HOLY F*CK: STYLE YOUR CROWN CHAKRA WITH A HAIR SHAMAN

The higher the hair the closer to Goddess! Alexandra Roxo chats with hair shaman Andi Scarbrough about gem combs, crown chakras, and beauty work as ministry.

 

“Your hair becomes an offering to spirit to catalyze the internal change”- Andi Scarbrough 

Hair identity is a HUGE part of our self-expression, especially for women. Our hair reflects our cultural and ethnic background, the subcultures we are a part of, and even our spiritual and political beliefs. Hair has both been part of sacred and ancient rituals, and has been used to repress and humiliate women. Through all of it, our locks have held incredible power.

But like most things sacred , hair rituals have been commodified. We see a Super Cuts on every corner and the mass homogenization of hairstyles that’s been dictated by celebrity and popular culture more than anything.

So what about reclaiming HAIR as another sacred as hell space for ritual, transformation, ceremony, tribe, and lineage? Stylist and hair magic maker Andi Scarborough is doing just that!

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I’ll admit, I was nervous (aka panicked) about letting someone cut my hair. But when I arrived at Andi’s salon, she scooped me into her chair with a quieting presence. As she began to run a rose quartz comb through my frizzed out mop, I felt myself loosen. I realized just how tight the control I had around my hair was.

As she gently asked me a few questions, I found myself revealing my whole “hair story” to her. I shared all the times I was ridiculed and the shame I still carried. All the times I had tried to tame this hair and the point when I started making my hair red.

As she counseled and intuited my hair story and my hair needs, the tears began to flow. As she snipped, she reminded me of all the old Loves, the stories, the pain, everything that was releasing with the hair falling to the ground.

I cried for the rest of the day. I was shedding. I let myself shed the old layers. I let myself release.

Post cut, I sat down with Andi to hear more about her work … 

Rose Quartz Gemcomb- to purchase your own contact [email protected]

Alexandra: How do you describe your work?

Andi: Women’s Health just quoted me saying “I believe this work is a sort of ministry.” Part of me still thinks this is hysterical! I had an experience when I was a little girl where a woman faith healer came to the church and told me that I would go into ministry. Then, I promptly left the church.

It’s funny to me how your purpose finds a way through you, no matter what you try to do instead. Your ministry is the vehicle that you use to deliver your message and in that sense, mine is a beauty ministry.

My work is about clearing out the shrapnel from the crown chakra. That clearing allows you access to the divine wisdom you already have. You don’t need a guru. You don’t need any of that. It’s about remembering the god source within.

Alexandra: That’s beautiful. I love that.

Andi: This is the part where I do feel like it becomes more of a ministry, rather than energy work.

Alexandra: After your work clears the crown chakra, how does it help align people with their soul curriculum?

Andi: I was talking with a client recently about her curly hair. She was telling me how she straightens her hair because she wants it to be more manageable. So, I asked her “What part of you feels like you’re hard to manage?”

It’s interesting because the way you do one thing is the way you do everything. The way you choose your hair color or your hair texture are all echoes of the stories that are already in place. We’re only choosing what we think is available to us.

Alexandra: I can talk about my hair without it being emotional, but the actual physicalizing of the experience brought things up that were very emotional. When you were doing my hair, I felt safe enough to share my hair stories and history- it felt like a ritual and like a therapy session.

Andi: Like ceremony. We do our hair so that we can be seen the way we think we need to be seen, and it’s the piece that we correct externally. It’s like makeup over a blemish. Rather than clearing out whatever the clog is, we wanna just sort of gloss it over and cover it up and make it look sort of nice from far away.

But our hair is actually a time capsule. You’re literally carrying around a diary of every experience, every hormone flux, everything you’ve eaten, everything you’ve not eaten, every time you were sick. It’s all physically there with you.

Alexandra:  Wow, yeah. I never thought about it quite like that.

Andi:  That’s why you get haircuts when you have big life stuff happening, or you want big life stuff to happen.

Cross culturally, the hair symbolizes so much. Whether it’s the Native Americans wearing their hair long and braided to ground them back into Mother Earth, or not cutting your hair in Kundalini so that you have a longer antennae to spirit, or in the way it’s cut in some Tibetan rituals and Hindu rituals. It’s a sacrifice. One of my favorite examples of this ritualistic aspect is when girls go to college. Often, they’ll sacrifice that high school long hair as they step into womanhood.

Your hair becomes an offering to spirit to catalyze the internal change, or to let spirit know how serious you are about the internal change.

Hair Shaman Andi Scarbrough

For appointments with Andi in LA, please call 310-751-4484 or email  [email protected]. Due to the sensitive nature of this service, online booking is not available. More information and service pricing is available at www.andiscarbrough.com. And be sure to follow @crown_works for hair rituals, treatments, and processes!

MEET BROOKLYN’S FITNESS WITCHES

Wanna get jacked up on magic? Bess Matassa explores workout as ritual with fitness witches Shanda Woods and Russ Marshalek of New Jack Witch

Shanda Woods

“The working of the human body is in and of itself a magical process”—New Jack Witch 

Inside of a dimly-lit warehouse on the Greenpoint waterfront, New Jack Witch is making sweaty magic. Musicians. Witches. Fitness Instructors. This is where Russ Marshalek, an excitable, feline moon prince, and rooted revolutionary Shanda Woods, craft seamless, full-body enchantment—that also gets you ripped.

What exactly is their signature “Fitcraft” session? As I strip down and start to move to a soundtrack of goth rock, witch house, and Twin Peaks instrumentals, it seems deceptively simple. Combining yoga and cardio, it’s a minimalistic workout that thrives on repetition.

But as we continue through our reps, the energy begins to shift. “You’ve got your own back,” Russ repeats. “You’re fucking alive,” commands Shanda. I begin to experience an invigorating collision between light and dark, and a deep sense that feeling good and strong in my body can coexist with the widest, rawest range of emotion.

Post session, I sat down with the fitness witches to talk rockstars, ritual, and a workout that’s both wonderful and strange.

**Set the mood for your workout (or read) with New Jack Witch’s signature playlist for The Numinous. 

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TN: How did you each come to your fitness practice? And when did it merge with witchcraft? 

Russ: The torture and torment of being the “fat kid” really fucked with me, and was the beginning of a lifelong flirtation with an eating disorder. To quiet my anxiety, and strike the balance between my deep-fried youth and my anorexic high school years, I started exercising. Combine that with a deep disdain for the patriarchy, a seed first sown through Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire, and you have the foundation.

When I moved to New York 7 years ago, I had a really intense period of unemployment that found me focusing on both witchcraft and fitness for self stability. And the more I worked on both, the more the two became vital facets of my everyday that I can’t really separate.

Shanda: My witchcraft and fitness practice have been intertwined for as long as I can remember. I’m a member of the Chickasaw Native American Tribe, and other parts of my lineage are from Ireland, so my blood is steeped in the craft. And I have always been physical—playing competitive sports since elementary school and practicing yoga since high school.

I also loved playing nontraditional “yoga” music in my classes, and got hooked on the energy of a room full of people working to change themselves. So I’ve forged my own style that blends my personal history with lessons from all of my great mentors.

Russ

TN: Both of you mention a dissatisfaction with existing fitness culture that led you to your current practice. What was lacking for you? 

Russ: The “new year, new you” concept sold by gyms everywhere actually removes the agency and ability of the individual, and places “fitness” as some unattainable goal. Self-care and working out should simply be present in everyday life. You don’t need a “new you,” you just need to actualize your intentions. You’re perfect and you’re strong and you’re powerful. That’s what magic is about for me, too. 

Shanda: Turning the art of helping and healing people into a commodity or ego-boosting strategy is what I really cringe at in the industry. Not to say you shouldn’t make money as a fitness professional, or that you can’t become well known, but those should be additional outcomes of helping people, not the goals.

I also believe that a lack of authenticity inspires the perpetuation of stereotypes, which leads to less variety for people who may not subscribe to the mainstream ideals of what “fitness” is. This is where we come in—we provide an honest version of ourselves, so others that are not seeking mainstream content or delivery can find a place to belong. 

TN: Tell me about some of your early icons and inspirations in both worlds. Who are the “patron saints” of New Jack Witch? Who do you see as your audience?

Russ: For me, this traverses boundaries. It’s Janet Jackson in Rhythm Nation—force, grace, power, intention. Gordon White of Rune Soup fame is another, for his combo of magic and political theory with pop culture observation. Grant Morrison. Tori Amos is our Ultimate Mother Witch. Michael Macneal of MonsterCycle is the fitness person who has inspired me the most. And my wife, Vanessa Irena (the third facet of New Jack Witch), inspires me daily to be a better person and a better witch.

But our patron saints are all those witches getting their fingers dirty, planting and growing and renewing and sweating and fucking, every day. I think our audience is everyone who wants to exist outside the currently established systems. Those for whom magic and fitness are both methods of creation and self-improvement, or those who want to align to that frame of mind and learn how.

Shanda: My mom and her best friend of 40+ years (who recently passed away, but is still here to guide me from the other side) are huge influences on my connection to the craft. As far as athletes, I’ve always loved the Williams sisters and any athletes or yogis that are rebellious and caring, sharp but kind. And patrons who speak to me through NJW are the Goddesses Isis and Diana.

TN: People often discuss the “mind/body” connection, but what’s the relationship between making magic and working out?

Russ: Magic uses the body and mind, as does exercise, and both require centering, intention, and the synching of the two. Think of breathing. Really. Your mind has your body do it subconsciously. It’s a brilliant trick when you think about it! When you’re in tune, both magic and exercise are like that—the two moving as one.

Shanda: Magic is learning how to control and manipulate frequencies, elements, and energy. Fitness is learning how to control your personal frequencies, energy, and breath. To me, they both address the strength and ability of the individual to transcend the artificial disconnect we’ve been conditioned to believe in—melting and coalescing mind, heart, spirit, body, and the physical external world, in order to manifest a desired outcome or reality. 

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TN: You’re both musicians also. How does your music-making feed into your witchcraft and your fitness practice?

Russ: Music is ritual, fitness is ritual. It’s about creating a spell, setting an intention, and eventually enacting a change, be it large or small. In our music and our workouts, ultimately it’s about creating a spell to get from point a to point b, to reach the desired intention and response.

Shanda: Just like magic and fitness, music is the art of controlling or manipulating frequencies, energy, and emotions in order to produce a visceral emotional connection or shift in consciousness. They are all the same thing, just in different forms!

TN: You mention wanting to “rebrand” the notion of the “rockstar.” What do you mean by that?

Russ: The concept of the rockstar has meant egotistical, out of touch, slobby, etc. Yes, we drink, and we have fun, and there’s a certain glamor to the showmanship of the music industry, but we’re also engaging with our bodies daily to keep them strong and healthy. It makes us better performers, humans, and witches when the main tool we have (our body) is sharp.

Shanda: We are trying to show people that caring for yourself and finding your power is one of the biggest things you can do for yourself and the world. There is an archetype of the rockstar that doesn’t cherish this internal divinity. It’s an outmoded archetype of self-abuse, unnecessary decadence, and an egocentric notion that’s not based on service, which is really what all musicians and teachers offer through art and knowledge.

While indulgence or the use of substances isn’t always a bad thing (witchcract is often connected to entering a trancelike state either through meditation or substances, after all), indulgence to an excessive degree is counterproductive to lifting the spirit.

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TN: Some people think of goth culture and music as dark or cynical. What myths would you like to dispel about both witchcraft and about the music you use during your sessions?

Russ: Well, first off, there isn’t any separation between “darkness and light.” And once you start saying things like “I don’t fuck with that dark shit,” well, you’re already off to a highly misguided start. Both goth and witchcraft celebrate the lightness in the dark and the darkness in the light. Playing Godflesh’s “Streetcleaner” in a fitness class puts a huge smile on students’ faces.

Shanda: I believe that there’s a clarity that comes from practicing ritual or fitness, or creating music, when you approach them through a lens of innocent excitement. I believe everything should be viewed with an open heart. Vulnerability allows for the truth to filter through easier than upholding a wall of judgment. When you break down the walls, nothing but truth is left, and that’s where real growth and change can occur.

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TN: What are your personal definitions of a witch? A fitness instructor? A musician?

Russ: A conjurer. A creator. A fighter. The definitions for all have been too rigid for far too long.

Shanda: Wavelength manipulators.

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TN: How do you want people to walk away from a Fitcraft session feeling? 

Russ: To steal a phrase from President Bartlet: Ready for “what’s next.”

Shanda: Empowerment, which is the knowledge of and faith in their own beauty and strength, backed by an infinite sense of self-love.

Learn more about New Jack Witch here, and check out their upcoming Goth Cycle + Yoga Class on Saturday, February 25 2017 at The Monster Cycle Limelight: 47 West 20th Street, New York, NY, 10011

5 GENDERS: THE STORY OF THE NATIVE AMERICAN TWO-SPIRITS

Prior to Christian intervention, fluid gender identities of the Native American Two Spirits were seen as a gift from the gods, says Pearson McKinney

Celebrated Lakota Two Spirit Osh-Tisch (left) with his wife.

It wasn’t until Europeans took over North America that natives adopted the ideas of gender roles. For Native Americans, there was no set of rules that men and women had to abide by in order to be considered a “normal” member of their tribe.

In fact, people who had both female and male characteristics were viewed as gifted by nature, and therefore, able to see both sides of everything. According to Duane Brayboy, writing in Indian Country Today, all native communities acknowledged the following gender roles: “Female, Male, Two Spirit Female, Two Spirit Male and Transgendered.”

He goes on to describe how: “Each tribe has their own specific term, but there was a need for a universal term that the general population could understand. The Navajo refer to two spirits as nádleehí (one who is transformed); among the Lakota is winkté (indicative of a male who has a compulsion to behave as a female), niizh manidoowag (two spirit); in Ojibwe, hemaneh (half man, half woman), to name a few.”

As the purpose of ‘Two Spirit’ is to be used as a universal term in the English language, it is not always translatable with the same meaning in native languages. For example, in the Iroquois Cherokee language, there is no way to translate the term, but the Cherokee do have gender variance terms for ‘women who feel like men’ and vice versa.”

The Two Spirit culture of Native Americans was one of the first things Europeans worked to destroy and cover up. According to people like American artist George Catlin, the Two Spirit tradition had to be eradicated before it could go into history books. Catlin said the tradition: “must be extinguished before it can be more fully recorded.”

And as Brayboy also notes: “Spanish Catholic monks destroyed most of the Aztec codices to eradicate traditional Native beliefs and history, including those that told of the Two Spirit tradition.” As a result, Native Americans were forced to dress and act according to newly designated gender roles.

One of the most celebrated Two Spirits in recorded history was a Lakota warrior fiercely named Finds Them And Kills Them. Osh-Tisch (see main image) was born a male and married a female, but adorned himself in women’s clothing and lived daily life as a female. On June 17 1876, Finds Them And Kills Them earned his stripes when he rescued a fellow tribesman during the Battle of Rosebud Creek, an act of fearless bravery.

It’s an example of how in Native American cultures, people were valued for their contributions to the tribe, regardless of the gender attributes they exhibited. Parents did not assign gender roles to children either, and children’s clothing tended to be gender neutral. There were no ideas or ideals about how a person should love; it was simply a natural act that occurred without judgment.

Without a negative stigma attached to being a Two Spirit, there were also no inner-tribal incidents of retaliation or violence toward the chosen people simply due to the fact they identified as the opposite or both genders. If anything; “Traditional Native Americans closely associate Two Spirited people with having a high functioning intellect (possibly from a life of self-questioning), keen artistic skills and an exceptional capacity for compassion,” writes Brayboy.

We’wha (1849-1896), of the Zuni nation. We’wha was biologically male and engendered with a female spirit.

Once outside religious influences brought serious prejudice against “gender diversity,” openly alternative or androgynous people were forced into to one of two choices. They could either live in hiding, and in fear of being found out, or they could end their lives. Many of whom did just that.

Imagine a world where people allowed others to live freely as the people nature intended them to be, without harm, without persecution, without shame. Imagine a world where we are truly free.

This article originally appeared on Bipartisan Report. For further reading visit Indian Country Today.

A LESSON IN LOVE: THE PEYOTE DIARIES

“If Ayahuasca is the head medicine, Peyote is to heal the heart.” One woman shares her Peyote journey, and tells how the mystical cactus helped her find her family. Images: Daniel R. Moore (homepage) and Abbey Watkins (post), both via Behance.net  

“I first heard about Peyote about four years ago when a friend told me about his experience in Arizona at the Church of Peyote, where he went to one ceremony after another for three months straight. I was captivated, and let him talk for three hours. His story was magical and he told it with so much love I could feel it. Also having known him for a while, I could see how his experiences had changed him as a person.

He continued to tell me whenever his “Roadman” (what the Church of Peyote call their Shaman) was doing a ceremony, and I always thought about doing it but the time was never right. Until my ex-boyfriend, also a mutual friend, texted me out of the blue three days after his first ceremony saying; “hey, I think I found OUR medicine.”

He and I share a very intimate knowledge of each other’s problems, and having taken Peyote he said he thought it could help me in the same way it helped him.
And so six months later, when I found out that he was organizing a meeting in Europe in two weeks time, it felt like a no-brainer. I had $200 in my pocket, but I was like, ‘fuck it, I have to make it work.’

He’s a pretty social guy and word had got around, so there were about 40 people in attendance. It was taking place in quite a remote place, and I travelled 24 hours to get there and missed the first round of medicine, so I was asking everybody how it was. They told me; “if it’s for you, life will just make sense.”

But I already knew it was for me.

Each tribe has their own way of running their ceremony, but I’ve done four ceremonies with the same guys now and it starts with burning tobacco, which opens up a channel to the spiritual world. The Roadman runs the ceremony, and then there’s a Fire Chief, whose job it is to make sure the fire, the “Grandfather,” stays bright and beautiful all night.

The person arranging the ceremony is in the “sponsored seat,” and they set the intention for the night. The Doorman’s job is to make sure people are sitting in the right spot and to keep things clean when people “get well” (throw up). The Drummer drums for everybody individually, and we all sing. And if the men run the ceremony, one female is also chosen to bring food – corn, meat and fruit – and water in the morning.

After the tobacco the Sponsor sets the intention for the night, then the medicine starts rolling, which comes in completely different forms depending on the Roadman. My first time, it came in four forms – a paste, a fresh form, a tea and a cold juice, and we were invited to take a portion of each. It’s a very acquired taste and all you can smell for two days afterwards is Peyote…I can’t describe it, because there’s nothing else like it and you know it right away; the mescaline.

As for how it makes me feel? The first time it made me really, really tired. So tired I couldn’t keep my eyes open. So the challenge was to sit and pay attention for nine hours straight.

It also really amplifies feelings. If Ayahuasca is the head medicine, then Peyote is the heart medicine. With Aya you take it and you go somewhere else, but with Peyote you’re completely grounded. I could talk to you like I am now, no problem, it’s just everything is amplified. In your head you’re able to connect the dots, like when you’re smoking weed, but in your heart it’s like taking MDMA – when you feel connected to everything, and you’re able to understand what everybody else is feeling.

Some people get trippy visuals but I never have. That first time I did feel raindrops on my shoulder which obviously weren’t there, and which turned into a feeling of joy that spread over my whole body. For me it feels like love is in that tepee, I don’t know how else to explain it. And afterwards, I always feel supercharged.

After my first time, I did two more ceremonies in the space of two weeks. I only took a small amount the first time and didn’t get well, but the second time I decided I wanted to dedicate my experience to different people in my life and wrote down ten names – so I took a spoonful of medicine for each of them…and got super well!

I saw it like there was obviously something that needed healing in each of those relationships, because when I took a spoonful for each of the same ten people the next time, I was flying high – a high that lasted six months. You go to places in your head where you get so emotional, and I often cry all the way through which is an amazing release in itself.

Now I feel like I’d do it once a month to keep me on track, like you might see a therapist. It can become a way of life, but for some people once a year is enough. Personally, I’d like to learn more, to understand the culture more and all the details about how to run a ceremony. They’d never let a woman put the tepee up, but I’m fascinated by the way they tie the knots in a certain way to honour the elements and stuff…and to learn about it, I just need to spend more time with them.

Also, the Roadman I follow is hilarious – he’s covered in tats, like a Mexican gangster, and he’s a funny motherfucker! For me he bridges the gap between my world and the ancient spiritual world, which makes it all so much more relatable to me. I told my friend I think I’m in love with him; he was like, ‘get in line!’

More recently, visiting Phoenix Arizona for a ceremony to celebrate the 13th wedding anniversary of my Roadman and his wife was one of the most beautiful things I’ve every experienced. I felt so blessed to go to the place where they’ve been doing these ceremonies for thousands of years. It was like visiting the holy land. But I’ve also done one with a different tribe in the Bronx in New York City, which was run by my Roadman’s ‘brother.’

People in the Peyote families know each other as relatives, and they believe that if you bring a partner into the circle and sit next to each other, that means you’re partners for life. It comes down to the fact that if you know this medicine works for you, then you feel a connection to other people in the same circles. It’s like there’s something in your makeup that’s the same, or you understand that maybe you experience the same kind of problems in life.

For me, the most beautiful part of my whole experience has been learning what real family connection feels like. Seeing how much the families respect each other, it’s ridiculous – and it’s why I keep going back.

Growing up, I never understood what family values were – my parents were there, but not emotionally. We’re very distant as a family. My friends are the people I would take a bullet for – but through the ceremonies, I’m learning how to forge a connection with my blood relatives too. The most important lesson has been to understand their value in my life, and to respect that. I appreciate them more for who they are now – and understand why maybe I should text my mom just to tell her I love her from time to time.

Elsewhere, it’s brought me so much clarity. Meeting new people, I can tell what kind of relationship we’re going to have, and if I used to have a tendency to give too much, now I’m aware of when that’s happening so I can stop. It’s like I’ve been granted an outside perspective. I’ve also learned to listen more and absorb stuff without feeling like I need to react right away. To just sit, and pay attention. I feel like I approach everything in a more peaceful, patient and positive way. And my close friends have all been able to see it.”

Image: Daniel R Moore via Behance.net

BYE BYE NEGATIVE ENERGY: SMUDGING 101

Chances are you’ve heard about smudging, the act of burning sacred herbs to transmute negative energy. Here, modern shamanic practitioner Marika Messager explains the process in detail and provides a step-by-step basic smudging ritual.

WHAT EXACTLY IS SMUDGING?
Smudging is the common name given to the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing, a powerful cleansing technique from the Native American tradition – but essentially it refers to the art of cleansing your self and your environment using simple ritual and ceremony. Our homes, objects and bodies do not consist of purely physical matter; they also vibrate with subtle, invisible energy. Cleansing a space or our bodies with techniques such as smudging clears away all the emotional and psychic “garbage” that may have gathered, perhaps over hundreds of years. It’s like spiritual spring-cleaning.

SO HOW DOES IT ACTUALLY WORK?
Smudging calls on the spirits of sacred plants to drive away negative energies and put you back into a state of balance, peace and harmony. It is the psychic equivalent of washing your hands before eating – and used as an essential preliminary to almost all Native American ceremonies. And the apparent benefits are steeped in science – when burned, sage and other herbs release negative ions, which research has linked to a more positive mood.

OH! HOW SO?
The aroma of sage, for example, increases the oxygen supply to the brain, producing a relaxation of muscle tension. In addition, the smoke from some herbs actually changes the molecular structure of air and energy, producing a cleansing effect. As the sense of smell is connected very powerfully to instinct and memory, the burning of smudge sticks has been found to be a very effective aromatherapy agent, especially when combating feelings of depression, anger, fear, frustration, resentment, and grief.

YOU MENTIONED NATIVE AMERICAN TRADITION – WHERE DID THE TRADITION ORIGINATE?
Smudging is a North American ritual, but is not exclusive to this area and has been practiced all over the world. In some cases, smudging is linked to the use of incense – as incense, like a smudge stick, is a natural object that is burned for a specific purpose. The history of incense itself goes back thousands of years to Egypt.

Most traditional cultures, from the Zulus to the Maoris, from the Chinese to the Balinese, have age-old forms of cleansing and blessing ritual. Even the West retains relics of it – the incense wafting through a church is cleansing the atmosphere just as surely as the medicine man’s bowl of sacred smoke, or smudge. The church bells that ring out on Sunday morning were also originally intended to purify the whole parish through sound and lead the community from everyday space into worship – just as the Shaman’s drum can lead us on sacred journeys into the world of the spirits.

IN WHAT SITUATIONS SHOULD YOU CONSIDER SMUDGING YOURSELF OR YOUR SPACE?
Smudging is both a ceremonial and an every day practice, so some smudging rituals are performed on a daily basis. Others are reserved for special or ceremonial occasions. As well as a way to clear one’s energetic field, smudging is often used to cleanse apartments and houses before they’re sold, before you move in, or whenever you feel the need to clean your environment. It’s also good to clean any objects you interact with regularly, like your computer or phone, while smudging can also be used to cleanse or protect crystals.

SO WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT THINGS YOU CAN USE TO SMUDGE WITH?
A smudge kit usually consists of four of five pieces, each representing one of the four or five elements (Earth, Fire, Water, Air, and sometimes Spirit or life energy):
A shell (abalone shell is most often used) to represent Water
Unlit herbs to represent Earth
Lit herbs to represent Fire
Smoke to represent Air

Sage is one of the most popular plants used for smudging, as the smoke carries an amazing fragrance that lifts the spirits. Even though sage grows abundantly in many locations, the most commonly used sage for burning and ceremonies is desert sage, or white sage.

The smudge sticks you find in witchy stores are most commonly made of sage and sweet grass, both of which play an important role in the smudging process. Sage is used to evacuate the negative energies, spirits and influences, while the sweet grass will gather new and positive energies. Other herbs used for smudging are cedar, juniper and lavender, and plain tobacco is also sometimes used by Plain Indian tribes.

Palo Santo wood from the rainforests in Ecuador was also considered by many to be a Holy Wood, and burning Palo Santo has been used by the Incas since ancient times as a spiritual remedy, for purifying, and cleansing.

AND WHAT ARE THEIR DIFFERENT PROPERTIES?
Sagebrush (confusingly, the “sage” used in most smudge sticks, is not culinary sage but sagebrush): transforms energy and brings change.
Sage (the culinary herb): brings wisdom and is calming and healing.
Sweetgrass: attracts positive energy.
Lavender: restores balance and creates a peaceful atmosphere. Lavender also attracts loving energy and spirits.
Cedar: deeply purifying, especially for clearing negative emotions and for healing and as a way to attract positive energy. Also used to bless a home before taking residence there, a tradition dating back to the Northwest and Western Canadian Native Americans, and believed to aid clairvoyance, revive the tired mind, body, and spirit, and stimulate contact with other worlds.
Mugwort: stimulates psychic awareness and prophetic dreams. It also banishes evil spirits.
Juniper: used to purify and create a safe and sacred space.
Yerba Santa: used to purify and to set and protect boundaries.
Rosemary: a powerful healer that brings clarity to problems.

WHAT CAN YOU USE IN EMERGENCIES (WHEN YOU DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO THE ABOVE FOR EXAMPLE)?
Visualisation is a very efficient technique that can be used anytime. For example, simply visualise that you are filling the room with clear white light that is removing all negative energies as the light is flushed out of the room. You can also use essential oil of sage or Paolo Santo on yourself or to spray in the room.

AND WHAT ABOUT SMUDGING A SPACE WHERE YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO BURN THINGS?
You can steep appropriate herbs or essential oils in water, creating a tincture to sprinkle or spray the area with. Placing Himalayan salt near a windows and then throwing the salt away will also disperse negative energies (ideally put the salt into the earth). Sound cleansing, using a gong or crystal sound bowl, is also very effective.

:: SMUDGING RITUAL: THE BASICS ::

  • Before you begin your smudging ritual, center yourself, holding the intention to drive away all negativity from your energy and purify your soul.
  • Put the herbs in a receptacle (ideally an abalone shell), light them and gently blow out the flame so that the herbs continue to smoulder.
  • You can also hold the herbs in one hand. Bear in mind that you will only need a few leaves to create enough smoke.
  • If you are smudging with Paolo Santo, all you need to do is light one side of the wood and hold the other side.
  • Now, take some smoke in your hand and bring it over your heart, keeping the intention to clear your energy. Then bring some smoke over your eyes, your third eye and your head.
  • You may wish to repeat the same process with your throat, solar plexus, sacral and root chakras, and finally your legs and feet (including the soles of your feet).
  • As you smudge, visualise yourself being surrounded by gentle, loving energy. Breathe in positivity, courage and love. Connecting with each smudged area and the feelings you wish to release or attract will empower your ritual (i.e: letting go of self abuse and bringing empowerment while smudging your solar plexus, or releasing grief and calling for unconditional love while smudging your heart).
  • If smudging a space, use a fan (ideally made of bird’s feathers) to drive the smoke into all corners of the room, again, holding the intention to purge the place of negative energy and invite in purity and light.

Find out more about Marika Messager and her work at Marikamessager.com

@MarikaMessager

NEED-TO-KNOW: YOUR SPIRIT POWER ANIMAL

Dealing with a situation that had left her feeling vulnerable and alone, when Ruby Warrington met her spirit power animal last year…it got emotional. Here’s how to connect with your own beast of the wild unknown.

Somewhere in the garden of my subconscious, a powerful black stallion is biding his time, waiting for me to call on him. The horse exudes the kind of strength that needs no armor. He’s as high as a house, and his sheer presence makes my body quake. But he’s also calm and loving, and will always, forever and a day, be loyal to me. How do I know? Because the stallion is my spirit power animal, and when I met him it was one of the most moving encounters of my life.

The story begins at a dinner in New York City, thrown by the publicist Kelly Cutrone for her client, fashion designer Raif Adelberg. Kelly’s been a long time supporter of The Numinous, so I knew something mystical was up when she told me I had to meet him. And sure enough, before long we were discussing the fact that Raif’s power animal is the orca, or killer whale.

Of course I was instantly intrigued. How did he know? Did we all have a power animal? How did the whale show up in his life? In response; he was given his animal reading by a friend, a Native American chief, after discussing with his wife (also Native) her butterfly power animal. Yes, we all have access to backup from the animal world. And in his case, Raif feels connected to his animal in many ways.

In a literal sense, “I live on an island (off the coast of Vancouver), where orca actually play in my backyard,” he told me. But the killer whale is also known in the animal kingdom for its steadfast family values. They mate for life and travel in packs, and in Raif’s case; “I feel most secure with the comfort of my family around me.” How cool that he even got a tattoo of a butterfly years before he met his wife.

My subsequent mission to meet my own power animal led me to modern shamanic practitioner Marika Messager, and a deep guided meditation – over Skype – that transported me from a still, Tuesday afternoon in my apartment in NYC to the dank depths of the forest that exists somewhere in the middle of my being where my stallion lives.

I met other animals – a hedgehog, butterflies, even a Unicorn – en route, but only when I found my horse did my skin prickle all over with goose bumps and the tears wet my face. They were tears of relief. I had recently experienced something that had left me feeling quite vulnerable and alone in the world, and the transference of strength, sheer power, from the horse to me, felt like being rebuilt from the inside out.

Before you embark on a journey to meet your own power animal, here’s what you Need To Know:

• To meet your power animal you need be relaxed enough to access your subconscious. This means shifting your brainwaves into a theta state (similar to a meditative state). Shamans use drumming to do this, but hypnosis can invoke this same sense of deep of relaxation.

• In shamanic tradition, it is thought that we have three power animals, from the air, land and sea. Although you may meet many more, depending what’s going on in your life at the time and the kind of healing they can offer you.

• Our animals are there to lend us their wisdom. To fully appreciate the message your power animal has for you, research how the animal lives, mates, socializes, hunts. What lesson is there for you in the animal’s habits? For example, an eagle might appear to remind you to view a difficult situation “from above.”

• Mythical animals – dragons, unicorns – may appear to you too. But all animals are equal; no animal is “better” than any other.

• The first time you meet your animal, first thank him for his presence. After that, you can ask him questions, to which he may reply with a vision, a sensation or a voice in your head. Be aware that his support may appear in any of the ways you usually connect with your intuition.

• Once you have met your animal, or animals, call on them in times of need. For example, the horse symbolizes freedom, so call on him whenever you are feeling restricted by beliefs about your supposed limitations.

• Finally, your animal may continue to appear to you in “waking” life – in iconography, conversations or popular culture – to remind you of his continued presence in your life. Acknowledge him with a wink when he does.

Marika Messager assists, advises and counsels people in all areas of their lives, through a blend of executive, life, career and transition coaching, mentoring and healing. She has developed an interest in indigenous healing practices and particularly the influence of consciousness and the mind on the healing process. In her work, she bridges and blends these techniques to encourage and empower her clients to find the answers they seek within.

www.marikamessager.com

NEED-TO-KNOW: A VISION QUEST IN THE PYRENEES

Mara Hoffman S/S 13

I’ve done a lot of change-your-life-type workshops from bootcamps to spas and goddess weekends, but  something called a ‘Vision Quest’ has had the most massive and long-term effect on me. A Vision Quest is like camping-meets-Carlos Castaneda, and is the only thing that’s ever really ‘re-booted’ my life.
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NEED-TO-KNOW: AN ICELANDIC SWEAT LODGE

New York-based jeweller Jules Kim is a true original, a spiritual adventurer whose travels always lead to inspiration and personal insight. On a recent trip to Reykjavik, she decided to partake in an ancient sweat lodge ritual. THIS was her experience.

Jules Kim: “Such an intense physical and spiritual awakening”

I recently had the blessed opportunity to be part of a ritual Icelandic sweat lodge in Reykjavik. My close friend and elfin sidekick, Imba, has been dropping stories about this unique experience for years. I always doubted whether I’d survive a session, due Imba’s stories about the intense heat. Then she suggested we book up, and I was excited and a little nervous.

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