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Jenna Fox is employed as a writer and educator described by her community college students as “sympathetic, but with a blunt sense of humor.”  As a queer adult adoptee, reuniting with her biological family has helped her reclaim the ancestral witchcraft practices of tarot and folk herbalism native to Scandinavia, the British Isles, and Czech/Slovakia. You can listen to her podcast Leo Rising: Living Tarot & Creative Intuition, on any major podcasting app. To schedule a tarot reading with Jenna, reach out on Instagram @leorisingtarot or her website: www.leorisingtarot.com.

 


Is  the white sage used for smudging practices actually endangered? Is using white sage, or palo santo, as a practice, actually engaging in cultural appropriation of spiritual traditions that are not my own?  If you run in New Age spiritual or witchy circles, you’ve probably at least encountered the practice of smudging with white sage, if not encountered these two questions.

What if I told you there was a way to embrace smoke cleansing that was rooted in traditional European folk medicine/witchcraft ancestry, that was both sustainable and not appropriative? Wouldn’t that be lovely?! And what if it was as easy as going to your local grocery store? Would you be into that? Who wouldn’t want to jump on this easy, sustainable and conflict free form of spirituality?

So, a few years ago, a trusted witch friend from high school posted on Facebook about her practice of smoke cleanings (smudging, without that label) using traditional European herbs, and I was intrigued. I love the practice of burning sage, but hadn’t thought deeper about the fact that many tribes were criminalized until the 1970’s for these very same spiritual practices.It seemes wrong that my 20-something spiritual white girl body was able to do these practices without a second thought about the bigger picture. The more I sat with my friend’s words, the more I was impacted by the colonial mindset that had permeated my spiritual practice of smudging.

And thus, entered my experiment with “returning to my roots.” There are many herbs that were used in ancient and medieval Europe for the same spiritual and practical purpose that white sage and palo santo are used by new age spiritual communities today. And so I began my own practice of tying and burning herbal bundles that my witchy ancestors would have used. Some grocery store versions are:  

  • Garden or cooking sage
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme

Yes, just like the song! Cheesy, but maybe the hippies were on to something…

Below I’ve outlined a step by step guide for tying your own herbal bundles from ingredients easily found in grocery stores. And for those that are more foraging inclined, herbs like mullein, lavender, or mugwort were also traditionally burned to clear spaces of negative energy.

Step 1: assemble materials. I use cotton twine for “sausage making” found on Amazon, scissors, garden sage, and rosemary.

 

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Step 2: Identify size of herb bundle that you want to make. Remember, it shrinks when it dries!
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Step 3: Tie a knot at the bottom of the bundle, begin winding the twine around the bundle, tightly packing the herbs together.

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Step 4: Once you’ve wound all the way to the top of the bundle, wind back down and tie off at the end. Leave some room on the string to hang it to dry.

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Step 5: Hang to dry in a sunny window. I choose my kitchen window because blinds are so handy for hanging. It take a week or two to get fully dry!

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Once they’re dry, they can be burned just like a white sage bundle. Make sure to have a bowl/dish below the bundle to catch any ash, and don’t leave unattended!

There are so many different traditional herbs that can be used for this spiritual smoke cleansing practice, so feel free to experiment (but do your homework and be safe!). I’ve found this practice of connecting with my ancestry, rather than just easily adopting a spiritual practice that comes from a different lineage, to be really rewarding for me. Not only do I feel more connected to my lineage, I also feel more connected to the plants. There’s something amazing about the smell of sage and rosemary lingering on my fingers for hours after I’ve tied my last bundle, and the reward I feel when I take one of my dry bundles and light it to clean my house. Short of growing these herbs myself, I’ve had an intentional hand in the tying, drying, and frying of them, which leaves my house smelling great and feeling light and free.

 

Loving the Skin You’re In: A Twisted Journey


I imagine being totally in love with my body like a unicorn running through a Lisa Frank- style field of neon daisies. Beautiful, but unrealistic. Being an American woman, hailing from a city like Los Angeles and living in a city like New York, there will always be times when I feel like I am “less” because of my appearance.

But let me tell you, I have made leaps and bounds from where I was.

My body image issues started YOUNG. As a kid, I was relentlessly teased for being too skinny, being called names like “skinny bones Jones” (eye roll.) When I hit puberty, everything fell out of place and I began to notice large changes in my body. My breasts grew, my thighs widened, my hips popped out, and most devastatingly of all, my stomach got a little layer of fat on it. One that I had never been accustomed to before.

I had a swing set in my backyard, and I remember distinctly comparing thigh sizes with my neighbor. Two 12 year old girls, talking about the circumference of our thighs.

Once the tone was set, I had instant gratification for the drugs I was introduced to in the later months of me being 13. They made me SKINNY. And that was part of the reason why I did them for so long. I loved going back to my pre-pubescent weight. I wanted to be thin over everything.

Once I quit using hard uppers at the age of 17, I noticed a stark weight gain over the span of three years. Coupling heavy drinking with 2 am burritos will do that to you. And this was during the rise of social media, so pictures began to blast the internet. It was heartbreaking to look at pictures of a double chin, flappy arms and thick thighs. The only upside was my 36 D chest.

So, unwilling to give up drinking, I decided to dangerously crash diet by counting up to 600 calories a day, and then shoving my fingers down my throat if I cheated with one too many grapes. Over the course of a few years, my diet just became binging on Oreos and potato chips before vomiting up every morsel. I had my cake and ate it too.

It wasn’t until about a year before I moved to New York that I cut ties with my bulimia. It took a lot of will power, but I stopped throwing up. It became too dangerous anyways, because too many people had suspicions, the toilet became clogged more and more often, and my throat started to bleed.

But that didn’t change my relationship with food. No no. I still ate the way I did as a bulimic. I still had fatty foods and midnight binges. I just didn’t throw up anymore. So I gained weight.

Moving to New York allowed me to continue to eat pizza and bagels without much consequence, because I walked everywhere and thus lost some of the weight. But honey, it catches up to you, and regardless of the weight gain, I was headed to a heart attack at 30.

So, as you can see, I had all of the impulsiveness of the King of Wands reversed. Every reaction to a spot of weight gain had a drastic and unhealthy solution that led me down a road of destruction, synonymous with how I was feeling inside. I projected it onto my body.

With a vision of the Empress in mind, a beautiful and feminine ideal, I tried to cut corners by just getting there visually. I didn’t work from the inside out. And the outside in is a dangerous illusion.

Which brings me to this current cleanse that I have just completed. After reconnecting with my mind and soul after years of heartbreak and delusions, it was time my body followed suit. I asked a friend to create a cleanse that moved into a healthy lifestyle diet so I could treat my body well and give it the TLC it deserves. After 6 weeks into this lifestyle change, I feel better (and look better!) than ever before.

I have finally started to treat my body with respect. Giving it raw foods and veggies, lean, proteins, and healthy carbohydrates is the way my body is supposed to function. And though my upcoming vacation inspired me to make a decision to change my diet for the better, I’m glad I did. Because who knows how much longer I would be eating a Family Size bag of Lays Potato Chips before I landed in a hospital bed.

I hope my story has inspired you to take a look at how you treat your body. There is nothing wrong with indulging every once in a while, but the main focus is to take care of your body so it can take care of you. Your image isn’t what is important, it’s your mindset. So remember,to take care of your bodies, love yourself, and stay witchy ( *)