Upon rising each morning I pull the curtains back from my bedroom window and let the morning light stream into my Chicago apartment. I reach my hands high above my head and try to stretch myself into wakefulness. Once I get up I put the kettle on gather some herbs for my morning tea ritual. This little ritual I perform each morning helps to get me in the right mindset for day. It gives me the time and space to set my intentions and bring in positivity and vitality into my body.
I first learned of tea ritual when I was studying abroad in Japan. Soon after I began my classes at Kansai Gaidai University I noticed a humble little tea room towards the back of campus. It was a small structure with sliding doors and a simple brazier in the floor where the tea would be made. Upon realizing that I could sign up to receive a tea ceremony session I immediately did without much understanding of what tea ceremony actually was or what I could expect.
When it came time for the ceremony I entered the structure and sat down upon the tatami floor. After several minutes all the other guests had arrived and finally the women who would be performing our ritual entered. Instead of closing the pocket door behind her, she opened it wider to fully expose the scene of nature around us. It was autumn at the time and the hills beyond the campus were a riot of flaming colors as the maples turned to umber and burgundy. The walls and roof of the tea room seemed to create a frame around this natural scene causing the illusion that we were looking at a painting or artwork instead of the nature around us.
It became clear to me that all sensory details were meant to be part of the experience: the sounds of the birds outside, the single birch branch carefully arranged in the corner, and the beautiful silk kimono she wore patterned with the vibrant ocher and red hues of autumn. All were meant to evoke both a meditative atmosphere and an appreciation for the present moment. As she began the ceremony the movement of her hands and body were like a dance; each motion deliberate and carefully thought out to maximize beauty and sensation.
When I received my cup of tea and took my first sip the warmth spread through my body and seemed to flow all the way to my toes. I was filled with a sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the woman that made the tea, gratitude for this beautiful moment in time, and gratitude to the nearby tea fields that provided the nourishing drink that flowed through my body.
Paul Coelho, author of The Alchemist, wrote “Tea Ceremony is a way of worshipping the beautiful and the simple. All one’s efforts are concentrated on trying to achieve perfection through the imperfect gestures of daily life. It’s beauty consists in the respect with which it performed. If a mere cup of tea can bring us closer to God, we should watch out for all the other dozen opportunities that each ordinary day offers.” I can see so many parallels between tea ceremony and many of the witchcraft practices I perform for I too create connection with the God, Goddess and other spirits through my own ritual practices. In my own witchcraft practice I aim to notice the spiritual throughout my daily life with the understanding that even the simplest task, such as making tea, is an opportunity to connect with the divine.
Of course with our own busy schedules it is not realistic for us to regularly participate in an elaborate tea ceremony. My solution is the distill the essence of tea ceremony into a simple ritual you can perform each morning before you start your day. I’ve also adapted components of the ritual to fit in more succinctly with my own witchcraft practice. In my version I still use the time to focus on mindfulness and gratitude. However, the components of my ‘tea’ are also of great importance as I use herbs that I’ve either grown or foraged. In this way, I am able to literally drink in the inherent power of my local environment.
You can choose to either use fresh herbs or to dry them for later use. If using fresh herbs tear or crush the leaves to release the essential oils. Keep in mind that fresh herbs may take longer to infuse into the water than dried herbs. If using dried herbs first crush them using a mortar and pestle and use one tablespoon of crushed herbs for every 2 cups of water. Bring your water to a boil, add your ingredients, and simmer for about 5 minutes before straining out the herbs.
As I make my tea I work to clear my mind and begin to think about what I would like to accomplish for that day. I usually decide on a particular intention or goal. I then add honey to my cup and as it drips I move my hand in an invoking pentagram and state what I would like to bring towards me.
For example, while the honey is dripping in the tea I might say:
“Upon this day I bring in light, positivity, health, and joy”
I drink my tea slowly and try to be present in the moment. I think about how the herbs taste and envision the power of the earth as a light that flows into my body with each sip. As the warmth of the teacup travels through my hands I smile with gratitude that I have been given this moment in time to connect with and appreciate the beauty our natural realm.
Do you participate in any daily morning rituals? Share yours in the comments below.