There was so much amazing witchy stuff going on at A-Camp! We had queer astrology, magical tea, spell jars, ointment classes and a ton more! It was so magical and amazing and healing and refreshing. I wish I could’ve spent my whole summer in that community. Being surrounded by my queer community reminds me how much magic is there. It reminds me of how much magic is within my friends and how much is within myself. The magic is palpable there and I always come home feeling energized.
But when we got back, we were reminded of just how magical the Mountain is, and just how horrifying the rest of the world can be. A rapist is getting away with his crime while people mourn the loss of a “promising swimming career.” Donald Trump is still being an asshole. The largest anti-gay hate crime in the history of America shook us and made us feel like we’re no longer safe in our own spaces. Especially those of us who are queer Latinxs, as most of the victims were our siblings. I don’t know how to heal from this, but I do know some healing magic. I’ve been lighting candles: blue for healing, red for life and strength and a La Virgen candle for protection. I went and bought some crystals: picture jasper for strength, moss agate for willpower, citrine to combat negative energy, bloodstone to help me live my life to the fullest and rose quartz to help me remember always to love. Beth, who contributes to this column and also writes about tarot for us, wrote this great blog entry on a ritual she did for Love in a Painful Time. What kind of rituals or spells do you like to do to heal and find strength in a time like this?
Playlist: Candle Magic
Astrology Altar Essentials – Air Signs
You have a natural ability to give affirming, loving energy to people in your life who need it. But sometimes, you may lose yourself in an attempt to be something for everyone else. Citrine on your altar will help you access your own inner balance. It’s a great interpersonal stone that brings love and happiness. Citrine gives you the confidence to know that you are a gift to others, and helps you feel in control of the ways in which you share your generosity with others. The Justice tarot card shows the Libra symbol of the scales, reminding you that balance is both your greatest strength and your greatest oversight. Your ability to create harmonious, beautiful situations for others is a strength, but remember not to prioritize this at the cost of your own self-care. Smoke cleanse your home with thyme to dispel any negative feelings of melancholy or hopelessness that you could be prone to. Begin your spells by lighting lemongrass oil, which will clear obstacles standing in your way and will create a space of good luck and harmony for clarifying your intent.
How do we describe the awe we experience in this life? This is a magical question for you, and lapis lazuli is a powerful stone for articulating what inspires you. This crystal helps facilitate communication of our inner desires, whether that be through talking, researching, or writing. The Lovers could be seen as describing a stereotypical Gemini duality, but really this card reminds you that sometimes your head gets in the way of your heart. Magical work is a space to strengthen your intuition, and to find integration between your thoughts and a wordless, transcendent inner truth. Valerian will help you silence the anxious inner feedback loop of negative self-talk that could get in the way of magical work, and will help you come to a healing place of self-acceptance. Lighting peppermint oil before spell work will help you feel clarified and calm.
Your magical altar needs to give you energy as you pursue your unconventional goals. When an outdated way of thinking or structure is not working for you, the best strength you possess is your intuition. Amethyst is a powerful stone for strengthening intuition and imagination, and will help you turn your innovative insight into action. The Star card reminds you of your ability to look into the future, and call the necessary truth into your life. The Star gives you strength to be your own guiding light into the future. When your heart feels exhausted from doing the hard work of truth-seeking, make skullcap tea as a restorative, healing ritual that will help you recover from psychic fatigue. If you’re starting a new project, lighting clary sage oil will help spark your creativity, and relieve feelings of anxiety and tension.
Words With Witches
solstice (noun): the two times per year when the sun reaches either its highest or lowest point relative to the celestial equator, and also the name of the days of the year when this occurs, the summer and winter solstice. In terms of the experience of life on Earth, these days are the longest and shortest days of the year, respectively. Various cultural and religious traditions in various parts of the world have spiritual significance or specific rites related to the solstices. In Northern Europe, it’s St. John’s Day, which celebrates St. John the Baptist and was historically celebrated with bonfires. In some areas of Spain, like Galicia, there are traditional rituals centered around the gathering of medicinal plants. Various pagan and neopagan traditions celebrate the summer solstice or Midsummer, like neo-druids who call the summer solstice Alban Hefin, or Wiccans, who may celebrate a midsummer ritual for Litha.
Wheel of the Year
Summer solstice, the longest day, is a festival of life. The life-giving sun, warm, bright, at its peak. The life present in everything growing around us. It’s a time of joy, of spirit — the gift of living, the gift of our own lives.
With bonfires blazing, we celebrate the abundance all around us. The bright colours of flowers in bloom, of crops growing, fruit ripening, the free-feeling of midsummer. All of the hard work, the planning and the commitment and the manifestation of our desires, is coming good. It’s not harvest time yet, but our plans are blossoming and we can see the fruit of our labours.
On holiday in Spain a few years ago, I attended a traditional community celebration for St John’s night (the Christian appropriation of summer solstice). A huge bonfire blazed in the centre of the square, and as people gathered around, a parade of witches and devils circled. There was a strange dance, and eventually, these ‘evil’ spirits were dispelled. (I read later that in many cultures it’s believed that midsummer is a time that witches convene — whilst that seems to scare some folks, for proud witches it may be the perfect time for a coven meeting!)
Later, we shared a gigantic paella, then took turns jumping the fire — a daring display of boldness. Summer solstice celebrates abundance within the community, but also within the individual. This is a time to celebrate who you are, everything that makes you you. To leap over a fire and feel how powerful you are, how invincible, to bring good luck and prosperity. Make a wish, and make it happen. Anything is possible on the longest day!
Elementally, this is the time of fire. Spring’s air element brought us clarity and vision, an enhanced capacity for planning. At beltane, we were mid-way between air and fire — where ideas meet action. Now, summer is pure fire, it’s manifestation, excitement and life. Things are hot and happening, it’s time to go a little (or a lot) wild.
Summer solstice is also a festival of herbs. With so many sacred plants in bloom at this time, sacred herbs are gathered and used to decorate ritual spaces, hung on doors for protection, and used for medicine. St John’s wort — a powerful anti-depressant many of us will know — is in flower. Lavender and lemon balm are two other traditional solstice herbs — and these too have relaxing properties that can ease an anxious mind and warm low spirits. So whilst solstice is energetically a time of life and joy, it may be that you personally don’t feel this way. Perhaps instead you might celebrate by working with these comforting herbs.
And, because the wheel of the year turns continually, this festival brings an awareness of the coming dark. This is the solar peak — all year so far we have been building towards this day. Now the sun begins its slow descent, the days begin to shorten and we start to move from the expansive energy of spring and summer onwards towards a more introspective time. The cycle continues.
Ideas for summer solstice:
- Take a herb-foraging walk and gather the flowers and leaves that call to you. Bring home a bouquet to decorate your home, or identify those which have properties you need and make a tea, a tincture, or a bath. (Follow good foraging practice: use scissors, do as little damage as possible, thank the plant for what you have taken, and only take what you need.)
- Send as much time outdoors as you can. Go camping.
- Write a list of gratitudes — even if this does not feel like a time of abundance for you, celebrate what you do have and give thanks to the universe, to your goddess, to yourself.
- Make cordial or wine. If the elderflowers are still out where you are, elderflower champagne is an incredible treat, or capture the flavour in a cordial to enjoy all summer long. You can also try this with roses, meadowsweet and many other summer flowers.
- Make a fire, stay up all night, watch the dawn. Jump the fire and make a wish. Throw herbs onto the fire — rosemary for clarity, lavender for peace, whichever herbs feel important to you. Dance around the fire, celebrate, sing, whatever — be free and silly and fun.
- Gather your friends for a feast.
- Hold a sun ritual.
- Celebrate the sun and its power. Draw the sun on the ground, in the sand, in chalk on your wall.
- Charge crystals in the midsummer sun. Charge a glass of water by sitting it in the sunshine all day, then drink it and enjoy the warmth of the sun.
- Put on a firework display! Or share sparklers with your friends.
- Try this summer solstice tarot reading.
For your altar:
- Flowering herbs, St John’s wort, lavender, meadowsweet, chamomile, self-heal, or whatever you find growing near you.
- Oak leaves and branches, a sprig of holly.
- Sun and fire-coloured things – think yellow, orange, red and gold.
- A small cauldron, chalice or cup of water.
One of the most exciting parts of magic is experimenting with different magical elements and combining them into one strong and specific spell. A great entry-level way to practice this skill is by making spell tea! If you know the magical qualities of different elements, you can easily create your own unique tea blend that can be charged for very specific magical desires.
To start this craft, you’ll need loose leaf tea. You can choose any tea as a base — black tea, white tea, green tea, rooibos — it’s totally up to you. I think of the tea base as the magically neutral part of the spell, so I choose my tea base purely for taste!
Then, choose other elements to mix together in your tea bag. This is the fun part. I love researching different dried fruit and flowers and herbs to see what kind of magical strengths they are associated with. I’ve listed the elements that I use the most, including their astrological/planetary associations.
Here are some elements to combine with your tea and their magical properties:
- Lavender – Mercury (Virgo), Lavender is great for spell work related to finding peace of mind, cleansing, healing, dream fulfillment, and revealing the truth. Also, for what it’s worth, lavender has a strong traditional association to love magic.
- Peppermint – Mercury (Gemini) This element provides clarity to possibilities that you’re exploring. It can help you find the answers to burning questions, like: which queer city should I move to? Which hobby fills me with the most wonder and curiosity? Adding peppermint to your spell tea may help you find the insight to organize the options in your life.
- Cinnamon – Uranus (Aquarius) Sometimes you need the strength to revolutionize your life and discard old habits that aren’t needed anymore for your growth. In these moments, use cinnamon in spells for passion, independence, brilliance, creative projects, community building, or bringing issues to a quick resolution. Also, Uranus is associated with queerness, so throwing a dash of cinnamon in a queer relationship spell certainly couldn’t hurt.
- Licorice Root – Venus (Libra) This element is associated with Venus, the planet that rules connections that we make with others – friendships, partners, family members, co-workers, even pets. Licorice root can be used to attract any sort of good, healthy, mutually beneficial kind of relationship into your life. It can also be used for mediating arguments or finding harmony in any existing relationships.
- Forget-Me-Not – Neptune (Pisces) You can use this flower for any spells connected to fulfilling your dreams, opening your heart, accepting your emotions, finding inspiration in artistic projects, feeling connection to something beautiful, or finding beauty in solitude.
- Amaranth – Saturn (Capricorn) In spell work, amaranth provides strength, stability, and protection. It can help you develop stronger self-control, commit to work projects, get the dream job, or help with anything else that builds positive structures to hold your life together.
- Rose – Venus (Taurus) Rose can invite simple, beautiful moments of reflection into your life when it feels too chaotic. It can help you make room for simplicity in your life. Roses also can attract someone who has the ability to offer you good sensual, healing sex. It also brings out your strength as a partner, helping you be more affectionate and loving.
- Orange Peel – Sun (Leo) Orange peel is great for spell work if you’re feeling lost lately, like you need to connect with an inner spark that allows you to be your best self. It can help you connect to joy and charm, and can also help you gain recognition for your accomplishments.
- Ginger – Mars (Aries) The planet Mars rules our ability to defend ourselves, so it’s great to use in spell work for protection. It’s also what makes us feel energized, or feel really turned on, or take risks, or pursue our passions. Any of these focuses can be helped by using Ginger in spell work — especially sex magic!
- Yerba Mate – Jupiter (Sagittarius) Yerba Mate is technically a tea base, but it can definitely be used magically! It is caffeinated, but the caffeination feels less jittery than coffee and more energized and focused. Yerba Mate magic can make us feel confident, generous, expansive, and lucky. It’s great to use if you want to connect with optimism and fun in your life — or even adventures involving travel!
- Jasmine — Pluto (Scorpio) The planet Pluto deals with some of the scarier things in life, like intense transformation and healing through pain. If you have been profoundly injured, Jasmine could be used in spell work to help turn your wounds into wisdom. If you’re in need of a total self-transformation, this could also support that.
- Chamomile – Moon (Cancer) This element helps us feel safe and at home and comfortable with our inner life. Chamomile is great to drink at home to recharge, or to find a queer chosen family, to receive the care that you need, or to learn how to care for yourself.
Mixing all of the elements together to make one specific spell is all about intuition and creativity. If you want to find a job that is filled with queer people and makes you happy, there are three elements you could add here: Amaranth (stability or work), Cinnamon (queerness) and Yerba Mate (the kind of joy that feels expansive). Or maybe you want to find friends that you can day drink with at brunch. Here, you could make a tea blend with any base (maybe black tea?) that includes Licorice Root and Rose, for relationships that are beautiful and simple, and also Chamomile to incorporate the energy of safety and nourishment. There are so many possible ways to combine these elements!
Here is the spell part: combine all of your desired elements into a tea bag, and focus on your intent while drinking the tea. That’s it. Maybe do some visualization. Feel the tea entering your body and visualize your intent filling and surrounding your body and changing your path in the world. Imagine what your intent is. If your spell is about making good friends for brunch, play this dream like a video in your mind – what do these friends look like, are you laughing, hugging, drinking? Actually take the time to visualize your intention from the tea coming true while you drink it. Breathe into your intent. Maybe write a spell, or a poem, that articulates your desires and say this out loud. Imagine that your body is a magnet to attract this desire into your life. This is the most magical part of magic — the setting of good intentions. Have fun!
My Favorite Witch
This year at the A-Camp staff reading, Mey read a heart-wrenchingly powerful piece that left the entire room swimming in an ocean of our own tears. This was the part that got me: “Names have a lot of magic in them.” I was unprepared for the sob that surfaced from my body after hearing Mey say these words. Without meaning to, Mey cast a spell that uncovered an intimate truth inside of me. The transformation actually felt like magic.
What I mean is: I walk through the world with the strength of a witch. My exterior is strong, like a weathered stone that doesn’t break, it just changes shape in the face of destruction. You’ll never see me cry. You’ll never see me crack. But Mey’s words cracked me open, revealing something that I was terrified to witness in myself. I thought that if I looked, I would find a dangerous truth inside of me, a cavern of bitter desires and bad intention. Beware: Do Not Enter. But when Mey illuminated this space, I didn’t see a cave. I saw a geode, the kind of rock that shatters to reveal clusters of brilliant layered crystal formations. Tough, yes. But radiant.
In the hours that Mey and I spent together co-leading witch/craft at camp, I felt my body healing, I felt my inner well of strength being cleansed like a crystal. The most magical thing that happened in the space was the space itself. It was powerful to feel the space being held together by our energy. Mey’s presence is a gift, it offers others the ability to witness something powerful in themselves, to access to radical self-healing. It’s wordless, it’s simple. It’s an energy. But it’s exactly what I mean when I say the word magic. And when I told Mey that she’s my favorite witch, I meant it.
I’m a big proponent of Faking It Til You Make it, and when I started my witchcraft, honestly, that’s what I was kind of doing. I believed that there was magic in the world, but I wasn’t sure I could tap into it. I had done a couple spells, but a part of my mind told me that it was all just coincidences. Then I met Cecelia and I no longer had to fake it. She gave me all the proof I needed that witches were real and magic was real and that I had a part to play in it. Her magic and spirit were so palpable that I couldn’t help but be drawn in and that I couldn’t help but see my own magic in myself.
Cecelia has many magical skills: she can read your Tarot like the rest of us read listicles, she knows how to weave together spells in a truly beautiful and artistic way, her knowledge of crystals is stunning, and to be honest, pretty sexy and she knows more about astrology than a black cat knows about bad luck. But the thing that really makes me marvel at her is her ability to look into others and recognize their magic and draw it out. There’s this thing she does at A-Camp where she looks you in the eye and gives you the perfect crystal for where you are in your life. It’s one of the most beautiful and magical things I’ve ever seen. Cecelia isn’t just a witch, she’s a Magical Midwife, helping queer witches from all corners of the world come into their own.
That’s what she did with me. Without her in my life, I would only be half of myself. I wouldn’t be as magical, as queer, as confident or as comfortable. I wouldn’t be as me. I’m thankful every time I use magic, every time I can feel my witchiness, every time I see magic in the world that I know Cecelia. Because without having her in my life, I honestly don’t know how much magic I would be able to see at all.