Witchcraft

Energy Cleansing Your Apartment (When You Can’t Burn Anything)

If you’ve been following the saga of the gas leaks, you can probably guess why I put off doing a full-on apartment cleanse. It’s a good idea to do this as soon as — if not right before — you move in. It is a less-good idea to do this if you plan on burning things, and your kitchen smells like mercaptan.

Anyway! Now that the fire hazards are dealt with, I wanted to talk about apartment cleansing.

You should cleanse anything that’s been used by another person, and any time that thing has seen arguments, illness, death, or other struggles. You also want to cleanse your space whenever things just start to feel gross, heavy, or tense. I don’t support “good vibes only” culture, but it’s definitely important to wipe the energetic slate clean once you’ve experienced something bad and allowed yourself to process the trauma. This is especially true if you perform other spells or rituals in your home — there are some energies you don’t really want to keep around if you don’t have to.

Most house cleansing rituals involve things like candles and incense. These rituals are great, and extremely effective, but not always the best choice — what if your lease prohibits burning things? What if you have artwork, or other special objects that would be damaged by repeated exposure to incense smoke or soot? What if you’re asthmatic and shouldn’t be breathing in burning particulates? What if you might explode your entire block, because your building is very very old and literally everything is leaky?
You get my drift.

So, what does house or apartment cleansing do?

Ideally, cleansing a space gets rid of negative or stagnant energy, and brings in fresh energy. Psychologically, it can help give you closure after you’ve had a rough time, and create a sense of optimism and enthusiasm for the time ahead. It can also mentally prepare you to be the new steward of the place you’re cleansing.

What does it entail?

From my experience, house cleansing and house blessing are usually part of the same ritual. You cleanse the space, then you bless it. Some people roll them into one action by asking their guardian spirits, ancestors, and/or deities to both cleanse and bless.

Generally, cleansing a space involves walking around the area either clockwise or counterclockwise (depending on tradition), performing a cleansing act, and asking that the space be cleared of any bad vibes. A cleansing act can be wafting the smoke of burning herbs or incense over the walls, asperging them with water, sprinkling a perimeter of salt, carrying a white candle dressed with cleansing oil, or even just touching the walls and floor and declaring the intention that they be cleansed.

Incense and candles figure prominently in many popular energy clearing rituals, but they aren’t a necessity. There are plenty of other things you can do if burning things isn’t possible or desirable for you.

1. Lemons. Everywhere.

Lemons have a well-deserved reputation for busting up stagnant or negative energy. Even the scent of lemons is uplifting, and lemon juice is very helpful when it comes to actually physically cleaning your place.

You can use lemons in a variety of ways, from adding sliced lemons or lemon juice to your mop water, to leaving whole lemons in places where people tend to gather. I prefer to use them like this:

  1. Take a whole, fresh lemon, and slice it into rounds.
  2. Take a generous quantity of sea salt, and sprinkle it over the rounds. (Make sure to cover both sides!)
  3. Place them in a dish, and set it wherever you feel needs some cleansing.
  4. Keep an eye on the lemon slices — if they begin to get moldy, discolored, or mushy, discard them and try again with fresh ones. It might take a couple of lemons before everything’s thoroughly cleared up.

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2. Asperge with water.

Asperging with blessed or holy water is probably my favorite way to cleanse a space. Depending on your tradition, “blessed” or “holy” might vary. In mine, water gathered from three natural sources is used in ritual. Alternatives include:

  • Water left to charge in sun- or moonlight.
  • Water to which has been added a pinch each of frankincense ash and sea salt.
  • A hydrosol made of a cleansing herb, like rosemary or sage.
  • Water you have asked your deities to bless.

Asperging involves dipping a bundle of herbs (or your fingers) into the water, and sprinkling it on the object to be cleansed. Sprinkle it on your walls, floor, and ceiling (if you can reach it) as you declare your intention to cleanse the space. Make sure to get the corners!

3. Use your own energy.

You don’t really need anything other than yourself, if you don’t have other tools at your disposal. You can stand in the middle of each room in your home, raise power however you customarily do, and release it into the walls, floors, ceilings, and corners of your space. Visualize it as a bright light that touches every surface of your home, absorbing and disappearing into them, leaving no trace of negativity behind.

4. Make some noise.

I feel like a lot of practitioners underestimate the power of noise (but, I admit, I might just be inordinately fond of raising a ruckus). Coupled with light and fresh air, there are few things as helpful for clearing the energy of a place. Open the windows, get a nice breeze going, let the sunlight in, and turn up the volume — at least, as long as your neighbors won’t complain.

There are a few different ways that you can use sound to help the energy of a place:

  • Play a set of chimes. Ascending scales are said to purify, and descending scales banish.
  • Play uplifting music.
  • Play Solfeggio tones. Each one is said to have a different effect, so it’s best to experiment and find the one that works for you.
  • Play nature sounds. Running water, insect chirps, and birdsong have their own, special effects. There’s a reason they’re part of so many meditation tracks!

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5. Salt.

Sea salt is a quick and easy way to cleanse pretty much anything that won’t be damaged by salt. Personally, I don’t use it that often because I try to do most of my cleansing-of-things outside, and I don’t want it to leach into the soil — but I can vouch that it works.

To use it, sprinkle sea salt in the corners of your rooms while declaring your intention to clear the space. You don’t need very much — just a pinch will do just fine.

Every tradition has their own ways of preparing a home, from cleansing, to blessing, to protecting it and inviting in prosperity for its occupants. If you’re in a place where you can’t turn to candle or incense magic, you still have plenty of tools at your disposal.

Plants and Herbs

Marshmallow Folklore and Magical Uses

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I drink so much marshmallow, it borders on the absurd.

It’s not for the flavor, either — marshmallow root doesn’t really have much of one. Let me tell you, though, if you’ve got a stomach ache, bladder pain, or an annoying, dry cough? There’s nothing more soothing than a big cup of swamp root goo. No joke.

I cannot overstate the debt of gratitude I owe to marshmallow.

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(I’d also eat my weight in toasted vanilla Smash Mallows if science would let me, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Marshmallow Magical Properties and Folklore

As its name implies, marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is considered a water herb. It’s often associated with deities of love and beauty, and used in fertility and attraction spells. (Some sources say that the slippery marshmallow extract was even used as a lubricant, so using it in sex and fertility magic isn’t much of a stretch!)

Marshmallow is sometimes burned to cleanse a space, or used to make protective oils.

It’s considered to be a favorite of benevolent spirits. Spirit bottles, used to house helpful spirits, are filled with marshmallow root. Keeping a jar of it and a dish of water on your altar is said to help call helpful spirits to your aid.

Planting marshmallow on or near a grave, or decorating a grave with the flowers, is used to honor the dead.

Using Marshmallow

A big part of why marshmallow root is medicinally valuable is its mucilage content. Marshmallow mucilage is a polysaccharide with a very thick, slippery consistency. When you stand the root overnight in water, you’ll notice that the water becomes more viscous.

Marshmallow expresses its mucilage best as a cold infusion. I usually measure the dose of marshmallow root I need (depending on what I’m trying to do) into a tea strainer, fill a glass jar with clean water, plop the strainer in it, and set it in my fridge overnight.

If need be, you can brew the root the way you would any other tea, it just won’t produce quite as much mucilage. I usually do this if I have a sore throat — the mucilage and the warmth are really soothing.

Marshmallow leaf contains less mucilage than the root. It’s a diuretic and helps with expectoration, and is sometimes used as a topical poultice.

The key words here are “soothing,” “protecting,” and “comforting.” On a physical level, the mucilage in marshmallow root soothes irritated membranes, forms a protective layer, and brings comfort. This is reflected on a metaphysical level, too — as an ingredient in beauty preparations, it’s not surprising to see it used in spells for the same. As something that helps banish pain, it’s natural to use it to banish evil. As an herb that offers comfort, it makes sense to use it to comfort and placate the spirits of the dead.

You can find shredded, ready-to-use marshmallow root from retailers like Mountain Maus Remedies and Grassroots Herb Supply. If you prefer, you can also find it in a finely ground powder form.

 

Even if you don’t regularly perform spiritwork or work with the dead, marshmallow’s a helpful herbal ally to keep around. It makes a soothing tea, and its gentle, comforting nature lends it well to a variety of magical applications. Even though marshmallow is used as a food as well as medicine, consult with an experienced practitioner before use — especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have any medical conditions.

 

divination, life

The Star

As much fun as last week was, at times, it absolutely kicked my butt.

I don’t know if you remember when our car got poisoned when we went on that road trip down south, but, between a clunking engine and a cracked windshield, we’d finally decided that it was time for Caliber the Undying to be put out to pasture.

(According to what the trade-in guy said, the pasture appears to be somewhere in eastern Europe.)

So, my S.O. had to get a new car — though by “new,” I mean more like “used, but clean and significantly less likely to turn into smoking rubble on the highway.” Couple that with some late work nights, getting handed a shovelful of writing orders, turning in the corrections for my Druidry coursework, and going out in a crowd for the first time in over a year(!), I’m a little drained.

Please, I silently begged as I shuffled my deck, please just not the Ten of Swords. Or Nine of Swords. Or any of the Swords, to be honest.

Fortunately, I lucked out. This week’s card is The Star.

The Star is a very positive omen — it’s a hope spot. A pause for breath. It comes after The Tower, a card of tremendous upheaval, so it’s common to draw The Star when you’re entering a time of peace, serenity, and optimism after a struggle.

I wouldn’t exactly call what I’ve gone through lately a struggle, of course. While it was a lot of work, and it wore me out, I was glad to do it. (I mean, I’m not exactly going to complain about having too many opportunities to help support my family!) Still, spoons are spoons, and it’s possible to wear yourself out doing things you enjoy.

The Star is a positive omen in virtually every respect, whether you draw it in a Love, Career, Spirituality, or just a general reading. As advice, it asks you to focus on rest and healing — The Tower has fallen, the worst has passed. Marshall your strength and go forward from here. Conditions are favorable, you’re on the right path. Don’t force anything, just let it guide you.

Right now, it’s guiding me to some magnesium oil, a heating pad, and a cup of marshmallow root tea.

Blog, life

Two Bards.

Tuesday night, I had the chance to see Richard Thompson perform live. It’s a show I’ve had on my bucket list ever since I was introduced to him a few years ago — he’s an incredible guitarist, and watching him play is really an amazing experience. When I stopped being able to go out much for awhile, I was legitimately afraid that I wouldn’t get well enough to be able to see him play. I only learned about Coco Robicheaux on the day of his death, and I missed the chance to see Tom Waits (who doesn’t tour very often) perform when I lived in California; two things I consider some of the biggest missed opportunities of my life.

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I think my S.O. and I were the youngest people in the audience by close to twenty or thirty years, which made me a little self-conscious when we were finding seats. (‘Scuse me, sir and/or ma’am, biker punk and tattooed millennial with a shaved head coming through.) As soon as I sat down, though, I didn’t care. I still whooped it up and applauded hard enough to jam one of my fingers.

He’d just started playing “Valerie” when we got in, which is, bar none, my favorite of his songs. It was honestly a little overwhelming — I’m embarrassed to admit it, but my heart skipped a beat and I thought I was going to have a panic attack for a few. I teared up at “Beeswing” and “1952 Vincent Black Lightning,” just like I knew I would. (Lucky for me, I’d had the foresight to forego eye makeup for this exact reason.)

The songs were moving, tragic, and hilarious by turns. His voice and guitar playing were superb. His banter made the venue feel small, with the kind of warmth and humor that turns a show into an intimate gathering.

I loved every minute of it.

And then, the next day, I found out that Terry Jones had died.

He wanted to be remembered as a comedian, but I knew him best as an author long, long before I knew anything about Monty Python’s Flying Circus. When I was a kid, we had a copy of Fairy Tales. It was my favorite children’s book — as a kid, I think I learned more important morals there than almost anywhere else. Like Three Raindrops, which taught me that everyone’s grave is the same size, and there’s no point in wasting your life on comparisons. Or Jack One-Step, which taught me the value of collective bargaining. Or The Glass Cupboard, which, I’m fairly certain, is what turned me into a tiny environmentalist.

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And then there’s this guy, which I’m pretty sure figured prominently in my nightmares until I was ten. Artwork by Michael Foreman.

I loved Michael Foreman’s illustrations, too. To be honest, I can’t really overstate the impact they had on my imagination as a kid, or even on my artwork now. His watercolors were at once bright and soft and dreamlike, surreal and strange, occasionally with a subtly unsettling edge. They were the perfect accompaniment to stories like The Fly-By-Night and The Wonderful Cake-Horse.

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Illustration for Terry Jones’ The Wonderful Cake-Horse, by Michael Foreman.

I’m much older now, but the stories and illustrations still mean just as much to me.

Jones’ passed after a battle with dementia. As much as we like to think that “where there’s life, there’s hope,” there’s still a very particular kind of mourning that happens when someone passes from a brain disease. There’s the loss you experience when someone is no longer who they once were, and the final loss that comes with death. Sometimes, the hardest thing to deal with is that we might not think we feel “sad enough” when someone actually dies, because we’ve spent so long mourning the person they used to be. It’s something I experienced with my grandmother, as she declined from brain cancer. As hard as it was to handle her passing, I felt guilty for feeling relief. Not for myself — I felt relief that she was beyond the pain, confusion, and anxiety that her illness had caused her.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with, too. Intracranial hypertension causes brain damage, and it’s very likely that I will suffer a stroke at some point and either die, or have to fight my way back from that. Sometimes, you have to mourn for yourself. The important thing is to process this grief, then get on with the hard work of living. For Jones, that was raising awareness. For my grandparents, it was my grandfather feeding, dressing, and bathing my grandmother. For me, it’s working a little more every day to try to regain some ground before I lose more of it.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that it doesn’t matter if you’re part of an artist’s primary audience. Life’s too short to miss the concert you want to go to, or to overlook a book just because it’s intended for children. Eventually, like the Three Raindrops, we all become part of the same big, muddy puddle. Draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment anywhere you can.

divination, life

The Nine of Pentacles (Pretty Much Rocks)

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I love the Nine of Pentacles. In most Rider-Waite-Smith-inspired tarot decks, she just radiates peace and contentment. She’s in her garden, everything is lush and verdant, nobody’s bothering her, and the entire scene is the absolute distillation of serenity.

The Nine of Pentacles has big “The Merchant’s Wife at Tea” energy, and I am extremely here for it.

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The Merchant’s Wife at Tea, painting by Boris Kustodiev.

I didn’t have anything weighing that heavily on my mind when I drew this week’s card — really, I just wanted to see what’s coming down the pike. Honestly, I couldn’t be happier.

In virtually every respect, from love readings, to health, to spirituality, the Nine of Pentacles indicates that a reward is coming. In the RWS tarot, the woman stands in front of what appears to be a garden, indicating that the blooming pentacles are the reward for her toil and tending. Since it’s a nine, it isn’t the ultimate culmination of the suit’s cycle, but it’s very close. The hard work is appreciated, the foundation is stable and the growth steady. The reward is on its way.

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Aura moon from The Promote Peace Shop. Big Herkimer diamond from The Elusive Herk Shop. Cards are the Crow Tarot.

Even in terms of advice, the Nine of Pentacles says to remember who got you where you are. You put in the work, and you reap the good that you sow. Your discipline, work ethic, and sacrificing is what got you to this point.

Lately I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of waiting again. My partner and I have completed a lot of writing, so now it’s up to editors and beta readers. I’m still waiting to hear back about my coursework. Other aspects of our lives are up in the air now, too, waiting on a rubber stamp or the stroke of someone else’s pen. The Nine of Pentacles is a sign that this waiting isn’t a waste of time — we’ve put in a lot of hard work, and the fruits of our labors are coming to us. That’s something I’ve felt, and something I’ve wanted, but didn’t really want to get my hopes up about. Getting a message that spells it out so explicitly is a really, really good feeling!

 

 

divination, life, Neodruidry

Turmoil and the Ten of Cups.

I’m not going to write on the state of the world right now. In the words of Dave Barry, “I don’t want to write it, and you don’t want to read it.” It’s impossible to create a picture of my internal landscape without looking at the externals, though, so suffice it to say that we’re on the brink of war, an entire continent is on fire, and to many things suck to even begin to list here. Worst of all, many of them are things that were predicted would suck in this exact fashion, so even just existing is a bit like being given the Ludovico Technique using a slow-motion train wreck.

Internally, I’ve been working on adjusting my dose of antidepressants. I’ve finished my Dedicant Path work, so all that remains is to have it reviewed and see what needs to be corrected or elaborated upon. There was another(!) leak, this time in the building’s gas room down the hall, and getting it fixed involved calling emergency maintenance in the middle of the night on New Year’s Eve, waiting, being not-terribly-surprised when no one showed, and then calling the gas company and hoping they’d be able to find a way into the gas room the following afternoon. They did, it’s fixed, and now all that remains is to wait and hope that the new management company will see fit to replace the ancient, inefficient, leaking fixtures and appliances.

With the oven and gas room fixed, I can finally cleanse and bless this place the way it should’ve been a month ago. Constantly smelling gas didn’t seem to be a super great omen for that, however, so I’ve been putting it off.

I’m getting stronger day by day. I’ve been able to do things I couldn’t before, and my physical endurance and mental fortitude are improving greatly. I will always have some degree of disability, but it constricts my world much less than it used to even just a few months ago.

I’ve been working on creating my own tarot spread, cobbled together from the spreads I most commonly use, and the kind of positions I inevitably end up tacking on for clarification. I like it so far! There are a few things I may change, but that’s for Future Me to worry about.

I’ve also been doing a small, meditative ritual every day, and regular trancework. Writing it down has been interesting — the way I usually receive and process information from these jaunts is generally very coherent and linear, even the metaphorical bits, so I never really felt the need to jot things down for further exploration. Journaling hasn’t so much changed how I receive or interpret the messages, but having a record of them makes it much easier to pick out sychronicities from journey to journey and elsewhere in my life. I’ve gotten a lot of water lately, but that’s a subject for another time.

So, amid this mix of good news and bad, I was a little hesitant to draw a card this week. I didn’t last week, for just this reason — there was too much unresolved, demanding too much energy, for me to sit down and put down a coherent string of thoughts about it. I think I’ve said it before, though I’m honestly too tired to check: Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to.

It’s a pitfall of reading for yourself, or even someone whose situation you’re very invested in. When we’re too emotionally bound up in the answers, they’re difficult to interpret truthfully. I don’t find this to be the case for a low-stakes one card reading, but, if something’s weighing heavily on me, I’m more inclined to ask someone else to read for me — or at least compare their readings to my own to find the commonalities. When I feel like this, highly invested in things that seem to be spinning out of control, it’s usually a challenging time for me to read for myself.

Anyway, without making a long story longer, I drew the Ten of Cups.

The Ten of Cups is one of the most positive cards in the deck. It’s come up for me before, when my S.O. and I finished writing a book. We just recently finished posting the first leg of Ane’s circus caravan’s journey on Phoenix & Rook, and I did also just finally finish my Dedicant Path work… So I’m really beginning to wonder if this card’s going to turn up for me every time I finish a big piece of writing.

No complaints here. I could some some peace and fulfillment — as could we all.