Banishing Stress with a Spell

We all manifest some sort of negative energy in our lives, and let me tell you, I am no exception. A typical week for me is bursting at the seams with strained energy. With four days of class, work every single day, two internships done over cyberspace, a feeble attempt at a social life and the never-ending struggle of the will to go to the gym, I definitely harbor some stress and anxiety. 

I try my best to alleviate these stressors. I've done the yoga thing, which is shockingly not relaxing when you're as inflexible as I am. I've tried meditation, why is there no "power button" for your inner thoughts? And I've tried many other relaxation tropes, but they just don't work for me. I'm not condemning the mindfulness movement or anything, but these methods just don't seem to quell the thoughts and frustrations that are constantly whizzing around in my head. 

Enter, spell. 

After a recommendation from my roommates, I decided magic was the next step on quest for relaxation. I ended up at Alchemy Arts, a small occult supply store situated in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood, nestled in between a Boost Mobile store and a yoga studio (how fitting). 

The store, which has been around since 1987, offers its diverse customer base supplies needed for any kind of occult or New Age practice: incense, crystals, Wiccan pendants, calligraphy kits, and an impressive stock of new and used books, with subjects ranging from 'magick' and divination to wholesome diets and pet care. 

After visiting for some time with Kenneth Kwilosz, an employee of Alchemy Arts and a hand-rolled cigarettes enthusiast, I emerged armed with not only a "banishing spell", but also a hefty helping of skepticism. This spell, which is supposed to cleanse oneself of negativity and evil thoughts, is relatively simple to perform. 

 According to Kwilosz, here is the process for the spell:

 1.) Wash your bathtub throughly 

2.) Run a bath as you would normally at any temperature your prefer and pour in one rounded tablespoon of the bath salt as the bath fills so that it dissolves.

3.) If you require candles, soft music, incense, or any other accompaniment in order to get into a meditative state of mind, do so. 

4.) Turn off the water and soak in the bath for as long as you want. The point is to be focused and mindful, as if you are disappearing from the world.

 4). Now recite this prayer to whoever--or whatever-- you pray to:

"There is nothing within me that is not in line with my general well-being and happiness, or that can harm me by thought, word or deed." 

5). Wash all of your body with the salt water- you don't need soap. Make it a ritual in the sense that you cleanse every bit of your body. *But watch out for salt in the eyes!

6). As you are washing yourself, envision all the negative that you want to be rid of coming out of your pores as beads of black tar- kind of like you're sweating (Think of the water spirit in Spirited Away!). This pulls out all the "dirt" you are holding within you. Kwilosz says this can be a little emotional as you are pate pulling out feelings and thoughts you didn't know you had. Some people even cry during this stage. 

7). Once you feel like you've pulled out everything you can, drain the bath, stand up, and let the shower run over you. Envision all of the negatively rolling off of you from head to toe and disapproving down the drain. *Rinse thoroughly to prevent the salt from making you itch

Kwilosz stresses that this should be done whenever you feel like you need it even if that means every day for a week. It's like cleaning your house, you do it when it's dirty. 

As I mentioned earlier, I don't necessarily believe in the occult, witchcraft or any of what Alchemy Arts' customers seem to subscribe to. How could some dark purple salt make me cry as I empty out my stress and frustration? How does saying a poetic prayer in my bath tub do anything seemingly "supernatural?" Well, I'm about to find out. 

I performed this spell one day and here's what happened (or didn't). 

Sunday February 28th. Bath lasted from 8:22 to 8:48 pm

What happened: Sunday nights are always rough for me as I feel the pressure and stress for the next week of school and work encroaching upon me. I drew my bath hot, the way I usually do. I don't take baths too often and if I do, it's usually just to take an Instagram worthy photo of my bath bomb dyed water. 

I lit a candle and turned on a mediative Spotify playlist and then poured the salt into the running water. The water itself turned a light, transparent blue, really pretty actually. At first, it smelled a little like cinnamon but then as the salt dissolved, it smelled a little earthy. I got in the bath and found myself relaxing into the warm water. I was enjoying the light music until I got stuck with a Spotify ad (yes, I'm too cheap to pay for a premium account). I then made the mistake of washing myself before I said the prayer-oops. I prayed and then continued washing. 

I did my best to envision my negatives as droplets but man, that is hard. The amount of focus and concentration it takes is insane. I got a little antsy and decided to drain the tub. As it drained, I stood up and felt the water drip off me slowly. I tried envisioning each droplet as a particular negative thought. Drip, this one is my frustration over my loud next-door neighbors. Drop, that one was my anxiety over my homework. Then I turned on the shower and let the water run on me for a while. Then I completed my shower as I usually do.

What worked: I did indeed feel relaxed in the bath, up until I had to wash myself. I felt a little more in tune with myself as I tried to recollect some bad feelings and expel them. 

What didn't: Well, I didn't cry. I also didn't feel "cleansed" in the sense of my thoughts and emotions. As soon as I got out of the shower, my mind was already dwelling on getting work done for tomorrow. I got bored and I think a little dehydrated from the hot water- you know that feeling you get when you're in a hot tub for too long? Kind of weak and a little lightheaded? That was me. 

For next time: No Spotify! I need to find some music elsewhere so I don't get distracted by ads. And I think I need to memorize the prayer so I don't have to open my eyes to read it. 

Although I don't personally plan on trying the spell again because of my busy schedule and my disdain for the smell of the bath, it was definitely an interesting experience. I recommend people try this spell on their own time for their personal cleansing because I have no doubt that it may work differently for different people. Just remember to have an open mind! 


Visit Alchemy Arts at 1203 W Bryn Mawr Ave, Chicago, IL 60660

Where in the World is Echo: Naperville, IL

I have lived in Chicago for nearly three years, but until March 5, I had only taken the Metra commuter train once. I never really had a good reason to take it. But, working on my article about Naper Settlement gave me as good an excuse as any to hop on a train and visit Naperville, Ill. for the first time.

Naper Settlement invited me to attend a volunteer training day on their museum grounds, so my fellow Echo staff member Alex Harrell and I went along to do some additional reporting and take some photos. The trip helped add much-needed context to the story I already started writing. It's always hard for me to tie stories together until I immerse myself in them. Until that day I had only done phone interviews with my sources.

The first thing I realized about Naperville is that it's not as close to Chicago as I imagined. I grew up about 25 minutes outside of Boston and took the train into the city all the time. I guess I assumed the trip would be similar, not the hour-long commute it actually was.

The Naperville Metra station dropped us off 10 minutes from the city center and about 20 minutes from the museum, so we set off with the help of Google Maps. We may have stopped to buy five boxes of Girl Scout Cookies from some nice girls and their moms outside of a bookstore—the five for $20 deal was too good to pass up. 

When we did make it to the museum, the instructions I was given to get to the meetinghouse where the training session was being held proved essentially useless. We briefly contemplated jumping a fence to get in until we found a service entrance gate that was propped open. 

Overall, the day not only gave me all the information I needed, it also proved to be a really nice day trip.  Once in awhile, I feel the need to get out of the city. Going to Naperville to work on my article was just what I needed. The weather could have been better, it was a typical gray and chilly March day. But, I still got to do a job I love, hang out with my friend and eat some Thin Mints. 

Where in the World is Echo: The Last Defender, Chicago

 

The puzzle began early one evening. I picked up my fellow Echo writer Taylor at 7:30 p.m. The show was going to start at 9. The show was an interactive theater experience called The Last Defender, in which we work with a group of strangers to save Chicago from certain doom. But the challenges began before we even got to the theater.

According to my GPS, it was only going to take us 12 minutes to get to the theater, so we thought, “Yeah, we’re going to be there with plenty of time to spare,” a lie we both told ourselves. We got there in 12 minutes but it took us forever to find the free parking that supposedly exists. We drove in so many circles, I think I went into a tight fitting cul-de-sac about five times. We hit the point where we thought we weren’t going to make it on time.

Our next puzzle started once we found the free parking…an hour later. I had to parallel park into a tight space with my not-so-small car. First, neither of us could stop laughing as I attempted, which probably wasn’t too safe. Second, Taylor had to get out of the car and navigate me into the spot. And third, we hadn’t even gotten to the theater to do the actual puzzles planned for us. We were clearly having a great time.

Once we got into the theater, we met some of our teammates and one of them was determined to win the entire thing and solve all the puzzles. We got our codenames and pulled on our orange jumpsuits, but unfortunately for our group we were at a disadvantage. The show usually involves 16 players, but we only had nine. And then on top of it, they put two journalists on the Intelligence Team where we had to do math problems as our first puzzle. Again, we’re journalists. Luckily, our other teammate was a pro and knew how to solve the number problems.

This experience turned into a team building exercise. We had to help each other to solve the ten puzzles to help save the world from nuclear warfare. We also had help from the “bunnies” who we would call anytime we needed help and they would play charades, which sometimes wasn’t as helpful as we hoped it would be. Taylor conquered one of the more complicated puzzles and I felt like I was working on a puzzle that took most of time allotted for us (even though it didn’t).

In the end, after Taylor and I accomplished eight puzzles (two on our own before the show even started and six with our group). But sadly we did what we had to do and ended up blowing up Chicago… but at least it wasn’t the whole world.

 

Where in the world is Echo: Second City, Chicago

This past February, I was scheduled to interview an emerging actor, Torian Miller from The Second City. While I did not have to travel far, this was a special moment for me because it was my first time visiting the legendary Chicago venue. I was coming from Columbia College's campus in downtown Chicago, so the commute was a simple trip on the Brown Line. I was a little apprehensive walking into the building because of the damage the site sustained after a fire in August 2015, but after some tricky maneuvering, I was in the building and over my lingering concerns.


The show titled Afro-futurism is a themed satirical performance showcasing the flexibility and talent of the theater's black actors. This month’s theme was religion, and the actors delivered an assortment of acts that centered on material about current events, modern hymns and biblical allegories through a black perspective. My favorite moment was when Torian sang about how all his white friends say the n-word in private. He then encouraged a random white member of the audience to say it, you know, so he doesn’t have to say it in private anymore. To say the least, I greatly enjoyed the show.

#TBT: Echo's process

Today is my 22nd birthday. If you were to ask me one year ago where I thought I would be today, I can say with certainty that it would not be here. Am I upset about it? Absolutely not. I’m excited. Anything can happen, as long as you let it. At Echo, we’ve been making things happen. 

A Canadian man opened my eyes to the theory of alien-energy hotspots in various locations around the world. I ventured to Naperville to take photographs, and bought five boxes of Girl Scout Cookies along the way. We complied data on mental health resources available to students across the city. Final headlines were confirmed, crucial interviews secured. Our section editors tackled topics on hypnotherapy, healing dolls and cupcakes. 

Designers laid out pagination with a pencil in one hand and a pen in the other. Placeholder images were gradually replaced with original content. We’ve lusted over expensive glossy finishes—I've got a weakness for stationery. We searched for the perfect shade of navy, and argued about said shade of navy. 

The beauty of collaborating lies within these moments of constructive criticism. We continue to push each other and ourselves to do the best work possible. Why? Because we believe in one another. I like to think that we are raising a small child, and we are one big family. It’s not always easy, but it’s the result of true teamwork.

That’s not easy to accomplish, either. But we have, and we’re continuing to learn how to collaborate with confidence and consistency. We’re halfway through this experience, and our loose ends are knitting together into one rope, stronger and thicker than the last. Everything is merging into one. I don't know about you, but I live for the melting point. 

If you were to ask me eight weeks ago where I thought the magazine would be today, I can say with certainty that it would not be here. Here is where our imaginations run wild. How could one possibly anticipate the extraordinary? 

Originally written March 18th

Where in the world is Echo: Lincoln Park, IL

Though it might not seem far to my colleagues who live in the city, I traveled all the way to Lincoln Park from my house in the south suburbs to interview a costume designer.

Traveling to Lincoln Park wouldn’t have been that big a deal except for the fact that I was very sick at the time of my interview, scheduled for a Tuesday evening. I was too sick to go to class that day, but there was no way I was going to cancel my interview.

My interview was scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Bourgeois Pig Café. By the time I arrived, I had lost my voice almost completely. It was so difficult to conduct my interview, but I made it that far and wasn’t going to give up.

The interview lasted 20 minutes, and so did my voice. I left the interview, traveled all the way back home and slept for three days.