sense of “peace and ease.
  • Selfishness and protectionism.

Questions to Ponder:

Scorpio shows up in everyone’s chart – there is no such thing as “I don’t have Scorpio” because it is a cluster of stars in the sky and it is always there. Wherever Scorpio occurs in your chart these questions will help you get to know it better.

  • Where am I naturally willing to go deeper and look harder?
  • What has been the greatest struggle of my life – what has it taught/continues to teach me?
  • What does power mean to me? Where do I feel powerful? Where do I feel powerless?
  • What is my relationship with light and dark, figuratively and literally?
  • How can I be more powerful in each of these aspects?
  • What can I do in the light that I never thought I could?
  • What abilities do I have in the darkness?

Active Imagination Journey:

Cultivate Calmness.

Ground, Center, and Anchor in the ways that feel good and right to you.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are standing in a dry desert in deepest night. There is no moon and the stars shine out all around you, more than you have ever seen in your life. Although it seems that no life can thrive in this inhospitable climate; see, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that there is life. The yipping bark of Coyote, the papery rattle of a Rattlesnake, the scurry scuffle of a burrowing Owl sinking back into its nest inside of a cactus.

Affirm and acknowledge that you have come to this place at this time to learn a new teaching about your life, one that is gifted to you from the stars, you have come to encounter the Scorpion. Acknowledge that it does not matter where Scorpio occurs in your chart or whether you were born under this Sun sign or not – we all have this constellation present in some portion of our natal chart.

As you are ready look straight ahead.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that a path has been illuminated for you and down a bit on that path is a beautiful stellar glow. This glow comes from the vast constellation Scorpio, come down to the horizon line for you at this moment. If you are ready to learn what it has to teach then walk forward.

Walk forward. Walk forward. Walk forward.

You grow closer now and so, walk forward, walk forward, walk forward.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel that you are now standing before the starry constellation and on the desert floor moving all around you are scorpions running every which way, and you are not afraid. As you are ready bend down and place one hand on the desert floor.

See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel as one of the tiny Arachnids crawl across the palm of your hand.

Looking at it here under the stars high above you and illuminated by the light pulsing out from the constellation of Scorpio, see how complicated and beautiful the creature is. Put aside the surface feelings of disgust and fear, resting certain in the knowledge than in this place and in this time the Scorpion will not harm you.

As you are ready, ask it what its teaching for you is.

Give yourself time to truly listen.

When you are ready to depart allow yourself a few final moments to say goodbye and to agree to any promises, oaths, or exchanges that you can in good faith make.

Breathe in a blessing on your body and as you exhale bring your awareness back to the room that you are in. Feel the weight of the air upon your skin and allow yourself to stretch and move in any ways that feel good and nourishing to you.

As a final act, note what the teaching from Scorpio was to and for you.

Now, choose three PRACTICAL actions to bring that teaching fully into your life here and now.


Altar and Ritual:

Our altars are generally used for positive purposes – to draw success, money, love, peace, and harmony. For this work, Scorpion asks us to look at the interconnectedness of positive and negative, the balance of using your poison for good or bad (and sometimes “bad” is what’s needed).

The idea behind this ritual is to see where there is light in the darkness and, in the reverse, where the shadows live among the light. It involves approaching your desires from the other side, the opposite angle, in a way that is counter to our natural tendencies.

To this end, Scorpion asks for a separate space, an altar all to its own, a dedicated place to focus on very specific intentions that are not to be mixed in with everything else. Find a place, big or small, that you can dedicate to communing with Scorpion and its astral counterpart.

Think of two major issues in your life right now that you would like change – one positive and one negative. For example, you want your sick mother to get better and you want your noisy neighbors to move out. The way these issues are often approached is to call on positive, healing energy for your mother and to focus on negative things that will drive away your noisy neighbors. But Scorpion asks us to flip this around – to see where we can take positive action in the dark places and where the shadows have influence in the bright places.

Cover or leave bare your altar surface in whatever way feels right to you.

Obtain two white candles and two black candles. They can be of any height that you prefer, but be mindful of how long they will take to burn. The duration is up to you and this ritual can be completed in one sitting or tended to a little bit at a time.*

Divide your altar in half with a light side and dark side, either in your mind or with a physical delineation. It can be divided horizontally or vertically, as you see fit.

Set up one white candle in the side that you associate with lightness, white, and positivity, but don’t light the candle.

Set up one black candle in the side that you associate with darkness, black, and negativity, and don’t light it.

Sit for a moment and take a deep breath. Call in the medicine of Scorpion. (as we continue, it is important to keep track of the white and black candles as instructed)

Light the white candle on the white side of your altar first and acknowledge the positive, bright side of yourself.

Light the black candle on the dark side of your altar next and acknowledge the negative, dark side of yourself.

Take a deep breath and feel that Scorpion is with you, asking you to be not afraid of its dangerous elegance.

Think of the negative issue in your life that you would like to change (i.e. your noisy neighbors). Gather up all your angry feelings and focus on the black shadow candle you have just lit in the dark side of your altar. Envision all the negative thoughts and feelings you have about this issue in the flame of the black candle as it sits in the dark side of your altar.

Take the second white candle and hold it in your hands. Focus on the situation or person(s) that make you angry and frustrated. Hold it/them in your mind and ask Scorpion to show you how to use your poison for good. For example, rather than wishing that bad things happen to your neighbors as payback for bothering you, wish that they win the lottery and move away because they want to. If you are in competition for something, wish that your adversary “loves to lose.” Use the flame from the black candle on the dark side of your altar to light the white candle you hold in your hands. As the white candle takes flame, feel all those negative desires burning into pure white hot fire, illuminating the sea of darkness with a beacon of kindness. Set this white candle in the dark side of your altar.

Take a deep breath and know that Scorpion is guiding you to use your powerful energy with mindfulness and civility.

Now, think of the positive issue in your life that you would like to change (i.e. that your sick mother will get better). Gather up all your tender-hearted feelings and focus on the glowing white candle you have already lit on the bright side of your altar. Envision all the positive thoughts and desires you have about this issue in the flame of the white candle as it sits in the light side of your altar.

Take the second black candle and hold it in your hands. Focus on the situation or person(s) that you want to send healing energy to. Hold it/them in your mind and ask Scorpion to show you how to use your poison in a malicious way. For example, rather than wishing for your mother to heal, curse the disease that plagues her. Ask Scorpion to show you the root of the matter, the thing that is causing the need for healing in the first place, and how to destroy it. Use the flame from the white candle on the bright side of your altar to light the black candle you hold in your hands. As the black candle takes flame, feel all those positive desires lighting the black coals that will annihilate the source of this malady or discomfort. Set this black candle in the light side of your altar.

Take a deep breath and know that Scorpion is guiding you to wield the power of your venom in the proper direction.

Spend some time sitting at your altar while these candles burn; a white candle and black candle burning together on each side of your altar. Meditate on each of the two issues at hand and allow Scorpion to show you how to regulate and redirect your energy.

You may sit with the candles until they burn out or snuff them out when you are finished. You can revisit and relight these candles, in the same order, over several days. One way is not better or worse than the other and you should continue to work this dedicated Scorpion altar as you feel called.

*always use common sense fire safety when burning candles indoors.

About my Co-Author:

sara-magnusonSara Magnuson  is a crafter of spiritual supplies, a reader of cards, a diviner of animals, and the co-founder of Candlesmoke Chapel. Her personal practice is eclectic, animistic, and ancestral. The guidance she provides is based in the messages of Nature and its role in how we move through this world.



magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Families of blood and choice

Lineage and Legacy

Dear Miracles,

During this season of remembering and honoring our ancestors and the Beloved Dead, and in the festivals that come after for many of us – the holiday season proper – it is unavoidable to think about family, and for many of us, those thoughts are not happy ones, and they are not simple. It can be a time of loneliness and despair, rather than cheer and solace; or it can be a mixed bag of both in such a way that leaves us profoundly confused.  If the unfolding season leaves so many people despondent, confused or alone with respect to family, that is because family really is a confusing and complicated thing. So many of us simply do not have families to turn to. Or if we do have families, so many others have relationships straining to the breaking point. Or others may even have no relationship: for how can a relationship be cultivated between people who stand on different sides of what seems to be a great unbridgeable chasm?

No wonder that, as soon as the times of coming together begin, so many of us withdraw, out of genuine need for protection, simply because when it came to family, we did not seem to luck out.

We have a saying in my family: we say “in-laws and outlaws” when lovingly referring to the extended family. You try to find a way to laugh, because sometimes that’s the only thing you can do, short of moaning. I’ve got some salty stories to tell about the generations way back, let me tell you, and I bet I’m not the only one. I’ve lost count of so many people who have a history of cruelty and violence in their family, a history that forces them to keep their distance at all costs. How do we honor such truths, and how do we tell such stories?  Aren’t they better left unsaid and forgotten?

A Sacred Arts perspective on the whole problem of family begins with the community of the living and the dead, the past, present and future. It begins from the vantage point of the whole, which for us is like gazing at the radiant sky and earth on clear and starry night. What might we learn if we start here? No matter what form family takes, no matter what it looks like at present, everyone has a family, and that means everyone has stories worth telling and listening to. Stories are healing, and so that means that we don’t have to go very far to let the healing begin.

The dead are all-too-easily forgotten – even the ones that deserve to be remembered. Out of sight, out of mind. So when we think of family, we tend to let only what we see and touch orient us. But if we start with the whole, family is not necessarily made up of people we can always touch and see with our eyes, nor are they necessarily related by blood. Not only in space, but even far away in time do they dwell. The living and the dead make up our family.  What this means for us is that there is a tremendous wellspring of strength from which to draw, starting with this enlarged sense of family.

One of the delightful older stories (it comes from the writings of Plato) has family and friends meet in the afterlife for what looks like a festival. Before moving on to the next phase of their journey, they pass their time strolling about together at leisure sharing stories with one another about their experiences.  Can you imagine getting all your people together to share stories? What an interesting and raucous time that would be – it would be a story in itself. If family is a mess, it is a divine sort of mess.

We wish our family could be the ones that care for us, laugh and cry with us, and love us always and no matter what. We wish all of our ancestors are the ones who stand behind us with their hands placed ever so gently upon our back and shoulders urging us forward, encouraging us to dream bigger and go farther than ever.

But we know perfectly well that families do not always do all of this for us. Families are composite, unfinished projects. They are not a single species, not a single static form, but rather an entire living, dynamic ecosystem, a forest or field teeming with life, with blessing and joy, with hurt and suffering, and – most assuredly – with the unexpected.
From a Sacred Arts perspective, the unexpected is the realm – and the discipline – of magic. And so family is too, those people who are so familiar to us, too close to us or even too far, those people whom so often we’d rather forget. What is most unexpected is that this enlarged sense of family – with all of its conflicts still intact – in fact carries us, supports us, sustains us in a surprising way.
From the vantage point of the Sacred Arts, the broken places in our lineage, our story, and our understanding are the same places that have been so deeply blessed. They are places from which the deepest graces flow unimpeded.
If we know how to listen and to look with open mind and heart, these family conflicts point the way to our own good, and they carry us, guide us, through difficult terrain.
The single greatest thing that family conflicts reveal is the mystery of our self-sufficiency and freedom: We are dependent creatures. In order to be truly free, we must be able to accept our real need of others.
What is the character or nature of this need? Our experiences with family can help us, in no other way, understand and accept the meaning of that need.
To be carried by what arises within the reality of family is not to say that we are not capable of standing on our own. It is, rather, to reclaim those darkest problems for ourselves, in a way that is life-giving, constructive and healing. We are carried by family in the same way the earth helps us stand on our own two feet, supports us as we move in freedom. We are carried in the way a camel helps us sit and move over great distances. This is the way families of blood and choice carry us.
The call of the season, starting at the time of this super full moon in Aries, is to look to what carries you truly. Look to the stories and the sights, the scents and the sounds that carry you day in and day out; there’s your family. Look to the ways that you in turn show up to carry others. Who are they? Whether they live next door, or a thousand miles away, it makes no difference; they too are your family. Where is care given and where is care received? Look to those places and you will find them among the living and among the dead – your people, your tribe, your family.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Mommy Magic: 8 Ways to Celebrate the Day of the Dead with the Whole Family

Ceremony and Ritual


or soulful seekers who wish to honor their Ancestors and Beloved Dead at this time of year and who also have young family members who may be frightened by some of the more macabre images running rampant, it can often feel like an either/or situation.

Either you give in to mass market Halloween trappings and squeeze your more soulful work and offrendas in sideways or you go all out in creating your ancestor altar and alienate your children in the process because really, why do you have to be SO weird?

Growing up in San Antonio and the Southwest where we celebrated Dia de los Muertos and honored our Ancestors before it was cool, the idea of hiding your practice away from your family members or not involving your younger family members in the celebrations strikes me as a bit odd.

After all, for millions of people world over, Dia de los Muertos (and the many other names it is known by) is a Feast Day during which we honor and commune with our Beloved Dead. We remember the loved ones (including animals) that we have lost – especially those we have lost in the past year – but we remember by having a party and of course we want to include our children in the festivities; this is a family affair!

The Feast Day/family celebration atmosphere often gets lost in translation when we talk about this holiday – there is more of a focus on the somber and scary and less of one on the bright, colorful, cheer that we experience when we take special time out of our day to honor the ones who have gone before. But I’m here to tell you that the Ancestors LOVE a good party and they love it when the little ones participate too. So here are some ideas to get the family party started:

1.) Make sugar skulls. There are molds that come complete with instructions and there are even kits. Traditionally the skulls are decorated with brightly colored icing and colorful pieces of foil. A piece of foil is affixed to the top of the skull’s head and you can write down the name of the ancestor you are honoring.

Of course, you’ll want to make a few extras so that the kiddos can nosh away. Traditionally you would take these skulls and offer them to your ancestors at the gravesides on November 2nd after taking a bite from each of them so that, for another year, the person named lives within you too.


2.) Create an Ancestor season tree. A season tree is an idea I got from a Waldorf craft book years ago – the general principle is that you place some bare branches into florist foam that is nestled into a pot, sprinkle dirt over the foam (plant some wheatgrass seeds in the dirt if you are really ambitious) and then decorate the tree as the seasons change with appropriate items.

The ancestor tree is very similar but on the branches we have affixed pictures of our ancestors. Near the bottom of the tree we start with the oldest ancestors and then move up in chronological order, the crown of the tree can feature pictures of current family members. This is a great craft that also segues naturally into discussions of family trees.


3.) Build an altar. Kids love altar building for the most part. A traditional Dia de los Muertos altar is established in the living room or the dining room where much of the family congregates naturally. Choose what ancestor(s) you would like to honor and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to honor a deceased pet. Decorate the altar with paper flowers, sugar skulls, and your ancestor tree. Make beeswax candles with a kit like this to light upon the altar. Include foods that the people or animals loved in life and objects that you inherited from them upon their passing.

You can also incorporate seasonal themes into this altar – our Dia de Los Muertos altar always has a pumpkin or two on it! Paper or cloth prayer flags and some fresh flowers, especially marigolds, are all traditionally included too.


4.) Bake some pan de muerto Day of the Dead Bread – it is delicious.


5.) Put the Feast back into feast day! Create a dinner on October 31st or November 1st that honors the traditional food ways your family’s ancestors practiced. This is a great project that you can actually start early in October – get your kids to do some research into who their way back people were, where they lived, what crops they grew and what animals they domesticated. Many of the deepest rituals happen around food.


6.) Go visit the graveyard together. Demystify places of death by going to visit them together in broad daylight. Graveyard are fascinating places for children and in my experience, children are much more frank and understanding about death then they are given credit for.


7.) Speaking of graveyards, here’s a bonus: read the Graveyard book together – perfect for the season!


8.) And if you are in the mood for a family-friendly film about this time of year, I cannot recommend the Book of Life highly enough!

No matter how you celebrate enjoy the season or as we say down here: Feliz dia de los Muertos!



magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

My Favorite Resources for Herbs, Roots, and Plant Allies


Plants were some of my earliest medicine teachers. Learning how to sow and grow, harvest, and prepare herbs, roots, leaves, and bark for various medicinal and magical uses is something that was handed down to me grandfather to mother to daughter.

Nowadays I am fortunate to be able to grow my own plants and to responsibly wild harvest more for my own medical and magical recipes. For those who want to learn from plants the first step can be the most intimidating – there are SO many choices and where does one begin?

Here is my list of favorite books, sites, and people who love plants, roots, herbs, and all that is good and green. This is by no means comprehensive and it covers both the medical and magical uses of plants because I have worked with them in both contexts.

Start with what is already in your kitchen.
And then…
Witchcraft Medicine is my all time favorite.
The Modern Herbal (vols 1 and 2) are classics for good reason.
Scott Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs is actually an industry standard.
Anything by Michael Moore
The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs: Psychoactive Substances for use in Sexual Practices is very thorough and fascinating.
And the Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Plants by the same team is also quite good to have on hand.
I also really love the book Braiding Sweetgrass for an exploration of what it means to be in right relationship to plants.
Alchemy Works is Harold Roth’s wonderful website and shop dedicated to green magic-making.
The work of Kiva Rose at Bear Medicine Herbals is some of my favorite.
Sophia Rose’s site La Abeja Herbs is lovely.
Rebecca’s Cauldrons and Crockpots is delightful.
Sarah always has good stuff on tap.
Matthew Wood is excellent.
Sam Coffman is local to me and one of my faves.
The Enchanted Healer – wonderful and comprehensive look at what it means to heal and live with plants.
Gatheress – I love, love, love everything that Shelley Henry does.
Rosarium Blends – wonderful blends of incense, potions and oils

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

New Moon Blessing in Honor of Libra ~ A Blessing for the Hard Times

Lunar Letter


iracles, On September 30th we greet the new month with a New Moon at 8 degrees Libra, at 7:12 PM cdt.

Libra, sign of love and partnership among other attributes encourages us to inquire about what new aspect of love am I ready to explore?

In my Sacred Artists group on Facebook I wrote a few days ago about the need to bless even and especially the hard stuff, the tough stuff, all of the things that you would rather not deal with in the first place.

It is easy to turn our backs on difficulties, easy to close our eyes and pretend that they are not there. But that is not the way of the soulful seeker now is it?

No, we look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, with eyes wide open faith. That act is, in and of itself an act of love.

This is a blessing for the hard times.

New Moon Blessing for Libra, October 2016

Today we call upon and ask for aid not from the ones that are clean and bright, always pure and always good.

Rather, let us speak to the Saints and Angels who carry muddy wings, halos made of broken glass, and hemlines that have been dragged through the depths not once but many times.

They are the ones who will walk with us to the places where other angels fear to tread, and they are the ones who will stand with during the encounters that can turn us into stone.

Let us remember that no matter the faith or path or place of worship the holy ones are more often than not the ones who have let their hearts be pierced by the broken places and the blessings time over time again.

May we be blessed in our own time of knees on the ground keening with the ability to remember that we are held close and sure by those Saints and Angels – that we are now in their territory and they have our backs and that the heart that is pierced is the heart that is brave enough to love unbounded.

May we remember too that our ancestors know the road we walk because we follow in their footsteps, and they stand with us in constant, radiating love.

Bless us as we call upon our descendants, all who come after us, all whose lives are touched by the ways we live our own, reminding us that this time of difficulty will become one of the most radiant threads in the weaving of our lives.

Hold us as we breathe; for in difficult times breathing in and out is sometimes the best and only blessing we are capable of.

And remove any and all scales from our eyes so that, when the dust has settled and the sun has risen once more we look in the mirror and see a familiar sight:

Muddy wings, a halo made of broken glass, a hemline that has gone through the very depths, pierced and sacred heart capable of loving more, ever ready to call out the blessings waiting in the most broken places.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

All in the Cards ~ How to Cleanse, Consecrate, and Bless a Tarot deck

Divination and Dreams


ver since launching my first ever e-course, 20 Question Tarot, I have had several students write to me asking really excellent basic tarot questions. As a response I have created “All in the Cards”, a Canto series aimed at answering those questions and sharing my love of all things tarot.



For those of you enrolled in 20 Question Tarot, I hope these posts deepen your already profound understanding and if you have questions feel free to send them my way! For those of you who would like to learn more about the course, head over here.

Today’s question is: How do you bless a tarot deck?

Before I answer this I’d like to dispel a common myth about decks. There is a pervasive belief that in order for the tarot to “work” for you, you need to be gifted with your first deck. This is not true.

Being gifted with a deck is lovely, but if you would like to explore the tarot you can do it whether you have been given a deck or find one for yourself that you really like. Tarot “works” for you, or rather, with you, when you have a real relationship to the cards.

There is another myth to take care of as well – in order for your blessing to be effective the deck has to be brand new and/or new to you. In other words, if you have a deck you have been working with for years and now want to bless it, it is too late. Nonsense. We can bless our sacred tools at any time and over and over again as we need to.

Now, onto what to do once you have your deck in hand! I am going to describe what I would do with a new deck for simplicity sake, those of you with decks that are good companions – altar as you see fit.

The first thing I like to do is cleanse my tarot deck. Some people see this act as removing negative vibes but I don’t personally ascribe to that view. Rather, I see it as an act of welcoming the deck home and also consecrating it as a talisman for my use. Interestingly, I have been gifted decks or received decks for promotional purposes that I cleansed and it became very clear that the deck was not mine but belonged to someone else. Usually the deck’s proper owner has shown up pretty swiftly once I cleansed the deck.

My favorite way to cleanse most paper items is with sacred smoke. I’ll leave you to choose what incense you would like to burn but obviously you want something that has a clean, clear, scent. Cedar, Juniper, Bay, and White Sage all bring this to mind for me.

Light the incense and allow it to begin smoking then pass the cards through the smoke three times. As you do this simply tune your attention to welcoming the cards and the relationship you are going to form with them, into your home.

Once you have done this I recommend that you Cultivate Calmness, and then Ground, Center, and Anchor.

Now that a firm connection has been established between deepest Earth and highest Heaven allow yourself to sit or stand with the cards in your hand. Ask the deck of cards the following questions:

  • What is your name?
  • What do I need to know in order to best take care of you?
  • What blessing do you have for me?
  • What blessing will you help me bring to others?
  • Is there anything else I need to know at this time?

Now you might think it is a strange thing to be talking to a deck of paper cards, but you are hoping to get some serious insight from that same deck of cards so striking up a conversation with them first should not really be that odd.

Write down the answers you receive and journal on them a bit if that makes sense.

Once you have answered all five questions you are ready to finally bless the deck. Now, there are many ways to bless anything but here is a blessing that I have worked with over my cards with great success:

Blessed Ones in whom I live, move, and have my being. From you all things emerge and unto You they do return. I ask this day for these cards to be blessed with clarity, love, and wisdom.

I ask for Clarity so that what I see and what I show to others is clear, makes sense, is transparent, accessible, and easy to understand. I ask for Clarity so that these cards work as the mirrors that they truly are – reflecting back to myself and to others the deepest truths which are already and always known by Soul.

I ask for Love so that all messages, all words, all visions received are brought forth in ways that are kind, compassionate, fierce, yet also gentle. I ask for Love so that these cards work as the wellspring that they truly are, delivering the healing waters that restore and bless into our lives even and most especially when the truths we need to hear are harsh and jagged.

I ask for Wisdom so that whatever is given by the cards and taken up by myself or by others is taken up with clarity and love intact and is put to use, practical and direct use, in the ways that are best. I ask for Wisdom so that these cards throw down true and their messages contain accurate descriptions of what is and what is to come but also and more essentially, what is always.

May it be so, amen.

Feel free to use this blessing and share it with others but also feel free to write your own blessing and discover your own blessing ways.

Once you have blessed the cards it is a good idea to place them in a box or bag that will be their permanent home. You can sprinkle herbs of your choice in the box or bag to further bless your deck. Personally I use wild crafted sage, lavender, and artemesia for this.

Enjoy your new deck and happy readings!







magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.