YOGA, WITCHERY AND MEDICINE BAGS
How Devotional Practice and Keeping Magical Items Close
Supports Awareness of Your Divinity, No Matter What
You + Divinity = Yoga
Yoga is a sanskrit term meaning “to yoke” that essentially means the merging of ourselves with universal consciousness, or the divine. When one truly practices yoga, s/he embodies a presence that illuminates he/r relationship with the miraculous.
Western culture has generally associated yoga with the physical practice of asana. Expect to practice asana in any yoga classes you take in the Western world. Upward facing dog, downward facing dog, tree pose... they are all asana. Asana, however, is just one form of yoga practice. Within the sacred texts of yoga, notably the Yoga Sutras written by Patanjali around 2,000 years ago, asana is one of eight core practices comprising the yogic path. Furthermore, despite popular belief, one may do asana for years and never actually practice yoga, because there is an essential element of surrender to the unknown necessary for an authentic yoga experience many people don't explore while in their pose.
For the dear reader who thinks a yoga practice is not within reach, take a moment to think of something you absolutely love doing. Know there is way of doing what you do that make your actions feel rich and meaningful. In those instances, you might feel as if something else is moving you, or that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Even if you feel that special state for just a moment, that moment is a huge reason you love that thing you do. If you keep that practice up, it becomes a devotion. Think of a comic book illustrator channeling a new masterpiece, or a musician playing “in the pocket”. These are all unique versions of yoga practice.
Maintaining devotional practice is so important because it reminds us of our own divinity, time and time again. The divine is a mystical thing that requires a certain amount of surrender to access. Since most of what’s possible for us in this lifetime is unknown, deep faith, or shruddha, is what helps us trust that the Universe has our back, no matter what. Much stress and suffering happens when we don't really know how to surrender into the unknown. Remember that saying "the truth will set you free"? If truth exists in all there is, and much of what exists is unknown to us, consciously practicing surrendering to the unknown is key.
Upasana is a sanskrit term for staying close to truth, even when life situations arise that make it feel challenging to do so. In fact, times of trial and tribulation are opportunities to feel our devotion to truth that much stronger. Remember that any conscious practice you choose can help you stay close to your divinity. No matter what happens, you keep practicing your yoga. That is Upasana.
when yoga and witchery merge
In the Dream, Freedom, Beauty podcast interview of Milla Prince on Ritual, Magic, Witchiness and Social Media as Medicine, Milla defined witchery as the practice of seeing the unseen and how all is connected. Witches integrate what exists in plain sight with what isn’t sticking out in obvious ways to make sense of reality. We see the animism in a rock, in a stream of water, in a tree, and we feel how we are connected to those beings. Divinity takes shape in the natural world. Sensing, feeling and acting on union with nature is all part of the yoga of witchery.
Merging my identities makes sense of my whole being, so I never leave any beneficial parts out in the experience of my life. As a yogini and a witch, I don’t just do upward facing dog, or downward facing dog, or tree pose. Asana mimics animals or natural elements to offer unique teachings to learn from as we take their form.
Keeping physical reminders of the divine natural world close by anchors and orients us to the miraculous, so no matter where we are, we are connected to our truth. Woven medicine bags are beautiful keepers of the sacred. As we wear symbols of the natural world close to the heart, we are engaging with upasana practice as we move about our lives.
The glory of medicine bags were introduced to me several years ago by my dear friend and master weaver Katie Grove. Medicine bags were traditionally held by native medicine people to store magical items for ceremony and ritual. For anyone dedicated to staying close to their truth, wearing a medicine bag containing some reminder of that intention (a charm or gemstone, for example) is a beautiful tool. We can stay close to the truth of our divinity and connection to all that is. Both wearing and making medicine bags are incredibly grounding practices for me.
How I Practice Upasana Even When It's Hard
This holy day season, I spent several days in my home of upbringing. Going home is rich topic of conversation and is for most of us an intensely conjuring experience. By going home, I reflect on my development. I observe where my family is now and where I am in relationship to them. This season, I utilized my practice of medicine bag making as a way to to weave my lessons learned into tangible form. This was an especially pertinent practice for me when at my grandmothers house on Christmas.
Each one of us existed inside of our grandmother's body.
When your grandmother held your mother in her womb, the egg that would become you formed inside your mother. That means we all have a real cellular tie to our grandmothers. In knowing their struggles, we may learn from them. We are designed to learn from elder teachings, even if they don’t happen in the ideal way. My grandmother's downward spiral after her life purpose diminished reminds me that the more I connect to my purpose, the more healing can occur. If I truly learn from my grandmothers path, I have the possibility of karmic clearing so negative patterns do not bleed into my next generation. For more reading on this topic, see this brilliant interview with Martin Prechtel.
After my grandfather died, my grandmothers health declined at a rapid pace. My grandmother always had a place alongside my grandfather, albeit a complicated one. Since life purpose, or dharma, and health go hand in hand, I relate her decline in part to that shift. I know there have been many factors that contributed to the state she is now. Diet, medicine, emotions… it all plays a role. I see the unseen factors underneath what is easy to see. The key is to practice connecting to the divine in moments of trial so that true healing can happen in real time.
My grandmothers current state is not a pretty one. When I went in her room on Christmas, I went in with my medicine bag, which I kept weaving as I spoke to her. In seeing her and holding my bag, I was reminded of what I can share with her in the moment. As she lay there, I ran my fingers through her hair and came down to her eye level. I felt the faint possibility that she could see me through the veil of shrunken skin wrapped around her fragile skeleton. I told her all she has to do is let go, and that letting go is her only job from now on. Shruddha... deep faith. Surrender.
This is important: When I aligned my words with what felt as absolutely true, or satya, her body eased. Truth transmits. I wove that lesson straight into my bag.
I used to be so angry when I visited my family. I would see all the of the mental, physical and emotional toxins within that environment, and I would experience the duality of life inside my body: they were doing wrong, and I knew what was right. Now I relate to the experience an entirely new way. I understand that my gift of attunement to what lives under the surface, which seemed like such a burden before, is deep medicine. And because of that sensitivity, I choose to transform awareness into medicine, rather then feeding back into the loop emotional toxins that keep divide alive. I choose to weave the wisdom I have come to know into my medicine bags, so I may remember. In so doing, that awareness is woven into a storehouse of power to offer the next generation.
Practice keeping the divine close. For we are that.
About My Medicine Bags
All of my medicine bags are woven using naturally dyed yarn. The medicinal and energetic properties of the plant used in the yarn dying process are taken into consideration when customizing a bag for its keeper.
Contact me for your own custom designed medicine bag, a special edition to my Selkie Botanica Radical Self Care Product line. Custom both size and naturally dyed yarn used for your bag to store your most cherished keepsake. Orders are taken on a small batch basis monthly.