An Excerpt from Chapter Five on Glamour in Ritual (The Arte of Glamoury)
The Arte of Glamour is available for purchase through Amazon in paperback and Kindle formats.
The Arte of Ritual
A Whole Day’s Work
When I do the ritual format I’m sharing with you in this book, I give myself a full day for everything from setting up my Work Space/Spare Oom to gathering items to my beauty regimen/ritual cleansing to the ritual itself to ritual decompression. I enter the space feeling calm and centered. I leave the space knowing I gave my ritual my full attention for the day and created something beautiful just for myself and my spirits. It’s like an amazing secret society that I’m the only (human) member of.
When I do this rite, I give myself permission to create beauty for myself and my spirits. Since it’s temporary (I dismantle the altar the next day.) and private, it’s sort of like my own personal mini Burning Man in that it’s about creating beauty for the sake of beauty and not for the sake of others. Creating beauty is so critical for our souls. Sadly, it’s also the first thing we’re willing to throw away for some reason. It’s really easy to get worn down by day-to-day drudgery. Between endless piles of laundry, dishes, and the work commute, we can become disconnected from our spiritual selves all too quickly. Maybe you can’t take a full day because you have children or a startup business. But, you need to block out as much time for this as you can possibly allow.
By giving yourself and your spirits this block of time, you’re making a sacrifice to your spirits before the ritual even starts. It’s hard to be undistracted. There’s always Facebook bantering, someone’s mini-emergency, texting, television, reading blogs, and becoming generally inattentive to what’s really important. This is far from a new problem. Ennui has existed in various forms ever since society began. Even the gods in a lot of pantheons get distracted at times. (The Greek gods are infamous for this.)
Again, does that mean that magic can’t happen without a full day of prep? No. My Dianic circles are always held on Fridays. It’s pretty impossible not to skitter into the ritual with the potluck clasped in my teeth and ritual supplies shoved in my purse, feeling harassed and hassled from my day at work and dealing with traffic. I’m burnt out and stressed out. It’s not the best way to go into a ritual. Do we make it work? Of course! But, what I’m proposing to you for the purpose of the ritual format in this book is to give yourself as much time as possible to lose yourself in the beauty of planning and executing a ritual.
What Are You Wearing?
We’ve discussed previously how what you’re wearing affects your daily life. Now it’s time to take that to the next level and discuss apparel for your ritual. Ideally, this ritual is about expressing yourself with a suggested structure to achieve your goals on a spiritual and magical level. What you wear to do magic is important. Magic is what you do to manipulate your surroundings in great and subtle ways. Shouldn’t doing an act that powerful demand that you give at least as much thought to what you wear in ritual space as you do to a job interview? I thought about a ritual robe. It works for a lot of people—especially in high magic tradition. There’s a level of internal “this is serious shit” associated with Gandolf and Merlin and other media depicted magic users. Ritual robes conjure up ideas of hoods and secrecy. Cloaks and daggers!
I really looked into getting a ritual robe. There are lots of people who design beautiful ones that look as masculine or feminine or anything in between as you like. But, I couldn’t get past feeling like: “Is this what you do? Play dress up in your closed little room? How very…” Robes felt like drag in a bad way to me. I tried a nude ritual because the Lady I was working with felt it was important for me to be vulnerable and primal like that. I did it. At first, it was awesome! Look at me, acting like Ye Olde
Witch! Being nude and sexy doing hot witchy things! Yeah! And then it felt sort of sweaty and uncomfortable. I didn’t have any pockets. I couldn’t really wipe my hands on anything. I was worried about dropping a hot charcoal on myself, which got distracting. I wasn’t distracted by being self-conscious of my body so much as what my body was doing and how sticky it felt without clothes. None of this is intended to discourage you at all from buying yourself a lovely robe or going au naturale—if that’s what you feel in your heart. Quite the contrary! I just want to share my personal journey to my ritual clothes to show you that it wasn’t effortless and seamless. It’s okay to try a few things out and see what works and what doesn’t. You’re captain of your own ship, after all. Finally, I personally decided on a few things concerning what I needed in ritual clothes:
1. I needed my ritual clothes to be black. I wanted to be able to wipe my hands on my clothes during ritual and for that not be a big deal.
2. I needed my ritual attire to be something that I could reserve just for rituals. I didn’t want my ritual clothes to be covered in cat hair and daily life residue. Whenever I put it on, I wanted to associate it with ritual. I wanted it to retain the energy of the rituals I have done in the past so that it would accumulate magical energy.
3. I needed what I wore for the ritual to be aesthetically pleasing to my style sensibility. If aesthetics are to be an important part of daily and ritual practice, then my ritual clothes should reflect that. The best way to describe my personal style sensibility is taking an orphan from a rich family from the Victorian Era and shaking her in a box with Joan Holloway from Mad Men. I can’t dress like this every day because of baby fluids. But, for ritual wear, I really want to embrace my aesthetic. Naturally, my first thought was: Oh, too bad! I don’t have anything at all like this! I guess I’ll have to go shopping! But I’m planning a wedding this year and am still a fairly new homeowner. Once I started looking into what my Muse thought I should be wearing and more to the point, how much that dog and pony show was going to cost, it was time to go shopping in my own closet. I had a dress that I liked and couldn’t quite part with but couldn’t find the right occasion to wear it. It was a bit ubergoth for coffee at Starbucks. But, at the same time, it was a little low key for my now rare pilgrimages to places where I can get completely decked out. It’s a simple, knee length, black chiffon dress with spaghetti straps with bib ruffles and jet buttons. I found an inexpensive black lace shrug that I wear with it so I’m not distracted by issues with my arms. Everything is machine washable. I generally wear my Gingersnaps style resin crow skull necklace with it and my fanciest French underthings. I keep my feet bare so I can feel connected to the earth better through my carpet. (Whatever! It works.) My ritual outfit makes me feel sexy, competent, and ready to do business with the spirit world.
Ritual Items and Space
As we’ve discussed before, you don’t need a full room dedicated to magic at all times. But I do find a house does have a sort of ebb and flow for where magic happens. Our dining room is where our altar lives. So, we make our offerings to our gods there. It’s where smaller magics—such as pooja work and hoodoo work—tend to be performed. Nothing really happens in the kitchen itself (which is different from our last place where the kitchen was where a lot of magic happened). Nothing happens in the living room (which isn’t surprising because we’re complete sloths there! We do work to keep the energy flowing despite our naughty laziness there). The bathroom is for cleansings/beauty regimen and the bedroom is for any sex based magic and some beauty regimen work. Any magic done in the bedroom must be cleared with the other party before it happens out of courtesy to the other party. That leaves Spare Oom for my ritual work. I really like doing the ritual I’ve created there for a few reasons. It’s small enough to really get energy moving easily, all my magical items are in there. I can shut my blinds and get incense really going in there and I can shut the door.
Spare Oom seals really well and I find creating a seal for this particular ritual layout really does make a difference in the work. I never notice how big a difference it makes until I step out of Spare Oom and I stumble out to the house. There’s a definite change in energy. After my ritual work, I make sure there’s nothing left burning in there and then seal it off from the house overnight before taking apart the altar. I find the Ladies like having the evening to themselves in there to socialize. It makes the work more potent. If you can make that happen, I really recommend doing so. I had decided to shop thoughtfully for my ritual items because I wanted my ritual items to be another extension of my aesthetic. A mood board on Pinterest can really help you figure out what you are trying to accomplish. My ritual aesthetic is Sleep No More meets country French Chic. It took me a while to figure out what that actually meant. I thought it would be more second hand shops and antiquing. However, it turns out that’s really time consuming and not as inexpensive as you would think. So, really, while I got some of my items that way, most of my items were acquired through Anthropologie, Amazon, Etsy, and Pottery Barn. It’s not as sexy or indie to say that. But, I got the things that I really wanted that way. Regardless of whether you shop in your own closet, in a tiny boutique in Paris, or at Target, I recommend taking your time with acquiring your ritual items so you can make sure that your aesthetic is being properly expressed.
About the author
Deborah Castellano is a frequent contributor to Occult/Pagan sources such as Witchvox, PaganSquare and Witches & Pagans magazine. She writes about her magical adventures here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Deborah's book, The Arte of Glamour is available for purchase on Amazon in paperback and Kindle. Her craft shop, La Sirene et Le Corbeau specializes in handspun yarn and other goodies. Her Craft shop, The Glamoury Apothecary specializes in handcrafted items for your magical/occult practice. In previous lives, Deborah spent seven years as an Executive Assistant and founded the first Neo-Victorian/Steampunk convention, SalonCon which received rave reviews from con-goers and interviews from the New York Times and MTV. She resides in New Jersey with her husband, Jow and two cats. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters. Deborah is a social media dork and can be found wasting far too much time on Twitter, Facebook, G+, Instagram and Tumblr.