Monday, March 27, 2017

Meeting Magic Half Way, Part III: Secondhand Magic (All About Cleaning Pre-Owned Magical Items) by Iris Groveland and Belle Bramble

Iris and I were chatting the other day about magical tools. We both like to haunt thrift shops and secondhand bookstores, so many of our magical tools have histories. We’ve got stones, books, cards, jewelry, and many other things used for mundane and magical purposes.

Feng Shui tends to frown upon secondhand items, and many magical folks won’t use tools that have belonged to other practitioners. Granted, sometimes things can come with negative histories – whether they’re teacups or Tarot cards. But there’s no need to fear the secondhand! Re-using and re-purposing all manner of magical stuff is good for the environment and the wallet. Iris and I are here to share our tips and tricks for cleaning magical tools to give them a fresh start.

Belle: I tend to accumulate a lot of books and Tarot cards, magical and otherwise. For used paper items like this, I give them a good dusting with salt and blow it away outside. Passing particularly energy-sticky books and cards through some incense or sage smoke also works. For books that are a little stinky, popping them in the freezer for a week or so seems to help, followed by spreading open the book in sunshine for an afternoon outdoors. I’m sure my nosy neighbors are quite intrigued by my reading material, but that works for me!  Whenever I get a new deck of cards, I also envision the deck in a bubble of white light from the Goddess, introduce myself, and ask for their assistance as I work.

Iris: The first used deck I ever received was such a mixed bag. On one hand, the deck felt dirty. It was just a Rider Waite deck that clearly had a lot of miles on it, and there’s something about that which I quietly respect. I didn’t touch them for years, and I’ve still never done a reading with them. And the only times they came out were as a prop for live action role-playing. I kept them wrapped in a dish towel I had tie-dyed once upon a time, so at least they were wrapped in something bright and cheery. But I never could bring myself to get rid of them and I’ve had them for probably 20 years. I still may never use them for reading, but I felt that they were simply now mine. I honestly feel here that an item will carry the energy you allow it to, and that we need to remember our own energy, our own intent and will, and take control over those feelings of ookiness. They live in the same drawer as all my other decks, and while I’ve never formally cleansed them, I just feel they’re OK now. Squatter’s rights, I suppose. They mean something to me as a piece of sentiment, and that has a lovely power on its own.

Belle: That’s a really good point about keeping cards in a bag or cloth to keep them happy. One of my good friends made me a lovely quilted bag that my go-to deck lives in. Most of my other decks seem to wind up living in scarves or cigar boxes. So many decks wind up smelling like tobacco!

How about stones? For magical stones, I do a quick internet search to see if the stone I want to clean is water or salt-friendly. I learned that lesson the hard way – I soaked a beautiful selenite egg in salt water overnight and ruined the shiny finish. For most ordinary stones, like quartz, a good soak in salt water cleans most of the gunk out and makes them sparkly fresh again. I feel that stones are endlessly programmable. They’re far older than any human who has ever held them, and saltwater, rainwater, or even burying them in the ground for a little while leaches any stuck or negative energy in them.  

Iris: Oh  yeah, check the water solubility first! And I agree with you; stones are tough. They sat in the raw earth for hundreds of thousands of years, withstanding all kinds of temperature and environmental changes and catastrophes. A little soap and water is not going to hurt them (unless it will in certain cases). Here, my trusty tools are simply an old toothbrush (a house cleaning necessity in any case) and soap and water (usually dish soap). They all go to the kitchen sink and get a good scrub. The toothbrush and soap are especially helpful with the raw stones, whose jagged edges are dust magnets. I like doing this on a nice, sunny day (usually one of the first as spring is emerging) or sometimes, I’ve done it on a rainy day. After everyone is spit polished, I set them outside to dry. In my apartment, I was lucky to have a little balcony they could sit on without being disturbed, but a sunny windowsill where they might not be an option will suffice, unless you have cats who like to knock things over, then you might need to improvise. To me, the sunshine itself does more of a thorough cleansing and blessing than I could do. They just feel better afterward. On a rainy day, I feel like the natural rain water is a also a blessing on its own. What could be a better rinse than that? Any natural water is going to pack just as much punch as I could. 

Belle: Yesss! Natural water is amazing. I keep a rain barrel for such purposes. I am really hoping someday to have property with a creek or stream, because that would be all kinds of handy! I’d probably be grabbing some of it to do magical laundry.

Speaking of which, I picked up a wonderful cape at a thrift store last year. I put it in the washing machine on the delicate cycle and put a bit of salt in with the cold water (spot-testing it first, of course). I sometimes feel like this is cheating in terms of clearing, but it seems to work. Similarly, I consider any stones that have gone through a cold wash cycle in my jeans pockets to be thoroughly cleansed. Because I’m lazy like that.

Iris: Same here! Work smarter, not harder! I use essential oils a lot in laundry anyway, and a little can go a long way toward not only making things smell good, adding extra bacteria-killing power, but putting the smack down on any bad energy that may have snuck in there. This can go for second hand goodies as well as something like your work clothes. Maybe it was just a day where you had people that were constantly assaulting even your stoutest protections and you just want to take the extra step. A few drops of sage oil in the rinse cycle and we’re done. I love the idea of cheating with a pinch of salt in lieu of oils, though. It’s not just for dinner, folks! Also, I feel that the ability to line dry clothing is also a big thing here. To me, there is nothing that is going to clear something out better than Nature’s own handiwork. Some sunshine and a nice breeze will make anything feel fresh and new, no matter how it came to you. Often, because I am also lazy, things get left on the line in the rain, and that’s OK, too. Line drying is not only a great environmental alternative; it’s actually easier on your clothes or other textiles in the long run, and a little extra rinse can add a nice natural freshness on all levels.

Belle: Oooh, I love that! I have some wool dryer balls that I keep forgetting to use oil with. And I agree with you about line-drying. I swear, sunshine has a smell. There’s nothing that improves my sleep more than sun-dried sheets.

Iris: Sun dried sheets are the best. There is nothing like them at the end of the day.

Belle: What do you think about cleaning statuary and other fragile bits and bobs? I have a really lovely polymer clay statue of Bast on my altar. I dust it, but have a hard time figuring out how to clean it, because it’s so darn fragile.

For things that are glass, I often cheat and use the dishwasher. I put glass candleholders (which are often mason jars for me) into the freezer first to pop off all the crudded-on wax and send ‘em through the dishwasher with a handful of salt and a bit of vinegar in the rinse-aid reservoir.

Iris: I love a fat, dry paint brush for cleaning the more fragile items that maybe can’t take any soap or water or even dusting polish. It gets the dust off without scratching any delicate paints or finishes, it gets in all the crack and crevices, and while this may sound like the pinnacle of laziness, I find it gives you a little one-on-one time with the object at hand. Because you have to pay attention to what you’re doing, you get tricked into a mindfulness exercise and I find myself talking to the object at hand, sort of checking in with how it’s feeling. It’s a wonderful time to focus your intent without any grand set up. I have a carved wooden Mother Mary figure from the Black Forest region in Germany and she’s just a treasure (she’s my Goddess stand-in a la The Mists of Avalon). This is a great time to say “thank you” for the gifts that object brings you as you give them a little refreshing bath.

My dreamcatchers are another group of items that require physical cleaning as well as cleansing and here again, the paint brush is my best friend. It’s gentle enough to get the dust off of the webbing and maybe even off any feathers, beads, yarn or other soft ornamentation. I love to hang them outside for a time, again, on a nice sunny or breezy day (No rain this time! Don’t want to get them wet!). Just like we talked about in making sure you give negative energy somewhere to go by opening a door or window, I like to clean my dream catchers outside. Obviously, the dust gets blown away and doesn’t just resettle elsewhere, but again, the wind and the sun and the collective spirit of Nature gets a chance to clean out that webbing on an energetic level better than I could.  Our tools work hard for us, and just like fishermen need to tend to their nets, I feel like giving my dream catcher webbing a breath of fresh air in lieu of my bad dreams is my way of saying thank you. I mean, I have to clean my coffee pot now and again, too, in order to keep it working properly. Why should my magical tools be any different?

Belle: Those are wonderful ideas. And I love the idea of taking time to thank our tools properly. Thank you so much for coming by to chat with me today! I really appreciate your advice in this area!

Readers…do you have any tips or tricks for cleaning your magical gear? Anything that’s particularly easy or difficult to clean? If so, let us know!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Meeting Magic Half Way, Part II: That Which No Longer Serves You

Please welcome back guest blogger Iris Groveland for more in her Meeting Magic Half Way series!

Meeting Magic Half Way
Part II
That Which No Longer Serves You
by Iris Groveland

                I took a yoga class where the teacher said something that completely changed how I look at not only my poses and what I was capable of in class, but, as cheesy as it sounds, many aspects of my life in general. “Do what serves you.” It sounds simple enough, really. Don’t do what doesn’t benefit you. But the simplicity of that is perhaps what makes it so easy to miss as a decision-making concept.

                When we talk about meeting magic half way in regards to cleaning up our space and clearing out perceived or actual demons, what we’re really talking about is clearing out old, stale, or negative energy in order to create a space where we can really create, grow and thrive, both physically and metaphysically. Cleaning up the dust and the cat litter and putting toys away is great, but when we take it a step further, we’re really talking about is honest self-examination. We talked about making sure we clean our mirrors to allow us an opportunity for clear reflection and in that spirit, we’re going to be using reflection to help us deal with the demons that might be weighing us down without our knowledge: Our stuff.

                De-cluttering can be an inclusive part of your collective cleaning/cleansing process or it can easily be an independent exercise, as it does require its own, unique sort of energy and intention. Be aware that it’s not something that has to happen all in one go, either. It is a steadily flowing thing, like a small stream that’s gently bubbling away in the background, reminding you to stay, as my Drill Sergeant was keen on saying, “flexible as water.” Stay mindful and stay present, just like you would in a ritual, but be aware of the flow of your own energy. Be forceful when you need to, but don’t rush. Keep your intention clear or, as with magic, results may vary, and not always in your favor. We’re fighting demons, people. Keep your head on a swivel.

                MENTAL/EMOTIONAL HEALTH DISCLAIMER:  My experience in this comes from years of moving (as many young adults do in the beginning of their independent lives), often in small, shared spaces, and the loss of my parents and my last grandparent over three years’ time. My own work was as much the process of grieving as it was the physical process of reducing, and doing so responsibly. I cannot say that I don’t have regrets or that circumstances were always such that I could take my time. However, even without the loss of someone, there will be no uncertain work of real, true blue LETTING GO on all levels, so I want to take a moment to honor the work we will be doing. As you go forth, the balancing act will be between staying on task and being gentle with yourself.  Just like going into battle, a blind, headlong rush usually just ends up in injury. Take your time. Strategize. Set goals. Make lists. One day at a time. One box at a time. You will emerge stronger, but not if you stretch yourself too far, too fast. Just like you ground and center before a ritual, make sure you take the time to do the same, as it will seem overwhelming at times.
As we mentioned, this is going to be a time of reflection that may very well border on meditation. There is not necessarily any right or wrong place to start, and some points will be more obvious or easier than others. Clothes that your kids have outgrown is too easy and, like we talked about, something that happens on a fairly regular basis. But if we’re talking about our magical lives, or taking care of our spirit, there are questions we need to ask ourselves, and these questions easily double for the mundane stuff in our “normal” lives.

Does this object hold the same meaning for me as when I first acquired it? How has that meaning changed? Does it feel empty? Is there sorrow or any negative association attached to this item? Is there any hint of hesitancy with the item?

Did I acquire it because I thought I had to? What did I acquire as a one-time use only item? This is a really good question when going through your magical tool box and altar set ups.

When was the last time I actually used this item? This is where I will play with timelines. If I honestly cannot remember the last time I wore/used something, chances are that it’s only taking up space. Or, if I’m still waffling, I’ll set a deadline. I’ll actually speak to the item: “OK, you. If I haven’t used/worn you by _x-amount of time/date/season_, then you’ve got to go.

Is my sacred space dirty because there are so many things on it that the task of cleaning it starts to feel like way too much work? (This is a very big red flag that some simplification is in order.) Your sacred space could be your kitchen, your desk, your craft table, your garden shed, or something as simple as a windowsill. It can be a good starting point as any place that should make you say “Ahhhh,” in terms of peaceful relief, but instead makes you say, “Ugh,” as though you just saw your ex in the grocery store.

If at any point, you open a box or a closet and hear yourself saying, “Oh! I forgot I even had this,” this is a clue. If you forgot you even had it, chances are better than not that you don’t need it.

You may often be mired down by what others will tell you, and like wading through a thick swamp, this also takes effort and dedication to navigate. It will be exhausting at times, requiring a lot of smiling and nodding while you do what serves you behind the scenes of others’ expectations. For example, I had (and still do) an attic full of antiques after losing so many family members over such a short time. My ears were filled with “Some of those might be valuable, so don’t just throw them away.” From a magical perspective, you may get a lot of opinions about the “proper” way to dispose of any kind of semi-sacred item. Tracking down the value and finding a buyer for every antique bud vase I inherited could be a full time job on its own. Likewise, it could be that your sacred items are only as sacred as the intention you had assigned to them. To someone looking at it on a shelf at the local thrift shop, it’s just a figurine. It seriously is.

Sentimental value is a hard field of play, but again, honest introspection is your battle buddy here. Stuffed animals, your children’s drawings and school projects, your hair band concert t-shirts, your grandmother’s costume jewelry; all of it full of wonderful associations, probably, but how many times have you moved that storage bag and never unpacked it, let alone wore any of it? I know those are your grandma’s sweaters, but maybe just keep one or two and donate the rest. My mom worked at a hardware store for thirty years and was a gardener. Her wardrobe consisted of worn, stained Carhartt jeans and logoed shirts from the store. I had someone take the jeans and work shirts and make them into a quilt for myself and my niece and nephew. When we were cleaning out my dad’s house, he had a flannel shirt collection that would have stood up against any Cabella’s catalog. My brother and I each took one. Grandma’s costume jewelry went to my niece so she could start her dress-up stash.

Without children of my own, there is an active thought that I will serve others best by not leaving a pile of stuff to sort through to take to the dump. But even with a family to keep in mind, we need to be honest about perceived value vs. real value. There is a lot of good honest advice found in an article linked here:

What does all this have to do with your demons and your magical life? A clean space means a free flow of energy. A freed up space in a closet will mean freed up space in your head. Dumping that box will mean cleaning out a dusty corner of your heart you’d been avoiding. Coming face to face with our past can mean staring into the eyes of the things holding you back.

What have you gotten rid of that made you feel free at last?

In the next part of this series, Belle and I invite you to take part in a conversation regarding housekeeping of our magical tools and other management strategies for our sacred accoutrement. She gave you great ideas for sprucing up your Spring altar, so we’re going to use that as a spring board (oh, puh intended, why not?) to talk about the general upkeep issues we face when talking about cleaning sacred items in a mundane fashion, or what it means to acquire second-hand tools.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Nine Ideas for Your Spring Altar

Spring is nearly here. The silent trees are beginning to bud out. Daffodils are starting to bloom. The grass beneath the snow has turned from blonde to green again. I drove past a field today and saw that someone was already tapping the sap from maple trees.

Each season, I cleanse and clear my altar thoroughly. I take everything off of it: statues, cauldron, remnants of long-term spells, candles, focal objects, oils, stones and feathers. I’ll be scraping away remaining wax from completed spells and shaking the ash out into the garden. What is completed is removed and returned to earth.

I sweep my altar clean with a small besom for this purpose, and sometimes I sage it. There’s a mirror behind my altar, which I think enhances magical workings. I clean it thoroughly, so that it’s sparkling.

Some objects are placed right back, as they’re used for all seasons. Statues of deities go right back after being dusted. My iron bucket that I call a cauldron goes back, too. I set it on a wrought-iron plant stand with feet, and I feel comfortable burning candles there (with supervision), of course. The rest of the altar is a blank slate, and here are some things I’ll be including on mine to welcome spring:
  1. Eggs. Eggs are the perfect symbol of Ostara, of new beginnings and new life.
  2. I’ll tuck a couple of these into nests that I found at the craft store. I’ve never been able to convince myself to pluck a nest out of the wild, even when I know it’s not being used. I just worry that I’m taking away a potential home from a critter. Nests remind me to focus on home and spring cleaning at this time.
  3. Flowers. At this time for me, daffodils and hyacinths are blooming. In magic, daffodils are all about new beginnings. And hyacinths bring peace – which I can sorely use at the end of winter. Live plants are also a great choice. I often leave packets of seeds on my alter until I’m ready to plant them. They’re beautiful and I like to think that sitting on my altar gives them a little bit of extra spark!
  4. If you want to include pictures of goddesses on your altar, Demeter and Persephone are good choices. Persephone returns from Hades every year for six months to the arms of her mother, and the earth blooms.
  5. Floral and herbal scents. Any floral or herbal scent in a candle or oil that appeals to you is perfect for spring. I tend to be interested in spicy scents for fall, such as orange and citrus, and crisp wintery scents for when the days are cold. Spring seems perfect for any flower or even the scent of fresh-cut grass.
  6. A spring altar cloth. I like to change out altar cloths with the seasons. My current winter one is a remnant of white lace with a pattern of stags in it. For spring, I’ll swap out a table runner with an abstract floral design in green and violet. An altar cloth can be anything – a fabric remnant, a table runner, a placemat or charger plate, a scarf, a folded curtain valance or tablecloth – anything that gives you joy.
  7. A garland. I have some garland left over from my wedding many years ago that I like to drape around my mirror to decorate for spring. If you have a wreath or other botanical-inspired decoration, hanging it on the wall near the altar (but beyond the reach of candle flame) can be a very nice touch that symbolizes the Wheel of the Year.
  8. Stones that remind me of spring. Some of my favorites for spring are very soft: rose quartz, angelite, agates, opalite, and amazonite. I put them in a bowl and they remind me of candy.
  9. Candles in spring-friendly colors. I have a soft green candle that smells like sage that will be perfect for dressing up my spring altar. There’s another one that I can’t wait to work with that’s a soft yellow, and it’s supposed to smell like sunshine!
I also add a few items to symbolize current projects I’m working on through the moon cycle. There’s a small figure of a mermaid there, now, for example, to remind me of a story I want to complete. And there’s a silver dollar to remind me to save money.

The important thing to remember in setting an altar is to first clean it, then place objects back with intention. Only keep current items for current workings. And make sure that you have items that represent each of the five elements, such as images of deities or ancestors for spirit, stones for earth, a chalice for water, candles for fire, and scented oils or incense for air. Above all, make certain that you have a space where you can supervise the use of these items safely.

How will you be sprucing up your altar to welcome spring in the coming days?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Guest Post: My Muse Has a Sweet Tooth

Please welcome guest blogger Marcella Burnard, with advice on courting stubborn muses!

My Muse Has a Sweet Tooth
by Marcella Burnard

Did you know the Muses have a collective sweet tooth? No? I didn't either until they said so.

Fair warning. I had the flu.

It was during one of those weird fever dreams you get - you're not really awake, not quite asleep, but you've slipped into some kind of familiar trance space. Someone said beside my right (plugged up) ear, "Why do you not ask us for help?" Without opening my eyes, I became aware that a group of women stood beside me. Nine of them. All classic Greek beauties. Even in a fever dream, I could guess they were the Muses, and why I ought to be seeking their aid.

You see, I'd finished a book draft two months prior. Beta readers had given me actionable editing advice. And I done nothing but stare at it. It got so bad at one point, I considered abandoning the project entirely. Now, I had a group of nine sisters patiently awaiting my fevered explanation as to why I hadn't called upon them for assistance with something as simple as an edit.

"I thought the Muses were about ideation," I muttered. "Not process."

They laughed at me. "Any act of creativity, throughout the act is our purview. Beginning to end. Carve out sacred space. Call your quarters. Invite us in. Seek our assistance."

They vanished. From that point forward, I began hearing them. Snide little comments. Instructions. Observations. Insights into the fact that several years ago, someone I loved had died. They gently pointed out that I'd lost more than a beloved friend. I'd lost a lot of my joy. Especially my joy of writing. We'd been a creative team, he and I. The day he died, so did a part of me. An entire family of stories died with him. Stories that had once poured forth. Effortlessly. Joyfully.

Creation is harder now. I've been alone in the endeavor and in truth, I've felt utterly inadequate to the task. I kept writing after he died. Forcing it, maybe. But I got slower. And slower. Then finally ground to a halt. I'd tried to rationalize my difficulty. Surely something was wrong with whatever story I was working on. The Muses gently, but firmly insisted the problem was within me.

So in the morning, a circle was cast, quarters summoned, and the Muses invited in.

Conditioning hit. Look. Mom's from the South, okay? I am not physically capable of having guests - physical or metaphysical - without offering food. Wine from a bottle opened the previous night? Check. Cake - uhm - what could stand in for cake? Gluten free soda crackers? Bleh. Gluten free bread that crumbles at the slightest touch? Not even the seagulls would eat that.

The voice chimed in again. "Animal crackers."

Arrowroot animal crackers. I'd picked them up, had three or four, and then stowed them. When the flu hit, crackers were the last thing on my mind. There they still were. A silly, sweet throwback to childhood. I swear I wasn't the only one giggling as I blessed a trio of animal crackers and dropped them into the wine. The next day, I made a pumpkin spice cake. With frosting. That's on the offering menu for a few days to come. And the Muses seem happy. They keep coming around. And talking to me. Am I cured? Probably not yet. But that first day, I did manage to finish writing a scene and a transition that I'd despaired over for two months. So if the Muses want me to ask for help, I'll feed their sweet tooth, and ask for help. And maybe for a little bit of joy.

Call upon them if you're feeling stuck. Ask for their input. Listen to what they have to say to you. And should you hit upon the perfect offering recipe, by all means, share that magic!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Guest Post: Meeting Magic Half Way, Part I

Just in time for spring cleaning, please welcome guest blogger Iris Groveland for Meeting Magic Half Way!

Meeting Magic Half Way, Part I
by Iris Groveland

I wanted to sit down to write about magic.

Retreating into the study of my Victorian era townhouse, I sat down at my antique mahogany writing desk, the padded leather center worn with decades of astute study. I took the crystal sphere I kept on a pedestal, breathed in its cleansing essence, and grounded myself in the power I was about to conjure. The eastern facing window gave me a perfect view of the bird feeders and the young spring coming to life. The cedar-scented walls surrounded me as I conjured the energy that would go forth. Books lined the walls, tomes from all ages, and the brass fittings on the wall sconces glittered in the late morning light.

Just kidding.

I did the dishes. Then I made the bed. Then I got dressed; yesterday’s post-work lounge clothes, but clean socks and underwear. I spritzed on some orange body spray (it smells clean and fresh, giving the illusion that I am as well), combed my hair, and assigned a headband to do the day’s work of keeping my thin, fine, straggly hair out of the way.  Ultimately, I did light some candles and a stick of incense, but the reality is, my crooked house is old and forever dirty. It sits out in farm country (where modern civilization is slowly creeping in via new development), on a stone foundation that probably dates to about the Civil War. The windows haven’t been cleaned in over three years, and the cat litter usually manages to spread itself over two whole rooms, despite daily sweeping. Keeping crumbs off the counter and making sure I’m not the only one cleaning the dog’s feet when he comes in is an hour-by-hour existence. Having dusted and vacuumed two days ago, this was about as clean as things get. But before I sat down to write about magic, I needed some semblance of order despite all of that, some degree of feeling organized and together, a sense of calm to help me organize my mind. Indeed, any time I want to sit down to a creative or leisurely endeavor, I am able to enjoy it and focus so much more in a clean(ish) space.

Having worked for a time in New Age retail, I dealt with customers on a daily basis who were looking for magical solutions to perceived esoteric problems. They were convinced they were cursed, that their homes or apartments were haunted, or that someone had unleased a demon into their space. (Always with the demons and portals!) They’d seen a few episodes of Supernatural or Charmed, read a blog on the internet (the significance of that is not lost on me here) and knew they needed to get some salt and some sage, but not much else. Or they came in with a recipe for a ritual pulled up on their smartphones and were ready to go shopping. One might say it was bad marketing to stop them in their tracks and ask them when the last time it was they cleaned their house, but that’s usually where we started. Aisle One: Housekeeping. When was the last time they let in some fresh air? Who were they keeping in their lives that contributed to this feeling of energy drain? What issues were they not confronting? I sold them their sage, their sea salt, and their herb candle and dream catcher, but it was always with a stern instruction to clean first. Clean first, then cleanse. There is just a frank part of me that feels no matter how much sage smoke you spread, your demons may still be there. You just won’t be able to see them for the clutter.

For better or for worse, Hollywood has given us this perception that magic is always perfect and pretty and clean, and that results are flashy and instant. We see beautiful women working magic on the screen, wearing their beautiful clothes, with their perfect hair, and usually from the comforts of an old, romantic, beautiful house of mystery. Sandra Bullock’s kitchen is never full of messy pots and pans. Alyssa Milano’s bed is always made. Julia Ormond’s dining room table is never piled with homework, stuck-on food from yesterday’s dinner, crumbs, and still-packed grocery bags full of cat food and toilet paper. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s throw pillows and blankets are always just so. Their lives look perfect and clean at all times. Is it any wonder they vanquish demons and restore perfect order so easily?

So as we open up the ways where we meet magic half-way, we need to start at the literal and figurative home base. Your most honest intent will not go unnoticed when you perform that cleansing ritual, but where did you start? At the end of an incense stick or the end of a vacuum cord? Plug in your intention as you go, but physical effort is called for. Your ceremonial garb will be your grubby clothes as we go forth, because fighting demons, like fighting dust, is dirty work.

The obvious elbow grease of cleaning is always a good start. Wash and put away the dishes. Wash and put away the laundry. Half-measures can leave you open to feelings of imbalance when something is only half-done. Sweep, vacuum, and mop. Put a few drops of cedar, sage, or lemon oil in your mop water, whatever scent you feel called to use. It not only empowers the cleansing energy you are putting into the space, but the smell will help keep you on track by making you feel better.

Clean your mirrors. Feng Shui dictates that mirrors help demons bounce off when they’re placed accordingly, but if you can’t move your mirrors, at least keep them clean. It will not only scare the demons away, it will give you a clean surface in which you take an honest look at your reflection. Scrub sinks and showers/tubs. Clean your shower curtain liner or replace it altogether. I have hard water, so even with a water softener, fighting build-up is part of regular maintenance. A clean shower or tub will go a long way for you when you perform a cleaning ritual for yourself when you’re done with the house. Wash curtains if you have them or dust blinds. Get under the furniture, in between couch cushions. Dust the books as well as the shelves.  Get dirty. Get sweaty. Get your clothes grimy. Get spider webs in your hair and dirt under your nails. This is work, and unlike what Hollywood would make us believe, it is not a glamourous montage.

Dorothy Morrison gave a workshop on cleaning and cleansing and she brought up two very good points which, I admit, had never occurred to me, but made perfect sense in hindsight, and I now consider these steps vital to cleaning and cleansing. Once you have busted your hump cleaning the space from top to bottom, and you light up your sage bundle or spritz your cleansing oil spray at every window and entrance, remember that, just like when you swept the floor and emptied your dustpan, the energy you’re banishing needs somewhere to go, too. Open some windows. Open doors. That energy you’re pushing out needs somewhere to go. Invite the Elements to eat it up. Water has helped you clean it; Earth is absorbing it and filtering it; the Fire from your candles or incense is slowly burning it like a trash heap, but that smoke needs somewhere to vent, so let some clean, fresh Air take it away for you.

Secondly, once you’ve emptied that space of both physical and energetic dust, you’ve created a void that you now need to fill with what you want, or someone else will do it for you. You kicked the demons out, now who or what will take their place? Protection?  Serenity? Love? Light that new candle now. Use that new oil you just bought. Like planting new trees after a fire, what grows now is up to you. In leveling personal power over your demons, taking ownership of your space on all levels, physical and spiritual, is perhaps the biggest step of all.

In Part II, we’ll address a specific detail of this cleaning and cleansing work, the ever-mindful and constantly unfolding work of the purging of STUFF! When we talk about that which no longer serves us, we have to remember that our demons can sometimes lie hidden in boxes, in garages, in drawers, and yes, closets.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Sowing the Seeds of New Growth

We had an unseasonably warm day today, and I took the chance to catch up on a few things in the garden. This time of year, I’m full of plans for what I’ll do in the future. I draw pictures and diagrams in my journal for what I want to create in not only the garden during the coming warm months, but also plans for work, home, and creative projects

It was so warm that I sat out on our patio without a coat and got my seed trays set up. I planted seeds for cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, sage, oregano, yarrow, and a couple different kinds of basil. I had bought a packet or green bell peppers, but it wound up only containing two seeds, so I’ve left room in the seed trays for additions.

While I was planting, I tried to keep in mind all the plans that I want to bring to fruition over the next several months. As I poked each seed into the soil, I thought about how a lot of our works are about planning, but also knowing when to trust that the seed knows what it’s doing. Properly cared for, the seed knows that it’s going to become a tomato plant. My job is just to give it good conditions to grow: fertile soil, light, water, fresh circulating air. Four elements are needed, just like they’re needed for any project.

I’m thinking about a writing project that I’m going to start soon, about creating conditions for it to grow easily. I know that I need to set a schedule, which is an earthlike, practical container for the work to happen. I need to do my research, which respects air. I need to keep the fires of motivation going. And I have to manage my emotions, which is where water comes in. I have to remember to not get discouraged, to be open to flow.

Hopefully, the writing will come together as my seedlings are sprouting. It really helps me to have a tangible signal to remind me of what I’m working on. Most of the time, that’s a symbol of the project on my altar or on my workspace. This time, it will be a little different – it will literally be growing at the same time I’m working. A little extra magic always helps!  

What projects are you working on this spring? 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Magical Floor Wash

I get a little bored with housekeeping sometimes, and it helps me to add a dash of magic to keep it interesting. Washing floors is no different. My feline friends object strenuously to floor-cleaning, in any form. Dragging out the vacuum means that they disperse to safe zones beneath the bed. Mopping floors means that they get exiled from the room being cleaned. Otherwise, I’d have cat prints everywhere and much complaining at top volume about what I’m doing. Like most cats, they like to supervise.

I got an old-school string mop the other day and decided to clean every nook and cranny of the kitchen floor. This is my favorite floor wash recipe, edited a smidge:

  • 1 bucket of water
  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • A few drops of dish soap
  • Nine drops of essential oil

In this case, I used rosemary oil. I have tons of rosemary oil that I’ve been using in shampoo lately, so I’m all about using what’s on hand. Rosemary has magical associations with cleansing, purification, health, and love. Sounds perfect to me! As I mopped, I visualized all kinds of good things about purification – scrubbing away the last dregs of winter - and enjoyed smelling the rosemary. It does make an ordinary chore go a little bit faster!

I’d recommend that anyone using this tests a corner of their floor first. I have beat-up hardwood in my kitchen, so I’m not too worried about damaging it, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! To be extra-safe, give it a good rinse when you’re through.

And that’s it! The kitchen smells wonderful. Once the felines were released, they descended upon it and rolled around on the floor. Nothing stays clean at my house for longer than five minutes, but it was nice while it lasted!

Do you have pets who like to help with housework?