the witch’s ladder : intention and affirmation closing for groups

Today marks just over a week since the official end of my first year at grad school, one day until the official beginning of my three week vacation, and exactly eleven months of living out on the west coast.

Truth be told, it all still feels a little bit surreal — a year ago I had no idea what to expect of Vancouver, of my studies, or even of myself as I prepared to make the move across the country. But here I am, nearly a year later, bursting with new experiences and information and seriously ready for some downtime to rest and recharge, digest and process everything that has happened since the big move and in preparation of the year ahead.

In that vein, I thought today I might talk about a group closing activity I ran with my cohort on our last day of class. Ensuring proper closure is a big part of group work, making sure to celebrate the work the group has done together and everything it takes just to show up. For our “Use of Art in Group Therapy” course, each member of my cohort got to try their hand at leading an original closing activity before we celebrated the end of the year with a mini-feast of sushi. Needless to say, we closed that sucker up real good.

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Alright, enough preamble, here is my variation on a witch’s ladder…

Materials:

  • 3 pieces of cord, yarn, or ribbon
  • 9-14 items to tie into the ladder (flowers, feathers, beads, stones…)

Preparation + set up:

  • First, acquire all of your materials. These can come from your personal collection, you could ask each group member to bring an object of their choice, or you could go out into nature like I did — get creative! It’s totally up to you
  • In your group space, arrange the chairs in a circle around a small table holding all of the objects you’ve collected for the directive. I arranged ours in an altar of sorts, centered around a sweet-smelling candle
  • Cut three pieces of cord or ribbon to start the ladder. Length will depend on how many items you plan to add to it, but I cut each piece to a length of about 1.5 meters. The great thing about this, though, is that you can always tie in more if you run out, or you can cut the excess if it’s too long
  • Start the ladder by creating a loop at the top of your three chosen cords, and start the braid. I used a simple three strand braid for the sake of simplicity, but my group slowly turned this into more complex braids and a twist in turn

Directive:

Depending on the purpose of your group, this may look slightly different for you, but below is the rough script I followed when leading my cohort through the directive…

  • As you join me in circle, I ask you to reflect on the year we have shared together; all of the laughter, the learning, the joys and the stresses, the synchronicities and the challenges, and everything in between

  • As we move closer to closing our first year together, I invite you to look around – either with your physical eye or your internal eye – at the friends and colleagues and parts of your own self you have come to know this past year

  • With that in mind, and knowing that next year will be full of new adventures, I invite you to think of an intention or quality you hope to give to yourself and to your cohort in this new adventure

    • Be it hope, compassion, strength, plenty of cuddles with furry creatures or walks in the forest… whatever comes to mind for you in this moment, and feels right to you

  • With your intention in mind, I ask you to select an object from the ones presented (or if you have another on yourself that calls to you more), and to imbue it with your intention

    • You can do this by mediating on it, by using it or playing with it, or by decorating it with the supplies at hand

    • Afterwards, we are going to braid them together in a witches ladder

  • A witch’s ladder is a traditional magical tool, similar to a rosary. It is often used in mindfulness and meditation, but instead of rosary beads it contains objects that hold personal significance and meaning to the creator

  • Once you have selected your object and imbued it with your intention, I invite you to begin braiding and tying your object onto the ladder

  • If it feels right, I invite you to share your intention out loud with the group

  • Once your object is in place, please pass the ladder to the person beside you so they may do the same

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Above photo by Dr Duanita G Eleniak

After each member of our class had attached their object and shared their intention, I thanked them for sharing their time with me and with engaging with the directive, and invited whoever felt called to, to blow out the candle in the center — making a wish as they did so. We then tied our ladder into a wreath, and collectively hung it using suction cups to one of the studio windows.

 

I really enjoyed putting together this directive, and hearing all of the beautiful affirmations, intentions, and words of love my cohort shared with each other. I visited the studio recently to pick up some art I had in storage, and it was such a beautiful feeling to see the ladder we had created and imbued with hope and love and compassion still hanging there, holding the space for us while we briefly go our separate ways this summer.

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