First off: my last post prompted quite a few questions from folks who are getting newly or re-aquainted with their magical selves, so I definitely want to do a post on that soon. In the mean time, AMA! I will try to help as best I can but I am no spiritual/magical expert and I don’t recommend trusting anyone who claims to be.
Now onto today’s topic…
It’s Valentine’s Day! One of the most polarizing holidays in the US, and maybe even the world (where it is observed). I do not want to discuss the history, origins, or “validity” of the holiday because I think we all know enough about that (and if not there are other folks out there who have written more informative articles about the subject). Today, I want to talk about the Western, secular, commercialized version of the holiday that is all about celebrating love.
IN MY HUMBLE OPINION, whether you are in a romantic relationship or looking for a special someone or are happily (or unhappily) single, there is one person you should be celebrating and cherishing, this Valentine’s Day and every Valentine’s Day, with unabashed, unashamed, unreserved affection and tenderness: Yourself.
I know, I know, this sounds cheesy AF, but bear with me.
I need you to walk over to a mirror–any mirror, doesn’t matter if it’s a reflection in a pond or a window or a compact mirror–and look yourself in the eyes and say out loud to yourself: “I love you.” And then observe how that makes you feel.
We won’t all have the same reaction because some of us have healthier relationships with ourselves than others, but I can tell you how I felt the first time I did this: very silly.
Now do it again, right away. Say “I love you” to yourself. Again. And again. Until the silly feeling passes.
What else do you feel?
When I did this exercise for the first time many years ago, my silliness quickly gave way to denial. Shame. Self loathing. Pain. Sadness. And above all these things, grief.
I still do this exercise regularly. Maybe not out loud, but I look myself in the eyes and think “I love you,” just to check in with whether or not that rings true. I can tell you right now that for most people who have not spent years in therapy and self-improvement, the idea of self love makes you want to scoff and rattle off a list of your imperfections and failures. The idea of others loving themselves might make you feel some un-loving things, too.
Today I can honestly say that, more often than not, I can accept my own love for myself. I have survived a lot–gotten myself through many hard times where I wasn’t sure I wanted to get through them. Ultimately it was not desperation or necessity that got me the help I needed, but an act of self love. An act of self care that said “I am worthy of a happier, healthier life.” (It was finding affordable therapy. I’m not gonna ever stop harping on that.)
But as far as I’ve come in the last few years of my healing journey, there is always room for more love. And I’m willing to bet you could use some more love, too.
Why should we bother with this whole self love thing? Well, besides a million bajillion wonderful and good reasons, let me appeal to the part of you that resists doing anything just for yourself (because we all know that’s the part of you that’s probably in control most of the time):
Have you ever flown on a plane? You know that safety spiel they give you about what do do in the event of an emergency? What do they tell you to do if the cabin loses pressure and the oxygen masks drop?
SECURE YOUR OWN OXYGEN MASK BEFORE ASSISTING OTHERS.
Why? Because if you pass the fuck out you’re of no use to anyone, and in fact you actually become a burden to others.
So there! If you can’t practice self love for your own good, go through the back door of your brain and do it for the good of others (you fucking martyrs) (JK. I love y’all. That’s just how I had to justify it to myself).
The Only Love Spell You Will Ever Need: Creating An Altar for Self Love
The Stuff That Will Assist You But is Totally Not Necessary If You Don’t Have Access To It:
- A picture of yourself as a child if possible, or a picture of yourself you really like from any age. If you don’t have a picture of yourself, draw yourself as a stick figure, maybe with a smile and a crown and hearts around you and stuff. Just make it something that makes you smile, don’t worry about it being “good.” Take a selfie if you must. Filter it however you want to make it an enjoyable experience for you to look at yourself.
- A mirror, preferably hand-held
- A candle. Any kind will work, but if you can get one, a pink, red, or yellow taper, votive, pillar, chime, or any kind of candle with some surface area to write/carve on would be excellent.
- A toothpick or other safe tool for carving into the candle
- A rose or other flowers you have access to or really like. Real is best but fake flowers or images of flowers are fine, too.
- Treats you really love, such as candy, booze, flaming cheetos, etc.
- Luxuries that make you feel amazing like your fave red lipstick, perfume, sex toy (yes I said it), fancy jewelry you rarely get the chance to wear, your favorite silk boxers, etc.
- Anything else that makes you feel pampered, cherished, adored, or comfy.
- Ethically sourced rose quartz if you have any, or really any ol’ rock you might like the look of or the feel of in your hands
- A clear surface on which to set all this stuff up in a visually pleasing way.
NOTE: It’s GREAT if you have access to all of these things or substitutes for these things, but if you do not have access to them or do not want to spend money on them, that is perfectly fine too. I firmly believe that objects aren’t necessary for magic. They are merely the tools we use to help us to focus on our intentions.
Another option for some of these items is to make a nice hand written (if possible) LIST of treats and luxuries that you love, like Godiva champagne truffles and fresh cut lily of the valley (can’t get those until spring, sorry self!) and one of those fancy ostrich feather face powder poufs that are hard to come by but damn they make you feel like royalty. Or maybe your luxuries are pizza with a million toppings and the extended cuts of LOTR or shaving with a brand new razor or not shaving at all…whatever you can put on your altar or on your list that makes you feel like divine.
As always, go with your heart and your gut about how you want to arrange your altar. Maybe you just want your picture and a candle. Maybe you just want an array of chocolates. Maybe you want ALL THE THINGS spilling over in a pile of glorious abundance. Maybe fire makes you nervous. Maybe minimalism soothes your soul. Please feel free to altar anything in this spell to your liking, needs, and preferences, so long as it remains an expression of love and devotion to yourself.
Optional Pre-Spellwork Step: Before you start, take a nice long, hot shower or bath, and use all your favorite soaps, salts, and scubs. Treat yourself like precious goods. From here on out, you are a GOD/DESS who deserves to be WORSHIPPED.
Step 1: Gather your stuff if you’re going to use it and get settled in a nice quiet space. This might be in your office, or in your closet, or in your pantry, or on a book shelf, or totally in your mind. Just make sure it’s somewhere that won’t be disturbed for at least the time it takes to do the spell (15 minutes to an hour?). If at all possible choose a place where you can leave this altar up for a full lunar cycle. If that’s not possible, try to keep some object from the altar out in the open where you will see it, even if it’s just putting your stick figure drawing on the refrigerator door.
Step 2: Ground and center. ALWAYS ground and center before you do any kind of magic. I forgot this step recently and felt like I was on drugs the rest of the night (I was not, I don’t do drugs thank you very much). Most ways of grounding and centering involve sitting with your eyes closed, visualizing a beam of energy connecting you from the crown of your head through to the bottom of your feet, down into the earth. This can take a few seconds or a few minutes: give yourself time to get the feeling right, but don’t be a perfectionist about it. Especially if you are new to magic/energy work, you might not “feel” very different the first few times you do this, but the practice will still help.
Step 3: If you want to, cast a circle. I don’t get too fancy about this since I don’t believe in negative spiritual entities that might try to get involved in my magic (I light a stick of incense or palo santo and walk/turn in a circle, clockwise, three times). But the main reason you might want to do this is to create a “containter” for your magic. This works on an energetic level as well as a psychological level. (Google it, it’s fascinating.) If you are into such things, now is a great time to say a prayer, blessing, or invocation. Venus is a great deity to work with of course, or Artemis, Lilith, Persephone…any god or goddess who might call to you for this work, or none at all!
Step 4: Now for the awkward bit. I would like you to invoke yourself. You can write something of your own, or say whatever comes to you off the top of your head, but here’s a basic little sumthin’ sumthin’ you can use as is, or as a template, or completely ignore:
Oh wonderful/beautiful/amazing/glorious [Your Name]
I call upon you to be present for this magical working.
I invite you into this sacred space
to witness my devotion to you
my adoration of you
and my blessing of your name
and your divinity.
May you bless me with your infinite grace
and forgive me for the ways I have neglected and abused you.
I was unconscious then.
I am awakening now.
It is my sincere intention, from this moment forward,
to acknowledge the sacredness of your being
to believe in your worthiness
and to love you, unconditionally.
So be it.
Step 5: When you feel the invocation is complete, it’s time to arrange your altar (leaving your candle for Step 6). Try to remain mindful and present as you pick up each item you’ve decided to include. Feel it in your hand. Smell it. Taste it if it’s edible. Do what comes naturally to you as you use all your senses to adore the items you are setting on your altar. Maybe you want to put the jewelry on right now, maybe you want to gaze at it on your altar. It’s up to you!
(If you are doing this without physical objects, use your imagination to visualize the same experience. If you are able, hand write a list of the objects you are putting on your altar in your mind and spend a moment visualizing each item, being sure to include all your senses.)
Use your instincts to arrange the altar in a way that pleases you, but try to make the picture of you that you have chosen to work with the main focus. Look at yourself with love (this is much easier to do with a childhood picture, especially if you have self-loathing issues).
Step 6: Take your candle and your writing tool and write “I LOVE YOU” somewhere on the candle. top, side, bottom, whatever. It doesn’t have to be pretty, straight, horizontal, or even legible. You just have to write it with intent and with love, or as near as you can get to the feeling of love. If you want, anoint your candle with a little olive oil or spit. Then set your candle on your altar in front of your picture (not too close, don’t want a fire hazard) and light the wick while whispering repeatedly: “I love you, [your name]. I love you, [your name]. I love you, [your name]…”
Continue repeating this mantra as you gaze at your picture with love and adoration. Try to summon affection into your heart and your body. Try to summon a feeling of such ecstatic love and joy that it brings happy tears to your eyes.
Step 7: Now close your eyes and think of how you want to pamper and spoil that person on your altar, how they have always had your best interests at heart, how they have been loved by the people you love, how they have brought joy to others, how they have been generous and kind, gentle and strong, powerful and vulnerable, how they have achieved such wonderful, amazing things, even if that is simply the achievement of still being alive today to do this spell. (Continue chanting your mantra if you’re able, otherwise just focus on the feelings and visualizations) Think about yourself as if You is your best friend, and you’re bragging about You to someone else, about how wonderful You is and what an amazing person You is.
Do this for as long as you can stand, at least 3 minutes, but try for 7 because 7 is a magic number and anything longer might start to get boring.
Step 8: INTEGRATION TIME. When you are so suffused with love you can hardly keep yourself from crying or smiling, open your eyes. Pick up the mirror/look into the mirror. Look at your picture. Look at yourself in the mirror. Go back and forth a few times and say out loud: “She (or your pronoun of choice) is me. I am her. I love you. I am love. She is me. I am her. I love you. I am love.” Or some variation that you like. Just make sure you are digesting the fact that this person you have just fallen deeply in love with is You. (If you don’t have a mirror, touch your own face gently for this part of the spell.)
Now, with perfect love, eat one of your candies, spritz your favorite perfume, put on your red lipstick, turn on your favorite music and sing, dance, do whatever you want to show yourself the love you are feeling in the safety of this sacred space. Partake in a physical act of love and pleasure, and consider this act of pleasure a consecration.
Step 9: When you are ready and you feel that you have spent enough one on one time with yourself, say something to indicate the spell is complete, but let yourself know you will be taking that magic with you into the rest of your life. Rhymes are nice because they feel extra witchy, but also they are easy to remember and repeat to yourself if you ever find yourself in need of a reminder.
Here’s a lil’ somethin’ for you to try if you don’t feel inclined to write it yourself:
With purest intent
This spell has been cast
So I have willed it
This true love shall last.
Then blow out the candle.
Technically the spell is over at this point but I highly recommend, if you can, keeping this altar somewhere safe for at least a month, and checking in with it (and yourself) daily.
Whether you can keep the altar or not, try to light the candle for a few minutes every day while thinking about that love you conjured inside yourself. Think about your child self. Think about the amazing woman you are and will some day be. Consume your treats, indulge in your luxuries. Remember you are worthy and deserving of love exactly as you are.
Happy Valentine’s Day, witches!