feature image via Molly Adams
Honestly, I’m still having to do a lot of healing and strength rituals and spells. I’m still trying to recover from Orlando and even more murders of Black men by police and murders of trans women of color. It’s tough out here, but I’m glad that I have this practice and this community to help me get through it. Things are getting better, though. I’m in LA for the summer, a place with a lot of magic and a lot of witches. I’ve been visiting family, which helps me connect with my bruja roots (did you know I have a great aunt who communes with the dead?) and I’ve been spending time with friends, spreading the gospel of witchcraft across the city. I even have plans to go crystal shopping here, natch. Do you have any witchy plans for this summer?
Across the internet people are using witchcraft in new and inventive ways. One thing that witches have long been good at is healing, and over at Little Red Tarot, Asali writes about using witchcraft to try to heal from all the murders of Black people in America. Other witches, like Noel’le Longhaul, are using art, long a witch’s tool, in new ways to create magic through tattoos. Or maybe you’re a kink witch looking for new ways to tie your craft into your love life? Well, there are articles about that too. Others, like Johanna Middleton and Martine Moore, are making webseries, like Bwitches, which looks ridiculous, but also kind of amazing, and is described as a “smart and goofy cross between Broad City and Bewitched.”
This was honestly one of the best months for witchy content at Autostraddle in a while. Not only did we have a lot of witchy content, but we a lot of great stuff. As for the regulars, Corina’s Queer Horoscopes for July cut deep into all of our souls, revealing truths that we may not be ready for, and Beth’s Fool’s Journey explored heart, flow and emotions in the suit of Cups. Erin, who always writes the best content, hit another grand slam with her amazing article on 12 tips for seducing a witch (btw, as a witch, I can tell you that her tips are 100% amazingly accurate). Cecelia, my favorite witch in the world, put together an amazing roundtable on What We Mean When We Say Femme, and it’s full of magic and power and rituals and perfection. If you ever want to be reminded that magic exists in the world, just read that article. Finally, in some Autostraddle Plus content, I showed why I’m the person who writes this column by revealing that I keep 17 different crystals in my purse at all times. Sorry to be a stereotype, guys.
Astrology Altar Essentials
You have an innate ability to defend yourself and protect the people you care for, but sometimes you forget to recharge after putting so much energy into the world. The Fire Agate crystal contains the pure essence of an Aries, and meditating with it will help you restore the energy you need to confidently and assertively reach your goals. The Emperor card will help you keep your goals in perspective. The Fountain Tarot describes this card by writing: “Grand achievements are not built overnight; they require a mature coordination of foresight, planning, and bold fearlessness.” On your altar, this card represents the combination of dedication and courage you use to attract what you want. Aries also has the unique advantage of being ruled by Mars, which means you have an intuitive access to sexual power. Traditionally, cinnamon is associated with Mars and sex magic. Burn cinnamon oil on your altar or tap a few drops on your skin to help with attraction and sex spells. When your energy is out of balance, you may find yourself becoming argumentative or defensive. Honeysuckle incense is a great way too soothe this energy, and it’s sugary and lemony scent will help you access generosity.
You love taking risks and seeing how many things you can accomplish, but sometimes you promise more than you can manage. In these moments, a magical altar is a healing space of balance that reminds you to prioritize joy. The Temperance card represents your ability to adapt to any situation, and reminds you that you’re fun to be around and that you bring out the best in others. Temperance can also be helpful to meditate on when you’re feeling too fun or too wild to the point of self-destruction, reminding you to return to a place of calm. Eucalyptus oil can help restore that calm, helping you feel both centered and open. Juniper is the herb of Jupiter, which rules Sagittarius, and it works for smoke cleansing as an herb or burned as an oil in your altar. The sweet and earthy smell will help you connect with your inner sense of optimism, hope and faith. Green Aventurine is the luckiest crystal, and it will boost your already innate knack for manifesting serendipitous opportunities. Meditating with this crystal will help you release old, unproductive habits and make you feel excited to grow, restoring your zest for life.
Your presence is a gift to others — you’re creative, charming and openly affectionate. Using these tools on your altar will create the attraction magic to help you find people who can recognize these gifts in you. The Carnelian crystal reflects the warm and captivating Leo energy. Meditating with it can make you feel powerful, and will help you access your ability to motivate and lead others through difficult situations. The Strength card is simple and powerful, representing the inner well of strength you have to draw from. The Strength card also allows you to access your compassion, which is a powerful way you reveal your strength to others. It’s very important for you to have a strong sense of your identity, and the essence of burning Tarragon will help connect you with the expressions of your identity that make you feel most joyful and inspired. The earthy and clean scent of Sandalwood oil will create a productive magical space for success and good luck spells.
Words With Witches
altar: any structure upon which offerings or sacrifices are made. May be found in conjunction with shrines, or in temples or churches. Can be found in use in Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, Shinto, neopaganism, ancient Greek and Roman religious practices, and more. It may contain items that are meant to be used in specific religious rituals, or may hold items that are offerings to spirits or deities or have personal spiritual significance to an individual. May be kept in a public or private place, depending upon its purpose. Many faith traditions incorporate candles or something else that burns, like oil lamps or incense, to altars in some way. Altars may also be used outside a specific faith tradition as a focus for meditation or spiritual introspection. Historically, altars could even be mobile, like “war altars” that were pulled by horses or oxen and used to hold mass before battles. Today, it’s not uncommon to use Altoid tins or other small containers to make “portable altars” that can carry meaningful or sacred items when traveling.
Wheel of the Year: Lammas – 1st August
Lammas (or Lughnasadh, pronounced ‘lunasa’) marks the start of the harvest season. The fields are full of food and so are the trees and bushes. Traditionally, we are digging up the vegetables, harvesting grain and fruit, baking the first loaf of the year, and saying thank you to the earth, to the elements, to our gods and goddesses, for everything they provide. This time is all about abundance and gratitude, gathering and sharing, and preserving food so it will last through the autumn and winter to come. Here in the UK it’s the time of bilberries (a wild, scrappy, delicious little blueberry that grows on the moors). It’s a really beautiful time.
The word Lammas means ‘loaf mass’ or ‘loaf feast’, and this is traditionally festival of grain. We bake bread and watch the season turn again, feel the slow movement towards autumn.
Six weeks ago, at summer solstice, the sun reached its peak and we witnessed the longest day of the year. For six months leading to this point, days had been growing warmer and longer. We experienced growing activity, heat, an ‘upwards’ movement. Now, on the other side of this solar event, we’re seeing the opposite. Summer is still with us, but there is a shift in the energy. Days are growing shorter and little by little, we begin to turn inwards.
Elementally, we’re partway between fire (summer) and water (autumn). Fire is the proactive, busy, exciting, “up” energy of sunshine and long, fun-filled days, whereas water has a more reflective quality. As autumn comes in, we go inwards, exploring those less-seen corners of our psyches. For now, however, we’re between the two! Can you feel the shift taking place?
We harvest what we have grown this year, and we reflect on this growth. It’s a place where what we have meets what we have wished for — it’s about gratitude for what we have, especially what we have created or grown for ourselves, but also about acknowledging things that didn’t come to fruition, and acceptance that not every year can be a perfect harvest. This is a process that will continue into autumn.
Questions to ask yourself:
- What am I grateful for right now? To whom or what am I grateful?
- What am I harvesting right now? Think about hard work you have put in towards goals that are now coming to fruition.
- What am I not harvesting? It’s okay to think about regrets here. Plans that dwindled or were abandoned, seeds sown on stony ground. How might you do this stuff differently next year?
- What do I need to preserve right now, so it will last me the rest of the year?
Here are some ways you might celebrate Lammas:
- Bake bread
- Climb a hill
- Eschew the supermarket and enjoying local food, really appreciating its seasonality and quality
- Share food with friends
- Make a corn dolly or grain mother
- Drink mint tea (mint is traditionally associated with abundance)
- Take the time to say thank you to the people and places that nourish and support you
- Make jam, pickles or preserves
- Try this tarot spread: First Harvest: A Lammas Tarot Spread, from Alexis at Worts + Cunning.
For your altar
- Sunflowers (or sunflower seeds)
- A corn dolly (see above!)
- The colours yellow and blue
- Tarot cards representing abundance – maybe the Nine of Pentacles, the Empress, the Four of Wands, or whatever feels right to you.
My Favorite Witch
Listen, I get it… Ursula is an easy person to hate. One might say she tricked Ariel into signing her life away. One might say she then tricked the guy Ariel was “in love with” and almost got him to marry her. But I say that’s taking the easy route. Ursula the Sea Witch is the sister of King Triton who was banished from the kingdom, even though she was promised half of it. Think of her like your angry feminist aunt. She tries to teach Ariel that her voice isn’t valued on land… she just has some backward methods.
Here is a list of five things that make Ursula more than her faults:
- She has a fantastic beauty mark/makeup/style. Like, everything about her is serious #stylegoals. I have dreams about her eyeliner.
- She works her curves. Honestly, I could never pull off a dress like the one she wears. It’s amazing.
- She gives people what they ask for. Maybe they don’t really know what they want, but that’s not her fault, it’s theirs.
- She’s half octopus.
- #misandrygoals: she made King Triton bow before her. Amen sister.
Sure, you could focus on the not-so-morally-correct things Ursula has done, or you could think about this list of great attributes that makes Ursula the Sea Witch my favorite witch. Maybe she could be yours too.