Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Thrifty Magic

One of the things that was very intimidating to me, when I was first starting out, was the sheer amount of supplies that most books suggested you wanted.  Sure, at first it didn't seem bad:  a blade, a wand, a cup and a pentacle, some candles and incense.  But then there every ritual and spell had it's own shopping list of things:  herbs, stones, special candles, other ingredients.  By the time all was said and done, you needed a fully stocked magical cabinet to get anything done!

And not only did you need to have these things, but many times you were subtly admonished if they weren't top shelf.  Your herbs 'should' be gathered by hand, or you had to make sure they were procured under proper, organic, humane circumstances (from ethical locations...).  Everything was better when hand-made, but if you weren't dipping your own candles, you should be charging and oiling them, inscribing them with your intent, rolling them in herbs and stones.  You should mix your own incense, from the dozens of herbs you should keep in stock, and burning it on an open fire or charcoal.  You should offer up the best alcohol and fancy home-made breads or other ornate treats.

Not only did this build the expectation of lots of expensive, specialty supplies, but you now had to have space to store them all!  And there is this very romantic image of antique bottles with hand-written labels in pretty (or arcane) script.  Huge altars that could be left set up, with whatever you are working on out and available at all times.  Bundles of herbs hanging from your ceiling, tables of stones laid out every full moon, bottles of assorted waters always on hand.

Don't get me wrong, this is like the ultimate fantasy set up for me.  I would love to have a cute little witchy cottage, devoted to nothing but my craft.  With a wood-fire kitchen, and lots of storage for all kinds of herbs and other ingredients.  Enough shelves for all my books (and all the books I wished I owned...).  A beautiful wooden or stone altar, preferably with lots of storage above it so all my tools were there at hand AND I still had plenty of working space to actually work on.  Lovely art bedecking the walls and statues and stones scattered about so the whole place was a work of art.

But I don't have a magical witchy cottage.  I don't have a lot of dedicated space at all.  Most of my herbs come from the kitchen spice cabinet, in large plastic containers we bought in bulk for the best price.  My stones are kept in a re-purposed toy box, with many plastic partitions originally meant to hold little cars.  Most of my magical notebooks are cheap composition books or three-ring binders that used to hold school work. 

I really don't have a budget for magical supplies.  When I work, I try to find things I already have, that can be used for a magical purpose.  The bulk of my magical shopping is done at dollar stores, thrift stores and the grocery store.  And even then sometimes I struggle to find things that I need (it's seriously sad when I have a hard time finding an orange.....yes a single orange!)

I am glad this is an attitude that seems to be changing though I think we still have a long way to go.  I have seen it said many times, when it comes to deity offerings, that if you don't have anything else, pure water will do.  But I still think that implies that you 'should' be offering up other things.

It sort of reminds me of hosting etiquette.  If you have guests over, you put out the good china and you give them the best of what you have.  You save the odds and ends for yourself, because you want to be a good host.  On the flip side, if you are a guest, you walk the fine line of not wanting to put your host out, so you offer to help or to make things easier for them.  You don't automatically take their bed and drink all their beer!

When it comes to offerings, I think that I like the idea of shared meal better.  If I am inviting people to come to my house for dinner, I expect that I will make food and we will all eat it.  I don't plan on cooking one meal for guests and one for myself.  I think this applies well to offerings.  If I am eating a meal, and want to make an offering...I can offer up some of what I have.  I also like the 'spirits eat the spiritual essence of a thing, not the physical thing', so I feel that you can offer up your food, and still eat it.  Sort of like dedicating your meal to a deity, and then enjoying it as a symbol of how you would like them to receive it.  And, just like you might make a special meal for a special occasion, you can make more elaborate or meaningful offerings for special occasions as well.

With magical workings, I don't think that our tools and supplies need to be top shelf necessarily.  I think that a perception of quality can definitely enhance a working, and for some things it can be a distinct boon.  Using something that represents extravagance to you could make a prosperity blessing more potent.  Likewise, using your last of a thing as part of a working to either help people who have nothing or to ward against loss brings a specific kind of energy.

For everyday things though, I take the upcycling approach.  I prefer to use things that may have already been used.  I also like using my ritual leavings for other things, whether it is a future ritual or a house decoration.  I recently was making some Florida Water, and the bits I strained out of the bottle were so lovely smelling, I knew I didn't want to just toss them.  I dried them out (so they wouldn't grow mold), and will be making a sachet or decorative bundle out of them, which will probably go on my desk where I can smell it.  I will be using some old fabric that I have saved, from favorite clothes that were no longer fit to be worn.

That is something that I love doing:  saving favorite things that no longer serve their intended purpose and finding some way to use them for something new.  I have lots of clothes that I adore, but when they get too many holes or need replaced, I hate to just throw them away.  If it is something that has simply been outgrown and could be used by someone else, I'll donate it, but if it is really not usable, I try to save as much as I can for future use.  I love using fabric like that for magical workings, because I can draw upon that energy and emotion that is already infused in the cloth!

I'm also a sucker for interesting containers.  I hate throwing old jars out.  Because I love to save lots of old things, I also need lots of ways to store them (because I much prefer to be organized).  While I can (and do) use any sort of container (the number of coffee cans in this house....), it is more fun when they are pretty or interesting, and can be decorative as well as useful! 

There is a balance to be found here, as in most things.  I don't want to get so caught up in the reuse mentality that I am unwilling to give my faith and my craft priority.  In a pinch, I will use what ever I have, whatever is necessary, but if I have the luxury of being able to actually get the right stuff, then I want to honor my self and my deities and do so.  I also don't want to become a hoarder!  I frequently (way more often than hubby thinks I do) go through my stashes and really ask myself what I'm saving them for.  If I can consolidate, I do.

With old clothes, this sometimes means cutting away the unusable parts (like the seams) and just saving the big, usable pieces (and buttons!).  With magazines, I have been trying to flip through them, and clip images and words I might use, and then accept that it is more important to let the rest go than to hold onto them in the off chance I need something else that I didn't see. 

But the biggest thing for me is owning my own practice.  I may not have all the fancy supplies, but I have some.  I often use what I have on hand, partially because I don't have the money to buy new supplies, but also partially because I want to upcycle things so they don't just get trashed after one use.  My practice has to be something that fits my life, something that I can live with, without feeling guilty.  I would rather offer up a heart-felt prayer, than bury a twenty dollar bill while feeling resentful at it's loss. 

I believe, very strongly, that both faith and magic require pure intent.  If you aren't fully behind the actions you are taking, that will effect the results.  Being honest with yourself, really knowing how you feel about things, is the first step in building a working practice.  Learning what your relationship to money is, and how it effects the different areas of your life, can bring a huge shift in how you approach the things you do.  There is no wrong way, only what is wrong for you!

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