Feature Image by Katrin Albert
My first memory of her was seeing the flash of her blonde Marilyn Monroe curls at the top of the stairs as she reached out her red-painted nails to crank a wheel of brass bells to call in the spirits. Her cozy house on the lagoon sang out with the lullaby of those ethereal brass bells. That moment was my first enchantment of the great alchemy of music and magic. She was my Grandma Helen, and I was four years old.
Making the music of the bells and spirit speaking were our nightly rituals when I stayed at her house. The bell wheel belonged to her Czech-Romani mother Anna and was passed down to my Grandma Helen. When we called the spirits at nighttime, it would be similar to what I imagine other families’ prayers together would be. You see, I was raised with the idea of the spirits being our friends. Grandma Helen explained that the spirits were our ancestors, they were the animals that we loved that were in the spirit world, they were guardian spirits and friends that protected us and helped us navigate our best and most magical lives.
We would call the spirits to thank them for our day and tell them specific things that we were grateful for. We would mention any wishes or hopes and call out the names of those we loved that had crossed over to the otherside to honor them and say hello. We would end by saying, “Thank you, spirits!”
When you do this practice with the ancestors, you will get an answer. My beautiful Grandma Helen journeyed to the spirit world when I was just twelve, but the traditions and magic she taught me during our time together have helped me stay connected to her. When I have asked her and the spirits for help over the years, I will receive a message in my dreams or a clear sign will show up. Sometimes I’m given the answers I seek through a song that will randomly come on or a song that keeps repeating itself in places that I go.
Four years ago, I performed a love spell to conjure my future husband on October 27. I asked my ancestors to be my supernatural matchmakers! My reasoning was that if the ancestors and spirits know me the best, who better than them to pair me with the best person for me? As I lit a candle that I inscribed with a love sigil, I played “Come Here My Love” by Van Morrison on repeat to work myself into a delicious trance and cast a powerful spell.
When the love spell was complete, I hopped into my little VW Bug to drive to my burlesque gig in the city. I tossed my phone on the seat beside me and rolled down the windows. In the middle of the Williamsburg Bridge, as I headed toward Manhattan, my phone turned itself on and started playing Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl.” I had not been listening to music on it, and I certainly had not entered my passcode. I knew that this had to be a supernatural sign because there was no other explanation. I thought, Well, if I’m headed into Manhattan and the song “Here Comes My Girl” starts playing, my future husband must be in Manhattan somewhere!
Thirty days from that exact date of the love spell and the phone playing by itself on the bridge, I had my first date with the future David Varlow, who lived in Manhattan! You want to know how I knew for certain that he was the one? On Valentine’s Day, three months later, with no knowledge of the story that I just shared, I woke up to a text from him saying, “I heard this song this morning and thought of you.”
The song he sent was Tom Petty’s “Here Comes My Girl.”
Thank you, spirits!
The Bohemian Magic Tradition of Connecting With Your Ancestors
• Set the Space and Time •
During the autumn months the veil is the thinnest between this world and the spirit world, so this is an ideal time to connect with and honor your ancestors. Decide where you feel most comfortable having an out-loud conversation with them. Is there a special place you’d visit with them when they were here on this earth? Is there a special place where
you feel deeply connected to some otherworldly beauty, like the forest or the beach? If you have the time, it’s nice to plan and set this up just like a meeting you would have with a friend. Although in emergency situations I’ve spoken out loud into my phone to the ancestors as I walked down a busy New York City street. No one needs to know how long distance that call really is!
• Picture This •
If you have a photo of your ancestors, animals in the spirit world, or any other friends and loved ones who have crossed over that you want to connect with, it will help your connection. My Grandma Helen had a permanent family altar on her blue hutch in the corner of the dining room. She proudly displayed the photos of our departed family, friends, and animals in the room where we all sat down to eat. She would regularly put glasses of water and small plates of food in front of their photos. Photos contain strong magic.
• Light a Candle •
Like I talk about in my book Bohemian Magick, my grandma believed that when we light a candle, as it disappears on this side, it begins to appear in the spirit world. You can write a word on the candle or their name, and the candle becomes a supernatural letter that you can send from here to the spirit world.
• Set an Offering •
Your spirits and ancestors will appreciate a small offering. An offering can be anything from flowers that they loved, chocolates or favorite foods, a piece of jewelry, a postcard of a place they adored, or a song they loved. My grandma’s middle name was Rose and she loved roses, so I set up roses for her and a small plate of Windmill cookies (her favorite). When I’m communicating with my old best friend, Jeff Moody, who went to the spirit world in 2006, I play “Haunted When the Minutes Drag” by Love and Rockets because that was the closing song at the club where we loved to dance. Whatever it is, make it something personal and it will help strengthen your connection. If you’re trying to communicate with ancestors or guides that you haven’t met yet, flowers are always an excellent offering!
• The Magic of Music •
Once you’ve set up the photo of your ancestors and loved ones in the spirit world and placed an offering before their photo, it’s time to make the connection with music! Music is the invitation to the spirits. Ring bells, shake a tambourine or a rattle, thump out a beat on a drum, or clap your hands. You can use your voice to sing words, make extended vowel sounds, or even hum. You can also put your favorite song on that means something to you or to the spirit you’re trying to reach.
• Words Are Wands •
Speak out loud from your heart. Say what you are grateful for in your life. Highlight the events and moments that have made you happy and feel connected. Share hopes and dreams. Ask for signs of how to be put on the best path to make those dreams manifest into reality. If you have any concerns or questions, you can always ask the spirits. Ask them to guide you to the best solution. Then call the names of those you love and who love you on the otherside. Thank them for being a part of your story. Thank them for continuing to guide you in your journey of life and, just like my Grandma Helen taught me to do, end by saying, “Thank you, spirits!”
• Watch for Supernatural Signs •
Within forty-eight hours of your connection, you will receive a dream, be drawn to a clear sign, or even hear a song come up that will give you your answer.
This treasure of connection that my grandma taught me is some of that vintage magic that has been the foundation of my life and the spells that I cast. I pass this personal method of spirit communication on to you so that you can feel closer to your ancestors and loved ones on the otherside.
Veronica Varlow’s best-selling book Bohemian Magick is now available everywhere—packed with secret spells and rituals passed down from Grandma Helen. Read more about it, as well as about her Witch Camp and Love Witch Tarot School, on lovewitch.com. Find Veronica on Instagram @veronicavarlow.