What a year we have both had. I hold you in my thoughts with much tenderness as the days grow shorter. During our last phone call, I heard you express a desire to access your inner witch, to find that wise and rooted inner voice and follow where it might lead you. As such, as we journey now into the perilous darkness, I would like to invite us both to find time to tend to our tender selves, and share with you some of my favourite possibilities for witchy self-love. I wrote at length in my last post about the medicine of the natural world – so for the purposes of this post, and with respect for the temperature outside, I will focus on activities that can be done indoors!
First, let’s carve out some time purely for the purpose of hearing ourselves through the hubbub. Here’s a little extract from my book, Igniting Intimacy – Sex Magic Rituals for Radical Living and Loving, on Listening In. This extract happens to follow the map of Head, Heart, and Belly as a path to deeply hearing the self; you could also enquire where in your body your wise witch self resides, and listen there too. If you are working with a particular question, I like to allow the question to drop in to each part of the body in turn, and listen for the answer:
“Get yourself sitting comfortably, arm yourself with a way to take notes, and start to breathe deeply… In this first experiment, you’re welcome to focus simply on getting a sense of what is moving in you right now. Many of us live our lives in very out-of-body ways, or have been taught to distrust our carnal or emotional selves. Crossing the divides set up by these habits and beliefs can feel strange, even scary, and often takes time, patience, and self-kindness. That being said, you could also bring a question that you’ve been struggling to get clarity on to the Listening In process, and see what answers emerge from your head, heart, and belly.
Deep breaths. Take a moment to focus on your outbreath, making it long and luxurious, and allowing it to carry away with it anything that might be coming between you and your body – anxiety or mental chatter, for example. As you breathe in, imagine that you can breathe yourself deeper into your body, and let your attention follow your breath.
Once you’re feeling a little more “in” your body and the present moment, start to focus your attention. The easiest way to do this is focus your breath, imagining that you can “breathe into” different areas of your body, much as you would normally breathe into your lungs. Begin with the head, where most of us are used to thinking of our mind residing. Breathe, gently invite your attention into that part of your body, and start to “listen.” “Listening” in this case means offering as much of your attention as you can to your mind, and being open to any messages that might arise from it.
[…] Keep breathing. Keep listening. Notice the qualities of the mind, the ways in which it offers you information, how that information feels to you, how accurate you feel it to be.
Once that feels complete, take your breathing deeper, and invite your attention to drop down into your “heart centre.” You may feel it resides in your literal heart, or somewhere quite different. Set the intention to listen to your heart, and see where you’re drawn to go.
Repeat the process. Let the breath make a little space within for you to inhabit. Give yourself the full gift of your attention. And listen. Notice what’s here, how this area feels – closed or open, stuck or flowing, full or quiet – what the particular qualities of the heart are, and the flavour of information it gives you.
Once that feels complete, and you have some notes, deepen your breathing once more, and draw your consciousness into your belly. Breathe. Make space. Listen. The belly is the centre of your instinct, your “gut feelings,” your deep knowing. And if that sounds a bit too hippy dippy, check out recent scientific studies on what is being referred to as our “second brain,” made up of the one hundred million neurons embedded in the walls of our guts. That stomach of yours is a thinking creature. So listen, take note, and see what it has to tell you. When that feels complete, take some deep breaths, come back to where you are, and see what you have written.”
One of the most practical ways I have found to offer myself kindness during this last year has been through the creation of plant remedies. There is something profoundly touching about carving out the time, assembling the materials, and setting the self-loving intention to make myself a medicine – whether it’s a herbal tea blend, a flower remedy, or a homemade tincture. Whichever form of plant medicine you feel drawn to, and however effective you find the medicine itself, there is an undeniable sweetness in engaging in creative acts on behalf of your body, heart, and spirit.
In the past, I had tended to consider the world of plant medicine to be a world limited to those with specialist skills or abundant resources, but I been reminded this year that this does not necessarily have to be the case. Even if you haven’t actively considered plant medicines before, chances are you have connected with one or another in a therapeutic form. So take a moment, perhaps in light of having done the Listening In exercise above, and think about what you might need from a remedy right now. A soothant for your heart? Something to help you sleep? A digestive tonic? An aphrodisiac?
Once you’ve created an intention for your remedy, think back to see which plant remedies you might have the beginnings of a connection with. Is there an essential oil you’ve loved in a perfume or a bath? A herbal tea you have found especially calming in the past? Perhaps a flower you always gravitate to in gardens?
Settle on a form of plant medicine you might like to explore – aromatherapy, herbalism (teas, infusions, tinctures), flower essences… Then comes the research bit – make sure you choose an avenue that feels fun, accessible, and is an act of self-care in and of itself (and yes, googling works just fine, make sure you look out for any contraindications). Here are just three of my favourite ways to find out more:
– Books on essential oils by Valerie Ann Worwood (often available in local libraries or second hand)
– Online workshops by my magical colleague Elise Bish at Earth Eros Embodied
– Having skill-swapping/crafting afternoons with friends – for example, I might bring incense making, and someone else might bring a foraging walk, while another person might show us how to make our own flower essences, and so on.
The final step, once you have set your intention, done your research, checked for contraindications, and chosen the ingredients for your remedy, is to have a self-care date where you assemble a medicine that matches your self-loving intention – and enjoy it for the first time!
Prayer has so many forms, and such a multiplicity of purposes. A prayer can be a walk or a poem, a spell or a song, a moment of supplication or a conversation with the Beloved. For me, prayer is a way to keep the lines of communication open between myself and the divine Friend, so that I don’t get too bogged down in thinking I’m in this on my own.
One of the most powerful forms of prayer I know is that of surrender, the practice of handing over that which we are wrestling with to something greater than our current experience of ourselves, and knowing it is being taken care of. As I’ve written elsewhere, I don’t think it is of much importance how we each conceptualise that something greater – our deep mind, the universe, the god of our understanding… The important thing is that we allow that something more than us exists, and allow it to bear our weight, and set down the weight of all that we are carrying in its hands so that we may rest a while. So in case you too are in need of rest my dear, here is one of my favourite forms of handing over:
You will need a handful of small candles – tealights, birthday cake candles, it doesn’t matter as long as they can stand safely unattended – and a surface on which to place them. I tend to do this sitting at my altar, so if that surface is, or can be made, sacred to you in some way, so much the better.
Do whatever it is you do to create sacred space, and to connect with yourself and with that greater love that carries you.
Then take a candle, and tell it the first of the things you have been wrestling with – a grief, a relationship issue, or a difficult decision perhaps. Breathe deeply, and imagine you are breathing that thing into the candle you are holding. When it feels like you have imbued the candle with what has been troubling you, let that something which is greater than you know in your own words that you are handing this trouble over, that you are surrendering it to that love. Place it intentionally on the surface in front of you, and light the candle. Take a deep breath, exhale, and know that this is taken care of for now.
Repeat with anything else that has been weighing heavily upon you, giving each thing to a candle, until you feel complete for now.
Give thanks, and then get on with your day, knowing that the things that have been weighing you down are now being looked after.
As we journey into the dark of the year dear heart, may you hear yourself, may you tend to yourself with love, and may you find rest, and holding, and peace.
*The recipient of this love letter is my wonderful friend and colleague Olivia Mackinder. Some of you may have encountered her in the Water Space at Koinonia events. Olivia is a somatic coach, mentor, guide and confidante to folk who identify as male. Focusing on emotional mastery and relationships, she offers the unconditional support and judgement-free space that makes it easier to take an emotional risk – supporting you to let go of the man that someone else told you to be, and be unapologetically yourself. Olivia is working on a new website at present, and in the meantime can be contacted here.