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.