If you follow interior design or fashion trends, you have probably come across the term Cottagecore. A nod to the traditional English country style in terms of aesthetics, the concept also encompasses a do-it-yourself lifestyle focused on traditional arts and crafts such as baking and woodworking. The emphasis on thrifted furniture puts cottagecore in the “conscious living” category, while the fascination with colors, objects and even “clutter” clearly distinguishes this trend from minimalism. But cottagecore is so much more than aesthetics. It is a philosophy, a branch on the great tree of simple living: a global movement of people connected by the desire to live a more sustainable and ethical life, while finding joy in the small things.
The word cottagecore conjures up a romantic vision of the time before technology was our constant companion. A nostalgia for the slow-paced country living away from noisy, polluted cities, and the stress of modern life. It is all about “escaping the over-civilized world”, in the words of American poet and naturalist Henry David Thoreau. Mid-nineteenth century, Thoreau grew weary of the hectic city-life, and decided to build a cottage in the forests of Massachusetts. His experiment as a pioneer of simple living in natural surroundings resulted in the literary classic Walden.
Come 2020, and the cottagecore trend exploded as we all literally had to slow down and smell the flowers, stay in our homes, and pick up crafty hobbies instead of buying everything ready-made. Every cloud has a silver lining, and a pandemic hitting the emergency break on our highspeed journeys through life, and reminding us that we can do things ourselves, is truly empowering.
In a sense, cottagecore is about regaining power over our own lives by becoming more self-reliant. We don’t need to buy services or have everything ready-made for us. Creating basic household things is a source of joy, pride and strength that makes the daily chores of life deeper and more meaningful. Everyone can learn how to make bread, cultivate herbs and vegetables, or build simple wooden furniture. On our journey towards self-mastery through technology and material wealth, we have lost so much knowledge of the arts and crafts of everyday life, even basic survival skills.
Paganism, which is essentially a rediscovery of the old agricultural way of life, through continuing to honor the folklore, customs and crafts of our ancestors, adds a spiritual layer to the cottagecore lifestyle. This spring I’ve been experimenting with a range of household crafts, from candle making to creating my own soaps, and I have found that these activities completely blur the line between the mundane and the spiritual world. To pursue these crafts is an act of grounding and centering as manual labor provides a physical link to mother earth, and knowing that billions of people have spent (and spend) their lives tending to the homestead life firmly roots me both in history and in the present moment. Below, I want to share a simple recipe for homemade soap that requires only a few ingredients and can be tailored completely to your own imagination and intentions.
Shea Butter Soap Bars
You will need:
- Shea butter soap base
- Soap mold
- A Pyrex cup or other microwave-safe container
- Essential oils and other natural ingredients of your choice.
I used roughly 1/3 of a 2 lb soap base to make 2 good-sized oval soaps like those seen in the picture above. Simply cut the soap base into smaller pieces, transfer them to the Pyrex cup, and microwave on high heat. Start with 30 seconds, then continue to heat the soap base for 10 seconds at a time, until it is completely melted. The liquid soap is very hot so let it cool down for a few minutes before adding essential oils and other ingredients. Lightly stir in your ingredients, pour the mixture into your mold, and wait for the soaps to set completely.
I added 1 tbsp of coffee grounds and about 20 drops of peppermint essential oil to my first batch of soaps. These soaps smell like peppermint mocca and they leave the skin feeling cool and refreshed. Coffee grounds are rich in antioxidants and vitamin B3 (Niacin) and acts as an excellent exfoliator. This amount of coffee grounds make for a rather rough exfoliator, so you might want to begin with 1/2 tbsp if your skin is sensitive.
For my second batch, I added 1 tbsp raw honey and 2 tbsps of fine-ground oats (grind in a small coffee grinder or use oat flour) to the soap base. Oats are an incredibly useful ingredient in soaps as they boost a range of skin benefits. Colloidal oatmeal (finely ground oats) is both soothing and moisturizing for the skin, and it contains anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. Oats also contain saponins, a natural cleanser that removes dirt, oil and bacteria from the skin. In addition, the oats gently exfoliate the skin. If you are interested in the benefits of honey in skincare, I have written about this subject here.
Both of these soaps are exfoliating and they don’t get as messy as homemade body scrubs (especially those made with used coffee grounds). They last long, smell heavenly and are perfect for your everyday wellness rituals as well as for spell work (runes or sigils can easily be carved into the soaps, for example).