Sunset cloud over a calm field.
life, Neodruidry, Witchcraft

A Weather Eye

One of the biggest challenges I’ve faced as a Pagan is the fact that my mind and body’s internal cycles don’t really do the whole “seasons” thing.

It isn’t a question of living in a city, or using air conditioning, or things of that nature — the personal rhythms of creation, growth, harvest, and rest are there, just mismatched. Summer is when I’m at my least active, it’s really closer to what should be winter. Heat basically makes me one of those flattened blob people from the old Zoloft commercials.

All of this is to say that I can’t wait for it to be fall. I know pumpkin spice season has apparently officially started, but I’m not even in it for the nutmeg. I can’t wait for cool weather and orange trees. I crave the smell of gently rotting leaves like a lab monkey craves amphetamines. There’s just something in the dirt and the moss and the wind that lights my soul up.

It’s supposed to be below 80°F next Saturday, and I almost don’t know what to do with myself. Should I go looking for the Sykesville monster? Hunt for an outdoor ritual space? Go mushroom spotting? There are so many options. Like a border collie who’s just heard the words, “Want to go for a w-,” I am pawing at the door and wiggling like my life depends on it.

This highlights what I mean, though. Akin to some kind of bizarro-realm iguana, I get more active as things cool off. It throws off my whole jam when it comes to the High Days. I feel like I should be feeling things in spring and summer that my biology doesn’t really get around to until October. Coupled with living in a city, it’s pushed me to find new meanings in holidays and the rhythm of the seasons — not only changing how I celebrate, but pushing things to other days, or even building new celebrations entirely.

Lately, it’s given me a lot to think about the days of the week, and the way each is attributed to a celestial force or deity. Sunday’s the day of the Sun, and best for workings involving success and happiness. Tuesday is Mars’ day, and best for workings for strength, battle, and so forth. It’s something that pops up a lot in various forms of witchcraft, but it’s also something that, in my opinion, it’s okay to dispense with in a lot of cases.

One thing I’ve learned is that, while it’s said that “purely mental magic yields purely mental results,” a solid 80% of it is setting up the right mental space for raising and releasing energy. Herbs, stones, and other materials have their own properties, but much of that can be overshadowed by what they do for you, the worker, on a personal level. (This is where unverified personal gnosis and personal associations come in, and why it’s so important to label them as such — the relationship between you and your materials is deeply subjective, and passing a subjective interpretation off as traditional is confusing, at best, and irresponsible, at worst.)

What all of this means is that, if a specific day, month, or season isn’t drawing the right feeling out of you, listen to yourself. Thursday is supposed to be the day of abundance and increase, but if your payday’s Monday and Thursday is when your bills come due, don’t let a stack of old books tell you how to feel about it. Maybe your prosperity spells will work better for you on a day when you actually feel prosperous. Maybe they’ll work better on a day that traditionally corresponds to them.

I’m old enough now to know that the only thing I can know for certain is that the world is a big, weird place, and it doesn’t like telling anyone the whole story. Old grimoires are the map, but they aren’t the territory. At some point, you have to figure out how to engage with the weird on your — and its — own terms

Here’s to autumn, my dudes.

life

Hunky Dory Space Adventures with Adolf Wolfli

I’m not very good at coming up with date ideas.

I mean, I’m good at coming up with ideas, just generally not ones that I can convince other people to do with me. That’s why my S.O. is pretty awesome — he’s almost always up for my bullshit.

The weekend before last, the heat finally crept below 80°F. Of course, it also stormed the whole time, so options were limited. Last weekend, the sweltering heat was back. Hanging out indoors somewhere else isn’t something either of us considered optimal, so we made our own fun.

Saturday, we picked up some pies (tofu curry and Baltimore bomb for me, pulled pork and strawberry rhubarb for him), put on David Bowie’s Hunky Dory, and cracked open my copy of John Maizels’ Raw Creation: Outsider Art and Beyond. (I bought this book used, and somehow ended up with a signed copy. So, if you’re out there Steve Moseley, thanks.) My S.O. and I huddled around it like kids with a pile of comic books, poring over the incredible body of work of Adolf Wölfli, the otherworldly twists of the Palais Idéal, and the incredible figures of the Rock Garden of Chandigarh.

Photo of sculptures in the Rock Garden of Chandigarh by Fanoflesage. CC BY-SA 3.0

(Honestly, if you’re not familiar with Wölfli, get ready to go down a deep rabbit hole. His work is fascinating and unmatched in scope. You can even find some of his musical compositions on Spotify.)

Sunday, we had crêpes and settled in to watch a movie — Color Out of Space. Admittedly, I mostly find Lovecraft kind of tiresome, owing in no small part to a former room mate who was a little too into his work. Still, COoS is probably my favorite of his short stories. I’ve got a thing for malevolent architecture and eldritch landscapes, and this tale in particular scratches that particular horror itch really well. (So do SCPs 455 and 3219, if you’re into that sort of thing.) It’s also the kind of subject that lends itself to Lovecraft’s particular style, which tends to vacillate between “I can’t describe it, but trust me, it was super weird” and “they were secretly… Foreigners!” When you’re talking about something that defies description by its very nature, like a nonexistent color, it works.

Speaking of, I dig the artistic choice to show the eponymous Color as various shades of magenta. While magenta does exist at least as much as any other color, it’s pretty much the color mascot for the fact that so much of what we consider real is incredibly subjective. Neato.

I also dug some of director Richard Stanley’s other choices in this film. For one, the main protagonists (I’m hesitant to attach the word “hero” to a story so bleak) are a Black man and a young woman. There’s some romantic tension between them. You know, the kind of stuff that would’ve made Lovecraft have to take to his bed with a cool rag and some kind of nostrum.

There’s also one scene with a horse where the horse’s eye briefly flashes purple. It’s ambiguous, however, whether this and the horse’s subsequent freakout are a sign of the contagion or not. Notably, the part of the horse’s eye that appears to flash is the tapetum lucidum, the membrane that reflects light and aids in night vision. Is the horse acting out because the Color’s gotten to it? Is it reacting to what it sees emanating from the people it’s looking at? Is it both? It’s the little fridge horror/fridge brilliance touches like that that I really enjoy.

Lavinia, the family’s daughter, also provides some interesting references to Wicca. Nothing too complicated or heavy, really, though mentioning the Wiccan Rule of Three provides a bit of foreshadowing. The Necronomicon makes a brief appearance at one point, though it’s left unclear whether the in-universe book is meant to be genuine, or just a paperback for edgy kids. Some viewers put forth the idea that, while the Necronomicon itself is widely regarded as a hoax, all of the best hoaxes contain something tangentially genuine — so it’s possible, at least in-universe, that Lavinia’s ritual did something.

(It just wasn’t what she wanted.)

Lastly, near the end, we’re given a brief glimpse of the Color’s home planet. Normally, I hate this kind of thing — one thing Lovecraft got right here was the fact that the things your imagination conjures are inevitably far more terrifying than anything anyone else can show you. In this case, the look we’re given is brief enough, and the atmosphere built by the flashing colors, patterns, emotions, and musical score building to that point is just mentally overwhelming enough, that it’s impossible to fully absorb what you see. You’re given an image, but your imagination still has plenty of room to build around it.

It also strikes me as somewhat visually similar to the ending city in Junji Ito’s Uzumaki:

Which I thought was awesome, because I love Uzumaki. (I get some very Hellstar Remina vibes, too.)

No idea what we’ll do next weekend. There’s an abandoned pyrite mine I’d like to poke around, and this reservoir I found a bone at once. Really, after all this, I kind of just want to snuggle up and re-read a bunch of Ito’s books.

Plants and Herbs, Witchcraft

Capers Folklore and Magical Properties

Edible flowers have always intrigued me — I love floral flavors, far more than floral scents. Lavender Italian soda, candied violets, briny capers… Give me all of the flowers. I was eating my favorite breakfast the other day (toasted sesame bagel, veggie cream cheese, sliced tomato, thinly sliced red onion, and capers) when one of the little pickled buds dropped out and rolled onto my plate. It was surprisingly pretty, a deep olive green at the tip, turning to a deeper violet near the base, and it got me thinking.

What are capers good for?
(Besides being delicious.)

I didn’t find many traditional magical uses for these guys in my search, but I did find some very interesting medical uses and folklore than seems to provide the basis for their modern magical properties.

Capers Magical Properties and Folklore

Going down to bone town.

No, really. They’re mostly used as aphrodisiacs.

Even the Christian Bible acknowledges this — in Ecclesiastes, translations dispute whether a certain passage should read as “desire” or “caperberry.” In Hebrew, the word for caperberry, aviyyonah, is linked to the word avah, meaning “desire.” The King James version of Ecclesiastes 12:5 reads, “the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail.” Meanwhile, older translations render the word “desire” as “caperberry.” As a result, some modern translations go for “desire,” while others use “caperberry.” Confusing, huh?

In ancient Greek medicine, capers were used to relieve gas and bloating. This isn’t really tied to any aphrodisiac effect, but it’s probably easier to want to do the do when you aren’t farting like a Clydesdale.

The Witch’s Cottage Garden lists capers as a Mars plant. This is most likely due to the plant’s thorns — plants associated with Mars tend to be prickly — but also fits its use as an aphrodisiac. While Venus plants are associated with love and beauty, Mars energy can be passionate and lustful, in addition to assertive and warlike.

Other sources list as useful in magic for lust and potency, which also suits it’s Mars energy and desire-promoting qualities.

Using Capers

Eat them, but not too much. Capers are preserved, so they’re very high in sodium. (Ironically, if you have sodium-sensitive blood pressure and blood pressure-related sexual dysfunction, they can make it harder to get in the mood.)

I like including them in salads or, as I mentioned before, on a bagel with cream cheese. If you don’t eat cheese, a nondairy alternative or some avocado would work — I find that the salty, lemony bite of capers benefits greatly from something cool and creamy to offset it.

If you want to use capers in your magic without eating them, the mature flowers are very pretty and unusual-looking. While I haven’t seen the flowers for sale (I think most people prefer to pick them when they’re just buds, for culinary purposes), you can find the whole plant for sale and grow them fairly easily if you’ve got a dry climate and plenty of sun.

As a note of caution, the caper spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) is a poisonous plant that is often confused for capers. Eating the buds can cause mouth pain, nausea, cardiac arrhythmia, fainting, and delirium. So, if you going to go try to find capers, maybe stick to garden centers and grocery stores unless you’re really, really good at IDing plants.

art, life

New artwork!

In case you don’t follow my shop, there are a bunch of new prints available.

I’ve also added a new line — now, in addition to the matte giclee prints, you can also get most of my work as lustre photographic prints. (These are just as high-quality as the others, just printed on a subtly glossy photo paper instead of heavy matte stock.)

And several others!

I always purchase copies of my prints before I list them, so I can make any adjustments to the source files to make sure they look as good as possible. Not to toot my own horn, but computer images don’t really do these justice — the prints came out so good, friends.

I also have several different tarot readings available. Please feel free to drop me a line through Etsy or my Contact page if you have any questions.

life

A Bicycle Built for Who

Some people don’t like the idea of adopting rescue animals, especially adult ones. They worry that they won’t be as trainable as a puppy or kitten — they might have all kinds of behavioral issues and odd quirks from their past home(s).

To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty sure Kiko and Pye were normal before we got them. (At least, I’m reasonably certain that Pye didn’t throw noisy tantrums if you neglected to sit next to him and eat cereal in the morning.)

I don’t know how Kiko could’ve survived otherwise. Her history indicates she was an outdoor cat — undersized, post-partum, a hair’s breadth from losing a leg to gangrene. Now, she taps my forehead to wake me up to watch her eat, will only drink out of a special pink teacup, requires smooches on the head at exactly 11:30 AM, and knows that the sound of me brushing my teeth means it will shortly be Cuddle Time. She won’t eat cat treats — her preferred snacks are strawberry yogurt and butter lettuce. She doesn’t like to walk through the apartment, either — she’ll launch herself face-first at my ankles, cry and hold up a paw as if she’s injured, and make big, sad eyes at me until I pick her up.

Her favorite thing, though, is the exercise bike.

I have a bog-standard stationary bike ever since my cardiologist recommended that I start taking short, easy rides to rebuild my endurance. I don’t know how, and I don’t know when, but Kiko made up her macadamia-sized mind that This Was an Activity of Buddies.

And so, she chubbles.

She sits at the edge of the bed, gazing up at me with her cartoonishly large, round eyes. She knows she has me wrapped around her little white paws, and all she has to do is wait patiently. If I fail to respond, she daintily taps at my knee.

Eventually, I will have to pick her up.

I always do.

I have no idea what she gets out of this. It’s a stationary bike. We don’t go anywhere. There is nothing to see but the bedroom door. She nestles herself into my elbow, flops her head back to mush her face on mine and give me her little :3 smile, and purrs. And she’ll stay like that until I’m done pedaling.

There’s no reason for it. She could be ignoring me, happily cuddling with my partner. The second she hears the telltale boop of my exercise tracker app, she pries herself away to chubble at me. She could be asleep, she’ll wake up. She could be in a different room, I’ll hear the strawberry bell on her collar jingling as she hurries from wherever she’s been hiding. She cannot get enough of turning me into some kind of incredibly inefficient one-person palanquin.

So, yes. Sometimes, when you adopt an older animal, they can be a little weird. Most of the time, it’s in the best way.

life, Neodruidry

Lughnasadh, Pandemic Style

Lughnasadh is one of the High Days that falls between the solstice and the equinox. It’s an ancient celebration of the first harvest, but I’m probably not alone in feeling less than enthusiastic about this year. To be honest, I can’t honestly say I “celebrated” it.

The harvest is when you reap what you sow, and we’re reaping a whole lot of bad right now. Unable to get the message, police forces respond to protests against police brutality with increased brutality. Told that we need to wear masks and avoid indoor gatherings to slow the spread of a virus, people vocally rebel by not wearing masks and having rallies indoors. Other countries ostracize the U.S. as if it were a mass of plague rats, and I can’t really blame them. This is what we’ve collectively sown, and what are we harvesting in return?

I made a small offering (some beans I sprouted in a jar), but this Lughnasadh was less about celebration and enjoying the fruits of the first harvest than it was about understanding cause and effect. What we sow, we reap. You can’t meet challenges with brutality and callousness and expect to harvest success.

While I have plenty of growth and cause for celebration in my own life, it pales in comparison to what’s happening outside. Even so, that serves as its own reminder to find joy where we can. Even when the world’s on fire, there are small triumphs worth recognizing. There are still new bean sprouts in the jar.

Thanks for indulging my melancholy today. Promise I’ll be less of a buzzkill tomorrow 🧡