No matter what type of trauma we are working to heal, it’s a fact that the effects of trauma live in the body. Many of us concerned with justice and trauma reject the Enlightenment-era thinking that our minds and our bodies are discrete components separate from one another, instead recognizing that our bodies, psyches, and spirits are holistically connected.
As a witch, and a spiritual person more generally, I use the idea of body magick to practice bodily healing at an energetic, deep soul level: to think about something as concrete and material as our bodies as also something mystical, holy, sacred, and even magickal.
To use body magick to tackle issues of trauma is to acknowledge that while we may have fraught relationships to our bodies for reasons connected to all manner of abuse and oppression, those bodies are still here for us. They have gotten us through every trauma we’ve experienced, with every heartbeat, at the cellular level. Our bodies are made of stardust, reflecting how we are living manifestations of the universe. And our bodies deserve to be recognized, affirmed in whatever way works best for each of us, and included in our journeys of healing and self-worth.
If you’re interested in a witchy perspective on how to take your body along on the ride of healing from trauma, consider these suggestions as an invitation to letting the light in and (re)connecting with the sacred existence of your physical being.
The first step in getting back in touch with your body is practicing grounding exercises. Deep breathing is a great way to remember that you have a body, a worthy container for your beautiful soul that does so much for you. Gentle, soothing forms of yoga like hatha and restorative yoga can also help connect you to your body in a way that centers opening and activating of your energetic centers rather than focusing on metrics (like weight, calories, or working out until your body hurts) that can be triggering and dangerous for a whole host of people healing from trauma.
A particularly powerful form of grounding is practicing guided visualization techniques, such as meditations that incorporate deep breathing and present moment mindfulness while expelling your body of negative energy you’ve picked up over the course of the day. I highly recommend Mary Maddux’s Guided Chakra Meditation from her podcast Meditation Oasis, which you can listen to anywhere.
(Re)connect with your intuition.
When you work on grounding yourself, you’re better able to tune into your intuition — that part of yourself, writes Melanie Barnum in Llewellyn’s Little Book of Psychic Development, in which you “kno[w] things without possessing evidence of where you’ve come to know them — you just know them.” For those of us who have survived abuse and/or trauma, we may have been conditioned to doubt our intuition and the messages our bodies have been trying to give us, or we may have been denied the ability to act on these messages. Healing from trauma thus involves being able to reconnect to this vital source of self-knowledge and self-respect.
For more on connecting to your intuition, I highly recommend the work of Sarah Faith Gottesdiener and the Modern Women collective, especially their Many Moons biannual workbooks.
Lovingly surround yourself with bodies that look like yours and/or that have survived like yours.
As a curvy queer femme woman whose body challenges certain dominant Western beauty conventions, my self-love journey has been closely connected to finding and becoming inspired by others whose bodies are similar to mine and those whose bodies challenge Western beauty ideals in a multitude of other ways. The more I’ve exposed myself to the diverse array of beauty that truly exists in the world, the more it has decentered ideas pushed at me since I was 10 about what it means to be beautiful and sexy. The fat liberation and body-positive movements of which The Body Is Not An Apology is such an important part have been foundational in my quest.
To that aim, if you haven’t already, look up inspirational hashtags on Instagram — #riotsnotdiets, #blackgirlmagic, #girlslikeus, #enby, #witchesofinstagram, #fatshion, whatever speaks to you — and start following a bunch of accounts that make you feel a stirring of freedom and authenticity deep inside. Soon your Insta scrolling will become a feed of countercultural body magick.
If you can connect with this type of community offline, all the better! But shifting even which bodies you’re constantly exposed to on social media will in turn spark a greater body love revolution.
Move in ways that feel good to you.
Part of (re)connecting to your body is making it feel good: nourished, strong, flexible, and, most importantly, joyous. Engaging your body in intentional movement that makes you feel happy and rejuvenated can be a great way of befriending your body, and choosing activities you genuinely enjoy creates and reinforces a bodily relationship of reward rather than punishment.
What are some ways you like to move? For me, dancing, sex, swirling around in the water at the beach during the summer and walking on the sand, taking my dog on walks, and using elliptical machines and strength training machines at my local frills-free, no-judgment-zone gym are my favorite ways to get my body in motion. Create playlists of your favorite high-tempo songs, put on some supportive, comfy shoes, and fill up a water bottle. Something as simple as taking a hike in nature or doing some urban exploring can help you (re)build a positive and satisfying relationship with your body and, in the process, improve your mental health too!
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Explore the lessons of the tarot.
I’ve been reading tarot cards in some manner for about fifteen years. As I’ve gotten more serious about it in the past few years, tarot has become a huge part of my spiritual practice to tap into my intuition, asking questions about my troubles and goals and interpreting the cards’ meanings as they apply to my unique situation. In the process of learning how to read the cards, and seeing how the messages connect to the unfolding events in my life, I’ve been able to better trust in my own perceptions about my life as I navigate healing from my wounds.
When you’re working on healing trauma, tarot, in combination with other measures like therapy and confiding in a trusted social network, can also be an excellent way of sitting with your grief, cueing into your body’s legitimate emotional responses to external input, and embarking on an inner journey of transformation.
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Give yourself time and empathy.
It takes time for new habits to form. You are essentially creating new neural pathways as you’re working to heal from trauma, retraining your brain to process information differently and to build different coping mechanisms to better serve you in the future. As you embark on your journey of realizing that your present is not your past, and that you can have a better relationship with your body, continually remember that you deserve compassion. Just as you would respond with compassion and encouragement to a close friend’s struggles with self-love and healing, it’s time to become your own best friend and personal cheerleader. This is where the body magick happens.
[Featured Image: A person with long dark hair. Their face is obscured by yellow and purple dust and light blowing from their cupped hands. They are wearing a dark bracelet of beads and a white tshirt. Source: pexels.com]