Beauty as Resistance

Recommitting to Beauty

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Onset Bay, image by me

Recently, I’ve Begun Again, selling the house in OR and moving back to MA, about two hours from where I was born in Onset, MA. I was incredibly amused to learn that “Onset was developed in the 1880s as a summer camp meeting for Spiritualists. Many of the existing cottages in Onset were built as second homes for individuals from BostonTauntonBrockton and other northeastern cities who gathered to hear mediums communicate with the dead. While it was run by the Spiritualists, the village was known as Onset Bay Grove.”
source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Onset,_Massachusetts

I was back there, recently for the Cape Verdean Festival, with my mother and I went  to the shore to ponder “My Great Work”. Starting again will make you do that, and I was encouraged by an exercise in Deborah Castellano’s Glamour Magic wherein, one enters the wild and sits there past the boredom and distraction in order to uncover their next Great Work.

As I did, I discovered that vague and seemingly unhelpful information I always uncover, “I want to live a  Beautiful Life.” Not only have I known this since I was a child who was obsessed with whether or not things were beautiful or pretty enough, at this point in my adult life I’m frustrated with “How” (notice my answer wasn’t “become a florist” or “see more ballet”…) but also as I search for my next job “Who will pay for this?”.

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As Living Beautifully is my Life’s Great Work, I have to decide how to achieve that in a hostile society that doesn’t see beauty as an important necessity, the way I do, and doesn’t even see my Afro-Latina self as beautiful, and in some cases worthy. Great horrors are visited upon all of us every day, I don’t deny that, I even do what I can to address them.

I do not however, allow them to get in the way of Living as Beautifully as possible. Nothing is perfect and some days are undeniably bland or ugly, but here are some ways that you can achieve your healing and recovery and personal aesthetic, that are affordable and doable, even as you sign petitions and call your ancestors to help you handle this legislation.

Decide what is Important and Healing for You

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For me it’s Beauty, I can’t define Beauty for you, but I know it when I see it, I know it when I feel it.
I quite literally am refreshed and revived after walking through a garden. That’s my jam. I love flowers and get them as many ways as I can. Whether that be in a garden, watching them bloom in a video, wearing them as jewelry, wearing them as a print or a perfume, taking flower essences, or meditating with a plant. None of these things cost very much, a floral top will often cost as much as a plain top of the same style, and they make me happy. It’s about effort and self care. I may be writing my legislators, I may be currently unemployed, I may be hexing, but doing these things in a garden or wearing pretty things makes me feel better than if I were wearing sweats and yesterday’s mascara.

Escapism Helps Us Refuel

Plan escapes carefully.

Curate your allies.

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Find a poem, a song, write a story, find a story, create a Pinterest Board, of uplifting things that you can call on when you’re having a wretched day. Escaping into your “Desired Future” via pinterest, a world you want to live in that’s been carefully created by you, can do a world of good. Performing a self blessing can remind you that you are sacred, you’re important, and spirits are on your side.

Natalie Merchant writes songs I want to live in, I imagine myself surrounded by so many wonderful people that I’m moved to write a song of gratitude, a’la “Kind and Generous”. Tori Amos helps me feel less lonely in my rage and myriad emotions and Bjork is so ridiculous and inspiring, I sometimes need the irreverence to lighten up.

Theodora Goss, Angela Carter, Anais Nin, Alice Hoffman, Francesca Lia Block~have all rescued me from this world when I’ve needed to get away.

Renee Magnusson gets it, and has helped me to develop more “Devil may care” with my “joie de vivre”.

Find or create your muses.

Sabrina

Who has the grace, charm, or sass that you admire? Buffy? Sabrina? Dean Winchester? Josephine Baker? Frida Kahlo? James Bond? The “What Not To Wear” style gurus, Stacy and Clinton? Endora?

Make a list of the qualities that you believe they have and then figure out how to enhance them in yourself. If you admire Buffy’s ability to fight, find a self defense class. Appreciate “Chocolat’s” Vianne, played by Juliette Binoche? Learn a fancy chocolate recipe, share it with your friends. Adore a friend’s grace and charm? Read Kelly Williams Brown’s Gracious.
Can’t decide? Create a Servitor. I created a Bon Vivant based on “Sabrina” (the film, not the Teenage Witch)  and “La Dolce Vita” and “La Vie en Rose” which by the way, is *not* seeing the world through colored glasses, as many would have you believe- it’s actually “a state of bliss wherein everything around you delights you” which is exactly what a garden gives me. Her job is to lead me to delightful things, no matter what.

Which is the point of this entire life, make it beautiful, no matter what.

Resources:

The Atlantic on the Beauty/Happiness connection

On the importance of beauty

The work of Renee Magnusson

http://www.reneemagnusson.com/

All about roses

The work of Deborah Castellano

http://www.charmedfinishingschool.com/

 

 

 

 

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Simple Pleasures

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Courtesy Ashridge Trees
Lavender Oatmeal Skin Cleanser
My skin has been unhappy since I moved to Shutesbury, MA. Maybe it’s a mineral in the well water or the humidity, but it’s been cranky.

Enter Oatmeal, which moisturizes skin, protects from exterior irritations, and retains moisture. Add Lavender, which is soothing and gentle to the skin and both antiseptic and antifungal.

The simplest way to make the skin cleanser is to mix:

1 Part Lavender Buds

1/2 Part Coffee

1/2 Part Chocolate

2 Parts Oatmeal

3 Parts Baking Soda

To use form a paste with any of the suggested fluids, apply to face, wait 2-3 minutes and rinse off.
I suggest honey, rosewater, lavender water, 1 part apple cider vinegar mixed with 1 part water, or aloe juice.

If you make a big enough batch you can use it on your entire body.

Store in an airtight container.

 

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Sweep it way now…

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The Broom and Magical Carpet Powder

 

The Broom is traditionally a woman’s tool, because sweeping is traditionally woman’s work. It’s interesting that this has become the penultimate tool of the witch. Taking this tool of domesticity and creating the witch’s traveling vehicle- and therefore her freedom, is some amazing alchemy.

I recently moved into a new apartment, which comes with blessings and challenges. One of the challenges was the smell of the carpet. It’s new, so maybe it’s’ the factory smell I’m objecting to.

Anyhow, I finally got around to making carpet powder to improve the situation. It occurred to me that it could be formulated in order to manifest one’s wishes.

My basic recipe:

1 Part Baking soda

1/3 Part Lavender Flowers

1/4 Part Ground Coffee*

1/4  Part Activated Charcoal *

10 Drops Essential Oil

*(You may skip these if your carpet is very, very light in coloring, but coffee and charcoal  are both amazing at neutralizing odors)

I like to grind my herbs as finely as possible, or use them powdered if possible.
Mix, I suggest a container with a lid, shake it all up and allow it to stand at least an hour. Sprinkle on the carpeted area, then get your broom and brush it in. Wait an hour or three. Vacuum it up.
Enjoy the freshened room.

Magical Additions-

Salt, citrus peel, palo santo for cleansing

Mugwort, rosemary, lavender for dreams or enhancing intuition

Vanilla, Rose petals, chocolate, cinnamon, for romance

Bay leaves, ginger, cinnamon, for prosperity

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Selkie Sea Bath

I’ve been pondering Selkies lately as I wonder where we as a country are going, and why I am in this hand basket. The notion of finding my skin and returning to myth is quite enticing to say the least.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Selkies, they are magical creatures from the British Isles, who are seals in the sea, and if they choose, humans on land. These myths seem to originate in the Orkney Islands, but who can say? They are also found in Ireland, and frankly, I think travel wherever they like.

http://www.orkneyjar.com/folklore/selkiefolk/

 

We find hints of them in “The Secret of Roan Inish”, “Ondine”, “The Brides of Rollrock Island” by Megan Lanagan, and she is beautifully sung to by Emily Portman in “Grey Stone”. Sharon Blackie reimagines the myth beautifully in “If Women Rose Rooted” (Her “Romance of Mis and Dubh Ruis” is also not to be missed.)

 

 

Selkie Seaweed Bath

I HIGHLY recommend using seaweed pieces- powdered seaweed is a magnificently difficult thing to clean up from oneself and bathtub. (Trust me.)

1/2-1 cup Northern Atlantic Seaweed- there are plenty of seaweeds from all over, but since Selkies seem to originate from Scotland, I try to use seaweed from that area, but you can use whatever you have on hand. Irish Moss, Kelp, and Digitata are all good choices.

1/2-1 cup Sea Salt (Again, use Atlantic if you can)

1/4 cup Rosemary Rosemary translates to “Rose of the Sea” so I use it in all my Oceanic preparations.

1/4 cup Lavender which is associated with being clean, as it’s name comes from the verb “to wash” in French.

1/2 cup Aloe Vera juice aloe is a great humectant, I always think of it as Seaweed’s land-locked sister; holding on to all the water she can in the desert-which nods to the land-locked Selkie that can’t find it’s skin

Add everything but the Aloe Vera to a 6 cups of boiling water; lower to a simmer and simmer an hour. Strain well. Pour into a drawn bath and add Aloe Vera. Soak, imagine finding your skin, swimming away.

I do often leave a few of the larger pieces of Seaweed to float in the tub, because it’s a lovely experience, but beware your plumbing.

You can follow with a homemade Seaweed oil:

https://tappingatmychamberdoor.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/homemade-seaweed-oil/

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Chakra Tonics; Muladhara

I’ve been studying under Alexis J Cunningfolk and Darcey Blue as of late, additionally, I’ve been under the care of Kirsten Hale and Heather Nic An Fleisdeir~ and I decided to experiment with Chakra Tonics.***

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Chakras, as you are aware; come from the Hindu Tradition. I’ve of course seen them everywhere, and while it’s true that Chakras belong to the Hindus~ it’s a handy, useful, and thorough way of describing energy centers in the body. It’s possible that other traditions had more thorough information on ways to describe and use the energy body~ but perhaps they’ve been lost.

In any case; without reinventing the wheel-haha- here is the first of 7 chakra tonics I’ve been experimenting with.

Root Chakra, Red, Muladhara Survival, belonging, and security.

1 Part Hibiscus~ a bright red, beautiful flower, related to sexuality and good for the heart, regulating blood sugar, and increasing blood flow

1/2 Part Ginger~ roots help us feel grounded and spicy flavors bring us into our bodies, ginger is warming, soothing, and good for the digestive system

1/4 Part Motherwort~ as this is the chakra of feeling safe and grounded; Motherwort as an addition is useful to create feelings of safety, comfort, and it also helps us remain in our bodies

 

Add 1 heaping tbsp to a cup of hot water; steep 5~10 minutes

Add sweetener; enjoy

*** I’m not a professional herbalist, just someone who has taken classes, done some experimenting, and gone to herbalists for treatment. As with literally anything on the internet; do your own research, go forth wisely, and decide if using these tonics is the right course for your health.***

 

 

 

 

 

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The Way It Should Be

How beautiful and important.
Thanks for sharing, Estara.

Caw, Motherfsckers

Once upon a time, yesterday in fact, there were two chiefs. The elder was a priestess of Oshun, and the younger a priestess of Yemaya. They agreed to confer, with students observing them, on a subject in which they had not reached total agreement. What matters to this story is not the matter on which they disagreed but the manner in which they did it:

Priestess Younger brought forward her well-researched explorations of original lore, along with resources to share for others who wished to follow the threads she had found. Priestess Elder brought forward regional variations she had found and the historical context borne of her lifetime of experience.

Priestess Younger said, “This is my Work, here and now. I want to pay you respect because I know that it is the Work you have already done that makes mine possible. I wish you continued success in your own…

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Life as a Spell

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As I have “advanced” in my practices, I find that I rarely cast spells anymore. I cast maybe four a year. This doesn’t mean that I need or want less stuff, or that life is suddenly smooth and easy. What it does mean, is that my relationships with my Powers that Be have improved and in a way-solidified, so that we can work more harmoniously to achieve my (our) goals.

My practice has leaned more towards prayer, offerings, and divination over the last five years or so. I also decorate myself and my home in a way that supplements and assists me in achieving my desires. My dream practice is full of advice and extraordinary experiences. So it isn’t that magic doesn’t happen, it certainly does, it happens every day- but because of how I live my life as opposed to how I cast a particular spell.

Offerings

I think people underestimate the power of a simple offering. As important as your morning cup of chai, coffee, or cigarette is to you, imagine having to rely upon the living to give them to you, because you can’t get it yourself. Ghastly thought.

I make weekly, (or more) offerings to a variety of spirits, including-

Deities

Ancestors

The Dead

Land Spirits

I also make a single offering weekly which I call “Covering My Ass”

“I make this offering to the spirits I know and love

I make this offering to spirits I have neglected or forgotten

I make this offering to any spirit I have offended, that I may be forgiven.”

The idea is, that if I make myself a source of desired goods, attention, and love, I become valuable to these spirits-who will in return protect me, bless me, or at the least- do me no harm.

Cleansing and Hygiene

I’ve written before about cleansing and spiritual hygiene. I take a lot of baths, but there are endless ways to get clean. I see it as the removal of what’s unnecessary in your personal sphere. The less static that surrounds you, the easier and more effective it is to be you. As someone who picks up moods, pain, suffering, and is generally (perhaps overly) affected by what’s happening in her environment, cleansing is very useful and important to me. So-for instance, if I’m feeling melancholy and someone calls me with an issue they’re having and I get angry and defensive on behalf of my friend-once I hang up, I’m going to have my original melancholy, plus anger and defensiveness.

That would be an ideal time to cleanse, so I can get back to the energies are just mine alone. So would after an argument with a loved one, a bad day at work, being exposed to a piece of media that upsets you, after an event with many people, after a nightmare and anytime you feel a bit “off”. You can pray over your finished product before you use it.

Rosemary, lavender, salt, lemon, sage, cleansing bath.

Mix together 1 tbsp each: Rosemary, lavender, sage, with the freshly grated rind of 1/2 a lemon, make a tea, strain, set aside.

To a full bath add 1 cup sea salt, and the bathing tea.

If you don’t have a bath (I’m sorry) but you can omit the lemon and make a salt scrub of lavender, sage, and rosemary oils.

1 cup salt

1/2 cup oil (olive,almond, coconut)

7d lavender

5d sage

4d rosemary

Mix together and voila! You can also roll a candle in the salt mixture for a cleansing candle to cleanse a space, or add it to an oil burner with water (holy water would be ideal) to cleanse a space.

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Prayer

Dear Gods,I don’t do this well, I tend to wait until something is awful-and then turn to my spirits in tears and tantrum. I’m getting better, though. I’ve found that talking to them as if they’re friends who have my best interests at heart works for me. Other ways of relating-like I’ve seen ceremonial rituals that seem as if they’re discussions between a foreman and his staff, and others that seem as if the human is a sad wretch that desperately needs the assistance-but isn’t worthy of it-and none of that works for me.

I encourage you to find a way and a language that works for you.

Divination

I do divination once a week, just for a general theory of the upcoming week. I draw 7 cards, one for each day, and if I need further advice, I’ll pull a couple more cards for the day that seems vague or troubling. This assists me in knowing what’s coming up and knowing what to ask for more support for.

There are many other real-life, day to day living opportunities, that you could infuse with mystical meaning.Good luck.

Make it beautiful.

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