My hair is currently in what could very graciously be called a Fraggle Updo currently. My bra is already off and I am wearing a long t shirt that says “Wild at Heart”, grey sweat pants, two seasons ago Victoria Secret slippers. There is a trickle of menses between my thighs, my snout is encrusted in dry skin from the week long illness I still haven’t shaken off. My hands smell of Gardenia because I spilled some essential oil on them while trying to fix a candle.
O my sister #QueensInExile. We are in the heart of the dark. Truly. This is where dreams are burned into the backs of our eyes. This is where we make our triumphant to court, crowned in glory and holly, cloven orange pomanders jauntily swinging at our waists, champagne is an endless fountain and marchpane cascading from the table with the possibilities of the new year bright in everyone’s eyes. This year, we whisper to ourselves and each other, this year will be different.
It’s also when we are at our lowest, our saddest, our most melancholy and the dark threatens to swallow us whole in our grief and our misery. We are hollow in our hungers, in our austerities, in our exile. Our homes are filled with the ghosts of what was and what never will be. The chests that we have brought with us into exile are tattered. Our money is low. Our spirits are lower.
Yank yourself up by the goddamn hair, sisters. We will not be ground down. Our spirits will not be broken. We will survive.
- Start making tea correctly. You see how long it tells you to steep it? Yeah. Do that. Make it by the teapot and keep your insides warm. Where there is tea there is civility. Where there is civility there is survival. Put the juice of a whole lemon into the pot and then add the leaves and the water. Trader Joe’s has a whole bag of Meyer lemons for $2.00. Get it done. Are you rolling around in the doldrums of your despair? Gross. Stop it. Get some of Amy’s tea that’s relevant to your situation and then put your intent into the leaves and then drink it.
- Go on an adventure. Play the “Let’s Get Lost Game”, play Cemeteries and Cows, go someplace you’ve never been to and eat something there. It doesn’t have to be far and it doesn’t have to be expensive. But it can knock some of the cobwebs loose. Need a guide? Get Natalie’s book.
- Listen to some new music. Chris and Tara always have awesome music on their show. Looking for some Witch House-esque music that will make you cool like the youngs (or, in my case, like my much older magical auntie and uncle) and not inspire killer headaches because you are now boring? A Place Both Wonderful and Strange has a very cool six song spell cycle called “What I Speak I Create“. If you let your life become completely predictable in everything including music, that’s how your heart dies. So don’t do that. Branch out.
- Make some stock. Everyone is always extolling the virtues of homemade stock. I was less interested for a very long time because it never came out right. You need to be home and you need like six or seven hours if you want it to be worth anything. If you work from home or if you are in (in)voluntary exile, you now have time. So, the bones you use are important. A whole chicken carcass. Ham hocks. Beef marrow bones. You could do it without the bones, of course if you are vegetarian. Use more vegetables then. A whole onion cut in half, skin on. A stalk of celery. Two carrots. A palmful of mushrooms. A few whole cloves of garlic. Some booze helps – a dark beer, a chardonnay, a shiraz, cognac. A whole bay leaf. You will need a lot of salt. Go easy and add it. Don’t get crazy with the pepper or it gets weird. Smoked paprika. A good spice blend that you like. Put it all in a big pot. Fill said pot with water. Put it on the lowest setting for three hours and then the second to lowest for three more hours. Take all the solids out and toss. Follow a recipe for your favorite soup or stew. If you don’t know what that is, Pinterest is always there to save you. Here’s my board that I use for much of my cooking. This winter I have learned that it is actually incredibly oppressive to make a different meal every goddamn night with our schedules. Making two different things and having some exciting bread is sufficient. Good stock makes you more hearty which you will need in exile.
- Make sipping chocolate. Again, Trader Joe’s has it. It’s what gets me through the dark while on antibiotics, unable to drink St. Germain like a goddamn savage. You need: a quart mason jar (or your previous TJ’s Sipping Chocolate tin because you do not have time to go to TJ five towns over): 2 teaspoons good smoked salt (Auntie Arwen‘s and Savory are my go to spice shops – good prices, small quantities and zomg fresh), 1 teaspoon good cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla powder, 2 tablespoons good mini chocolate chips, 1/4 cup good fine sugar, 1/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa powder. Put it all in the mason jar. Put the lid on. Shake it up. 3 tablespoons of the cocoa with 1/3 cup warm 2% milk. 130 calories if you need to feel justified about it. Good chocolate fixes your brain chemicals. You need your strength to fight.
- Cultivate an attention span. Oh lordess. Mine is terrible. I used to be able to read a book in like two days. I’m checking my phone, texting, watching television while reading a book like a person who should be shamed. Reading before bed? A recipe for sleeps. I am trying to recultivate an attention span. You can work on puzzles or write or go for a walk or eat at the table and have a conversation or . . . meditate I guess? That’s not my bag, but if it’s yours and it sucks right now, you should fix it. It feels like liquid burning in your brain pan but that’s how creation happens. Start with like 30 minutes and promise yourself your garbage animal treat of choice for completing it until you can take the training wheels off.
- Little rituals are critical this time of year. You need to be sowing seeds in this womb of darkness. Get a close relationship with your honey pot. See what St. Martha is up to. Ring up your ancestors. Ask the Moirai what they’ve been up to. Tell Parvati about your day at work. Make offerings. Do magic. Start things, finish things. Do fancy dances. Yell at the moon. Let yourself dream and then execute. Most spells aren’t one and don’t, they require regular attention. Can you do that? It’s easy on day three, less easy by day ten and much less easy by day 38.
- Create wonder, pay things forward, buy your bestie a cup of Starbucks, donate to a charity you care about, make something beautiful with your own two little hands, be kind to your loved ones, breath life into your house plants, be extra attentive to your cat, make your lover a hot water bottle. Open your heart. Do it because it hurts. And we are not afraid of pain, sisters.