This is a subject close to my heart as it’s something I often struggle with. I have written about ‘the cauldron time‘ before, and we find ourselves here once more; After Samhain, the hard work of autumn harvesting and preparing for winter; we enter a rest period. We have said goodbye to the Sun and await its return at Yule, the sap returns to earth, some animals retreat for hibernation, the daylight hours are fewer so, there is less active time in the day. Our ancestors would have used this time to retreat, sparing their energy and resources for only what is necessary. In our modern society of 40 hour weeks and constant pressure to be working towards our goals all day, everyday; this doesn’t feel as achievable or even acceptable.
Well, darlings I’m here to tell you it is IMPORTANT. If you don’t make time to rest and recharge, you will suffer burnout, your body will fail in some way or another and you will be forced to have time. Believe me, choosing to do so is much healthier in the long run.
The cauldron represents the nurturing wisdom of the dark; the womb of inspiration where the seeds of life are held, before seeking the light and re birth. This can be applied to many situations. At the ending of one journey, we can take time to think and reflect, to seek the knowledge we need before starting on new endeavours. This could be something you’ve chosen/are choosing for yourself, a matter of circumstance, or the result of someone else’s (perhaps the universe’s plan for you). What matters is it comes after the ‘death’ of one thing and before we embark on another. For example, a relationship break-up, ending of a job, completion of one goal or task, calendar milestones (Samhain, birthdays etc, the ways in which we mark and celebrate the passage of time). It could be something you have suffered through that has come to an end; the acceptance after pain stage. Whatever it is, we find ourselves asking: “what do I do now?”, “what next?” “what do I want ?” or even; “that was fucking painful and, how do I avoid that happening again”.
Taking time to reflect on these things requires firstly, a rested mind and body and a calm emotional state. Secondly, the tools to hunt the knowledge and inspiration you seek.
I talk about Self-Care a lot. It’s importance applies to FUCKING EVERYTHING! One cannot pour from an empty cup. To highlight it’s importance I refer you to ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’:
This is a theory I learnt when first studying child development and although there wasn’t much scientific research to back it up at the time (Abraham Maslow introduced it in his 1943 paper “A theory of Human Motivation”), It is still used and referred to often when understanding what humans need in order to thrive.
**2022 UPDATE* Since writing this post I have come to learn that this another thing that has been culturally appropriated. Maslow visited 1st Nations people (specifically the Blackfoot tribe) and took their teachings flipping it to serve the individual. The original is represented by a tipi and has self actualization at the bottom; upon which community actualization is built and reaches up to cultural perpetuity, makes more sense actually. I am choosing to leave in my previous thoughts on Maslow as it is a tool that has benefitted me and shaped my thinking over the years. However I refer you this source.
I intend to follow this up with a separate post when I have explored this further. It is important to me to address my own privilege and do my best to educate others. If you’re reading this I imagine it is as important to you too.**
So, the theory is, and this is my very short hand explanation of it: In order to thrive and reach ‘self-actualization’, a person has to have their basic and psychological needs met first. You cannot jump past one, they are the foundations for the rest.
Seems pretty straight forward right? And yet, how often do we put our most basic needs aside for the sake of others or as a reaction to what is going on around us (working through lunch anyone? or forcing yourself to do something when your ill, in pain or run down? I see you). Shitty sleep and eating patterns are probably my biggest downfall. I have PTSD and therefor general anxiety, this leads to a lack of appetite if I feel stressed. So already, I struggle with the first stage (hooray in sarcastic).
Next we have safety needs, this refers to emotional safety, as well as physical, there wasn’t much everyday talk about mental health when this paper was introduced. I feel it would fall into this category. If we feel we are under attack in any way; our survival response is triggered (fight, flight, fear and fawn, the last means to submit). My anxious body sees so many things as a threat, I disassociated while driving the other day. Nothing was happening I was just focused on the traffic lights and didn’t know the route very well. It is not a sabre-tooth tiger coming to get me but my body reacted as though it was. After all, why else would I be so focused?!
Then come the psychological needs: a sense of belonging and support, we are mammals, we need eye contact, affection, cuddles and to see ourselves reflected in others; this adds to our sense of safety and as such if you don’t feel safe in the basic way, we often doubt this part and its legitimacy (then we fuck up and make a mess).
Self esteem is a subject I find endlessly fascinating and have studied a lot.
Self esteem is fragile, You can not give someone self esteem (hence the name) . You can provide opportunities for people (or children in my day job) to find it for themselves, even ‘boost’ it by recognising and celebrating when a person (children are people) has achieved something. It is very easy to damage and break a persons self-esteem, often unknowingly. One of my pet hates in this area is when someone is told something along the lines of “see, it wasn’t so hard”. Yes actually, it was bloody hard, now I feel all that effort has been devalued and my self worth is lowered not increased. Can we just say “you did it! well done!” and leave it there. Ahem, excuse me, it is a rant.
Self esteem is something you can take an active role in: do things that make you feel good and celebrate them. Write a list of the things you like about yourself, clean your home and space for those little hits of dopamine, do something kind for someone else, without them knowing it was you (this is my favourite). You don’t need the gratitude or reward, just knowing that you might have brought a smile to someone’s face is reward enough. Like-wise you are responsible for protecting it. Avoid situations and people that consistently lower your self esteem. Especially if it is knowingly and deliberately to make themselves feel better. (see my rant on arrogance vs confidence here if you need some clarity on this)
Finally, at the top you have self-actualization. When we can achieve this we access creativity, healthy growth and we thrive. We fucking love life, we are shiny and glowing we can level-up. We are able to help and support others. We have an overflow to pour from! Happy dances ensue.
Throughout life we are bumped down this pyramid. That’s ok. That’s life (so goes the song) the important thing as self-aware beings is; that we recognise this in our selves and others. The human experience is about overcoming adversity, learning from it and sharing those experiences. One day we will be the elders and ancestors to the next generation, what wisdom can we offer if we haven’t experienced these things ourselves?
If you are struggling to stay motivated, feel unsafe or under attack, do not feel shiny: Have a look at this pyramid, identify where you are, where your needs are and focus on that stage. Once fulfilled you will naturally feel yourself moving up the pyramid. It may take a few moments, days or weeks. These are needs not preferences. Not ‘in an ideal world I’d have time for lunch everyday’ you need sustenance! Regularly! Same goes for the rest. This is Self-Care, meeting these needs. We are no longer children. We have to provide these things for ourselves and be able to ask for them when we are struggling to do so.
Wow that could have a been a rant all of it’s own. Moving on!
Reframing The Word ‘Should’
This comes off the back of Maslow’s Needs; so keep that pyramid image in your head. I looked up the dictionary definition of ‘should’ and even that pissed me off (It’s here if you want). It is my current campaign to remove ‘should’ from my vocabulary like I did with ‘fine’. The word ‘should’ bothers me because it is damaging to self- esteem. Think about the times you have used or heard someone say ‘should’: “don’t do that, you should do this”, “that didn’t go well, I should have done blah” or my worst “I should be doing…”
Why should I? who fucking says so?! We use it mostly to criticise ourselves and our efforts, it’s so common place and sneakily self-destructive. If someone else dares tell me what I should be doing I shut down. So why am I so capable of saying it to myself? I’ve been talking about it a lot recently and the general consensus is: We all do it unknowingly and it doesn’t feel good, or even helpful. One psychotherapist, Albert Ellis, coined the term ‘musterbation’ (aha, get it? I love a pun). People who ‘musterbate’ are compelled to ‘should themselves’ all the time- “I should be doing this, I should be doing that”. It’s often linked to perfectionism, which is unrealistic and damaging (me? never!)
So, I put it to you darlings, that we put ‘should’ away. Far, far, fucking away.
Instead, we can re-frame it to ‘could’/’can’; “I could have done this” “you could try this method” ” I can make more time for…”. We could change it to ‘I want to’ as in “I want to catch up with that person”. “I want to address my behaviour around…”. Or, (this one came from a wise friend) when reflecting on the past, instead of “I should have…” we say: “In future I will try to…”
See, doesn’t that sound and feel better! You may be wondering what all this has to do with the cauldron time we are in. My point is, at this time, when we have the opportunity to rest and reflect, it can be hard to do so effectively. Hard to give ourselves the space and permission to be honest about our needs. Hard to reflect positively without just beating ourselves up about all we ‘should’ have done or ‘should’ be doing. No darlings, that is not good for us. Witchcraft is about empowerment not constraint. positive self-reflection means allowing ourselves to have flaws and human error the same way we allow it in others. Alright, you didn’t achieve ‘x’, how could you next time? How did it go? What would you do differently? What have you achieved? How do you want to build on that? What would that look like?
This brings me to my next point:
Reflecting Vs Ruminating
The above questions are ones I ask myself when I am reflecting. Self Reflection is something we all do automatically. We look back on our experiences and try to gain an understanding about why they went the way they did . If there is a way we could improve upon ourselves when met with it again. Active self reflection is when we make a conscious effort to look at our experiences and evaluate them with scrutiny and detail but without being negative or overly critical. It’s almost an art form. It is something all teachers are encouraged to do. You make a lesson plan, implement it, then go over how it went and how you could tweak it for next time. In every day life it helps us understand how we got from A to B and helps us bridge the gap between emotional reactivity and conscious action. I do most of mine through journaling these days. The most important part of it is to be gentle on yourself the same you would if you were going over it with a friend or trusted colleague. The words we say to ourselves are important (there’s a piece on the power of words here ). If you wouldn’t say it that way to a loved one, Don’t say it that way to yourself.
Ruminating is often where we end up when we are trying to be reflective. Especially if something traumatic has happened and you suffer from depression and/or anxiety. I think all people are capable of it but it is something that I experience a lot with anxiety. Ruminating is when a problem, challenge or negative experience happens and you just go over it and over it.
The difference between that and reflection is you’re not getting anywhere with it. No solutions, or parts to work on. This leads to feelings of anxiety and failure. Which in turn makes the anxiety worse. sound familiar? It’s like when you are just going ” I don’t know what to do”, over and over again in your head”
To repeat an action over and over again and expect a different outcome is madness (this quote is often believed to be from Albert Einstein, though I have found no evidence to support that, nevertheless, it holds weight in my opinion).
But, How does one break the cycle of rumination and begin reflecting? I start by changing my environment or talking to someone who understands it. Not to talk about something else but to hear the prompts I need to start thinking constructively. I also write it out to myself using the questions I listed above. Ruminating is panic, calm yourself down, meet those hierarchy needs and come back to the issue with a calm, open mind.
Embracing The Darkness Of The Cauldron To Gain Knowledge.
We have identified the need for rest and reflection, what that looks like and how to (potentially) do so in a healthy way but how does one embrace is it?
Well, start with Maslow’s hierarchy, meet your basic needs and work your way up. Inspiration comes in the creative stages (at the top). Once you have an idea of where you want to be and how to achieve that; you can make a plan and work towards it. There are many ways witchcraft practices can help e.g. grounding, meditation, divination and even herbs to open yourself up to inspiration and messages from your guides, gods and ancestors. Many of these are described on this website already or subscribe to receive exclusive recipes, spells and more. I will be putting extra content: recipes, spells and tarot spreads to support this in the coming weeks but for now; my favourite herb to work with when reflecting and engaging in shadow work (you can learn more about shadow work here) is Mugwort.
To Sum Up…
Working in harmony with the seasons, turning of the wheel, the life, death, rebirth cycle and our own needs; gives us an opportunity to gain all the knowledge and wisdom we require to move forward and ‘level up’. Now is the perfect time to reflect upon where you have been and where you want to be heading. Embracing this will lead to exciting inspiration and insight into how best to apply yourself in the next cycle.
Phew that was long one! I hope you have found this post helpful. Take the time to rest my witchy darlings, before we are compelled to start anew.
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Peace out witches!
Love Kate xxx