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Magic Ritual

The Work of the Ancestors / sabrina scott

I wrote this around Halloween this year, and performed it in early December at a Toronto Writers vs Trump reading series. It comes from thinking about a lot of things – trauma, pain, suffering, abuse, ancestors dead and alive. Growth, change, repetition. Thank you to those who invited me, and those who witnessed my performance, for the positive words and inspiring me to share it here.


The burden of intergenerational trauma is hard, heavy, a lot to carry. It’s rough to be the one who notices. We notice because the pain becomes unbearable, and in that noticing comes responsibility to act, to do something, to be different.

Intergenerational trauma. Handed to us like an inheritance, a gift. Through the violence of birth, we absorb their wounds both inside and outside the womb. We carry the burden.

We move slowly towards self worth, self love, self acceptance, self stability, if only for a moment, like a lighting bolt shock. To feel that strength, that invigoration. We light a candle.

This is the ancestor work.

One candle for every time our own kin laughed at us when we told them about our rape. Every time our own blood told us, well, it’s your fault for wearing that outfit, what did you expect? Every time our family insulted us, beat us, threw something at us, pushed us down the stairs, neglected us, called us names. Maybe there are one or two candles. Maybe there are so many there’s no room left on the altar for anything else. Maybe we cry and cry. Maybe we go numb and feel nothing, unable to speak. Maybe it hurts too much this time, maybe we blow the candles out and go to bed. Maybe we stay up all night kneeling, staring at them, eyes bloodshot, scrying, squinting to see the spirits’ secrets, a spirit-salve for our run-down souls. Tired. This is how we do the work.

We go to therapy. We tell our own children that they are beautiful. We trust our partners to love us. We learn more effective coping mechanisms to survive strong emotions. We soothe ourselves when we are under stress. We are kind to the animals in our lives, and to strangers, and to ourselves. We are fragmented constellations, an incarnation of our ancestors, hot blood coursing through our veins. Heart beats, pumps. We keep moving. And sometimes we are still.

Some of our ancestors have done unspeakable things. There are some people I do not, will not, talk to. But they have left their mark on me. There is so much I have shaken off. This is ancestor work. I have done a lot but there is always more to do.

I buy flowers. Sunflower, marigold, carnation, roses. I buy honey, coconut milk, bourbon. I buy apples, tangerines, pomegranate. I paint my nails red like blood, black like the earth, and leave my skin white like bones.

I exhale inhale. I make sounds and contort my body in feral shapes. I let my ancestors move through me and shake out their sadness. I dance in a circle and slap the floor with my feet, soles thump, soul thirsty. Manic and controlled like a breath aware it is a breath, a coming and going for the sake of survival. I make a nonhuman sound.

This is the ancestor work.

Skin tingles, hot and cold, firm but brittle. This is the work of exorcism, of getting rid of it, of seeing and healing and really seeing enough to know where to put the medicine, where to bury the skeleton, it is the knowledge of knowing, tacit. Just when to scream, what guttural growls free the soul, unlocked, unleashed, light as air.

We hold the trauma in our bodies. Our ancestors are there too, in our muscles, tense. Ready to strike. We put their pictures on our altars if we have them. We write down their names on sheets of paper and set them aflame. We cook them food to nourish them. We give them fuel to do the work with us. We feed them. We drink with them. We acknowledge their role in creating us.

We heal them we heal ourselves we heal our children. We know this process is eternal. We care take. We build relationship. We use salt to cleanse. We burn cedar to scrape away the muck. We light birch bark candles and with the ghosts we chew corn raw, take the autumn seeds inside us and commit to growth. We wake up from nightmares. We pray. We take our medication. We throw the rotten food down the toilet. We bundle up warm in the cold. We go where we are wanted. We say their names. We remember their faces. We commit to our bodies, to our own journey, to the wound-womb inside us, creative, willful, fierce, regenerating.

What is the point of this? Relationship. It is about learning to be in and cultivate relationship with ourselves and with others, with our pasts and our futures. It is about acknowledging our active role in creating our reality. It is about the responsibility of those with the power to heal to do so.

We all have this power.

A witch who can’t harm can’t heal. A witch who can’t curse can’t cure. Be there, go there, go deep go dark and feel it and scream and cry until you can’t anymore. And then, with our always already broken bodies, we must heal. We must do the work. We must light the candles. We must prepare the feast. We must pray.

Instead, it seems we mostly curse. Shun. Excommunicate. Throw around words like: violence, abuse, unsafe, crisis, panic, accountability, responsibility. Sometimes we say those words because they are true. Sometimes we say these words because they are a fast track to being right, to be taken seriously, to be made comfortable again, to avoid doing the work.

Ancestor work is not comfortable. It is grueling. It is inconvenient. It is sweeping the dust away, it is pulling off the bandaid, it is applying alcohol to a cut. It is excruciating and we must go there, through the tunnel, until we see light. We must go deep, deep down into the dark. Dig up the half-buried bones. Hold a wake. Light the candles. Say the words. Inhale exhale. We do the work.

Ancestor work is being in relationship even when you don’t want to, because you are. Sometimes the best medicine makes us sick first. Purge, discomfort, pain, cleanse, refresh, make sense. Be still. Let it wash over you like a spell, and may each forward step you take light the way for the spirits behind you. The ancestors, the remembered and the forgotten. However painful, my wish is that we can all keep walking until the strength we gain from walking together outweighs the pain we endure with each individual step.

This is the ancestor work.

Magic Musings Ritual

The Silence After Solstice: Old Fears, New Years

Solstice 2015 - Sabrina Scott -

Solstice marks the beginning of winter. We welcome in the fire.

On solstice we sat together – city witches all, if not every day, at least for a song – and into the fire we welcomed release. We sung together: “Forget your perfect offering / There is a crack / A crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”


Fire festivals do not end with solstice; it’s where they start. How else can we keep ourselves warm this winter? We cultivate the fire that makes our souls what they are. Dynamic, passionate, propelled. We move forward. We reach up.

As we sit before the fire this season – flames within our hearts and upon our altars – we can ask: how did I get here? Usually, within the deepest crevices of our souls, I think we know.

Let your body spit it out. Walk into the fire. Let the flames engulf you and make you a new shape, molten. Kick the bullshit out of you for you. This can be a weapon for you to fight those shadows in yourself. Especially the shadows of others that we tuck inside of our folds, that we keep safe because the truth sometimes feels too dangerous, too potent. We keep it, though it is not ours. We steal trouble, because we think it is love. It is not. To internalize another is not love of self; in this act our shadows grow bigger, stronger. Shadows can grow enough that we fall into them; they hold us, rock us like a baby, arms wide and we wallow. We fall into our wounds like a well. What greater victory is there than to climb up and out of the inverted tower? What better time to escape enclosure?

Sometimes fears hold onto us like barnacles.

Sometimes to push away risk is to run in the wrong direction.

Sometimes comfort is the opposite of healing.

Sometimes speaking not-yet-true speech is like silent solitude. It can preserve the mystery of creation. This talk can guard the little seeds we plant, hopeful, against inevitable storms. To know, to will, dare, to keep silent. These are the rules of the witches, if indeed we have any at all.

Sometimes squishing yourself into that new mold of who you want to be and who you know you can be feels like a violence. Sometimes it hurts. But: sometimes safety is our enemy. Sometimes that constraint is a chrysalis. But: sometimes we manifest, through the dark, through hermit-being, through incubation. Go dark.

Sitting with darkness means going into our shadows. It means sitting with our disgust, our hatred, our complete lack of feeling impressed. Our apathy, our disappointment. Our anxieties. Our fears. Now is the time to explore those nasty sides of ourselves. Sit in darkness. Absorb it all, and let it go.

How was the longest night of the year for you? Did you incubate? Did the darkness serve you? Did it gather your shadows with each stride, did it cut them loose to save you from yourself? Or did the shadow shapes stifle and smother you with your own sadness and sorrow? Did you crack the concrete open? Or did you become free from the cave? Did you bathe in embers? Were you engulfed by flame? My dear witch: did you burn?

The hardest thing to do is to come into our own power. This is especially true for survivors of abuse and trauma and pain and loss. As people queer in gender and in sex. I can only speak to my own experience, but: so it is for me. It is hard to recognize that we are amazing. It is hard to realize that we have come so far. It is hard to be excited about having so much further to go. Often, we dwell in our shadows for too long. Or we ignore them. They kill us and yet they come from the space of self-protection, so we don’t have to come to terms with our strength and how easily we have forgotten it.

It is hard to face the fire.

It is hard to let the fire be within you, to notice how it is always already alight there, somewhere.

Let the fire be within you: on these long nights, as the light grows. Let it burn strong or dim, shimmering just beyond our gaze, just past fingertips’ reach as we seek inside.

Find it.

Sometimes to be reborn you have to die.

This is one of the most basic tenets of occultism, and perhaps one of the most misunderstood.

We move through the darkness.

Burn through the night.

Solstice 2015 - Sabrina Scott -

Where did that shadow take you? Where were you then, where are you now? What warmth did you dig up in that dark night forest, what did you find in the dirt, that soil of our souls? Thorough nightly toil, what did you bring forth? What embers did you let into the cracks that are new this time around – cracks you made, and cracks you came to fire to salve, forge shut? What tendrils of flame won’t take no for an answer? What pyre propels you? What hearth can’t you ignore no matter how much you try to banish it from your pores? What shape is your heart? Who is each artery and ventricle? How do they fan your flame, pump you pneumatic with life?

In the night, witch, do you fly?

This is deep work.

Cut deep. Dive.

In some ways I want to force my own hand upon myself. Violent. Force the lines on my parched skin to dry mud-caked in the desert sun. Break it open so heat can cover the cave of my insides, body, soul.

It brings me where I don’t want to go but where I need. I shine the light. I am darkness and crash lightning both; flash of life and pitch dark death right after. I hold them both inside me; they are not opposites but as close as flesh and blood, root and sap, one inside the other, mutualistic sustenance. We sing songs. Ecotone melody of care and chaos, enmeshed in harsh realization.

Sometimes to be reborn you have to die.

How will you die? What parts of you will you cut free? Systematic starvation. Controlled burn.

Holy Death. Ancestors call to us. Devils made and born, without and within and full of a resolute stillness, the kind that you can find at the crossroads at three am on a Monday night. Coins at the crossroads. Dropped white petals, howling. She changes everything she touches. Spit flame daggers, kill the beasts that follow us. So we stop dead, in our tracks, finally: our own tracks. It took us one hot minute to get here.

The silence after solstice. The hum of a new year. We set our intentions, we burn that effigy – our sins, our demons, our chains – and then what? Are we instantly saved, rejuvenated, healed? Is all we need to change our lives just throwing caution to the wind and some paper into the fire? That’s when it starts. We work. We speak our truths, present and future; hope is a little match burning bright, struck gold by sheer force of will. So we have the seeds, they’re planted just below the soil surface, somber, burnt umber. Underground. Work to do. Dig deep.

The horned one balances a never-ending candle flame. Third eye lights the way. Reminders of intentions. We, too, must grow horns, notice thorns already circling our crown. We see goat Capricorn, sea-goat, now: ruled by Saturn death-god, time-keeper. As the moon wanes to shroud us with more silence, dark again. Questions bubble up in the witches’ brew. Cauldron burns, cooks. Where is our intention? Can we speak it or are we afraid?

We can calm the tides. Cultivate connective tissue. Pacify ourselves in the tempest of our own fears. Burdens weigh less when shared. But it can be hard to share, to make that leap, to trust that when we jump across the chasm of vulnerability despite how fearful we are, that we will be caught, embraced in our brokenness, little glass shards loved and cherished.

The thing about jumping, though – over the chasm – is that you also jump over a fire. So much fire this season, all burning. Waiting to be found, kindled. More fire. Are you afraid to jump? Do you trust your own muscles and tendons? Do you trust your own skin and your bones? Do you trust in your own faith? Or: do you meet this opportunity to embrace change, challenge, contingency – with hesitancy in your heart, for no other reason than that you are afraid of yourself, new flesh, formed by flame?

I want to teach my body new tricks, trust myself to learn new ways of being, to expand, explore, to hold myself up, to move into the mystery. I want to be uncomfortable in my own skin. Fast and sudden. I use the sickle; it is the season. Blade sharp, it cuts. Release into fire, steel-shaped. Part sorcery part serendipity, I create molten molds. I leave space for the mystery, and manifest. Always changing, shifting behind the scenes. This is my magic. What is yours? What do you welcome?

Home is you. Union is yourself. Moon lessons, in the silence after solstice. To breathe with a whole body is not choice but a compulsion. Inhale, in, out, unfurl spirit. Otherwise we dance with spectres, bashful and bleak. Otherwise we shimmy to rhythms learned and memorized, not felt. Sometimes it rushes forth a little unwound sigh. Sometimes an eruption. Cherish the eruptions. Notice the baby steps. Honour them.

Forge your own path and you will never lose your way.

Witches, we walk into the fire. Witches, all: tell me about all the ways you burn. How your flesh curdles, your bones char. City witches, all, at least for a song.

Last night, I sung, alone: “Echo, echo Aradia / Echo, echo Hecate and Freya / We’ll teach our children / Year after year / To love with their hearts / And live without fear.”

I think back on solstice intentions. Were they the right ones? What to do now with this silence after solstice, what to do with these minutes, days, hours before the new year is born, old gone, dead. Water cools down, hardens, makes shapes solid. The intuition of flowing water stills what molten fire forges so it is stable and firm. Nothing hardens without being honed by such spirit. Water is our wholly dead showering us with a sometimes subtle often sudden reminder of who we are. Killed, dead, rotting in flame.

Sometimes to be reborn you have to die.

New year comes.

Welcome in the light.

Tend to the fire.

Forge your own path.

You will never lose your way.

Solstice 2015 - Sabrina Scott -

Magic Musings Ritual

Halloween Magic: Little Rituals, Love, and the Holy Dead

Halloween 2015 - Sabrina Scott

Sometimes doing magic looks like caring for someone you love.

I am one of those people who likes to honour holy days with quietness: silence and solitude are some of my nearest and dearest friends. Sometimes my desire for reflection, of taking the time to notice the astrological and energetic tides waxing and waning with luminary bodies fills my bones with a yearning I can’t describe. And still: someone I love needs something, needs me. Needs time. Mundane and simple, banal and basic. It’s easy to say no. But: it is also some real magic to abandon my altar and magical books and gemstones for the night. To snuff out my candles. Sometimes, when I ignore my altar and the trappings of perfect astrological timing – when I follow the mercurial currents of life – I am choosing a different, less obvious magic. I am choosing a more subtle witchcraft.

These are the things that fill my thoughts. How do we remain true to practice, to our hearts? How to prevent the fossilization of angels within our witchcraft and within our waking and walking, our wandering and wondering? I notice find tradition. Ritual, repeated. A tradition not because the paths are are old and oft-trod but because they speak and I listen. I hear with my heart.


For the second year in a row, I spent the first few hours of October 31st in the tattoo studio of an artist, occultist, and human I deeply respect, getting little occult-themed tattoos in red and black ink for a Devil’s night special of $66.60. I find such comfort in this, in staying up until 4am once a year, in mirth and also in reverence.


Altar cleared; re-built. Candles lit. Herbs, oils, brews; anointed objects whispers spoken, drifting in between here and there and life and death and: listening. Giving food to my protectors, those who nourish. Those ancestors I feel, room warm and tingly. Cats silent and still; they look with their whiskers and they too know the presence of the dead. Sometimes, it seems they feel it before I do.

I listen to the dead. I make space for them. I write. I see my own heart and feel my soul. I let my body become overtaken, I say words I channel I write without knowing what I will read later. I make space for them.

It’s that time of year.

At the time of this writing, just barely between the last two harvests of the season. Blood harvest. I’m not sure why it took me so long to realize that my most holy time of year – Samhain, Halloween, All Hallows, All Saints – occurs while the sun is in Scorpio. No wonder this energy is so violent, transformative: full of kind wrath and death and decay and change; no wonder our collective insides are ripped out every year right around now so we can remove the rot. If we know how to be we are reborn fresh and carry less upon our shoulders and balanced upon our heads. We cut some flesh from our souls so we can walk a few pounds lighter, back straighter, steps more confident but still whispers in the dark. We ride the current.

Waves crest; peak.

Scythes and sickles hearken to harvest. We love the flesh and blood and the dearly departed; companions with breath and without. We reap. We sow. We give thanks.

No wonder this is when we feel most strongly pushed to honour our dead, to thank our ancestors for their guidance and presence and remind them that we are still here. We place water on our altars and anoint our necks and foreheads and we ask them to speak. We strain our skin to see. We squeeze our eyes shut to feel.

After I sleep and wake and the sun sets again, I walk amongst the pumpkins, carved candles burning bright. I collect orange leaves and red ones and green.

We limn the liminal. We fill our homes with flame so the spirits can find their way, feast upon ghost corn of pomegranate, pepper, clementine. Ghost feast, share secrets. Listen: feel gratitude. Listen: flow, don’t fight. You have everything you need.

Happy harvest and holy days, witchy friends.

May your spirit be peaceful and your dead be talkative.