Visionary #9: Sarah M Chappell is a Witch

When I was a child, I remember asking my grandfather, a renowned pathologist, if I could be an herbal doctor. He told me I’d have to go to med school, but could study herbs after. I’m not sure he know what an herbalist was, but younger self certainly suspected that such a thing existed. I have no idea where I picked that up, probably from researching witchcraft and magical uses of herbs. I moved away from the path during my teens and 20s, but took a class on Natural Beauty with Jessa Blades a few years ago which reignited my passion. Jessa taught about creating beauty from the inside out, and introduced us to some lovely herbs that remain allies of mine today. After that class I was hooked (again!).”- Sarah M Chappell

Where did you first get interested in Reiki?

I’ve always been a hands-on healer. Even as a child I felt connected to using my hands to move energy, though I had no idea what I was doing. A few years ago it seemed that all anyone was doing in NYC was Reiki. My friend Elyssa Jakim, whom I had worked with at a wine shop several years before, had become a Reiki Master Teacher and was offering Reiki I. I wanted to support her, and was curious to see if I would experience the changes that people report from Reiki attunements. I now also have Reiki II, and while I no longer offer Reiki sessions, it infuses all of my work. Elyssa is also the person who introduced me to Maha Rose in Greenpoint, which was the home base for my spiritual and business growth when I lived in New York.

What drew you initially to the tarot and what are your favourite decks to use?

I had a tarot deck as a child, but no ability to learn. I had to hide my witchy pursuits from my family, and was only able to pick up books and information in a slapdash way. That initial interest carried through, and when Maha Rose offered a tarot class I signed up immediately. Lindsay Mack was the teacher at the time, and she introduced me to a beautiful way of viewing the tarot for soul development. That class opened up the tarot as a mental health tool, and it continues to be the primary thing that helps my anxiety and depression. Tarot allows us to see the stories we are telling clearly, and to step out of them into reality. I had a client email me recently to say that our 60 minute session was more useful than a year of psychotherapy. Tarot is not a replacement for therapy or medical help but rather it creates a framework for us to investigate our stories and clarify our realities, it can speed up our ability to process and move through rather than bypass our emotional experience. That is the most magical thing to me. I primarily use the Pamela Coleman Smith Centennial Edition of the Rider Waite tarot deck, which has beautiful muted colours and honours the woman who illustrated the cards. I also like the Pagan Otherworlds by Uusi, Mountain Dreams by Bea Nettles, and am just now diving into the stunning Dust II Onyx by Courtney Alexander. I’m also a big big fan of Morgan’s Tarot, which isn’t really a tarot deck, but is a total trip.

Do you use any other tools when accessing the spiritual plane during your tarot readings?
The primary tool I use is trance. I started studying with Ren Zatopek last year (after a serious bout of fangirl internet stalking) and her course on Spiritwork has really changed my practice. Ren teaches how to select and use trance ingredients like repetition and shaking to alter consciousness. This is something I now know I do naturally, but working more closely with the roots of the concept has enabled me to use trance as a tool when reading tarot to facilitate my verbal and written channelling. I definitely use tools like white sage to clear space. I’ve had the same white sage wand for 2.5 years; it doesn’t take much to clear space if we’re mindful of the power of this overharvested plant. I’m a total crystal junkie, and usually have at least my rad Selenite lightsaber and a black tourmaline on the table. Finally, I use flower and stone essences. Before a reading, especially if I’m energetically zapped or just wrapped up in my own shit, I’ll put a drop of an essence on the crown of my head. Essences are energetic imprints of flowers or stones in water, and create subtle yet powerful shifts. Sage helps to open intuition and strengthen the divine connection, so I’ll frequently grab my bottle by Asia Suler of One Willow Apothecaries to get the tarot party started.
What lessons did you learn when you first launched your business?
Be patient. Be patient. Be patient. There are so many people flaunting great success, and it can be hard to remember that they started somewhere, and that it’s entirely possible that what they’re displaying isn’t the full truth. At some point you have to pause and reprioritise (I can’t say yes to everything now and still be healthy enough to support my clients), but in the beginning you have to swallow your pride, put yourself out there, and do the work.
What setbacks have you had with your business and what have you learnt from these experiences?
Last summer was excruciating. Business was slow, I was broke, and I had a major mental meltdown. I took a part-time job that I hated, and was really struggling with my health as a result of the financial stress. It sucked. So I closed up shop for a few months. No clients, no events, no products. Nothing. It was terrifying to do that; you can’t make money and work with people if you’re not open for business! But having the strength to place my own health and wellbeing first ultimately led to greater success. That time off allowed me to recenter and reprioritize. I stopped focusing on competing with people in NYC and started looking at what my community needs. I lowered my prices so more people in my Appalachian town could afford to work with me. I shifted my schedule so I could take on a part-time job that I love. I also, most importantly, just gave myself a break. Starting a business is hard. Starting a business you need to be successful because you can’t afford rent is impossible. I needed to just take care of myself, and that big breakdown has helped me to reprioritise my own self-care. If I’m not ok, then I certainly can’t help other people to be ok.
What are you working on at the moment?

Everything in the world you can possibly imagine! Ok not quite, but 2018 is a busy year. I’m finalizing an in-person four week tarot intensive that will be in Asheville, NC, and am crafting a half-day tarot immersion that will take place on a beautiful farm just outside of Asheville in August. I’m also expanding my Tarot and Flower Essences for Self Care class into a 6-week correspondence course. Yes, old school snail mail correspondence course, with the support of an online community. I’m so excited… Tarot and flower essences are remarkable tools, but my classes are usually only 2 hours, which is nowhere near enough time. This course will enable us to really dig into how to read tarot, how to make and use flower essences, and how to put them together. It will be suitable for folks looking to work on their own healing as well as those who have clients and want to incorporate these tools into their practice. I’m working towards a Spring 2018 launch, but have learned to be nice to myself if these thing take a bit longer! And I’m making this intention public in the hopes that it will help me move forward: this year, I want to expand my sold out Tarot and Flower Essences for Self Care zine into a book.

What is your home environment like?

After 11 years in Brooklyn, I now call Asheville, North Carolina home. I live in a small bungalow apartment that feels like a New England beach shack from the 70s. I share this with my partner and dog, and it is a cozy, sweet place to live and see clients. I’ve recently given up the fight of keeping it super neat, and have accepted that – much like my brain – there is magic in the messiness of my space. I do cleanse and ward our home, sometimes just as simply as offering smoke to the space and calling in support, creativity, and love. I work out of my home, so keeping things energetically sound is important. I don’t want the energy from an intense session to spill over into my relationship with my boyfriend.

What do the words self care mean to you?

For me, self care covers the basics required to be ok. It’s not all beautiful ritual baths and luxurious massages. Self care is what keeps us safe enough to show up for our lives. It’s remembering to eat, sleep, drink water, and feel. Anything else is a bonus. Self care is whatever enables me to get out of bed. Today, it’s eating butter popcorn and drinking a Coke in a hotel room while I take a much-needed break from showing up for my family. Tomorrow, it will hopefully involve some vegetables! Self care is the compassionate balance required to live.

The best unwinding activity for me is knitting. Busy hands, quiet mind knitting. Knitting allows me to focus on something while also spacing out, very much a meditative practice. And I get to make something! I ran into an issue because knitting cuts into my reading time, but audiobooks have saved the day. I try to spend at least 30 minutes in the morning knitting and listening, or journaling, and then do the same at night. Most of my work is online, so anything I can do to reduce screen time is key.

Any other holistic routines?

I’m a pretty low key girl at this point. Part of moving to Asheville was the need to remove myself from competitive self care. Now, I go to acupuncture when I’m sick, try to get a massage if my back hurts, and take the herbs and supplements that keep my body going. But I no longer feel the need to have an expansive (and expensive!), Instagram-worthy self care routine. My big 2018 goal is to start exercising again. I’ve had an unhealthy relationship to exercise in the past, and gave myself 2017 off to recalibrate after my move to North Carolina. Now, it’s time.

What is your beauty routine?

Ever changing! I love skincare in particular, but the past few years have been a skin disaster. So I’ve tried it all. On my last trip to NYC I had a facial with Britta Plug, and she has helped to streamline my routine. Oil cleansing, a warm towel to wipe off the oil, a whole lot of Sage and Rose Face Mist from Fat and the Moon, and the Laurel blemish treatment are the basics.  I have persistent acne since I stopped using hormonal birth control, and am trying to calm that down with Britta’s help. In Asheville I rarely wear makeup, but if I’m teaching or traveling I curl my lashes, use Banilla Co. Radiant CC Melting Foundation, and a swipe of Glossier’s Boy Brow. If I do anything fun it’s a bold lip. But my primary focus is on trying to get my skin to calm the fuck down.

How would you describe your diet and what is your favourite meal?

My diet is omnivorous and complicated. Now that I’m sober, food is one of the last places I struggle to care for myself. I tend to ignore my hunger until it’s too late and I can’t make something nourishing for myself. So I try to set myself up for success, and eat a lot of brown rice and mung beans with various meats added. I focus on high-quality protein and healthy fats like lard or ghee. Anything I can have in my fridge and reheat with eggs is also a win. My favorite meal is probably Baked Rigatoni by Marcella Hazan. Her recipe calls for a 5+ hour ragu and bechamel. It’s such a delightfully simple yet decadent meal.

Listen to Sarah’s podcast So You Wanna Be a Witch. Sarah also offers Intuitive Counselling in person (Asheville, North Carolina, USA) or over Skype. Book here. You can also find Sarah’s elixirs, crystals and more over on the So You Wanna Be a Witch shop here.