Song for a Cold Winter’s Night in the Belly of the Beast

I know.  It’s after Solstice.  The sun is returning blahblahblah.  That is only in theory in New Jersey at this point until April.  We still have many grey days with little sunlight to speak of to get through first. girl sleeping by the fire

A few weeks ago, April1 and I went to our favorite Korean Spa.  It’s near Mitsuwa which is an amazing Japanese market with ramen, taiyaki  and katsu stands that serve food on real plates like civilized people and the seating overlooks the NYC skyline.  We go to the spa, then go to Mitsuwa, eat too much and then wander the aisles to look for delicious treats to bring home.

The spa has many beautiful little rooms covered in jewels to chose from, steaming with mugwort or warm and dry with salt.  They have a little place that serves shaved ice covered in glistening fruit for when you get too hot.

Going to a Korean spa is very different than going to a Russian/Turkish spa unless you go on a “boy” day or a “girl” day, in the U.S. at least. The Russian/Turkish is just about completely co-ed, except the locker room.  The Korean spa has many co-ed rooms to chose from, but it also has a very gendered component to it.  If you don’t enjoy gendered experiences or consider yourself more gender fluid/trans*, a Russian/Turkish spa may be a better choice for you.  Russian-Turkish spas are also lots of fun.  There’s steam rooms and everyone wearing mud masks, super hot cave like rooms where the jockish clients will do push ups to really feel the burn, banny venik massage where someone hits you with dried branches made from oak, white birch, and eucalyptus (it feels good, trust me), ice cold pools to dip into when you get too hot, yummy borscht and older people drinking vodka without a care in the world.  It’s much more boisterous and has more of a party atmosphere. 

The Korean spa is meant to be more of a place of quiet relaxation.  Cell phones are highly discouraged, talk in general is discouraged.  In terms of it being a more gendered experience, there are rest areas for men or women only and a sauna or two where it’s boys on one side, girls on the other.  There’s also a men’s spa area and a women’s spa area where there’s space to shower, hot tub and cold soak as well as relax.  I tried to look up the sauna that April and I like best as it’s in the women’s only area but mysteriously it doesn’t appear on the website.  I’m not sure what it’s actually called but April and I call it “The Womb Room”.  I’m not sure what The Womb Room “does” per se, if it “does” anything at all.  I mean, both The Russian/Turkish spa and the Korean spa are seeped in magic.  The magic is completely different in each spa of course.  The Womb Room has items in it that are clearly for magical purposes.  Inside the little hut, It’s a small round room that’s painted scarlet red inside, the floors are warm and cozy, the ceiling is spoked with wooden beams in a wagon wheel shape.  There’s a small hearth.

The women who come in to check out the space have one of two reactions: to drop onto the floor and stay there for a lengthy indeterminable amount of time or to immediately back out of the room slowly and carefully.

If you have ever met me in person, you would know I am a shaking anxious animal who doesn’t like to be left to her own thoughts for very long.  If I had the choice between a meditation retreat and sticking my hands in things all day, I’ll stick my hands in things.  April is less anxious than me by a good clip but she’s also a total Type A who’s not generally super into lying down with her thoughts. If we both love The Womb Room and we’re both total Type A, it makes me really curious about the women who reject The Womb Room.  Are they so chillaxed that they do this at home on the regular in front of their fireplaces that they don’t need it?  Maybe.

When I’m in the Womb Room, time stops existing in any kind of meaningful way.  I feel still.  I feel calm.  I feel centered.  My thoughts drift but mostly I don’t think about much of anything besides admiring the hearth and the ceiling.  It’s one of the few experiences that bring me bliss and calm.  We lie on the floor with the other women, Hestia’s lazy human cats.  When I was younger, I would accuse myself of laziness and sleeping on the Goddess’ hearth when I could be doing something, anything.  Inciting revolution, writing a full novel, moving to Paris, dyeing my hair purple, joining the Peace Corp, shaking down The Establishment.

I’m older now and while I still haven’t done most of those things, laziness is something I rarely accuse myself of these days.  Running a small business, blogging, writing, writing proposals, working, being married, having a spiritual life, having a social life, seeing my family and keeping a small household has me more than occupied.  Working very hard creating and having come to enjoy a hearth of my own has made it so PastDeb has very little to say on the matter in terms of judgement/selling out as I’ve been published a bunch and have made a tidy little income as an artisan.  Also my clothes are pretty bad ass.

So now I need that time to sprawl across Her hearth, to contemplate nothing but how warm the floor is and how comforting it is to lie there and breathe and just be.  I wish this for all of you, Charmers in 2015.  As you fight your quiet wars, I wish for you moments of peace.  Moments to be a lazy cat on your Goddess(es)’ hearth.  I suspect They would want that for you too.

This is an incredibly hard time of the year where it’s easy to get bogged down feeling like nothing you do is enough or good enough.  You are being judged more often than usual and eating and drinking to excess in all likelihood.  This is where most existential crises are being brought to life and you’re plagued with uninteresting distressing nightmares.  Spring is so far away it may as well not exist.

But.

It can be a time to be gentle with yourself.  To use these (literally) dark days to nurture sproutlings of what you want to be.  Your flora and fauna don’t bloom overnight.  It starts in the belly of the Beast, that blindingly beautiful and horrendously terrible Muse within the (sometimes teeny tiny) part of ourselves (regardless to gender) that resonates in that kind of glamour, that kind of femininity that has the sharpness of a stiletto, the softness of our tummies, here is where magic is born.  Here is where you start to become everything you love, everything you hate, everything you’re afraid of, everything that makes you happy, everything that makes you sad.  It’s all there, waiting to unfurl.

You’ve got this.

But when you feel like you don’t, a recipe to nourish your furious heart and your tangled head.

 

A Soothing Soup for When You Can’t Get to Mitsuwa

(all ingredients can be bought at Trader Joe’s)

Fresh rice noodles (one nest)

Stir Fry Vegetables such as: baby corn, snow peas, water chestnuts, carrots, mushrooms, broccoli, etc (approximately 1 cup)

1 box low sodium chicken stock

3 tablespoons yellow miso paste (found in the refrigerator section)

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 package of tempeh

3 counts sake

3 counts low sodium soy sauce

Salt and pepper to taste

 

Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan on medium heat.  Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tempeh.  Heat the tempeh until it has a light yellow color.  Slice.  Set aside.  Dump everything else into a stock pot expect the noodles.  Cook covered on low heat for 20 minutes.  Add tempeh and noodles.  Shut the heat off and keep it covered for five minutes and then serve.

Deborah Castellano
Deborah Castellano's book Glamour Magic: The Witchcraft Revolution to Get What You Want is available for purchase through Amazon, Llewellyn and Barnes and Noble.
Her frequently updated catalogue of published work is available on Author Central.

She writes about Glamour Magic here at Charmed, I'm Sure. Her podcast appearances are available here.

Her craft shop, The Mermaid & The Crow specializes in old-world style workshop from 100% local, sustainable sources featuring tempting small batch ritual oils and hand-spun hand-dyed yarn in luxe fibers and more!

In a previous life, Deborah 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 their cat, Max II. She has a terrible reality television habit she can't shake and likes St. Germain liquor, record players and typewriters.  

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