It’s fair to say that 2020 has served us up some major mundane and magical challenges, no matter where we are in the world. So many of us have found our routines disrupted, and our faith in everything from social structures to linear time thoroughly disturbed! There have been a few moments of grace, though, the rare diamond in the rough.
One of those is a wonderful book called Rituals: Simple and radical practices for enchantment in times of crisis, by multi-talented ritual crafter, podcaster, writer, teacher, web designer, and soft living enthusiast, Yarrow Magdalena.
After reading this thoughtful, emboldening book myself, I was delighted to be able to offer it for sale in the shop. It’s a good one, full of ideas that I hope will empower us all to create a supportive and personal ritual practice when we need it most.
Today on the blog, I’m catching up with Yarrow to learn more about their magical creation, born out of such a strange and tumultuous year.
To begin, I’m going to respectfully borrow a question from you, because I love that you start all your podcast interviews this way! What is nature like where you are right now?
Ha, I love that! I live in a town on the East Coast of Scotland and nature around me is earthy with muted colours and often dramatically changing weather patterns. Near me are a lake and a river, many hawthorn trees, black cliffs at the beach and mountains in the distance. There are also always birds to watch!
Your book, Rituals, is about making personal, meaningful ceremonies and practices to mark all sorts of life phases, events, and desires. Do you have a kind of ritual origin story?
I’d love to know more about how you came to incorporate this very intentional, conscious ritual practice into your life. I made tiny rituals for as long as I can remember. When my parents divorced when I was five for example I kept collecting stones to arrange and rearrange in a little altar, which gave me a sense of continuity. I also insisted on eating the same lunch for three years as a toddler, so you could say that consistency has always been important to me. I am a soft living enthusiast and have navigated many challenges and transitions by grounding into rituals and cycles that are familiar to me. Sometimes they are tiny like watching the sky change for a few minutes when I wake up, sometimes they are larger ceremonies shared with friends.
How has your practice evolved over time? What do you know now that you wish your past self could’ve known about rituals?
I think a key element in what has changed is how I give myself permission – permission to be myself, to listen to myself, to have boundaries, to want truth and intimacy. I used to be much more concerned with what things look like or should be and needed a while to trust myself and my body. I am more playful and intuitive in my practice now and am able to share it with others with less self-consciousness. I wish I had known that there are no rules (as long as we are culturally respectful) beyond what is available, true and beautiful in any moment. I know that’s easier said than done and a very hard won thing to hold under capitalism, in times of stress and when we are taught to be disconnected from ourselves from such an early age.
Let’s talk about this wonderful book! Could you tell us a little about where the spark for this project came from, and how the work came together?
This is a strange and wonderful story in a way. I have been writing since I was a teenager and had a drafted book lying around for years. In 2019 I published a series of zines, which was great fun and gave me the instant reward of a quick publication, but I still lacked the confidence to go for a book. When the pandemic hit it suddenly felt like all bets were off the table and it was okay to just say what I had to say. There was a sense of urgency and a great appreciation of rest at the same time, which I know sounds like an off contrast, but it worked. I scaled some of my work back, joined a writing group and committed to writing a thousand words every morning for three months in spring this year. That’s how the book came to be – fast and imperfect, but also heartfelt and grounded.
As much as you’d like to share, how have you been working with ritual throughout this challenging year?
Deep sigh. I really don’t know where I would be without ritual this year! I am pretty consistent with morning pages and a little bit of movement to start the day, even if it’s just a tiny wriggle to some nice music. I also make an effort to connect to the seasons – I made elderberry syrup, lit fires in the garden, went on walks to see Nettle grow and listened intently to bird song. This feels important in keeping a sense of time, which I have often lost this year. Lighting candles, making tea and some snacks, listening to music and giving my feet a massage is my favorite Friday evening ritual.
Now, to lead us off on a little sidetrack, this is a tarot blog, so I have to ask! How much is tarot or oracle card practice a part of your ritual work? Do you have any tips for folks who might want to experiment with incorporating the cards into their ritual work?
Oh, I love this question! In my ritual work I love weaving little spreads in to give me more clarity and creative input. When I feel drawn to a card or when it shows up often in my readings I am trying to make a ritual around it. As I moved into my new home for example I was thinking a lot about how it can embody the four of swords and be a place of stillness, rest and inspiration. I also like to draw a few cards at the beginning of larger rituals and make some time to really write and dream about them.
Do you have a favourite deck or decks, or is there one that you’re excited to be working with right now?
Yes, I really love all of Mary Evan’s decks, they feel true to me and are easy and exciting to work with. (Also a fave here at Two Sides Tarot! You can see Mary Evans’ work here).
Finally, do you have any advice for folks who would like to start with ritual practice, or for seasoned ritual crafters who might be seeking to deepen or enliven their existing practice (apart from reading this excellent book, which I think everyone should!)?
I would say look at the sky and give yourself permission to just play. These are strange and uncertain times, so whatever feels good is exactly what we should be doing.
Where can we find you and your work?
You can find me at YarrowMagdalena.com for ritual inspiration, my Daydreaming Wolves podcast as well as my low cost programs and weekly sessions. I am @yarrowmagdalena on instagram and also run YarrowDigital.com, a web design studio and embodied business community. Thank you so much for having me!
I really hope you enjoyed this little catch up, and that you’ll check out Yarrow’s wonderful work. If you feel called, you can purchase your own copy of Rituals here.