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The First Spell

Regina McIlvain


The magic in the first spell is that you feel a shift from normal, drudging, everyday life into a world of spirits and power and the ability to call upon any of it when you like. The first spell may not even feel like magic because it is made up of common actions. Really, the only difference is your attitude: you go from being an automaton that goes through motions without noticing much to a being very much a part of creation: alive to every miraculous hint in Nature.

Let’s see: to enter into a world of magic that is ours to share, why don’t we start big? A beauty spell. first, we will imagine what this would look like in ideal conditions, but the power in it does not need ideal conditions to work, just the right mind set. A beauty spell calls us to release our expectations into the unknown, like the ugly duckling who entered a period and space unknown, trusting that something good existed on the other side. There can be many ways to achieve it, but since time immemorial, a ritual bath with great intention has been a likely gateway to transformation.

Ideally, you would live near a forest of ancient trees and running streams. A fragrant path strewn with softened pine needles, glittering leaves and the soft breath of Mother Earth would guide you to an inland pool of fresh, clear water, fed by a sparkling waterfall. The temperature is perfect: crisp, cool air surrounding the pool, which is a thermal spring, nourished by hot surges of water, purified through thousands of years of pressure from the volcanic earth’s core, up layers of refining rocks.

Prepared with your kit of essential oils, scrubbing sponges and herbal soaps, you enter the steaming waters, immediately feeling the massaging currents surround you as you luxuriate and feel years of anxiety, tensions and layers of dead skin cells lift away. It may be late afternoon and the golden shards of sunlight streaming through the foliage blends with the warm breezes that freshen the air.

Diving into the spring, you delight as currents flow through your long tresses, and when you set yourself to the task of soaping up and scrubbing away your surface cares and dry skin, you can feel the baby-soft skin emerge.

With the luxury of time, you can then stretch out on a polished stone shelf beside the water and slather mud on your face and body. It dries quickly in the sun and as you scrape it off, your already softened skin glows pink with the rush of blood to the surface and another rinse in the ever swirling warm spring removes the last vestiges of age and care.

With skin so ready for treatment, you gently massage fragrant oils, rich creams and stimulating serums all over, then rest again, in clean cloths that keep you warm as the nourishing products soak in.

A leisurely walk back, through the forest in waning sunlight, gives you the opportunity for a movement meditation: the silent progress in quite literally new skin, back to familiar surroundings with a very renewed sense of purpose. It is well there are no mirrors here: this is not the time to contemplate your exterior, but simply to appreciate its ability to receive such priceless gifts.

I did say that was under ideal conditions, something few of us ever experience. What we may lack in perfection, we can re-create with intention, some basic tools and time specifically scheduled out.

Not everyone has a bath, so if a shower or even a sink with washcloths must suffice, try to keep the temperature one that is warm and comfortable. If you cannot spend 30 minutes in a warm to hot bath, spend more time in self-massage with fragrant oils. The most effective and economical ones are: lavender and clary sage. If you enjoy them, use enough to fill your senses, so that long after this experience, you will breathe in the transforming power of herbs that require months of hot sunlight to develop their healing perfumes.

Olfactory therapy without the factory

Regina McIlvain

There are effective everyday remedies I would use in France that I would never touch in the US. This saddens me because they are so gentle and effective, but if sold under the category: aromatherapy, they should adhere to strict standards.

Look at the list of ingredients whenever purchasing a product that claims to be pure essential oil. the origin and processing conditions should also be available: something that is very rare.

Even if a product has just a small amount of EO (essential oil) or none at all, it can be labeled ‘aromatherapy’ in this country (the US). In France, EO can be purchased over the counter or prescribed by experts, not necessarily medical doctors. You can use them in the ways often suggested here: diffused in the air, massaged neat or mixed with carrier oils onto the skin, or simple inhaled. In France, certain EO are taken internally. They can be very effective if used properly and, of course, the oil must be absolutely pure without any additives. You put a drop on a cube of sugar, or other method of consumption, and immediately feel the benefits of this concentrated powerhouse.

There have been a few brands that I used in the past in the US, but I do not trust most of them. When I see that a company was sold to a larger concern, my own concern grows.

Revisiting Woodstock and conquering time

Regina McIlvain

 Revisiting Woodstock

In August 2019 we will see the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. It was a seminal moment for youth, ideals, rock music, expression and uninhibited style. Those who attended those four days of music genius that may never see its equal were electrified and felt a part of a greater whole. Half a million people coexisted in peaceful harmony, perhaps as stunning an achievement as the multitude that traveled to listen to Jesus two thousand years earlier. Those who did not attend and those who have been born since then are still affected by the realities that emerged from that spontaneous explosion of art reflecting ideology.

The teens and young adults who camped out in Woodstock had a style that shocked and enchanted the world. They symbolized the youth movement that planned to change the world for the better. Within a few years there were major changes including environmental protections, more safety in cars, less smoking (of cigarettes anyway), more opportunity in the workplace for women and persons of color, more awareness in general of the rich diversity in the world and our place in it.

These were/are the baby boomers. They have aged 50 years now but that patina of eternal youth still animates their dreams, if not always their reality. Jokes are starting now to suggest to those who attended the first gathering in various states of undress, to kindly refrain from a repeat. Times and lives may have changed a lot, so it would be magic indeed to recapture some of the spirit, beauty and style of Woodstock prior to the upcoming festival.

The magic for this week is as much a challenge as a ritual. I will give you some broad strokes about creating your own Woodstock character regardless of your age. Think of it as a kind of LARP (live-action role playing game), something you can put on and take off as you choose. What I hope you will discover along the way is a connection to your deeper self: one that embodies what you truly are or would like to manifest.

So, you have four months to transform your ordinary self into a Woodstock nymph, satyr, collegiate participant, musician, magician, goddess, free-spirit, nature child… Your own imagination will suggest what it is you would like to personify if only for a day. Who knows, after the preparation for it, you may decide to keep elements of this product of your creation as permanent fixtures!

For today, we will simply consider some goals to prepare for. Each one of these represents an area that may need time to develop:

  • Weight: most the original Woodstock attendees were young and lithe. If you were born after 1995 you may identify as such. If you are old enough to have attended in 1969, chances are you may see this as an opportunity to get fit.

  • Hair: the late sixties/early seventies ushered in an era of long, natural hair. It did not work on everyone, even then, but if you like breezy, free-flowing tresses, stop regular visit to the salon and work on conditioning, growing and caring for your hair now! We will discuss how-tos another time, including dealing with gray, damaged, thinning and difficult hair.

  • Attitude: this may be the most magical part. Our lives are often hectic, filled with demands, full schedules and a society that would not approve of modern day hippies. What we forget is that when we slow down, meditate, listen to music that stirs something within us, find time to create in-home rituals (not out of boxes, but engendered by our imaginations), open our minds to really consider the opinions of others and so many other grounding activities, we can reconnect with the promising child we once were. Remember the potential we had as we moved from childhood into adolescence. The world was before us; a world of our own creation. Rekindle that spirit.

  • Sense of adventure: in 1969 teens from all over the country made an extraordinary pilgrimage. It could not have been an easy trek or even few days of camping in the rain and elements with so many people. But came they did and with the intention of a peaceful celebration of youth, music and hope. Capture that sense of adventure regardless of how far from home you go.

  • This is a contest. Not sure of the prize yet, but start working on it as you may need a bit of time. August 15, 16 and 17, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. The memes and jokes have started: if you were naked at the first Woodstock, stay home… Well, most of the pictures of naked people at the first Woodstock are not that appealing. As a matter of fact, you have to look hard to find people who do not look bedraggled, dusty and generally rough around the edges. That said, the pictures are also full of magic, of wonder, of youth stepping out on the world stage for the first time: not just the skinny dippers, but the fantastically costumed, almost medieval-looking itinerants. You see lots of bejewelled velvet, rakish top hats, bangles and bracelets covering arms as they reflect sunbeams. You see long hair trailing down backs, bare feet and gossamer gowns. Collegiate types listen side-by-side with hippie pot smokers and all are electrified by beloved and emerging talent.

    If you were there, or if you are old enough to have been there, who are you now? Can you still identify with your dreams and hope for the world - and yourself? Looking at you, then and now, how satisfied are you in the change? Is the difference so great that you hardly recognize yourself or have you evolved into a more polished, realized version of your best self? Have you lost something along the way, something important? This challenge is to recreate yourself into the ideal version of the Woodstock you - whoever succeeds will be a winner who cherishes the prize: your best you!