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.
It’s been retrograde city over the last few months—with a whole pack of planets on the Rx (Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, and Saturn to name only a few of the big ones), it’s no surprise that things haven’t exactly gone according the plan lately. That includes last month’s tarot forecast. Don’t worry, though: Mercury went direct last weekend and Mars is back on track before this month is out. We still have a while before powerhouse Jupiter gets with the program, but by then our planetary woes should be long behind us!
In the meantime, we’ve got a lot to celebrate—the weather has finally broken, summer is well on its way, and with it come all of the fun-in-the-sun plans we’ve missed for the last eight months. It’s time for block parties, barbecues, and picnics in the park—it’s time to recharge your batteries and detox all those winter worries. Friends might be coming out of the woodwork, but this is a perfect time to spend some quality time with You, especially if you’ve neglected your own base needs in the frantic energy of the last few months. Take yourself on a date. Go for some long walks on the beach, buy yourself a piña colada, reconnect with yourself.
This would also be a great time to have a heart-to-heart with yourself and forgive all the things you’ve been blaming yourself for lately: not everything is your fault. There’s a difference between taking responsibility and berating yourself. If things haven’t worked out, examine the situations as they transpired and really think about what went wrong. Consider them missed opportunities instead of failures: the growth you’ll achieve by learning from this will be more valuable in the long run.
Use this month to really balance your energies—have fun, lighten your load, and go forward with the understanding that you’re only human. You adapt and evolve based on the challenges you’re presented with. Where were you at this time last year? Where were you even six months ago—how long ago does that feel? You may not have always been in control, and you may not have made all the right choices, but look how far you’ve come. Six months from now, you’ll be somewhere entirely new all over again, with new things to celebrate and new challenges to face.
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.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: March is my least favourite month of the year. With truly insane weather and the anticipation of Spring in everyone’s minds, it always seems unnecessarily tense and generally unpleasant. Last year, the first brought a monster snowstorm to New York City, and I shivered my way through the month with curses on my breath and rubber boots on my feet. But that doesn’t necessarily mean this year needs to follow suit: we can’t change the weather, but we can change our outlook.
We may be feeling a little burned out, the emotional hangover from a tumultuous winter of highs and lows. It’s weighed on us heavily, and it’s affected more than just our mood. But winter is almost over and we’re beginning to catch glimpses of growth under the snow. Just like the crocus that pop up to tell us it’s all okay, that we survived another dismal, frozen season, we’re beginning to see signs of hope all around. Our creative fire is coming back, thawing the ice that’s stopped us cold in our tracks. Remember that renewal energy we felt last month? Well, we can’t fight it anymore. Why would we want to? We’ve put this off for way too long.
We still have some unfinished business to take care of before the month is out, but we’ll get it done. We need to clear some space in order to receive all the hot new energy coming in–clean out the spiritual closets to make room for what will become our Spring signatures. I know that it can be hard to let go of the old, especially when it’s something we’ve held onto for so long. But just like the pair of jeans you outgrew in highschool or the shoes you ran into the ground, there are some things that just stop serving a purpose in our lives. If we’re not careful, we can clutter up our lives with so many useless energies that there’s no room for the things we actually need. Embrace the new. Use this burst of energy to clear out all the winter muck. Remember: you can smother a flame with too much fuel.
Whether you’re lighting a white pillar for Imbolc or waiting for news from a groundhog, we’re halfway through it–we can officially see the other side of winter. There are plenty of reasons to be happy to wave goodbye to January: personal strife, dreary weather, readjustments and resolutions… but we’ve done it! We’ve officially made it into February!
February brings the Lunar New Year, Valentine’s Day, and this year, even a calendar-extending Leap Day, but most importantly, it brings us that much closer to Spring. With the sun in revolutionary Aquarius, our motivation kicks back into gear, and with Mars in Scorpio, we’re finally getting to the bottom of why–and knowing is half the battle. This month, we’ve finally found the energy to melt the freeze, wash off the sludge, and move forward. The temptations of winter–complacency, over-indulgence, malaise–aren’t so appealing now that we’ve caught the fire of renewal. Goals are becoming clearer, more concise, and looking more attainable than ever: your personal power has been slowly growing, like a bulb under the snow, and now you’re ready to bloom. You have everything you need to become the person you foresaw when you imagined 2016: use this energy to reconnect with yourself, reinvent yourself–remember, this is your time. You are not what others think you are, or what they need you to be. You are your own.
But everything in moderation. Balancing your spiritual well-being with your worldly success is important: working too hard in one area or the other can throw the entire effort. Be patient and kind to yourself–you’re still learning, and you always will be. Every failure, like every success, brings opportunities for reflection. Use them. Everything is on your side.
Change happens. Time marches on and we’re all left to put together the pieces left behind. Every year, at 11:59 on 31st December, we hold our breath and wait for change to wash over us. It comes in effervescent waves of champagne, noisy blows of party horns and the drunken cries of elated strangers. For one beautiful instant, we’re all united in our desire for change, looking with fresh eyes at the first moments of the new year, dripping with possibility and sparkling confetti. Wishes hang in the air like raindrops, washing away the negativity of the expired year.
Somewhere beneath 53rd St, the last few seconds of 2015 drowned in the strains of an upbeat 80’s pop song. I turned to my boyfriend and closed my eyes as we greeted 2016 together in a kiss, mentally listing my goals for the new year in a ritual older than I can remember. Familiar strangers patted shoulders and shook hands, united in the experience of watching the resurrection of the year. Some ten blocks downtown, Times Square was still a tangle of bodies, littered with coloured paper inscribed with the wishes of tens thousands. Despite the frenetic energy all around me, there was something so natural about the fresh new year. I all ready felt at home in its round, even digits mere moments in.
2015 was a year of adjustments: I spent the first half of the year adjusting to a new city, a new apartment, a new school. I adjusted my courses, my major, my career. I adjusted to new rolls within my family, my friendships, and my personal life. Some of it was incredibly trying, painful, intimidating. Some of it brought more happiness than I knew was possible. 2015 brought with it moments I will undoubtedly recall forever among the best and the worst, and for all of them, I am grateful. But 2016 is here, and with it come new lessons.
For years, I’ve sat on the floor with my cards some time after midnight and drawn for the coming year: one initial card for each month with an additional card or two for additional insight, creating a twelve-spot circle before me, laying a single card in the middle for the general theme of the year as a whole. In 2016, amongst an assortment of ambitious wands and root-laying pentacles, that central card spoke of letting go, moving forward, and looking to the future. While this reading was a personal one, meant for my own meditative purposes, I can’t think of a better message to move into the new year.
Whether 2015 was a dream come true or a waking nightmare, it’s time to put it to bed. It’s time to process the past, take an inventory of lessons learned, and suit up for the journey ahead. 2016 can take you to fantastic new places as long as you’re ready to make the trip. Even if the past is full of heartbreak and hardship, it can be hard to leave. The past is familiar, and familiar is comfortable. We know where we’ve been, and it’s so easy to stay there. 2016 challenges you to look beyond the horizon, to trust that the wild unknown is better than the beaten path, that your destination is still ahead. There will be thorns to dodge, storms to weather, bridges to cross, but where there’s a will there’s a way, and fortune favours the bold. 2016 begs you to be bold. I can’t help but hear John O’Callaghan in my head, singing words I never knew would be so relevant when I first heard them in March–
“Unaware of where I’m going
Or if I’m going anywhere at all
But I know I’ll take the leap
If it is worth the fall
So long as the blood keeps flowing
I’ll set a sail and swim across
I’m not looking to be found
Just want to feel (un) lost“
So, 2016, take it slow, control what you can, confront what you can’t, and always remember how lucky you are to have yourself. Whether 2016 is “our” year remains to be seen, but I can pretty much guarantee it’s a step down the right path.
The second rhinoceros appeared on the projection screen and the entire class collectively held their breath. Eyes shut tight, it knelt in the grass as several disembodied hands reached down to rest on its face, bright woven bangles shocking against gray flesh. I put down my coffee, afraid I would choke if I started to weep.
“A remarkable photograph, eh?” Our instructor paused at the slide, noticing our intense reaction to this particular image. When class meets at 9AM on a Friday, an intense reaction is a rare thing. We were assured the rhino was all right, rescued after a run-in with poachers–a lucky rhino in what was usually a tragic situation. The next slide brought us back to the usual street scenes and portraits. But after a half-dozen more had passed another rhino invaded the frame, this time eye-to-eye with Salvador Dali. Now I knew that something was up.
Before the lecture was over, I had seen at least four rhinoceroses in various forms–sculptures, drawings, actual animals. While some could say that my instructor clearly had rhino on the mind while putting slides together, that didn’t change the fact that the rhino is my spirit animal and I was supposed to be hearing something.
Animal totems have a fairly wide appeal, regardless of spiritual beliefs or backgrounds–they can be a tool to embody strength, action, wisdom, or joy, or a reminder to listen to your higher powers. Almost everyone I’ve known can say that they have a personal connection to some animal symbol, in some way. But it’s often far more complex than simply a favourite animal or beloved pet speaking from your memories. I was a teenager when a friend and I laid down on the thin boucle carpet in a minuscule shop near my town, breathing deeply of the fragrant smoke wafting through the room as we prepared to journey into Spirit. We were both open-minded, having grown up in rather untraditional faiths, but we remained skeptical of what would come next: we were going to meet our spirit animals on their own turf. The circle leader beat a steady rhythm on his drum, focussing our attention on the hypnotic beat as he set us off. At first, it was all me–I was in complete control as I pictured myself in the peaceful stream I had waded through that spring, remembering the gentle trickling of the water over rocks and the cool rush against my skin. I pushed aside stones in the banks to find the opening that would lead me into Spirit, and I crawled through, following the dark path downwards. At this rate, my spirit animal was going to be a lizard, or a crow, or any other number of animals I felt “suited” me because I was dictating what happened. A fox appeared in the dark stone cavern before me.
And then something curious happened: I asked whether it was my spirit animal, and it met my eye, shook its small orange head, and said, “No.” I was a little startled. I hadn’t anticipated meeting animals that weren’t my spirit animal at all. A lizard scuttled across the wall of the cavern, hesitating as he saw me. “Are you my spirit animal?” –and with another quick no, he disappeared from sight. Slivers of light caught the iridescence of feathers as a peacock fanned and again I posed my question. “No,” he said, dropping his tail and retreating into darkness, leaving a single feather behind. I was getting confused and worried–what if I didn’t find my spirit animal during the journey? What if I didn’t even have a spirit animal? The vision had gotten away from me completely–things were happening entirely on their own. Several more animals came and went, some only laughing at my question, others sympathetically shaking their heads before leaving me alone again. Then, I came to another space, a room carved out of the rock separately from the cavern at large. Inside was a massive white rhinoceros, glowing softly in the darkness. His impossibly black eyes followed me as I crossed the threshold. “Are you my spirit animal?” I asked breathlessly, and received only a purposeful nod in return. I ran my hands over his massive head, feeling the rugged texture of his skin, the precious stone of his horn. I wove a crown of jane magnolias and dogwoods to place over his ears and danced around him like a maypole. Rhino never moved out of place, tacitly approving my actions with flicking ears and swishing tail.
The drum beat changed, quickening ever-so-slightly, little by little. It was our call out. I wrapped my arms around Rhino’s massive head, resting my cheek against the cool length of his horn as we said our unspoken goodbyes and I thanked him for his guidance. I backed out of the chamber, through the cavern, ascended the passage, and then out of the stream. When I opened my eyes, I was in the smokey little shop, keenly aware of the hard floor below me and the growing tickle behind my throat. Through the years to follow, Rhino has been a consistent symbol in my life. He becomes a reminder of myself and a suggestion of power. He is often the “I can,” or the “I should” when I’m unsure or unwilling. I don’t always know what he’s telling me, but I know when he presents himself that I need to listen up. Lately, things have been in flux, rapidly changing as I discover new and interesting things about myself and the world around me–three rhinoceroses in one day can’t be a coincidence.
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.