Seven Practices for an Enchanted Life
Though I mark time more by the rhythm of changes on the land that the seasons bring than I do by the calendar of the dominant culture, I still love the opportunity that New Year's Day brings for reflection and transformation.
Any holiday or festival being celebrated by the people around you is an opportunity to partake in mutual blessing while the community is focusing on gratitude, hope, and joy, whether or not you share others' conception of "the reason for the season." No matter what calendar you follow, the turning of the year is a liminal time, a time of putting the past behind you and stepping into new ways of being.
If, as Crowley said, "Magick is the art and science of creating change in conformity with Will," and change is inevitable with the turning of the year, why not work to bring that change into conformity of your truest, deepest Will that is aligned with the living world's Will for healthy flow? Drinking in the jubilation of the night, we can gather it, focus it, and use it to feed our prayers.
As 2020 begins, my own prayer is a simple one: for the deeper enchantment of my life and the lives of all in my web of relation.
The word enchantment derives from the Latin verb "cantare," "to sing." The oldest magics, the oldest prayers, the oldest rituals, the oldest calendars in the world all seek to bring people into alignment with the rhythms of the living world so that they can move together with the world around them in health and balance. Rhythm is the root of ritual, and music and dance are at the heart of the trance technologies of every culture. To be enchanted is to be woven into the Oran Mór, the Great Song of the world's continuous re-creation. When you find the rhythm and melody of the Oran Mór, you can find the syncopations and harmonies you want to weave together with it.
I am committing myself to seven simple practices this year to bring enchantment into my own life. I invite you to join me in as many of them as you choose:
1. Feed your Beloved Dead.
My recent Irish ancestors put a plate out on New Year's Eve to feed the migrating souls of the dead. I've adopted this practice for meals on every holiday, setting a place of my kin of spirit, heart, and blood who have joined the Beloved Dead. I also often put offerings to older ancestors on my altar – in the way of their people, I favour offerings of honey, milk, or whiskey.
2. Learn to say "thank you" in one of the languages of your ancestors.
The great Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart said "If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough." I know the Divine by different names than he did, but gratitude is also the place where all my prayers begin. When I give thanks for my own life and the lives of my human and wild kin, I come into knowing my place in the world, and from there I can find the courses of action that will bring the greatest blessing to the community of life.
The rhythms and intonations of ancestral languages shift the rhythm of our breath and our heartbeats into closer alignment with those of our ancestors, helping us join in their prayers of thanks for the world that gave them life, and in giving them life, made way for us to come into the world.
3. Thank your heart daily.
The heartbeat is the oldest human drumbeat, and it echoes the rhythm of the flow of molten iron in the Earth's core. Its rhythm is felt by every cell in the body. I learned from Stephen Harrod Buhner that gratitude brings our heart into a state of coherence which allows us to be deeper communication with the rest of the living world. In a simplified version of a practice he teaches, I take time each day to bring my attention to the beating of my heart and to thank my heart for beating out the rhythms of my life.
4. Thank the Sun.
The great Feri Shaman, Victor Anderson, said that the sun is the god of this solar system.
The sun is the source of nourishment for the plants that give us oxygen, and thus also for the lives of animals and fungi who feed on the bodies of plants (and of each other.) So it is the source of our metabolic fires, and for the fires of the furnaces we build.
By shining through our skin and our skulls, it also shines onto our pituitary glands and our pineal glands, guiding their release of hormones that orchestrate the actions of the rest of our bodies' organs. Philosopher, bodyworker, and anatomist Gil Hedley says that the sun is our master endocrine gland.
Today I am beginning the practice of thanking the sun three times a day: when I first wake, at or close to noon, and at sunset.
5. Make a pilgrimage to the place where your water has its source.
Our bodies are mostly water, we are born of watery wombs, and the water that we are has known the form of other bodies and will flow away into other forms after we die.
My website takes its name from my favorite passage by the Irish animist philosopher John Moriarty:
"To learn to speak is to learn to say 'our river has its source in an Otherworld well,' and anything we say about the hills and anything we say about the stars is a way of saying 'A Hazel grows over the Otherworld well our river has its source in.'"
One way of honoring the Otherworld Well is to honor the earthly sources of the water that gives us life. Find where your water comes from and, at least once this year, bring an offering to the source of the water you drink.
6. Apprentice yourself to a tree.
Trees are our kindred. Their roots are like our neural networks, their xylem and phloem like our arteries and veins, the surfaces of their leaves like the skin and the linings of our respiratory and digestive tracts. They root in the Earth and reach toward the sun.
Choose a tree that you love that you can easily visit at least once a week. Once a week, bring an offering to that tree – be it food or water or a song – and be still in its presence for a while.
7. Let "I love you" be your first and last words of each day.
What we love is what we will serve, what we will honor, and what we will defend.
At the beginning and end of every day, call to mind and heart someone or something you love, and let "I love you" be the first words you speak when you wake and the last words you speak before you sleep.
Ritual, ceremony, and prayer are not a replacement for worldly action. The transformation we need for life to remain possible will require work, focus, and wisdom. But our words and deeds will be wiser if they arise in the context of more deeply enchanted lives.
Athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh!
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Are you looking for ways to find the motivation to show up more fully in your life, or to find joy in a dark season? Seán has recorded an hour long talk about plants and fungi that can help bring healing, insight, and joy in winter.