• Die Gartenlaube 1887 b 016 29dbb

    Summer’s heat is (hopefully) almost over, and leaves are turning gold. Praise the goddess: the Autumnal Equinox is here (September 22, to be precise). Since ancient times, the first day of fall has been a celebration of transitions: longer nights, bountiful harvest, and readily-available apple cider. BUST is here to help you give the equinox the party it deserves. 6 suggestions inspired by the druid, pagan, witch-y babes of yore.

    1. Burn, baby, BURN

    For pagans, Mabon was a time to honor the Goddess for the fruits of her earth, and ensure her help in the coming winter. It was also a time to pay respect to the balance of dark and light; neither can be appreciated without the other. For this, pagans lit grand bonfires. They believed circling the fire held transformative powers. So, if possible, grab some kindle, light up a pyre, and dance before the flames with your sisters. But, if you happen to live in a city and sudden infernos are frowned upon, candlelight works too.

    2. Cleanse the bad vibes

    The equinox is about balance within nature, but if your inner sanctum is out of wack that’s a problem. Before the party starts, do some smudging. Smudging is the burning of sacred herbs—lavender, sage, rosemary—to renew the positive energy of a dwelling and body. Do this: Open a window, light your smudge stick of herbs and walk the perimeter of your room repeating a personal mantra designed to center yourself. The smoke will carry the bad juju out the window

    3. Build a monument

    Stonehenge has long been HQ for spiritualism. During the equinox, neo-druids and Arthurian followers (Medieval-esque druids who adhere to King Arthur’s mythology) gather at Stonehenge to bask in the stone’s primordial powers. Most of us probably can’t get out to Wiltshire, England, but we can build our own structure of power. Gather meaningful objects—photos, jewelry, incense—and some plentiful bounty. Priestesses would use fresh fruit and wheat, but a veggie plate works.

    4. Reclaiming (like in The Craft, but without the murderous witch drama)

    Reclaiming is a one of the best known American pagan rituals, meant to invoke the spirits and ask they bless you with power. The rituals usually began with a spiritual cleansing and grounding, then drawing—or "casting"—of the circle. The group leader (again, think Nancy Downs) will lead the invocation. Traditionally, they sought to invoke deities by first calling the four directions. For you, try calling forth the change you hope to inspire in yourself this fall: confidence, bravery, sexuality. Also, the ancient ritual closed with hella wine-drinking.

    5. Decipher the stars

    For millennia during the Autumnal Equinox, people made pilgrimage to the Kokino megalithic observatory in the northwestern town of Kumanovo, Macedonia. According to NASA, the 3,800-year-old station is the fourth oldest observatory in the world. Take a cue from the dedicated neo-druids and a make a date with your local observatory. Or, find an open field with bright, visible stars and explore the constellations.

    6. Make time for solitary mediation

    Ancient Greeks believed that winter was caused by Hades trapping Persephone, daughter of the Goddess of Harvest, Demeter, in the Underworld. So, while the Autumnal Equinox was cause for gathering, observers understood the necessity of reflecting on the summer’s failures and triumphs. Find a resolution to carry you through the long nights ahead.

    Top Image: Wikimedia Commons  

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     I’ve been building altars for as long as I can remember—of course, I didn’t realize back in 1999 that my nightstand covered in journals, a dozen Tamagotchi keychains, love letters to Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and pieces of jade (it is my name, after all) counted as one. That’s the beauty of an altar: it’s an aesthetic manifestation of what you want it to be, look, and feel like—there are no rules.

    Defined simply, an altar is a sacred place one can decorate, visit, and meditate on. If you want to sit at your altar and pray, that’s cool. If you want to sit at your altar and smoke a bowl, that’s cool, too. An altar can go anywhere: on bookshelves, in a kitchen cabinet, on a fireplace mantle, or on a bathroom shelf. Don’t feel insecure about using an “unconventional” surface. If it feels special, that’s what matters. You can build an altar to honor every Moon cycle or every season or whenever you damn well please. It’s completely dependent on what your intention for building it is. I love building altars to charge my sacred items—a new crystal, oracle deck, candle, or book. Using special items charged with a specific intention causes you to use them more consciously, with a higher purpose, so that they become even more magical.

    The intention you have for your altar can guide what you put on it as well, whether that means building a money altar with green candles, coins, and pentacle tarot cards, or maybe a love altar, adorned with pink candles, roses, and honey. If you want to incorporate a sense of spirituality, invite the four elements into your space: use candles or incense to invoke fire, feathers for air, crystals for earth, and a cup of water for, uh, water. If all this seems extra, simplify by working with the element for your astrological sign first. Beyond that, feel free to decorate it with whatever you have that means something to you: Polaroids of your friends, love letters from your boo, stickers, records, plants, knick-knacks—think of it as a scrapbook that lives on top of a surface. My altars are always covered in a lot of special things (my tendencies border on hoarding): a dried rose petal a fellow witch gave me, a freelance check, a brass cauldron—the random list goes on. The only common theme is that the things you place on your altar should make you happy, fill you with light, and bring something energetically rewarding to your life.

    In general, you can also think of an altar as a safe space—an area devoted entirely to you that makes no compromises for anyone or anything else. Be yourself and express your creativity—incorporate colors, textures, and scents that you love—and visit the space whenever you feel the need to reconnect to yourself. But most importantly: Have fun! Did I mention there are no rules?

    By Jade Taylor
    Photographed by Pauline Teel
    This article originally appeared in the August/September 2018 print edition of BUST Magazine. Subscribe today!

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