Burnout and Magical Wintering

Our guest contributor this month is Careena Cullen. Careena talks about something we can all relate to: burnout. She shares her experience of what she likes to call “magical wintering,” using her favorite tools, the Tarot cards, to illustrate how she used this period of pausing to replenish and create a new brand.

Hey there, friends!
My name is Careena Cullen, and I have been a magician for 20 years. I come from a performance and academic background, and am currently halfway through a PhD program in the UK, focusing on the intersection of witchcraft and spiritualism in the nineteenth century. I have explored just about every room in the house of magic, from séance theatre to children’s magic, via manipulation. With a wide repertoire of magic to call upon, I am enjoying my magical life, represented by the Nine of Pentacles: appreciating what I have while looking forward to good things to come.
The Pause
Let me tell you about my experience with burnout. It snuck up on me slowly, like a creeping malaise. I found myself going through the motions, churning out shows without feeling any real enthusiasm or passion. Even though I had a new show, “The Library of Eerie Tales,” and my academic writing was on track, I just couldn’t summon the old excitement and spark of joy. What was going on? My body hit the brakes and enforced a pause – the menopause. We’re seeing more and more in the media about how this can affect how women perform and operate on a daily basis. 
Sadly, women who are magicians are not immune to this, so it’s important for them to get the lowdown, too! My body wasn’t functioning as it used to, and this affected my magic performances. My hands weren’t working the same way, and somewhere between my brain and my fingers, my hormones were getting in the way. I even forgot how to do an effect I had been performing for over ten years. Crazy, and definitely not my idea of fun. So, what did I do? I allowed myself to pause and wait, creating space to reflect and recalibrate.

Taking a break is crucial, especially for those who have experienced, or are experiencing burnout. It’s not just for one gender, and it can benefit everyone. I learned the value of disconnecting from social media and tuning into my inner wisdom during this period, much like the Hermit in the Tarot. By shutting out outside influences, I was able to determine what was truly nourishing and beneficial for my magical practice. This time allowed me to reflect on what kind of magician I wanted to be with my altered body and mind. Since I couldn’t turn back time, I embraced change instead. I saw my wintering period as represented by the Hanged Man, and enjoyed the wait (look at the smile on the face of the Hanged Man.)

To overcome my burnout and feelings of malaise, I decided to seek out new experiences. One of the most memorable was a trance-mediumship course I took at the Arthur Findlay Centre, the headquarters for the National Union of Spiritualists in the UK. It was a surreal and eye-opening experience that I will never forget. During this time, I also discovered the Emotional Freedom Technique, or tapping, which involves tapping on the meridians of the body to promote calmness and a positive change in mindset. I highly recommend former actor Brad Yates’s YouTube channel for some great tapping rounds.
Another valuable resource was Mel Robbins’s award-winning podcast, aptly named “The Mel Robbins Podcast.” Her science-based pep talks encourage taking small, consistent actions to move forward and avoid feeling stuck. I also had a great conversation with Abigail McBride about the changing roles of women in magic as they age. This is a topic that Dr. Marjorie Hass also discussed at the Magic and Meaning Conference in 2022. 
Women magicians evolve from sorceress to wise women as they gain experience, and as I continue to evolve, I have created my own brand as a hybrid tarot reader and magician specializing in weddings, called The Wedding Witch. I also offer a magic lecture for other magicians on my experience creating and marketing bizarre magic shows.
In conclusion, I encourage all magicians to embrace the High Priestess and seek out new experiences. There are always great mysteries waiting to be discovered behind her curtain.

You can follow Careena on Instagram @sylviasceptre1 or email her at sylvia@sylviasceptre.com

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