Published on 1 December 2019 in the Philippine STAR.
I think it began when I decided to clean my room.
I’m a firm believer that the state of your living space is a reflection of your internal and mental state, and mine, after the tumultuous and messy ending of a ‘situationship’ that had gone on for far too long and hurt far too much, had become just as tumultuous and messy as I was inside. I felt an intense urge to clean, which I did, bit by bit. It felt therapeutic, as though by getting my things back in order, I was getting myself back in order, too.
But when I finished cleaning and everything was once again in its right place, something still felt wrong. I felt like I needed to do more. Like cleaning wasn’t enough, like I wanted to burn the recent past away somehow. I wanted to watch it go up in smoke, and then blow away the ashes. And only then would I be able to start over, start fresh.
I don’t consider myself particularly superstitious (says the girl who reads the Tarot, has at least five astrology apps, and blames everything on Mercury Retrograde) but when several friends suggested smudging my space with white sage and palo santo, I might have raised an eyebrow for a few seconds. And then I remembered how much I believe in the power of ritual, and decided to give it a chance.
Smudging is a ceremony that is meant to cleanse a space or a person of negative energy with the smoke of sacred herbs. It’s derived from Native American tradition, though many cultures have used smoke in rituals for similar purposes. Essentially, what was being suggested (by a surprisingly large number of people I knew!) was that I smoke all the bad feelings out of myself, out of my room, and out of my life. It was a little woo-woo (my new favorite word these days), but it was also exactly what I was looking for: a ritual exorcism of sorts.
Friends started jumping in to point me in the right direction. “Sage clears all energies, good and bad,” explained one in the US. “And palo santo drives out the negative and brings in the good,” chimed in another in France. Later in the week, yet another friend sent me a white sage bundle and a stick of palo santo to burn, with a mother-of-pearl shell for the ashes. (All four elements are represented in smudging: earth, in the herbs; fire, in the flame used to light the herbs; water, in the shell used to catch the ash; and air, in the smoke.)
I cracked open a window, giddily lit a candle, then set my sage bundle alight, letting the sweet-smelling smoke waft around myself, then from my doorway, all through my room, then out the doorway again. I repeated the process with the even better smelling stick of fragrant palo santo. And I really can’t tell you if I believe that doing that changed anything physically. Some people on the Internet claim that sage clears airborne bacteria and releases negative ions. I don’t know how true that is; I certainly don’t think I made enough smoke to burn out all the germs in the air. But I know that doing the ritual did something for me, emotionally.
I had already cleaned my space physically. And now, I felt like I had done something that cleaned it energetically. It was a symbolic clearing of the slate. Maybe there is no science behind it, but there were intentions, and my intentions made it real to me. That was what mattered: I wanted that lingering sadness gone. I wanted my resentment gone. I wanted a blank page upon which to write new hopes and good intentions.
If blowing fragrant smoke around a space can help shift one’s mindset for the better and burn out negativity, if it can make someone feel a little more new, then it can only be a good thing. I burn palo santo every night now, to remind myself to let go of anything bad that might have happened during the day, and to remind myself to stay open to any and all goodness still to come. To stay positive, to stay hopeful. It’s a lovely thing to do before going to sleep.
Along with the bundle of sage and stick of palo santo came more gifts from well-meaning, thoughtful friends: crystals, with good intentions programmed into each one.
Crystals are another level of woo-woo entirely, and for years, I watched (with no small amount of incredulity) as people I considered much smarter, much wiser, and much worldlier than me seemed to become possessed by an obsession with crystals and their vibrations.
Certain stones are meant to have certain functions, or promote particular kinds of wellness. Beyond their beauty, each stone is supposed to vibrate at a unique frequency that powers a purpose. To be honest, I don’t understand how meditating with one crystal can be different from meditating with another crystal, except perhaps that it helps you direct your focus towards a specific intention. It’s all a little lost on me.
And yet despite any doubts I might have had, I felt so comforted by the clear and obvious love and positivity behind the crystalline gifts.
When an artist and jeweler friend sent a black onyx necklace she made herself, ostensibly to protect me from bad people and bad intentions, I felt warmth, I felt safe in the knowledge that there was at least one other person looking out for me.
When the same friend who sent me the beautiful smudging kit also sent me a carefully curated selection of stones (all from Trefoil.ph) — citrine for abundance; blue lace agate for protection; blue apatite to enhance communication; Kiwi jasper for emotional strength; howlite for calmness; chrysocolla for empowerment; and aquamarine for the courage to speak truth — I felt seen. We weren’t close, but here was a person who clearly understood me and knew what I valued, knew what I’d been going through, and knew what I needed, and wanted all those things for me, too.
I feel like the love and good intentions behind the crystals were more powerful than any vibration.
And really, the mind is the most powerful thing of all.
You see, I don’t know how the obelisk-shaped black obsidian on my bedside table is meant to protect me, unless I use its very pointy end to stab any would-be assailants. I think I may be a little too rational for that. But I believe in the power of the mind. I believe in the placebo effect. And I believe in our ability to make things manifest just by willing them into existence.
I think that if you focus your energy and intentions on something you really want, there won’t be room in your life for anything less. You’ll never settle.
So I harness the power of crystals in my own way — by using them as a reminder of the things I want, by using them to focus my intentions. I had a necklace custom-made by local silversmith Elementari, incorporating five stones that represent what I want and need for myself. (I wanted to wear the crystals in a way that integrated with my personal style — stacks of bead bracelets just aren’t me. Elementari’s hammered metal and fractured gems are right up my alley, singular and beautiful in their imperfection.)
Black tourmaline is meant to protect against bad people and bad intentions, and is supposed to transform negative energy into positive energy that you can harness. I use it to remind myself to set boundaries and keep them — any negative energy that lingers around me is only there because I allow it to remain, and the power to dispel it lies with me.
Amethyst is a healing stone that strengthens intuition and helps you recover from addictions — addictive relationships included. I wear it to remind myself to trust in my intuition, to never doubt my gut feelings, because they’ve always turned out right in the end. I wear it to remind myself of all the bad situations I found myself in when I didn’t trust in my intuition; to listen to myself now so that I can finally break the cycle.
Clear quartz is supposed to amplify energies and magnify intentions. And as the name implies, it is meant to provide clarity. For me, it serves as a reminder of my intentions. It’s a reminder to focus on my goals and the things that I want, and to always make decisions that are aligned with those goals. The path forward is clear, I just need to follow it.
Bright and luminous selenite is for purification and peace. People who are serious about their crystals use selenite plates to recharge their stones’ energies. (I actually personally have a selenite plate that I keep my favorite Tarot deck on, but that’s a story for another time.) I use it to remind myself that what I want is a life full of light. That, when times were dark, good things always broke through to show me how much light there still was — and is — in the world. It’s a reminder to myself to stay hopeful and pure of heart, to not allow myself to become jaded and closed off by hurt.
And rose quartz is the stone of unconditional love. I wear it, not only to remind myself of the kind of love I want to attract (because I keep forgetting, or compromising and letting the wrong people in, which never fails to end in heartbreak), but to remind myself that the most important love is the love I have for myself. I wear it as a symbol of self-acceptance. If I love myself, I will never allow anyone to continue to disrespect me or treat me badly, to love me less than I deserve. So I wear it to remind myself to love and be loving, towards others, yes, but most of all, towards myself. It’s something I always seem to forget. I hope I won’t forget anymore, to give as much to myself as I give to others.
I have always worn my heart on my sleeve. Now, I’m going to wear my hopes and my intentions around my neck.
I still don’t consider myself a Woo-woo Tita. But there is so much value in these things, these symbols and rituals, if you go beyond the mystical and reinvent them in ways that are good for you. True meaning is what you make of it. And all the power is always within you; you just need to seize it for yourself.