For this round of Ritual Talk, I chatted with the wildly talented and ever-compassionate Darley Stewart, a writer, voice of light in the community, and creator of the brilliant panel series Strong Women Project.
Darley Stewart is a Scottish-Korean fiction writer based in Brooklyn. She is at work on her first novel. Her work has appeared in Tin House, Joyland Magazine, Funhouse Magazine (UK, digital), The Ocean State Review, Flapperhouse, The Brooklyn Rail, The Battersea Review, Electric Literature, and elsewhere. Darley Stewart is the recipient of a 2016 Fiction International Fellowship from Seoul Art Space and 2015 Ocean State Fiction Scholarship from The University of Rhode Island. An alumnus of Brandeis University and The University of Edinburgh, she gives regular readings in New York City –most recently at Les Bleus Salon, KGB, and Manhattanville Reading Series – and has completed a residency at Seoul Art Space.
What does 'ritual' mean to you, personally?
Rituals are so important to me. They're more conscious than routine and based either on personal pleasure or an area of my lifestyle that I'd like to develop, quite often both. It's a choice to elevate the patterns in our lives, so that they serve us.
How do you incorporate ritual into your everyday life — especially as it pertains to wellness?
My wellness rituals are what keep me together. They make me better at my job and a fun, relaxed person to be around. Every morning, I make a conscious choice not to engage in social media or the news right away. I'm pretty new at meditating and have just started taking regular meditation classes, but I've been praying since I was five years old. I like to do both, and I see so much harmony between the two approaches. In prayer, I work within a specific religious tradition, but it is similar to what I do in meditation – I ask for attention and help with areas that need healing in my life. I both pray and meditate for the wellness and healing of others I love (and those I'm less fond of) and of larger communities.
Wellness, to me, starts with clarity of mind and purity of intention. The rituals of prayer and meditation make it possible for me to transform hateful feelings into understanding, generosity and, if not love, at least suspension of judgment. They concentrate my intentions, so that I am more likely to take action, take charge, show up for people, and make the wiser choice transcending the particulars of a sour, difficult moment in my day. I like to light a candle and sometimes I work with crystals and stones to increase my energy. I love the aventurine crystal and tiger's eye.
In terms of wellness rituals specifically for the body, I believe that the body is abused by life and that we have to consciously take care of the body with tremendous compassion. To keep my body happy, I am ritualistically committed to Swedish massage (twice a month), herbal readings with a trained herbalist (once every four months), and enjoying a wide range of physical activity (three times per week).
I drink Korean schisandra berry tea when I start to feel like I'm coming down with a cold. The rituals I've created for myself are numerous, and I look forward to creating more in the future. It's just a much more fun way to live, as opposed to harshly disciplining or depriving the body.
How would you describe your inner magic?
What inspires it and makes it come to life? My inner magic is the color light blue, my maternal grandmother's favorite color. She loved the sky and the earth and she was a simple, beautiful, grounded woman. Whenever I think of her, I want to live a more authentic life, one that is connected to nature, to people who are suffering and need help, and to my own fears and dreams.
Do you have a go-to simple ritual when times get rough?
My ritual is to take a long bath with eucalyptus bath salts, and cry as long as I need to. Crying is an excellent release. I've only really recently discovered its benefits and wonder why I don't set aside time to cry more. It seems so logical to me, and yet it doesn't come naturally at all. I also carry comforting objects with me if I'm intimidated by a situation – I have no qualms carrying a cute stuffed tiger toy in my bag if I need a little extra comfort!
And let's not forget the objects in my home. I have a framed hawk feather – one of my most prized possessions – on my wall above the headboard of my bed, which I look at whenever I'm upset. My father caught this feather when it fell from the sky on my 32nd birthday. It symbolized the healing of our father-daughter relationship and just made me endlessly girlishly happy. I don't why. But I had it framed in museum conservation glass. To have this wild, deliriously beautiful feather in my life always makes me feel better, and I like to imagine the hawk it belonged to – that fierce, majestic bird.
Bonus: Favorite witchy movie ever?
El Topo. I love Jodorowsky's movies. It's been awhile since I've watched them, but just thinking about Paula Romo's Woman in Black inspires me all over again.