IT’S SPOOPY SEASON, WITCHLINGS! Which is to say besides all the costumes, candy, and horror movies, it is also nearly Samhain. It’s the Witchy New Year! And it’s also the time of year when the dead are said to be closest to the living world. (I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Day of the Dead being in this season as well, but since that is not my background I am not qualified to do a deep dive. If there are folks here who celebrate it, though, I’d love to hear how you incorporate your witchiness into this season in the comments!)
In the interest of full disclosure: this is my first year really trying to mindfully acknowledge the sabbats of witchcraft. In previous years, I’ve felt too overwhelmed by the idea of putting together huge rituals to honor the days, so I’ve just let them pass by unnoticed. That’s why this year I’m working to invent spoonie-friendly ways to celebrate each sabbat, and sharing them with y’all as I go. I’m sure I’ll refine and adjust these methods of celebration over time–this can be a learning experience that we share!
The most obvious elements of Samhain are connections with the dead, and I could fill many, many posts with ideas for how to honor ancestors and the departed. (I probably will fill a few posts with that.) But there’s another aspect of Samhain that I first considered thanks to one of my favorite witchy texts, Rebel Witch: Create the Craft that’s Yours Alone by Kelly-Ann Maddox. Samhain can be a time to sit with, confront, and/or diffuse our fears.
Fear (or at least its cousin anxiety) is honestly a part of disabled and neurodivergent (ND) life that we take for granted. We have to think, rethink, and overthink many parts of our daily lives that able-bodied, neurotypical folks just…don’t. At least not on the same scale. Will I be able to order tickets for this show soon enough that I get dibs on one of the handful of wheelchair-accessible spaces in the audience? Will the cashier be offended that I’m not making eye contact while I order my latte? Will I feel up for my favorite cousin’s bachelorette party? So many activities, especially those that take place in public or with strangers, become a calculus problem. Will my needs be met? Will I be shamed for even having those needs? And on and on.
So for this Samhain, I’m offering three low-spoon activities to help combat the fear we face and the ableism we have to worry about. The first is sigil magic to protect from those nagging thoughts, the internalized ableism that makes us question if we deserve accommodations and flexibility. The second is a quick spell to enchant an object that you associate with your disability or neurodivergence, to help ward you against ableism in your immediate vicinity (from family members, coworkers, that kind of thing). And the final activity is a modified meditation to send crip love and mad joy into the world, a medicine against ableism at the societal level.
Let’s dive in, shall we?
WARD AGAINST INTERNALIZED ABLEISM
The first ableist we have to muffle is the one in our own heads, right? I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met in my fibromyalgia community who want to get a cane, rollator, walker, or wheelchair, but worry that they don’t need it enough, that they’re overexaggerating, that they probably just need to exercise more or push themselves harder, etc. etc. etc. It took me AGES to talk myself into getting a cane, and then ages longer to get a rollator for more standing-intensive activities. (And I still have to talk myself into taking the rollator, EVERY TIME!) I have ND friends who have waited for years to seek diagnosis (not that diagnosis is the right call for everyone, to be clear) or medication or any sort of support because they don’t feel ND enough.
Asking for what you need can be hard enough for an abled, neurotypical person. When you have access needs, you have to ask over. And over. And OVER. And it can start to feel like you’re asking for too much. Or that maybe you aren’t worth all this effort.
But you are. You deserve ease and accessibility and the ability to participate without feeling like you’re Extra Effort to Deal With. So that’s what this sigil signifies: that you are worth accommodating. Whatever accommodations you need, you deserve them. Whatever help you require, you are worthy of it. Ten times over.
I am worth accommodating.
You can draw this sigil on yourself somewhere using washable ink. If you’re self-conscious, put it someplace easily hideable, like your shoulder or ankle.
Alternatively, put it somewhere in your space you see frequently so it can serve as a reminder. I’m especially partial to drawing sigils on my bathroom mirror with dry erase markers. Get creative! Hang it inside your closet so you’ll see it when you get dressed in the morning. Put it under your keyboard at work and peek at it when you need fortification. And of course, feel free to modify it if you find you want to add/subtract/adjust the design so it vibes better for you–or even create your own sigil from scratch! Here’s a video with several examples of how to design sigils for yourself.
WARD AGAINST NEARBY ABLEISM
Maybe you have a parent who scoffs when you struggle to get out of bed. Maybe you have an aunt who stolidly refuses to learn ASL to communicate with you. Maybe your workplace penalizes you when you need to take extra sick days for flareups. Ableism can take so many forms in our day-to-day lives, it’s impossible to prepare for every situation in which it might rear its ugly head. But what we can do is enchant something we use for self-care to repel some of that ableist energy, or at least to cleanse it more quickly and painlessly when we’re exposed to it.
Think of an object that you associate with your disability or neurodivergence, something that you use to make your life a bit easier, mitigate a symptom, or tend to your needs. This could be a mobility aid, a fidget toy, a self-soothing item like a weighted blanket, or even something like a favorite fuzzy sweater that makes you feel cozy and comfortable. The only stipulation I’d make is to avoid choosing something that you’ll use up, like a lotion or a food item. While you absolutely can repeat this spell anytime you want to recharge it, you don’t want to have to repeat the spell every time you need a new bottle of lotion.
Besides the object itself, here are a few other things you may want to gather:
- Something to take notes with, e.g. a notebook and pen or a computer/tablet/phone
- If you want to add music to the spell, something to play music with and any speakers or headphones that might be necessary
- To add extra oomph, you can gather a few other objects that you use for self-care or accommodations
To begin, create sacred space in whatever way feels good and achievable for you today. Some options include: put on a playlist that makes you feel spiritual or empowered, meditate for a minute or two, move around the perimeter of your work area, call on a deity or spirit to partner with you as you work, or just say something to the effect of, “This space holds my intention.”
Lay out the objects that you gathered, with the object you plan to enchant at the center (either in front of you on the ground/table, or in your lap).
Now, using the writing implements (or just in your own mind, if you have a better memory than I do), you’re going to create a mantra or affirmation to infuse your object with. This should be something you’d like to tell the people in your life who are likely to be ableist, or something that could reassure you after an ableist encounter. Here are a few possibilities you could use as is or as inspiration:
- “My access needs are not a burden.”
- “I am worthy as I am.”
- “You don’t know my bodymind; you can’t tell me what I’m feeling.”
- “Love means honoring my accommodations.”
Once you’re happy with your mantra, pick up the object or place your hands on it, and begin to imagine your object as something extra powerful. A cane could become a sword or staff. A fidget toy could become a high-tech gadget from your favorite sci-fi movie. A blanket or article of clothing could become a magic-boosting cloak. You get the picture! If you’re able to visualize, all the better, but it works just as well if you simply think about what you’d transform your object into–no visual component required.
After a moment or two of holding your object’s more powerful persona in mind, begin to repeat the mantra you created. You could say it to yourself, speak it aloud, sign it, write it down over and over–whatever works best for you. And as you repeat, imagine the extra-powerful version of your object sinking into the item’s surface, infusing it with magic and intention. Keep repeating and imagining as long as you need to feel that the enchantment has taken root. I find that at least ten repetitions is a good baseline, but definitely take your cues from your intuition here!
Once you’re satisfied, release your sacred space however you please–turn off any music, thank any deities or spirits you invoked for their presence, say “so may it be,” etc. If it feels appropriate, you can also thank your object for its ongoing service. And viola, you now have an object that will help protect you against any ableism in your immediate surroundings, or that will help you heal and fortify yourself afterwards!
DIFFUSE SOCIETAL ABLEISM
At the Unitarian Universalist church I frequent, there’s a moment in every service where we are asked to put our hands over our hearts and say to ourselves, “I will love myself. I will love others. And that love can help heal the world.” It always puts me in mind of tonglen meditation, a form of Tibetan Buddhist meditation in which you breathe in the darkness, pain, and sadness from the world, and you breathe out light, comfort, and ease. In many variations, you begin by doing this for your own pain and sadness, and then you continue to expand your focus outward, from loved ones to strangers to enemies to even the entire world. Or sometimes you simply keep one particular person who’s struggling in mind (not unlike prayer, actually).
This meditation is heavily inspired by tonglen, but you’re going to specifically target the ableism that pervades the world we live in.
Get yourself into a comfortable position, and if it helps you focus, close your eyes. I like to put my hands over my heart, but it’s absolutely not necessary. If you can, place your focus on your breath as it moves in and out of your body. If focusing on breathing is uncomfortable or not possible for you, you could put on some soothing instrumental music and place your focus there, or even hold a fidget or something else small and focus on that.
Begin to imagine the ways that ableism manifests in the world around you. Prohibitively expensive healthcare, for example. Dismissive doctors who label you ask drug-seeking when you’re just asking for help managing the intense pain. Airplanes constantly breaking or losing passengers’ wheelchairs. Etc. What are some ways that you’ve encountered societal ableism? Imagine them as vividly as you can. Imagine how it felt/would feel. Draw in all that negativity, all that bigotry, all that unkindness. (You can match this to an in-breath, if that works for you. If not, just imagine pulling it in for about 10 seconds or so.) Then, send out positivity, understanding, and kindness towards disabled/ND folks. (Again, this can be on an out breath, or for a count of about 10.)
Continue this rhythmic cycle for awhile–drawing in the harm and pain of ableism, sending out understanding and love. Once you feel ready to finish, do something to signify that you’re releasing all the bad energy you took on board. I like to shake out my hands as if I’m flicking off all the energy buildup, but you could say aloud, “I release this energy; it can no longer harm anyone,” or do a stretch or a bow, etc. This meditation is of course (unfortunately) not going to stop ableism in its tracks. But it does arm you with a small activity for when the world feels too fundamentally unfair to abled/neurotypical folks.
There are, of course, many other aspects to Samhain that you could adapt to work for your body and brain. I offer these three activities as a starting place–small, bite-size, and attainable. How do you celebrate Samhain? Do you have ways of adjusting your celebrations to be more spoonie-friendly? What challenges have you encountered? I’d love to hear in the comments!