During a therapy session not long after my dad died, my therapist asked what kinds of things I was doing to take care of myself while grieving. I mentioned that listening to music helped a lot, though I wasn’t sure why. She looked at me like I’d grown a second head and said, “Because it’s music!”
One of the things I love about music as magic (though, really this is true for any art form) is how incredibly personal it is. If you and a significant other have a song that is “your song,” you’ll feel warm and fuzzy anytime you hear it. It doesn’t matter if it’s Beethoven or Lin-Manuel Miranda or Chance the Rapper. It’s yours. Same goes for a song that you associate with a loved one’s funeral; it will likely always feel bittersweet to listen to.
With all that said, playlists can be curated for a specific type of magic or a particular energy you want to cultivate! You may already do this on some level–do you have a playlist you throw on when you’re getting ready in the morning, for example? Or one that you use during workouts? Both are a form of musical intention-setting. By pulling together the perfect combination of songs and deploying them in a specific moment, you’re summoning that energy and focusing on it.
The beautiful thing about creating magical playlists is that there’s no right or wrong. You could create a playlist with hundreds of songs, or only a handful. You could stick to a specific genre or artist, or you could go eclectic and add whatever songs Feel Right. The only guideline is to start out with an intention/energy in mind, and to choose songs that fit that intention/energy FOR YOU. Don’t worry about whether someone else would think of “Call Me Maybe” as a motivational song–if it is motivational for you, it belongs on your playlist.
Since this isn’t an activity that I can provide tons of guidance on (it’s too personal and there’s too many variables!) I wanted to at least give you a few examples of my witchy playlists and how I use them. Let’s begin!
I’ve talked about it on this blog before, but I have a lot of trouble connecting with my body. It hurts all the time, it often doesn’t cooperate with my plans and aspirations, and I’ve had so many doctors dismiss my symptoms that my default has become “ignore my body’s signals” most of the time. This can be helpful in very short bursts, but as a long-term coping mechanism, it isn’t particularly healthy. So in the last year or two, I’ve been working on mindfully connecting with my body as much as I can–checking in with it, noticing sensations and physical signs of intuitive hits, and even doing the occasional tarot spread to give my body a direct voice.
Recently though, inspired by Sleeping at Last’s song “Body,” I decided to create a playlist to help facilitate this connection. It’s very small–currently it only has six songs because I just started building it this month. As I come across more songs that fit, I’ll add them. But here’s a quick rundown of the songs on the playlist as it stands now.
- “Body” by Sleeping at Last. The song that started the whole playlist. I can’t express how much this song reminds me to have care and patience for my flesh suit. “There’s magic in our bones, a north star in our soul that remembers our way home.” Beautiful.
- “Bones” by Imagine Dragons. I associate Imagine Dragons with chronic pain anyway because the lead singer has been open about having ankylosing spondylitis. I mostly added “Bones” to this playlist because it has such synergy with Sleeping at Last’s “Body.” Especially the line: “I got this feeling, yeah, you know where I’m losing all control ‘cause there’s magic in my bones.” Yes, I do need multiple reminders that there is, in fact, magic in my bones.
- “Don’t Carry it All” by the Decemberists. From both a physical and emotional standpoint, “Don’t Carry it All” tells me to ask for help and lean on my loved ones when needed. Just look at the chorus: “Let the yoke fall from our shoulders. Don’t carry it all, don’t carry it all. We are all our hands in holders beneath this bold and brilliant sun.” Just the instrumental backing of this song lifts my spirits, too. It’s like something that might play during a movie montage of the protagonists working together to build something important to the plot.
- “This Too Shall Pass” by OK Go. From the title alone you should be able to guess what this song does for me. It helps me keep in mind that nothing is forever. The worst flareups will ease eventually. The deepest grief will soften with time. “No, you can’t keep letting it get you down and you can’t keep dragging dead weight around.” Indeed.
- “Hymn” by Kesha. There’s something simultaneously spiritual and down-to-earth about “Hymn,” which means it’s right up my alley. I blasted it many a time after my dad’s death. “I know that I’m perfect even though I’m fucked up” was–and is–so helpful to hear. My body and my heart both have bruises and scars. But they’re both doing their best, which is the important part.
- “Believer” by Imagine Dragons. This song is explicitly about lead singer Dan Reynolds’ relationship with his chronic pain. It doesn’t downplay the difficulty of managing chronic pain, but it also acknowledges how you can learn and grow from it: “You break me down and build me up, believer, believer…My life, my love, my drive, it came from pain.”
I listen to this playlist when I’m feeling particularly dissociative, or when I’m just coming off a bad flareup and need to reconnect with my body. The order of songs may change, and I’ll likely add a few as I go. But even with just these six songs, it gets the job done!
If you have a relationship with a deity, I highly recommend making a playlist in their honor! It can serve as an offering to them, a sort of digital altar in their name. And it’s so versatile. You can use it as background music when you’re doing any sort of work with your deity, to be sure. But you can also play it when you’re not in a good place to do involved spells, rituals, or offerings. Just listening to a few songs from your playlist while focusing on your deity can be a powerful means of connection.
My Hestia playlist is longer than my Body playlist, so I won’t go through every song in as much detail. If you check it out, you’ll notice a few repeat songs that serve both purposes for me. But most of the songs don’t appear on both playlists. Some numbers may be immediately recognizable as Hestia-related; “Come and Be Welcome” by Heather Dale perfectly encapsulates Hestia’s warm, hospitable energy, in my opinion. But some are very personal to my relationship with her. For example, “We Know the Way” from Disney’s Moana was a song that (for whatever reason) comforted me greatly after my dad died, so it gets a spot here.
This is more of an abstract one, so bear with me. In my tarot practice, the card that often comes up as my significator card (the one that represents me in a reading) is the Sun. I’ve felt connected to the sun and solar magic for years now. So to celebrate and invoke the sun’s energy, I created a playlist titled “Sunshine.” The only rule? Every song had to have something to do with the sun, light, or stars. Most of them include one of these words or ideas in the title. Scroll through and you’ll see songs like “Sunflower” by Post Malone and “Here Comes the Sun” by the Beatles. There are also a few songs that stretch the definition a bit, like “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” from Oklahoma the Musical. But it evokes sunshine and the joy of a new morning, so for me, it counts.
Whew, that was a lot! But hopefully this has demonstrated what broadly useful tools playlists can be. You could curate a playlist for just about anything! What about a playlist to help you create sacred space before a spell or ritual? A playlist to connect you to a long-distance member of your coven? Even a playlist to help you wind down before bed can have a magical intention overlaid onto it.
I’d love to know what kinds of witchy playlists you’ve made or hope to make! Sound off in the comments. And consider subscribing to the blog in the box at the bottom right of this page so you don’t miss an update!