In an age of pandemics and climate anxiety, is it any wonder so many of us find ourselves longing for simplicity? My Instagram feed these days is full of gorgeous peonies and roses in full bloom, of gardens well-tended and much-loved. The #cottagecore aesthetic promises a romantic return to a life of harmony with nature. And “sourdough starter” seems to be a trending conversation topic.
We’re not just simplifying because it’s trendy, though. I think many of us long for simplicity—for the ritual of kneading dough or pulling weeds, for the comfort of knowing how to make our own chicken stock or grow our own vegetables.
If, in 2020, you’ve found yourself starting a 21st century “Victory Garden” or learning you actually prefer afternoons in a hammock over raucous nights on the town, you know what I’m talking about.
As Witches, our faith is connected to the earth, and, for our ancestors, the concept of home and spirit were rooted deep in the earth.
The cycles of the seasons were also the cycles of peoples’ lives. Harvest festivals and Beltane bonfires weren’t passing fancies, but important rituals meant to honor the earth’s cycles. It wasn’t possible then to forget that humans were connected to the natural world, and those seasonal festivals honored that connection.
When the pandemic hit, it forced us away from the familiar, ubiquitous consumerism. Many of us who walk a Pagan path have long questioned these tendencies. (I remember the odd looks I used to get as an early-adopter of reusable shopping bags.)
We were making our own tea blends, candles, and cold-process soap before it was trendy. Witchy folks read tarot cards and carried crystals for luck when such things were fringe eccentricities, and we knew all about the perils of Mercury in retrograde long before it was the subject of Internet memes.
More and more of us, especially Millennials and Gen Z, find ourselves drawn to Witchcraft these days. A recent Boston Globe article discussed the trend of younger generations embracing nature-based spiritual paths.
For some of us, it’s about crafting our own spiritual journey. Others simply choose to incorporate insights from everything from feng shui to herbalism, from astrology to tarot, into their often technology-focused lives.
I don’t know whether we long for simplicity, or for spiritual connection, or for the personal empowerment that walking a Witch’s path can provide. But more and more of us are heeding the call.
The 21st century has been a boon for Witches in so many ways.
Sites like Pinterest allow us to find information about every goddess from Oshun to Cerridwen. Etsy allows us not only to find offerings ranging from altar cloths to crystals to ritual perfumes, but to sell such offerings ourselves. Websites like Biddy Tarot and countless others offer insights into tarot wisdom. Amazon is filled with Pagan books and even magical crafting supplies. YouTube videos even teach us how to make our own magic wands.
But the best part of all is how it allows us to connect. We can learn from other Witches—spells, rituals, tarot, crystals, herbs and gardening…You name it, we can share it with one another.
As a Pagan, I feel blessed that we can share this information and our magical offerings so freely—be it a tarot spread on Pinterest, a Samhain altar pic on Instagram, or a goddess painting on Etsy.
But with this ubiquity—of information, of immediacy, of stuff—comes overwhelm.
The forced simplicity of the pandemic quarantine has taught many of us to connect to old ways of interacting with the world around us. And though these times are difficult, whether financially, mentally, emotionally, or otherwise, many of us find ourselves leaning into that simplicity and discovering magic in it.
More quiet. More stargazing. More time in our own backyards. More homecooked meals. More gardening. More birdwatching.
As a Witch, this time offers us valuable lessons.
Our everyday lives offer an abundance of magical opportunities.
What’s more magical than a soap bubble while we’re washing the dishes, a cup of tea with local honey, or reclaiming that most stereotyped of all witchy tools, the broom, and sweeping the floor while mentally casting a cleansing spell?
These everyday routines can be elevated to the level of rituals, whether by adding a bit of magic to the marinara sauce bubbling on the stove, whispering an incantation while sweeping stray leaves off the back porch, or merely escaping into the magic of a good story.
If simple living offers any lessons for witchy folks, it’s that we are the magic. The everyday objects around us our magic.
Looking outside of ourselves offers amazing opportunities for growth and wisdom.
I constantly learn from fellow witches, whether it’s Ellen Dugan’s garden witchery posts on Instagram, Sarra Cannon’s tour of her witchy space on YouTube, or Tess Whitehurst’s spells for protecting protesters and promoting racial justice.
I never want to stop learning. I never want to stop seeking out that wisdom and growing on my spiritual path. Living simply gives me the space, the time, the energy to act on that newfound knowledge.
If the soul is a tree, I want mine to have acquired endless rings of growth by the end of this life’s journey.
Simple living offers us an opportunity to listen to those voices and learn from each other.
If we can continue to simplify our lives, we can also create more space to look within.
By embracing the basic guidelines of simple living, we can find more space, more time, more energy for personal growth. We can live more in tune with nature, walk more authentically on our spiritual paths.
Those basic guidelines of simple living include:
- Decluttering, which is not the same as minimalism. Decluttering is about letting go of that which no longer serves us (whether physical, digital, or mental clutter) to make space for what we value. It’s letting go of decades-old English lit textbooks so we can display our collection of beloved fantasy novels or gardening books next to a few of our favorite crystals.
- Live with less, which is simply only buying and keeping what we need. If you’re like me, you’re keeping a few extras on hand these days due to the potential for additional quarantines, but you also are spending more time in your home, meaning you’re learning what you do and don’t need, want, and use. High on my list, beyond the ordinary essentials: My Blessed Be coffee mug, a Kindle full of ebooks, plenty of dark chocolate, lots of coffee and tea, and a hefty supply candles and sage for magic and smudging. Not as necessary: That athame I bought in my early days as a Witch that rarely gets used, or many of the other little “altar” essentials that I rarely drag out.
- Upcycle–and use what we have. My first solo ritual as a Witch was a Yule ritual in which I used a plastic-handled kitchen knife and an old wine glass for the ritual. My cats were still mischievous kittens, so my décor consisted of a mini plastic tree with pine cones tied to it with ribbons. And I still remember that Yule fondly. If we embrace the idea that the everyday is magical, found objects (antlers, seashells, beautiful rocks and even garden dirt) and ordinary home implements (a broom, a saucepan, an old quilt, a favorite coffee mug) become worthy of our altar. We can create a ritual space with only that old quilt and a cup of our favorite tea blend. A spell can be cast with only a bit of rosemary from our garden, a crystal we’ve had for years, and a bit of table salt.
- Spend our time and money in line with our values and beliefs: The pandemic has caused many of us to rethink the way we are spending our money, our time, and our lives. Are we walking our spiritual path? Are we making time for magic? Are we finding it within ourselves and within our everyday lives? Are we spending our limited time and hard-earned dollars on that which truly enriches our spirit, serves us and others, and fits into our vision and purpose?
Here are a few daily ways I’ve incorporated simple living concepts into my spiritual path:
My home is my altar.
I get this is hard, especially if you share your home with non-witchy folks. My hubby isn’t a Witch, but he is very open to my path, so much the decorating choices for our home are influenced by everything from feng shui to astrology.
A few examples:
- There are crystals everywhere. Nightstands, bookshelves, desks. Hubby likes the way they look. Some of them are his, collected as a child. Others are my finds, and I enjoy the pleasant feel of being surrounded by crystals and the magic vibes they provide.
- Artwork has meaning. Some of the artwork we’ve chosen is witchy in nature, such as framed art prints from Emily Balivet’s Etsy shop, or some astrology and star-themed artwork in our living room. Some of it is simply work that inspires us. The closeup photo of a deep purple flower in our bedroom, for us, feels warm and inviting and a little bit romantic without being overtly Pagan.
- Color magic takes center stage. Paint colors for the walls are often chosen with magical associations or feng shui principles in mind (red in the dining room, which is in our home’s romance and love area, for example).
- The magic expands into our garden … where every herb, flower, and plant has a special symbolism that my inner witch loves. Although, to be fair, the green beans and yellow squash are mostly there because they’re delicious.
A clean(ish) and clutter-free home makes for better energy and provides a sense of comfort and calm.
Anyone who’s faced the overwhelm of a messy home knows that clutter can create anxiety. (Note: It’s also true that clutter can also be a symptom of anxiety rather than a cause, and that some level of controlled chaos is often necessary for us creatives.)
But decluttering allows us to enjoy our homes more and provides more space for new creative projects and magical undertakings. An unused piece of furniture can be sold or donated to make room for a floor cushion surrounded by fairy lights and candles that serves as a meditation space, for example.
Saying “no” to some things allows me to say “yes” to what feeds my spirit.
I used to say “yes” to every request, but I’ve had to grow more selective since starting my writing business and a diagnosis with a chronic medical condition. But saying no has opened up doors to saying yes.
Tonight, for example, I’m sitting on my patio as I write. A citronella candle burns beside me. Night insects sing. The sky is the deep blue of twilight giving way to night. And there’s magic in the air around me and within me. My heart feels full. My soul sings as the magic of twilight calls to me.
Saying “no” to distraction means facing FOMO (that dreaded fear of missing out). But I would’ve missed out on so many things—magic twilight writing sessions, for example, or penning the books in my Tangled Magic Series (working on number three, now, in case you’re wondering).
Saying “no” to spending money on silly things meant that, a few years ago, when a close friend invited my husband and me to her wedding in her native Germany, we could easily say yes. It meant the magic of attending her wedding, staying in a small cabin on her family’s farm, and looking for hag stones on the shores of the Baltic Sea. I’ll always cherish those memories.
Everyday items have their own special magic.
I think many of us Witches have done this for a long time, turning old, weathered objects into something new. A thrift-store candlestick becomes a home for a point of smoky quartz. A vintage scarf becomes an altar cloth.
There’s never been a better time to get creative. I’m drying rose petals, calendula, and herbs from my garden for use in everything from bath salts to smudge sticks, for example. Old jars can hold everything from homemade tea blends to collections of seashells from our travels. Tattered tapestries find new lives a throw pillow covers.
Nature is creative, finding abundance everywhere. We, too, can create magic, function, and beauty with what’s already in our cupboards, our attics, and our closets.
Best of all, magic is free!
“All good things are wild and free.”Henry David Thoreau
To be fair, Thoreau was a transcendentalist, not a Witch, but his words ring truer now than ever. Long chats with loved one, a night spent writing on the patio in the candlelight, stargazing, warm blankets and good books, and oh, so much tea…
There is beauty and magic in simple things. Simple living pares away the excess so the magic can sing. It’s the perfect blend for a Witch: to walk a simple path is to connect to nature, spirit, and magic more easily.
What about you? How have you simplified these days? What aspects of simple living appeal most to you? How do you view the intersection of witchcraft and simple living?