But They’ll Say I’m Crazy

Foundations

M

iracles,

Blessed Full Moon in Virgo – the sign of sovereignty as well as physical and mental health. It is no coincidence that these qualities go together. Sovereignty is a certain kind of self-sufficiency. Without physical and mental well-being, self-sufficiency is diminished. In more extreme cases, the self-sufficiency that goes with sovereignty is altogether undermined. Physical and mental well-being are difficult topics to approach, not only for Sacred Artists but most people, because they strike at the roots of who we are and how we live, here and now.

When it comes to physical health there are the normal types of resistance. Perhaps the largest one is that it’s expensive. But even more, finding a good doctor – one who is not only competent, but who you feel really knows you, and can work with you – is actually hard. Finding a good alternative health practitioner is even harder. It takes time, and it takes energy. In magical work, there are a number of situations where the first piece of advice to a would-be client is that they need to go see a trained medical practitioner, a doctor….stat. They may need to have their blood pressure assessed, their cholesterol checked; they may need a healthier sleep regimen, or they may need to look into effective alternative treatments to over-prescribed drugs. None of these things sound remotely magical and yet – believe me – they make a HUGE difference in the magic we make and in the magic we seek out. Perhaps the greatest secret to magic (ready?) is that it lives where we would least expect it, and it is on the side of optimization, of taking care what you have already and bringing out its deepest hidden potential, tapping into the power currents that already lay sleeping inside of every part of our ordinary lives. In the middle of the mess is the shining one. So if you want more magic in your life, the starting point is clear: begin with a strong dose of self-care.

By far the biggest resistance I encounter around physical health check-ups is that they expose things that we would rather keep hidden away, unseen, undisclosed, and undiagnosed. I understand. There is no one who would rather curl up with her cats and children and be left to her own devices than me. And yet, it is also true that our relationship to the unseen translates across the board. Meaning that you cannot be in right relationship with the aspects of the unseen and the liminal that are spiritual if you are ignoring the unseen parts of your home, your family, or your own physical body. They are all of a piece. This is not to say that our ability to make magic and live enchanted lives is over if we have physical limitations. If that were the case there would be no magic to speak of! Rather, it is to say that it is the relationship we have with those limits, with the things we would rather not look at, that determines in large part what kind of enchantment we can experience every day.

And, as true as this is for our physical bodies, it is even more true for our mental health. For this is where the relationship between soulful seekers and health becomes particularly dicey – in the mental arena. Why? Because so many of the things we do and so many of the experiences we have can be and have been, branded as crazy pure and simple. For all of the advances that we have made when it comes to mental health, for all of the research that shows us that “healthy” behaviors, thoughts, and emotions are not so much divided from unhealthy ones by a sharp line but rather are found on opposing ends of a large and vast spectrum, the fear of being branded crazy, insane, and a kook runs widely and deeply through our community.

Chances are you have had special experiences that no one talks about openly, that you yourself don’t even know how to talk about openly. You feel alone, but you are not alone. Countless people have, around the world, and throughout human history, experienced things that today we do not talk about for fear of being branded “weird”. Often these experiences come unannounced at night during sleep, or when we are grieving, or when we fall in love, or in many other moments during waking hours. All of these moments touch upon the sacred, but our present habit of mind discounts and forgets them – sees past them, turns the other way.

I sometimes refer to my work as “normalizing” the so-called weird experiences we all have. What we take to be normal and what is in truth normal are out of whack, need to be brought back into alignment or right relationship. Because the experience of the sacred is a common human experience, perhaps another way to describe what I do in the Sacred Arts is about “communalizing” these experiences. I’m not a mental health professional, but I don’t have to be in order to know that most people feel connected to the dead in one way or another; most people have had experiences where they simply know things are so, most people have felt themselves move between the worlds at one point or another.

These are all common examples of Sacred Arts practices that we do not talk about and we do not teach our children about because we don’t want to be seen as crazy. And so, another generation of Sacred Arts knowledge is lost, and we have to cast ever further back into our lineage to find the people and teachings that spoke about these things openly and frankly. Our old ones usually will. They have nothing to lose in a society that often equates the aging process with going soft in the head. Our children will speak openly because they have not yet learned to censor themselves or conform to the current trend of societal norms. But in between the old ones and the children is a great swath of people who simply pretend that a good chunk of their experience actually never happens. That is until they talk to someone like me. Then the gloves come off and the sharing gets real and I am able to say, ah yes, so you have experienced this too? The relief at knowing that we are not alone, that we are not “crazy”, is so absolute that it is not surprising to find people moved to tears.

However, this begs the question about mental illness and really all illness, all imperfections. They aren’t really the kinds of things that you either have or you don’t in most cases. Mental disequilibrium, for instance, is something any of us can slip into and out of, from time to time. So what about those of us who have normal, magical and liminal experiences AND suffer from anxiety or depression or schizophrenia or limited range of motion or cancer or chronic pain or some other limitation – then what? Can we not make magic? Should we simply accept that some people can have enchanted lives but not everyone? Not us? If you believe the magazines and the Instagram accounts, what we often see is that magic is equated to perfection. So there is a message: in order to make magic, you have to be perfect. There are other messages too: in order to make magic you have to be rich or you have to be poor, you have to be a certain color, you need to be a lady or a dude…we have all seen the categories that are more noticeable for all that they exclude as opposed to those that they include.

It is thoughts like these that make me love, love, LOVE, my friend and student, Esmé Wang’s new book, the Collected Schizophrenias. Esmé is known and beloved to some in our community and to others, her name might be brand new. She is an award-winning fiction writer who also happens to suffer from a chronic illness and schizophrenia. Esmé is lovely. She is always beautifully put together. She went to Yale. She has great taste in luscious red lipsticks. She loves her dog and her husband. She writes beautiful, true, words and she teaches people around the world how to work with their limitations. She also suffers from one of the most stigmatized mental illnesses out there. Esmé doesn’t get to worry about whether she is called crazy or not – that’s already happened. What Esmé does get to do and what she does beautifully every single day is getting to decide how to live with ALL of the parts of herself, including the stuff she would rather not see or deal with or think about. Over the years I have watched her show up, make use of the Sacred Arts, and stand in her own sovereignty. She is one of the sanest, most talented, and most dedicated people I know. I was honored that Esmé included a chapter about our work together in her book (the final chapter, entitled Beyond the Hedge), but I am more excited about the book as a whole because it does what the best books do – it tries to understand something complicated – in this case, mental illness – from the inside out. That is a worthy task, one that can benefit our entire world and one that is especially of good use to our community of soulful seekers. I think Esmé’s book has teachings for all of us who have ever deceived ourselves about our experiences on the shaky grounds of “but they’ll say I’m crazy.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. Maybe that too is a part of real sovereignty.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Hearth and Home Vol. 11 The Angel’s Share

Foundations

M

iracles,

Happy and blessed New Moon in Capricorn! This is a moon for business and strategy, plotting and planning. It falls at the beginning of the New Year when everyone is all about planning anyway. Our visions of sugar plums have been replaced by bullet journaling, filofaxes, the magic that is JetPens, and of course the Sacred Arts Book of Hours.

I love planning and planners. I always have. My Venus is in Virgo which means that organization is like catnip for me. I especially love working with astrology and planning by starlight. Years ago, when I was pregnant with Jasper, our oldest, one of my colleagues asked me how I was doing everything that I did. I was over 6 months pregnant and my business was exploding with both one-on-one work and teaching. My response? A ruthlessly organized and followed calendar. Plotting everything out and physically making time for each thing on my calendar – and then actually following through with it – allowed me to grow my business while also fostering the growth of a baby.

At the end of 2017, when I knew I was pregnant with our second child and had a book deal (and therefore a book to write) in my hot little hand, I realized that I needed to take planning to a whole new level. You name it, and not only did I have it on my calendar, I had auto-scheduled it in my email server and on social media. Every “t“ was crossed and every “i” was dotted, and everything had been triple checked by myself and my team.

Whew. Does it sound exhausting? Planning actually doesn’t have to be. It is very clear to me that I could not have done everything that I did in 2018 if I had not allowed some very well made plans to shape and inspire my work. Yes, inspire! Planning has given me the time and space that I needed to write my book and be with my little guys, the time I took to make and plot them was time incredibly well spent.

For those of us who never feel like we have the time or space to do what our heart longs for – actually being able to have the time and space is sometimes all you need to catch the scent of the wild animal we call magic. As sacred artists, then, I think it’s high time we give the art and practice of planning it’s proper place…as a much needed sacred art in the 21st century.

After one of the most exciting years for me both personally and professionally, does it surprise you to hear that my New Year’s Resolution is to slow down in the right way and not plan things in detail? On the one hand, this is hilarious…I have a book coming out this year. I will be traveling some to promote it, teaching classes, and I have a whole bunch of new exciting things to share with you all. Plus, Heath will turn one this year. Those of you who know young children know that this means he will start walking and talking. And if Jasper at one was any indication, that means that all of the silverware in my household has to go up on the counters – especially the knives – and all the outlets have to be plugged up VERY securely. So…slow down? Ha!

But I am. In the right way, and this is key. And for me, part of that means – gulp! – not planning everything down to the tiniest detail. There are several reasons for this. This article gave one good one that has to do with productivity and the endless, ceaseless, calls to be more productive (whatever that means) and how they are a bit, or a lot, tyrannical.

Plans are sneaky. You create them, and you feel in charge. But they have a way of turning that around – so that you are tempted to stay on task and keep to the plan even when that doesn’t feel right, even when that isn’t really in alignment with what you are focused on or what your community is asking for. This did not happen to me. In the middle of one of my busiest periods last year I heard a clear call to offer up a certain kind of magic – a healing kind – to the community. It involved consecrating crystals over a full moon cycle and sending out readings to those who needed them and I had ZERO time for it, but I did it because I heard the call. And when I learned that there were some people in our community healing from heartbreak and cancer and physical abuse…well, it made sense and affirmed what I have always known which is that my Holy Helpers know better than I do. So I listened and responded.

But it was hard, harder than it should have been, because my plans had gone from creating more space, freedom, and time, to locking me into routines and commitments that did not allow much room for spontaneity and the magic of the unexpected. Making room for the unexpected is something I am devoted to – I think in our world and maybe in all worlds, we have to be. The unexpected illness, playdate, gallery opening, writing opportunity, teaching engagement, friend from out of town who bought a surprise plane ticket and showed up, job loss, financial hit – the unexpected is the thread shot through with the glitter and the grit that makes the warp and weft of our lives so very interesting and precious. In whiskey making there is a term to explain the 2% loss of liquid that occurs during the ageing process (usually occurring in wooden barrels), it is known as the Angel’s Share – this is the offering up of whiskey that is made to the angels (or if you talk to old whiskey makers from old parts of the world, the faeries). It is not perceived as a loss but rather an offering.

So I am doing the same thing with my plans for 2019 in the name of slowing down in the right way. This is where planning is lifted to a whole new level – from a compulsive activity to a genuine art. Plans will have to be made, charted and plotted. But there will also be spaces left clear and clean and unfilled. In the name of creativity, spontaneity, and the unexpected. I’m leaving spaces open so that I can hear what I need to hear, know what I need to know, and do what I need to do…for myself and my family and for our greater community. Think of it as an offering to the angels and the faeries, the glitter and the grit.

Bri

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Read this the next time you decide magic doesn’t work for you

Ceremony and Ritual

D

ear Miracles: This post was inspired by conversation I had with the ever-so talented Aidan of Tveir Hrafnar.

Consider the following hypothetical situations:

A. You prayed and hoped your “Ex” would return to you, but they didn’t.  You were so sure your prayer wasn’t answered. But then you turned around and hurt someone else in the exact same way or even worse than your “Ex” had hurt you.  You want to deny it, but cannot – it’s just staring you in the face.   What’s happening here?

B. The once in a lifetime job fell through, even though you created a beautiful ritual to make sure it happened. You were sure your magic failed.  But then you met your beloved and started an affair that required you to move two states away. What happened?

C. You made ceremony to create real and lasting change in your life…and then had to hold on tight for a wild and rowdy ride. You think your ceremony didn’t work because your life seemed to become even more of a mess, somehow more disordered. But what was really happening?

For sacred artists it is all too easy to blame magic for all the times it seems to fall through and fail.

But just as genuine prayer is not merely asking The Deity for stuff (Dear Lord I want a shiny new car…), genuine magic is not mere wishful thinking or wish fulfillment. For prayers to be answered, for magic to really work, we need to work. A large part of that work means cultivating a certain quality or frame of mind and heart conducive for that work, and the root of this is learning how to pay or give our attention to our experience – both inner and outer – than perhaps we have ever done before.

The experiences themselves I related above teach us this.  We can learn a lot from our actual experiences, if only we can listen and look…and be patient.  Someone who really pays attention to actual experience begins to live more and more by a single rule: expect the unexpected.

In the three cases above, something unexpected happened. Magic happened.  An opportunity happened.  You thought you wanted your “Ex” back. “Nope!” said the Deep Blue Universe. “Huh-uh. You need do some serious soul-searching and get your ‘inner’ house in order.”

You thought it would be so great to get that job, and really wanted it.  “Really?” the Great Whirling Dervish said, eyebrows raised. “That’s what you want? My, but you really are a little slow. What you want is — Bam! Passion!”

You believed lasting change would be super easy and tidy, like a row of pretty colorful bottles on a shelf you can buy in a store. “Wrong again!” laughed the Wide Sparkling Cosmos. “Here, witness a miracle. Here it is. Right in front of you.”

Why is this a useful way of looking at our work and it effects?  Because it is one that brings more clarity and wisdom, but also wastes less time. The frame of mind we want to adopt is not only more objective, disinterested, even scientific –  but it is also characterized by a sense of learning and a sense of adventure, an attitude of “what’s next!” or “what’s around the corner!”  This is, by the way, what fairy tales can teach us – what it means to cultivate a sense of creative adventure in our practice and life.  This is no bland, anesthetized sort of passive open awareness, but one that is growing, active, wondering, probing, excited and truly open.

It is this vigorous openness in which real magic begins to take shape.  Then those moments, often hidden, often overlooked, challenge us and put us to the test!

 

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

How to Interpret Signs and Omens

Divination and Dreams

D

ear Miracles,

Is it a sign? What does it mean?

Those two questions come up in our community all the time. Sacred artists are sensitive, thoughtful, highly attuned folks. We know that the cosmos is vast, that there is more to it than meets they eye, and that one of the primary ways to communicate with this great, magical world is through signs and omens. But…when it comes to interpreting those signs and figuring out what they mean for us we often get tripped up.

Behold, a very brief how-to on interpreting signs~

  • Ask and ye shall receive. Traditionally an individual would ask for a sign or omen. Your request should specific enough to actually manifest in a particular way but general enough to leave room for flexibility. So if you are looking for an indication on how you did on that final exam you might ask to see a raptor flying as an indication of success but you would not ask to see a red-tailed hawk flying due east at 3pm on a Saturday.
  • Look within. As soon as people see a sign or what might be a sign 9 times out of 10 they reach for a book or look to consult with an “expert.” But here is the truth — the only expert on signs and omens you receive is you! You are going to have specific and unique interpretations of the signs you receive, maybe they agree with another person’s opinion and maybe they don’t, but you can know that your interpretation will always be most correct for yourself.
  • See what’s there and not what you want to see. Our default position tends to be that signs are affirming us in whatever we desire. Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If for instance you ask for a sign on whether or not a friend is loyal and shortly after a dog crossed your path you might assume that because many people see dogs as loyal it means your friend is loyal. But if you personally had an incident with a dog that turned on you for whatever reason, take that into account, it informs your relationship with this sign and may be indicating that your friend is not as loyal as you think.
  • Keep an ongoing list of your personal omens. Tarot readers have long observed that specific cards come up again and again and give them very tailored information — this is not about the card, its about the relationship between the reader and that particular image. So it is with signs. You are the expert on you which means that you are the expert on your signs — keep a running list of what you see and what those things may mean. Then you have your own handy reference on signs and omens.

 

Here is a handy template to use whenever you are interpreting signs, omens, and symbols:

 

I asked for the following sign__________to indicate:_______________.

The sign I received was:________________.

The way I feel about that sign is:_______________, leading me to suspect that the outcome indicated is______________.

 

Go forth in confidence and clarity!

Have you ever received a sign or omen? Tell me about it!

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.

Many Branches–Going Bright with Candlesmoke Chapel

Learning and Community

D

ear Miracles,

I’m so delighted to introduce you all to two more of my favorite Sacred Artists. Joseph and Sara Magnuson are friends, colleagues, and collaborators who make beautiful and truly magical spiritual products. From sublime ritual oils to sweet sugar jars and of course their stellar candle services — these two run one of the most authentic spiritual supply businesses I have come across in years!

In their own words: Candlesmoke Chapel is a husband and wife collaboration dedicated to crafting high quality magical and spiritual goods. We’ve been crafting our own supplies for years and are proud to offer our products and services to others. Our work and studies include traditional witchcraft, hoodoo, genealogy, folklore, and herb lore. We are always working to better our own lives and are committed to helping others achieve their desires through the use of magical and spiritual practices.

Find them on the World Wide Web:

www.candlesmokechapel.com
www.etsy.com/shop/candlesmoke

1.) Candlesmoke Chapel fills many different roles, but one of the things that you two do beautifully is creating homemade spiritual supplies–how did you get started in this work?

Both of us have been interested in and studied various paths and traditions our whole lives. After many years of learning and practicing, we found ourselves drawn to the principles behind conjure and rootwork. This became a jumping off point for us, so while we don’t practice conjure and rootwork exclusively, we find that the tangible aspects of working with candles, roots, herbs, oils, incense, and washes speaks to us. We believe that having these items to physically work with help to focus one’s intent and purpose.

In working with these types of items, we’ve been in and out of every botanica and occult shop we’ve come across. Even though there seem to be lots of options out there, we weren’t always satisfied with the quality and the general feeling behind most of the products we found. So we decided to make spiritual supplies for our own personal work and quickly found that they were powerful and effective. We started giving items to friends as gifts and doing work for people we knew for free. The feedback we received was awesome and we’ve just kept growing!

2.) You also offer readings through Candlesmoke Chapel–what is your favorite subject to read on and what question would you like to never be asked again?

We’re going to answer this question separately because we each do different types of readings…

Joseph – I read with the Rider-Waite-Smith Tarot and my favorite kind of readings are open-ended general questions. I love it when the client just says, “tell me what you see.” This gives me the opportunity to really open up to the cards and the client’s energy and look at any and all possibilities. I really enjoy all the readings I do, but if I had to pick I’d say the most difficult readings are the third or fourth go-around on the same issue; when the client doesn’t like the answer they got the first couple of times and they keep wanting another reading to see if something different will present itself. These are difficult because I know they’re unhappy with their situation, but I won’t just tell them what they want to hear.

Sara – I read with the Animal Medicine Cards and my favorite kind of readings are about how people can move forward with something in their life. I love questions about feeling stuck in some way and guiding the client to the animal spirits and energies that they can learn from and call upon to bring themselves up to the place they want to be. I love helping people see the connections between other living creatures and themselves and watching that “aha” moment when the client sees how it all comes together. Like Joseph, I enjoy all the readings I do but, due to the nature of the cards I use, the most difficult question I get is “tell me what my spirit animal is.” People are usually asking this question without a real understanding of what that means and they’re typically not interested in doing the inner work necessary to discover this themselves. It can be challenging to explain to someone who doesn’t want to look within themselves that no one can tell you what your spirit animal(s) is/are.

3.) Talk to us about bottle spells–how do they work and what you do guys love about them?

We love bottle spells and especially sugar jars! The idea behind any type of bottle or container spell is to create a magical battery. You’re creating a small space that is super-concentrated with ingredients suited to your purpose. Immersed in that super-concentrated space is a paper with your desire written on it, your handwriting on the paper adding more power to the purpose of the container. Add some personal concerns, like a strand of hair, and this can be some powerful stuff! We create the jar for your purpose, you add your written paper and personal concerns and we provide you with instructions on how to work the Sweetening Jar on your own.

There are tons of different types of bottle spells and we focus on Sweetening Jars, specifically sugar jars. They can be made with many different kinds of sweeteners, but our preference is for sugar because it tends to manifest movement in a situation more quickly than something like honey. There’s also a physicality involved with shaking a sugar jar – seeing the magical ingredients tossing about; hearing the sound it makes and getting into a rhythm like a musical instrument. Our Sweetening Jars currently focus on romantic love situations, but we’ve done custom jars to help create a peaceful home and to help draw more clients to a business. There are lots of situations that can use a little sugar!

4.) You are a married couple doing awesome work together-are there any particular challenges or benefits that you find in working together on all your different projects?

One of the biggest benefits for us is that we’re passionate about the same thing. We’ve seen lots of situations where one person can’t be very open about what they’re doing or even has to hide it because their significant other doesn’t get it or isn’t into it. Yes, we’re a married couple, but we’re also best friends – and who doesn’t love hanging out with their best friend! There are also two sets of eyes on everything we make. It’s invaluable to have someone else that you trust to smell, touch and test a new creation; it’s the in-house quality control department. Luckily, we have a very honest relationship so the quality control department takes no BS! We openly and honestly give each other our feedback without the worry of hurting any feelings. The best benefit is getting to collaborate; we love putting our minds together to develop new products and services. Even though we’re walking this path together, we each have different sets of knowledge and our own ways of looking at things. If one of us doesn’t know something or can’t figure something out, the other one can almost always find the solution. The only real challenge for us is arguing over who gets to use the big work table and who has to clean up!

5.) If you could give one piece of wisdom to my readers today, what would it be?

Trust yourself. Completely block out what anyone else thinks and do what you feel called to do. Keep doing what you feel passionate about and practicing what you believe in because it will shine through in everything you do. Not only have we learned this lesson in our own work, but we also run into these issues with our clients. This advice is not just for someone following a path in life, but also for those who are working to change a situation. It’s not just about big-picture, life-choice questions and even applies to the little things. After you get a reading or use a product, trust yourself. Block out all the extraneous stuff and do what you feel called to do. Practice what you believe in and the right path will appear.

magic, miracles: receive my lunar letters

ARRIVING on full moons each month.