Posted Under Paganism & Witchcraft

8 Self-Care Practices for Magical Activists

Smudging and Altar

If you're like me, the current political climate has made you more active than ever. I've been to protest marches, I've stood on street corners with hand-printed signs, and I have called so many members of Congress their offices probably know me by my voice. As a Pagan and an activist, I've barely had a moment to catch my breath between scandals, crises, and outrages.

Being an activist is not easy, but when authoritarians and racists and homophobes hold the highest offices in my country, I can't spend my free time watching cat videos. When I see my government dismantling critical environmental regulations and denying climate change, as an earth-based spiritual practitioner, I have no choice but to come to the defense of my planet.

And all of that takes its toll—physically, mentally, and emotionally. I've seen activists burn out over the years, or get depressed, give up, and sink into despair. But as magical people, we have unique practices and resources to draw upon to keep us fueled and empowered in our pursuit of a better world. Here are some of my favorites, and all are covered more in depth in Magic for the Resistance: Rituals and Spells for Change.

1. Cleansing and Purification
We all know the exquisite relaxation that accompanies a long, hot bath, but a ritual salt bath, with candles, herbal sachets, and soothing trance music is a balm for the spirit as well as the body. When you feel mentally and emotionally detoxified from the horror show of the news cycle, light some candles and take a ritual bath while calling upon the blessings of your preferred deity.

I'm also a big fan of suffumigation (a fancy word for smudging). Sage is wonderful and rightfully popular for clearing negative energy, but try burning copal or frankincense (preferably on charcoal) and using your hands to "wash" yourself with the smoke. It can create an instant transition from the mundane to sacred space, wiping away toxic energy and tension with the rising smoke.

2. Nature Bathing
As Pagans, we revere the natural world, but for many of us we spend most of our time in artificial environments. The Japanese have a practice they call shinrin-yoku, or forest bathing, that is a cornerstone of alternative healing, and mounting scientific research has shown it be extraordinarily effective. It's simple: go out into nature and soak in the energies of the plants, animals, and spirits around you. Don't look at it as exercise or a strenuous hike; instead, walk slowly and quietly, with your senses open and your mind relaxed. Even if you live in a big city, you can probably find a nearby park or public garden. Trust me—once you start this practice you'll wonder how you managed without it, and your connection to natural magical currents will strengthen dramatically. Just like your mother used to say: it's a beautiful day; get out of the house and enjoy it!

3. Bring Nature Indoors
Since we can't spend all of our time in nature (as much as some of us would love to), bring nature indoors. Sure, you have flowers and crystals on your altar, but do you have them on your dinner table? Next to your bed? Green plants cleanse and purify our air, so the more the better. You can buy inexpensive indoor waterfalls or fountains to provide soothing elemental water energy to your home, apartment, or dorm room, and wind chimes to allow the air to play music for you. The elements aren't just for your altar—turn your home into a playground for all the elemental spirits and feel your connections much more deeply.

4. Descreening and Unplugging
Yes, the irony is that you are reading this on a screen. I'm not a technophobe—the Internet has allowed me access to a wealth of magical texts and books that were once impossible to find. It connects me to like-minded witches and magicians, and the Trump binding spell could never have gone viral without social media. But as we all have experienced, too much screen time can be toxic and debilitating. And for those of us caught up in the 24/7 news cycle, the demands on our attention can be overwhelming.

So, take some time away from your phone, your laptop, and your television. Invite friends over for socializing or a board game night. Go out for dinner with your partner and keep your phones off and out of sight. Try to become aware of why you pick up your phone—is it boredom? Anxiety? Habit? If so, resist the urge and instead focus on the world around you. See what you're missing? Conversations of strangers, flowers, clouds, and birds all might be trying to tell you something. You can't "be here now" when you're scrolling through Facebook posts or Instagram photos, so seek to lengthen the times when you're watching the world instead of pixels.

5. Go for a Walk
Yeah, we all know we need to exercise, and that it's important for combating stress, but to many that means joining a gym or going to regular yoga. That's wonderful, and please keep it up, but all too often we neglect the easiest and most interesting form of exercise: going for a walk.

Unless you have a disability, it's a form of exercise that is available to everyone, and doesn't require a membership or equipment beyond a good pair of shoes. But even more importantly, walking gets you out into your community and introduces the magic of chance encounters and joys of exploration. It takes you out of your comfort zone and puts opens you to omens and synchronicities you would have missed if you stayed indoors. The future opens in front of you, wide and full of infinite possibilities. And it's conducive to thinking and working out problems.

As Nietzche said, "All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking." So, stop worrying about missing the gym and go for a walk!

6. Treat Your Body
Yes, your body is a temple, and as a witch or Pagan you know the importance of temple upkeep. So honor it! Get a massage, a pedicure, or treat yourself to a home spa day with some friends. I make a point to regularly visit a local Korean spa, where I can soak in a steaming herbal bath, relax in a salt sauna, and meditate in a room covered in amethyst crystals. It's worth spending the equivalent of a dinner out once a month to thank your body for all the hard work it does for you.

7. Cultivate Joy
Being an activist means being especially aware and attuned to suffering and injustice, and without balance that can lead to despair. The antidote to despair is joy, so make it a practice to cultivate joy in your life. There are no specific prescriptions because each of us finds joy in different things. What brings you joy? Dancing? Playing fetch with your dog in the park? Curling up with a cup of tea and a cozy mystery?

If you're part of a magical activist group, plan parties and social gatherings to recharge you and keep your connections strong.

Find the things that bring you joy and add them to your calendar, and honor those commitments. Balance the time you spend helping make the world a better place by making your world a better place.

8. Stay Connected to Your Magic
As witches and magicians, we have spiritual currents we can plug into to replenish and nourish us. Those of us who have been doing the Trump binding spell monthly since February of 2017 can attest to the power of ritual to keep us fortified for our daily acts of mundane activism. If your circle or coven engages in activism, do your part to raise the collective energy and support your members.

Connect with your goddesses and gods through daily devotions, prayers, meditations, and rituals, and ask them to help you in your practical social and political work. There's a lot of hard work to be done, so as polytheists and Pagans we should bring our entire team to the fight.

Magic and Activism Require Balance
As natural healers and energy workers, the world needs us now more than ever. But being magical activists requires that we balance our energies and channel them carefully and intelligently. To fight injustice and create the world we desire, we need to make sure to take care of ourselves. So please—keep up the fight for justice, equality, liberty, and restoration of balance to the natural world, but don't forget that you, too, require care and love.

About Michael M. Hughes

Michael M. Hughes (Baltimore, MD) is an author, speaker, magical thinker, and activist. He is the creator of the internationally viral "Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him," the largest magical working in ...
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