I’m Bridget Owens and you're listening to the Waxing Soul podcast. Join me on an exploration of mindful modern magic, a journey towards deeper understanding of self and transformative individual spirituality. It's December 10, 2020, and on today's episode we'll be discussing fitting magical and spiritual practice into our busy lifestyles, why knowing how to simplify your practice makes your practice more effective, and ways to streamline things to maximize the magic in your life. Are you ready to grow your soul?
It’s the Yuletide season, everybody! My house is full of holiday trees, my lawn is full of holiday flamingos, and my coffee is full of egg nog most days, and I hope that even during Holidaypocalypse 2020 you’re all finding joy and beauty and fun somewhere, even in small doses.
If you’re wondering about the flamingos thing, it’s a little thing I’ve done for the past… I think this is the seventh year? Basically, it’s an idea that popped into my head years ago, and once I had a house of my own with a yard I could do whatever I wanted in, I got a bunch of yard flamingos and on the day after Thanksgiving I put one festive flamingo in the yard. And then every day after that for the whole holiday season I add one more flamingo until there’s a whole flock of them on the yard, decked out in festive bows. Well, this year it’s festive masks and they’re carefully socially distanced. But it’s one of those little personal things that has become an annual ritual.
And if you’ve never given it much thought, this is really how ritual comes to be. It’s just an idea that someone has and which flips just the right switches so that it becomes repeated.
Never, ever doubt your own ability to start your own rituals, even profoundly spiritual ones. The ones we make up ourselves are every bit as powerful as any we’ve learned, even more so because they are personal.Tweet
And that’s a good jumping off point, I think, for this week’s topic. This is another one I took from a meetup topic. Someone asked us to spend a meetup talking about quick and easy spellwork for witches with busy and hectic lives, which really turned into a discussion about simplifying spellwork and weaving it into daily practice, daily activities. Because as much as some of us might like to imagine ourselves having the time and space and resources to regularly do formal rituals with all the bells and whistles or keeping an awesome altar space with all the tools and supplies to do involved spellwork whenever we felt the need, that’s just really not how reality is for most of us.
And I know that it’s a common either expectation or ideal vision that our magical practices will look and feel like they do in fiction or our idealized view of history. I see the most popular images on social media about witchcraft and spellwork and such – it’s all gorgeous rooms all decked out in old books and candles or filled with crystals and glass baubles or spaces carved out in moonlit clearings in the woods… But that’s nobody’s life, right?
The most effective magical practice is the one that you actually PRACTICE. It is truly about action and not aesthetic.Tweet
So, in this modern world where there isn’t always the time and space and privacy and resources to go into full Hollywood witch mode every time we have an intention to manifest, we have to shift our expectations and build a practice which fits our circumstances.
Magic is an individual thing. No two practices will look the same. Your authentic magical practice is the one that fits like perfect puzzle pieces into the nooks and crannies of your life at whatever moment you’re in.Tweet
It doesn’t have to look like or feel like or even be based on anyone else’s – In fact, there’s no reason it should. So going back to this request for the topic at the meetup, I don’t remember now who even asked for it, but the fact that it’s even a topic that found some enthusiastic support kind of indicates that most ways of teaching magic or the kinds of practices that most resources map out for people just set the expectations far too high. Not for what magic or witchcraft or practice is and can be, but for how it works.
I mean, when I first got interested in witchy things, my first forays into spellwork were way more elaborate than they needed to be. And I know there are many who will say that you need to learn the more formal ways first before you can understand how to strip it all back down to its pieces, but I’m going to call BS on that here. Because that approach looks at witchcraft and spellwork as if it’s something specialized and complex. Which, yeah, totally, it can be. If you want it to be.
But I’ve got an analogy here for you:
An instructor at, say, culinary school is probably going to have a lot of opinions about how to really become a proper chef. There’s tons of techniques to learn, mastery of knifework and such, learning about various ingredients and traditions and whatever. But when it comes to food, most of us just need to eat. We want the food to taste good, but at the very least we need it to sustain us and we need it to be accessible. You don’t have to go to culinary school to understand how to make a sandwich.
And magic is much the same way. Sure, there’s a sort of high magical mastery that’s totally worth pursuing if that’s your thing. But everyone needs magic, and your day to day magical needs don’t require a whole education on traditional rituals and an extensive course on metaphysics. It can be quite simple and intuitive and personal and the important thing is that it gets the job done, like a peanut butter sandwich.
If you're enjoying this episode of Waxing Soul, subscribe to the show! Each week we will dive into a different part of the world of spirituality, magic, and self-evolution. Check out last week's episode for a discussion of the problem with treating spirituality as something that has an end goal, the nature of personal evolution, and where discipline fits into authentic individual spirituality. And come back next week when we'll talk about the calendar year as one of three personally significant annual spiritual cycles, why it's important to look at our own life patterns and cycles, how numerology can help us approach the mysteries of each new year as growth opportunities.
I think it’s really important for us to be able to simplify and streamline our practices for a lot of reasons. I think simplifying and streamlining a lot of things in our lives is important. And really it comes down to things being sustainable and something we want to keep doing.
There’s lots of stuff we know we should do but don’t – stuff like diet and exercise and productivity hacks and all that stuff. Things we want the benefit from, but kind of get hung up on the stuff we have to do to get there which we generally find kind of unpleasant.
But I don’t think for most of us that’s what magical practice is, even though we often treat it that way.
It’s the same approach as a New Year’s resolution that I’m going to get up early each day and meditate and do a card draw and then every evening I’ll do a candle spell for whatever and then journal about my dreams… The thing is, the problem really isn’t that the way to get the spiritual benefit is unpleasant, like regular exercise or giving up sugar.
The problem is usually either a priority thing or it’s overwhelm.
For one big chunk of the frustrated pagan community, the issue is that we want to be able to have a more robust practice the same way we want to take more vacations or catch up on that show we’re 2 seasons behind on. The problem is all the things that we deem more important in terms of where we put our time, money, space, attention, etc. It’s that one way or another, we’ve decided we can’t afford it, and not just in terms of financial cost.
And for the other big chunk of the frustrated pagan community, the issue is that we want our magical practice to be great but we either don’t know where to start or we are afraid to do it wrong or we’re afraid of someone else knowing about it or we don’t think we’re good enough. It becomes this overwhelming mountain of what ifs and unknowns and magical impostor syndrome. Like everyone around you seems to know what they’re doing and has access to resources you didn’t even know about, and how are you even supposed to take the first step?
So, the really good news here is that the answer to both problems, the solution to overwhelm and the solution to not being able to prioritize or afford the practice you want is really to learn how to simplify and streamline what you think of as your magical practice.
Of course most of us have a hard time being able to fit in the sort of ceremonial rituals or elaborate potion making or circle casting or gathering a zillion tools and making space and getting all your pets to leave you alone while you light a bunch of candles and chant and whatever. But breaking it down into pieces, finding small cumulative things to do to achieve whatever it is you’re wanting to bring forth, finding simpler and quicker and easier methods to the same end – that allows you to fit the practice you need and want into the constraints of your life the way it is.
And when it comes to overwhelm, making things as simple and manageable and uncomplicated and, most importantly, appropriate for your life as possible takes away a lot of what makes this super daunting. And if you’ve already got a practice which is manageable for you, it’s still a good idea to learn how to do more with less because sometimes we need to.
Like even a high end chef just needs to throw together a peanut butter sandwich for themselves sometimes, right? And at some level it’s like the Barefoot Contessa and the memes about, “If you can’t get the local organic grassfed bison and grind it yourself, storebought hamburger is fine.” Even those of us who have been at it for a while don’t always have the ideal things we might want for a working when we need them. I don’t know how many times I’ve looked up what kind of crystal or incense or whatever is ideal for whatever I’m doing, and find out that’s the one kind of crystal I don’t have right now. So being able to go, “Do I need to use a crystal for this? Is there a way I can do this without all these supplies? Can I substitute a nice clear quartz or a combination of other stones? I don’t have a wand with me because I’m in my office, so can I use this pencil? Maybe the chopsticks left over from lunch the other day?” That can make the hugest difference in your ability to really do magic when you need to.
Because here’s the other big thing:
The most powerful magical practice is not only the one you actually practice, but it’s the one that benefits your life the most.Tweet
It doesn’t matter how often you do more complicated rituals and elaborate spells if it doesn’t actually impact your life where it’s needed. I’m gonna pull out another little analogy here – it’s like if the only way you’d learned to clean yourself was to take a bath, but really the most important and impactful cleanliness thing you can do is wash your hands. Taking bigger baths or even more baths isn’t going to, for instance, keep you from getting sick like washing your hands does. And simple day to day magic is the same way.
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When it comes to actually streamlining and simplifying your spellwork, I think the first key is to look at it as part of your life and think about how you can fit the two together as one thing.
I think too many of us try to change our lives to fit our magic instead of the other way around.
Like, I’m an urban witch. I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that no matter how much it might be expected and traditional for a pagan or a witch or whatever to love things like camping and old cottages and foraging for plants and doing things the old ways and all that… that’s just not me. My life is all about technology and modern aesthetics and I’d one hundred percent prefer to be in the middle of a big city than in the middle of the woods. So if my practice doesn’t fit that, it’s not going to work for me.
So one big thing to look at when it comes to simpler ways of getting the magical job done, so to speak, is to really look at what your life is naturally like and make adjustments accordingly. The download I’ve got for you today is a list of four techniques or approaches to how to simplify your spellwork so it’s quicker and easier. The download button is at the bottom of this page.
But instead of going into all those specifically, I want to give some examples of how this plays out in practical terms.
So, I do actually love to plan and do more complicated workings now and then. Like, a few years ago – specifically 2016, no surprise there – I started the yearly tradition of essentially burning the year in effigy on New Year’s Eve Eve. I invite friends and family over and we bring stuff that symbolizes the things we want to stay in the current year and not follow us into the new year, stuff we’re glad is over or that we want to be done with and not carry that energy with us into January. But that’s kind of a big undertaking, right? Bonfire, this urban witch has to go purchase firewood at the gas station, gather all my symbolic stuff to burn. And the real kicker is that there’s stuff happening and popping up all year long that I really want to burn like that, but it’s not going to be feasible for me to have large backyard burning rituals all the time.
So a while back I took a cardboard box and I drew some containment symbols on it, protection stuff, tied a black ribbon around it, set some appropriate crystals on top to keep unwanted energies inside the box, and so whenever I come across things I want to banish and burn I stick them in the banish box so I can dump the whole box in the fire at New Year’s. I used stuff I had on hand, starting with a cardboard box that our bidet sprayer came in, actually. And I broke a more complicated ritual into pieces in a way. So it’s manageable. I don’t have to spend any time at all dealing with stuff that symbolizes bad energy I want to get rid of.
Or, another example, I actually don’t really do any spellwork anymore. If there’s something I want to manifest or summon or whatever, I have some kind of go-to approaches that I kind of mix and match and do a little bit at a time over time. So, let’s say I’ve got some project or event or whatever coming up that I want to turn out a certain way. I’ve got a manifestation jar, so I’ll write it on a piece of paper and stick it in the jar. And then maybe I’ll wear an appropriate charm or crystal for a while. And when I have time to do regular stuff like meditate, I’ll focus my meditation on that. And if I get a chance maybe I’ll draw a quick sigil for it or make a little charm bag. Maybe add something to my altar about it. Lots of little things over the course of a couple of days that just involve stuff I already have, very small chunks of time, integrating it with stuff I’m already doing. So in the end I’ve done a whole bunch of tiny little things instead of trying to carve out time and gather supplies or research and plan to do a bigger spell.
Honestly? I think the cumulative approach isn’t just more convenient, it’s more effective. And for those of you who are just starting out building a magical practice, just starting with spellwork, I want to assure you that breaking things into smaller pieces is a totally acceptable way to begin. Every larger ritual is made up of smaller elements that can often stand on their own.
Remember that something being more formal, more complex, more traditional, or more elaborate doesn’t actually mean it’s better or more effective. The simple working you do with intention and purpose in the moment when it’s most needed is always more powerful than the elaborate ritual you only do on rare occasions.
Thank you so much for listening. New episodes of the Waxing Soul drop every Thursday. All materials and resources except the music are copyright Bridget Owens. Many thanks to my readers, listeners, friends, mentors, inspirations, and my framily for riding with me into season two. Until next week, blessed be and be good to yourself.