The Dark, The Light and In Between

The brightest flame casts the darkest shadow”. (George R. R. Martin)

When we examine the qualities of the Old Ways witch, we can see they are not far removed from what some call ‘Traditional’ Witchcraft. The strong connection to the powers of the Night, poisonous plants, interactions with spirits and the dead, and so forth. These are often looked upon as ‘darker’ elements of witchcraft, but they have always been part and parcel of it’s practice. Many in the pagan communities shy away from these things and prefer to focus on the Light, but this only causes an imbalance, as the Darkness is equally important. There is nothing to fear from darkness. It hides, obscures, protects. Regard it as a friend. The darkness holds many secrets. It is both enchanting and mystical. Let it surround you like a veil. Those who dwell in the shadows are a unique and set apart community. Find strength and solitude in the darkness. Appreciate it’s beauty and strange quietness.

Magic is best practiced under the cloak of darkness, by candlelight or the light of the moon. During the very late hours of the night when much of the noise and chatter have ceased, it is then that psychic energies can flow unhindered, and communication with the gods and spirits is much clearer. It is a time for powerful witchery. Dark Magic is often misunderstood to be enchantments that are intended to cause harm or injury. This is not entirely true. Magic is a neutral force, being neither black nor white. While a practitioner may use magic for malevolent purposes, labeling this as ‘dark’ is somewhat of a misnomer. The Dark is not always harmful. The Light is not always beneficial. Malevolent Magic and Dark Magic are not necessarily the same thing. Dark implies that which is hidden, that which is unseen. In fact, this is the definition of the word occult: hidden wisdom. It is knowledge that is hidden from those without the awareness or discipline to uncover it. Dark also implies the aspects of ourselves that we keep hidden from others. Everyone has a dark side. Everyone. Yes, even you. We all have secrets that we keep from others. We all have private issues and problems that we need to work on. Some of them are legitimate problems, and others are not really problems at all, but we perceive them to be problems because of social conditioning. These are our secret fears, guilt or shame, whether self-imposed or wrongly imposed upon us by others. There are many things in our lives that we have been made to feel wrongly ashamed of. Some of these include sexual orientation, porn, alternative lifestyles, pagan spirituality, or even the choice to avoid religion and spirituality altogether. None of these things are cause for shame.

A large part of true dark magic is the process of examining the Shadow Self, a term coined by psychiatrist Carl Jung. He stated “To confront a person with his own shadow is to show him his own light”. Once we acknowledge our darker aspects, we can work on transforming them or integrating them into our lives in a healthy, positive way. What are some of my personal struggles? Anxiety. Depression. Inadequacy. Self-Esteem. These are things I struggle with often, but I accept them as part of who I am. I talk about these issues openly with others. I don’t pretend my life is perfect. To help me deal with these things, I use affirmations, meditation and medication. These and other therapies help a great deal but they don’t take it all away.

There has been so much focus on “Love and Light”, particularly in the Wiccan and New Age movements. There is this idea that ignoring or denying our darker natures will somehow make them non-existent. “No bad vibes” is a popular saying that is actually harmful. We can’t live in a bubble where we pretend everything is rainbows and unicorns, and we can’t expect the same from everyone around us. None of us live perfect lives. We all have struggles, and we must acknowledge that throwing “love and light” at everything does not always provide a solution. There must be a balance of both dark and light, and these are two sides of the same coin. Those who practice paganism through a darker lens find comfort and solace in their rituals. These energies are not evil or malevolent, they merely operate on a different vibration.

By working with these dark energies, we perform magical practices that work to make our lives better and more fulfilled. Some of us prefer to approach magical spirituality through a darker aesthetic. “Dark Energies”, for the purpose of this article, refer to dark stones and plants, the waning and dark moon phases, the Shadow Self, dark aspects of deity, dark animal guides, the allure of the night, and certain kinds of divination.

Any form of magical practice requires us to look within. We examine our motives and desires to see if our magical working is coming from a place of love, or anger, or healing, or revenge. We examine any possible outcomes that may result and adjust our spells accordingly. I don’t consider witchcraft itself to be a form of therapy, however, many practices do require the practitioner to look within and examine themselves. We take responsibility for our spells and enchantments, adapting and improving them in such a way that the result is best for all involved.

Call me a stick-in-the-mud, but I still believe in the Old Ways. We need to be careful what we label as a “modern idea” or even an “outdated” one. There are some bandwagons that I refuse to jump on just because it is the trendy thing to do. Author/Teacher Raven Grimassi spoke of the “momentum of the past”, describing how many magical practices and concepts have accumulated power over the years because they have been done the same way for so long. Altering or changing them dilutes their power. Please do not take magical advice from teenagers on TikTok, or from anyone who is not a well-respected author/teacher that has been around for awhile. There are truthfully only a handful of teachers I would personally recommend, as these are people I have met in person, I have studied their work or I have taken classes with them. I don’t have to agree with every single thing they say, but much of what they share and teach does resonate with me and my practice. I trust their experience, which is something sadly lacking in many self-described “experts” on social media. Having a best-selling book or thousands of followers are not necessarily good indicators of a worthy teacher.

Witches of the Old Ways are deeply connected to the powers of the night, and to various herbs and plants, many of which are quite toxic. It is only in modern times that witchcraft took on a lighter, more sanitized tone. Witches of the Old Ways do not turn the other cheek, nor do they ascribe to the Wiccan ‘harm none’ philosophy. There are times when banishings, bindings and even curses are absolutely called for. I have always believed that witches are meant to be respected and feared in equal measure. To provoke a witch is to incur consequences. The ‘threefold law’ is another Wiccan invention, and is one that we do not see played out in the real world. If one watches the news regularly, we see many instances where harm is caused without punishment, threefold or otherwise. Modern Wicca has sanitized the image of contemporary witches, who many view as docile and harmless New Age hippie folk who surround themselves with pretty crystals and scented candles. This is not an accurate picture. It is unfortunate that as witches we are not approached with the same trepidation we once were. In the old days, those seeking solutions to their problems visited the local witch as a last resort when all other efforts had failed. Witchcraft in today’s society has become incredibly commercial, with anyone and everyone calling themselves a witch and charging exuberant prices for their services. Many of these charlatans have no idea what it really means to be a witch, and some of the younger folks have foolishly attempted to redefine what witchcraft is.

The practice of witchcraft is not as simplistic as some people try to make it seem. It is not “whatever you want it to be”. It is not “picking up a rock” or “looking at the moon”. It does seem at times that younger pagans find witchcraft too boring, they want something more exciting, so new ideas are introduced, many of which only detract from rather than add to the practice of witchcraft. Some have said “Just because something is old doesn’t make it better”, but I have to disagree and say that just because something is new doesn’t make it necessarily better either.

Many modern books about witchcraft present a Disney-fied, watered down version to make it more acceptable to the masses. The Wiccan Rede and the Threefold Law are modern inventions that did not exist before Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente. Before Wicca, most witches were simply witches, who lived by their own ethical codes and moral standards. The Wiccan Rede has become somewhat of a disclaimer, as in “Yes, I’m a witch but that’s okay because I follow the Rede”. They don’t want to be thought of as “that kind” of witch, one who banishes and curses, yet these are also part and parcel of witchcraft. It is commonly known that not all witches follow the rede, but this does not necessarily make them “unethical” witches. Witches who do not follow the rede are sometimes called “Traditional” witches, but this term can be confusing as it implies one who follows a tradition, such as Alexandrian or Gardnerian. Both Traditional and Old Ways witches are sovereign, meaning they are self-ruled and self-governed, unbound by redes and ‘threefold’ laws. When I tell someone I’m a witch, they often say, “But you’re a good witch, right?” To which I reply, “If you’re good to me, I will be good to you”. This is usually followed up with, “But you don’t put curses on people, right?”, and I reply with a smile,“Only if they deserve it, and sometimes they do”. I actually like the fact that this makes some people apprehensive. It means they know to show me respect.

I have to question the spiritual maturity of gatekeepers, those who attempt to police how other people practice. These are people who say, “You’re not authorized to use this practice unless you’re…(insert culture or tradition here)”. Cultures have borrowed from one another for centuries. There is no culture that has not been influenced in some way by another. ‘Cultural Appropriation’ is an expression that gets thrown around a lot these days, mostly by people who do not fully understand what it means. There is nothing at all wrong with engaging in practices from any culture, as long as one understands the importance of that practice to the culture which it belongs. Becoming acquainted with the history, language, symbolism and folklore of a particular culture is also recommended for those who wish to use magical practices from another culture or tradition. Examples of real cultural appropriation would include the person who wears Native American dress but is not themselves a true Native American. It would include dancers at Celtic festivals who wear those fake “Irish curls” in their hair to give the appearance of being Irish. Cultural Appropriation occurs when elements of a particular culture are used in an exploitative or stereotypical manner.

Social media is rife with people sharing information that is completely untrue. Here are a few of these myths:

  • You’re not a witch unless you’ve been initiated by another witch.
  • Covens can only be formed by a 3rd Degree High Priest/ess.
  • Tarot is a closed practice, it is only for those of Romani descent.
  • You can only honor deities from the culture you were born into.
  • Only Native Americans can have animal familiars.

These are all false statements. Rather than getting magical advice from strangers on social media, it is better to do your own study, getting information from well-respected authors and teachers. Read, read and read some more. Take a few classes if you can afford it. Another person’s magical/spiritual practice isn’t “wrong” just because it is not how you learned it. I share what has worked for me and encourage others to try my methods, but if they don’t feel right for someone there is nothing wrong in that. In the end, all that really matters is that you do what works best for you, and turn a deaf ear to those who say otherwise.

I have to scratch my head at those who seek an academic study of witchcraft, as this would be rather difficult due to it’s experiential nature. Witchcraft is a mystical practice with many aspects that cannot be backed up with footnotes and references. A magical system that works well for one practitioner may not necessarily work the same for another. Add to this the subjective nature of symbols, and the fact that many witches have unconventional abilities that they discovered quite by accident, abilities they did not learn from a book or a teacher. Such things cannot be “researched and vetted”.

Many people consider things like healing and personal growth to be associated with the lighter aspects of witchcraft, but it is also true that a person can find healing and personal growth from the darkness as well. It is important that we embrace the darkness as much as we embrace the light.

The Planetary Tarot Spread

Ever since I learned about this spread years ago, it has become the one I use most often, particularly when reading for others. It is simple to work with and covers nearly every aspect of life. The planetary correspondences add an extra dimension to the reading of the cards. This spread uses seven cards laid out clockwise in the following order: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. Though technically the Moon is a rock and the Sun is a star, their energies are still used the same way as the other planets. These are known as the seven classical planets, since the ones other than Earth (Neptune, Uranus, Pluto) were not known until much later. Even though Pluto lost it’s ‘official’ planetary status, many magical practitioners still use it in their workings.

To use this spread, it is important to know the magical correspondences of each planet.

MOON: Things that are hidden and kept to oneself, secrets, things one may be ashamed of or embarrassed about, the shadow self, one’s darker nature, occult knowledge, intuition, psychic ability, divination, goddess worship, self-esteem, identity, dreams, witchcraft, wisdom, imagination.

MERCURY: Interactions with others, communication, travel, conversations, learning and study, school, writing, meetings, speech, paperwork, contracts, agreements.

VENUS: Personal relationships, love, friendships, family, romance, attraction, sexuality, beauty, affection, fondness, often associated with women and female sexuality.

SUN: Ambition, achievement, success, accomplishment, reaching goals, god worship, the image of you that is seen by the world, enlightenment, strength, health, creativity, confidence.

MARS: Opposition, friction, battle, lust, anger, passion, competition, aggression, assertiveness, often associated with men and male sexuality.

JUPITER: Job and career, money and finances, having material needs met, house and home, food on the table, prosperity, luck, abundance, opportunity, any kind of growth or advancement toward better things.

SATURN: Restriction, limitation, obstacles, sacrifice, discipline, responsibility, circumstances beyond one’s control, or situations that prevent one from reaching goals.

Below is an example of the planetary spread

Next is an example of tarot cards laid out according to this spread. You will begin the reading with the card that is in the Moon position, which in this example is the Six of Swords. Then going clockwise and ending with the card in the Saturn position, which in this example is the Four of Pentacles, read each card with their planetary correspondences.

Below is a sample personal reading of these cards. I do not use “reverse” positions in my readings, but those will work just as well with this spread. I am using a version of the Rider-Waite deck here, but if you use a different deck you can adapt the planetary spread to your deck of choice. For this spread, I asked the question “What should I be aware of in my life at this time?”


Since the moon reminds me of things I keep hidden, the Six of Swords is telling me to stop dwelling on past shortcomings (something I tend to do) and to look toward to the future with positive expectations. It is also encouraging me to let go of some things I have rigidly held onto, and embrace new ideas as part of my spiritual path.


Since Mercury is about communication, the Strength card reminds me to spend more time on my writing projects, and to do them efficiently. I am working on a book at the moment, and I want to have it published through a traditional publisher. It is not something to rush through, and I want to do it right. Writing is one of my strengths, after all.


The Devil card is about taking control of a situation before it becomes too difficult to solve. It also implies lust and temptation. Venus is about relationships, attraction and desire. We watch alot of gay porn at our house, so this card is warning me (and us) to not let it become an addiction.


Ironically, the Sun is a star, and the Star card implies personal growth and spirituality. The Sun, of course, is about success and achievements, as well as creativity. This tells me that some personal projects I’ve been working on will soon come to fruition.


This card implies financial hardship and isolation, and being in the Mars position means that it will be especially challenging. We have had some financial setbacks recently, and this card is telling me to hold on just a while longer, we’re not out of the woods yet.


The Magician in the Jupiter position is telling me to stay committed to getting some personal projects finished, because they will be prosperous and successful once I can finally put them out there.


Since Saturn indicates restrictions and obstacles, the Four of Pentacles in this position could be telling me to use my resources wisely, and to be more prudent with finances or any other material gains I may receive. There may be a financial obligation I am not yet aware of, or perhaps an emergency on the horizon.

I have found the Planetary Spread to be the most insightful and enlightening spread I have ever used. It’s also fun to do, and clients that I use it with seem to enjoy it. There will often be connections between the cards, and sometimes the person I’m reading for will spot things that I may have missed. I encourage you to try this spread for yourself.

The Art of Magical Living

We live in a world of magic. It is truly all around us. It is in the wind that blows through the trees, in the rushing waters of a mountain stream and in the flame of a burning candle. There is magic in the hooting of the owl, the majestic stag as it trods through the forest, and the salmon as it leaps upstream. Even we ourselves are magical beings, each with our own unique skills and abilities. Whenever we chant an incantation, light a candle or burn special herbs to bring good things into our lives, we become vessels of magic. When we place quill to parchment, paintbrush to canvas, or fingers to a musical instrument we allow the magic within us to be expressed outwardly in creative ways.

As magical beings, we infuse magic into everything we do. It is truly an art to live this way, for one must become familiar with the ways of magic and the subtle energies that make it work. But, what is magic? It is both something we do and something we are. The popular definition of magic is “The art of causing change to occur in conformity with will” (Aleister Crowley). This definition has been analyzed, dissected and interpreted many different ways. My own definition of magic is “The art of partnering with the forces of Nature and the Universe to create desired change”. This includes utilizing our own inherent gifts and abilities. Magic is a creative force that is both tangible and intangible. Magic can exist in the melody of a song, in the words on a page or in the feet of a dancer. Natural settings such as a grove of trees, a field of lavender or a circle of stones can be magical. It is that quality that makes us catch our breath and we suddenly realize, “There is magic here”. We can learn to harness these forces, and use them to create positive change. We can use magic in practical ways through meditation and the casting of spells. To live a magical life is to feel the inner spark that draws us to the deeper mysteries. We can learn to appreciate the magic of the natural world as it is revealed in plants and flowers, trees and stones. We can revel in the beauty of magic as it is expressed in the moon, the stars and the planets. The belief in magic reaches back through the centuries, to the very beginning of human civilization.

Neolithic man would draw pictures of themselves capturing animals on the walls, in the belief that this would bring the animals to them. History tells us that the earliest records of magical folk were the wise-women and cunning-men who lived on the outskirts of villages and towns. They were knowledgeable in the healing properties of herbs and plants, often providing herbal concoctions and potions for those who needed physical healing. They also practiced divination and read the signs in the night sky. An old word for ‘Witch’ is pharmaceute, from which we get the word pharmacist. This links the witch to those who were skilled in herbal healing arts.

We are not bound by redes or ‘threefold’ laws, but are guided by our own intution and magical wisdom. We too can work with the magical energies of Earth, Air, Fire and Water. We can learn to see magic where others do not. Those who live a magical life walk between the worlds of the Seen and the Unseen. They find magic in the Light and in the Dark. They walk along the threshold where magical and mundane worlds intersect. We choose to live in tune with nature and the cycle of the seasons. Earth, Air, Fire and Water all contain their own unique energies. All aspects of magic can be found within these four elements. Every tree, flower, plant and stone is alive and sentient. Nature desires to communicate and interact with us. Through meditative and shamanic techniques, we can form bonds with various aspects of nature, which will in turn partner with us in our magic to create the changes we seek in our lives. To live a life of magic, we need look no further than nature itself.

Many people go through life with no magical awareness. Their daily routine seems to hold no magic, but it is there nonetheless. Even one’s place of work can be magical in subtle ways. Some people are predisposed to magical living, and it comes quite naturally. Others need a bit of study and practice, but anyone can live a magical life.

Let us move beyond any romanticized New Age “rainbows and unicorns” ideas of magic and begin to see magic not only as a powerful force for change, but as an integral part of who we are.

Celtic Magic

Before we explore various aspects of Celtic magic, it is important to understand what is meant by Celtic. The term Celtic refers to a cultural tribal group who moved into Northern Europe, the British Isles and Ireland. They are identified by their use of art, language, symbolism and mythology. There are two strands of Celtic culture, each recognized by it’s language. Q Celtic refers to the Gaelic languages: Scots Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Manx (spoken on the Isle of Man). P Celtic refers to the Brythonic languages: Breton, Cornish and Welsh.

One does not have to be descended from a Celtic bloodline to practice Celtic magic. Anyone who feels a connection to the Celtic gods and goddesses are invited to draw near to them. The Celtic magical tradition is focused more on culture and mysticism rather than bloodline. Anyone can practice Celtic magic, despite what the self-appointed gatekeepers say.

While most magical systems acknowledge the four elements of Earth, Air, Fire and Water, in Celtic magic the emphasis is placed on Land, Sea and Sky. It may appear the fire element is absent, however, the fire exists within the practitioner. Celtic pagans draw fiery energy from within themselves and into their enchantments. Another aspect of fire being within is the concept of Nwyfre. This is a Welsh word that means “life force”, and this life force exists in everything. Nwyfre has been linked to the Dragon, another source of fire. Fire transforms, or is transformed by the other elements.

Fire burns the Land (Earth).

Fire is quenched by the Sea (Water).

Fire is fueled by the Sky (Air).

Those who practice Celtic magic celebrate the same holidays as other pagans, as most of these holidays are of Celtic origin. We know that the Celts only recognized a few of these, such as Beltane, Lughnasadh and Samhain, however, modern Celtic pagans celebrate eight holidays in total.

These holidays include IMBOLC, occuring on February 1st or 2nd which honors the Celtic Saint/Goddess Brigid. The SPRING EQUINOX occurs around March 21st and celebrates the newness of life and the reawakening Earth. BELTANE takes place on May 1st, a very erotic and sexually charged holiday. The SUMMER SOLSTICE occurs around June 21st. LUGHNASADH takes place on August 1st and is the first harvest festival of the year, named after the Celtic god Lugh. Around September 21st is the AUTUMN EQUINOX or MABON, the second harvest festival named after the Welsh figure Mabon. SAMHAIN, the third and final harvest, is celebrated on October 31st, when departed loved ones are honored and believed to be closer than ever. The WINTER SOLSTICE, what many pagans refer to as YULE, takes place around December 21st.

While we know very little about spiritual practices of the ancient Celts, modern scholars believe clues can be found in the lore and legends. It is true that the Druids, the spiritual elders of the Celtic peoples, did not write anything down. However, there are at least fourteen classical authors who lived during the time of the druids and documented some of their practices. The Celtic tales are believed to contain many hidden mystical lessons. These lessons are revealed only through study and meditation, and by placing ourselves within the stories. To be understood, they must be experienced. For those who wish to practice Celtic magic, a working knowledge of the mythology is a priority.

The primary magical tools of the Celtic pagan are the cauldron and the wand. Both of these feature prominently throughout Celtic lore. The cauldron is a container of energy and also acts as a vessel of communication. When we place our hands on the cauldron, we tap into centuries of magic and make a connection to the divine mind of the ancient gods and goddesses of Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The most important cauldron is the one that belongs to Cerridwen, a Welsh goddess of Transformation and Initiation. From her cauldron is the source of Awen, a Welsh word that means “Divine, Poetic Inspiration”. Cerridwen is the original cauldron-stirring, potion-brewing witch. She is the spiritual mother of the “inspired ones”, sometimes referred to as the Awenyddion.

Other gods and goddesses of Celtic lore and legend include:

Brigid: Goddess of Healing, Poetry and Smithcraft. She is both Goddess and Saint. Those who follow her are called Flamekeepers, keeping alive an old tradition of the Brigidine Sisters tending the holy flame at the monastery of Brigid at Kildare. Her sacred day is Imbolc.

Lugh: The Celtic Sun god. He is called The Many-Skilled One, skilled in all the arts. An accomplished warrior, athlete, harpist and poet. The holiday Lughnasadh (“Games of Lugh”) is named after him.

The Morrigan: Goddess of War, Magic and Death. She is a triple-goddess also known by the names of Badb, Macha and Anu. Her sacred animals are the Crow and Raven.

Manaanan Mac Lir: Sea God of the Tuatha De Danaan. He possesses a horse than can gallop across the waves, a ship that needs no oars or sails to travel, and a sword that can fill men’s hearts with fear. The waves of the sea are called “the horses of Manaanan”.

Rhiannon: Welsh horse goddess of magic, forgiveness and wisdom. She is also associated with birds. The “Birds of Rhiannon” are three birds who can wake the dead and lull the living to sleep.

Cernunnos: Stag god of the forest, primal, masculine ruler of animals and all green things that grow. He is often portrayed as a man with antlers.

In some versions of the tale of Manaanan Mac Lir, his wife Aoife was turned into a crane. When she died, Manannan made a bag from her skin that would hold magical items. Many Celtic pagans make crane bags in which they place items of magical or spiritual significance. It can be made of leather, cotton, linen, wool or any other fabric. It can be any color, and may be decorated with Celtic symbols or imagery. The Crane Bag is similar to a Mojo Bag or Medicine Bag, and what you place in it is entirely up to you.

Such items may include:

• Crystals and Stones

• Seashells

• Plants, leaves, twigs, roots or bark

• Herbs, plants or flowers

• Seeds

• Feathers

• Fur, nails, bones, claws or other animal parts

• Animal, plant or spirit guide figures

• Ogham, runes or other items with magical symbols

• Any other items with a spiritual purpose

When practicing divination, many Celtic pagans look to the wisdom of the Ogham. The Ogham began as an ancient British and Irish alphabet, consisting of twenty characters formed by parallel strokes on either side of, or across a continuous line. It evolved into a system of divination, largely due to the work of Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess. Each ogham symbol is associated with a specific tree and a divinatory meaning.

Ogham staves

A 15th century Irish manuscript known as the “Cauldrons of Poesy” tells us that the human body contains three cauldrons. These cauldrons are located in the head, heart and belly of each person. The cauldron in the head is the Cauldron of Wisdom, ruling spiritual health. The cauldron in the heart is the Cauldron of Motion, ruling Psychic Health. The cauldron in the belly is the Cauldron of Warming, ruling physical health. These three cauldrons are similar to chakras, as each one represents various aspects of life. They are used in meditation, visualizing each cauldron in the upright position.

Symbols used in Celtic magic include the triquetra and the triskele. The triquetra is a Celtic knot symbol consisting of a triple knot with with a circle in the middle. The triskele is a triple spiral that appears to be in motion, as if it is spinning. Both of these symbols represent the Land, the Sea and the Sky. They can be carved onto candles or drawn on parchment paper when casting spells. Objects with these symbols can be placed on your altar. Other imagery can be used, such as pictures of Stonehenge, Brigid’s Cross or figures of animals that appear in Celtic lore.

There are many facets of Celtic magic, and this article only addresses a few of them. The Celtic tradition is rich with symbolism and mystical lore. Those who hear the whispers of the stone circles and the misty moors are invited to draw close to the ancient gods of Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Finding Peace in a Chaotic World

We are living in very stressful times. A global pandemic, racial injustice and financial uncertainties are all happening at once. Nearly everyone is experiencing some anxiety. How can we try to maintain a peaceful state of mind amidst all the chaos? There are a number of things we can do that will help relieve some of the stress in our lives.

Meditation: Setting aside a few minutes each day to meditate is a perfect way to relax and re-charge. Just start by closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths. The idea is to lower your brain waves until you reach what is called the “Alpha” state. Alpha is that sensation when you feel relaxed, yet still aware, almost like when you’re daydreaming. Another simple practice is to do a countdown while visualizing the numbers from 10 to 1 in your mind’s eye. This helps to quickly bring you into a relaxed state. Another form of meditation is called Creative Visualization. This is when you try to picture a situation, with eyes closed, exactly the way you would like it to be. Put yourself in the picture and try to involve all of your senses. What would you be seeing/hearing/feeling if this were happening right now? It is recommended to keep your eyes closed when meditating, so you are not distracted by things around you. Ten or fifteen minutes a day is a good start. Some people prefer to meditate in the morning, while others do so in the evening. Choose a time when you can meditate undisturbed. Turn off your phone. Lighting candles and incense can help with the process. Relaxing music, with no vocals or drums, can greatly assist you in reaching a relaxed state of mind while meditating. It is best to sit upright with your back straight, while sitting in a chair or cross-legged on the floor. Lying down may tempt you to fall asleep, so this is not recommended. It is not necessary to hold an uncomfortable pose or use specific hand positions for extended periods of time. You may find while you’re meditating that inspiration comes to you, or you may receive a solution to a problem you are having. A regular meditation practice not only relaxes us, but also develops our intuitive and psychic abilities.

Crystals: The subtle powers of crystals and stones can greatly reduce harmful energies around us, whether at home or at the workplace. Placing these stones on desks, tables and windowsills will invite their magical qualities. Amethyst, Rose Quartz and Lapis Lazuli are all stones that will help restore peace and calm to your environment. Place them where they will be seen by anyone who enters the room. You may also choose to wear these stones as jewelry. When we wear crystal pendants, rings or bracelets, their energies mingle with our own aura and work to neutralize influences that may be harmful to us. Black Obsidian, Moonstone and Tiger’s Eye are all protective stones that will absorb harmful energies when worn. When purchasing your crystals, it is important to cleanse them before use, as other hands have handled them before you. Simply wash them with spring water and dry with a paper towel. You may also choose to carry these stones in your pocket during the day, and twirl them in your fingers to draw upon their energies. The powers of crystals are activated through energy, intention and vibration. To activate them, hold the stones in your hands, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Say, “I charge these stones to bring peace and calm to me and those around me”. In your mind’s eye, see the stones bathed in a brilliant white light. Bring yourself back to full awareness, open your eyes, and the stones are ready for use.

De-Clutter: There’s an old saying, “A cluttered room reveals a cluttered mind”. Over time, we can accumulate so many things that it’s hard to know where to put it all. Some people don’t mind the clutter because they “know where everything is”, but for the rest of us, walking into a cluttered room only adds to our stress. Do we really need all of this stuff? It is a good idea to do a purging of all the things you no longer need, want or use. If it’s clothing and it no longer fits or has holes in it, or you haven’t worn it in three months, toss it. If your bookshelves are overflowing, get a new bookshelf or pass along some books to your friends.

Sometimes our tastes and interests change, and the things we own no longer reflect these changes. Keep only the things that represent your personality and who you are now. Get rid of everything that does not bring you joy. (On the other hand, if you think you may be a hoarder, you might want to consider counseling). Above all, be resolved to keep the clutter down. You will have more peace of mind knowing that everything is organized and in it’s place.

Removing the Toxic: There are times when painful decisions must be made, and sometimes that involves removing unsupportive people from your life. They could be friends, employers or even family members. If they are not supportive of who you are or your life goals, it is time to dis-associate with them. If someone in your circle of friends is constantly putting you down, criticizing your decisions, or is generally negative and unsupportive of your ambitions, you may want to consider if this person is truly a friend. Realize your own self-worth. Wouldn’t you rather have people around you who cheer you on and encourage you, instead of tearing you down? Sometimes we make excuses for their bad behavior. “Oh, that’s just his personality” or “She’s always been like that”. Does that really make it okay? Many people hold on to these toxic relationships because they feel insecure or lonely. Removing these people from your life will greatly restore your peace of mind. Workplaces can also be toxic. Overbearing managers, workplace bullying and verbal abuse happen all too frequently on the job. This creates a great deal of stress and anxiety. Contact your Human Resources department and inform them of what is happening, and consider looking for another job. In addition, many of us have family members who are not supportive of our life choices. Some of us have been ridiculed by certain relatives because of our sexual orientation or because we follow a pagan path. It may be necessary to keep these family members at a distance and for extended periods of time.

Nature: When we lose touch with nature, we lose touch with our magical selves. By spending time among the trees and flowers on a regular basis, we can reawaken the magical fire within us. Go for a walk in the park. Put on your hiking boots and visit the nearest walking trail. Walk barefoot in the grass. Spend more time in the garden, planting magical herbs and flowers. Immerse yourself in the elements. Sit beside a stream, watch the wildlife and listen to the birds singing. Feel the wind blowing on your face. Place your hands on an oak tree and sense it’s powerful energy. Set aside time each week to go outside and recharge yourself with the powers of nature. This will restore peace to your soul.

Get Creative: A great way to bring more peace into our lives is to explore our creativity. Get out the paints and watercolors. Start a blog or begin writing that book. Learn a musical instrument. Make some candles or homemade soaps. Participating in a favorite hobby will keep the mind occupied and bring a sense of peace and accomplishment. Some people find scrapbooking to be very relaxing. Expressing your creativity will help restore peace into your life. Sing, dance, create!

Music: Listening to relaxing music is another way to bring a sense of calm. Classical, New Age or Celtic music are all excellent choices. There is also music that has Alpha and Theta pulses recorded into the music. They’re very subtle, you can’t hear them, but subconsciously they produce a relaxation response in those who listen to the music. This is also something called the Earth Resonance Frequency, a measurable sound wave that comes from the earth itself, and is has been recorded into some relaxation music. You can find it in the music of Dean and Dudley Evenson and other similar artists. If you struggle with insomnia, it is a great way to relax the mind and help you fall asleep at night. Llewellyn and Juliana also have several recordings for peace and relaxation.

Surround Yourself with Things You Love: Place treasured items and other objects that bring you joy on your desk, or in various locations where you will see them. I happen to collect pop culture memorabilia, and regularly rotate various collectibles where I can look at and enjoy them. A friend of mine collects unusual figurines and toys, and spending time with them helps her de-stress after a rough day. If it brings you joy, who cares what other people think? I know grown men who still collect Star Wars. So what? If it makes you feel happy and peaceful, surround yourself with those things. It’s a quite healthy thing to do.

Plan Your Fun: Give yourself things to look forward to, and plan ahead for fun activities. This will create an inner sense of excitement. They can be small things, like “Wednesday night I will watch that new movie” or “Saturday I’ll buy some new clothes”. Shedule a day off, maybe two, just because. Planning fun activities for yourself is a great way to help you feel more at peace and in control of your life.

Disconnect from Social Media: There is so much bad news these days, it can be overwhelming. For our own mental health, it’s a good idea to limit the time we spend on our social media accounts, or temporarily disconnect from them. You can deactivate your Facebook without actually deleting it, and reactivate it whenever you want. If you deactivate your Twitter, you have 30 days to reactivate it before it gets deleted. Sometimes we sit down with our laptops for just a few minutes, and before we know it three hours have gone by. Social media has some good qualities, such as for networking and increasing awareness of important issues, but every now and then it’s a good idea to disconnect from the madness for awhile.

Affirmations: Affirmations are positive statements you make about yourself. More effective when spoken aloud, they are a wonderful way to uplift your spirits when you’re feeling anxious. Examples of affirmations are:

I am a creative, intelligent being.

I am prosperous and successful.

I am completely healthy.

I am strong and courageous.

I am always in the right place at the right time.

When you say affirmations, allow yourself to feel that they are real and true, even if it doesn’t seem that way right now. As you use them on a regular basis, visible results will eventually begin to reflect the inner reality. Affirmations work to change your pattern of thinking and ultimately changing your life for the better.

Exercise: Getting regular exercise increases certain chemicals in the body, such as endorphins, dopamine, adrenaline and endocannabinoids. These are all associated with feeling happy and confident, as well as lowering anxiety and stress. Taking a brisk walk, riding a bike or doing some aerobic activity are great ways to release these happy-feeling chemicals.

Volunteer: By helping others in need, we make our own lives brighter. Consider volunteering for a charity such as Meals on Wheels, an animal shelter or local food kitchen. There are many ways to volunteer your time. Buy some groceries for an elderly neighbor. Prepare a meal for a sick friend. Join a group that cleans up litter in a park. Offer your time as a mentor or tutor. Helping others instills a sense of inner peace, knowing that we have contributed to the well-being of someone else.

The world can seem like a scary place. It can be difficult to find peace amidst all the conflict, but these suggestions are a good place to start.