Shadow Work: Healing From Crisis with Ritual
When we arrive at a moment of crisis or challenge, our first instinct is often to abandon ourselves, leave behind our stricken bodies, collapse under the weight of grief, confusion, and despair, and flee from the rituals that sustain us. We're here to tell you that this instinct is not innate, babe. Our relationship to crisis, and the coping methods that we lean on for support through deeply challenging times, is inextricably tied to our access, or lack of access, to the resources we need for self-regulation. We may not have the power to choose the resources we have access to, but as witches, we can empower ourselves to practice radical acceptance of our crises through ritual. When we ritualize radical acceptance of where we're at in our relationship to crisis, we can call forth the support we need to survive.
For the witch, magical practice is both a refuge and sanctuary. Magic is a living framework for meaning-making, offering us a path out of murky uncertainty and into opulent clarity — but when crisis rears its head, the rituals and habits we develop to care for ourselves are usually the first thing we neglect. This is because crisis creates an illusion of scarcity and eternal instability, urging us to cling to our life rafts and discard any tools, practices, and support systems that aren't completely necessary for our immediate survival. Often, this means pleasure is left on the shelf to gather dust. But what if our pleasure was just as necessary as rest, nourishment, shelter, and integration? How could our relationship to crisis shift if we named pleasure as a primary ally in our toolkit for self-tending? What would happen if we recognized pleasure is a strategy for survival in unimaginably dire circumstances?
When catastrophe touches us, magic allows us to endure the unendurable. The feelings that well up in response to crisis are offer us an opportunity to speak the unspeakable, and our expression of grief, rage, and fear are catalysts for our return home to pleasure. In the aftermath of these wildfires is where the seedlings of desire rise to peek their heads from the soil. We need to allow these fires to burn us, but we also need to remember what medicine to offer ourselves in the aftermath. Going through the motions of care after catastrophe allows us to tap into our body memories of abundance, healing, and deep ease.
A Bathing Ritual for Honoring Crisis
When self-care feels impossible or frivolous, challenge yourself to move gently through this bathing ritual. Remember that your pleasure is a survival strategy, and this work is a radical act of acceptance, self-honoring, and emotional regulation. This bath ritual will initiate a dance with grief, abundance, fear, and pleasure, allowing you to hold it all in one open palm.
For this spell, you will need:
Black lava salt
A palm-sized stone (preferably one who's spent time in the ocean or a river)
Cleansing smoke (if within your practice)
Any other supportive magical tools you need to create a container you feel safe in
Set aside at least two hours for the entirety of this ritual, preferably on a day where you have no other commitments. While the ritual itself can take as little or as much time as you like, you should allot at least an hour of time after the ritual to integrate, process, and just be in your body without expectation.
Gather your supplies and magical tools, and before you begin drawing your bath, cleanse your body and space with smoke. For babes with smoke sensitivities (or if smoke cleansing isn't within your practice), fill a dish with salt and leave it near your bath, light a white candle, or physically sweep the area to stir up stagnant energy and kindly ask it to leave.
Draw your bath, and greet the water as you would a river, lake, or ocean. Close your eyes and visualize the reservoir your water is coming from, the clouds that brought it there, and all the land it's touched on its way to you. Remember that water is constantly moving through your body—the water in your bath is just a visitor, and nothing you offer up in this space will linger forever. Water is transportive. Allow this elemental ally to envelope you for a little while, then let it all go.
Sprinkle your black lava salt in a circle around the edge of your bath, and call in any guides or protectors you may work with to help you hold a safe container. To finish off your bath, add in three drops of geranium, vetiver, and bergamot essential oil. Geranium balances the emotional body, vetiver soothes frayed nerves, and bergamot energizes the energetic field. Together, these plant allies weave a tender web of support to hold you through crisis. If you don't have these oils on hand, call on the spirits of these plants for support instead. Once your bath is done, leave an offering of water on your altar as thanks.
Slip into your bath, and soak until you begin to notice the way your body feels against the water. If self-massage feels good, dip your washcloth in the water and stroke your arms, legs, and belly in gentle motions. Call on your chosen stone friend for additional support and stability if you need it! Hold your stone over areas of your body that feel tender, heavy, or swollen with feeling and allow the stone to lovingly cocoon and transmute these feelings. Acknowledge whatever emotions you feel stirring, and say aloud, "I hear you, I feel your hurt, I'm here." When you're ready, open the drain and ask the water to whisk them away.
Aftercare is a wonderful idea after this bath ritual, even if this looks like simply re-filling your water bottle and putting on clean, soft clothes. Keep your stone ally close over the next few days, and remember that support is always nearby.Show more
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