This Dusty Earth: Witchcraft in the City

A blog about mental health, magic, and the cycles of nature in parched Los Angeles.

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One Minute at the Altar

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Last week I realized that yet again I'd set my standards for my daily practice too high. I couldn't sit at my altar without lighting the candles; I couldn't light the candles if the candles were burned out; I couldn't buy paraffin candles, I had to make my own out of beeswax; I couldn't make my own candles because the kitchen was a mess. This is what happens when you have high hopes and two small children. You sit around wishing you were doing spiritual work while they empty every drawer in the house for the fun of it.

I'm proud to say that I did end up making my own candles, but the compromise was that I did it in the filthy kitchen. If I'd taken the time to clean the kitchen beforehand, you see, then that would have taken up all my candlemaking time, and the next time I went to make candles, it would be filthy again. When I took my new candles to the altar, I thought, "But I can't light them without cleaning the altar off first. And cleansing the space! And refreshing the offerings! And performing invocations!" No, I told myself. I found that I had to give myself permission to do things imperfectly. I let myself cleanse the space. Then I lit the candles and annointed my Cernunnos statue. And that was it.

See, back when I was in my MFA program, one of my professors gave us a helpful tip for writing: write one word a day. That's it. That's all you owe your writing practice. If you're inspired by that first word to write another word, that's great! Maybe you'll end up writing ten pages. If you get that first word out and you have nothing else, then that's okay, too.

I've found that this advice is immensely helpful for spiritual work, too--but I tend to forget it. My standards creep up and up and up. I go for a few weeks reciting the shema and cleansing the space, and after awhile reciting the shema no longer feels like enough. Soon my practice feels incomplete unless I'm invoking the quarters and annointing the statue, too. And so on, until I find myself with ten minutes to perform a half-hour ritual and end up not doing anything at all. I have to remind myself of that advice. One word a day. One minute at the altar. At this stage in my life, with my two young children and a full-time day job and a side job reading cards, that's all I can require of myself.

Similarly, I don't blog much these days because of high standards; surely a post isn't worthy of publication unless it's gone through 20 drafts. But tonight I'm making an effort to log in, put down some words, and log back out. I hope you find them helpful and true.


Last modified on
Asa is a sliding-scale tarot reader, intuitive, and witch blending pellar craft with animism and earth-based Judaism. Instagram: @theRedTailWitch


  • Molly
    Molly Monday, 10 December 2018

    Thanks for this! I appreciated it today, while feeling overwhelmed by a chain of to-dos.

  • Dragon Dancer
    Dragon Dancer Saturday, 05 January 2019

    I get email notifications for W&P blog posts, and been holding onto this one until I "had a minute" to really read and not just skim it. Going on two months later...

    This actually comes at a perfect time for me. Absolutely everything in my life right now is in upheaval - living situation, financial situation, health and fighting for disability, dealing with a possible cancer scare...and that's just off the top of my head. Everywhere I read says, "Have a daily practice, whatever it is." But few actually say what to do, except ones that seem to require 30-60 minutes' commitment every day, which I have neither the energy nor the copes for. But a resolution I've decided to seek, and now just seems like the right time, is to start a practice. So I finally dug up that email notif in my inbox . . . and I'm glad I did. Maybe all I can do for now is light a candle and sit in meditation for 5 minutes. And maybe that's enough.

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