Friday, 17 December 2010

ThriftWitch: The Clean Start Soap Spell

Do you know which kinds of spell I hate? The kind which say, 'On the full moon, take some powdered frankincense, a quartz crystal and three black feathers and place them in a velvet pouch. Go to a secluded place and bury them, whilst chanting: "Love be mine, love divine, come to me and we'll be fine". Walk away without looking back. You will meet your soulmate within a month.'.

I mean, huh? How does that work? Why would that work? (not to mention the godawful sub-greeting card rhymes that are inevitably integral to the process)

Actually, as a witch, I do very few spells. In my experience, it's usually way easier to take the mundane route to getting what you want than the magical. Like all those daft movies where the gorgeous teen witch absent-mindedly stirs her coffee by 'magic' rather than by hand? Or she floats or balances a pencil? Seriously, can you imagine how much psychic power it would take to do that? Why on earth doesn't she just stir the damn drink by hand and if she really has the power to effortlessly move objects with her mind, why isn't she using it to do something that's not utterly pointless?

Plus magic - like water or electricity - tends to take the path of least resistance, meaning that it's almost certain that the spell won't work out the way you planned. And believe me, that leaves plenty of scope for misfires, unforseen consequences and complications (yes, that was the older but wiser voice of experience speaking).

Even so, I think there are times to use magic, when appropriate. Sometimes the Universe needs a little nudge. More often than not, it's about re-setting our own psyches, moving the energy, opening up possibilities. Although I made up the the sample spell above, it's pretty typical of much of the stuff bandied about as 'magic'. And I don't for one minute believe 99.9% of those types of spell work, for one very good reason: your psyche wouldn't understand a word of it. The 'ingredients' used in a spell are there to tweak at your psyche, your subconscious (and perhaps thereby the collective unconscious or even the fabric of reality), but if your subconscious can't understand what's being said, that's where it'll end.

The ingredients are really just symbols, for symbols are the language of the subconscious (all the better of course, if those symbols seduce the subconscious with their colour, scent, taste, texture). Frankincense, quartz crystal and black feathers may mean one thing to the person creating the spell, but they may mean something completely different to you. Frankincense may mean 'higher spiritual connection' to the spell-originator, but to you - if you had a very oppressive religious upbringing for example - frankincense may speak to your subconscious of repression, guilt, fear, anger... not exactly the things you would want to be musing on (even subconsciously) whilst trying to conjure a soulmate. Some ingredients/symbols, such as rose petals for example, have such a widely accepted connection with love and pleasure, that it's no wonder they appear often in love spells. Yet how many people would have the same subconscious knowledge of the symbolism of yarrow, say, or thyme, or comfrey? Most likely they would all have different interpretations - and many may never have come across less common ingredients like yarrow before. No wonder our subconscious is bamboozled and the spell fails to work as planned.

The spells I like are grounded in reality (if it's possible to say that about a subject like magic). I like symbolic actions carried out mindfully, the kind of thing that says to my subconscious (and the Universe), "I am opening up space for the possibility of [insert desired outcome here] to happen."

For example, almost two years ago I wrote about vigorously cleaning the house on New Year's Eve and then spending New Year's Day focussing on the things I wanted to draw into my life, to change my luck after a horrible year in which my marriage had ended. Lo and behold, the new year did indeed change my life for the better as my heart began to heal, I achieved some long-cherished ambitions, and much to my surprise, fell in love again.

The Clean Start Soap Spell runs along similar lines. I have been doing this for the last couple of years, and although it originated in my desire to not waste things (soap!), in doing it mindfully, it has become an act of magic (which as Dion Fortune famously said, is after all, 'The art of changing consciousness at will').

The Clean Start Soap Spell
This is a spell I do over the course of a year, though  you could adapt it to a different time period to suit your own circumstances. I begin afresh on 1st January, and quite simply each time I get to the last sliver of a bar of soap throughout the year, I put it in a drawstring muslin bag on the bathroom shelf. Personally, I like to suit the soap to the season, so in winter I may have a warming cinnamon and orange scented one, then a floral for spring, maybe coconut for my summer holiday and vetivert or patchouli for autumn... As the year progresses the muslin bag fills with aromatic slivers that each bring back vivid scent-memories of the past months. And then, towards the end of December (I judge this by eye, depending how full the muslin bag is) I begin to use the muslin bag to wash myself in the shower instead of a fresh bar of soap. The idea is that as we approach the end of the year, I am re-visiting and integrating the experiences of the last 12 months. It's pretty effective, as of course scent is a great catalyst to memory. It is also symbolic of washing away the last vestiges of the old to make way for the new. The important thing is to time it so that the last of the soap dissolves away on New Year's Eve. And then of course, a carefully chosen, fresh new bar can be unwrapped on New Year's Day, and the spell begins for another cycle. You could of course choose a different start/end date, your birthday perhaps, or maybe Samhain or some other significant date. You could even choose a different time period than a year, perhaps stretching the process over a period of difficulty (such as medical treatment, a legal battle or time of emotional upheaval) so that you can finally wash it all away as the period comes to a close.

I also recommend the cleaning the house on New Year's Eve/mindfully choosing your activities on New Year's Day spell. It certainly starts the year on a good note!

P.S. I have to confess I am particularly fond of the soaps produced by Lush, although local West Wales company The Soap Shed have some delicious products too.


Halo said...

How lovely! I'll admit to a fondness for Lush soaps too... I actually use the Snow Fairy showerstuffs as a reminder to be playful, having started using it during a period when I was working with Halloween (as opposed to Samhain) magics. Scent memory is a powerful thing. Scent memory used with intent... magic! ;)

And your comments before the spell are spot on, thanks for sharing them. I'm looking forward to seeing this Thriftwitch project unfold.
~Halo xx

Zahara Celestial said...

Very interesting article thankyou!

Unknown said...

What a wonderful spell! Although, as I usually use unscented soap, it wouldn't work at the sensory level for me, symbolically it sounds just the thing :-)

Donald Engstrom-Reese said...

Susan, this soap idea is the kind of spell I really enjoy. I think I will be taking this on in the next week or so too.
And by the way, I thought this piece was quite delightful and insightful. Keep up the good work.

Griffin said...

A clean start AND a clean witch! I love sandalwood as a scent, it always reminds me of my mother's saris. She kept a small block of sandalwood in with them.

Thriftwitch would be the way to go now. Scent memories for me are tied with sensation memory. I can still remember our last cat because of the scent of his fur and the look of him and his soft weight on my lap... sigh!

There's a Nina Ricci perfume that my mother wore that reminds me of her too.

Reya Mellicker said...

Hello my dear! Happy solstice. Wonderful to "see" you on the blog this morning.

All good things to you in 2011! much love, Salaam and Shalom

Kath said...

What an interesting Blog. I followed you home from Leanne's going by the theory that like-minded folk tend to visit each others Blogs and I was not dissapointed. Good to meet you, I look forward to popping back again soon.

Erin said...

LUSH!! I love the idea of adding this soap ritual to my overal bath time bliss.

And thank you for the overall reminder that magic are in these types of details, personal and invested in over time. Its the kind of magic I can relate to.

Anonymous said...

Ooh how exciting!

I just found your blog (coming across from The Cottage Smallholder) and feel like I've opened a bag of all the best sweets. It's good to meet you.

I, too, think spells should speak to you rather than mindlessly following another's 'recipe', and am definately in favour of this lovely, simple spell. And the joys of being clean and fresh - physically and metaphorically - for New Year!

And I like the idea of Thriftwitch - I've been driving my mum mad by my frugality since I've moved back home, but I really believe that society has moved too far in the other direction recently and we need to bring things back into line! Maybe I can make that idea into a little banner to hang above the recycling bins... :-)