At night, Dionne Deschenne kneels beside her bed on a meditation bench to begin the blessing of her family’s Louisville, Colo., home.
She lights candles and burns sage. She sounds chimes. Occasionally, she grabs her crystal-tipped wand to “direct energy into a room that’s feeling stagnant.”
Deschenne, a pagan “wild witch,” regularly employs natural magick — spelled with a ‘k’ to differentiate from David Copperfield-style tricks and illusions — to fill her home with positive, creative energy.
Her home is awash in houseplants, tiny fairies hang from the ceiling in most rooms, and dried flowers, candles and symbolic items make up altars in the home office and master bedroom.
The blessing ritual is among a host of practices used by nature worshippers in their gardens and homes to harness and direct energy to enhance their lives.
Similar to feng shui, the pagan approach to homemaking is very intentional. For instance, hanging swags of dried flowers and herbs can help ward away intruders and negativity.
Using amaranth in a swag brings protection; larkspur invites friends; lavender dispels bad luck. Colors in everything from wall paint to throw pillows cast their own spells: Yellow yields creativity, ivory evokes coziness and orange energizes.
“Where do you think the Christmas tree came from? Not Martin Luther,” says Ellen Dugan, author of “Cottage Witchery: Natural Magick for Hearth and Home” (Llewellyn), published in March. “It was an act of magick to bring green trees into homes during dark, winter times. The green branches reminded people that there was still life in the earth somewhere.”
Dugan, who lives in St. Charles, Mo., with her husband and youngest child, dispels Hollywood-instilled stereotypes of witches. She recognizes that witches live in ranch homes in the suburbs, rambling farm houses, urban lofts and basic apartments.
A master gardener, she’s written six books on witchcraft — largely dealing with themes in the home and garden — and has a seventh due out next year.
What sets witches’ homes apart, she says, is the “feeling that resonates within you as you walk up to the front door.””Witches, natural magicians and other magick users typically make their homes into sacred and protected places for themselves and for their family and pets,” she writes.
Few people in Dugan’s community knew she was Wiccan until the St. Louis Post-Dispatch published a story about her late last year.
“People would look at me blankly and ask, ‘Are you a witch?’ Then they’d blink and go, ‘So you were a witch when you were my son’s den mother (and when) you were my daughter’s Girl Scout leader? But you’re normal,” she says. “We are normal. … We don’t fly on brooms.”
Wicca, she says, is an Earth religion steeped in the four elements. “There’s energy and vibration in all living things,” Dugan says. “Some things work in harmony.”
She says it’s akin to making chocolate chip cookies. If you throw in extra vanilla extract and walnuts, you get deluxe cookies, but if you throw in carrots, they taste weird. “With magick it’s the same thing — you work with things that are complimentary toward each other, you get a much better product,” she says.
Louisville’s Deschenne, 36, who organizes the 90-member Boulder Witches Meetup Group, says the practice of pagan magick is alive and well throughout the Denver region. Between 30 and 40 people regularly participate in the group’s gatherings, which typically center around a potluck, dancing and different rituals.
“Most of us are curious about alternative spiritual practices,” says Deschenne, a healer who does reflexology and Jin Shin Jyutsu. She got involved in the group in October, after moving back to the U.S. from New Zealand with her partner and three children, ages 11, 5 and 2.
Just as she is vegan, Deschenne says, paganism is another way to love and respect the Earth.
It’s a way of “making our lives more enjoyable,” she says, and directing intentions and energy “from a place of consciousness and choice.”
“Many religions see themselves as being different from nature, but it’s a part of us. There’s no separation,” says Soltahr, a therapist and Naropa University faculty member, who changed her name from Gail Sanford. (She plans to legally add the last name Tiv-Amanda to respect her African American heritage (as Tiv is the name a west African tribe that survived when slavery swept the region, and Amanda is the name of a great-great grandmother, who was both African and Cherokee.)
A practicing pagan for more than 20 years, and the mother of twin 15-year-old daughters, Soltahr uses natural magick throughout her Louisville home and garden. Over the front door hangs a pentagram and knotwork, which act as protective shields. In what she calls her magickal room, are images of the Green Man, who represents the male aspect of the growing life force, as well as numerous deities and goddesses. Spider plants adorn the living space, symbolizing the web of life.
She grows healing herbs such as echinacea and lavender — as well as symbolic plants, including a moneywart, which she keeps close to the door to bring prosperity and financial abundance.
“So far it works. We’re doing OK,” she says. “I believe it will work … If you have a belief these things will work, you allow for them to work the way they’re meant to.”
Natural magick blessing for the heart of the home:
A small dish of salt to represent the earth and prosperity
A stick of incense and a holder; the scented smoke represents air and knowledge
A red candle and a coordinating candleholder for fire and courage
A small bowl of water for love
Matches or a lighter
Straighten and clean the room or rooms to be blessed. Then light the candle and the incense. Place the candle in the center of the room. Beginning in the east, and moving in clockwise motion, work your way slowly around the room.
First sprinkle a bit of salt in each corner. Then carry the incense around, waving a little of the smoke to help it flow. Next sprinkle a bit of the water around the perimeter of the room. Then settle in front of the candle and visualize the blessing from each of the four elements.
There is a gift of prosperity from deep in the earth.