Thursday, December 30, 2010

Peace is for the boring, run free brother!

Yesterday morning, I woke from a strange dream of the Sabbat circle. The others had fled back into the darkness, as the sun wound itself backward from the West. The Father and Mother, they left as well. Shadow and mist evaporating in the light. The embers of the fire were low, and hot, rolling in the colors of sunset.

Across from me there was another witch. I'd seen him through the fire once or twice, but I wasn't sure. He was older than I remembered him, but glowed with a stronger inner fire. It'd been a coon's age since I saw him. Three, maybe four years. I'd had word, but he goes other places, and does other Work. I smiled, I cried out to him, and ran 'round the circle-edge to see him... one of the old gay men that taught this young 'Whatsit' how to be Witch.

"How have you been, you old fuck?" I shouted, we shook hands from the wrist and clapped backs.
"Sick. But I'm better now." He said, right into my ear.

I could hear and feel it all in the words. He'd been sick, and he died. He died well, with his mind still his own, but he had suffered immensely. No one had told us, because he did not want to be seen like that by any of us. He knew we would take his symptoms (against his will, if we had to), and he'd still die - and we'd all suffer. It had been so fast I didn't even dream of teeth...

"Oh... Oh... no. But at least They fetched you here..."
"'Oh no', 'Oh yes' and don't fuss over me. It doesn't hurt anymore. And I wasn't -fetched-, I got here the same way I always do. We don't need psychopomps - we ARE psychopomps." He gives me a look - still the teacher.

We talk, longer than we should. When the piping tones start to come from the treeline, we run. The old dog and I, barking, nipping and rolling... and he stops. He looks off toward the piping, and he smiles his hound-dog smile. And then he's gone... he's faery now.

I got the call late last night, beginning with "You already know, but..." . He taught me about the spirits in the wood, and how to induce the shifting state, and so many other things. He died very abruptly (thank the gods). He is survived by his husband, and the children he made in the Circle of Art. His Family, blood or not.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sticky-fingered Readers, and The Occult.

I've always had mixed feelings about the trade in torrented Occult documents, xerox'd copies of out-of-print books, PDFs of high-priced volumes... all making their circulations. But a part of me says "Ah, they're meant to be read. I've begged, borrowed and paid off people to read their books before, I can't blame someone for not going to the same lengths to do things right" -- and yet, can't I?

Whether the text is copyrighted, or intellectual, or spiritual, or emotional - the theft is there. Distribution of books with proper attribution may not send me into frothing, but erasing the credit and replacing it with one's own? Ooh, I seethe.

I read more blogs than some folks must think. I know quite well when someone is copying material, experiences and ideas from this blog (or other blogs, for that matter), and posting it as their own. I find it absolutely disgusting. Blogs are absolutely meant to be read, to inspire - but not "inspire" in the sense of inspiring someone to copy them outright.

I'm not just pissing around, you know. I really do have these experiences, and I fear - to the depths of my heart do I fear - what will happen to those who dabble, meddle, and falsify about them. You're flirting with meaner and more vicious things than you realize, and by each of your actions, each of your words, you ring out to them. You garner their attention.

Of course, that brings me back to the old chestnut of Magicians/Witches who espouse their own greatness, and secretly have no faith whatsoever in the reality of their workings, have no faith in the spirits, and no faith in the gods.

The beings in the firelight of the Sabbat-circle are not all sweet. The growling maw of The Mother is nothing compared to some of those things when they are offended. When you speak of the Power they hear, and they come - and if they find you wanting? Oh god, pity does not approach what I would feel.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Drawing 'Drakes and Robe Rage 2!

Mandragora Madness! Drake Drudgery! Manniken Ma- er... I give up.

Not that long ago I asked Harold Roth of Alchemy Works for permission to do some stylized drawings from photos of his absolutely luscious mandrakes.

For those who have been studiously hiding under rocks for the last five years or more, Harold has been one of very, very, few Practitioners, let alone retailers, successfully growing and selling Mandragora officinarum roots and seeds. His roots are some of the loveliest I've seen anywhere, including the few wild roots I've seen uploaded online.

Since then I've been sketching little bits here and there, anthropomorphizing the forms without taking away the essential "rootness". I'm sure either Harold, or the final owners, could suss their own root's form out of some of the drawings. The whole , original, idea was to use one such drawing to illustrate a forthcoming book of mine - but the project has expanded. The roots are too visually awesome. I've got three done, and several more in the sketch stage. The root on the left is intended to be the illustration in the aforementioned book, but I may settle on the jaunty fellow on the right.

Here's a really poor photo from my phone, with water-marks to deter dirty thieves, who should really know better than to steal anything from a witch. These were done on regular printer paper, with pencil sketches, over which I used Micron pens, and Faber-Castell pitt pens. If anyone I know well enough to trust would like to see larger scans, let me know.


Fully willing to admit the inkwork might be evocative of the Xoanon press artworks. But this is a style I've used and loved for a very long time, prior to even knowing about the existence of Xoanon. All I can say is perhaps, just perhaps, this sorta art is just meant for juju-doings.

The Robe Rage - AGAIN!

Well, I located some fabric, and have begun drafting my pattern. Several things have occurred to me, the main part of which is that I have gained a LOT of weight these last two years. I suppose walking all over Texas in the summer heat did more for my figure than I realized. And I also suppose I was walking far more than I realized. Luckily there is still enough fabric, though once I do trim back down I'll really be swimming in my robe.

I may be borrowing my mother's sewing machine for some of the finishing touches. My machine is a very practical beast, it does strait lines, slightly curved lines, zigzags and buttonholes if I hit it hard enough. Her machine has a hundred little programmed stitch designs, including vines and leaves - of course, her machine is also the most fickle thing I've ever operated. Finishing hems with little dark green vines would be lovely, I must admit.

Final tally is 3 packages of pre-cut 2yrd lengths, and one 5yrd "bolt". There will be enough material to fully sew and line the robe, hood and add pockets. I may have enough spare material to make a lined bag or two, including one to store the robe itself in, and a very large number of small, unlined, rune/tarot bags.

ETA

I cut out the robe tonight (12/13), and in dinking myself up a bit, have less fabric than expected, but still enough to finish the project. Remember: If you've told yourself to cut something on a fold, bloody well do what you said and cut it on the fold.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Rituals and Robe-Rage.

When I conduct ritual for myself, I know the meaning of everything I'm doing and saying. I know that when I cry out to The Horned Master that I'm not speaking of Satan-the-boogeyman. I know that when I put my knee down at the altar it's more because my altar is short, and my gimpy leg* can't take standing crouched, than because I'm kneeling in pious prayer or humility. But for public ritual, these are not a given.

In private ritual I might take time to prepare offerings, slicing up fruit, carefully pouring wine. I might specifically evoke the spirits (Deva/l, Genius Locii) of the materials in the ritual... but in public ritual I just don't have the time. And then, too... if I offer up something wet and red, no one will likely smile and nod at that.

I'm writing a ritual for an upcoming open circle, and I find myself reeling. So much information to present. Everything from the cosmology to the ritual actions - each must be described and explained in it's own way. How much time do I devote to explaining the Stang and it's role? How much to the broom or cauldron? Do I reveal subtle little-m-mysteries, that some might consider bound by oath? Do I keep to the process I use, or alter it to fit the expectations of neo-wiccans?

And that leads me to.... Robe Rage.

I've been scouring the internet for instructions on how to make decent ritual robes. What I've found is that apparently there is not a single goddamned pagan out there who drafts patterns, and that Star Wars fans have better fashion sense.

I also discovered that the sewing/craft stores have cloaks, not robes, or if they have robe patterns they cost $15, require thirty yards of fabric, and look like shit.

So, I'm drafting a pattern for a hooded robe that's simple enough for just about anyone to slam together in a few hours. Embellishing it will take a lot longer. Depending on the size of the person the robe should only take about 7 yards of 45" fabric, or about half that in 60". A shrewd operator could pick up all the needed materials at Wallyworld for $30-ish.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Magister of Philters.

Normal Dreams
I peel away the flesh of the living world. It comes off not unlike a wet bathing suit, sticking in corners and bends. Beneath is smoke, and shadow. One moment a hunched beast, the next a lithe serpent. I am roving the world, with strides that seem like flight. The world is the color of burned herbs, the vegetation I find has the brittle character of desert grasses. The sky is a mantle of ever-shifting cloud, there are no stars here. I'm galloping toward a great door that never seems to get any larger - I know it's hours away even at this speed, it's just that large. I keep moving, always moving.

Er... perhaps I spoke too soon.
Suddenly I find myself in a stone circle of sorts. There are stars, and I'm clothed in my usual body. Smoke curls away from me not unlike "materializing death eaters" - even in the dream I giggle about how fricken -awesome- that is. Everything is in a sharp relief, defined to it's very extreme, but colors are wrong - this is not my dream. As soon as I realize this, I see the figure.

He is tall, and slim, and wearing all black. He is perched on a three-legged stool, stirring a cauldron which hangs from a three-legged rack, being gently simmered by a threefold fire (nine sacred woods). He gives me an impatient look.

"How in the hell did I get here?" I ask, violently flailing at the trails of cloying smoke that still hang onto my clothes. "I was galloping through the wastes of the Elfhame..."

"Because I summoned you." He grumbles. The words slide out of him like someone sexually stimulating a cello. "Sit. Pay attention. Learn something worth having in your otherwise empty skull."

And I do. His authority is as plain as the neat little buttons on his coat. It is as plain as the look of barely contained contempt on his face. I want to ask how in the hell he summoned me, and exactly who he is - but the vissage he uses makes a suggestion so hilarious that I don't dare.

Discourse.
He shows me a philter which, by the removal of one herb and addition of another can either attract or repel serpents. He explains the subtle differences between Ferula species, and how these differences can be elevated, highlighted and made valuable.

He explains how some philters must be crafted in earthenware, not metal, and kept "cradled" by heat rather than "tossed" by it. He refers to stages of heat in fluid so subtle that Japanese tea houses would shriek. Here the alkaloids of Henbane are released, here they are 'sterilized', here they are destroyed, here all virtue of the plant is gone, "and at this stage you're burning it."

We discuss ingredients too fantastic to exist, and what substitutes someone such as myself might employ. Waxes and oils and herbs and subtle incantations - and he gives to me a single, small, black candle. And now I know how to summon him.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bullying, Spirit-Day, etc...

Now that the festivities, and solemnities are over, and I'm stuck with 20lbs of candy that my extended family couldn't give out, and still doesn't want, I turn to the somber notes of The Dark Night, which have altogether passed, sort of.

At the local Unitarian pagan circle (I went back, and I'll probably keep going back) we adapted a ritual from Michelle Belanger's "Vampire Ritual Book". The ritual compared themes of death and transition to self-sacrifice and betterment. Committed to flames was the word "dispassion". Wrapped up in it was "keeping silent", "hiding" and "feeling shamed". So expect some interesting blog posts about how foolish it is to divide ourselves in the coming days.

I'll say that though I might be comparable in age to most of my fellow bloggers (inching up on thirty while slamming the breaks and screaming "Sweet mother of GOD, not YET!") I lived more like their grandparents, or great-grandparents. I grew up on a farm, raising and killing my own food, wild-foraging, hunting and fishing. And yes, I was home-schooled. After Kindergarten I was never in the sort of social schooling situations other people are. The idea of "peer pressure" was, and I mean this sincerely, completely alien to me. To this day, those ideas are still exceptionally foreign. This has caused me an unmeasurable amount of bullshit.

But I'm not exactly an alien, here.

I've had people shout things, or behave strangely because of the way I look, or the persons I associate with. I can remember having things shouted in the mid-90's. I remember that after Columbine shit got "real" and I got into a few close calls. A couple of years ago a botanica owner near to my then-residence sent a student to come fetch me, having assumed I had knowledge about some rather dark dealings. I've endured precious-less bullying than others because I was home-schooled, but I did endure 'my share' in the halls of Church.

The Last Gasp... and the last straw.

When I was in my tweens I parted violently with the Christianity-lite that my family sort of gently wafted the air with during my childhood. My grandmother was a Minister, and tried to instill a strong sense of faith in me. Unfortunately, through various dark matters (losing a friend to drugs) I had a falling out with Christianity-lite, or any other form.

But, because of my Grandmother (after a few years of trying and failing to remain an Athiest), I decided to go to Church with my then-best-friend, where I experienced bullying (of the type not doled out by older siblings) for the fist time. It began with taunts. It progressed to threats. It progressed to following through on those threats. During a touch-football game one of the teenaged boys kicked me in the lower back. Something went twinge, and I rounded on him. That may have been what's brought on a lifetime of lower back problems. I was attacked like that, on and off, any time I visited.

These incidents were all reported to people of "authority" in the Church, and no one did a damned thing. I was, conversely, lectured for my manner of dress, attitude, the evils of witchcraft, the evils of homosexuality, and my general evilness. Despite my being there, in a gorram church.

Then, one night many moons down the line, there was a Church lock-in, and the Pastor's son decided that simply taunting me wasn't enough. He backed me into the woman's bathroom and attempted to sexually assault me. He came out worse for it. I got lectured for my attitude and manner of dress. Essentially that I had "asked for it". I, according to them, was the source and cause of all of my own problems because I was different. I stopped attending that Church. I stopped attending -all- churches.

Troubling Revelations.

While I may have a female body (I say "may", because I'm not altogether certain what it's up to sometimes) - I am not a "woman" in my heart. I live between male and female, and while it would be quite nice to be done of this body (or rather rid of the absolutely crippling "female complaints"), I am happy with who I am and what I am. I have no need to draw an artificial line in the sand, and declare that I exist solely on one side of it.

I can recall being about 9-ish years old and watching a female sacker pack groceries. I recall being, yes, rather enamored of her bosom and catching myself suddenly with the curious question "Does this mean I'm gay?" and the old standby "that means I'm going to hell."
I struggled with this issue, through loss and regaining of religious faith. I met a girl... and I fell in love. And then I struggled harder. She moved on, I got my heart broken, and I met someone else (male this time) and I fell in love. And I got even MORE confused.

It took me until a couple of years ago, to realize that there is no "default" setting. It's not a switch that is toggled on or off, it is a free-floating dial with no stop-point. It is a fluid, circular spectrum, this sexuality thing. And for me gender, sex - they don't matter one whit, because my own sex and gender are not on the more common factory-settings.

Raymond Chase, Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown, Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh.

It was because of this disconnect, that people had poor reactions. It wasn't me that caused the trouble, it was their issues (fear, and hatred). I didn't see it then, but hindsight is 20-20. I was a kid for fuck's sake! I didn't have the constant impression of girls being "girly" or boys being "boyish". I only had myself, and the honesty of my developing feelings. It is the reason that my "attitude" and "manner of dress" were always "the problem". It is the reason a teenaged boy felt the only way to 'deal' with me was to dominate me via a sexual medium - turn the queer strait, so to speak. I see that now.

Had I lived a more "normative" life, I would still have struggled. But my struggle would've been a public display, open to that public feedback of broken bones and soured worldviews. I've often told my mother that I am thankful for my homeschooling, because had I been subjected to that I would not be me - and I like me. More than likely I would have made good on the various dark thoughts I had, and ended my own life.

"It gets better"

It will never get better if you subjugate yourself to others.  Shame and guilt are -their- weapons, don't actively use them on yourself. Realize that there are evils in this world, and consenting love is not one of them.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Shelby Ellis and a Culture of Fear.

The Backstory.

A 16 year old girl named Shelby liked black clothes, vampire books, and the ilk. She liked to dress goth, and was on the social networking site "Vampire Freaks.com"

Her parents didn't like what she was into. They forbade her wearing goth clothing, makeup, or hanging out with certain friends - so she sneaked around behind their backs and did it anyway. They cut off her internet access so that she could not log onto the networking site - so she sneaked around behind their backs and did it anyway.

Things got more restrictive at Shelby's house, so like a lot of teenagers she ran away from home. Of course, if the story ended so simply, I wouldn't be blogging about it.

"Vampire Cult"

Shelby's alarmist parents referred to her interests as a "dark cultic behavior", apparently being a teenager is now being in a cult, ya know. And when Shelby and two of her friends ran away around the same time, her parents jumped not to the conclusion that their daughter (who stole $160 and a cellular phone) had run away to evade strict parenting, but that she had been abducted by a dark, dangerous, vampire cult.

The young lady had an account with the website "vampirefreaks.com". This website, despite a dark theme and color-scheme is really just a dark version of Myspace or Facebook. In other words it's the "Hot topic" of social networking sites. "Vampire freaks.com" doesn't have groups, or forums... instead (trying to be cutesey and "konstantanos dark") they have "cults".

Yeah, I think it's dipshit too, but then again, despite wearing black clothing for the last fifteen years - I'm not a total douchebag (only about 1/1oth douchebag). The parents, already alarmists and freaking out about the dark clothing take a social networking site's categorization style as gospel truth - dark, dangerous, vampire cult!

CNN picks up the story, showing images of vampire video games, clips from the twilight movies and True Blood, and various video bites of rotating pentagrams, candles, and people in hooded robes. CNN begins first asking, then just openly stating, that a teen runaway involved in a silly, dipshit, social networking site is actually a member of a underg- oops, forgot my formula - DARK, DANGEROUS, VAMPIRE CULT!

The Facts.

Shelby and the two unnamed friends were members of "Vampirefreaks.com", and all went to the same school. The other two girls had already been recovered and refused to give any information on Shelby's whereabouts. There were no ransom notes, no suspicious letters or e-mails, no phone calls, no signs of struggle. Just a girl, vanishing.

There was no indication, including a lack of breaking into the girl's computer to recover e-mails/forum posts, that anything had happened to her.

Media Response, and Community Reaction.

Amongst the voices raised was that of Author, Lecturer and house-leader Michelle Belanger*, the governing body of the Atlanta Vampire Aliance, Vampirefreaks.com, and numerous local houses and individuals who've made it their mission to spread correct info. Info stating, without hesitation, that there were no signs of her ever having been in contact with the vampire community, no one had heard of her - that also, there were no signs of violence or abduction, so it might be prudent to cease the scare tactics, and focus on her return.

Within a very short period of time the Vampire community had circulated photos, news articles and potential locations for her whereabouts. A few papered towns with leaflets out of their own pockets. Those of us who are witches were working to make her visible, nigh unmissable, and for her safe return. And even as we did these things - we were being labelled as dark, cultic, dangerous, and responsible for her vanishing.

Found safe. Now what?

A day or so after it hit the national news, Shelby was found. Alive. Unharmed. NOT being held against her will. She had made it all the way from Georgia to Washington, where she was found in the company of at least one adult, and several minors. She went willingly with police and is awaiting extradition to Georgia in a Juvie facility.

Her parents still believe she was abducted by a "vampire" cult, though Shelby herself has not weighed in, and the other girls are tight-lipped. The news media is still spinning the angle that a dangerous cult is somehow involved, even though every indication is to the contrary. No apologies have been issued, no retractions or clarifications have been made.

Per usual, being different, being goth or a witch or a self-professed vampire is enough to scare up a nationwide culture of fear. Fear over what?

Good fences make good neighbors.
because then we can spy on them when they think they're safe and know what they're REALLY getting up to!

People don't want the truth from their news. They want scandal and sensation. The average American doesn't give two shits that Shelby Ellis came home safely - to be honest, most of them probably really wanted her to be dead. Another statistic, a lesson, an example they can point to and say "This is why THOSE PEOPLE are inferior, and why we're so goddamned awesome."

This sort of topic is as important to the Pagan community as it is to the Vampire community - Because while we may have internal distinctions and solid lines, no one on the outside will make those distinctions when the time comes, and things get rough. We have to defend each-other from accusations that we know are baseless, before those accusations get applied cross-category. That whole "United we Stand" bit, y'know...

* I know some folks seem to have an issue with Michelle Belanger, but I've never quite figured out why, or how. No one's really ever explained it other than "I just dislike her" or "Vampires should've stayed in the shadows!" So, if someone can offer a lucid insight into their own dislike, I'd at least "get" why mentioning her is sometimes met with sniggers - unless it's about the S&M photos, which I get, but c'mon...

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Dark Night, and the Blood Moon.

To my ancestors, all my relations, even down to my great-grand parents, grandparents, parents and myself, this is the last harvest. I'm bringing in some of the last wildcrafted fruit, mostly persimmons, and a few exceptionally late-ripening berries. I'm topping the plants for their seeds, and bringing in fall-tinged leaves for artwork.

When we had Rabbits this would've been when we picked the breeders we wanted to keep, and my mother's cousin would come out to butcher the rest, taking half the lot as his fee. The discussions would center around the practicalities, financially and physically, of feeding forty individual animals over the winter. Would it be cost-effective? Would they freeze anyway? That one is too weak, this one is a better mom. Remember that one? He had snuffles all winter. Let's go ahead and cull him.

Blood soaked the soil, and -that- is why these days get dark.

Humanity has walked pathways for so long, the energy of their footfalls has dented the earth. Like the floor-stones of Buddhist monasteries, it has been worn down. Like a riverbed, it has been shaped. The energy flows there, a sort of ley-line, a new artery. Places which saw great celebrations, and slaughter have remembered. The earth there wells with the memory of it, the power still stuck between the grains of dirt.

"Power flashes from newly shed blood" said Ol' Gerald. To me, it is a shimmering radiance, it is Life, clinging to the carrier of it, fading slowly (but always, like a stone, refracting a little of that fire). As we bleed the life from this world, by our hands and by nature, so it blooms in the Otherworld. Our fall is the fey spring.

It is because of this that now is a good time to remember our ancestors. I make little distinction between "not currently a living human" and "never has been human" - the otherworld is the afterworld as far as I concern myself. Our fall is their spring, and our ancestors surge to a new life therein.

To The Ancestors

To all who share my blood, I give thanks. Without you I would not be, without your actions this world would not be the one I know.

To all those who share my family-tree, I give thanks. Without you,the lives of my ancestors would have been poorer, and would have lacked love.

To all of those who walked the path I now walk, to all of my fore-bearers, I give thanks. Without you my path would lack the signs of life which give me the strength to go on.

To all those who share the suffering of my life, my body and my soul, I give thanks. Without you I would never have known it could get better.

To all of my relations, from the least to the greatest, I give thanks.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Curses pt 2, and other such things.

The clutter is starting to recede, like a tsunami that can be beaten back with hefty bags and curse words in five languages (including Klingon).

This means that I'll be able to start pouring molds in the house, since the shop is now nearing the point of hopelessness. A system involving tubs, buckets and racks should mean that I can make everything from chalices to oil lamps on my "coffee table".

But as I was cleaning I noticed some odd things. 1: An over-abundance of dead or living arachnids, 2: shit I don't remember buying, 3: items that, disposed of, suddenly found their way back into the clutter. Um...

Curses, Part Two!
The Reckoning.

After the first spate of shit I used a random letter generator for an idea as to who might be causing my woes and got "UU" - the obvious for me being the current witch-war going on amongst the Unitarian Universalist (pagan) camp. I had mentally (I suppose issuing some sort of Notice of Intent on Ye Olde Immaterial Plane Between This Glittering World and The Abode of The Great Ones) sided with someone, or some camp, and had caught the flack directed at that camp.

But putting out my "STFU" juju in that direction didn't exactly help, and I've been suffering from nightmares and intrusions. Unless I consciously remember to re-affirm wards, throw up consecrated space around the bed, and post The Beasts (servitors) at the four corners, dark dealings happen in the night. We've been getting knocking, shit falling over, strange gnawing sounds, etc. Some of those I attributed to the pre-earthquake jazz the earth does, but others - not so much.

The Problem: I hemmed and hawed, I stalled. I knew that all the pieces were in place for a curse or crossed condition. Instead of acting immediately, I sort of stomped my foot and told it all to screw off. I could have stopped, taken a breather, and done the sort of cleansing I knew needed to be done, but I kept questioning whether or not I actually needed to.

We were making our dinner quite late last night, figuring out our new rice-cooker/veggie steamer to make sticky rice, and kept hearing odd sounds from the living-room. It sounded entirely and wholly like a large rodent gnawing at something hard and crunchy, and no matter how many nooks and crannies I investigated, I could find no traces of any rodent. After a bit we settled in, assuming it was nothing, only to hear voices...

It took us a few beats to realize they were getting louder, and a few more to realize that it was the surround-sound in the living-room. As I rose to go turn it off, the volume blasted up quite high. Beating the remote into submission, I turned back to the bedroom and saw a tall, fair-haired, figure with a shaggy sort of haircut wearing neutral toned clothing standing in my bedroom.

The clarity with which I saw the "apparition" caused me to then search the entire house armed with a knife, to ensure I hadn't ACTUALLY seen someone. No physical body found, and no traces of any. I got quite pissed.

The Problem: By stalling I allowed whatever situation was going on to develop. From a seed into a weed that proves more tenacious than it ought to. The mental effects, the physical and spiritual effects, began to redouble - it was my fault. Whenever you suspect a curse or a crossed condition read your cards ASAP, and then as a precautionary measure do some damned cleansing.

A Reading (or three) For A Level Head.
(Lovecraft Tarot, various readings, condensed for your convenience)

I screwed up. I waited too long to act on what I KNEW was transpiring, because (as usual) it could simply be "all in my head". My will faltered, my Work faltered, and I essentially gave them a king's welcome.

As much as I -want- to blast the everloving fuck out of them with my boom-stick, and let my cat poop in their shoes, I probably should not. Maybe I want to burn their fields, salt the earth, and ruin their women. Maybe I want to pry open their jaws until they snap and unhinge, but I probably should not. The sudden lashing out may be misdirected, this may not be what is intended here.

I have caught others up in my tailwind before, and the same could be happening to me. I could simply be an unintended casualty of some weirdness. My mental and emotional states have been affected rather seriously, which means I have open avenues to whomever is responsible. I need to disengage from a struggle I should never have been a part of in the first place.

Resolution.

I will clean, and scrub, and wash down the walls. I will clean and scrub -myself- and bathe in the smoke of White Sage. I will share drink with the Old Ones, and I will be patient. I will stop second-guessing signs, and take more proactive approaches. I will stop charging in with guns blazing when I finally do catch on. This darkness is not my own, and attacking it will only lead to ruin.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Persimmons - Godfood.

Diospyros virginiana, the Eastern Persimmon, has a large part of my childhood tangled up in it's corky, fruit-laden, branches.

Persimmons are late-ripening. It's mid-October here and the majority of the fruit is still unripe. Only a few are sweet enough to tempt, and the high amount of tannin still present makes them very drying to the mouth. But oh, they are sweet - so delicious and sweet! They would make an excellent marmalade, or fruit addition to breads/cookies.

One of the stories my grandparents used to tell was of how you could split the pits open (like a split pea) to foretell the winter's weather. A general consensus was taken of the seeds from that single fruit, who's "germ" takes on the shape of cutlery.

Apparently it's GON' RAIN. Also, I have the dorkiest paper towels ever.

A spoon meant a wet winter, or heavy snow. A knife meant a bitter, cold winter. A fork meant one that was mild, or dry.

Persimmons are shaped rather like a pomegranate, and pair well with them. Their fruit is best eaten after all others would've been considered spat upon by the phouka. Here, they're not good for eating until they begin falling off of the tree in November. They are a fruit of winter, wrapped in autumnal shades, and hanging on the tree after the leaves have fallen.

They are fruit of the underworld in this regard, no less special than pomegranate, and sometimes sweeter still.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Some more mini-reviews!

Title: Hedgewitch
Author: Silver Ravenwolf.

The Introduction gave me pause and then the suggestion that "dirt" is the first step to being a hedgewitch, or that Nature is a primary focal point of Hedgeriding.
"We're going to change our lives to be just like that garden, and we're going to do it in just two weeks." - What the...? Nothing good happens fast, and this book is an exemplar of that. The quicker I read it the worse it got.

This book conflates Hedgewitchery (the practice of hedgeriding, that is to say straddling and crossing into the otherworld) with crafty kitchenwitchery (a craft which focuses on the home, especially the kitchen and domesticity). This explains a lot of problems with the book, honestly. In addition, conflates "the universe" with the subconscious mind.

"I designed the art and science of HedgeWitchery in concert with my own outdoor projects" She did not design hedgecraft, she pulled something out of nowhere and gave it that name. Nothing in this book (as far as I managed to make it in) resembled Hedgecraft.

"What's growing in your Belief Garden?" - Need I say more?

Title: A Witches' Bible: The Complete Witches Handbook
By: Janet and Stewart Farrar

This is an old classic of Witchcraft. Written by two Alexandrian Elders, it's understandably NOT the Wicca they practice, but rather an assemblage of non-oathbound lore and rituals designed to give the look and feel of BTW (as they experience it) for the consumer.

For what it does, it does it beautifully. For what it does not do, well, it's glaringly obvious. It's a bit dated, and relies on the old wiccan stand-by of "the greatest power in the world is innie + outie" that I don't really get on well with, and some implications that homosexuals don't belong in The Craft. A product of the times, I am assured.

Fortunately, this book doesn't tend to be the first acquisition of a newbie-witch, meaning that by the time most get around to it, their bullshit meter can suss out what doesn't sound right. And that by the time they get to the book they know enough to realize it's not the full secrets of the Sanders downline in print. It is an excellent reference book for groves, outer courts, and unitarian-sytle covens looking for something with a slightly more traditional flavor.

Title: The Witchcraft Reader (Second Edition)
Edited by: Darren Oldridge.

This is not a newagey book on "wicca-good-and-love-the-earth-and-woman-power" shtick. It is a book of scholarly articles on the era of witch persecutions, and what may've caused it. It references not only trial records, but ceases to use a 21st century mind on things. No author within spends precious time bemoaning the superstition of locals - instead they ask why the locals believed as they did, and what events conspired to create such a climate of hostility.
And it turns out climate (as in weather) had a big role to play.

What you will not find is instruction on being a neopagan witch, or how-to for evoking the Witchfather. What you will find is the precious, tenuous, history of Witchcraft. There are concepts which have already proved enlightening, and countered a lot of the "it's truth because someone said it sometime" mythologizing in the modern Craft, and has given me numerous avenues of exploration deeper into historical record.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Dandelion.

The Orbit of The Solar System in an unassuming,
occasionally bothersome,
little,
flowering,
--- weed ---


Dandelions are the bane of suburbia, and for that I already like them. Millions of dollars a year are bent on their destruction, and ultimately these efforts will fail spectacularly. Unfortunately for these grass-obsessed suburbanites, Dandelion's deep taproot makes it beneficial, breaking up hard soil and bringing up nutrients to less hardy, shallower-rooted, foliate brethren... like grass.

Dandelion leaf packs more nutrition per cup than spinach, being a significant source of Vitamins A, C, K, Calcium and Iron. It also contains Biotin/B7, which proves itself valuable in regrowing hair and (some say) aiding in weight-loss. My mother used shampoo infused with biotin and regrew her hair in a matter of about a month after Chemotherapy. It is also useful for liver detoxification, and as a diuretic.
Dandelion leaf and root can be consumed in teas, leaving it's nutrition more or less intact, a caffine-free "coffee" can be made from the roots, for either medicinal or ritual purposes.

They like to grow just about anywhere, but I've found them to prefer shadowy places where they will often overrun other plants (saturn), iron-rich soil (mars), and damp corners (moon) which bring a far different picture to the Lion's Tooth than one might think. It's radiant flowers (sun), white, globe-like seed heads (moon) and lush foliage (venus) round out a picture of a very complete little herb. As a bit of an aside, I have never found so many grub-worms as in the plot of dandelions I harvest from, and some of the roots wound right through a fire-ant hill (ouch).

Dandelions are said to be sacred to Hecate. This association, oft-quoted in folklore, is hard to track down to it's sources (Hekate Liminal Rites certainly doesn't discuss it) but it seems universal, and I certainly cannot disagree with it. It bleeds a cloudy sap - possibly referred to in The Root-cutters by Sophocles: "Medea recieves the juice whitely clouded, oozing from the cutting". Dandelion is liminal to it's core, sending as much plant below as above.

In magic they assist with communion with the underworld. Like the taproot of the Dandelion, the witch using it may reach into the deep places and bring up something of value, otherwise lost. Here, too, is a tie-in to psychic "sight" and insight and in calling and summoning spirits.

Some modern Traditional Witches have employed Dandelion root as an alraune/alrune. The root does have a tendency to grow in the manner of a human figure, and is far less troublesome to obtain than the Mandrake ordinarily is (of course, a quick stop at Alchemy-Works can nab you a mandrake/seeds). The investment in the Dandelion is less about finances or rarity, and more about willingness to dig deep enough to get the whole thing. Even small dandies can reach down very, very far.

In incense the leaves are generically leafy, providing a papery "lady's mantle" quality of scent. The roots are deeper, sweeter aroma. I like to add one or both to blends designed to contact and summon spirits. A particularly strong tisane/tea of the plant makes an excellent wash for scrying mirrors, or (filling a bowl) a nice substitute for one. Particularly thick roots can be carved into some rather lovely beads, strung into prayer strands, or hung around the necks of votive statuary.

No part of this article may be reproduced without permission. If I find this chopped up and plastered all over neo-wiccan sites I will issue takedowns.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Clutter, Ancestors, Alrune and Familiars.

Note: There's a bit of venting ahead, understand that that's -all- it is.

****ING STUFF EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!

The clutter in the temple room has, yet again, reached a feverish pitch. Usually the clutter was isolated around work-tables, but with another person's computer in there (probably very soon to be changed), it's getting downright ridiculous. Time for cleaning, and throwing things away. Let is hope I am merciful. In our future home there will be a small room divided into "enough space for a desk" and "temple" areas. Oh, I cannot wait to see it finished.

I'll be permanently dismantling my salt water "Nano" tank. It's housed a lone hermit crab and a lot of fireworms for the past two years. Because of the clutter it's getting neglected, thus suffering - that isn't polite. Next to it is a small fresh-water tank, which I may or may not keep (probably will) after a good cleaning. This is the aquarium in which I raised several leopard frog spawn to "frogginess" this summer.

The clutter is making it hard to work, so it really has to go.

Drama and The Ancestors.

I should honestly, by this point in my life, know better than interacting with parts of my family at get-togethers. The laundry list of problems with one relation in particular has grown so long that I have been reading carefully over my state's laws about stalking.

This got me thinking about my Ancestors. My family has had issues staying together, we just fricken scatter to the wind, even though a lot of us live very close together. We don't visit graves (even the ones we know of) much, if at all. But this is an incomplete life, and I think is part of the reason misfortune keeps rearing up. SOMETHING is trying to tie us all back together, but we're having trouble listening.

Because of that I'm going to be reworking my little ancestor shrine, and getting back in touch with the Spirits of my Fore-bearers. Hopefully, also visiting some graves. Though I think that the relationship with the above-mentioned living relation may be too fractured to really fix.

Alrune, Dandelions and Familiars.

I went and selected about a dozen good Dandelions today. The size of the greens was deceptive - some revealed themselves to be babies. Most of the roots went into a container to dry out and be used for incense, oils and other such things later on. The greens are all on a tray drying and three whole roots are in water waiting for me to get to work on them. The three in water show promise for Alrune, though one in particular calls to me.

What I learned today is that Dandelions like to grow in shadow (saturn). I don't mean "shade" I mean -shadow-. You could see a clear line where they were hiding in the North-side shadow cast by the ceramic shop. The thickness was comparable to leaf lettuce in a garden, with barely any grass making it through the cover. The roots ranged from the thickness of a robust toothpick to roughly the thickness of my pinkey-finger and about 8" long. They favor the pure red clay (mars) over any other soil in the yard.

With Sun-like flowers, Moon-like seed heads, lush Venusian foliage, Saturnine growth habbits, Martian environments and ARGH - can't they just make up their minds? But, again... this is Dandelion. It's everything and nothing. Salad green, and weed. Spirit communion and utter pest when it tries hard enough. Though the tufts of Yarrow, defiant even after the first frost, might beat Dandelion out for utter pest.

This whole mess brought me 'round for Familiars. "Goatboy" has been visiting in my non-flight dreams off and on, bringing me roots. I'd asked him to bring me a mandrake, and he's been trying awfully hard. More than likely trying to remind me that I have a yard full of them, and to try to think outside the box. Of course, the moment I do that I get a rather interesting e-mail ... The Goatboy works in mysterious ways.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Curses.

Apparently I pissed someone off, again. It happens every now and then that something I says gets under the skin of someone else who can do things like I do. And they decide the perfect course of action is to sling a curse. Per usual, they make a critical mistake which caused physical manifestations - Spiders. Any time stuff is going down of an unusual character or quality (read: Curses) spiders show up in droves.

They've been about like that. Hordes of them sweeping across the deck, or singular specimens dropping down on my keyboard while I type. Jumping spiders, tarantulas, little cobweb spiders. Oh how they have presented their many-eyed faces and pronounced as one "Someone's shitting on your lawn." Once in a while they seem to be the agents of the curse, generally they seem to warn of it.

And so, as is a good and just course of action, I whip out Gager's "Curse Tablets" and scrape up a few ideas.

It got me thinking about justifications on curses. When is it okay to curse? When is it okay to retaliate? For me: I don't tend to whip out curses unless someone is raping, murdering or molesting children OR throwing curses. At which point I tend to bind AND curse as a way of saying "stop shitting on my lawn."

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Some Brief Reviews.

Pagan Prayer Beads
John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn
Weiser Books, 2007
190 pages, $16.95

Over all this isn't a bad book for someone interested in starting on creating prayer beads for the purposes of meditation or as a votive. The upside of this book is that it explains the physical process of making beaded strands and discusses what materials are suitable, or which work better in certain applications. It also addresses approaching the buying experience as meditation and ritual. Unfortunately, it's downside is that it is primarily a practical instruction manual and does not really discuss how to use them, why you might want to, or really give much meat on the obvious links to rosaries, mala, etc. Given that I already know how to string beads, and how to select them for spiritual purposes, it didn't have a lot to offer me personally, but for those who do NOT know the processes involved, it should actually be quite helpful.


Wiccan Warrior
Kerr Cuhulain
Llewellyn Publications 2000.
192 pages, $18.95.

Wiccan Warrior -is- valuable for those interested in the warrior archetype as presented within the "harm-none" framework of ecclectic wicca, however, one must push past a rather large amount of Mr. Cuhulain's personal , extremely heavy-handed, politics in regard to the nature of Wicca to extract that value. His assault against the wellspring of his own tradition starts early in the book, and follows through to the last page.

Love is in the Earth: A Kaleidoscope of Crystals
Melody.
Earth Love Pub House 1995,
726 pages, $22.95.

The Phonebook of Rocks, as I lovingly call it, isn't a book you can really do a weighty review of. It's a reference book filled with the descriptions and metaphysical uses of a thoroughly exhaustive list of rocks, crystals, minerals, fossils and "stonelike" organics. Each entry discusses the forms in which the mineral can be found, what astrological sign, numerological vibration (etc) that it associates with, and it's uses in physical healing or spiritual applications.
The largest downside of the book is that it utterly lacks illustrations. So, unless you know what a stone looks like, or your local store labels very carefully - good luck. The revised editions also seem to have had their indexes neglected, as they direct to page numbers which are incorrect a lot of the time. Another small bump in the road is the book's use of "Extra-terrestrial masters", "Atlantean records", "Lemurian Seed Souls" and other newagey kinda BS buzzwords.

Since the release (and my purchase of) "Kaleidoscope" Melody has (reportedly) accumulated all of the Love Is In The Earth series into a single volume "LIITE: The Crystal and Mineral Encyclopedia"/Last Testament. I have not had the pleasure of reading this one yet, as it costs about $100 ($60-$70 more regularly), comprises almost 1000 pages, and weights almost ten pounds.

Wylundt's Book of Incense.
Wylundt (Steven R. Smith)
Red Wheel / Weiser 2007
312 pages, $14.95.

I like this book. It's a fairly decent guide to making your own incenses, be they loose or formed cones. I used it as the jumping-off-point for a whole slew of handmade incense cones for stinking up the house and doing Work. There is a section about creating cone/stick incenses, discusses the various types of incense, gives handling and storing information, recipes and a small "herbal" geared toward incense making. Yes, it does include recipes which involve saltpetre, and binders - but what do you think is in the stick-incense you store buy?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Some October Notes.

Dreams

My dreams have been particularly intense lately. Tonight's involved journeying to visit someone that I -think- was Harold. Point being? If a person with long reddish hair, likely wearing all black in some form of tank-top, jeans and possibly a coat invades your dreams - sorry. Can't help it.
Incidentally, I'm nearly always male in my dreams (irrespective of boobs) so assuming it wasn't me because it was a dude may not be accurate.


Re: Reviews and Commentators.

I will not be accepting/publishing any more comments on critical reviews unless I feel they have actual, valid, points to make. "I disagree with your review and here's why" is fine and dandy once or twice (and I will happily put through such disagreement while it holds merit), but multiple posts going after not only the review/s, but everyone commenting in agreement with, or even -discussing- interesting aspects of the review, is beyond the pale. When it is from Authors or those in their employ it is also incredibly unprofessional. I know the author is going to disagree if I dislike their book - they wrote it. And when it comes from someone other than the author, but in the author's employ, it gives the impression of a hired opinion.

The purpose of reviews are to present different views of different materials so that those interested in the work can form an opinion on buying it. There will be glowing reviews and there will be scathing ones. These all help to form a realistic picture of the work in question. Reviews are not a point of debate. I at least do my best to present positive points with negative points, but if all I can find is negative - well... sorry? If I wish to review Twilight with only a photograph of a page of the book smeared with something brown, floating in a white bowl full of water (which I'd never do... I don't want it touching me there), I would.

Speaking of Reviews - Upcoming Reviews!

Hedgewitch by Silver Ravenwolf. - This one was a request by a friend.
Pagan Prayer Beads by John Michael Greer and Clare Vaughn. - An interesting read about pagan "rosaries" and similar tools for meditation and worship.
Call of The Horned Piper by Nigel A. Jackson - A thoroughly fascinating read on the nature of the horned god, night goddess and a meditative look at "the sorcerous arts".
Familiar Spirits by Donald Tyson. - Another book on Familiars to either love or hate.
and while we're at it The Necronomicon by Donald Tyson - FANGIRLSQUEEE!
Fang and Fur, Blood and Bone by Lupa. Familiar book of sorts.
and if I feel up to it Grmassi's "Beltane", and Conway's "Dancing with Dragons".

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Cemetery.

I had a very interesting dream almost a month ago. Most of it is hazy around the edges, except for the fact that I was visiting a fellow Filthy Magician out in California. At some point the question was raised: "Can you find a place of power here?" and at once I indicated off in whatever direction lie behind his kitchen.

His comments suggested that, yes, there is something off in that direction but that's hardly a place anyone wants to go. I, of course, wanted to go there. Amid protestations that one does not simply walk into Mordor, off I traipsed - directly through the wall. I called his bluff.

It was an excruciatingly beautiful cemetery - I've seen it before. I know it by it's scent, it's sight... by the waymarks at it's gates. It is, more or less, the exalted double of every cemetery that has ever, or will ever, exist. It is picturesque, moss-draped, and rife with the cthonic power of decay and rebirth. Here soma grows upon the knolls where the beloved dead sleep. Mandrakes sprout here, datura blooms, the whole place stinks of dark earth, and poisonous perfection.

I have spent whole nights roaming this place, greeting it's citizens and royalty. A particularly large tree overshadows a portal to the underworld. My magician companion is standing back, smiling fondly at the scene.

There was a funeral in full swing, a family who's attire and regalia marked them as practitioners of some form were laying one of their own to rest. Attending the services was a skeletal woman (her skull had been painted into the likeness of makeup) wearing a large flowered hat, and carrying a truly ruined parasol. She even had a tiny skeletal dog tucked under her arm as though it were a fashion accessory. My mind hesitates to say this is Holy Death, but perhaps her emissary, Vainglorious Death? A man lowers himself into the grave and impatiently motions for soil to be piled on.

The headstones read names that I knew - and yet did not know. Though I got the impression that a certain row was actually just me. Numerous copies of me from centuries passed, dead bodies I'd once worked with living vigor. And at the end of the row was an open grave - a promise and warning.

The ground is soft with growth, the trees bear no leaves, but stunning blooms and fruit. The fruit are stunning, in colors and textures of minerals rather than vegetation. Here, I get the sense, the Apple of Sodom and Fruit of Knowledge are not so mythotypal.

Being there, hell - thinking about being there, it seems to fill my lungs with air and soothe me and with the right eye, on the right "day", you can see into an unending green land, overcast, and misty. Bits of sun glinting through heavy clouds and intermittent showers.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fall.

With the Equinox, fall comes. It happens like you've flicked a switch. 95+F days move, without transition into 70F. Mild as can be, sunny and delightful. Mushrooms were springing up everywhere, the birds are singing their last, and the Elm trees, utterly befouled by flowers, roar with the sound of bees.

My kiln load of goodies turned out flawlessly. A chalice I'd made, impressed with the last few leaves of my beloved wormwood plant is finally done - and I could not be happier. Even the fine veins on the leaves were preserved as fossil-like imprints (no picture right now, it's proving nearly impossible to photograph). It has her spirit in it, and some of her preserved leaves will be used to concoct a wash to consecrate it in time for the "Thin Time". For the first time I'm going to actually employ a ritual designed to "pass on" power from one object to another. One would think that in over a dozen years of practice something may've gotten replaced before now, but apparently I cling to my tools like velcro.

A pair of small oil lamps also turned out well. They're proving especially nice for summoning the presence of spirits so long as the flame burns, and they are exceedingly long-burning unless extinguished. I found them pretty helpful in getting that BA-ZING connection with the Powers. These lamps were prototypes, and now I've sculpted a few masters to make molds from. Oddly enough, in my research I've found that historical oil lamps were rather small, 3.5" or so, some smaller. So what I thought was "absolutely tiny" for my prototypes is actually just sort of small. They burn quite nicely on olive oil and pillar candle wicks, and adding a drop or two of essential oil, or infusing the olive oil with other herbs is an idea that's got my gears working. I hope to have some of these available as soon as I get the molds finished.

Some family drama has put a damper on my projects, unfortunately. One of the prices one pays for living very near to one's entire nuclear family, and a large portion of the living extended family. Hence no "here's things for sale" offerings just yet. Hopefully this next week of fair weather will get me back in gear. There's a lot of work that needs doing, and the unbridled joy of opening the kiln after a firing is something I dearly missed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Horn-Wearer

Opposite her, beyond the flames (where I cannot clearly see him) is a tall man, wearing a hooded cloak made of animal hide, and crowned with a set of horns (antlers? they seem to shift like branches in the wind). To me, he is shadow, and yet his presence reaches around the fire-circle like dark wings. He is sitting on a fallen log, one leg tucked into the bend of the other's knee and his right hand rests in the crotch of a short stang. It is his crutch... I think. The leg which does not touch the ground seems fairly well lamed. I realize that it is his side of the flames where I always am, and he is always behind me, but now I'm somewhere in the middle.

This man vexes me. His form shifts and is fluid. Leaves blow from the locks of his hair caught on the wind. His antler head-dress rattles like storm-blown branches. His face is utterly obscured.

He wears clothes made of hide, and heavy fabric. Except when he doesn't, and then he is in his cloak, with only buckskinned pants, and his chest is deeply scarred (it occurs to me that he's probably scarred all over). He wears boots with horn buttons, though he is barefoot at the fireside (the boots are near him). His right leg is scarred from knee to foot, as though a horse hooved at it, and tore away the flesh. His eyes burn like coals and he laughs. Serpents crawl around him, and speak to him. He speaks back.

Whereas she rules all transitions (birth and death and all between) he rules what lies beyond death, and beyond birth. There is a part of him that is utterly a faun, priapic and wild, drunken and laughing. And there is a part of him that is utterly a stodgy old man, stoic and chaste, sober and serious. Subtle as a serpent.

I think he was hung, once. He has rope-burns around his neck, and when I look into his eyes I see the gallows I see angel lust, and gallows-children. But of course, I also see life swelling up until it bursts into decay. For me, he is inexorably linked to the Mushroom. They both break down dead things into things which can again become alive.

None fear him at the fireside. He joins the dances at times, though he is awkward in it, he hops rather than dancing fluidly, and it is he who drinks first from the Cauldron Stirrer's brew.

When I speak to him I can only remember vague impressions, intent, and emotions. He leaves me with an innate knowing, rather than a conscious set of information. It's like hearing the thoughts of an animal. It is his infectious laughter that endears me to him. It is he that indulges the imps as they cavort.

He is the seed-sewer, and she is the reaper. He is the millworker, and she bakes the bread. It is he that puts the marks on my heart that let me run wild to that hilltop.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Labeling Jars/Bottles.

When I was a rather young witch I got a few of the "essential" herbs and some jars. My first mistake was putting adhesive labels on the jars, my second mistake was hand-writing the names on them. My writing is... downright awful.

About a year down the line I wanted to re-use the jars, and it took several hours of scrubbing in hot water to get the adhesive off of them, because stacking labels has annoyed me deeply since the days of yore. I got rid of the adhesive label.

First: Wash and dry your jars. I suggest the "sanitize" cycle on a dishwasher for most jars, but some are too delicate or weirdly made. For those, HOTHOTHOT water in a sink with a good dish soap. For tinctures, or any other liquid (or for things you're going to ingest a lot of) I strongly suggest you use canning jars. Best to not risk poisoning yourself off of an antique Strychnine bottle, no matter how cool it looks. Ensure all lids, caps and corks fit properly. I've had jars that didn't quite "seal", and had a bunch of beetles infest my herbs, ruining them and costing me a pretty penny.

I also suggest not hand-writing the labels, unless your handwriting is very regular, very readable, and very bold. Personally, I design mine on the computer in photoshop (or gimp), and print them on various artisan papers to get unique looks out of 'em. My reason for the aesthetics? They take up a lot of space, I want 'em to look pretty while they do it.

The Process

PhotobucketHere's one of my old bottles. That label annoys me. The design is a faded, water-maked, Celtic knot-work, which is nice but - not so fancy, and lacked information. I lettered it with an ink pen that appears to fade incredibly fast. In the poor light of the temple-room (I hate ceiling lights with a passion due to chronic migraines) I can't read the label and may accidentally grab the identical Gum Arabic bottle when aiming for the copal.


Next I get a bowl of warm water and a sponge. I get the sponge soaking wet and apply it right over the label. This saturates it and re-hydrates the glue, making it release from both the label and jar. If I'm cleaning out old jars to re-use, rather than just re-labeling something, the whole lot goes into the kitchen sink or bath tub with some soap. Once the labels are off, they go into the dish washer (if it's safe).

PhotobucketWow, this label was thirsty. It turned completely translucent in a couple of seconds and peeled off easily.
You can also see a potential downfall of hand-lettering with a fine pen - moisture just destroys the lettering.

Nearly every commercial jar I've messed with will work the same. Most labels will peel off dry, but a few are glued over the entire label, and have to be soaked. I save all of the jars from pasta sauce, pickles, etc. and re-use them for herbs and tinctures.

PhotobucketAHH! The secret weapon. A craft glue-stick. These things are so damned useful (brand names aside). I've repaired tarot cards, used one to plaster a (temporary) letter of annoyance on a bad neighbor's car, and oh yes, to glue my herb labels on.

I apply this over the entire back of the label, and it gives me enough time to get the label even, centered and smoothed out before setting up completely.

Photobucket
Here's the completed bottle. The label tells me what the herb is, what the latin name is (I think the "spp." may be an error on my part. I don't know what type of Copaifera it is, and I was always taught "spp." is the appropriate abbreviation for "species" but I don't much care if it is wrong). It also tells me that this is an incense material, given the swirly incense burner bit on the label.

Some are marked with a skull (poisonous), or a teacup (teas/edible herbs), others are marked with a pentacle (non-incense-able herbs for witchy purposes that do not fit into another category).

In the eventual temple I'll be switching over to larger jars for almost everything, and will also include planetary, elemental and "used for" type info to act as a handy reminder for myself and others.

For reference, this label uses Caslon Antique as it's font (packaged as "tsp adore 10") . I used it because it's highly readable with a corroded, antique, look. Many fonts similar to this are both readable and whimsical enough to be a sound addition to any font-o-phile's library. I've had a local store show high interest in getting a set of customized labels for their jars, which would be a delightfully fun project!

Well, that's one container down and an absurdly large number left to go!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Issue Of Silence Pt. 1

I was lucky to grow up in a home where I didn't exactly have to hide who I was. It was made pretty obvious to me that, short of doing drugs and sleeping around (or anything worse than that), my parents knew I was a good kid and trusted me to have a good head on my shoulders.

Not everyone is so lucky. Not everyone's father will make them an altar table out of scrap wood. Not everyone's mother will give them only one admonition: Don't summon anything you can't handle.

So, what about when your parents aren't enthusiastic, or even tolerant, about your budding religion? Gosh, that's a tough one for the teens, and not so much for those of us who have paid our own rent. Let me walk you through the wonderful world of "tough titty."

You own nothing until you are 1: Legally Emancipated. 2: Of The Age of Majority.

"I'm new to this religion, but I want to make my own altar. My parents are die-hard Christians and don't want me doing this stuff. I live in an attic room which is private, but how do I hide my altar in case they come in my room?" - Teen poster on a Pagan forum (paraphrased).

For those that live in their parent's homes: Your "room" does not belong to you. It's their room. They pay the rent/mortgage/own the house, they pay the utilities, they own the title on the home. Not a single stick of it belongs to you. As such, legally, as long as they provide you with the essentials of life (food, shelter, clothing, basic sanitary needs) anything else is pretty much left to the whims of their good graces. Most of us had pretty permissive, generous, parents when you think about it that way.

If, as a minor, one's parents disagree with something they're getting up to the parent has every legal right to deprive them of that as long as it does not interfere with essential needs (aforementioned). They can drag your shit out into the yard and set it on fire if they like - you have no legal recourse in the matter.

Subjecting one's faith to the sort of skulduggery required to actively display AND conceal it for any number of years (we'll say "4") will require lying to them, and disrespecting the sacrifices they make for your benefit, and subjecting your own faith to the risks of inevitable discovery and destruction of one's tools, books, and materials.

"I think if you believe in something, you should be able to express it any way you feel, inward and outward." - Same Pagan Teen.

God, I wish I lived in a world like that. I don't, you don't, we don't. The world is slowly changing, but some folks don't feel that way. Some parents worry that religious stuff (specifically witchcraft or other "fringe" practices) are dangerous to their kid. They will do what they feel is best to protect their children and their home - including barring you from your religious practices when/if they do find out, grounding you, prohibiting you from seeing anyone they suspect of being associated with your activities, and so on.

I don't think it's exactly "right" that parents can own you to your last stitch unless you get a court order emancipating yourself, but I also don't think it's right for someone who is a dependent to assume they're co-owner in the home and have the associated "rights" to do things like paint the walls and turn their bedroom into a pagan temple.

"I can just tell them it's my nightstand" - Lying Pagan Teens The World Over.

Your parents aren't that stupid. Well, I dunno, maybe they are, but I can guarantee they aren't so stupid as to think that table in the corner, well away from your bed, covered in weird shit, is a nightstand. Altars tend to have a symmetry and arrangement to them. They tend to contain certain items and have a certain layout or look to them.

One of my childhood friends dabbled in witchcraft at one point and decided to be clever and "hide" an altar in her bedroom. Her parents were (like the Pagan Teen above) very strict Christians, at least in part. Let us merely say that they could always repent Sunday for the overt sins of Saturday. Because of this they kept their kids on a short leash, and of course their kids rebelled.

She threw a scrap of black fabric over a little corner table, and arranged dozens of items on it. To my eye it looked like an altar, to her brother's eye it looked like an altar. To all of her friends it looked like an altar. To her parents? It looked like an altar.

She had lied for months about it being a "nightstand", secreting away the more tell-tale items in places like the folds of her mattress, or a loose floorboard in the closet. But eventually they heard the noise of her assembling it, and discovered the deception. She caught a glimpse of the still-thriving "spare the rod, spoil the child" worldview and all of her things were chucked into a box and thrown in the trash. She managed to save a few items, which were ferreted away by friends in the night - her deity statues, however, suffered the full-blown wrath of an angry fundie.

Ten years later she has never resumed practicing - swearing that the day her things were thrown away, her "power" was broken.

It's not fair!
aka
"You say that so often, I wonder what your basis for comparison is?"


If I lied to my parents for months (or years) on end, and they found me out in that lie, I'd fully expect (though certainly not enjoy) the punishment that would follow. I would expect that the object of protest (the altar, the books, the "juju shit") would be hauled out to the garbage, and perhaps burnt right in front of me. I might be made to feed my own "sacred texts" to the flame.

When I lived, briefly, with my fiancee's family I kept my goods in a pyrographed box, and that box was in a backpack, and that backpack was in my fiancee's closet. His mother is a devout Christian, and it would hurt her emotionally to have seen those items on display.

Would it have been fair to -her- to have taken in this relative stranger, only to discover that said stranger did things that are -literally- evil and demonic in her worldview? Is it fair to parents to be lied to, jerked around, and discover that deception within their own home?

No. And two wrongs don't make a right, so consider - even if only for a moment - keeping your faith within your heart, silent and still (them waters run deep!) until you can give it the exterior space and respect it deserves.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Italian Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi

This book raised the post with, at current, more comments than any other. This post is the promised review of the work, and in order to approach the review in the appropriate fashion I read through the book fully, and thoroughly. To those that encouraged me to "really read" the book - doing so did it no favors.

Basic info: Italian Witchcraft (formerly Ways of The Strega) by Raven Grimassi. Ranges from $17-$3. Summary for the impatient: Had I read the book prior to the purchase, I would not have purchased it. A stronger pass by an editor, and some terminology revisions in this later edition would have been beneficial.

The First 'Book'.
The author will present a small portion of information and spend many more paragraphs ensuring that you will come to no other conclusion than the one he himself holds. I suppose that's to be expected - but it's really not pleasant to read.

Lack of citations or sources on small tidbits of otherwise interesting information. It's impossible to follow up and do research on these bits, and I think that the wealth of the book would have been in these.

Large blocks of text are quoted, and often repeat within the same chapter. In the prior post I suggested that a better pass by a more ruthless editor would've been beneficial for this. I suppose that the quotes at the start of chapters are alright if repeated, but it is not limited to this.

The aforementioned "cropped illustration" was one hurdle I had difficulty getting around, small though it was. However, that is nothing compared to the response I had to the later chapter on the Benandanti v. Malandanti wherein Mr. Grimassi states:

"Today, Witches may face a very similar situation to that of the Benandanti. Satanism is on the rise, and appears to be spreading quite rapidly across the United States. Many sub-cults of Satanism are forming, whose actions toward other people and animals can certainly be defined as evil. Once these sub-cultists become skilled in magickal practices, then all hell is likely to break loose." and "I think it not unlikely that Witches in the near future will be faced with protecting their own communities from the destructive energies of an evil which is surely coming."
I'll let my own blog readers mull that'n over for a moment, and come to their own conclusions. I will say that at this point I strongly considered returning the book - a feat only once before accomplished by the 'authorship' of one Konstantanos.

The Second 'Book'.

This portion of the book covers the ritual tools and ritual practices of the Strega as reinvisioned by Grimassi. There are only so many ways one can rehash the four suits of the Tarot, the basic tools of witchery, until it loses all meaning. There are a few novel things presented here, but with little attribution - again, it's hard to follow up on the ideas and find their source.

One thing which utterly blew my mind was the suggestion of using a bowl to hold an alcohol-based liquid which is ignited and periodically replenished (while still burning). For anyone who is not familiar with setting alcohol ablaze - here's a nice article about what happens.
The suggested alcohol, Liquore Strega, is 40%/80-proof. Alcohol of that strength still burns pretty hard, and surprisingly long.

The Aridian rites are a form that will be instantly familiar with anyone who has read Aradia or any works on Wicca (BTW or otherwise), and perhaps anyone familiar with the Lycian Wiccan tradition. The emphasis on male/female sexual union as the "highest possible" type of energy and worship became tiresome for this witch, and the rituals did not present anything novel to my eyes.

The final nail in the coffin was that Grimassi continually quotes The Vangelo/Gospel of Aradia, and later states that the majority of it is rubbish and propaganda to be thrown out. The idea of historical information being rubbish is what sets my teeth on edge more than anything. I expected a far more scholarly tone and content from this book, and was disappointed. This was Grimassi's earlier work, and I have since become aware of that - the lack of scholarly tone makes more sense, but does not alleviate my wanting of it.

As a note to readers: I will not be accepting nasty comments from ANY camp on this one. Take measure of your statements before you hit post

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Strega the Strigoi or "United We Stand".

Personal Labels, and The Community.

My first flirting forays with witchcraft were in my early youth. Over time this developed, as you can see here. However, one stopping point, and an area with which I still have difficulties is the area of "compartmentalizing" one's nature.

During the first couple of years of my interest in the occult, I experienced several strange phenomenon. Firstly, a malefic entity tormenting the everloving hell out of me, and secondly - a strange sort of drain. Once the beastie was gone, I expected the drain to stop, but it didn't. And, in experiments, I realized that the only way to maintain a healthy level of whatever "oomph" is in me, was to derive it from other sources. Like a diabetic, my body was not making something it was supposed to, and once in a great while needed an injection.

The phenomena of "Psychic Vampirism", and it's parallels with the wounded shaman answered a lot of questions for me. The concept of someone who has gone out, who has undergone a death and rebirth (died and risen from the grave) and because of this is something else sealed an open wound for me. It helped me to cope with and control a problem, and turn it into an asset.

Unfortunately, there was always a problem: Pagans don't take kindly to anyone who identifies as a "Vampire"- And who can blame them? With Dion Fortune around, conflating an energetic need with energetic predation as pretty much the gold standard, anyone who self-identified in that way would understandably be seen as a monster. I wasn't that monster, though. I didn't fling the evil-eye at people, or attack with malice for pure pleasure. I tended the world around me so that it overflowed with life, and took from that spilling cup only what I needed.

So, in order to interact with the Pagan community, I had to hide and compartmentalize. If ever the hand were tipped, the cry went up, and the forums (or chats, or study groups) would conduct their own little idiotic witch-hunt against the wielder of the imagined malefica. Honesty won no friends, in fact, it won a lot of nosy good-for-nothings who weaseled into my business as often as possible. I denied. I shied away. I walled off and compartmentalized.

Oh, but it's never that easy.

In my mid-to-late teens I began to experience another aspect of myself - a huge part of my forming path. In my dreams I would go out of myself, and travel. Invariably in these dreams were real people and real places, or real people in -unreal- places. And in these places were things that needed doing. Sometimes I went in my own shape, and sometimes in other shapes - running, galloping, flying, crawling - sometimes everything all at once. I refused to discuss it with anyone, or if I did I changed details to throw them off the trail - if "Vampire" were grounds for exclusion from the community, you can bet your ass that the suspicion of "Therianthropy" would've ended my association with pagans for good. Never did I speak about the "fang" to the "pointed hats". Never did I mention the "fur" to the "fangs" and so on. I also crippled my own practices, taking out half of what made me so damned effective at what I did - just so that it would be "correct".


Extract thy skull from the sand, o' Pagani Ostrich.

It took me years to realize there didn't need to be those walls and distinctions in my head. It took me slightly less time to realize I didn't give a good god-damn what others thought of me. Witches were always seen as doing all of these things, it was their modern compartmentalization and specialization that said one couldn't be the other - Not mine, and not the distinction of the Witch-gods.

Go google! You'll find tales of the Benandanti riding out as wolves, calling themselves the hounds of God. You will find the Strigoi listed as being shape-shifters and drawing blood/life from people to sustain themselves. These skills are our skills, we are a unified whole, not scattered pieces. To throw them out discards very valuable babies with the "it makes me embarrassed!" bathwater.

We're the ones that carved the wild from the witch.

We're dealing with weird shit, here. Take away all the window-dressing, all the theology and philosophy. We're talking about people who, through some undocumented interaction of the subtle reality, make things happen without any apparent cause. We're talking about communion with the gods, the ancestors, the spirit-world. Do we really need to thumb our noses at some words, while smiling and patting others on the back?

Why is "Witch" - a toothless hag, supernatural to the core, who eats babies and flies around on terrible beasts - now reclaimed and utterly sanitized, but "werewolf" or "vampire" are as good as Cain's mark on your ass to the local pagans?

I Shall go Into a Hare,
With Sorrow Sigh and Mickle Care.

I am laying in the grass. I roll over, propping myself onto my hands and knees. I arch my back like a cat, stretching my sinew. My body ripples, and changes. With a heave I leap, and I run. Oh, GOD how I run. Over furrow and fen, jumping over rivers, bounding through woods. Every human care I have falls away and what I experience is unbridled JOY. I gallop over the whole world, stopping to Coven with those who would have me - we work magic to find a lost girl, to stop a rapist, to make the land strong, to curse the shit out of a disease-spreading ex-lover. We circle in the presence of Good Imps and Bad, and in the presence of Witchmother and Father.

I fly on, banishing malevolent spirits from the home of a friend, journeying into the gray world of Elfhame to entreat with who go there, before rounding back to my flesh, laughing and panting like a dog. Is it wicked of me? Am I somehow undesirable in the Pagan community because I do this? Because I am, in that sense, a "Werewolf" (er... well - Were-Gorgonopsid)? Does this somehow make me an evil person? Or am I one of you, same as any other, with skills strange and subtle?

I Don't Drink... Wine.

But there is also hunger, sometimes. I cannot spend and spend and never draw anything in. And a good night's rest and a hearty meal aren't always going to accomplish what I need. Sometimes I spend too much of myself doing what needs to be done, and I become the undead, the living-death, hungry, whiny, tired and cranky.

Nothing I do, not even days and days of bed rest will help - if anything it gets worse. I can, with effort and care, draw from the world around me. I can, sometimes, breathe in the cloying gray mists of the Wood and walk as a man again. But sometimes I can't, and there are those who are the polar opposite, hyper-active, bouncing off the walls, trapped in their own caul of wound up energy with no source of relief - and I can take that off of their hands with their permission.

With proper "diet" and "exercise" I can keep it almost perfectly controlled. My "blood glucose" stays right where I want it, doesn't dip or spike. But life isn't always perfect. Sometimes I overwork, or underwork, or don't sleep, or sleep too much. Sometimes people who lack my ethics (and don't even have the courtesy of calling themselves 'vampire') drain the precious vitality from me with their insatiable psychological hungers. And honestly? Some Witches have caused me far more trouble with their draining ways than any vampire, or even any vacuously-natured entity.

Is -this- wicked of me? Am I a threat to a circle in which I have no interest simply because I have the dis/ability? Is a "Psychic Vampire" any more of a threat than another witch who, to heal, must also be able to curse? Can the sometimes-company of the vamp be so corrosive that it strikes fear into the strong strega/wicca of these circles? Are you so fragile, am I so terrible? I honestly doubt it.

Working Together, Being United. Yeah, all that stuff.

Recent news frenzies do not show the "occult" community as neatly divided and indisputably sectarian. CNN does not distinguish between the "Wicca murder" of a crazed woman stabbing someone to death on a date that happened to line up with a sabbat, or the "Vampire Cults" that didn't take Shelby Ellis.

To the news, we're all the same thing. We are the freaks, the reeking masses. And if you think the Witch is not tarred with the same brush as Vampires and "Lycans", you are deluded beyond all help. The "Wica" of the Gards and their down-line will be painted with the same shame and discredit as the "Wicca" of the cut-n-paste deities who go bug-nutty. The shame of the reckless pricks who stab the homeless to death will soak into the clean vestments of the Vampiric orders and Unitarian Pagan groups alike.

To them, we are no different. Why do we care about each-other? We know better, but in some cases, we know jack shit. Am I a Therian? Otherkin? Vamp? Witch? Does it matter anymore? Are they the same thing, just different shades of "Witch"?

If we show our WORTH, does it matter what little subcategory of "woo woo shit" we tag under the main header? Does "Energy Worker (oh, and psychic vampire)" mean anything more or less than "Love-and-light Wiccan (who happens to be the biggest dick you know)"? Why is one welcomed with open arms, despite transgression upon transgression, while the other is ousted at the raising of the colors?

The "Hidden Children", Being "Closeted" and "Coming Out".

As I recall, back in the day the Witches used to call themselves "The Hidden Children of the Goddess" and that's what we still are. I may loath spiders with a seething passion and a can of Raid, but somewhere (distantly, soooo distantly) we're related. We're from the same genetic source, and the same spiritual one. Some Pagans may loath vampires, but we're all cut from the same spiritual cloth.

There is still a lot of talk on forums about "Coming out of the broom closet" and how they fear retribution from the community around them. Fear losing jobs, fear losing children. The Pagan community rallies behind them, assuring that Witches do no evil, and so good will out! Just show you're a good member of the community, that you aren't (LOL!) "Cursing" anyone, and you'll be fine. Religion is protected, ya know.

Imagine it from the standpoint of a "Vampire"; They've been a part of the community for years, they've worked with groups, pride-events, patronized local shops since they were a wee one. They've been working in and with the community, doing tarot readings, casting spells, doing energy work and healing. They're actually rather well-regarded. They think "This is no different than Becky coming out of the broom closet. I'm not hurting anyone, I'd NEVER hurt anyone like that. People know me, this will be just as easy, and just as hard. I'll have support!" And then the bomb drops.

Take some time to think about how different we aren't. Take some time to consider that we all need to stick together, because to "them", we're all the same anyway.