Read it here and enjoy!
The next missive I send out to you will kick off a series of Active Imagination Meditations that take us on a journey into the wild lands of our souls and the magic that pours forth from them!
Read it here and enjoy!
The next missive I send out to you will kick off a series of Active Imagination Meditations that take us on a journey into the wild lands of our souls and the magic that pours forth from them!
This past Friday, I finally got a chance to watch the movie “Lincoln” by Steven Spielberg, which came out in 2012. Friday is movie night for us and it was my choice (we take turns choosing). I wanted to see the film but I also wanted our 8-year-old son Jasper to see it since he had been doing a reading unit on Abe Lincoln in school. So David made stove-top popcorn, and we all snuggled down to watch the movie, and then later talk together about what we had watched.
The stand-out moment for me was when Lincoln (played by the incomparable Daniel Day-Lewis) had a meeting with the abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens (portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones). Stevens accuses Lincoln of having a broken moral compass because he is all too willing to compromise and be satisfied with only the passing of the 13th Amendment. Stevens was the one who sponsored the Bill that sought to abolish slavery throughout the United States, and he accuses Lincoln of losing sight of the North Star, losing his compass, – which, in this case, is not only the passing of the Bill, and the freeing of the slaves, but also, and more importantly, equality of races in all measures, including voting rights. The problem was that a lot of the legislators, sad to say, weren’t ready to accept equality of the races (not to mention gender), but were fine with equality under the law. That is to say, they were OK with equality so long as it wasn’t too much and without condition. Yes, a sad commentary on human nature. Lincoln knew that Stevens’ Bill that would free slaves would never be passed on the grounds of Stevens’ own arguments, and so he asked Stevens to temper his arguments in order for the bill to be passed. He needed Lincoln‘s pragmatism if he really wanted to abolish slavery. For, obviously, if slavery were not abolished in the first place, there would be no chance later for full equality under the law and beyond.
Lincoln the idealist feels the gravity of the moment. His response is telling, and he eventually wins over Stevens. Yes, he says, we must know the North Star and have a good working compass but there are bogs and marshes – unpredictable pitfalls – that mark the way forward. A person who looks only at the North Star or only measures by his compass will find both to be of little use to him if he ignores the impassable terrain right at his feet. Stevens hears this and is persuaded by it. He does indeed temper his own arguments and in so doing the 13th Amendment passes and slavery is abolished in these United States.
This moment in the movie speaks to a timeless tension in our public and private lives that concerns social a political injustice, change, the ideals we have about the human good, and how exactly to get there together. Over 150 years later we are still working through this tension at the heart of our democracy. If changes are needed, what changes? Where? and How? And what will be the consequences of those changes? Are we prepared to accept the consequences? How do we argue persuasively for our beliefs while keeping one eye on our compass and one eye on the dodgy terrain at our feet?
Fairy Tales and the old stories that form the bedrock of the Sacred Arts also ask these questions in their own way, about our inner lives. Thus the other reason why this moment really caught my attention – besides speaking to a timeless tension in social and political life – is that it speaks directly to the power of the Sacred Arts. Why are the Sacred Arts so valuable to the Soulful Seeker? The Sacred Arts supports us in discovering our own North Star, our own best compass, and in circumnavigating the actual terrain of life. And they do it not by dint of perennial wisdom or conforming to a rigid doctrine; but rather by allowing us creative and free access to resources that are personal, practical and wise to the core.
Our broader spiritual community in North America tends to overlook and discount folk magic practices, ritual, and divination. We like things to be vaguely inspirational, white-washed, without dealing with the tough unremitting stuff of life, like grief, real suffering, and loss, anxiety about “low” things like money or relationships. Even divination practices like tarot and astrology tend to be handled in this way. But there is a great untapped potential in such discarded or mishandled things like the Sacred Arts, a potential we discover when practicing several in complementary ways. Brought together, the Sacred Arts are more than a pointer showing the soulful seeker the way forward. They are also a means to walk the path.
Over the years I have come to believe that you should always have not only a North Star Rite but also a North Star goal – a big promise that you make to the cosmos that speaks to the essence of who you are and what you are here, right now, in this wide, wild, world, to do. Writing a book was part of my personal promise. As some of you know, I was born with a cleft pallet, and so I understood from very early on that part of my promise was to use and find my voice. Seven years of speech therapy, two surgeries before the age of four, and 38 years later I can say with confidence: Done. And also: I’m just getting started. So that’s the level at which I was thinking: promises to the Cosmos that speak to your innermost essence and nothing less.
But earlier this week I was talking with my beloved about our overarching vision for our work and community of soulful seekers. David, my incredible husband, celebrated his birthday a few days after Jasper celebrated his. As birthdays often do, this one led to some deep reflection for all of us. So there we were, talking about the vision, the BIG PICTURE, the North Star. My love and I were not talking about different individual projects or the day-to-day workload – we were talking about our vision for what a vibrant community of sacred arts and soulful seekers looks like, sounds like, and feels like.
Of course, there are more books that I want to write not to mention brilliant clients and students to serve, an enchanted household to tend to, and wonderful courses to create and teach. I can say, in all honesty, that things are so very full. In all seriousness, though, I was getting a bit stuck trying to say what that big picture looks like.
At this point, David asked me what my vision was for each soulful seeker in our community, and for the community as a whole. He wisely suggested that maybe I would be able to best understand my next big vision if I understood what I really want and hope for and expect for each of you.
And so, today, in celebration of our gorgeous Full Moon in Libra I am going to tell you what this Libra really wants for each of you. Ready? Let’s do this.
I want you to be whole. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be whole. Whole does not mean perfect. Whole means connected so that you are not dealing with a broken heart over here and money worries over there and your mother on Saturdays only. Whole means that you see what is actually there — not what other people tell you is there and you react and respond with an eye to right relationship. Whole also means that you are aware of how connected we are, not just to one another, but to all creatures – in particular, specific, and measured ways.
I want you to be healthy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be healthy and lived with the understanding that health is much broader and richer than we normally think. To be healthy is not to be without wound, scar or sickness but rather to live richly and vibrantly in the best ways and means available to you alongside wound and scar and sickness. To be healthy too is to recognize the preciousness of the physical body as well as mind as well as heart and to discern in love and wisdom what and what not to expose yourself to. It is to eschew the toxic and to be firm in your right to be unmolested by any external forces.
I want you to be holy. I hope, desire, and expect your lives to be holy, for I firmly believe and see every day that the world is in need of holy people now more than ever. Holiness goes hand in hand not with grand cathedrals or religious sanctuaries tucked into mountains, but with and in the enchantment of everyday life. Kissing your love is holy. Packing your child’s lunch is holy. Tending your garden is holy. Painting a wall and feeding the hungry and swimming in the deep sea – all holy. I hope, desire, and expect that each of you will see holiness as your natural state and understand that it requires not for you to be pure, unbroken, or without a mark but that rather it is most easily found in exactly the places where you feel most marked up, broken, and not ready. I hope, desire, and expect that as we come to realize and see what holiness really is and can be we are both blessed and blessings in turn.
These are my compass points for our community. They are each a point of my own North Star. The Sacred Arts practices that support them are the exact same practices that have been called on throughout time – and can still be called on by us – to not only illuminate the impassable terrain at our feet but also figure out the best way through the terrain, and to actually get moving through it. I know that is true because I have lived it as many of you beautiful readers, have as well. We know that the way forward will have all kinds of interesting obstacles and detours along the way, and so it is especially of utmost importance that our vision of what is possible, and probably, and choice-worthy shine especially brightly for every single one of us.
That’s what I really want. What about you?
These are both signs that are interested in community and connection. One of Leo’s talents is cultivating intimate, meaningful gatherings, and Aquarius is very concerned with overall community health and happiness. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. What are the best ways for me to stay in touch with, inspire, and be inspired by, our beautiful Sacred Arts community? These ponderings have led to some exciting decisions that I now want to share with all of you.
Recently, I made the decision to step away from social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) so that I can focus on what I love most: writing newsletters (like the one you’re reading right now), writing books (like this one), and working with the lovely people who hire me and enroll in my classes (like Spinning Gold).
My decision to leave social media was also motivated by a desire to live even more intentionally and purposefully. With a bustling business, a husband, and two small kids (including a 7 month old infant) at home, I want to be extra-intentional with how I’m spending my time. Would I prefer to spend thirty minutes posting things on Facebook—or spend those thirty minutes cuddling my baby and tickling his tiny toes and making him giggle? When I frame things in those terms, the decision feels simple! Baby wins over Facebook. Every time.
This doesn’t mean that I think social media is “bad” or “a waste of time.” Certainly not. Like any communication tool—a letter, an email, a blog post—social media can be used to connect, educate, inspire, and do wonderful things. That being said, if you’ve been feeling overwhelmed with social media lately, if you’ve been feeling tired of it, wanting to re-evaluate how you use it, or perhaps even wanting to take a break from it, I wrote a few articles that might interest you…
Here is a ritual for making social media feel “magical” again. Remember the early days of the Internet, when we all felt such wonder and awe? But now, many of us feel overwhelmed and burned by all the nonstop chatter and noisy demands. In this article, I share a ritual for helping you take strides toward bringing some magic back into your digital life by fostering clarity and intentionality.
Or maybe you too want to “break up” with social media? If so, I have a ritual for doing exactly that.
Something I hear about from many of my clients and students is the possibility of obsessing over someone else’s social media account. This is a case of social media jealousy and yep, there’s a ritual for that!
I hope those articles give you some interesting things to contemplate—and perhaps some new things to try.
You can choose to stay active on social media, or cut back, or drop out, and all of those choices are equally beautiful in their own ways. Whatever is best for you, is just right.
P.S. Curious about my decision to drop off social media? Got some follow-up questions you’d love to ask? Feel free to attend the virtual coffee chat that I’m hosting on Wednesday, January 30th at 10:00 am cdt and ask anything! This get together is a chance for us to chat about… anything and everything. I welcome questions about social media or questions about business, writing, creativity, rituals, ceremonies, my new book, or anything else. Click this link when it’s time for the virtual coffee chat to begin!
he Sumerian-inspired subject line of today’s Hearth and Home is brought to you by my seven year-old son, Jasper, who has been availing himself to my Sumerian dictionary. Yep, you heard that right: Sumerian. Like from ancient Sumer. Actually the text I have is more than a dictionary: if you want to, you can learn how to read Sumerian cuneiform, based on scholarly reconstruction of archeological findings. It’s a solid tome, and, you know, practical if you want to learn Sumerian. He has plans for this book, he is going to try to cram it into his bookshelf so that it magically becomes his, that’s right, the bookshelf in the picture – do you think there’s room?
Who in the world would want to learn Sumerian? NO ONE speaks or writes Sumerian anymore. It is truly a dead language, written and spoken. And yet this very fact is what makes languages like Sumerian so attractive to some people (and certain 7 year olds).
Y’all should have seen J as he tried to wrap his head around the fact that Sumerian is dead. The notion that a language could be dead is actually what brought cuneiform to life for him, lighting the whole thing up like a Christmas tree. Now there are scraps of paper with cuneiform marks all around the house. (One of the groupings of marks he copied, means “liberty”, according to scholars, and Sumerian is the earliest known written language with this concept.) So this ancient, dead language is now the coolest most relevant thing ever, and Jasper has decided he wants to become an ancient culture detective (as he calls it) and find out what really happened to the people who spoke Sumerian.
Oh, and also: he does not quite believe us about the whole “dead language thing” because he woke up last Saturday morning asking who in the household speaks Sumerian. He is pretty sure one of us is holding out on him. Maybe it’s the baby.
I love everything about this. I love the fact that my 7 year old chooses to spend his Saturday morning delving into a magical script from a faraway time and land. I love the fact that he is so sure someone really does speak Sumerian somewhere, and I love the fact that he might just be right…maybe somewhere someone does after all.
Jasper’s tenacity (around ancient languages and generally speaking) is a study in belief. The belief that he has access to this knowledge and that this is appropriate – that knowledge should not be jealously guarded under lock and key or held only be a few. The belief that if he practices at something long enough and diligently enough he can begin to make headway with it. And the belief that there is magic…in old books and ancient languages and everywhere around us if we know how to look. This has been the theme for our family this year, ever-present magic and the fact that while the extraordinary is most definitely part of the everyday, we still have the privilege – and challenge – of dealing with the everyday.
This month ‘the everyday’ beyond the usual work load looks like wrapping up presents and picking out gifts, decorating the tree, and sending out Christmas cards. I unashamedly and unabashedly love Christmas, Solstice, Yuletide, and the Omen Days that come after. I love it all. I love the sparkle and the color and the corny music. I love the excitement of the kids. I even love the pangs of sadness – the way that I miss by best girlfriend because when we lived in the same city we did our Christmas cards together. And the way that I miss my grandfather who loved this time of year above all others. I adore the stillness and the quiet of the cold air and the sparkling stars.
We often hear it said that the holidays are hard. And they certainly can be. But there seems to be an expectation that they should not be so hard…that everything should be happy and joyful and perfect. To my mind this expectation is rooted in the forgetfulness that the holidays are in fact HOLY days.
Genuine holy days are days pierced and crowned with the qualities of wholeness and healing, and holiness – truly beautiful and magical things. But these magical qualities are no more free of the hard and the tough than the phrase “happily ever after” is meant only for fairytales. Never in my experience has the magic of the truly holy turned away from the incredibly hard. Always it has made room for and embraced it.
This means of course that the genuinely hard times are never far from holy, wholeness and healing – even if it can feel like sometimes they are, even if the grace and freedom you seek feels a million miles away.
I tell my students that what keeps us steady in the face of the hard is our daily practices. These practices change as we do. They morph, they transform. But if we commit to showing up with them, they in turn commit to us and give us a steady foundation from which to work, live, and simply be. These days my practice begins at 4am when I get up before anyone else to take care of all of our animals.
Then, when the weather is favorable, I go outside in my pajamas, with a thick blanket and wrapped up in a coat, and I lay down under the stars. It is dark and cold. The neighbors are mostly asleep (and my neighbors know that I am a bit touched and seem to be OK with that), the wind is usually blowing gently at 4:30am, I listen. I’m watching the stars in part because I am preparing to teach my most ambitious astrology course yet in the New Year. But I am also simply being with the sky and the earth and the air, saying an intentional hello to these elements that surround me all of the time. With so much happening, with so much busy activity, these few minutes of star and moon bathing seem to add hours on to my day.
My practice is also all of the daily stuff. Watching Heath as he begins to eat solid foods…zucchini is a yes, bananas are a yes, as is spinach; green peas he is not so sure about and green peas and rice will earn you a Paddington Bear-esque hard stare. Listening to Jasper play piano at his winter recitals and play basketball (he is learning to catch the rebounds) and loving the way his little brother smiles at him as if he is the very sun itself. My practice has also included the fun of snuggling with my love, diving into Grey’s Anatomy – yes we just started, and yes it is so fun – and figuring out how to bend time and space so that my lover has time to draw and sketch and create the gorgeous art that our homes and lives are filled with.
Business is a practice for me too. I love my work so the scheduling and the follow up emails and the readings, the lighting of lunar lights and the teachings – all part of the practice. First writing and then shepherding the book into this next phase has been a new set of practices I have become familiar with.
At the end of November I got to speak to the publicity and marketing team in charge of my book (we have decided that when we meet in person it shall be over margaritas) and we have devised a very sophisticated marketing strategy…would you like to know what it is?
Write a good book.
Tell your community about your book.
Create an actually useful and awesome bonus when people pre-order the book.
Whip up some fun ways for there to be more time and connection within the community without outsourcing everything to social media or a keyboard…so simple, yet pretty revolutionary stuff huh?
Amidst a sea of bad marketing advice this certainly feels revolutionary. And then there is my publisher and my team, and for us it all comes down to integrity…write what needs to be written, share what needs to be shared, make it worthwhile and let your community know. As Emeril says, “Bam!” I’ll be sharing loads more about the book in January so stay tuned for that but in the meantime I hope you do what the title advises and make some magic for yourself this season.
And on that note, I want to share one of my favorite little tricks for creating some sweet magic in your home. It is the holiday season and some of the tough stuff that we encounter happens in our own families, yes? We can all use a reminder to speak with more kindness and compassion, to listen with more mercy, and to check our snap judgements at the door. One of my favorite magical tricks to inspire this behavior is to fill the sugar canister with whole vanilla beans, one for each member of the family. As you place the pod into the canister, name it for the family member and bless them with the following blessing:
“May your season be full of love, warmth, and kindness for yourself and for all you come into contact with.”
Of course you can also utter a blessing straight from your heart.
When you bake with the sugar or add it to your tea or coffee, it will call to mind the sweetness that you have wished upon yourself and everyone in your family. Want another little home sweet home enchantment? I’ve got one right here. And for those of you who have asked me about the lunar lights for 2019 – they are open through today so get in on it! Beautiful blessings of this holy, hard, and yes, magical season.
Happy New Moon in Scorpio. Today is a time of depth and magic making. Here is a blessing to get you started, it is a blessing for the Dead and very appropriate for this time of year.
We are padding softly into November as this month is much quieter than rowdy October and begins to really unfold into the late Autumn and Winter months that are some of my personal favorites.
On Halloween we dressed up (Jasper was a gladiator, Heath was a wizard, I was an owl, and David was a Mystic) and went trick or treating. We always have a Halloween party at our house that my family joins us for because trick or treating in my neighborhood is a ton of fun. My fave costume this year: little ones dressed up as Coco from the film. There was also a pretty fantastic family of Pikachu creatures.
Then, early on November 1st as I lit candles and incense at my ancestor altar and made the first round of offerings I sent in the final copy-edited version of my book manuscript. I really took my time on this last round of edits because after sending in the manuscript there is no more editing, it now goes into the next phase of production and any significant changes result in delaying the entire schedule. It felt very good to send in the manuscript while I was also honoring and listening to my ancestors, exactly right for a book about magic!
The last few weeks have also been full of the kindest words, compliments, and votes of confidence for this work of my heart in the form of some truly fantastic endorsements. I wrote earlier about endorsement gathering – how it is this process of both great humility and also fantastic surprises.
It has been so interesting to see who is too busy to endorse, who is willing and ready to show up and endorse, who makes time even though their schedules are crazy busy and who does not. I have learned much about various figures in our community that I have admired and looked up to and have been so floored by the kind words and support that have come from corners both expected and also unexpected.
On a side note: do you keep a running document of the times that people compliment you? If not, can I suggest that you do so? My publisher has me keeping a word document with all of the endorsements the book has received and when you are having a crap day or someone has said something unkind or thoughtless it is a really powerful exercise to look at the words of kindness and praise that have been lavished on your work. It is not about feeding or stroking your ego, it is about reminding yourself that the work you do makes a difference for people, makes lives just a little sweeter, just a little better. Do it. Make your list. Pin it to your wall. Add to it regularly.
The boys are doing beautifully. Jasper had a 1st grade bike race last Friday and, though he only learned to ride his bike two weeks ago (which is better than me as I have STILL not learned how to ride a bike!) he finished in the top seven. We have been working on homework together and I am teaching him something that I constantly remind myself of and tell my students too – “to make double-sure” that everything has been addressed. This is important in math, spelling, reading, and yep, magic too.
Heath is headed into 5 month old territory. Yuletide came a bit early for him as we found this amazing subscription box that has answered one of my most burning questions: where does one find toys for infants and what toys are appropriate? Love. This. So we are playing a lot and going on lots of little adventures. He is teething and so it is very much “hold him at your own risk” because you will be slimmed by his drool, but he is so ridiculously cute that no one cares!
Meanwhile, in between books and babies and seven year old boys, David and I are creating a new astrology course that will be really incredible (I can’t wait to share!). I wrote a Magical Missive on creating a prayer bundle (and you can find all of the other Magical Missives right here), there is a new Talking Shop Podcast up, and of course Mercury Retrograde is right around the corner so you all need to freshen up on What to do BEFORE Mercury goes Retrograde.
I wrote a review on Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab’s The Fool’s Journey Tarot Collection. Go to the post on Canto, leave a comment, and sign up for BPAL’s newsletter to have a chance at winning an ENTIRE SET of the Magician oils – yeah, they are all out of stock so this is pretty spectacular.
We have also been in mid-term madness over here – someone stole my Beto yard sign, can y’all believe it?! The results are now in and the dissecting is getting going in earnest. News, staying on top of it, but also not letting it totally stress us out and depress us, has been an ongoing subject of interest in our Sacred Arts community. My favorite source for news these days is the Skimm. It gives me exactly what it says: a skim of major events and then I can go deeper if I want. It is delivered in a smart voice that is also just a bit valley girl funny and for some reason that mix is really hitting the ticket for me right now.
In other news, did you know my friend Alexandra has a new book out? It is called So This Is The End and it is a love story with a twist – you have 24 hours of life left – what do you do with it? Y’all know I love questions like this!
Over at the Sacred Artists group we are going to spend this month talking about two of my favorite subjects: FOOD + MAGIC. Come join!
Oh! And last but not least – Jupiter is moving into its home-turf of Sagittarius today. I hosted a call about this that you can listen to here if you haven’t already and there is still time to sign up for Light the Way magic – you have until noon, central time to get in.
Blessings for a beautiful and brilliant November!
y first prayer bundle was so simple that it would not be until many years later that I understood what it really was.
This prayer bundle had a single ingredient: the first lock of hair ever cut from my head. The bundle itself was made out of scotch tape, by which I mean that the hair from my head had been sandwiched between two pieces of scotch packing tape. This prayer bundle, then, looked like a little unassuming packet, with a piece of hair caught inside it. Just from the looks of it, you would never know the kind of power it had.
This little packet was carried in the wallet of my maternal grandfather faithfully every day until he suffered a major stroke in 2005.
Years later, through study with teachers in various traditions and learning from my clients who also, blessedly and thankfully, come from many different traditions and walks of life, I was able to see my grandfather’s packet for what it was – not just way to keep a sentimental lock of hair, but a container for power and prayer. I discovered that charms and prayer bundles come in all shapes and sizes and in ways you could never imagine.
I understood that he carried his humble scotch tape packet for protection, for his and my protection, and also to remind himself about the significant life changes he made when I was born. We all need reminding of the pivotal moments of life. In these pivotal moments there dwells a magic force to help us live better lives. This charm packet helped him not only to remember it, but to raise that power of change for himself again and again in times he most needed it. For him it was the power of love, of second chances and a fresh start.
Prayer and blessing, while two of the most common and universally spoken languages in the Sacred Arts, are also languages that can often feel too abstract, too “un-grounded”, like air plants that are missing a true root system.
And this is why, for as long as there have been prayers and people to pray them, there have also been ways to make those prayers physical, to materialize them. This is an act I refer to as prayer gathering.
While there are many ways to gather prayers, the magical object that we are left with at the end of the gathering process is often a special container that holds our prayers and keeps them tied together fast so that they are strong and resilient. Different traditions have different ways of containing prayers, but one of the most common that is found in all of the corners and sides and angles of the world is a bag, pouch, packet of cloth or paper, or satchel of some kind. The names for these special prayer containers vary depending on time, people, and tradition. Some of the most common include: medicine bag, medicine bundle, prayer bag, prayer bundle, mojo bag, mojo hand, gris-gris, charm bag, fetish bag, fetch bag, charm packet, angel packet, magic pouch…and the list goes on.
Just as there are different names for these objects there are different ways of making them and working with them. In some cases, your prayer bundle might be made to be visibly worn, seen by all, a declaration, testimony or even challenge issued by the person wearing it. In other cases the prayer bundles are made to be hidden, worn discretely around the neck or waist or cross-wise upon the body. In some traditions, no one can touch your prayer bundle but you. In other traditions, family members can and often will bump up against each other’s prayer bundles. Some prayer bundles are not worn by people at all but hung on branches of trees or set out on the ground as offerings or burned or hung above the front door. Other prayer bundles are kept close to their person all the days of the life and when the person has died and their body is burned or buried the prayer bundle goes along with them. Some of these little bags are temporary – made for a specific purpose and then released through burial, burning, or disassembly. And in some cases a prayer bundle is not made for a person, but for a space, home, dwelling, sanctuary, or specific ceremony.
When we begin to make our own prayer bundles, the first thing we must realize is that we are working within the parameters of sacred vessel magic. Here magic is ritually contained in a sacred vessel and expressed through various physical objects placed in a container such as a jar, bowl, eggshell, or horn. The container for prayer bundles is of course the pouch or bag and is typically made of cotton, silk, flannel, or leather, and sometimes embellished with embroidery, bead work, sewn charms, or fringe.
When we work under the aegis of sacred vessel magic, we do well to consider this question: how does the situation I am working on need to be held? You can take that question as practically or figuratively as you want, but I do recommend thinking about it and journaling on it prior to creating your prayer bundle. The time and effort you spend reflecting on your life is never wasted. You can go back over your thoughts and writings and find the themes and intentions that will form part or the whole of your petition.
As we turn to making prayer bundles it is useful to understand that they are basically composed of three parts.
1. The vessel – this is the bag, pouch, locket, satchel, or cloth that is going to hold the magical contents. Considerations to keep in mind as you select the right material for this include: whether or not you plan to wear it and if you do plan to wear it, how and where you will wear it. Also consider how permanent or temporary this prayer bundle is meant to be as well as how you want to enliven it or discard of it.
2. Contents – these are the magical ingredients that you are going to include in the prayer bundle and they vary widely from tradition to tradition and also depending on what your purpose is. Typically speaking though the magical ingredients used in a prayer bundle include: botanical or zoological curios, personal concerns, coins or paper bills, petition papers, crystals/minerals, and images of saints, deities, or other holy helpers. Not all of these need to be included in a prayer bundle but they are the general categories to consider.
3. Seal for the bundle – this might be a string tie that is already included in the pouch, a piece of leather or thread that is used to knot up the bundle, flexible beading wire, wax, clay, glue, or as we saw with my grandfather, ordinary tape! The kind of seal you will choose to work with depends in large part on the kind of bundle you are creating as well as the contents within it.
Experience has taught me that when it comes to fashioning prayer bundles, unless you are creating very simple ones (such as offering bundles filled with cornmeal or tobacco), you will need to give yourself some time to assemble the materials you have chosen to work with. Maybe you have a well-stocked pantry but chances are you might need to order something in particular for your bundle so this is magic that can be created on the fly, but often rewards a little planning and forethought. Here is the process I follow.
First I gather my materials and lay them out on an altar cloth, which for me most of the time, is either a white or red bandanna (yes I know, fancy!). I take some time with each object I am going to incorporate into my prayer bundle, beginning with the vessel itself. If you are going to augment or alter your prayer bundle in some way – if you are going to fix a charm to it or stamp it then in most cases you will want to go ahead and do that first. This is a ritual act so if you are sewing something to the bundle, beading, creating fringe, etc, you will want to do so in a prayerful frame of mind.
Once you are ready to begin working with each object cultivate calmness. Sit or stand so that you are able to breathe fully and then hold each item in your hands for a few moments. Spinning Gold students of mine who work with woven cords may place one end of the cord on the object and hold the other end of the cord in their hands for a deeper connection. Then, commune with the object. Introduce yourself to it. Tell it what you are hoping to accomplish. Ask if it is willing to assist you in your endeavor. Be aware that sometimes the answer will be no and if that is the case my advice is don’t force the issue. Ask the object what it wants to be called and how you can best take care of it. You will often find that specific objects in your prayer bundles need to be fed from time to time with various substances. Make notes as you go. As you can see this part of the process can take a bit of time, especially if you have more than three items you are adding to the prayer bundle, so it makes sense for this part to be day one of your prayer bundle magic-making.
After connecting to each part of the prayer bundle, gather up all of the materials on the cloth you have laid them out on and hold them in both hands, connecting to the prayer bundle as a whole. Follow the same process of cultivating calmness, discovering if your prayer bundle has a specific name, and learning how your prayer bundle might want to be fed.
Next, if you are including a paper petition in the prayer bundle go ahead and write it out. Anoint it in the corners and center with an anointing oil, saliva, tears, or blood, depending on the purpose of the prayer bundle. If you are including personal concerns like your hair or nails I recommend placing them in the center of the petition paper and then folding it so that they are contained within the paper.
Now it is time to place the objects inside of the bundle. This should be done in a light liminal state. If you are working with any hard objects like coins, crystals, pieces of metal, wood, or roots then you may want to anoint them with a sacred oil, saliva, tears or blood – again, depending on the purpose of the prayer bundle. Begin with the petition paper, next goes any hard, larger, objects, finally if you are adding any dried herbs or powders you can take a piece of paper, put them on it, create a funnel with it and funnel them into the prayer bundle.
Once you are sure that everything you wish to put into your prayer bundle has been placed within it, it is time to seal the bundle. There are many different traditions on how to do this, but a simple way I seal my bundle is to “breathe in a blessing” on the bundle and keep the purpose for the bundle firmly in my mind and heart as I do so. Then, as I breathe out I exhale that breath into the bundle itself and quickly seal it in whatever way I wish. This breath blesses the bundle with a bit of myself, affirming the connection between me, my purpose, and the sacred object.
After the bundle has been sealed it is time to enliven it, to get its spirit stirring and working. Again, traditions vary but I was taught to first anoint the bundle with a bit of anointing oil or my saliva, then hold the bundle in my hands and speak over it, stating my purpose and asking for its aid in free form words. In my experience this part may start out a bit awkward but as it builds in power and purpose the words take on a rhythm and cadence all their own. Of course you can choose to write something out or recite something formally if that is more to your liking. The point is that with words, breath, and body movement – yes, you should be moving your body in some way as you enliven your prayer bundle, you start to wake up the energy in the little bundle and you will feel it flicker in your hands like a candle flame or a tiny bird. At that moment raise the bundle to your heart, to your lips, and finally to your head and conclude your blessing with an “amen” or “may it be so” or “it is done.”
The ways that you will work with your prayer bundle really depend on what purpose the bundle was made for. If this is a long term charm that you plan on wearing then often just wearing the bundle is enough to actively engage with it. You can take that a step further by talking with your bundle – just as you would a lodestone or a plant – or bringing your bundle with you when you do active imagination work. In many cases these long term relationships lead to all kinds of interesting things. I have personally experienced and had clients and students confirm that their prayer bundles have warned them of oncoming danger, provided needed support during times of emotional crisis, and facilitated rapid physical healing – even in instances when those qualities were not originally part of the bundle’s purpose. If you are working with a long term prayer bundle then I find that it is a good idea to cense it in sacred smoke at least once a week and to anoint it with a ritual oil. If you make a habit of doing this on the same day and same time then you will find that the actions carry even more magical weight. Most importantly though, you need to talk to your prayer bundle and find out how it would like you to work with it.
As mentioned above, it is a good idea to feed your prayer bundle with sacred smoke and/or a ritual oil on a weekly basis. This keeps the bundle enlivened and well nourished and, more importantly, it gives you some time to sit and be with your magical talisman, so that your relationship with it can deepen. You will notice after years of working with your prayer bundle that it begins to get a little funky on the outside. This is especially true if it is made of cloth. So it is a good idea to designate one day a year (and perhaps more if you sweat a lot or do manual labor while wearing your bundle) for washing and restoring your prayer bundle. Follow these steps in order to do this.
1. Untie or unseal the prayer bundle. Empty out all of the contents of your prayer bundle. Separate any hard objects like larger roots, coins, crystals, minerals, etc to one side and any dried herbs, personal concerns, and petition papers to the other.
2. Turn your bag inside out and remove any remaining debris. At this point you have a choice to make: do you want to re-use the same bag or do you want to use a new bag? I re-use as much as possible personally. But you have choices. You can choose to re-use the bag as is. You might decide to wash the bag first, you may hand wash it or wash it in the washing machine – I have done both. Just pay attention to any specific cleaning instructions related to the material your bag is made from. You may turn your bag inside out and use it that way or you can cut your bag up and sew part of it into a new prayer bundle. You can also work with an entirely new prayer bundle and if you choose to do this then it is best to burn the old bag and scatter the ashes at a four way crossroads.
3. Take some time to attune to each of the hard items. Re-anoint them with saliva or ritual oil and make sure that they are still willing and able to work with you. If they are not then bury them in your yard or simply give them back to the earth by placing them at the base of a healthy tree.
4. Read over your petition, and keep it in mind as you create a new petition. When you are ready burn the old petition and scatter the ashes at a four way crossroads or bury them in your garden. Do the same with the old personal concerns as you will want to use fresh ones.
5. Sprinkle the old dried herbs and flowers on the ground around your home.
6. Re-make your prayer bundle following the above directions.
While some prayer bundles are meant to stay with you until the day you die, others are meant to be disposed of in various ways. Again, the method of ritual disposal depends in large part on the purpose of the bundle, but generally speaking you can offer up the bundle and let the elements and wild creatures take it – this is most usually done by hanging it from a tree. You may burn the bundle and either bury the ashes in your yard, at the base of a health tree, or scatter them at a crossroads. You may also sink your bundle into deep water or bury the bundle whole without burning it. Each method carries a distinct flavor and intention with it, so the best thing to do is think about why you made the bundle in the first place and go from there.
It is not without reason that prayer bundles and magical containers have been worked with throughout time by our ancestors. They hold and create boundaries for our prayers, wishes, and desires, often strengthening and concentrating them while give us a clear doorway into the Otherworld. May you enjoy making one for yourself!
Happy October!!! On the night of September 30th, as I was cleaning up from the Archangel Michael Feast Day, I glanced at my October calendar, and nearly started to hyperventilate. Oh. My. Goodness. We are now full-on in the season of magic, which means that I am full-on busy, add to that all of the school functions that happen in October, the birthdays (mine!!!) and anniversaries (also mine!!!) that also occur in October.
Looking at October, I began to feel what I can only describe as dread at all the busy-ness, which is NOT how I wanted to go into the month. So I stopped before panic mode truly set in, and I asked myself: OK, Bri – you know you have a lot going on this month, so what practices do you need to be really vigilant about in order to enjoy your favorite month of the year?
I thought about this question, and I felt into it just as I have my students do. I realized that I needed to commit to practices that really support me in feeling expansive when it comes to time and space. The month had not even started and I was feeling like I did not have either! For me, these practices are active imagination journeys – the kind we do in Spinning Gold and the kind I have taught in the Miracle Tree Sessions for several years now. They always begin with cultivating calmness, then my working place in the Otherworld always starts at the crossroads and I go from there. I was telling a friend of mine that the first part of the year, right up to this month, has felt like a huge out-breath. It has been so active. I have been so active. Writing a book, having a baby, traveling quite a bit over the summer, a full roster of students that I work with one on one…all really good things that I absolutely love and also all very outwardly active experiences.
Now that the skies are grayer and the weather will (maybe? hopefully!) start to cool down, I was struck so profoundly with the need to go inwards. For me that is more quiet time in my daily practice and prayers, planning with an eye to next year, and reading, reading, reading. I stayed away from reading books while I was writing my own because I needed to WRITE, but now I am making up for lost time and averaging about a book a day. Not even kidding. I’m reading fiction, non-fiction, and everything in between. I am spending time listening to podcasts and just soaking in inspiration and ideas and gorgeous words. This is better than any ten thousand dollar retreat – holding Heath, reading or listening to something interesting, then turning to my husband and talking with him about it. This, my friends, is pure gold in Briana-land.
So I’m reading, I’m cooking more, I’m making time and space to write, I’m playing with my three month old, I’m snuggling down with my seven year old and telling him a different version of Blue Beard or the Twelve Dancing Princesses or Iron Heinrich every night. I’m listening to my Holy Helpers. I feel the next wave of creative ideas and inspiration coming. I can see the shadows that wave is casting – good, robust, luminous-on-the-inside shadows. I can taste its depths, and I am taking care of myself, re-filling my cup, so that when it is ready to crest I will be ready.
These realizations turned what was looking like a pretty scraggly cat of a month into something glossy and plump, wild, and wise. A time of year that I am actually going to linger through and savor and enjoy. My birthday is this month on October 13th and on that same day Heath turns four months old. He continues to be a really happy child, reminding me to RELAX and PLAY and have FUN. Our seven year old, Jasper, teaches me how to be patient and to live within my creativity. J is a deeply artistic child (I’ve shared some of his drawings before and those of you who have met him in real life know what I am talking about). He is the kind of child who does not do something creative, he lives it. By which I mean, he has to be reminded as all 7 year olds do, to put on shoes and brush teeth and feed fish, but he does not have to be asked to play the piano from hi heart or to sit down and draw or to build something out of Jenga blocks. He just does it, as naturally as you please. And sometimes it is funny and sometimes it is weird, and sometimes it is deeply divine and makes you feel like angels striding through your living room. That is living within our creativity. My 7 year old is an excellent teacher and I am trying to keep up with the lessons.
This is also the month when I celebrate being married to be the most incredible man – for twelve years now! David is the best husband, best dad, best partner is business and in life I could ever have been blessed with. He is without a doubt my person, my guy, my love. Both my birthday and our anniversary will be celebrated with good food and forays into the forests as soon as the weather cools down and the mosquitoes become a little less blood thirsty. As I dance into my 38th year I just feel so grateful. So grateful to our gorgeous community, so grateful that I get to wake up and do work that I love with people that I love every single day. So grateful that my beloved and I get to spend our days together, working, wrangling, and loving each other as we do. It is not always easy, this magical, enchanted life; but I would not trade it for anything, and I cannot pretend to be anything other than deeply blessed. So many of you who are reading this have helped make that possible in countless big and small ways. My gratitude to all of you is truly boundless. And I have so many fun things coming up in 2019 to help show that gratitude. I cannot wait to tell you all about them – soon, soon!
A bunch of you have asked about the book and what is happening with it now. So we are now in the copy-editing phase of the production. This is a different kind of editing than what we were engaged in before – if book production was compared to a manicure, then this part is the application of the clear, fast drying top coat. It is important because it brings yet another level of cohesion to the entire manuscript (and it has us all bowing down in devotion to the Chicago Manual of Style). We are now in the last leg of the book formation journey. Any small changes I want to make to the book have to be made by October 31st (yes I know, how perfect is that?). After that day, any changes start to slow down the next leg of the book birthing process. So I am lingering over my book this month, spending a lot of time with it, taking it for walks, for long baths, going over every word and sentence, story and idea, because once it is out in the world on shelves and in hands, it is not mine any longer, it becomes yours, all of yours, and I want to give you something lovely and thought provoking and well-made.
I am also in the endorsement gathering phase. Getting endorsements is straight up going out into a neighborhood and knocking on a bunch of doors, and asking people who are known to be gifted in seeing and assessing and blessing if they will spare the time and the effort and take a moment to bless you, to bless your work. That’s what you are doing: you are asking for and gathering up blessings. It takes courage. Sometimes the answer is no. But often the answer is yes and the blessing received is so much more than the seeker could have ever imagined. There are more pieces around the book that I will be asking you about soon as I need your input and opinions.
I’ve also turned my attention to writing new material, starting with a long article about Witches that many of you emailed me about and generously shared your thoughts. I love those exchanges. It usually takes me a few days to get back to all of the emails but I love them. It means so much and it is such a blessing to be able to hear what you have to say, what my words encourage you to think about and speak out about in your own lives. That is, hands down, my favorite part of the internet, and we do not even have to do it through social media! I can just write something and send it out to y’all and y’all show up with brilliance every single time. How stellar is that?
So I wrote earlier about re-filling my cup, and here are some of the ways I have been doing it. I have been reading this and this and this. Listening to this. Playing with this and covering myself with these. And I have also made some things for you because I love making things for you. I wrote a little guide on how to incorporate astrology into your planning processes – I call it Planning by Starlight and you can snag it here – totally free: enjoy! I have a blessing for the New Moon in Libra right here for you. And I also want to remind you that I have a litany of blessings if you ever need to be washed over with blessings. Theresa and I have a new podcast episode up. There are also a bunch of articles on working with, honoring, and celebrating our Beloved Dead as we enter into Ancestor Season. And reminder, if you want to know what the latest offerings are, you need to sign up for this email list as I keep this one commercial free. And I wish this for you: a decadent, delicious, sweet as honey, October for you – a time that you are really able to enjoy and appreciate and dive into.