life, Neodruidry

The Return of Spring

Imbolc was this past Saturday.

I celebrated alone, as I often do — as much as I like having other Pagans to share with, i still really enjoy the headspace of a solitary ritual. It can get much more improvisational. If it feels right to do a ritual in the alley next to the dumpster and pour out my nature offerings right where the birds can get them, I can do that. If I want to honor my ancestors by making and offering of some of the really awesome BBQ pizza I reheated from the night before, I can do that. If the spirits move me and I want to cover my floor in newspaper, smear my body with paint, and express myself by doing the worm across a piece of unstretched canvas, I can do that.

Not that I did, or anything. But I could!

Oddly, being able to get out and about more now has given me more of an appreciation for solo rituals. The difference between having to celebrate alone and choosing to do so is much bigger than I thought.

I don’t generally get much opportunity to decorate for the High Days. Kiko would eat whatever I put out, and Pye would throw it on the floor in a fit of pique if he thought his food bowl didn’t contain the right ratio of freeze dried bits to crunchy bits. I love my cats dearly, but they are kind of jerks.

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And so, I had a small Imbolc celebration sitting in the big, comfy chair in my living room, with my coffee table as an altar and a very fancy candle I choose specifically as an offering for Brigid. The Nature Spirits received mung beans, my Ancestors received candy, the Shining Ones received bourbon and incense, and the waters of life were the tail end of a bottle of very excellent cucumber, mint, and geranium lemonade. (I’m a sucker for cucumber and herbal flavors.)

It was peaceful. It was low-key. It was just what it needed to be, in a place where the pavement often keeps me from being able to see the first early flowers make an appearance, on a day when the overcast sky seemed to blanket everything in downy gray and the brightness of spring still feels far away.

It was nice.

Plants and Herbs

Marshmallow Folklore and Magical Uses

Note: This post contains affiliate links to the herbs I talk about here. These allow me to earn a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting independent artisans, and this site!

I drink so much marshmallow, it borders on the absurd.

It’s not for the flavor, either — marshmallow root doesn’t really have much of one. Let me tell you, though, if you’ve got a stomach ache, bladder pain, or an annoying, dry cough? There’s nothing more soothing than a big cup of swamp root goo. No joke.

I cannot overstate the debt of gratitude I owe to marshmallow.

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(I’d also eat my weight in toasted vanilla Smash Mallows if science would let me, but that’s a subject for another time.)

Marshmallow Magical Properties and Folklore

As its name implies, marshmallow (Althea officinalis) is considered a water herb. It’s often associated with deities of love and beauty, and used in fertility and attraction spells. (Some sources say that the slippery marshmallow extract was even used as a lubricant, so using it in sex and fertility magic isn’t much of a stretch!)

Marshmallow is sometimes burned to cleanse a space, or used to make protective oils.

It’s considered to be a favorite of benevolent spirits. Spirit bottles, used to house helpful spirits, are filled with marshmallow root. Keeping a jar of it and a dish of water on your altar is said to help call helpful spirits to your aid.

Planting marshmallow on or near a grave, or decorating a grave with the flowers, is used to honor the dead.

Using Marshmallow

A big part of why marshmallow root is medicinally valuable is its mucilage content. Marshmallow mucilage is a polysaccharide with a very thick, slippery consistency. When you stand the root overnight in water, you’ll notice that the water becomes more viscous.

Marshmallow expresses its mucilage best as a cold infusion. I usually measure the dose of marshmallow root I need (depending on what I’m trying to do) into a tea strainer, fill a glass jar with clean water, plop the strainer in it, and set it in my fridge overnight.

If need be, you can brew the root the way you would any other tea, it just won’t produce quite as much mucilage. I usually do this if I have a sore throat — the mucilage and the warmth are really soothing.

Marshmallow leaf contains less mucilage than the root. It’s a diuretic and helps with expectoration, and is sometimes used as a topical poultice.

The key words here are “soothing,” “protecting,” and “comforting.” On a physical level, the mucilage in marshmallow root soothes irritated membranes, forms a protective layer, and brings comfort. This is reflected on a metaphysical level, too — as an ingredient in beauty preparations, it’s not surprising to see it used in spells for the same. As something that helps banish pain, it’s natural to use it to banish evil. As an herb that offers comfort, it makes sense to use it to comfort and placate the spirits of the dead.

You can find shredded, ready-to-use marshmallow root from retailers like Mountain Maus Remedies and Grassroots Herb Supply. If you prefer, you can also find it in a finely ground powder form.

 

Even if you don’t regularly perform spiritwork or work with the dead, marshmallow’s a helpful herbal ally to keep around. It makes a soothing tea, and its gentle, comforting nature lends it well to a variety of magical applications. Even though marshmallow is used as a food as well as medicine, consult with an experienced practitioner before use — especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or have any medical conditions.

 

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
Witchcraft

The Magical Properties of Wax

Candles are a cornerstone of some of the most simple — and powerful — magic there is. Pretty much everyone’s first spell is some form of candle spell, because they’re inexpensive, easy to come by, and effective (once you know how to use them). A lot of care and thought goes into the selection of a candle’s size, color, and even shape. This got me thinking… What about the wax?

candle-397965_640.jpgCandles made from the wax of the bayberry plant are traditionally burned on new year’s in order to bring prosperity into the home. We’re also way past the days when all we had were bulk paraffin chime candles. There’s some history behind using specific wax candles for specific purposes, and a lot of options out there. It made me to do some experimenting.

Bayberry wax is typically, but not always, green. I’ve also seen plenty of bayberry candles that have turned out beige, brown, or even a grayish color. So, assuming that it isn’t the color of the wax alone that gives it its associations with prosperity, that gives me a jumping off point.

 

 

Looking at the metaphysical properties of the origins of each wax and my own experience, here’s what I’ve found:

Palm wood is said to be associated with transformation and transitions, but also peace and relaxation. Wands made of palm conduct energies around them and stimulate intuition. While not at all analogous to the living wood, petrified palm wood is protective and grounding. While those are typical traits of petrified wood in general, they seem to go hand-in-hand with palm’s ability to help us navigate transitions and upheaval.

Palm is one of the waxes I don’t have much experience with, in a magical sense. Based on its other properties, I’d use candles made of palm wax for stability and protection, particularly when it comes to weathering major life changes.

Beeswax is a bit different. Honey is frequently used in sweetening jars, to anoint other candles, and so on, because it’s sweet and sticky. It’s an attraction ingredient par excellence, and its inviting golden color certainly doesn’t hurt.

I predominantly use beeswax candles in my practice, but they’re especially good for spells that involve drawing things to you — like love, money, friendship, and so on. Good beeswax even has a warm honey smell that’s absolutely wonderful while it burns.

Another nice thing about beeswax is that it’s fairly firm. So, if you use it in a spell to bring something to you, and you want to dispose of the candle’s remains, it’s really easy to melt the candle stub down and form it into a love-, money-, or whatever-drawing amulet. Soften the wax, flatten it, and inscribe it with a rune, symbol, sigil, or even just a word expressing your intent, then use it however you please.

Paraffin is where things get a little strange. It’s a byproduct of the petroleum industry, which leads a lot of people to view it as less natural than the alternatives out there. It does release compounds like toluene into the air, which keeps it from being the best choice for anywhere that isn’t well-ventilated. I haven’t found any sources for magical properties of paraffin itself, other than as a base for candles. I was able to find a few for petroleum jelly, which is often used as a base for herbal salves, but they primarily touted its ease of use as an ointment.

Some sources cite petroleum’s origins as a good basis for ancestor magic — even going back to our non-human ancestors.

It seems that few people have really delved into the magical properties of paraffin, which I can understand. If your practice relies on using materials that are as close to nature as possible, it’s hardly going to be your first choice! Paraffin’s history of use seems to indicate that it’s like a white candle — while it might have properties of its own, it’s also a neutral, all-purpose stand-in for other waxes. Its associations with the ancient dead also make it useful for death-related or ancestor work.

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Soy is another option for candle wax. Traditionally, soybeans are associated with prosperity and luck. Soy milk is used in recipes for employment and business success. In magical cooking, soy ingredients are said to promote psychic awareness and spirituality. As the seed of the soy plant, soybeans also have obvious connotations of growth.

Soy wax is a great choice for spells and rituals for financial gain and abundance of any kind. (I like it when I’m looking to grow my bank account!) I have a fantastic soy-based candle by Enchanted Botanicals that I light before spells to establish a sacred space — that soy-seed-growth energy is an excellent foundation for spellwork.

Tallow is a bit hard to come by now, because it’s made from rendered animal fat, sticky, and not quite as appealing as other waxes for candle crafting. Since it’s sticky, it made for an excellent vehicle for magical herbs — all you had to do was roll it in fresh or dried herbs, and you were good to go. Raymond Buckland recommends against using tallow for candle magic in Advanced Candle Magic, but this seems to be a purely practical concern (tallow can be smelly and messy).

As animal fat, tallow has connotations of wealth and sacrifice. It’s a food, so, by burning it, you’re giving up something you could use for your own sustenance. This would make it a worthwhile choice for an offertory candle — as long as who- or whatever you’re offering it to doesn’t have any taboos against the animals used in making it!

For more specific magical properties, you’d have to look at its origins. Pigs are associated with abundance, prosperity, and fertility. Cows are associated with nurturing, protection, and fertility. Sheep are associated with peace, harmony, and tranquility.

There are other options for candle wax out there, including clear gel (which is probably closest to paraffin). I’d like to experiment with them and see how I can expand this list.

 

art

Here’s to new beginnings!

Well… Re-embarking on an old one, but in a new direction. Still counts!

I started my Etsy shop years ago. It was an experiment, a new way for me to stretch my limits and see what I was capable of. I’m doing some more stretching.

All of this is to say that I have new listings available — tarot readings, prints of my artwork, you name it. (As long as you are naming one of those two things.)

shop
Whoo!

ravsundetailAll of these are high-quality prints made using the giclée

process, on Somerset velvet fine art paper. In the future, I’d like to offer some of my original work, too, and maybe some jewelry. For now, I’m focusing on prints and seeing how things go.

Painting has always been a way for me to work through things. For years, I suffered from crippling thanatophobia — living almost seemed pointless if it was all going to end eventually, and nonexistence was terrifying. Painting ravens, crows, and other carrion birds and death imagery in bright, lively colors was one way for me to come to terms with things. To stop seeing death as something to be feared, and, instead, as a part of the cycle of life. It was a big step toward my goal of death positivity, and it was through death positivity that I could really start living.

Now, I’m not afraid. I love the aesthetic quality of juxtaposing carrion birds and bright colors. I take a lot of inspiration from ravens and crows in my artwork, my divination, and my magical workings. (I even have a raven-inspired oil that I use for journeying work that’s amazing.)

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I hope my work resonates with you, too. 💜

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
art, life

The Birthday Moon

Note: This post contains affiliate links to some things I thought were neat. These links allow me to earn a small finder’s fee, at no additional cost to you. All images belong to their respective copyright holders, and appear here with permission. Thank you for helping to support this site, as well as the artists and artisans who make cool stuff!

Do you know which moon phase you were born under?

It’s not something I’ve come across in a lot of astrological charts, but it was something I became curious about after looking for some information on the 12 houses. A quick search later, and it turns out it’s very much a thing: just like the position of the planets in your natal chart, the phase of the moon you were born under is said to have an impact on your life.

Naturally, it made me curious. As it turns out, I was born under a waning crescent moon — according to some sources, this makes me reflective, insightful, creative, psychic, and eccentric. According to others, it makes me nosy, annoying, and very difficult to deceive. (The truth, I imagine, lies somewhere in the middle!)

So, inspired by this bit of moon trivia, here are some lovely depictions of our nearest celestial neighbor:

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These labradorite earrings by EcoMoonCreations.

First, these very pretty earrings from EcoMoonCreations. I love the simplicity of the tiny crescent moon rising over the trees — it’s woodsy, but in a very sleek, sophisticated way. The warm brass hooks and dangle look really lovely with the bright blue flash of labradorite, too. The moon symbolizes change, and labradorite is regarded as an excellent crystal companion in times of upheaval.

 

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These silver rabbit earrings by AdrianaSoto.

These hand-drawn, hand-cut silver rabbits can be made with or without the moon phases or turquoise drops, but I really love them with them. Moons and rabbits fit nicely together, too —  the spots on the moon are said to look like a rabbit in some cultures, giving rise to the Moon Hare from Asian folklore. I dig the overall design of these guys, and the stainless steel ear wires mean less of a chance of allergies for people like me. Awesome!

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This moon mug by CraftedEverAfter.

I love a nice, big-bellied mug. I have one that I’ve kept with me through many years and innumerable moves. Whenever I’m sick, it helps me feel better — it’s smooth-bottom roundness, filled with hot chamomile tea, is excellent for resting on a sore muscle or holding against a cramping stomach. This moon mug by CrafterEverAfter is way fancier than mine, though. I really enjoy the texture of the glaze — the mottled blues make it look almost like a galaxy, and the metallic gold moon and stars look really lovely against it.

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This silk wrap bracelet by MoonkistCreations.

How pretty is this silk bracelet? The moon phases are a subtle, but unmistakable, lunar embellishment that look really pretty with the ombre of the silk. This bracelet is available in a variety of colors, too — I’m particularly partial to the light blue-green and lilac of the “Enchanted” color scheme.

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These stained glass moons by HandmadebyJoolz.

I love stained glass and suncatchers. I blame it on keeping so many plants — as sensitive as I am to the quality of light in my home, I’ve only gotten worse with all of the plants I’ve brought in. As a result, though, my apartment is always full of rainbows and colors. These stained glass crescent moons are very pretty, and I think they’d look great with my other suncatchers — I have my eye on a turquoise or pale purple one for as soon as I move.

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These crescent moon earrings by NimbusNixie.

Man, I love textured metal. I think part of that is a consequence of keeping my hair so short — without the waist-length tresses I used to rock, it helps me look more “balanced” if my accessories have some eye-catching texture to them. These silver crescent moons are absolutely gorgeous — I love the irregular, river-tumbled look of the blue apatite drops (with those tiny spirals!), in particular. These are also just under three inches in length, too, and so perfect for those who enjoy accessories on the larger side.

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These copper and amethyst moons from Anima Mundi Crystals.

Man, I love copper and purple together — it’s even something I’ve been playing with in my most recent series of paintings. (Which I really need to get on posting to my portfolio… Oops.) I really enjoy the cool purple amethyst contrasting with the warm, bright copper in these earrings — there’s just something about the color of unsealed, unpatina’ed copper that just speaks to me, you know? It helps that the tiny moon crescents are absolutely adorable, too.

So, what’s your moon phase?

life, Witchcraft

Let’s manifest the #$@% out of a place!

I love my apartment. I really do. It’s cozy, it’s quiet (well… when one of the neighbors doesn’t trip their smoke alarm, at least), it’s got hardwood floors, and the bathroom has its own window. Despite some of the tragedy this neighborhood has seen, this complex has been home to me and many other people.

Between me, my S.O., and our cats, we’ve really outgrown our space. It’s a studio, and not only is it packed, it is decidedly not a large enough play gym for our very active kitty boy. I have a whole set of shelves just for herbs, oils, and art supplies, countless plants, and my easel takes up an entire corner to itself — when you’ve only got four corners to start with, this is not optimal. Studios are also subjected to the same disadvantages as a lot of tiny homes. When you have limited space, you have limited things you can put in it. When you have limited things, the things you do have undergo a lot more wear and tear. This is especially true of furniture and, unless you’re lucky enough to score some rugged, solid wood thrift store finds, it becomes noticeable pretty quickly. Having your bed in your kitchen/living room/work space also makes for some awkward entertaining.

We knew we wanted to move months ago, but the timing wasn’t right. It would’ve been tough to afford, and, after some complicated car trouble, we knew that moving to a less expensive spot just outside the city would make things harder on us in a lot of ways. Originally, we planned to wait a little bit. Since my S.O. got his bike, though, our options have opened up tremendously!

Which means I gotta find an apartment.

(Let me also add that I’ve begun to develop a hate-on for the word “manifest.” I think the internet has ruined it for me. It’s also the most accurate word to use here, so I’m just going to deal.)
(And complain a little.)

I’ve posted in the past about the ways specificity can make or break a spell. Fortunately, I’ve got a list of things I really want in a domicile, and not too many deal breakers. I’m not exactly looking for a penthouse suite, and my S.O. would be happy with anything that’s larger than what we have and has a separate bedroom.

What can I say? We’re adaptable.

New Home Manifestation Spell

A Cancer moon is good for work involving finding or buying a home. If you can’t perform it when the moon is in Cancer, try to do it on a Thursday.

For this spell, I used:

  • A citrine stone. Since I am trying to transform my list of wants into reality, I was careful to choose a natural citrine over a heat-treated stone. Here’s why.
  • Paper.
  • A pen and non-toxic ink.
  • A yellow chime candle or tea light. (I like using untreated yellow beeswax.)
  • Bay leaves.
  • A fireproof bowl.
  • Success or Luck oil. Use your favorite recipe or, if you don’t have one, dilute a few drops of frankincense in sweet almond, jojoba, or another carrier oil.

You can do this after casting a circle, opening the gateway, or any other spellcasting preparation you usually do, or simply after grounding and centering yourself.

  1. Begin by taking a few minutes to meditate on what you want in a house — how big should it be? What kind of neighborhood or community do you want to live in? Is there anything you need to live near? Do you want carpet, or hard flooring? Only you know what’s important to you in a home, so take the time to picture the perfect spot for you!
  2. When you have an idea of what you need, begin writing it down on the paper. Make a list of all of the details that are important to you, and be sure to read over it afterwards before considering it finished. There might be deal breakers (like mold or cockroaches) that you neglected to mention.
  3. After the list is complete, anoint the yellow candle and all four corners of the paper with the oil. Fold it neatly, and place it under the candle and citrine crystal.
  4. Light the candle.
  5. Now, on the bay leaf, write your desire: “I manifest the home I desire.”
  6. Light the bay leaf with the candle flame, and place it in the fireproof bowl. As it burns, say:

    “I wish to find a place for me,
    the perfect home where I feel free.
    Warm and cozy, where I can be,
    safe and comfortable, so mote it be.”

  7. Allow the candle to burn until it snuffs itself out.
  8. Leave the crystal in place, until you are ready to tour a new home or speak to a rental agency. On those days, dress it with a drop of the oil and carry it in your pocket. When you return, repeat steps 5 and 6 and place the stone back on top of the paper until it is needed again.

Happy house hunting!

 

 

 

 

life, Witchcraft

A Mother’s Day Cord-Cutting Spell

Hey, hey!

Does the beginning of May have you on the verge of a headache? Are you nauseated by the sound of commercials for jewelry, flowers, or assorted other Mother’s Day gifts? Does the sight of a greeting card display set your teeth on edge?

I feel you.

Mother’s Day is a rough holiday for a lot of us. Some people have tense maternal relationships, and some of us would probably have been better off raised by actual badgers. This time of year we’re all bombarded with messages about how “blood is thicker than water” and we “only get one mother,” and told we’re obligated to love and respect the people who birthed us no matter what. Unfortunately, if you were subjected to a toxic upbringing, this really super sucks. 

Dealing with toxic people

Digging toxic elements out of our lives isn’t easy no matter what the relationship is, but it’s extra complicated when it’s a parent. What do you do when the toxic element in your life is also the person responsible for your health and safety? What do you do when going “no contact” isn’t enough? What do you do when you know that other relatives and family friends are going to swoop in to defend this person, and make you sound like the bad guy for trying to protect yourself from an abuser? What do you do when you have never been able to feel safe around your own parent?

I wish I had an easy answer, but I don’t think there is one. I don’t want to get deep into my own back story, but, for me, the best option was to save up a Fuck Off Fund starting from my first job (I was 14), formulate a secret plan with a friend of mine, and get gone as soon as I was legally able to. A month after my 18th birthday, I moved out and was ensconced three states away. Even then, it wasn’t until years later that I was finally able to go from once-a-year visits, to no contact at all. My story isn’t a very dramatic one, because it all went according to plan — a lot of people aren’t as lucky as I was. Nonetheless, there it is: I made a plan, put it into action, and, when I was ready, I freed myself.

Going no contact raises its own set of problems, but is also completely worth it. One thing that really seems to help with the process is cord cutting.

What are cords?

People are bound together by invisible energetic bridges, often called “cords” or “etheric cords.” When we form a relationship and become connected to another person, the cord serves as a conduit of energy between us. If both parties (and by extension, the relationship) are emotionally healthy, the energy is nourishing and the exchange is even. If they are not, one party will end up doing the lion’s share of giving, while the other person takes, and takes, and takes. With a narcissistic parent, this becomes pouring your energy into placating them to avoid narcissistic rage.

A red and white string tied into a heart.
Sometimes, our cords look more like nooses.

Ending a relationship and ceasing contact is not always enough to sever these cords. Some people make a clean break, moving on with the cord no longer in place. I have also experienced cords changing when people part amicably. Sometimes the cord doesn’t change or break. Instead, one or both parties are left suffering from it.

What is cord cutting?

Cord cutting is similar to banishing in that it’s a release, but banishing is external where cord cutting is internal. A banishing is forceful, commanding — it’s a way to tell something to get lost, and make sure it stays lost. A cord cutting is a way to release attachments that are no longer healthy for you.

Look at it this way: A banishment is probably the most efficient way to get magical help ending an unhealthy relationship. You can send out the energy to remove this person from your life, so you can begin the recovery process once they’re no longer around. The end of the relationship isn’t the end of the story, though. Part of what makes toxic people toxic is the way they get in your head… and they can stay there for a long time after the relationship is dead. Cord cutting is a way to root out emotional, spiritual, and mental attachments, release them, and begin to heal without a toxic person living rent-free in your head.

If banishing is cutting away the bramble that pricked you, cord cutting is pulling the thorns from the wound so you can stop bleeding.

Cutting the ties that bind

To start with, if you’re still in regular contact with a toxic parent, I’m sorry. Practice shielding yourself every time you know you’re going to see them, even if it’s as simple as taking a moment to visualize yourself surrounded by a bubble of white light. Ground yourself when you get home, so you can “recalibrate” your energy. Try a quick and easy energy cleansing technique to get rid of any residual grodiness.

If you’re ready to cut the cord, try this. You can do it as simply or as ceremonially as you like, and repeat it as often as you feel is necessary. I’m posting this for Mother’s Day, but it can be used for pretty much any relationship.

For this, you’ll need three white candles, one black candle, a long piece of string (preferably not synthetic), and something to represent both yourself, and the person you wish to sever energetic ties with. This representation can be a figurine, a photograph, a lock of hair, a piece of paper with the person’s name written on it, something owned by that person, or any combination of the above.

Three white candles in the middle of dried vines.
Always approach candle magic with respect and caution. (E.g., don’t actually put them in the middle of a bunch of dry twigs.)

Next:

  1. Tie one end of the string to the representation of yourself, and the other to the representation of the other person.
  2. Once you’ve done so, touch the string with your dominant hand.
    Say, “This is the energetic cord between me and [the other person]. The relationship is ended, but the ties remain in place.”
    Imagine this cord is the physical manifestation of the flow between the two of you. Feel it thrumming with energy.
  3. Take the black candle in your hands. Visualize it filling with the power to sever this tie, and remove any negativity associated with it. No longer a simple candle, it is a key to your emotional and spiritual freedom. If you wish, you can affirm this out loud.
  4. Light the candle. Hold it up, and say, “With this flame, I sever this cord. No longer will this person drain my energy. No longer will I feel the effects of this relationship. I will be free.”
  5. Hold the flame to the center of the string (carefully! Don’t burn your house down please). As the string burns through, repeat the words, “With the cutting of this cord, I am free.”
  6. Use the black candle to light the three white candles. This symbolizes the release of the negativity surrounding this relationship, and the shifting of your energy into healing. Place the three candles around the representation of yourself.
  7. Sit quietly. Feel all of the feelings that rise up, no matter what they are — there might be anger, sorrow, relief, or even joy. Acknowledge them, and take the time to experience and understand them. Spend as long as you wish doing this.
  8. Either allow the candles to burn out, or snuff them. Dispose of the stubs appropriately.
  9. Untie the string from the representation of yourself. Burn or bury both halves of the string separately, and dispose of the representation of the other person however you feel is appropriate.

Energetic cords are tenacious, none more so than the ones that bind us to family. Severing these ties can help us pick up the pieces of ourselves, and continue on to heal our hearts and end the toxic cycles we were born into.