Living WildRachel Razelle
In a converted van in Melbourne, AUS
Resonant Aromatics throughout Australia.
Thriving online community.
Rachel By The Stream touring worldwide.
High School English Teacher
I think Palo Santo is sweet enchantment on a stick.
It opens up my heart energy and shifts my mood. I first discovered Rachel when I was searching for Palo Santo to gift my acupuncturist. (As an aside, it’s also excellent as a mosquito repellant here in Australia – I should know – I’m like candy to mozzies!) From there I tried out her Treasure Box and was totally seduced by the bubbling resins and billowing white smoke.
I interviewed Rachel via Skype. While running a successful online incense business, she was also in the middle of finishing her album before heading out to tour Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. So yeah, she was busy and while I took my sweet time talking to her, she was still incredibly gracious and generous in revealing her journey thus far into her Life More Wild.
We talked about break ups, money, the witch word and making your dreams real.
Tell me about your connection with the moon and its impact on your life.
I went to India when I was 19. It was really mind blowing at that age to go so far away from my comfort zone and the world I knew. I remember really starting to stare at the moon on that trip and it kept looking like a lotus at me. In retrospect, I didn’t have glasses at that time – I think it was just my fuzzy eyes making the moon look like a lotus with the petals!
But for some reason on that trip, I got switched onto the moon and I started thinking it’s really powerful, it’s really important!
I got onto the Mayan calendar not long after that and that’s very lunar based.
Let’s talk more about the Mayan Calendar and how it impacts your everyday life.
Well, in its simplest form it’s a natural time calendar, so it’s based on natural cycles. There’s the Mayan Calendar and then there’s a Californian guy called José Argüelles and he took it and made a thing called the Dreamspell, and that’s what I got into. It’s a little bit of a “culty” thing and I’ve sort of moved away from that because he was a bit mad I think. It’s not really a day to day part of my life anymore but I dip in and out of it.
I imagine that your year of 2012 might have felt like your last 12 months. Was that how you were viewing it?
A tiny bit. I don’t know if I was thinking the world was really going to end but yeah, the Mayan calendar has such a focus on the end of 2012 because that was the end of one 5125 year cycle and the start of another. It wasn’t about thinking that the world was going to end but just being aware that this was a pivotal energetic moment. My partner Mattrix and I saw it as launching ourselves into the next phase and that there was a lot of opportunity to make our dreams real. Maybe, maybe not, but it gave us the confidence for me to leave teaching and for us to do this big road trip.
You told me earlier that you were dissatisfied and beginning to see teaching life unfolding year after year – different faces, same routine. That really resonated with me because unfortunately, I think a great deal of women are living their lives like that with jobs they don’t love, lives they don’t love, partners they don’t love and they keep doing it because they don’t know anything else.
I definitely felt like that with my fiancé in 2009. Towards the end of the relationship, in that last year, I felt like I was on a train that I didn’t want to be on, heading somewhere I didn’t want to go and I was strapped in.
When I left him I felt like I had thrown myself off the train and it was really uncomfortable and you know, I was rolling on the ground, getting cut by the stones but at least I wasn’t on that train anymore, hurtling towards doom!
I knew I’d wake up and I’d be 48 and I’d have a kid or two and I’d be just be so desperately unhappy, deep down inside. And I’d have everything; the husband, the big house and everything but I’d be crying at home at midnight alone playing my guitar.
If you don’t mind me asking, how did you take that first step away? It’s so hard to step out of a long term relationship.
I tried to finish it a couple times in England but every time his friends would sort of gang up on me and say “What are you doing? You’re so perfect for each other!” and almost force us back together. The match wasn’t right but every time I said I can’t do it, we aren’t right, it’s over, he would be imploring me to give him another chance and I went along with it.
But I can’t be too upset about that because through him I ended up being in Australia so it all happens for a reason I suppose. But I do think it was easier to leave him here with no mutual friends.
Then you had a period of time being alone except for the possums that would climb over your bedhead at night?
(Laughs) I was living in this enormous warehouse in Northcote. It wasn’t like a cool, funky warehouse -there was just another couple there and they had these beautiful rooms at the other end of the warehouse they had built. I was living in the attic, room-sitting for this guy who had gone to England for 3 months and possums would clamber over the bed head in the night!
I was getting public transport out to school – I’d leave there at 6.30 in the morning and get back at 7.30 at night.
At that time, I felt like my insides had been ripped out – I was literally walking hunched over, I just felt broken.
I’d walk to the local IGA, buy something crappy to heat up for dinner and a bottle of wine and I’d go back to the warehouse. I’d eat, then drink a whole bottle of wine, smoke a million cigarettes, smoke some joints, play miserable songs and then fall asleep. And that’s what I did for six weeks or so.
How did that period of aloneness – that breaking open of yourself – how did that impact on your creativity?
Well, I was writing a song every night, a tragic song every night! I wallowed in it, I think I really embraced it – I’m alone and this is shit! I haven’t just lost my relationship, I’ve walked away from my best friend and I didn’t know anyone else in the country. I think I just let it all happen – sitting on the toilet, I’d let the rain rain on me through the open window! I think you’ve got to give yourself that time. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to feel awful. But I did feel relief. That was the main emotion so I knew it was the right thing to do.
You got tattoos on your toes from that period – Mayan symbols to remind you to be true to yourself. Since you got them how has your life changed?
Before, it was like I was sitting in the backseat in a horse and carriage and being taken wherever the guy holding the reins was taking me. Since then, I’ve got on my own horse, found my own map.
Despite the times when I think “My god, rent is due, this is due, I’ve got nothing” and all those doubts of “what am I doing?” despite all that, it is worth it. I think that’s the main fear for people – that loss of security from the money.
I’m guessing that 80-100% of your income now is what you make?
100 percent! That’s incredible!
Yeah, it is happening! When I was teaching I had this great, regular salary, so I never had to worry about money. When I was thinking about resigning I was living with a few housemates and one was a freelance graphic designer, and I would keep saying to her, “How is it for you, is it okay? Do you cope?” And she’d say, “Yeah, it’s okay”. But I could see sometimes she didn’t have any money, and that was horrifying to me, and oh god, am I going to be like that?
I did save a lot and that helped me feel like I had a buffer at the start. I realized that it really forces you to trust in the universe and trust in what you are doing. It’s so true that one day you might have a bill due and you’re panicking but then the next day you might have an order come in that’s exactly that amount.
I do feel if you are following your dreams then the universe will look after you.
In my mind you’ve made it!
(Laughs) There’s also the fact that in order to do this life, I’ve brought my living costs down, down, down and so maybe that’s not something everyone is prepared to do.
That’s true. There’s this life journey prescription we get sold after high school. You’re allowed one year to bum around and then it’s time to get a job or go to school.
Yeah, what’s your career?! Get in the system!
Exactly, then it’s a regular partner and it’s time to get a house now! So many women I know coming up to 30 who are bordering on depression because they don’t have a house, or aren’t married, or not pregnant or don’t have their perfect job. Then for some women, something starts shifting and there is the opportunity to start finding out who they are outside of the system and see what a wildly imaginative life they can create.
This life isn’t for everyone. But I knew, I wanted to do the music and I wanted to do the incense and that’s my main thing, so I’ll make my living situation fit into that. In a way it ties into not having stuff – all my clothes are secondhand, all of them, everything.
I think it gives me a lighter footprint. You don’t have everything that’s in the cupboards, or the food rotting away in the fridge that you aren’t eating.
I don’t know what I’ll do, I don’t have a superannuation, I don’t know how this is going to pan out, but it’s a continual process I suppose. Think of the alternative, I could be a teacher still! We are just here this once, well, probably there is reincarnation but this is it, this is the main event.
A few years ago I realized that the life I was living wasn’t for me but I thought to myself, I’ve already invested so many years in this.
So I’ll just keep plodding on…
Yeah, and I’m was starting to get old. Some of the thoughts that slipped in were, I’ll just keep going and then I’ll die. I was only 25.
Often you think I’m so old now so I might as well stick with it and then you give it 10 years and you look back and think well, you weren’t really that old at all!
Rachel, your incense is incredible. Whenever I have women visiting I try and demystify it – come on, let’s go outside, light some charcoal and burn some incense! They always love it. What was your first experience with incense and when did you get hooked on it?
I got hooked on my first experience. I was with a guy called Moose in my early 20s and we were in the woods somewhere with another couple of friends.
He had some Copal, a Mexican resin and I’d never seen it before. He put a piece of charcoal on the tree we were sitting on and then he lit it and put the incense on. The smell, the smoke, the bubbling away, it was just transcendent!
Then I just started looking for it and buying little bits off people. I remember going to a little hippy festival and I found a stall full of little jars. The guy wasn’t even there and his girlfriend was all spaced out and said, “Look around, take what you want and just leave your money in the jar.” I still have the jars with some woods and shavings and resins, but to this day I still don’t know what they are!
I love that his girlfriend was so relaxed about it – that business doesn’t have to be so transactional, like “Here’s your invoice”.
Incense has been a great social currency actually. I’ve swapped incense for graphic design, for clothes-making services for clothes to wear on stage – it’s been really helpful as a currency.
Mattrix and I are really interested in the idea of social currency and money and how it works.
Going back to the Mayan calendar, the Dreamspell’s main catch phrase is Time Equals Art instead of Time Equals Money.
There’s a book by a guy called Charles Eisenstein called Sacred Economics which is all about currency and how we’ve gotten to where we are with money and how we can go forward with social currency and create a gift economy.
Which is how it used to be.
Yeah, if we go way back, that’s how it was. If we come back to that fear that women have about losing security when they lose their regular income, it doesn’t have to be like that – it hasn’t always been like that.
We get told to stay where we are, stay where you are safe!
When you are a kid, you are told to dream big, pursue your dreams, do what you want to do and go out there! And then once you’re an adult it’s “Oh no, no, no!” You’ve got to do something safe, you’ve got to do something that has a good super, get yourself a nice stable relationship and of course you are going to look to get a mortgage.
Plus, as a modern woman you are pressured to have a career and there’s the unfailing expectation that you are also going to be a mother, but there’s no accountability of what that entails and the impact of that, and how you are supposed to do the career thing and do the motherhood thing.
It’s really tough. Let’s talk about the witch word as it’s so polarizing – can you tell me what it means for you?
When I was living in Upwey I lived with a Korean girl. I’d have my headphones on listening to some music, with my mortar and pestle, sitting on the lounge room floor making my blends, and she used to call me the Incense Witch and she would think it was really cute and lovely. It’s definitely a loaded word and I see it being taken back a lot. A lot of the millennials, the younger girls with the green hair and blogs call themselves Internet Witches. I like that and I guess I was riffing off them a bit when I came up with calling myself an Incense Alchemist.
I think women are starting to take their power back. The word witch is talking about Esoteric Arts and a lot of women are getting back into these old crafts to empower themselves, to get back to their senses and nature.
You create so much beauty with your work in music and incense. How important is the pursuit of beauty for you?
The world definitely needs it with so much negative crap going on. The incense is nature, it’s inherently beautiful and puts people back in touch with their sense of scent and all the power of that. The music is definitely about spreading a positive message. We are finishing our album this week and it is titled Situation Positive…the world needs more beauty, the world needs more positivity!
We get fed so much negativity in the news!
If you were in a position to lead a group of women, to lead them into a life less ordinary, a life more feminine, what would your battle cry be?
Firstly, don’t dream it, plan it. Be really real about it! What do you want? Give yourself deadlines, make it concrete. Find out what you want and then put it on a timeline.
The second one is the Trust thing. Don’t be too hard on yourself. Trust that you are going to be okay and make the right choices.
I can hear Mattrix next door cranking our latest song that we are working on so I’m going to get in there and get some work done.
Yay! (throws arms in the air) What an amazing life!
I need to hear more stories about strong women leading beauty-filled and spiritual lives, and so I created Empress Crow and Rabbit. It’s a forum to showcase the inspirational stories of women in uniquely feminine careers. It's also a bridge between what we think we know and what we feel is right. Thank you for joining me – let’s all learn, grow and celebrate the feminine together.
Photo credit: Lucy Spartalis