The magic of hearth and home

As the nights draw in, and the air grows chill, creatures are preparing for the winter; gathering food, building their nests and dens, settling in for hibernation.

While the demands of work in our hectic modern capitalist treadmill of a society don’t afford us humans the ability to rest over the winter, the dark evenings tend naturally to mean spending less time outdoors and more time at home.

For a Pagan, this may lead to a sense of disconnection from the natural, living world. It’s so important throughout the dark half of the year to still get outside as much as possible, even if it’s just a walk to the local park on your lunch break. And if you haven’t been for a walk in the woods in the dark, I recommend it (as long as you feel safe doing so, of course). Even familiar places can feel different under moonlight, charged with an eerie energy that turns everyday paths into faery trails, open fields into shimmering dreamlands.

But, even with these efforts, home is where the majority of us will spend the majority of our free time over the winter. And that’s no bad thing, for home can be a magical place too.

For many Pagans, their home is in a very real way a sacred place. Here is where we have our home shrines and altars, where we do regular devotions, meditations and rituals. My own home shrine is in the living room, right at the heart of the house, and even when I’m not using it for any particular purpose, I see it frequently and it reminds me of my Pagan path, a tangible connection to my practice. The shrine becomes a visual representation of my Druidry, and doubles as a nature table, with leaves, twigs, stones, acorns and the like that I gather from walks.

Beyond this, though, the whole home can be a magical space. I am grateful to have a home, solid walls and a roof over my head, especially at this time of year. Many do not, so we should never take our homes for granted, no matter how small and humble they may be.

My partner and I rent, so there are limits on what we can do with our home, but we have still managed, over the years, to fill it with beautiful things that make us smile: witchy artworks, framed posters from concerts we attended, loads of houseplants, cool Pagan decor (skulls are not just for Hallowe’en in this house!), and a whole wall of books [and until recently, our home was shared with animals- and no doubt will be again]. It’s a space set up to be cozy, welcoming, a sanctuary from the stress and strain of the outside world.

At the heart of the home in ancient times was the hearth, the fireplace that served as warmth, lighting, and cooking. I suppose the modern equivalent for those of us without a real fireplace is the stove. The kitchen is not just a functional room, it really is the beating heart of the home. I’ve been getting into kitchen witchcraft lately, finding ways to weave small magical intentions into cooking – adding herbs to stews and curries for particular intents, blessing salt before using it in a meal, lighting a small candle by the cooker to honour the spirits of hearth and home, making tea as a meditation.

I love cooking, and for me it really acts as my creative outlet. There’s a real magic in taking basic ingredients and combining them to be something more. It’s a transformative, creative, alchemical act.

There is so much you can do in the kitchen to bring some magic into the day, rather than simply grabbing a quick bite on the go from one chore to another. Taking the time to pause and connect with your food, where it comes from, how it grew, the powers of land and sea and sky and human effort that ultimately brought it to you here and now. I think that many people don’t think about their food enough; unaware of the environmental impact or ethical choices in what they eat. My Druid teacher, Joanna van der Hoeven, talks about Druidry as being about awareness, and making decisions every day to live in accordance with love of nature. Awareness of our food is such a big part of this, and is why I have chosen to be vegetarian, for instance.

Other ways I’ve worked to make the home a magical space include regularly blessing and warding every room, and every door and window, either by smoke cleansing or blessing with salt and water. I tend to do this around the full moon, regularly “topping up” that positive and protective energy. Taking inspiration from Deborah Blake, whose brilliant Everyday Witchcraft is full of simple ways to incorporate magic into daily life, I have various 2-minute rituals I like to do, such as having a bowl of water by the door which I use to “wash away” the stresses of the day when I get home from work.

Our home, whether house or flat, owned or rented, permanent or short-term, is more than just a box to sleep in. With some thought and a lot of trial and error, our homes can be our own personal sanctuaries, a place to return to and recharge, no matter what storms may rage outside the front door. In times of great turmoil, we need these places that we can retreat to, not to hide from the world or pretend that awful things aren’t happening, but to rest, to regain our strength, to simply *be*, without expectations. Paganism is about nature, and wilderness, and adventure, but it is also about those simple, quiet actions that take place at the hearth and home.

May you and your homes be blessed.

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