Below is an outline of the ritual I use to charm objects like this. Feel free to adapt it to your needs, use the tools you feel speak to your purpose, do as much or as little as you feel you should. Unlike “High” Ritual Magic, witchcraft is rarely by the book. For me, spell craft has always been like prayer—everyone does it differently, for different purposes, to different ends.
Most months, when I pull my tarot cards, I instantly understand the message at hand. This month, however, wasn’t as clear. I pulled one, two, three cards–they weren’t entirely disparate, they weren’t in conflict, but something felt “off.” For a moment, I doubted my intuition: there was something here that I wasn’t seeing, something overlooked. I had to ruminate on the reading for a few days.
Buried under old clothing and long-forgotten textbooks, I recently found two stray pages from an old journal. It was my habit to “introduce” myself to each new notebook, explaining a little about who I was and why I chose to write there–there was a certain romance to journaling, as if each notebook was not only a time capsule, but a public one, unearthed decades or even centuries in the future and transporting someone else into my life. These two pages were my introduction. I wrote about how I was likely perceived by others, who I was from an entirely detached perspective. Not even half a page in, one thing became absolutely clear: the girl who wrote this journal did not love herself. She didn’t even like herself. There was nothing blatantly self-loathing written, no mention of body hatred or bullied shame, just the complete and total detachment of someone entirely uncomfortable in their own skin. “I am completely unremarkable,” 19-year-old Me wrote. “I have no delusions about my identity. There is nothing that makes me special.” I actually cried, not because of any memories stirred up or hurtful words written, but because I genuinely felt bad for the girl who penned these pages.
Somehow, though, those had been feelings that persisted throughout my life. In fact, up until very recently, the idea that I could love myself was fairly repulsive to me. Why should I love myself? What have I done to deserve it? Maybe, if I accomplished this or finished that or adhered to this or became that, maybe I could love myself. But not now. I put all of my self-worth into my accomplishments, and the fact that I didn’t have a glittering professional resume or tales of globe-trotting adventures or my dream apartment in a breathtaking city meant that I hadn’t done anything to prove my value–not to society, and not to me. I was unremarkable, and worse yet, I was downright boring.
I don’t know when it happened. I can’t tell you what day it was that the sparkling little feeling crept into chest. I’m not sure the exact moment it started dancing in the throat, tickling at my brain. I’m not sure when I started to have hope. But suddenly, after nearly thirty years, possibly a third of my life in the rear-view mirror, I started to matter to myself. Big time. It’s no longer about what I’ve done or haven’t done–there are other measures of a person, and I’m finally starting to register on my own radar.
Yesterday, in a room filled with pink rose petals and bright July sunlight, I heard this sentiment echoed seven times over. It was fresh, exciting, magical–as so many other groups before us, we had gathered together to discuss a revolutionary concept, joining forces to break new ground. Unlike the salons of my childhood history books, however, we weren’t discussing the fate of the nation or the latest schools of contemporary art: we were discussing Radical Self Love. To the uninitiated, Radical Self Love is Gala Darling’s revolution–it’s about remembering who you are and falling in love with that person, over and over again. It’s about being your own greatest love. “Isn’t that just a serious case of narcism?” you may ask–the answer, truly, is no. As Our Lady RuPaul would say, “if you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?” And sadly, too many of us trudge through our daily lives hating everything about them–our jobs, our families, our friends, our cities–when the source of all that unhappiness really is self-loathing.
In a sunny white room nestled deep in New York City, the eight ladies of the first ever Radical Self Love Salon sat on mismatched pieces of furniture, pulling oracle cards and consulting each other’s opinions and experiences as we plumbed the depths of the fears that opposed us. We meditated and grounded our energies, imagined our best selves and showered our heads in magenta rose petals. And when we finally figured out just what stood in the way of being those magnificent creatures we had envisioned, we burned those hurtles to a crisp. We left that room as stronger people, women fully aware of our capacity to shine brightly. The world is our proverbial oyster, but we aren’t just specks of sand in a briny soup–we are all ready stunning pearls. Radical Self Love is knowing that. And while 19-Year-Old Me might have felt unremarkable and defeated, I know now that nothing could be farther from the truth.
When I quit my corporate job to focus on building my portfolio, I never expected it to be easy. I knew it would involve cutting back, living leaner, indulging less. I’ve never been good at saying no–my parents raised me to be incredibly self-sufficient at getting what I want. If you have the money to spare, go ahead. Get it. Don’t wait for it to find its way into your life some other way, because it might slip away forever. This mantra was truly meant for can’t-live-without situations–the perfect party dress for an event that weekend, a necklace on clearance sale that sparks your inspiration, a gadget that will make your daily routine that much easier–and eventually, I took it too far. My room is a graveyard of cheap dresses worn once, shoes worn for a week straight and then lost to the void, hair products and makeup that didn’t quite perform as well as I’d been convinced they would. Working in cosmetics, there are many, many, many of these failed products cluttering up my surfaces. I will also admit that I am a first-class retail therapist. Depression, anxiety, and stress all manifest as new clothes, tubes of lipstick, and jewelry. I am not in debt, but I’m not saving either. And because I have nothing to fall back on, the cycle of anxiety, lipstick, and stress continues…
When I handed in my notice, I told myself the cycle would stop. I would be out of retail, I would want less because I wouldn’t be near it, and quite frankly I wouldn’t have the money for it. It felt exhilarating. The prospect that I would be free of the consumer cycle made me giddy. I should have anticipated the eventual depression that would lead me back to old habits. When my credit card bill came, I paid it in full, like always, but nearly emptied out my savings to do so. “Never again,” I told myself. …I’m sure you can tell where this story is going. This month, when I got the email that my statement was ready, I couldn’t even look. I didn’t have the money, and I didn’t know where it was coming from. I spent the better part of my month fretting over it, wondering what jobs I could pick up to cover it, who I could borrow from, what I could return… Then, something came over me. I was totally calm. Things would be okay. I had a few freelance jobs, I would be able to pay. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to pay in full like I normally do, but I would at least make the minimum payment and I’d be able to pay the rest when I had more. It would be okay.
And then, something truly magical happened. My tax return came. It covered the entire amount with some to spare. Some of you might read this and think, “wow, what a lucky coincidence,” but I suspect most of you will smile knowingly. I don’t believe in coincidence. Magic happens, and the universe provides. When you put out the right energies, the right energies can find their way back to you. Panic and anxiety are forms of negativity, and negativity is a plague that simply breeds and multiplies. It’s hard to banish fear. Even in our comfortable modern age, fear is pervasive. We may no longer be afraid of predators and illness quite the same way our ancestors were, but each primal fear we’ve chased away has been replaced be thirty first-world worries. I don’t check the skies for giant birds of prey when I leave my house: I worry about reckless drivers, lost phone signals, and anaphylaxis instead. Fear kept me locked in my dead-end, joyless job for too long. How would I get ahead if I didn’t have money? How would I provide myself with a future if I was penniless? I wouldn’t even be able to afford the film and paint I needed to work on my portfolio, let alone take care of myself and maintain a lifestyle I could be happy with. It turns out, none of those were things I should be worrying about. Fear would be my undoing when all was said and done.
The minute you can push fear away is the minute you start living your life. The surge of energy you feel when you can say, “I am going to be okay,” and mean it is enough to power you through. Fear is an addiction, but positive energy is addicting too. Confidence is exhilarating, and once you’ve tasted it, you’ll never want to go back to that cold, dark place of fear. You are a creature of the universe, and the universe will take care of you if you allow it to. Breathe in–the universe has given you everything you need, you just need to take it. It provides you with oxygen, water, nourishment, but if you allow, it can also provide you with joy, hope, and love. Breathe out–release the fear and negativity that has been growing in your heart. You don’t need it. Do not mistake fear for ambition: fear can drive us to great heights, but we will never achieve happiness if we push ourselves out of fear. Once you replace that with love–love for yourself, love for the universe–you will realize you can do so much more.
When you need something in your life–really need it–the universe will put it there. Several weeks ago, I told someone I needed to read the Bhagavad-Gita in full. I had read parts of it in college, and I’ve always found myself fascinated with Vedic spiritualities, but I’ve never read the full text. It felt like something I needed to do for my spiritual growth. The other day, my sister came home with literature from a missionary she encountered at a festival. She donated what she could with no intention of reading the books he offered, but decided they looked like something I would read and passed them on. “It’s some sort of Indian bible,” she said, handing them off. There, in my hands, was a pocket-sized version of the Bhagavad-Gita. I put my intention out into the world, and the universe agreed by giving me the means to follow through. Coincidence? Maybe, but I prefer to see it as evidence that magic happens when you’re ready. Release your fear, and start living your love.
Sometimes, we end up at just the right place at just the right time. Such was the case last week, when I found myself in a room with thirty other individuals, trusting our breath and meditating on trees. How I arrived here isn’t important–it was simply the right combination of changed plans and obstacles that landed me the seat, and I knew as soon as the evening began that I was in the right place. “It’s like a group meditation,” my mother had said, as if trying to convince me to go, “and it could be good for you.” It’s no secret that times have been hard. Everyone has felt it, and the more sensitive you are, the harder it becomes. It showed on the faces of everyone in the room that night, a shadow under the eyes, a crease between the brow, a tension in the hands… yet by the end of the evening, they had all melted away, replaced with ease and empowerment.
Al Fuentes sat in front of the window, a travel-cup of tea at his side, looking every bit the part of the guru. But when he began to speak it became clear that he wasn’t some inaccessible spiritualist at all. In fact, he’s incredibly down-to-earth. Sure, he has stories about meeting enlightened masters in India, but he has equally engaging stories about having his iPhone stolen at the DMV. Anyone who compares one of the most profound human experiences to a cheese pizza has to have both feet planted firmly on the ground and at least one in the modern American world–surely, swamis don’t eat Dominos. To Al Fuentes, Enlightenment isn’t at the top of a mountain somewhere in the Himalayas, or at the end of a long and trying religious path. According to Al, the first step towards Enlightenment is simply taking a breath.
Take a breath. Go ahead, do it. Take a real breath, a conscious, considered breath in through your nose. Think about that breath and all it’s doing for you. Think about why you breathe. Feel the breath filling your lungs, feel the oxygen absorbing into your bloodstream, feel your cells receiving that nourishment. How did you know that breath would satisfy so much need? Trust. Every time you take a breath, you trust that you’ll be getting oxygen, and that your body will synthesize it. Every day, you could breathe over 28,000 times. In any given minute, you might breathe twenty times. That’s twenty demonstrations of perfect trust in the universe around you. Twenty times when you share control over your life with a totally unseen force–you might command the breath, but the universe ultimately decides how the action is fulfilled.
But breathing is a two-part action. You breathe in and demonstrate perfect trust, but you also breathe out. For each time you take in nourishment from the universe, you release as well. You cleanse your system of things you no longer need. You never hang on to the carbon dioxide that your body has produced–it’s a waste product and it would poison you. Almost reflexively, you purge it. There are so many things in our lives that poison our well-being, things we cling to out of habit or comfort. We don’t need them. Think about it: when you read that statement, your head turned over several things that you know you don’t need in your life. Clothing that no longer fits, tech gadgets that no longer serve your purpose, maybe even people that no longer uplift and support you. Letting go can be scary–what if you need those things later on? What if you feel lonely or empty once they no longer take up that space? In reality, you’re only holding your breath. Breathe out. Now breathe in again. The universe restores what you might have lost, and fills those empty spaces with things you truly need.
We share our breath with millions of others, every day–other people, other creatures, other things. We breathe the same oxygen as our partners, our friends, our family. Our exhalations provide an abundance of chemicals needed by flowers, grass, and trees. And in addition to trusting and letting go and sharing the cycle over and over again, we can learn from them. Al shared a story in which several people asked him what they were supposed to be doing with their lives. It’s a common theme–even when I read cards, people always want to know what their life’s purpose is. But this was a peculiar number of people in a peculiar period of time, and Al felt that there was something more at work. He posed the question to the universe and what he received in response–in true universal fashion–was so simple and elegant that it answers for absolutely everyone who has ever dared to ask. Like a tree, we are meant to grow up and out. We are meant to root, to attach firmly to the earth, and grow towards the heavens, spreading our branches to shelter loved ones and touch people around us, to bud and flower and achieve great things, to bathe in sunlight and cast off the leaves that no longer serve us and grow new ones all over again. We are meant to do all of these things, relative to our own stories. My achievements will not be yours, and the people you shelter will not be mine, but as long as we continue to grow towards the sun and spread our branches, that’s okay. We’re both accomplishing all that the universe wants from us. And as long as we continue to breathe–in and out, over and over–we’ll get there.
Sometimes, things don’t quite go as planned. When I set my intentions for 2014, I cast out my nets for opportunity, travel, and good times with friends and family. But like any road we travel, we sometimes hit some bumps along the way–and just weeks into the year, I’ve been faced with some particularly impressive potholes. It’s frustrating: just when you resign to put all the bad behind you and achieve better in the future, that negativity places itself directly in your path again. But that doesn’t mean the Universe isn’t listening.
In December, I came across my old copy of Belladonna–once inside my car, it kept a firm hold on my CD player for the better part of the month. The songs were familiar, the music all part of distant memories of my adolescent years–but it was as if I was hearing the lyrics for the first time. Perhaps now, as an adult, I connected with them on a different level, but it was as if everything I was thinking about life was reflected back at me. Although the CD player in my car has spun a few albums since, I’ve been hearing Stevie’s words everywhere–I can’t seem to turn on a radio or be near a sound system without hearing one of her classics. I’ve even heard a few Fleetwood Mac gems. Some people would probably tell me it’s a coincidence, or that her involvement with a certain smash hit television series has renewed some of her public interest, but I can’t help but feel that the Universe might be trying to tell me something.
Listen carefully to the lyrics–think of them as an incantation for peace of mind. No matter what life throws at you, you are infinite. Within you are all the tools you will ever need to overcome any situation. The Universe has not given you anything you cannot handle because you can handle anything. Just reach inside yourself and draw out your power. You are a magical creature, “one small part of forever”…
For the last year or so, my life has been in a state of flux, a transitional period. While I can’t really say I knew where I was headed before then, the proverbial rug was ripped out from under me and I was forced to reevaluate the things I thought were valuable. Some were kept close, some were discarded, and some came back again all on their own, but I can safely say that I am a different person today than I was just three hundred and sixty six days ago. And I know that I’m still changing and growing. I don’t know if this season of change will last another week, month, year, or decade, but where I once fought for what I thought was my established self, I’m willing to sit back, learn the lessons I am being taught, and soak in the experience.
When I was young, the world was a dazzling place. It was so big, so full of new and interesting experiences, mysterious and wonderful things. Magic was everywhere, and I strived to be a part of it. From imaginary childhood games of “faerie,” dancing through falling maple keys with my friends, to teenage witchery on the small homemade altar in my room, I felt magic like the low, throbbing pulse of the world around me. …and then, somehow, I lost it. I don’t know when I really let it go, whether it slipped from my fingers gradually or whether I tossed it away in one great moment of heartbreak or angst or illness, but at some point, that enchantment which was as familiar as my own heartbeat was gone. And it was gone for a very long time.
Maybe I thought it made me cooler to be cynical and world-weary; maybe I thought it made me seem more intelligent and educated to explain away all the charm and mystery of life. Playing the skeptic became a new way of life, full of scholarly articles and existentialist essays and psychological studies. The cards and crystals that were previously like extensions of my hands were shoved into drawers, all but forgotten. There were even times when I wondered what my peers would think of me if they knew the kind of spiritual background I came from. And then, life happened. After so many years of calculated cynicism, I found myself turning back to the things I used to find comfort in. I clutched my crystals like a rosary and chanted words that I hoped would change the energy that surrounded me. I remembered the power of manifesting and envisioning and began to practice as much and as often as I could. And it began to pay off.
The Power of Positive Thinking and Manifesting Good Energy has helped me overcome obstacles I thought insurmountable. I certainly have a long way to go before I’m where I want to be, but I’m able to enjoy the ride. I would like to thank you, my readers, for sticking with me through my transition. If you’ve just joined me recently, thank you too–it’s your interest and continued support that gives me the confidence to write these things, which I previously felt too uncomfortable to share. Where I used to shy away from telling people about my cartomancy, my crystals, my star charts, I’m now less afraid of sharing my spirituality with others–perhaps people have become more open to magic and metaphysics, or perhaps like simply attracts like, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find myself surrounded with understanding and even interested individuals.
Magic is absolutely everywhere, in every aspect of our lives–why not live that magic with our whole hearts?
There are days where I wake up feeling inherently dissatisfied with myself. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact emotion–it’s a sadness, an anger, an anxiousness that’s so pervasive I feel like I’m drowning in it. It’s like waking up with a spiritual headache, a gaping wound in the soul. It’s impossible to say exactly why these days happen, what triggers them, and part of the anger is the frustration of knowing I should have a better handle on my emotions. –and that’s the very thought that reels it all back in: I am not a robot. Neither is anyone else living and feeling on this crazy little planet called Earth. We all have permission to feel and emote, regardless of how much sense those emotions really make sometimes.
Before I even bought a domain, when I was still writing on LiveJournal and toying with the idea of starting a proper blog, I played with a few different themes–book reviews, food writing, recipes, makeup tutorials all spun through my head as I envisioned layouts, upkeep, coding, and producing content. When I finally bought this domain in 2010, my initial plan was to document the changes I wanted to see in myself, my personal transformation into the individual I wanted to be. I was going to face fears and take chances to become one of the bold and daring Internet Mavens I had followed on and off for years. There really wasn’t much of that, and the whole thing sort of de-railed and became a generic cosmetics blog full of lifeless product reviews and half-hearted looks. But in a way, I accomplished the original goal completely behind the scenes: I took chances and struck up conversations I wouldn’t have otherwise, I tried on roles I was too shy to originally assume, and I pursued jobs I might have been too insecure to apply for. It wasn’t that I was becoming someone else–I had been that person all along, and simply found the courage to realize it.
I have come a very long way in the last three years, but of course, I’m not fully satisfied with where I am just yet. I’m a driven individual and I don’t settle for “good enough,” but I’m learning to accept the steps along the way. I need to enjoy each level as I climb, to take in every detail necessary so I don’t have to head back down for something I missed. Trusting the path I’m on has been one of my biggest challenges. There are days I tell myself that I wasted my time in culinary school because I could have been finishing my degree in art, or I should never have gotten my cosmetology license because I should have been studying creative writing or journalism. What a waste of energy! It’s so tempting to think of what could have been or what I should have done, but the truth is that everything I’ve done and everything that’s happened to me has shaped who I am. I would not be standing at the point I am today without every decision I’ve made along the way. And it’s tempting to think that I’m no where, that I’ve accomplished nothing that makes this point notable–but compared to the point I stood at three years ago, it’s a remarkable change.
Three years ago, I was adrift in a sea of comparisons. There were so many people I envied, so many people I wished I could be. But comparisons are unhealthy and destructive. You are your own person on your own path, and while other people may influence you to explore one direction or another, you cannot follow them or replace them. In the age of social media, it’s hard to ignore someone that annoys you, or makes you deviate from your path. Just remember that people act out for attention because they’re hurting–they desperately seek approval or put others down because they need to feel important. Their anger and sadness can be contagious, and it’s easier to disengage than to fall prey and remedy yourself. The next time you think about spewing venom at or about someone, think about why you feel the way you do. Consider what they’ve done to upset you and where that came from within them. Then let it go. It can be hard, but in the end, it’s better to let the negativity dissipate than to release it into the universe.
Any time I wonder if I’m heading in the right direction, or feel like I’ve gone down the wrong road in life, I take a moment to look around me. If I look hard enough, there are signs everywhere–a flower, an insect, a bird, a song on the radio, all confirming for me what I all ready know deep down inside: that I am exactly where I need to be right now.