Can you hear it? That super-high-pitched whining sound just above our range of hearing? It’s the collective stress cycles of our friends and family kicking into overdrive. The holidays are here, and we all have to somehow make it to January 2nd without body bags, divorces or involuntary commitment to a room with soft walls appearing between now and then.
This is a hard season for many reasons, even for those of us who have removed ourselves from the monetary pressure cycle around buying gifts. We are in closer proximity with our relatives (which is frequently an entire set of challenges on its own), there’s precious little daylight, and most of the other humans we encounter are currently experiencing heightened stress. Some of us are also grieving, whether fresh wounds or old, and that layer of pain contrasted against the brash cheeriness of the music and decorations in almost every public space can be damn near unbearable. It’s rough.
Most years during the run-up to the holiday season, I present an Earth Centered Spirituality Service on simple magickal tips for surviving this time without committing a felony. We all think of magick and metaphysics when it comes to the big things – supporting a transition to a new job or living situation, healing, banishing the really bad stuff – but it’s important to remember that witchcraft is frequently as much a philosophy around the approach to life as it is a set of practices.
So let’s witch the holidays, yes?
I suggest a layered approach – magick for gatherings and adjustments to our personal practices.
Calming Magick for Gatherings
If you only retain one piece of information from this blog, let it be: ‘The power of aesthetics cannot be underestimated.’
We take immediate cues from our environments. When we walk into a room/building/office, all the little signals from our surroundings tell us what sort of behavior to exhibit and what kind of experiences to expect in that space. This is why a spa feels different from a shopping mall feels different from a doctor’s office feels different from a fast food restaurant. All of those spaces have their own signaling to help you understand what your role is in that environment.
So let’s break down some aesthetics. Remember that Beauty is one of the virtues of witchcraft, and it’s a weapon that can be wielded quite effectively. This may seem technical, but when you get Beauty, aesthetics, harnessed to your magick, it’s one of the most powerful tools a witch can use. Aesthetics shape spaces. Aesthetics shape behavior. Weaponizing beauty is where some of our reputation for glamoury comes from.
These techniques work best if you’re hosting a gathering, or if you can be in cahoots with someone who is.
Bring the light levels down. If all the bulbs in the living and dining room are currently at 60 watts or higher, switch them out for 40s. Bright light stimulates, especially fluorescent light. Reduce the light levels and you reduce agitation. Add some candles or soft lamps (think salt lamps) if it’s an option. Try to encourage the light toward the pink end of the spectrum rather than the blue.
Music is a powerful cue for people – it’s why movie soundtracks are so important. Choose soothing music. If you are absolutely required to play holiday music, choose a collection of instrumentals. There are lengthy mixes of relaxing holiday music up on Youtube. If holiday music isn’t required, put on your go-to calming music.
If this is a dinner gathering, whatever’s coming from the kitchen may overpower this technique. That said, you can always set a baseline of citrus or calming scents. Sweet orange has an uplifting, cheering quality. Cinnamon, chamomile, sage, clove and lavender are all good scents for encouraging relaxation.
This can be utilized with table settings and decor. Light blue, pink and white are all associated with peaceful, calming energies. Changing out your holiday tablecloth/placemats/napkins for blues/silvers/whites will still be delightfully wintry but will generate more peace than the traditional reds/greens.
I sneak numerology in all over the place. From the number of items in a given dish, appetizers on a plate, candles/candlesticks in a centerpiece to how many people are seated around a table, numerology is a wonderful tool. The number two is associated with cooperation and diplomacy, six is associated with peace and nurturing. Both are GREAT numbers to bring in to your holiday decorating.
Stones and crystals are another great, subtle way to influence a space. Stones can be tucked into the corners of rooms, inside centerpieces, even taped under chairs or tables. You can also just carry them in your pocket. Blue lace agate, amethyst, ametrine, calcite, celestite, hematite, rose quartz, rhodonite, sodalite and tourmaline can all be helpful here. In the Western Maryland area, inexpensive tumbled stones can be found at The Crystal Fox (Laurel), Portals (Berkeley Springs), and On the Wings of Dreams (Shepherdstown). As always, remember to cleanse and then charge your crystals and other magickal tools.
If you’re not in control of the space where a gathering is happening, simply apply some of the suggestions above to what you are wearing and carrying. If nothing else, your immediate space will feel calmer and more steady.
Personal Practice Adjustments
These suggestions are for roughly the entire month of December. Remember that even if you are personally in a good space, most of the humans around you are not. The collective miasma is hard to get away from.
We don’t all have a situation that allows for a half hour (or sometimes even 10 minutes) of meditation. That’s the optimum. But you know what helps? Micromeditation. Sneak away to an isolated spot (this includes the bathroom, your car, the stock room, etc) and set the timer on your phone for two minutes. Close your eyes and breathe deeply for that two minutes. Really give your body the freedom of deep, belly breathing. Imagine something calming here – consider water, or earth. Imagine gentle ripples lapping at the edge of a lake. Sunlight on waving grasses. Steam rising from a cup of cocoa. Whatever works for you. When the timer goes off, gently open your eyes, roll your shoulders and neck to release tension, and head back into the fray. I recommend setting this up for three times a day. Set an alarm in your phone for first thing in the morning, midday during your break, and evening.
Reframe your Practice
If you have a working altar, redecorate it for Yule, by all means, but use blues and silvers. Add some calming stones (blue lace agate, smooth river rocks and moonstone are my favorites for this), blue candles and switch your incense over to a soothing scent rather than a stimulating one. Pay more attention to your spiritual hygiene as well as regular cleansing practices. By all means, continue whatever magick you were already working on, but allow the *framework* to shift toward calming energy.
Add some low-light time
For the last hour of the day, try to switch to low-light and candlelight. This will help you sleep as well as support relaxing. During that last hour, try to avoid using your devices. Read or craft instead (NOT in bed – the brain is associative. Your bed is for sleep and sex and that’s it). You might consider choosing reading material that’s calming in nature – stories you’ve read before that you love, books on cultivating joy or mindfulness, poetry, etc. Dial down the stimulation as much as you can the last hour before bed.
Retool your Swag
You may have previously read or heard me extol the virtues of magickally enhanced jewelry. I love it as a tool because it works when we do not, or cannot. Add an item charged for calmness, centeredness, to your wardrobe for the rest of this month. If you don’t have the option of wearing jewelry, carry a talisman, stone, runscript or sigil in your pocket that does the same. Do the magick before you need it and simply carry it with you.
Go down one dose of stimulants
We’re a culture that celebrates busyness, which means we have a collective problem with stimulant use. Most of us drink more coffee/energy drinks than we really should. So, I have a December challenge for you – whatever your normal dose of stimulant is, go down one dose. Just one. The same stimulants that help us stay awake also exacerbate stress and anxiety.
So here’s hoping that we all find our overall levels of DEAR GODS WHY are lower. And remember, for any of this to work, you have to actually *do* wellness practices and metaphysical tinkering. Feel free to add on, too. Got a good one? Add it in the comments below. And may the odds be ever in your favor.