This week, I’m able to do a special review. You might have noticed that I mentioned Spellbound Baths in my post about artists/creators I noticed at the Chicago Oddities and Curiosities Expo. The owner, Mara, was kind enough to let me try some of her products, and boy, have I had a luxurious three weeks since then.
You could say that many vendors like this put a lot of love and care into their merchandise, but you probably can’t say that they also bind them with spellwork. Mara is of Romani descent, and she places strong, specific intentions for her buyer in everything she makes. She is what some people might call an empath; after exchanging only two brief emails with me, she was able to feel out my life situation and tailor the products she sent me to my emotional and situational needs. Because I’m a staunch, bordering-on-antisocial introvert who only sometimes cries during episodes of Master Chef, I recognize that this must take a lot of energy. Mara confirms that it can be draining at times, and you can see the attention to detail in every one of her gorgeous bathbombs, candles, and oils, all of which are organic and handmade.
But what really struck me about Mara’s business is her devotion to her heritage; you can see that reflected in her labels. She told me that she has faced her fair share of prejudice about being Romani and was afraid to embrace this part of her identity until quite late. In case this is news to you, the Romani people have historically struggled with and continue to face deeply racist attitudes about them and are still unfairly stereotyped in countless media. I was aware of all this before communicating with Mara, but the fact that she immediately exerted the emotional labor to set the record straight about her culture when I asked for more detail about her life speaks volumes about what she must deal with on a daily basis. Here’s a woman whose heritage should automatically be celebrated, respected, and shared through her products; instead, no matter how proud of her identity she has come to be, she still has to be wary of others. World is messed up, y’all.
In any case: first, I was attracted to Mara’s business, then, I was touched by her story, and now, I’m happy to share a little bit with you about what I experienced in case you wish to support her:
I told Mara that I’m a candle freak. I don’t generally splurge on items such as soaps or bath bombs, but I do buy a hell of a lot of things I can light on fire. She sent me “Clarity, to clear [my] mind and keep [me] organized with all of [my] work and school tasks.” This is a soy-based candle made with rosemary, lemon, chamomile, and frankincense. Unlike many candles of its kind, it is by no means overpowering. I’ve been sitting with it right under my nose almost every evening while I study and write. It’s quite unlike the Bath & Body Works candle I bought that I have to set in the opposite corner of the room while it’s lit.
She also sent me this version of her soap, which has an olive oil and honey base, includes sweet almond oil and mica, and features the same herbs. What drives me crazy about the regular body wash I use is the fact that I can’t seem to rinse it off once I’ve got it on; this is not the case with this soap. If you haven’t used bar soap in a long time, try it! It’s a whole different experience. My favorite aspect of this soap was the tangibility of the herbs. When lathering, you will get them on your body, which I love. I think we’re often detached from or unaware of the ingredients in everything we buy, so this is a wonderful way to reconnect. I’m a lover of herbs anyway; I cook with them, I light scented candles made of them, I eat them, I feed them to my rabbit, and now, I can bathe with them.
This smudge spray may be a unique concept for a few of you. If you were to simplify it (and therefore do it no justice whatsoever), I guess you could call it a body spray or an air freshener. It includes sage, palo santo, cedarwood, and Himalayan salt, and is really meant for smudging. For those of you without a background in modern witchcraft or spellwork of any kind, smudging is a way of cleansing yourself and your surroundings of any bad vibes. When you see someone burning dried sage in a house, this is probably what they’re doing, although Mara obviously has her own special recipe that adds several other components. Again, aesthetically, this is not overpowering at all. You can spray it liberally anywhere.
I’ve been having a lot of bad dreams lately, so when I leave the house in the morning, I give myself a couple of spritzes with this. My personal relationship with spellwork has been dubious, but I respect the importance of its ceremonial aspects regardless. “Smudging” myself reminds me that sadness and anxiety are useless, that I have good and caring people in my life, and, like the Great Goddess Florence Welch says, “It’s hard to dance with a devil on your back, so shake him off.”
The fourth product Mara included was an oil she calls “Visions.” It looks like these oils are special order, so her site doesn’t include a description of this one in particular, but its intention is “to help you find the answers to any of your troubles through your dreams.” This isn’t pictured, but it comes in a little vial in which you would usually find essential oils. The most prominent ingredient in this is anise, of which I must admit I’m not the biggest fan. However, the combination of scents she used really complemented it and made anise the most attractive I think it could ever be. I’ll continue to use it more often in an attempt to endow my recent nightmares with a thesis statement.
The final item Mara sent was a bath bomb called “The Guardian” (pictured above), which is meant to “give you spiritual protection along with reducing any negative feelings.” It includes sage, rosemary, clove, bay leaf, black salt, and sea salt. I know it appears green in the picture, but I swear it turned purple in the water and made for the most satisfying bath I’ve ever had in our tiny little apartment tub. And again, my favorite part was that I wound up with herbs all over me.
In the future, if you made me choose, I’d order one of her bath bomb kits. They’d make an amazing gift for someone you love or even for yourself if you need the extra support and relaxation. Or maybe I’d get another candle. Or maybe…
If you want to check out Mara’s products, head on over to her store. I haven’t even talked about the fact that she has sugar scrubs and bath salts yet. There’s so much more to discover here and even more detailed descriptions of the products than the ones that I’ve provided.
I might be absent for another couple of weeks here, as I’m working two jobs, an internship, taking a class, and drowning in the black hole that my thesis has become. Once I have the time, I’ll get right back to reviewing more horror novels and finishing up the third and final part of my series on the Camposanto.