Hello witchy, herby friends. As I gear up for the Full Moon in Taurus tonight, I’m considering my intentions for this space. I’d like it to eventually be a space for explorations of herbs and ingredients I love and why they might be in my products here. But I’d also like it to be a space of ritual, to discuss ritual, and perhaps to guide others in, you guessed it, ritual. Quite soon, (spoiler alert) I’ll be launching a Patreon, where I will be offering bi- and occasionally tri-monthly Ritual Guides before the moons and Sabbats to open my practice to other witches who maybe aren’t as comfortable winging it as I’ve had to be.
But for now, or perhaps from now on, I’d like this space to function as a place of reflection on rituals past. Perhaps not as directly or temporally helpful, but still a place to glean inspiration from and refer back to, for myself and others. A more public version of my own Book of Shadows (I’m dysgraphic and handwriting doesn’t get at my insides as thoroughly as typing).
So, that said, let’s talk my favorite of the Sabbats, Samhain! This year I’d planned a couple things that didn’t come to fruition, as things are wont to do. I’m a big fan of Alexis J. Cunningfolk over at Worts and Cunning and their series of “Might Do’s” for the Sabbats. A good practice to get into, of having ideas and then not being upset when I don’t follow through. Alas, I am a Whole Person with a Life outside of my witchdom and until I don’t have to spend time making money or pursuing my career, I can’t spend 3-7 days in silent reflection fasting and communing with my dead. They’re not judging me for it so I should probably stop judging myself eh?
I have a lot of Dead. We all do, of course, generations of ancestors, tied by blood or by stronger things, whose influence pulses in our veins and echo in our lives. But I had a couple years there (ok 5 or 6) I like to call my 10 of Swords period where people just kept dropping like flies. You can tell I developed a glibness about it to cope; it’s fun finding others who speak similarly and can share in my dark jokes without feeling sad or offended. It’s intimate, even.
But it all contributes to my devotion to this Sabbat. Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, and I’ve always been morbid. In many ways, this path walking parallel to the Underworld was always mine, from the Necromantic Museum my first mentor (and first to Die) took me to at age 10 to the Level 2 Reader book of Scary Stories that was perhaps the first book I kept on my person at all times around age 5.
I feel them with me often, weaving their influences through my actions and feelings; the rebellious reformed father, the honeysweet empath, the lost and never quite found double pisces, to name a few.
So what did I do?
Well my mother is in town at the moment, and was sharing my bed the week of the 7th. And I’d just finished my first week out of my “day job” cleaning houses and the panic of the Hustle had begun to set back in. And I was tired and distracted and disconnected. But the seed of an odd idea I planted the week previous was sprouting. Something to do with my empty Santisima Muerte prayer candle jar, some rosemary, and grave dirt.
Spell for Honoring Holy Death or a Collection of Things for Remembering
Step 1: Assemble your alter. Place the dead things you’ve collected: the tiny snake you found under a rug, the rat tails you removed from your tiny loves, the moth you tried to help but took in when it died anyways.
Surround it with pictures and momentos of your dead: the photo at the top of the mountain, the necklace he stole for your 18th birthday, the postcard she wrote you when she was “just thinking of you”.
Add a Death card from your lesser used Tarot deck. For Scorpio, but also for the obvious.
Surround it with your quartz, your garnets, your Apache Tears (there’s got to be a better name for this stone!), and place two candles in the center: one red and one black. Colors that feel like home.
Step 2: Consider your options. A 3 day ritual of silence, fasting, and ceremonial baths? Who has that kinda time? Not me! A long ritual of traveling through the veil aided by meditation and a microdose of mushrooms? Good idea but not advisable in an 8 ft x 10 ft room shared with your mother. Sacrifice a goat to Lillith, Mother of Demons? You’re vegetarian and just did a ritual for Lillith on the new moon.
Well, what about something with plants? You’re an herbalist after all and your world is already scented with rosemary and mugwort this time of year. I wonder how well it would grow with Death’s very soil?
Step 3: Locate your nearest cemetery. Find out when it’s open; climbing the fence to break in to a graveyard is only fun with others, plus this place is too posh to even have headstones so what would be the point?
Get the afternoon off unexpectedly and praise the synchronicity of getting there at a reasonable hour. Walk the untrodden “paths” between nameplates set into the earth with a dollar-store halloween mug, unsure where the bodies actually lay. You do your best to avoid walking over anyone, but the cemetery has done nothing to help so you send out silent apologies just in case.
Look at the sweet decorations laid on Dia de los Muertos a day ago and smile.
Wander until you spot a willing donor. Ask Anne nicely if you can use some of her soil. Getting no resistence, dig a couple handfuls into your mug, say thank you, and stand up, making sure no one saw. You’re the only one present as far as you can tell, but the living dislike witches more than the dead ever seem to.
Repeat twice more, with Ruby and with Harvard, and send thank yous down with each step as you head to the gates.
Step 4: Pick up your mom up from the airport.
Step 5: Decide you’ll get a rosemary sapling instead of attempting to germinate. For a green witch, your attempts to grow anything have only been successful ~40% of the time; from seed, 0%.
Decide buying carbide drill tips to make drainage holes in the glass jar is more expensive than you’d like; follow the age-old wisdom of witches throughout history: Fuck it.
Step 6: Tis the day. Spend it working furiously, checking thing after thing off your to-do list and still feeling unaccomplished. Get sucked into a thing not even on it and suddenly it is 7:30 and you haven’t eaten. Scream at your mom and then apologize. Drag her to Trader Joes to get a rosemary plant with EBT. Eat dinner. Watch the end of a show she’s never seen. Apologize again. Decide you’ll still do the thing.
Step 7: Take an alchemical shower, as she goes to bed.
Mix equal parts Epsom salt and baking soda in a big jug with warm water. Watch it foam and fizz and dance; hear its crackling song of Letting Go. Mix a mask of charcoal, nettle, and rosemary, with earthy clay to bind it.
Apply the mask and pour the mixture over your body; feel how the charcoal sucks impurities out of your pores, how the Solution sucks impurities out of your soul. Feel the itch and chant what you’re letting go of. Picture it as tiny particles attaching to the salts and rinsing out of you, down the drain.
Rinse it all away until you are Clean.
Anoint yourself with oils infused with rosemary and mugwort, sacred to your people for millennia, sharing a space here at the border of worlds; Rosemary the keeper of What’s Behind, Mugwort the guide to What’s Ahead.
Step 8: Cast your circle. Call your corners and invite the elements inside. Invite your ancestors too, but know they are already there.
Smoke a sacred blend of the Rosemary and the Mugwort and some ancestral Lavender for Mercury’s reversal. Sprinkle some cannabis to strengthen their workings and sooth and soften your tense little body; from hare to human.
Step 9: Gather your plant, your jar, your potting soil, and your gravedirt. Get your hands dirty, dig in and begin to mix. They’ve both dried out but you’ll water it anyways. Pour your mixture into your jar and free your rosemary roots from their plastic pot.
Spill earth on your floor as you adjust for changing volume. Revel in the beauty of indoor gardening; the yard is not for you so you do what you can. Pat the top down and pour a few ounces of water to complete the act. Admire your work; it fits perfectly. Hope it will drain well enough and that Holy Death will allow it to live for a time.
Step 10: Take a moment to ask if anyone would like to speak. When nothing comes directly, thank them anyway and let the grief of another year apart sink in and pass through. They are not lost, but they are not lingering either. This is Good. It does not have to feel good to be good.
Release the corners and close your circle. Kiss your familiar for joining you at moments and also just for existing. Wash the soil from your hands and eat a rosemary leaf from Death’s Alter. It is hot and pungent and bursting with flavor.
Over the next week, you will watch it slowly die. You will wonder what you did wrong, or rather what wrong you know you did is killing it. It it beginning to mold from poor drainage? Or is it thirsty? Well the top is dry so you water it either way. You place it in the window because you remember a solar herb like that requires a lot of sun, but you know. It belongs to Them now; it is of the Dead and if they want it Dead too, you mustn’t fight it. You didn’t realize when you planted it that it was a sacrifice.
But that’s alright. You stopped sacrificing parts of yourself when you got too small to hold the knife, so you’re glad you’ve found an alternative. You thank it for its service and accept it as one more thing you can practice letting go of.