Sunday, July 3, 2022

The Strange pt. 1

I am an advocate of re-enchantment, and “weirding” of one’s life and practices. The honest truth is, and I tell you this as someone 25+ years into Whatever This Is, that you can assemble a fully functional practice out of thin air because of how weird, truly weird, “Whatever This Is” actually is. 

Consensus reality is not so different from the tectonic plates of the physical world. Consensus Reality is sort of just a slower, firmer, raft slowly moving around on a flow of High Strange and Cosmic Horror. But that doesn’t mean that sometimes the raft doesn’t wiggle, or break, when we least expect it. 

Sometimes, actually fairly frequently, I’ll dream of the thinnest upper parts of the earth - usually asphalt parking lots or parched clay - cracking apart and the ink-black gush of whatever is Beneath bubbling up, eating away, consuming and replacing. All the little bits sinking down down down into… into … well…

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

A few years back I was walking to my shop with a greenware (raw, unfired, clay) bowl, and dropped it. I watched the bowl make contact with the concrete sidewalk, violently jiggle, and drop through it. 

My brain did what I can only describe as “a bit of a wobble.” I took inventory of the situation - my empty hands still dusted with greenware powder, the absence of the bowl or any shards thereof, or any indication that it had struck the sidewalk. The obvious solution was that I never had the bowl in my hands, right? Right?

It was nowhere to be found. Not in the shop, not in any building or outbuilding, not on any horizontal surface between the house and the shop, not in my car (just in case), not in the trash (why not check there), not in any of the kitchen cabinets (might as well look), not in the refrigerator or freezer (please be somewhere), not in the dozens of bits it should’ve shattered into. Not in the grass. Not in my hands. Not where it had been before I opted to carry it to the kiln. My brain, however, had already supplied the happy answer: “Since it’s a physics object that did not behave as I expected it to, the collision box glitched out. Like any physics object it went wiggly before dropping through the world model.”

Now you just hang on a second there, brain. It’s a REAL OBJECT, not a piece of video game art. There’s no physics model at play here. That was solid physical matter meeting harder, stronger, solid physical matter. What happened to the bowl? “It’s fine.” Said brain. “The collision just glitched out. Don’t worry about it!”

I know that the human brain will composite and whole-cloth manufacture things to fill in the voids in its perceptions. It will morph a column of shadow into a man in a hat (and it is always a man, and he is always wearing a hat), it will matrix the absolute blackness of a cave into the image of ducks waddling by as if illuminated by a flashlight - complete with the sound of wet feet and rasping quacks, it will turn a half-seen pile of clothes or an amalgam of leaves in the dark into some of the most baleful monsters conceivable by our fleshy little forms. 

But in this case it put in something else where there was ample visual stimuli. This was not a Prisoner's cinema or a Ganzfeld effect. This was something else.

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

Strange is always an inch away, and yet choosing when, how, and to what degree we move that single inch is a life’s work. You can’t seem to get there when you try, but when you’re there trying to get back feels insurmountable. 

The “Veil” (for me) is a simulacra of stability on an ocean of that Strangeness. It’s the consensus crust I’m walking on that occasionally gives way, and I find myself knee-deep in a gopher hole of “What the fuck just happened?” 

This is the Cosmic Horror - Should I be grateful that I saw a video game glitch instead of what actually occurred?

How much of what we experience in Dreams-That-Are-Not-Dreams is a handy visual used to mask the real sights and vistas? Is the column of shadow that is matrixed into a man in a hat (always a man, always a hat) actually a man-shaped shadow or did the brain provide that as a convenient cover for something else? How much MORE sinister is it if there was never a shadow there at all, yet something there which our brain covers with a shadow instead?

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

I am often working my magic in a place where the thin, crispy, crust of the world has been carefully excised, and has only the most tenuous grip on consensus. In a place where the cracks in concrete are a chasm to the Abyss. Where places are bigger (yet… not, yet… are) than they are in the physical world. Where there is, for reasons probably best left unknown, a fully functioning rest stop bathroom in the spirit-world incarnation of my back yard. A place where I can “walk” a certain direction and hit a graveyard that extends for endless miles, that may or may not be All Graveyards. It is in this between, strange, unmoored, place where things can work - because the laws we know of don't apply.

Once, when I was walking home from the local grocery store at night I got incredibly lost. Now, that may sound somewhat reasonable except that the path to the grocery store was two turns and about a mile of total distance. After realizing I was incredibly lost I took note of exactly what path I’d gone (leave the store, walk to the street, turn left)... except in order to be where I was I would’ve had to have turned right. Except… the houses were on the wrong side of the road. In fact everything was the wrong way around. Distances were all wrong. It was clearly my neighborhood but it had been mirror-flopped, and distorted. 

It was that Dreaming place, that Circle place. Neither-here-nor-there, caught between. I had slipped loose of the Normal Road and was walking somewhere Fey. Awake, sober, aware. I shut my eyes tight, took off my jacket, and turned it inside-out. When I opened my eyes the world was back to normal. But the world will never, ever, be Normal-Normal again. Not with the knowledge that I am one liminal moment from sticking my foot through the thin layer of Igneous crust, sober, and outside the bounds of the carefully excised, holding a six pack of Kiwi-Strawberry Shasta in my hand. 

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

What is very important is to understand that the raft is temporary. One day it will dive downward, toward the liquid mantle of the world and melt. Even if it feels like solid rock right now it was once Strange and to Strange it will return. 

The natural state of the world is that dreamlike non-sense, with overgrown pineal glands saving us from the shadows that really do have teeth. It was only our unique ability to pretend that we could exit the natural cycle that meant we could stand on our raft, huddled around a captured flame, and keep the Strangeness beyond, and beneath.

But like the Chimp that needs enrichment and a natural habitat or it falls over from heart disease - we need that wildness. We need the scare, and the shadows and the Strange. We strive toward it in all things. Why is it so terrifying when we find it? 

Devil’s advocate: Let’s say I had a little seizure or was sleep-walking the day the bowl dropped from my hands. Let’s say that stress made me WILDLY hallucinate. Okay. Cool. Let’s say that dreams are only dreams, and nothing more. Let’s say that none of this is anything. I’d be quite comforted by that at times, lemme tell ya.

Where the fuck is the bowl? Why have I still never found a trace of it four years later?  

How is it that my own father dreams of the same stretched and squashed versions of the places near my childhood home, where the plants wave and dance in the moonlight?

I don’t want an answer. I don’t need an answer. I can’t use an answer. These things happen. The importance is in what is done with them, not in the proving or disproving of them. 

And next time this topic comes around - if the brain holds out against the executive dysfunction - I'll try to get into what can be done with these phenomena to strengthen, bolster, and even whole-cloth build a practice.

☙ ⋅˙⋅ ❧

And before you go: I'm working on an as-yet unnamed Lenormand deck. If you hop over to you'll be able to drop a few bucks in the tip jar to follow along with the creation process. I’ve completed the watercolor art for two cards, and have begun work on the backs, packaging and other ephemera.

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Yes, That Plant is a Witch.

While formulating a new oil, one of the potential ingredients stood out to me very prominently.  In fact, I’ve grown that plant before in a koi pond. It’s impossible to get dried or preserved in any way, and increasingly harder to find potted. No, you’ve got to get it in small tissue culture cups specifically for planted aquaria. 

In short: The only way I will get the quantity needed for the oil is to order a fussy and temperamental ornamental aquatic plant, and grow it for god knows how long  - assuming I even can. And that’s sort of how it ought to be.

. • .

It’s incredibly easy to just buy a big, bulk, vacuum-packed bag of Wormwood or Mugwort from an online retailer and stuff something full of it without really ever engaging with the plant. Given that I’ve now been blogging for over ten years I’m not sure if I ever posted about my “Process”, but if this is a duplicate post, blame my neuroatypical brain, because I certainly will (the traitorous bastard). 

When I brush against a “new” plant or material I first try to learn about it in a broad-strokes generic way. Where is it from, what is its conservation status, how ethical is it to obtain, toxicity, etc. Then I dig deeper into “associations”, historical use or lore, whether or not it’s something that’s culturally specific, how common it is in cultivation, where it can be purchased reasonably/ethically, and a bit about its life cycle. If I ever acquire any, the first thing I do is a ritual act of introduction. 

This is something I have actually gone into deeper in the long-suffering “familiar book”, but a general gloss would be this:

I, and my plant familiar intermediary, reach out to a presiding spirit of that plant. We make formal introductions of who I am, what I do, what I am offering and what I am seeking. The presiding spirit usually communicates via my plant familiar at first - I get a filtered version of “do not do these things, but please make sure that other things are done.” or maybe “call me by this name, or in this way” or maybe “Leave me alone.” - in which case I dispose of the material I have as safely as I can. I don’t think most people do any of that, or anything even remotely close to that, and that kinda… sits weirdly with me?

The Disclaimer: Obviously each person’s Craft is going to be different, and that’s a good thing. In no way am I saying one way is “wrong” (I mean there are some wrong ways but if you emerge unscathed, congrats on your epic caper). But I wonder to myself whether simply using herbs like components might actually be a contributing factor in cutting off access to the “deepening” of that Craft that so many people seem to be looking for.  

For me… it’s sort of like: What is the point of all of this if it’s not forming meaningful connections to the unseen? Isn’t it highly practical to form a meaningful exchange with a powerful spirit who is ready, willing, able, and enthusiastic about contributing to the Work? 

Consider that the herb in a jar on a shelf, that bead on your strand, that shew-stone on your conjuration table all came from thinking, feeling, ensouled, creatures (“O thou creature of salt…”). Creatures whose “bodies” produce power for magic by way of their mere existence (much as you do). Consider how it might aid things if you had not only their dismembered bodies, not only their perforce presence, but their ongoing and enthusiastic participation. Not just a herb in a jar, but rather a witch who happens to be a herb in a jar, joining in the unseen coven

In a lot of ways that’s what people ought to mean when they describe plants as “allies”, but they often don’t. Where I find it I usually find it as a short-hand for “mind-altering” and very little about “partnership”. Rarely do I see acknowledgement of a specific plant having a specific spirit, or any reference to that relationship and how it may differ from others. 

I don't want to be part of Woo that places humanity on top of the mountain, lording over. I don't want to be the guy on the mountaintop. I want to be part of a community of beings - embodied, disembodied, never-bodied… etc. Working together. 

I work in this sphere - the meaty, bright, earthy, world of whatever we inhabit - and have been given the gift to see and feel and know and love my neighbors in other spheres that overlap this one (does my logo make sense now?). I have been given the gift of hands and flesh with which to DO things; The physical acts my nonphysical compatriots cannot accomplish without great personal cost. Through mutually beneficial and mutually cooperative work we can both achieve our goals.

I will not "rise above" this meat and earth. I will bring my internal godhead down into myself and work wonders from the earth, in the earth, for the earth. I will return to it what it has given me. If not... Get me off this ride, this ride’s going somewhere I don’t wanna be.

. • .

Long ago I had my attention yanked in the direction of Dandelions due to the rising popularity of them being used as an ad-hoc “mannekin”/mandragore. I did a full blog post about it after I’d settled in with the plant, and I find them (on the whole) to be one of the unsung heroes of the Viridarium/Green/Mythotypal Grove.

Working with not only Dandelion as a material, or as a concept, but as a specific presiding spirit has intensified and deepened my relationship with the plant and plant spirit/s greatly. In our relationship I now know another witch who is keenly attuned to specific tasks that I find otherwise difficult. In return all I need to do is kick dandelion seed heads a reasonable amount, and not mow them until they’ve gone to seed.  The spirit and I have worked out how best to “interface” to accomplish the work, and the work goes very well indeed.

Dandelion is a psychopomp in reverse. It’s a well that burrows deep and brings up what is hidden. It is indispensable, and even though it’s hated and forsaken… there it is. You’re never going to get rid of it so you might as well get to know it.

Since I began to really pay attention, keep up and work with plants (animals, rocks, locations, etc.) in this way I have found that everything flowed more easily. And imagine my utter shock when one of them (and then more) showed up to circles or dream-sabbats in their finery. So, yes of course ... I'll get the little tissue cultured cup. I will grow the fussy plant. It deserves it. And I will welcome it, if and when it decides to join in.

. • .

And before you go: I've begun working on an as-yet unnamed Lenormand deck. If you hop over to you'll be able to drop a few bucks in the tip jar to follow along with the creation process.

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Well, then...

There are things I’ve thought of discussing here that I just kept very firmly under my cap. This is somewhat out of self-preservation, because once you put things in the public sphere there's always a chance someone's going to make it weird, but that's not really all of the why.  It's... already weird. It's weird, and uncomfortable, and weird. It's a reality-questioning weird. It's a "Wait, what the hell is my entire life about then?" weird. And that realization lead to a simple truth: This blog has a purpose. It's meant to be a signpost hammered into the ground for someone as lost and witless as I was (and whooooboy). Life is to goddamned short to argue with yourself about things that, ultimately, only matter to the people they matter to (and we'll get back to that). 

So here's something I was going to talk about a while ago, and dusted off to finally talk about now.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

An Attempt Was Made.

I wrote the start of this post, originally, as we were moving into winter here in North America in 2018. It’s that time again, a full two years later. Some of these posts languished for a long time, and change a lot along the way.

The last two years? Bitter ashes. 

Where to start? Do I want to start? Is this a thing I do anymore? What is the goal? Am I the person I was when I started? Am I enough the same that this-as-this makes sense?

“The radio silence isn’t about a lack of ideas, or topics, but a feeling like there’s simply no ‘room’ for me to exist.” - It’s fine, Or it Will Be. 

“When your heart and soul starts being co-opted by the terminally misguided the water gets muddy.” - Ol’ Bent and Bowed.

I stopped blogging for a lot of reasons. None of them were exactly intentional. I emphasize that this is a "travelogue" type of blog. That it is, in essence, a digital journal. Anyone who has kept a journal for any length of time will understand an indelible and immutable truth - when you look back over old entries you realize how much has changed. Things change, things stay the same, and there it is - your blog or my blog - a monument to all of the things which are and are not.

Some of the me you’ve seen is now woefully out of date, yet still new to you. I, and the image made of me, exist at odds, out of step and out of sync. And that’s very weird to experience. 

I got tired of bullying. I mean, who isn’t tired of that crap? But I got especially tired of the middle-school bullying-by-gossip. I heard back a lot of things being said about me that were bad enough to cause me to reach out, and let me tell ya: When you reach out to the person triangulating others against you and ask them, honestly, why they did it they do not respond politely.

I got tired of the over-familiarity. It was a real shock to me that running a blog meant some folks developed a parasocial attachment. I thought you had to be a lot “bigger” to have that happen, and it turns out I was very wrong. Some of those folks thought we were tight enough for ribbing, flirtation and coarse humor - we weren’t - and they didn’t appreciate it when this was made clear. 

Mostly, though, I just got tired. Trauma is life-altering. It impacts you in ways that you won’t understand until you process and begin to inventory your thinking. The way it affects the brain and the body is exhausting. There were other things, too. 

Take it from the top.

There’s now a hole in my life - caretakers talk about that a lot - that I don’t know how to live with. I’m learning to step around it, over it, not fall into it, but it is there and it is ever-present. For the majority of my life I cared in some capacity for my mother, and in the last decade that intensified to an actual role of “part time caretaker” in fits and starts. There are regrets (thank god that telling her I love her and am proud to be her child was something I was sure I did, often, and emphatically), there is pain. There is this hole. This missing step in a flight of stairs I took ten times a day. Muscle memory falters, stumbles. 

I keep coming back to the phrase “Words ceased existing.” because what is there to say? No matter what hurt I feel, she lost herself, her family and her life. No matter what beliefs or experiences I’ve had I cannot know what transpires past the edge of death. Nothing matters in the face of death, absolutely nothing. Nothing means anything when nothing feels different and everything has changed. 

I have not celebrated. What remains of my family made sure to mark birthdays, to make sure we did not let those pass without some acknowledgement, because they are so few (and grow fewer every year). But on the slow crawl to The Big Two… no thank you.

I could not do my usual witching. Not really. I couldn’t even work my regular job worth a damn - I shudder to think of how very little I scraped by with, monetarily. I did what few things I could. I maintained. I couldn’t find it in me. I’m not sure I could even find me in me. Grief is like unclogging a drain - it’s a normal enough process, but goddamn is it grotesque. 

And it’s hard to be the person you want to be - honest and open to a fault with no wistful filter - while also avoiding talking about the elephant in the room. 

It is easy for bloggers and influencers to just straight up lie to their audience. I mean, I assume by now everyone’s savvy to the ugliness behind an instagram-ready lifestyle, especially when Witchcraft is involved. They will blog like everyone reading is an intimate friend, they’ll take your money and give you advice, but you’ll never know they had a kid (I don’t), or a ‘mundane job’ (I do) because it doesn’t fit the picture of the perfect Witch Aesthetic (as if Ye Olde Witch didn’t also have to work a dozen mundane jobs and also wipe with rags and leaves). You find out years later that their life was on fire all while the content kept rolling at an unaltered. 

It’s not a failing as a magician, or as a person, or as (insert category here) to say that one finds themselves in these situations. It’s not a sign of some personal inadequacy to say that the last few years have been trying. It’s not a shame upon anyone that sometimes we falter. Not when the whole world is pushing, crushing, grinding and praying for us to fail.

For some, the path of - well, whatever this is - is one of total power, total mastery. A blazing triumph over. And when they put that ideology forward-facing, it mutates. They’re never struggling with money, unless it makes a good byline. They’re never sad unless it’s adequately wistful. They never falter because they, good readers, have meticulously edited and curated their public-facing-media to ensure you cannot see the steep slope they just (to borrow a phrase from my grandpa) ate shit the whole way down. 

That’s a deeply Problematic way to live. Maybe a good maladaptive coping strategy in the meantime, but the lies we tell ourselves by telling them to others are often the ones that smack us upside the head the hardest when the truth bounces back into shape. 

And the truth is that for a long time, everything has really, really, sucked. So I didn’t post, because I refuse to lie, reframe, or instagram-ready it up and I honestly didn’t want to dig through and litigate my suffering. 

Peeking out of the doom-hole.

I’ve begun to sort through the pieces of wreckage left behind from, well… a lot of mistaken steps made with the best intentions. To be brutally honest, I spent the last decade having The Good And Dutiful Woman narrative crammed down my throat ("Accept that you'll be working twenty hours a day and come home to find that your partner has gone through the house like a typhoon and not lifted a finger to clean it up. If you don't clean it yourself you're the asshole! That's your domain and your job!") with a few extra scoops of the Sacrifice For Others Even If It Costs You Your Joy ("It's so selfish to want to be happy if that happiness isn't found through service to others!"), and that’s enough torture to make you think “Eh, maybe if I just compromise a little…” and then you’ve compromised entirely and no one else has, and you’re a stranger to yourself in your own existence sliding into a second nervous breakdown. But life is hard and complex and often quite shitty and you take on the problems as you can take them out (more on that in the future)

I managed to celebrate the First Winter this year, and this year it was not Last Harvest, but a proper Winter, bared teeth and all. I’ve been managing to work steadily. I struggled up from maintenance to headway. I’ve even started to write again.

Of course, as I wrote this the election is/was still being counted with an optimistic call for sanity. I have no idea what the future will bring. It may shove me right off my precarious little ledge back down into the pit. My life may become very unpleasant, or things may merely return to the mildly progressive normalcy we’ve been slowly building for the last forever. Ideally the last four years were some kind of extinction burst fever spasm of decades of lead poisoning. We can hope, we can look toward the dawn, and we can ideally not lie to ourselves or others about the realities of our lives along the way. The only way out is through, and the only way through is with the occasional helping hand. 

Saturday, February 15, 2020

The Book Stayed Empty

Courtesy bohdanchreptak at Pixabay 

A while ago I woke from a dream very suddenly, distressed and upset even as sleep shed off of me. I had been at an intimate coven gathering in the dream. We sat in the circle, perhaps before or after ritual, enjoying what looked to be a very fine charcuterie board, and sundry nibbles. Each of us tending to tasks one usually does “in circle”. Someone off beside me was grinding herbs slowly and methodically, chanting as they worked. Another was plaiting cords, the tail end hooked over their outstretched big toe. I was copying into my Book. It was the sight of the book that woke me, actually. The realization - in my semi-lucid, go-with-the-flow, state - that I knew what that little book was. It exists in the real world, y’see.

I’ve been hanging onto this book for… well… we’ll say 20 years at this point. Honestly, it could be a little more. The book itself went out of print a while ago, which is weird but also understandable since it’s a blank, lined, journal. I remember buying two of them. One was cannibalized, covered in leather, filled with handmade paper and gifted to a friend. The other, plus the original “text block” of the first, were squirrelled away, wrapped in paper, beneath my altar.

I knew the moment I saw this book that it was supposed to be with me and I even knew what it was for. It was for the book of shadows. Not “a” book of shadows, nor “my” book of shadows. Nah… it was for THE book of shadows. One of the properly-received Wiccan ones.

When I knelt at my altar and did one of the early “solo initiations” from a mass-market paperback it was done with the hope that one day I’d experience a ‘proper’ one, and fill that little book.

In that moment, saying my very heartfelt words about the whole thing (speaking directly to the gods and to those who have gone before), I felt very strongly that I needed to bring something to the table should I ever approach a prospective coven - I took this as spirit-guidance, something to do with being some specific and subtle connotation of that “Proper person, properly prepared” phrase. That went into the words I spoke - to bring to a coven no less than I would ask of a coven. I felt that if I did not have something unique, novel, and most importantly useful, to offer… then why seek it out? Why take more than I would offer in return? In hindsight such an Oath may have been something of a mistake, but… what’s done is done.

So, I learned. 

Well, then of course I got burned, badly, by many different subsets of the witchcraft and occult communities. The voices of authority never really spoke in a way that sang to my heart, and so I wondered if I belonged there at all. I was filled with knowledge that I sought on my own, trials I endured solo, and initiations between myself and rather dubious sorts.

I studied every sort of thing I could afford to have access to. Basics, sure, but also some rather out-there bits of theatrics. I learned to better sew and to draft simple patterns for robes and the like, I learned leatherworking and bookbinding a little more properly, I studied but never really properly practiced smithing, I learned simple woodworking, I already knew pottery, etc. I learned how to make masks and other costumery, how to make flash powder and pyrotechnics, different kinds of puppetry, shadow-theater, phantasmagoria, stage magic, and on and on and on.

The book, however, stayed empty.

I still have a deep respect for Wicca itself. It moves in it’s own world, orbits its own courses. There is something in that unknown country that calls out, even to this day.

It’s sitting in front of me on my desk. It’s gold filigree border striking dozens of memories so deep in my heart that they ring rather than recall. To bring nothing less than I would ask. Well, by then would I not already be my own, sovereign, priest? Would I not have already learned Mysteries? Would I not already have met Them, and known Them, and adored Them in my own way?

So, I write my own book. I fill it with the knowledge I have received, details I might otherwise forget (or already partially have), and things that I might want to preserve, should I ever pass this information onward - and I can’t think of a way more proper (for me) than through blood, sweat, and tears. Tucked into the back, behind the text block of dyed paper paper, nestled into the leather flap that wraps the whole thing shut, is the home of that empty book. Maybe still waiting, maybe a reminder.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Don't Be A Dick.

Smugness - courtesy pixabay

Stop me if you've heard this one before: "I want to be a Witch" says a forum poster. Or, maybe they said "I want to do this spell." or "I want to be initiated.", maybe they said "I'm having a problem with a spirit and I need to get rid of it, but I'm not sure how."

And of course someone else comes in and decides to regurgitate really old, rehashed, horse-shit that doesn't even really apply instead of contributing to the conversation. They spin the old classics: "Readiness", "This isn't (insert fictional media here)", "Red in tooth and claw", "When the seeker...", "Mad, dead..." and they get ass pats for being so wise.

Because of how long I've been around the net and what I've seen I can tell you that even the nicest and most responsible people will whip out one of these floppy dongers once in a while. OP maybe has a fit or just sulks off. Forum pats itself on the back for a solid month for really stickin' it to that noob/fluffer who was so unserious they couldn't even handle time-tested, sage, wisdom. No one's problems are solved, but the social equilibrium has returned and everyone can get back to the familiar, old, circle-jerk.

Friday, April 19, 2019

All The Way Down.

Interior of a ceramic kiln littered with the confetti-like shards of a misfired piece. 

I've tried writing this post half a dozen times, I think. I'm no closer now to the 'right words' than I was on the first try. I think it's just time to do it... so I stop thinking about how not-respectful and not-right it would be to put anything else first and "pretend".

(TW, just... bad things. Medical stuff, death, dark times.)